NBA All-Star Weekend is right around the corner, and the Indiana Pacers might have a representative at the festivities.
Domantas Sabonis is in the running for one of the All-Star spots in the Eastern Conference.
If he’s able to make the team, it would be Sabonis’ second-straight trip to the game as a Pacer. That is, if the game even happens at all.
COVID could cancel NBA All-Star Game
There have been concerns around the league about whether or not the All-Star Game will actually take place.
Many of the NBA’s biggest stars have spoken out against the annual gathering because of COVID-19 concerns. LeBron James and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo have been two of the loudest voices.
"We gotta all follow the big dog [LeBron], man. The big dog says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game, I’m the same way. … I want to see my family."
Giannis shared his thoughts on the All-Star Game. pic.twitter.com/8Gk0QvC4XP
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 6, 2021
Things will look a little different this year if All-Star Weekend does end up happening.
Instead of a weekend full of events, the three-point competition and skills challenge will take place right before the All-Star Game. The dunk contest will happen at halftime.
Indianapolis was originally going to host the events this year but ended up losing that spot to Atlanta. Indy residents will have to wait until 2024 for the All-Star Game to come to town.
Even if the game itself doesn’t happen, the All-Star teams will still be selected. The career accolade will still count for Sabonis if he’s able to make the team.
Tough NBA All-Star path for Sabonis
Will Sabonis actually make the All-Star team this year? It’s going to be a close call.
Fan voting is underway right now to pick the All-Star starters. That fan voting counts for 50% of the final selections, with votes from media members and players weighted at 25% each.
The league is revealing the All-Star starters on the Feb. 18 edition of NBA on TNT.
Long story short, Sabonis will not be a starter. Only three frontcourt players make the starting lineup, and he’s understandably trailing behind some big names in the latest voting numbers.
The second fan returns for the NBA All-Star Game are here 👀 pic.twitter.com/38atOLouNR
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 11, 2021
If Sabonis is going to make the 2021 All-Star team, he’ll have to slide into one of the bench spots.
NBA All-Star team wild card spots
Even making the bench for the All-Star team is going to be a tall order.
Jayson Tatum, Bam Adebayo, and Khris Middleton are virtual locks to take the Eastern Conference’s three frontcourt spots for reserves. That means that Sabonis would have to snag one of the final two wild card spots, which players at any position can take.
The only problem is, even those final two spots have several other talented players vying for them.
The Philadelphia 76ers have the best record in the Eastern Conference, and Ben Simmons is hoping to land an All-Star spot to represent the team. Simmons might even swap spots with Middleton as a regular backup rather than a wild card.
Coaches from around the NBA select the All-Star backups, so every game matters right now for swaying opinions around the league. Big games and highlights attract a lot of attention and could end up being the difference-maker for earning a coach’s vote. The fact the Feb. 22 game against the Spurs is now postponed won’t help matters either.
That’s bad news for Sabonis, who likely dipped below the rest of his competition last night.
Zach LaVine is in the running for one of those wild card spots, and he just took down the Pacers in overtime.
Sabonis was on the wrong end of the biggest shot of the game and had a bad shooting night while racking up eight turnovers.
ZACH. LAVINE. CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/Vla22KYZ8q
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 16, 2021
Julius Randle is another player fighting with Sabonis for a final All-Star spot. The New York Knick just put up a monster 44-point performance last night.
Sabonis having a rough night combined with the competition having high-profile games might have him slipping behind his peers for a wildcard spot.
However, there’s still time to turn things around. We won’t know the All-Star reserves until Feb. 23, so a big game or two could still turn the heads of some voters.
No NBA All-Star betting Indiana
Indiana loves betting on basketball. Hoosiers wagered over $133 million on the sport during January alone.
In Indiana, you can bet on the NBA All-Star Game itself, but not on which players will make the team.
That might come as a disappointment for Pacers fans interested in betting on Sabonis.
So why can’t you bet on which players will become NBA All-Stars? It’s a similar situation to what’s happening between sportsbooks and the Indianapolis Colts right now.
The Indiana Gaming Commission has to approve new types of sports bets in the Hoosier State. Sportsbooks send in a request to offer odds on a particular event, and the commission either approves or denies that request based on if it meets the state’s guidelines.
The gaming commission might approve All-Star betting if a sportsbook puts in a request for it. It’s already given the green light to betting on other NBA awards such as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, so allowing All Star gambling wouldn’t be a huge leap.
Indiana is typically pretty liberal when it comes to the number of sports betting options, at least compared to other states. Hopefully Hoosier hoops lovers will have a chance to bet on the NBA All-Star teams next season.