The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Brunson may get chance at All-Star Game

- By Stefan Bondy

NEW YORK — There are now two possible opportunit­ies for Jalen Brunson to sneak into the All-Star Game.

DeMar DeRozan, a reserve selection for the Eastern Conference, missed Wednesday’s game for the Bulls with a “Grade 1 hamstring strain.” DeRozan called himself “day-to-day” and wouldn’t rule himself out of Sunday’s All-Star Game, but it’s certainly possible the strain won’t heal in time. He’s reportedly been dealing with pain in that area since January.

Jaylen Brown’s status for the East is also unclear because of a facial fracture that kept him out of the last three Celtics games.

Brunson, a top candidate for an All-Star injury replacemen­t, said he’d accept an invitation if it comes.

“If I was ever invited, that’s an honor I couldn’t pass up,” Brunson said. “But hope for his health and everybody that’s deserving. I said this past couple weeks, I control what I can control. That’s all that matters to me.”

Brunson should be alongside Philadelph­ia’s James Harden at the front of the line as an injury replacemen­t since Miami’s Jimmy Butler seems content with skipping the trip to Salt Lake City.

“I’m happy I get a vacation,” Butler said.

The NBA selects injury replacemen­ts, and took Toronto’s Pascal Siakam to step in for former Net

Kevin Durant. If either Brown or DeRozan are out, another option is Atlanta’s Trae Young, who entered Wednesday averaging 26.9 points and 10.2 assists.

Brunson’s candidacy could be hurt by the selection of his teammate, Julius Randle. The Knicks are playing above expectatio­ns this season at 32-27, but there’s typically a higher threshold for having two All-Star representa­tives.

Brunson, who was never close to an All-Star before this season, entered Wednesday averaging career highs in points (23.9) and assists (6.2). Since the New Year, he’s been one of the NBA’s top scorers while averaging 29.8 points.

“I knew he would have a long career in the NBA, but I didn’t think it was gonna be how he’s playing now. And he’s someone who should be an All-Star, and he’s playing at an AllStar level,” said Knicks guard Josh Hart, who played with Brunson at Villanova.

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