The NBA plans to hold the annual All-Star game despite the COVID-19 pandemic and major pushback from the league's stars.
“I don’t even know why we’re having an All-Star Game,” said defending NBA Finals MVP LeBron James. "[It's] pretty much a slap in the face."
"I really, right now, I don't care about the All-Star Game. I got zero energy, zero excitement," said two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"We all know why we're playing it," said two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. "It's money on the line. It's [an] opportunity to make more money. Just putting money over health right now, pretty much."
What does Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard think about the game being played?
The Letter O gave his take following a 106-97 victory over the Orlando Magic Tuesday.
"A lot of players are saying, 'Why are we even having a game?' And I understand that," said Lillard.
Lillard, a new father of three, would love the extra time with his family he anticipated over the initially announced five-day "All-Star break."
"I just had two newborns, and I would love to spend that extra time at home with my family," added Lillard. "My fiancee went through a lot delivering two kids, so I'm sure she'd love to have that extra time with me at home, and same with Dame Jr. and the rest of the family that I haven't been able to see because we've been under these strict protocols."
However, as much as Dame wants to spend time with his three kids and the rest of his family, he also recognizes the financial realities the NBA has to overcome during the pandemic which has drastically slashed revenue from lack of fan attendance.
"If they say we're going to do it, I understand that because this our job and I understand that with the kind of money we make, you've got to make sacrifices and certain things just have to be done.
"Obviously for that event, TNT or whoever is gonna want the show to go on. There's repercussions for us not doing that. It could be something negative for us not going along with that.
Lillard, who ranks fifth in scoring per game (29.1) and ninth in assists per game (7.3), placed third in NBA All-Star backcourt voting behind Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic in the initial fan voting.
Even if he does not catch up to Luka for a starting spot, Lillard is viewed as a lock to be named an All-Star for the sixth time in his NBA career.
The NBA and NBAPA agreed to hold the All-Star game on March 7th in Atlanta. Both sides view the event as an opportunity to raise money for HBCU's and COVID-19 relief on top of recouping some of the league's losses over the past year.