No ulterior motive in All-Star team selections: James

PHILADELPHIA • LeBron James understands how much fans love talking about players changing teams, but said that his All-Star team selections had no ulterior motive.

"That's a great conversation. Everyone kind of gets up for fantasy basketball talk," he said on Saturday ahead of yesterday's National Basketball Association game in Philadelphia. "Guys that are restricted free agents, that are free agents, I don't know, player options. That's all part of the speculation that continues to drive our sport.

"It's all good and well and dandy but I picked according to my draft board and I picked according to who was the best available."

He got to chose ahead of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, the other top All-Star vote-getter and captain.

He chose first and took the Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant. He also selected the Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving and the New Orleans Pelicans' Anthony Davis, along with James Harden of the Houston Rockets and Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors.

"It just so happened that I had KD who's a pending free agent, and Kyrie who's a pending free agent," James said. "James (Harden) is under contract until 2030. Kawhi's a free agent."

James was reminded that Davis, who requested for a trade and has been linked to the Los Angeles Lakers, is under contract.

"Yeah, he's under contract," he said. "Bradley Beal's under contract, Karl-Anthony Towns is under contract. Klay (Thompson) is a free agent. Who else is on my team? LaMarcus (Aldridge) is under contract. Dwyane (Wade) is jobless. And I'm under contract." His playful dig at Wade came with a smile.

Davis, meanwhile, played his second straight game after the Feb 7 trade deadline and after three weeks out, following his finger injury and public transfer demand.

The fact that the 25-year-old is playing at all might be due to the NBA's intervention. The league office informed the team on Friday that he would be expected to play, per the rule against teams resting healthy players, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst.

There was talk that the team might bench the big man for the final 27 games of the season, both to protect his trade value and to angle towards a better draft slot. The report said he would have his minutes reduced and sit out one game during back-to-back games.

But, on Saturday, he played 34 minutes and had 14 points in a 99-90 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies, a day after scoring 32 points in 25 minutes in a 122-117 home win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

DPA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2019, with the headline 'No ulterior motive in All-Star team selections: James'. Print Edition | Subscribe