James Harden: ‘It Feels Like Everything Was Forced Upon Players’

Kevin Durant, James Harden

Getty Kevin Durant and James Harden looking at the action of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte.

With all that has been going on in the last year with the coronavirus, many events have either been condensed or canceled altogether. With the midway point of the season approaching fast, questions about NBA All-Star weekend have stirred up around the league. Finally, on February 4, the NBA and NBPA decided that the event will indeed happen on March 7 in Atlanta. While many are grateful and excited for the game and events to precede it, some players around the league question whether it’s wise to have the event, including Brooklyn Nets’ shooting guard James Harden.

Harden Thinks the All-Star Game Is a Bad Idea

In a Zoom interview with reporters after the loss to Toronto, via SNY, Harden was asked about the league having the All-Star Game on March 7. “I haven’t said anything publicly, but I feel the same way as some of the players as far as like there’s so much going on as far as trying to calm the virus down and you know we’re putting on an event,” Harden said. “I mean I know what the reason is for it, but I feel like especially with a condensed schedule it feels like everything was forced among players it’s already draining. We play in a lot of games in a week. I feel like that was kind of a week for us to relax, be with our families, and take a step back away from basketball. Like I said we’re just in it.”

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Harden is averaging 24.1 points per game this season, as well as a career-high 12 assists per game. But even with having such an exemplary season, Harden and many around The Association feel disrespected by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s decision to go on with the event.

Many People Around the Association Agree With Harden

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone thinks that having that time off would be much more beneficial. “Personally, I’d much rather stay home with my wife and my kids,” Malone said via Sports Illustrated. “This schedule has been so dense, you don’t really have time with your families.”

LeBron James, who is second in all-star voting this year, was very candid about his feelings regarding this juncture. “I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” James said via Sports Illustrated. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.” James has continually reminded everyone about the ongoing battle the country is having with COVID-19.”We’re also still dealing with a pandemic,” James Continued. “We’re still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into the one city that’s open? Obviously, the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend.”

Sacramento Kings’ fourth-year guard De’Aaron Fox is having a great year in his own right and making a case to earn his first-ever all-star selection, averaging 22.3 points per game. However, when Fox was asked about his feelings on the game, he seemed all but eager.

“If I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” Fox told reporters over Zoom via Sports Illustrated. If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back?” Ironically Fox answered his own question. “Obviously, money makes the world go ‘round”, Fox said, speaking on the fact that the NBA’s most significant revenue source is from television.

The Money Is the Motive

For reference on how important the All-Star Weekend is to the NBA and its partners, According to Sports Illustrated, the NBA’s highest-rated Christmas Day game this season was Luka and the Mavericks vs LeBron and the Lakers. That game had an audience of 6.9 million. Last year’s All-Star game viewership? 7.3 million. On average, the only things that garner more attention is the conference finals and NBA Finals. With revenues around the league already taking a massive dent from the lack of in-person attendance, it’s no surprise that the league was reluctant to miss out on a big television payday on a date when it has a captivated audience.

For now, the All-Star game will take place on March 7 at the State Farm Arena. Several players who had concerns about it say they will still attend if selected. No one is sure how the game will work, like many things happening this past year. One thing is for sure, it will be a game for the history books.

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