Are you ready for the NBA’s 69th (nice) annual All-Star Game? Sure you are. But are you ready to see the Raptors’ Pascal Siakam take the floor as an All-Star for the first time — ans as one of the game’s starters no less? That could take some time getting used to, even as we’ve watched Siakam blossom into a star over these past four seasons. Nevertheless, he’ll take the floor tonight for Team Giannis, joining now-six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry in basketball’s most star-studded affair. Just wonderful circle-of-life stuff there.
Siakam and Lowry are, of course, joined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is the league’s reigning MVP and captain of this particular squad, along with such stars as Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, and young Trae Young. They’ll stand-off against LeBron James and his squad, which features his teammate Anthony Davis, former Raptor Kawhi Leonard, and big boy Nikola Jokic. Taken all together, it’s sure to be quite the basketball game — not exactly competitive, but with enough talent on the floor to make it interesting.
Below are tonight’s game details in Chicago and, sure, some things to watch for.
Where to Watch:
TNT and TSN 1/4 at 8pm
Team Giannis — Giannis Antetokounmpo (obvs), Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam (!!), Kemba Walker, Trae Young
Team LeBron — LeBron James (duh), Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard
Let’s hope not!
Siakam and Lowry Showing Out
The narrative we care about the most here at Raptors HQ is Siakam taking the floor with these other more established star players, and watching Lowry direct traffic, owing to his veteran stature and temperament. Both things qualify as special, more feathers in the collective cap of Toronto’s basketball franchise.
For Lowry, it feels like only yesterday he was getting stepped over for All-Star honours in favour of the immortal Joe Johnson. Now Lowry is a six-time All-Star, and seems like something of a lock every year in the East. What’s more, Lowry appears to relish the opportunity to ply his trade on such a big stage with all the best players in the world. (Remember when he played with what was probably an injured wrist? Sure you do!)
Siakam’s story is similarly inspirational, with his rise through the ranks on the Raptors and then across the league. After beginning his career as little more than an energetic enigma, Pascal is now a first-time All-Star and starter, and legitimately one of the league’s most exciting players. It feels so rewarding just to be able to say he’s our guy in Toronto.
(Look at that, I made it through this entire section without once mentioning the extreme tampering potential inherent to the idea of putting Siakam, Lowry, and coach Nick Nurse on the same squad as Giannis. Moving on!)
While the All-Star Game isn’t a particularly hard fought contest, it is interesting to see if the game will be close down the stretch. And, of course, it’s fun to note who will take it the most seriously. With the MVP award on the line, there’s always a bit of modest competition at hand, especially considering how motivated all these players are to be the very best they can be — and for bragging rights, too. Who will snag this year’s award? Well that’s one reason to watch the game.
It’s worth noting here that Siakam is a middle-of-the-pack pick for the game’s MVP (last I saw he was given 20-to-1 odds). Lowry, meanwhile, is down at the bottom with Rudy Gobert and Khris Middleton. The All-Star Game does not have as much use for a charge taker (or shot blocker, or whatever the hell it is Middleton actually does). For the record: Anthony Davis appears as a 4-to-1 favourite for the game’s top honours, which we can chalk up once again to the power of LeBron.
Low Man on the Totem Pole
Forgive me, but my favourite thing about the All-Star Game is tracking who has the least impact on the game. I’m looking for the player who gets the fewest minutes, or partakes in the least amount of highlights. Or better still: makes only sound basketball plays. This spot used to go to guys like Paul Millsap or Ben Wallace, players who didn’t have a ton of flash to their game and were also perhaps semi-disinterested in trying to put on a show. If you were hoping for a week off from work, you’d maybe be a tad cheesed too after being pressed into service.
In any case, the leaders in the clubhouse right now for this dubious honour are Gobert — because you can only dunk a ball so hard — and Domantas Sabonis — owner of the most ground-bound set of skills in the game. There’s also always the chance one of the other older players will decide to check himself out of the game (Kawhi is always a favourite here) but that remains to be seen. Remember: the All-Star Game is only as good as these guys all decide to make it together.