The NBA rolled out a fancy new selection process for its All-Star starters this year, with the fan vote counting for half of the total and media and player votes counting for a quarter apiece. On the whole, things worked out fine. The resulting lineups are pleasing mishmashes of regular honorees and newcomers, MVP candidates and comparatively underappreciated technicians. For the West, offensive whizzes James Harden and Kevin Durant will play alongside defensive supergenius Kawhi Leonard. For the East, LeBron James's frontcourt-mate will be Jimmy Butler, a breakout star on a depressing team who still plays as if he has some miniature Tom Thibodeau planted in his brain barking out rotations. And hey: Giannis Antetokounmpo will be out there, and given the further slackening of the NBA's already lax traveling rules during the All-Star Game, he may well go coast-to-coast for a dunk without dribbling inside the half-court line. Which, speaking of not dribbling, brings us to the most talked about oversight: Russell Westbrook.
Somehow, Westbrook's triple-double average wasn't enough to earn him a starting spot. Russ finished first in both the player and media votes, despite some egregious exceptions, among Western Conference guards, but fans picked him third, behind Harden and Stephen Curry. This means Westbrook will have to settle for sixth-man duties and enjoy a little extra chippiness on his shoulder.
On its own, this is okay. It's an All-Star Game, and so can't really be said to matter at all. The Warriors' routine blowouts may not make for appointment television, but they're still the story of the season, and it's fitting that two of them will be on the floor when the game starts. This year, though, the game's main storyline involves them only tangentially. Everybody wants to see what happens when Westbrook and Durant play together again, and Curry getting the nod means we'll have to wait a little longer to see that.
When the former Thunder teammates last shared a court, during Wednesday's game in Golden State, there seemed to be some slight thawing to the famously frosty relationship. Westbrook flew in for one of his four-dimensional dunks and talked a little shit to Durant; a few minutes later, Durant wandered over to Westbrook and said a few words in the superstars-talking-shop mode. It wasn't a peace summit—asked after the game if the two were now on speaking terms, Westbrook said, "Nah"—but it had the air of two neighbors trading timid hey there's a few days after one had hit the other's dog with his car. It allowed for the possibility that, during the midseason exhibition, the two teammates-for-a-night might not freeze each other out. They may even deign to toss each other some lobs, if the vibes in New Orleans are good.
The game is on February 19 on TNT, at 8 o'clock. Given the involved pregame routines for these things, it'll probably tip around 8:15. Westbrook will check in around 8:30, high-five Harden, and, like, point at Durant or something. It should be hugely awkward, and it could be great fun.