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Three things to know: All-Star Game fits ‘grab the cash’ season theme

Michael Holley and Michael Smith look back at Brooklyn's win over the 76ers and if the defense can find success as the offense continues to thrive with James Harden, as well as if the team is capable of a championship.

The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) Planned All-Star Game fits theme for season: Grab the cash

De’Aaron Fox doesn’t want it. “I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid. 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.”

LeBron James doesn’t want it. “I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game... Five days [in March] from the fifth through the 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season. My teammates as well. Some of the guys in the league. 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.”

Fox and LeBron said out loud what a lot of players are thinking.

It doesn’t matter. An NBA All-Star Game is happening on March 7 in Atlanta.

Some will argue this is a bad look for the NBA. Hosting a large gathering of players — with some fans in the building, the game is in Atlanta where fans are in the State Farm Arena and even courtside — is a potential superspreader event. At a time most of the nation is not hosting large events, the NBA is putting one on, and that is putting the players at risk.

Not really. At least not more than every other game. Having 30+ players (24 for the All-Star Game plus participants in the Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest) plus coaches and staff is not going to be that big a deal because those players and staff will be tested daily, have protocols that keep them in their rooms, and otherwise work to limit any potential spread of the disease. For invited players, it will feel the same as a regular season game.

For the other 400 players, they have five days off to go party in a Las Vegas pool, hang with their friends in a club, or otherwise scatter across the country to spend time large groups of people and not face the same protocols. There will be a post-break spike in cases around the league, but likely not from the players headed to Atlanta.

Fox and LeBron both also understand the reality of why there is an All-Star Game this year (after the league canceled one):

Hosting an All-Star game isn’t stupid; it’s grabbing the available cash.

That has been the underlying theme to this entire NBA season: Make as much money as you can in upside-down times, mitigate the financial losses, and be ready to move on to a more traditional next season starting in October.

The NBA is a business, and like most businesses around the country, it has taken a punch from the coronavirus and the necessary lockdowns to save lives. The league and players union agreed to a short turnaround and starting games before Christmas (and ending before the Olympics in July) because it made them the most money. It’s what the broadcast partners and sponsors wanted, so the league made it happen.

The All-Star Game is a highly-watched showcase event — both in the United States and globally — and it makes a lot of money for Turner Broadcasting (which puts it on TNT) and the sponsors attached to it. The NBA is a business grabbing all the cash it can this season and having an All-Star Game means more money in the bank for sponsors. So it is happening.

Whether LeBron and the players want it or not.

2) Speaking of LeBron, he had a triple-double, passed Wilt Chamberlain in record books during win

Denver has been on a roll, having won 6-of-7, including snapping Utah’s 11-game win streak coming into Thursday night. For all it had done right, Denver got the chance to benchmark itself against the defending NBA champions.

Those champions still have LeBron James.

LeBron scored 27 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Lakers pull away in the fourth quarter for a 113-92 win over the Nuggets.

During that, LeBron passed Wilt Chamberlain to move into third on the NBA’s all-time field goals made list.

One early February game does not define a season or a potential playoff meeting between these teams. It does serve as a reminder that the Lakers roll out two of the five best players in the world every game, and that gives them a real chance to win.

3) Do players who have already had COVID-19 have a better chance of being added to rosters as mid-season replacements?

If a team is looking to add a free-agent player mid-season, it’s to cover for an injury or fill in a need for some reason. What teams don’t want is to bring in that player then have him miss time due to the coronavirus.

In an interesting bit of reporting, our old friend Tom Haberstroh, writing for True Hoop, got some sources to say that teams are looking for players who have already had COVID-19 for their mid-season replacements.

But the web of [NBA coronavirus] rules includes—two teams and the NBA, itself, confirm—a loophole for players who have tested positive within the last 90 days. They can join your team after only a two-day quarantine. Otherwise newly signed players would have to be properly quarantined for six days, or in some cases even longer, before taking the court. (One such example: The Brooklyn Nets signed guard Iman Shumpert this past Saturday and he still hasn’t been cleared)...

An agent told TrueHoop that he heard from the Celtics, who were looking for, in the agent’s words, “a free agent center who had recently recovered from COVID-19.”

An NBA general manager who spoke with TrueHoop put it this way: “[Getting COVID-19] is, unfortunately, like getting a FastPass at Disney World.”

There are no official statistics on how many players have had and recovered from the COVID-19, and the league has kept it that way. It does not have a different set of rules on the road or before games for players who have had the disease because it would incentivize getting the disease, which is a moral hazard on multiple levels.

But apparently it’s an advantage to have had the disease if a guy wants to get signed as a free agent.

Welcome to the 2020-21 NBA season. At least we’re having an All-Star Game.