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BBNBA: KAT makes his return after battling COVID-19, not a fan of playing the All-Star Game

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Good afternoon, folks. KAT is BACK! Let’s talk BBNBA.

All-Star voting is officially OPEN! If you’d like to help vote your favorite former Kentucky Wildcats into the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, you can do so by clicking the link here. Or you can vote for them through Twitter by hashtagging the player’s name with #NBAAllStar next to it. For example: “#JuliusRandle #NBAAllStar” would be one vote for Julius Randle. You can tweet out votes for up to 10 players in a given day, or simply retweet anything that meets the criteria for a certified vote.

RECAP

KAT makes return after 13-game absence due to COVID-19

Karl-Anthony Towns has been through more over the last calendar year than probably any of his NBA peers. From losing his mother and six other family members to COVID-19, to being hit by a drunk driver during the middle of the day, to reinjuring his wrist and missing several weeks of basketball, to testing positive for the coronavirus himself, KAT could use a lengthy vacation.

He finally returned to the hardwood on Wednesday night for the first time since he announced that he tested positive back on Jam. 15. Towns performed well following his absence, putting up 18 points and 10 rebounds as his Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 119-112.

But the main talking points after the game weren’t about the actual basketball that was played, rather the endless tragedies KAT has faced and how he’s been able to seemingly overcome them.

Postgame comments ranged from his thoughts on the All-Star Game (which he is not in favor of playing) to how he feels a bit guilty about receiving COVID-19 treatment when there are others in more dire need. Towns has underlying conditions that worried him throughout his battle against the coronavirus and he explained how the mental health effect really took a toll on him while he was in quarantine. He’s been the prime example of the negativities that playing sports during a pandemic can bring. And yet, the NBA continues to roll on.

What it all comes down to, in my opinion, is the NBA not taking the health and safety of its players as seriously as they need to be. A 2021 All-Star Game is pointless and countless star players have said as such, including Towns.

“I personally don’t believe there should be an All-Star Game, but what the hell do I know?” Towns said, according to ESPN. “Shit, I obviously haven’t dealt with COVID, probably a guy who has some insight into that. What should I know about COVID, right?”

I’ve been someone who has felt the need to defend the NBA in the past, but this is inexcusable. How can commissioner Adam Silver look Towns in the eye and say it’s worth it to have an All-Star Game after everything the latter has experienced with COVID-19? The NBA has already felt the need to add in a halftime Dunk Contest, knowing that the All-Star Game by itself is a dull affair. The league is purposefully pulling in its best players from across the country to one location for one meaningless basketball game. Does the risk sound worthy of the reward?

Had it not been for the inclusion of the Elam Ending last season, the All-Star Game is typically a half-speed, mini dunk contest. Even with the Elam Ending, the first three-and-a-half quarters are played with little effort. I would expect it to be even more of a lifeless event this season with players having little desire to be there when they could be taking the week off and preparing for the second half of an uncertain season.


Towns said he experienced a lot of “scary nights” while battling COVID-19 and that his niece and nephew were worried for his life after watching Towns’ mother meet a tragic fate.

“There’s such mental strain during all this time, feeling of guilt because of the resources I have and I wish I could spread these resources to as many people as possible, guilt, just a lot of demons I haven’t dealt with that I put to the back burner with basketball,” Towns said, according to The Athletic. “But basketball was now taken away from me, my teammates were taken away from me completely, people were taken away from me completely. It’s just you in that house, and it was challenging. But COVID is a real thing. It ain’t never gone away. It’s just gotten smarter. So there’s that.”

In the end, money wins out, and that’s why the All-Star Game will go as planned regardless of how much the actual product does not want to participate.

Booker and Suns eke out win over Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo poured in 47 points for the Milwaukee Bucks, but the win was spoiled by Devin Booker’s BBNBA-high of 30 points as the Phoenix Suns came away with a tightly-contested 125-124 victory. The Suns move to 15-9 on the year and hold sole possession of the fourth playoff position in the Western Conference.

Booker shot 11-21 from the floor to go along with his six rebounds and three assists as Phoenix overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to take down one of the Eastern Conference powerhouses. Chris Paul added 28 points alongside Booker as the duo combined for 15 points in the final period. The loss for Milwaukee snapped its five-game winning streak.

Antetokounmpo had a shot to win the game at the buzzer, but his mid-range jumper was off the mark. According to Booker, they weren’t all that worried about a jumpshot from the Greek Freak with the game on the line: “We’re in good shape,” the former Wildcat said.

SGA and AD both sit as Lakers win third straight overtime game

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Anthony Davis were both ruled out ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 114-113 overtime win against the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was the third consecutive overtime outing for the Lakers and second in a row against OKC, but L.A. came away with wins in all three affairs. Davis has now sat out the previous two games for L.A. due to tendonosis in his right Achilles that the franchise is being extra cautious about.

Without AD, LeBron James went to work once again, finishing with 25 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. For the Thunder, Hamidou Diallo was inserted into the starting lineup, assuming SGA’s role as the primary point guard. Gilgeous-Alexander was out due to a left knee sprain that has held sidelined him for three of OKC’s previous five games.

This wasn’t the first time Diallo has been forced into a starting position and it wasn’t the first time he’s shined in the short-term move, either. Diallo registered 15 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and two blocks in 37 minutes played and has been looking more and more like a legitimate NBA player with every passing game.

Over his last 11 outings (four of them starts), Diallo is averaging 14.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals while shooting over 51 percent from the floor. Among all NBA players who are under 6-foot-7, the former Wildcat ranks as one of the best rebounders at his position. Diallo’s 10.3 percent rebounding rate rivals that of lengthy players such as Dejounte Murray and LaMelo Ball.

Also for OKC, Darius Miller saw 14 minutes of action, adding eight points, three rebounds, and one steal.

Other notes from across the BBNBA

For the second time this season, Willie Cauley-Stein was named the Dallas Mavericks defensive player of the game, meaning he was able to don the bedazzled belt that comes with the honor. WCS finished with 14 points and six rebounds in the Mavs’ 118-117 win over the Atlanta Hawks. But his impressive play aside, Cauley-Stein was heavily involved in the last moment of the victory. Hawks guard Trae Young was incensed after WCS was not called for a foul after the one-time Kentucky big man ran over Young with 4.7 seconds left in the game. Young set a screen on WCS, who barrelled right through him as Young theatrically fell to the hardwood. No foul was called (the correct call) and the Hawks missed the go-ahead game-winner. After the game, Cauley-Stein called Young’s attempt “sneaky”, but he knew it wasn’t a call the point guard would get with the game on the line.

Jamal Murray only needed to play 25 minutes as his Denver Nuggets obliterated the Cleveland Cavaliers 133-95. The former ‘Cat put up just eight points, four rebounds, and four assists as the Nuggets shot nearly 60 percent from the floor and led by 17 after the first quarter. It was just the fourth time out of 22 games that Murray has failed to hit double-figures.

Check out the entire stat sheet below.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Devin Booker (PHX)125-124 W vs. MIL3011-21 (1-4)63003_739
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)112-119 L vs. LAC188-15 (2-7)103103-631
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)113-114 (OT) L @ LAL155-13 (0-2)135021+837
Willie Cauley-Stein (DAL)118-117 W vs. ATL145-6 (0-0)60000+1923
Jamal Murray (DEN)133-95 W vs. CLE83-6 (0-0)44102+2425
Darius Miller (OKC)
113-114 (OT) L @ LAL83-4 (2-3)30100014
Malik Monk (CHA)114-130 L @ MEM62-8 (2-5)21002-1223
P.J. Washington (CHA)114-130 L @ MEM52-7 (0-2)34012+128
Eric Bledsoe (NOP)116-129 L @ CHI52-5 (1-3)23002-917
Jarred Vanderbilt (MIN)112-119 L vs. LAC31-2 (0-0)22011+116
Anthony Davis (LAL)114-113 (OT) W vs. OKCDNP-Right Achilles; Tendonosis----------------
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC)113-114 (OT) L @ LALDNP-Left knee sprain----------------
Rajon Rondo (ATL)117-118 L @ DALDNP-Low back pain----------------
Wenyen Gabriel (NOP)116-129 L @ CHIDNP-Coach's Decision----------------
Patrick Patterson (LAC)119-112 W @ MINDNP-Coach's Decision----------------
Nick Richards (CHA)114-130 L @ MEMDNP-Coach's Decision----------------

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

7:30 (TNT): Heat (Adebayo, Herro) @ Rockets (Cousins, Wall)

7:30: Raptors @ Celtics

8:00: Pacers @ Pistons

10:00: Magic @ Warriors (Mulder)

10:00 (TNT): 76ers (Maxey) @ Trail Blazers (Kanter)

Article written by Zack Geoghegan

Recruiting reporter for KSR. Follow me on Twitter: @ZGeogheganKSR