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Blazers-Centric 2021 NBA All-Star Game Preview

A trio of Trail Blazers players look to leave their mark on the 2021 All-Star Game.

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

2021 NBA All-Star Game from Atlanta

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game showcase is here and three Trail Blazers players are set to take center stage when the festivities unfold. Robert Covington, the league’s lone player from a HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), will take part in the skills competition before the main event starts. Damian Lillard, a reserve on Team LeBron, represents Portland’s lone player in the actual All-Star Game. At halftime, high-flying guard Anfernee Simons will compete against Obi Toppin and Cassius Stanley in an abbreviated dunk competition.

Sunday, March 7 - 3:30 p.m. PT*
How to Watch on TV: TNT
Notable Injuries and Substitutions: Kevin Durant (out), Anthony Davis (out), Devin Booker (out), Joel Embiid (out), Ben Simmons (out), Domantas Sabonis (in), Mike Conley (in)
*Approximate start time of the skills competition. That is the first of two pre-game events. The actual start time for the All-Star Game is set for 5:00 p.m. PT.

What to Watch For

  • The supporting cast in supporting events. This year’s condensed showcase features a full weekend of events into one tightly-sealed TV presentation. Honestly, if it goes well, this could be the way to go moving forward. For the Blazers, they will have players featured in every segment except the three-point competition. Simons, who is in an unheralded field of dunk competitors, might have the most to gain this weekend. Yes. The dunk competition has lost its shine in recent years, but a strong showing from Simons should put him on the map with casual fans.
  • Dame & LeBron. Death, taxes and LeBron James selecting Damian Lillard for his All-Star Game squad. Seriously, check out this montage of LeBron pointing to wrist when he selects Lillard for his squad:

Look for LeBron to get Lillard involved in the action once the Blazers star checks into the game.

  • The Elam Ending. Forget late-game clock management, the NBA is once again turning to the Elam Ending for the 2021 All-Star Game. Made famous in The Basketball Tournament, here are the basics for the format:

Don’t like late-game fouling? The Elam Ending is for you.

Designed to preserve a more natural end of game finish, the Elam Ending calls for the game clock to be shut off at the first dead ball under four minutes in the fourth quarter or second half. A target score is then established by adding eight points to the leading team’s score. For example, if the score is 80-72, the two teams will play until someone reaches 88. With no game clock in play, trailing teams are allowed to focus on getting stops and buckets, rather than intentionally fouling.

What Others Are Saying

Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were the last players to come off the board in the selection process. CBS Sports NBA analyst Colin Ward-Henninger expects Mitchell to parlay that disrespect into a MVP-worthy performance.

All of this is a recipe for Mitchell to go hog wild on Sunday. He has a great skill set for the All-Star Game, hitting step-back 3s as effortlessly as he throws down highlight dunks. The fact that he’ll be playing against Team LeBron only makes him more likely to put in the extra effort to prove he deserves more respect from the national audience. And if LeBron is standing under the basket at any point when Mitchell has a runway to the paint, James will probably have a business decision to make to avoid getting dunked on, both literally and figuratively. contributor Shaun Powell highlighted how HBCUs will be featured throughout the showcase.

The artsy All-Star Game court was designed with the cooperation of HBCU alums, and the NBA and its partners are committed to an initial donation of $3 million to the schools (the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and UNCF are the big beneficiaries). The three referees working the game all attended HBCUs. There will be 1,500 front line workers, community partners, HBCU alums and students and faculty in the stands. The entertainment, sauced up by the fraternities and sororities, will be courtesy of HBCUs. The entire day will feel like an HBCU homecoming — without the football game, obviously.

What are you looking forward to on Sunday? Tell us in the comments below.