The 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us. For players involved in the NBA's grueling 82-game season—and for many of the league's fans—All-Star Weekend offers a welcome mid-season respite.
Unlike the NFL or Major League Baseball, the NBA doesn't take its all-star contest too seriously, and the weekend is going to be all about fun and spectacle.
With the Celebrity All-Star Game already out of the way, fans can turn their attention to Saturday night's events—including the Slam-Dunk and Three-Point Contests—and, of course, the All-Star Game itself.
On Sunday evening, the league's best players will face off in an exhibition of skill, scoring and, well, probably not a whole lot of defense.
For the second year in a row, the teams are not conference-based but rather hand-selected by Western Conference captain LeBron James and Eastern Conference captain Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Here's everything you need to know about the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, including schedule and roster information, the latest odds, some predictions and the latest buzz.
2019 NBA All-Star Game
When: Sunday, February 17, at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
TV and Live Stream: TNT and TNTDrama.com
Money Line (from BetOnline.ag)
Team LeBron: -105
Team Giannis: -115
Score Prediction: Team LeBron 151, Team Giannis 142
Western Conference Starters
LeBron James, F, Los Angeles Lakers
Kevin Durant, F, Golden State Warriors
Kyrie Irving, G, Boston Celtics
Kawhi Leonard, F, Toronto Raptors
James Harden, G, Houston Rockets
Western Conference Reserves
Anthony Davis, F, New Orleans Hornets
Klay Thompson, G, Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard, G, Portland Trail Blazers
Ben Simmons, G, Philadelphia 76ers
LaMarcus Aldridge, F, San Antonio Spurs
Karl-Anthony Towns, C, Minnesota Timberwolves
Bradley Beal, G, Washington Wizards
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami Heat
Eastern Conference Starters
Giannis Antetokounmpo, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Steph Curry, G, Golden State Warriors
Joel Embiid, C, Philadelphia 76ers
Paul George, F, Oklahoma City Thunder
Kemba Walker, G, Charlotte Hornets
Eastern Conference Reserves
Khris Middleton, F, Milwaukee Bucks
Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets
Blake Griffin, F, Detroit Pistons
Russell Westbrook, G, Oklahoma City Thunder
D'Angelo Russell, G, Brooklyn Nets
Nikola Vucevic, C, Orlando Magic
Kyle Lowry, G, Toronto Raptors
Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas Mavericks
A Heavier James?
If you're only a casual fan of the NBA—or if you reside on the east coast and haven't caught many Los Angeles Lakers contests—you might think James looks a little bit different when you flip on the game Sunday night.
This is partially because James suffered a groin injury earlier in the season. He simply hasn't been able to move about the court as normal, even when healthy enough to play. However, a lack of mobility might not be the only reason James doesn't look like himself.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the "word on the street" is that James is actually playing at around 280 pounds, rather than his listed playing weight of 250 pounds.
According to Windhorst, the injury has prevented James from properly conditioning and has left him playing at a higher weight. So if James looks a little stouter than usual, this may be why. However, one trainer believes that 280 may be a stretch.
"LeBron has the best sports performance around him," NBA trainer Travelle Gaines said, per Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. "He is always going to be in the top shape."
Durant Tired of the Speculation
There has been some buzz as of late that Golden State Warrior Star Kevin Durant may end up with the New York Knicks in the offseason.
"Kevin Durant is going to the Knicks," one Eastern Conference executive told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today earlier in the season.
Actually, both he and Kyrie Irving have been linked to the Knicks, and both will be playing for Team LeBron on Sunday. However, don't expect Durant to talk about his future before or after the game. He's tired of it.
"I know it's hard to keep up with it," Durant recently said, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. "I know it's easy to look at that type of [expletive] because it's the entertainment side. But wait until the season is over with to analyze [free agency]. ... If it's the first time I'm seeing y'all, I don't mind answering. But every time? Come on, bro."
Expect Durant to let his play on the court do the talking during the All-Star Game.
Why Team LeBron Has the Edge
With James possibly out of shape and with Durant distracted by the media, the prediction of a Team James victory may seem a bit odd. However, there are a couple good reasons for it. The biggest is that, as previously mentioned, the All-Star Game isn't really based around defense.
In a normal game, big men like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic would give Team Giannis a notable advantage. Not that James is exactly small, but he has opted for a faster and more athletic team rather than a physical one. Team Giannis, meanwhile, can outmuscle the opposition inside and also strike deep with the likes of Steph Curry.
However, NBA players really aren't too interested in outmuscling anyone in an exhibition game, so this will likely devolve into a race to see who can drop the most points—as it typically does. Curry and Antetokounmpo are certainly elite scorers, but the group of James, Durant, Irving, James Harden and Klay Thompson may just be too potent to outscore.
Team James also has the edge in experience. It has a combined seven All-Star MVP awards on its roster, so it will know what it takes to win this type of star-driven game.
Expect Team James to keep the pressure on from start to finish.