Nets guard Kyrie Irving, middle, gathers with guard James Harden and...

Nets guard Kyrie Irving, middle, gathers with guard James Harden and forward Kevin Durant during the second half of the team's NBA game against Golden State in San Francisco on Feb. 13.  Credit: AP/Jeff Chiu

For the first time in franchise history, the Nets placed three players in the All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

Team captain Kevin Durant won’t play for the team that bears his name and that he drafted because he still is recovering from a strained left hamstring that caused him to miss the Nets’ last nine games before the All-Star break. But guard Kyrie Irving was voted in as an All-Star starter and guard James Harden, the final member of the Nets’ Big 3, made it as a reserve.

During the All-Star draft on Thursday, after opposing captain LeBron James chose Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Durant selected Irving second overall and chose Harden with the first overall pick from the reserve pool.

As the leading vote-getter in the Eastern Conference, Durant was named captain of one team in his 11th All-Star appearance. Harden’s selection was his ninth and Irving was chosen for the seventh time.

Since the Nets acquired Harden in a mid-January trade, Irving’s excitement about their title prospects has been palpable. After a win over the Spurs on Monday that snapped a 17-game regular-season losing streak in San Antonio dating to 2002, Irving said the Nets’ improved execution sparked their 10-1 streak before the break.

"We kind of feel our execution is when we’re playing free and we’re playing the right way and the ball is hopping and we’re all feeling good about the pace that we’re playing at," Irving said. "We try to put our own mark on the game by staying physical and continuing to play the right way, extra passes, sprinting back, no easy baskets."

The Nets might have had a fourth participant in All-Star Game activities, but former three-point shooting champion Joe Harris, who currently leads the NBA with 50.6% shooting from three-point range, had made it clear that he did not want to take part in the festivities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’s been an insane year up to this point, and the second half is going to be just as crazy in terms of the rigor of the schedule," Harris said. "I’m capitalizing on getting some rest, enjoying times with my loved ones, and that’s it."

At the same time, Harris expressed optimism about chasing an NBA title in the second half with the full roster available.

"We obviously are looking forward to having Kevin back and getting a lot of the roster healthy," he said. "We’ve got a lot of guys that are banged up, so the break will be huge to get guys healthy, and hopefully we can continue this momentum in the second half.

"We’re starting to get to the point where things are solidified and you’re starting to see it on the court. Guys are kicking out for one another offensively, defensively feeding off one another, feeling each other in terms of rhythm, and a lot of that is continuity . . . just getting used to playing with one another. We can continue getting even better because, in the grand scheme of things, we haven’t spent that much time together."

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