Here's a sentence I didn't think I would write Sunday: Officiating decisions in the NBA All-Star Game brought out plenty of passion.
Not just for degenerate gamblers, mind you. The NBA's format change, where the winner had to score 24 more points (in honor of Kobe Bryant) in the fourth quarter than the leading score of the third, led to one of the best finishes to an All-Star Game in recent memory. The All-Stars brought it on defense, with Kyle Lowry drawing multiple offensive fouls. The intensity was perhaps best defined by Giannis Antetokounmpo guarding fellow All-Star captain and namesake LeBron James in isolation.
Antetokounmpo's block on James originally was ruled a goaltend, prompting vehement disagreement from injured Warriors star Steph Curry watching with his wife Ayesha on vacation. Steph's reaction, posted on Ayesha's Instagram story, was catnip for Giannis-to-the-Warriors truthers.
"Review it!" Curry, who played for Team Giannis in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game, shouted. "That's not goaltending!"
Curry hasn't played since breaking his left hand just before Halloween, but the two-time MVP sent Warriors fans into a speculative frenzy when he appeared to say "Let's do it" to Antetokounmpo after Bucks beat the Dubs at Chase Center last month. Curry insisted he wasn't recruiting another lanky swingman, telling Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes he talked to Antetokounmpo about playing "Player Unknown's Battlegrounds."
Antetokounmpo, in case you haven't heard, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. Teams reportedly already are clearing the decks ahead of his free agency, including the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors. NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole wrote last month that the Warriors will be among the Greek superstar's suitors and do all they can to clear enough salary-cap space beforehand.
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There are hurdles to clear. The Warriors already have four players (Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins) signed to max contracts, for one. They can't exactly bet on the same salary-cap spike that left enough room to sign Kevin Durant in 2016, either, considering the league's television contracts are a half-decade away from expiring and commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA expects to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars China's backlash to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's support of Hong Kong protestors.
Still, after seeing Sunday's shockingly competitive fourth quarter (this was an All-Star Game, after all), anything is possible in the NBA.