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Kawhi Leonard on playing All-Star Game: ‘It’s money on the line’

Boston Celtics v LA Clippers

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers looks on during the game against the Boston Celtics on February 5, 2021 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Kawhi Leonard doesn’t mince words, he just says it plain.
“We all know why we’re playing it,” the Clippers’ Kawhi said postgame Friday night when asked about the All-Star Game plans. “It’s money on the line; it’s an opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much...

“We’re playing games now, and it’s still a pandemic, doing all these protocols and rules, so it doesn’t really surprise me.”

Leonard is being honest about the unspoken part of the agreement to play this season — it has always been about making as much money as possible during a bad situation. The players agreed to the deal, understanding there was a balance to strike between health risks and bringing in money to the league.

The All-Star Game is part of that continuum. The NBA canceled the planned All-Star weekend in Indianapolis (rescheduling that for 2024), but there was a push from the NBA’s broadcast partners and sponsors to have a game still. The All-Star Game is big business and an international showcase for the league and its players.

So it appears the game is going forward on March 7 in Atlanta. Leonard will be there, as of now the fans have voted him as a starter.

The players who are going are not thrilled with the idea.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” the Lakers’ LeBron James said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game... And then coming into this season, we were told that we were not having an All-Star Game, so we’d have a nice little break... And then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this and just breaks that all the way up. So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face...

“I’ll be there if I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”

“The Big Dog (LeBron) says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game. I’m the same way,” Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo said Friday. “I really, right now, I don’t care about the All-Star Game,” before adding that without fans what is the point of the game.”

“I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid,” Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox said. “If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back? But obviously, money makes the world go round so it is what it is. I’m not really worried about, if I’m voted in, so be it.”

It’s all a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing — if there is an All-Star game next month the selected players will be there. Leonard said it plainly, it’s all about the money. And the star players will do their part to make sure everyone’s paychecks keep rolling in.