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NBA All-Star captains will pick teams playground-style just before tipoff

The NBA is taking its updated All-Star format to the next level.

The league and the NBPA announced Tuesday that captains will select their teams from a pool of All-Stars in a pregame draft just before tipoff — just like on the playground. The draft will take place at 7:30 p.m. ET Feb. 19 at Salt Lake City's Vivint Arena. The game is scheduled to tip at 8 p.m.

It sounds like LeBron James and likely Giannis Antetokounmpo will have to look players in the eyes as some go unpicked late in the process.

The pregame draft is an update to the All-Star format the league adopted in 2018. Prior to that year, the game always pitted Eastern Conference All-Stars against Western Conference All-Stars. Starting in 2018, the highest vote-getter in each conference was elected captain, and the captains then picked teams. But until now, they did so in a studio segment broadcast on TNT weeks before the game.

James has been a captain in each season of the new format. He has also built a 5-0 record with the teams he selected. He was the overwhelming vote-getter in the Western Conference over Stephen Curry in the latest round of voting announced Jan. 19. Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, held a slight edge in the East over Kevin Durant, who has been sidelined by a knee injury since Jan. 9.

Captains and starters as selected by fans will be announced Thursday.

James will face pressure to select Los Angeles Lakers teammate Anthony Davis if Davis is named an All-Star and healthy enough to play. He has been sidelined by a foot injury since Dec. 23. Meanwhile, nobody likes to get picked last, especially in front of a crowd.

This should be fun and could provide some in-game motivation for players fresh off a late draft selection.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James could both be All-Star captains once again. (Kyle Terada/Reuters)
Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James could both be All-Star captains once again. (Kyle Terada/Reuters) (USA Today Sports / reuters)