Nikola Jokic, Ben Simmons highlight first-time All-Star selections

ByRoyce Young ESPN logo
Friday, February 1, 2019

The NBA announced the 14 reserves for the 2019 All-Star Game on Thursday, with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets, Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic and Khris Middleton of the Milwaukee Bucks making their first appearances.

All-Star reserves are selected by the coaches.

Joining Jokic to round out the Western Conference: Russell Westbrook (eighth selection), Klay Thompson (fifth selection), Damian Lillard (fourth selection), Anthony Davis (sixth selection), LaMarcus Aldridge (seventh selection) and Karl-Anthony Towns (second selection).

"My girlfriend started to cry and my brother started yelling and screaming,'' Jokic said on TNT, which broadcast the reserve announcements.

Joining Simmons, Middleton and Vucevic in the Eastern Conference: Bradley Beal (second selection), Victor Oladipo (second selection), Kyle Lowry (fifth selection) and Blake Griffin (sixth selection).

Vucevic's teammates were as happy as he was to get the word.

"To see somebody be rewarded for their hard work, that's great," Orlando'sTerrence Rosssaid.

Said Griffin: "It's truly an honor to be selected as an All-Star by the coaches in our league."

The selection means a lot to Middleton, a South Carolina native who will be playing in the game close to home in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Feb. 17.

"I got a phone call from my sister or dad first that broke the news to me, so that was pretty cool to hear their reaction," Middleton said. "And then Jon [Horst, the team's general manager] walked in with that big smile. That was a cool moment. Something I won't forget."

Thursday's selection of Middleton, coupled with the fact that Mike Budenholzer and his Bucks staff will lead Team Giannis, has made the event extra special for teammateGiannis Antetokounmpo.

"It's always nice to be in the All-Star Game, but now that you have people -- you have Khris, you have the coaching staff, you have your own people -- it is big for the team. It is big for the city of Milwaukee," Antetokounmpo said. "It is going to be fun.

"I am really happy for [Middleton]. He has sacrificed so much for the team. He definitely deserves it. We have been teammates for six years. I've never seen a smile on him that bright. I am really, really happy for him and his family. He deserves it."

Notably absent from the rosters are Jimmy Butler of the Philadelphia 76ers, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, rookie sensation Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.

Doncic took the news in stride

"I was just excited to be in the talks to be there," Doncic said. "It didn't happen, but maybe next year."

The fact he was in the conversation thanks to strong fan support meant a lot to him.

"I guess that doesn't count a lot, but for me it was amazing seeing a lot of fans wanted me in the game and a lot of fans keep supporting me," Doncic said. "That's the most important thing for me."

Lowry said his selection was a testament to his teammates.

"It means the world. It means the coaches respect what I do and I appreciate them voting me in," Lowry said. "I go out there, do my job and play hard and try to lead my team the best I possibly can.

"If it wasn't for my teammates, I wouldn't be in this position, so I always tip my hat to my teammates. That's the most important thing -- my teammates giving me the opportunity to lead them and to be one of the main guys.

Because of a season-ending injury, Oladipo will be replaced in the pool, selected by the commissioner. Candidates for that spot include D'Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie of the Brooklyn Nets, Butler and possibly Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat.

A few notes on the selections: the East-leading Bucks have multiple All-Stars for the first time since 2001; Jokic is the first Nuggets All-Star since Carmelo Anthony in 2011; Vucevic is the first Magic All-Star since Dwight Howard in 2011; the Spurs have an All-Star for the 21st straight season.

Teams will be selected via a draft by Antetokounmpo and LeBron James, who were the leading vote-getters in their respective conferences. The All-Star draft is Feb. 7 and will be broadcast on TNT.

Starters were named last week through a process combining fan votes (50 percent), media votes (25 percent) and player votes (25 percent).

From the Western Conference, the starter pool is made up of James, Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant and guard Stephen Curry, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George.

From the Eastern Conference, the starter pool is made up of Antetokounmpo, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker, Boston Celticsguard Kyrie Irving and Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard.

Information from ESPN's Malika Andrews and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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