Steph Curry and Andrew Wiggins squared off Sunday night in the NBA All-Star Game, but the injured Draymond Green was as present as any of them on the TBS broadcast as he continued his foray into commentating.
Takeaways from the All-Star experience for all three of the Warriors in Cleveland.
Steph and HBCUs
Inside the home locker room at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Steph Curry pointed out how strange it felt to be there, the place his opponents retired to after so many Finals battles. Outside, the Cleveland fans reminded him of that history — three Finals losses at the hands of Curry and the Warriors — with a chorus of boos.
In the same building a night earlier, Howard rallied past Morgan State to win the inaugural HBCU Classic, part of the the NBA’s initiative to uplift athletic programs at historically black colleges.
With increased access to platforms of the magnitude of All-Star weekend and more funding going into the programs, Curry believes the NBA isn’t far off from its next star coming out of an HBCU. One of the country’s top basketball recruits in the Class of 2020, Makur Maker, chose to play at Howard over traditional blue bloods but after injury is now playing professionally in Australia.
“Obviously it’s going to take a couple athletes to take a leap of faith in that respect too,” Curry said. “So it’s on the program. It’s on the people who invest in the programs to continue to support that and make it as real an opportunity as possible. I hope Morgan State and Howard, here, playing this game, putting them on this stage and making the spotlight as big as possible that continues to help validate that as well.”
Draymond Green on TV
Draymond Green arrived at All-Star media day on Saturday with a pad on his lower back, meant to help his posture. A problem with a disc in his back has kept him out the past 21 games and prevented him from playing in the All-Star game Sunday night.
According to Green, he has no set target date for his return and views his timeline as week-to-week — for what it’s worth, James Wiseman described his timeline as day-to-day and has been more active in practice — but the focus this weekend was posture.
“I really started to ramp my workouts up more and more. So I’ll just continue to do that through this break and coming out of the break and kind of see where that falls,” Green said. “Definitely feeling really good about where I am. … But I’m not gonna rush back and try to get back out there before I feel like I’m all the way, 100 percent right.”
Instead of playing in the All-Star game Sunday night, Green joined the TBS telecast as part of a new on-air role with Turner Sports that he is starting during his playing career.
Before appearing on the broadcast Sunday night, Draymond put on his pundit cap on a couple occasions during his question-and-answer session the day before.
The MVP front runner? “If I had a vote and the season ended today,” Green said. “DeMar DeRozan.”
The Bulls guard scored at least 35 points in his final eight games before the All-Star break and is averaging 33.1 per game over the past month, while Chicago holds a tie with Miami for first place in the East.
“Obviously he’s on an incredible run right now, but he’s been incredible all year,” Green said. “When you look at the sentiment that was around him and everybody kind of disrespected what he’s done all these years, for him to take that disrespect and not only continue to play great but take it up even another level, I think is incredible. And the way he’s led that team. They been through a lot of injuries – probably more injuries than anybody this season. And yet they’re still right there at the top of the East. I think a huge part of that has been his consistent level of play.”
The season’s biggest surprise? “If I had to pick a surprise,” Green said. “I think it’s Cleveland.”
The Cavs’ young trio of Evan Mobley, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen won the Skills Challenge on Saturday night and have accelerated Cleveland’s rebuild enough to have the Cavs in fourth place in the East.
“I don’t think anyone expected them to be this good. They’re really putting it together,” Green said. “They’re finding a young star in Darius Garland who’s leading the charge. Evan Mobley. They have a great young group of guys. They’re putting it together now but they’re going to be good for years to come.”
Green is clearly setting himself up for a post-playing career job on television — watch out, Chuck — but he doesn’t want to limit himself, he said.
“It’ll definitely make up some part of what I do post career, but I’m not sure that I’ll do just one thing when I’m done playing. I have quite a few interests.”
Andrew Wiggins’ active weekend
For Curry, this was his eighth time at All-Star weekend. The fourth for Green.
But the experience was all new to Andrew Wiggins, who was voted a starter and made the first All-Star appearance of his career.
During his rookie of the year campaign in 2014, Wiggins won MVP of the Rising Stars challenge, but the former first overall pick hadn’t made it back to another All-Star weekend — until this year.
“As an All-Star you view things differently,” Wiggins said. “You look around and you’re amongst the best of the best. So you’ve just got to be thankful and cherish the moment.”
The weekend started for Wiggins by acting as a 6-foot-7 prop for teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson to dunk over en route to a second-place finish in the slam dunk contest. During warm-ups Sunday, Wiggins was the top half-court shooter on Team Durant, earning some the attention of Joel Embiid.
“Bro, you went to Golden State and you turned into a Splash Brother too,” Embiid told Wiggins, who’s shooting a career-best 41.4% from 3-point distance this season.
For Wiggins, the first All-Star experience of his career comes in the city where it all began, if ever so briefly. The Cavaliers drafted Wiggins No. 1 overall in 2014 but traded him to Minnesota before he could ever suit up in Cleveland.
“It’s full circle,” Wiggins said. “Cleveland was the first team to give me a chance. They drafted me. So it’s great that everything ended up right back here.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism