Clippers' Kawhi Leonard: Playing All-Star Game 'Putting Money over Health'

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) controls the ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Add Los Angeles Clippers star Kawhi Leonard to the list of NBA players who are unhappy with the league's decision to move forward with the All-Star Game. 

Speaking to reporters after Friday's game against the Boston Celtics, Leonard said it "doesn't surprise me" that the NBA wants to hold its annual midseason exhibition. 

"We all know why we're playing it," he said. "It's money on the line ... and putting money over health, pretty much. We're playing games now and it's still a pandemic, we're doing all these protocols."

According to a memo obtained by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association expect to finalize an agreement for a single-day All-Star event in Atlanta that will take place March 7.

The event will include a traditional All-Star Game between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, as well as a skills competition.

Several players have voiced their displeasure about holding the event amid the COVID-19 pandemic. LeBron James told reporters Thursday he has "zero energy and zero excitement" about the All-Star Game and called it "a slap in the face" to players who were counting on the weeklong break in early March.

Giannis Antetokounmpo echoed James' sentiments following the Milwaukee Bucks' win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

"I've got zero energy, zero excitement," he told reporters. "At the end of the day, if they tell us we're gonna show up, we've got to do our job. I'm always gonna do my job. I'm always showing up, showing the right example. But at the end of the day inside, deep down, I don't want to do it. I want to get some break."

The NBA has adjusted its health-and-safety protocols during the season amid a series of issues related to COVID-19. Players can't arrive at the arena more than three hours before tipoff; all players on the bench must wear a protective facemask at all times; teams must create a seating chart on flights for road games "so that players whose assigned seats are closest to each other on the bench for games are also closest to each other on the team plane."

Despite the protocols, things continue to be bumpy for the league.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant was pulled from Friday's game against the Toronto Raptors twice—before tipoff and later in the third quarter, after he played 19 minutes—to undergo contact tracing after someone he was in contact with tested positive.

Leonard is currently in line to be a starter in this year's All-Star Game. He ranks third among Western Conference frontcourt players in fan voting, behind James and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic.