The Dallas Morning News

Lebron James picks the Mavs’ Luka Doncic in the Allstar draft.

James drafts Doncic for his Allstar team for 2nd straight season

- CALLIE CAPLAN Twitter: @Calliecapl­an

Callie Caplan: Team Lebron captain Lebron James chose Luka Doncic in the Allstar draft for the second year in a row. The Mavericks guard was taken with James’ third pick for Sunday’s game.

For a second consecutiv­e year, superstar Luka Doncic will soon trade his Mavericks jersey for some Team Lebron Allstar gear.

Lakers superstar Lebron James chose Doncic with his third pick in the 2021 Allstar draft Thursday night on TNT.

Doncic — whom James referred to as “Luka Magic” when he made the selection — will join James, Giannis Antetokoun­mpo, Steph Curry and Nikola Jokic in Team Lebron’s starting lineup Sunday night, facing off against Team Durant in Atlanta’s State Farm Arena.

The Nets’ Kevin Durant, who will miss the game because of a hamstring injury, selected Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum as his starters.

The NBA again scrapped its traditiona­l West vs. East Allstar format for mixed teams, chosen by the fan vote leaders, James and Durant, from each conference.

Doncic’s return to Team LeBron is sure to thrill the Mavericks’ 22yearold Slovenian phenom. While becoming one of the best teenage prospects in European history, Doncic idolized James, who entered the NBA when Doncic was 4 years old.

The admiration is mutual. James revealed in a December interview he had wanted to start his own “Team Lebron” Nike brand and coveted Doncic, a Jordan Brand signee, as his first endorsemen­t.

After Durant missed the 2020 season while rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon, Doncic will get his first Allstar chance to play in front of the 2014 league MVP who’s had high praise for the Mavericks’ 2018 draft prize, even if they’ve had a briefer offcourt history.

In a podcast with his agent last summer, Durant called the talented and dynamic Doncic “a [expletive] problem.” Opponents will agree. Among all players this season, Doncic’s averages rank eighth in scoring (28.6 points), fifth in assists (9.0) and 21st in rebounding (8.4). His massive February performanc­es have him on pace to set career highs in several shooting categories, while his defensive presence has improved, too.

In last year’s Allstar Game, Doncic played 18 minutes, tallied eight points and enjoyed some popcorn on the bench, content to watch his more veteran teammates thrive in the spotlight.

Doncic’s second Allstar experience will be much different, though.

There will be no courtside celebritie­s for Doncic to spot — rapper Cardi B was his favorite attendee last year — and no weekend full of appearance­s and parties, during which he met Michael Jordan for the first time last February.

Because of the coronaviru­s pandemic, the NBA has instead crammed its Allstar festivitie­s into just Sunday night. The league will quarantine participan­ts and their guests in a pseudobubb­le hotel.

Doncic will participat­e in the NBA’S skills challenge Sunday evening against Suns guard Chris Paul, Knicks forward and Dallas native Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington.

Then he’ll make some more Mavericks history.

He’s the only Maverick to earn two Allstar starting nods via traditiona­l voting methods. Dirk Nowitzki started the 2007 and 2010 Allstar Games, but both times served as an injury replacemen­t.

Jason Kidd (1996) is the franchise’s only other player to start in the annual showcase.

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 ?? 2020 DMN File Photo/vernon Bryant ?? Luka Doncic grew up idolizing Lebron James and will get to play with him again in the Allstar Game in Atlanta on Sunday night.
2020 DMN File Photo/vernon Bryant Luka Doncic grew up idolizing Lebron James and will get to play with him again in the Allstar Game in Atlanta on Sunday night.
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