Golden State Warriors stars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green took some time during Wednesday's NBA Finals Media Day to reflect on the evolution of their once-mocked franchise since their arrival.

Curry was drafted in 2009, Klay Thompson followed in 2011, before Green was selected in 2012, setting the foundation for one of the league's greatest dynasties.

After announcing themselves on the world stage through gutsy performances against the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 playoffs and a seven-game series against the 'Lob City' Los Angeles Clippers in 2014, the Warriors began a five-year streak of making the NBA Finals, winning titles in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

When asked about his thoughts on the Warriors before he was drafted, Curry admitted he truly believed he was going to be selected by the New York Knicks, and discussed the turmoil that followed his selection.

"What did I think about the organisation? I didn't think much about it," he said.

"I grew up on the east coast, so I mean I watched games, but all I really knew was the 'We Believe' team, and the Baron Davis dunk, and beating Dallas [in 2007].

"When I got drafted I thought I was going to New York, and I didn't really have Golden State on the radar at all.

"Then there was a lot of drama with my rookie year, with a potential Phoenix trade on draft night, [if] me and Monte [Ellis] could play together as a small back-court – 'can we play together?' – and obviously what his answer was at the time."

In a 2009 interview, Ellis replied "we just can't" when asked if he can see himself and Curry playing together, going on to say they "are not going to win that way".

Curry continued: "So there's a lot going on in that sense, but to see the evolution from that year to now, and the fact that six out of the last eight years we've been in the Finals. It's crazy to think about, for sure.

"It speaks to all the different people who have played a part in that – myself, Draymond, Klay, Andre, all the vets who have played significant roles for us, our front office… it's been an amazing run, and we obviously feel like we have a lot left in the tank, that's why we're here."

Green arrived three years after Curry, but he had similar stories, going as far as calling the Warriors "the laughing stock of the NBA".

"I knew [Golden State] won 23 games the year before, and they were the laughing stock of the NBA – but I also knew they had two guys who could really shoot the lights out of the ball," he said.

"Everybody was like man, we were the last-ranked defense in the league, we won 23 games last season, we've been to the playoffs one time in 10 or 11 years – that was kind of the aura that was around.

"We just came in hungry, we wanted to change that, and we did. But it wasn't always this.

"I remember walking downtown Oakland giving away tickets to the game as a rookie – for one of our team activation or community things we had to do – certain guys had to go to the park and give tickets away.

"I remember that, it wasn't that long ago. It was a much less-respected franchise, but we were able to change that, and that's what it's all about."

It wasn't all looking backwards for Green, though, as he also shared his respect for the Boston Celtics and Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.

"You respect and admire that everyone is defending – there is not a guy who comes on the floor that isn't giving 110 per cent on that side of the ball," he said.

"You have to give a lot of respect to [coach] Ime [Udoka] – that's not a much different squad than we've seen… since Kyrie left. It's not a much different team, yet more has been required of them, and they've answered that bell.

"You have to give a lot of credit to them, and you have to give a lot of credit to Marcus Smart, who is their leader on that side of the ball.

"In order to have everyone come in and play [hard], there has to be some leadership there that's holding it all together, and is holding somebody responsible, and to me I think that's Marcus Smart… I appreciate that more than anything."

So here we are, after all that basketball in 2021-22, we come down to the final pair as the Golden State Warriors take on the Boston Celtics to decide the destination of this year's NBA championship.

It was a relatively smooth route for the Warriors after a 4-1 win against the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference finals, while the Celtics went to Game 7 for the second round in a row, eventually overcoming the Miami Heat.

Having been able to rest up since they sealed their place in the finals on Friday, Steve Kerr's team will be heavily fancied to win their first title since 2018.

Golden State were electric against Dallas, with all four of their wins being by a margin of at least nine, and even managing to overcome the outrageously talented Luka Doncic, winning Games 2 and 3 despite 40 or more points in both coming from the Slovenian.

It is no surprise that Stephen Curry is leading the way for the Warriors, averaging 25.9 points per game in the postseason, as well as 6.2 assists and 4.9 rebounds.

His three-pointer attempts have been a little wayward by his own very high standards, making 60 of 158 attempts in the playoffs, just three more than Klay Thompson (57 from 143 shots), who himself is playing more than just a support role.

Thompson is averaging 19.8 points per game, while Jordan Poole is not far behind with 18.4.

Andrew Wiggins also deserves credit for his contribution, averaging 15.8 and scoring 27 in the Game 3 win against the Mavs at the American Airlines Center, and a good example of how Kerr's team can get at you from anywhere on the court.

 

All that being said, the Celtics have shown themselves to be big-game players during the playoffs, overcoming both the defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks and the number one seeds in the East, the Heat.

Jayson Tatum has invariably been the main man, averaging 27.0 points in the playoffs along with 5.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds per game.

Like the Warriors, though, Boston are able to spread the responsibility, with Tatum's 26 against the Heat in Game 7 supplemented by 24 each from Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart.

The Celtics are in the finals for the first time since 2010, and it feels like they have shown the backbone needed to go all the way, even against a supremely talented Warriors side.

Ime Udoka could cement his legacy in Boston, admitting after overcoming the Heat they will need to go one better to be remembered, saying: "We don't hang or celebrate Eastern Conference championships in the Celtics organisation, so we all fall in line and appreciate that standard of excellence."

Udoka against Kerr could be the most interesting contest across the NBA Finals, but all over the court there are intriguing narratives and plenty of top-class basketball to witness.

Whoever rises to the top, they will surely be worthy champions.

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Golden State Warriors – Draymond Green

The outspoken 32-year-old said on his podcast recently that whatever happens, "the dynasty been stamped" for this Warriors team.

A fourth NBA title in eight years would be quite a convincing way to stamp it further, and Green is likely to play a big role if that is to happen.

In the playoffs, he has been averaging 2.8 turnovers, 8.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. He racked up nine assists in the clincher against the Mavs, as well as sinking six of seven field goal attempts.

Boston Celtics – Al Horford

After a year each at the Philadelphia 76ers and Oklahoma City Thunder, Horford came back to Boston to try and finally reach the NBA Finals, and he has done just that.

His ability to stop the opposition and tidy up attacks could well be key against an opposition with danger-men all over the place.

Horford has averaged 8.1 defensive rebounds in the playoffs, including 12 in the Game 7 win against the Heat, and managed three turnovers in three different games during that series.

KEY BATTLE – Will defense win the championship?

Following on from Horford's ability to snatch the ball in defense, these two were both in the top four in the league in the regular season for defensive rebounds, with Golden State second overall with 2,930, while Boston were fourth on 2,915.

One thing the Celtics will need to be aware of is the Warriors' ability to steal, making the fourth most in the league in the regular season (719), while the Celtics were only in 19th place (591).

HEAD-TO-HEAD

The Celtics will be especially confident based on recent match-ups, having won six of their past seven meetings with the Warriors, including a 110-88 win at Chase Center in their most-recent contest in March.

The NBA All-Defensive teams were released on Friday, headlined by Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Marcus Smart and reigning NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the First Team.

Joining that pair on the First Team is Phoenix Suns wing and DPOY runner-up Mikal Bridges, the Utah Jazz's three-time DPOY-winning center Rudy Gobert, and the Memphis Grizzlies' league-leading shot-blocker Jaren Jackson Jr.

It is Gobert's sixth consecutive First Team appearance, and Antetokounmpo's fourth consecutive, while also having one Second Team selection in 2017.

Marcus Smart now has three First Team selections after making it in 2019 and 2020, and it was the first of what will likely be numerous defensive honours for both Bridges, aged 25, and Jackson, 22.

The Second Team is made up of Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo, Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green, Boston Celtics big-man Robert Williams III, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday and Philadelphia 76ers defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle.

It is Green's seventh All-Defensive honour since 2015, with four First Teams (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2021) and now three Second Teams (2018, 2019 and now 2022). 

For Holiday, it is his fourth All-Defensive selection overall, with First Teams in 2018 and 2021, and another Second Team in 2019.

Adebayo has now made the Second Team for three consecutive years, and is yet to break into the First Team, while Thybulle made his second straight Second Team, and it was Williams' first award after being drafted in 2018, 23 selections after Memphis' Jackson.

Draymond Green believes his ejection in the Golden State Warriors' 117-116 win over the Memphis Grizzlies was called due to his reputation.

The Warriors bench responded angrily to Green's ejection after a video review ruled his foul a flagrant-two, for excessive and unnecessary contact with Brandon Clarke, after pulling Clarke's jersey when he went up to the basket following an offensive rebound.

The former Defensive Player of the Year did not take long to sound off, recording an episode of the Draymond Green Podcast from his hotel room in Memphis after the game.

The 32-year-old said the ejection was borne more of his reputation, but also added his hope for the NBA to rescind the flagrant-two to a flagrant-one, meaning his next flagrant in the playoffs would not result in a suspension.

“We’ve seen questionable calls in the first round… some things that didn’t get reviewed,” he said. “Sometimes I guess it’s just a case-by-case thing, it’s a reputation thing. I think tonight was probably a reputation thing more so than a hard foul.

“My biggest worry moving forward is that gives me two flagrant foul points, and as we know I’ve been ejected for an accumulation of flagrant foul points, so my hope is that the right thing will happen and that it will at least get rescinded to a flagrant one.

"I can’t quite say it was unnecessary… and to say it was excessive would be a bit extreme.”

Green was notoriously suspended for Game 5 in the 2016 Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers for a flagrant-one foul, after he was tangled up with LeBron James.

Green made reference to that in providing context on the Clarke foul, and whether we would be surprised at the ejection.

"You know, one thing about the foul is, I actually tried to hold him [Clarke] up," he said.

"I wasn't told anything because I left the court, but guys were told I was ejected for throwing him down, which is very interesting because even when he hit the ground, I still was holding his jersey up.

"But at this point, I kind of expect things like that, like I've been suspended from Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You think for one second I don't believe I would get kicked out of Game 1 of the second round? Not surprising to me at all. Not one bit."

Stephen Curry says he is proud of his team's response to Draymond Green's rejection, after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 on the road against Memphis Grizzlies with a 117-116 win.

Green was ejected in the first half of Sunday's series opener at the FedEx Forum for a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke, and the Warriors rallied to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter before holding on with defensive stops on the Grizzlies' final two possessions.

Curry snatched the ball from Ja Morant to set up free-throws for the Warriors, but Klay Thompson shockingly missed both, before he responded by stopping Morant on the final possession of the game.

The former unanimous MVP praised his side's mental toughness in not imploding after the contentious ejection, noting it even galvanised them in front of the Memphis crowd.

"It was a tough call obviously, on the road and you're trying to start a series, and you get a guy like Draymond headed to the locker room," Curry said. "Nobody wants to see that. It's not good for the game, I didn't think it [Green's jersey pull] deserved that.

"We got a little emotional rise out of it, trying to stay locked in and deal with the circumstances and give ourselves a chance to win.

"Whatever emotion you rely on to turn the page from one series to the next, and especially when you're starting on the road, you've got to have an edge about you, for sure."

Along with the defensive stops, the Dubs' win on Sunday was also notable for the fact Curry and Thompson shot a combined 14-of-39, including eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Jordan Poole compensated and nearly notched his first triple-double with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds.

With Curry starting in Poole's place this time, after he was eased back off the bench in the series win over the Denver Nuggets, the 34-year-old cited his team's resilience as critical.

"Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tie into it, you just bring it," Curry said. "When Draymond went out, there's your moment like 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna figure this out?'

"To go into half-time, regroup, come out and play the way that we did, I'm really proud of everybody and their approach to the game. It was a good vibe out there."

Steph Curry is happy to have "healthy competition" from Jordan Poole, who has stepped into his shoes and produced an "incredible" impression of the two-time NBA MVP.

Long-time Golden State Warriors point guard Curry has started the postseason on the bench as he recovers from a foot injury, allowing Poole to make his first playoff starts.

The third-year guard scored 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, then 29 in Game 2, two wins to put the Warriors in control of the first-round series.

Poole is the first Warrior to score more than 25 points in each of his first two career playoff games; Curry, who also debuted against the Nuggets in 2013, had 19 and then 30.

The 22-year-old is merely picking up where he left off in the regular season, though, having averaged 18.5 points per game, up on 12.0 in 2020-21.

That ranked as the fifth-largest year-on-year improvement among those to play 58 games or more this season but was not enough to make Poole a finalist for Most Improved Player.

Shooting 65.5 per cent from the floor and 58.8 per cent from three so far in the postseason, however, Poole can have loftier ambitions moving forward, having drawn comparisons to one of basketball's greatest ever shooters.

"Jordan's doing some of the same stuff Steph does," Draymond Green said. "That's tough.

"You're going to game plan for Steph, you're going to game plan for Klay [Thompson], but now you've got to game plan for Jordan. That's a different beast.

"You're trapping Steph, okay, but if you're trapping Steph and you've got Jordan on the floor, too, it's hard to trap two guys."

Green added: "He's been watching Steph a lot. He's doing his best impression, and it is incredible."

Poole got plenty of shooting practice this year while Curry was limited to 64 games, and he edged his older team-mate in averaging 92.5 per cent from the foul line; Curry finished with 92.3 per cent free-throw shooting in the regular season.

Asked if Poole would now be taking technical free throws, however, Curry replied with a grin: "Never."

"I like that healthy competition, because I know he edged me out in the season-long race," he added. "We set high standards for shooting free throws, so it's going to take a lot more than one free-throw champ to get me off that line for techs."

But Curry has been amazed by Poole's progress, explaining: "The maturation of his game in these three years has been unbelievable. Just his confidence in his self to be able to take it up another notch at this stage, it's extremely impressive.

"You can give direction and the Xs and Os, but the player has to be able to go out there and do it.

"That's what JP's doing, night after night. That can't be taught. That's something you either have or you don't. I'm happy he has it."

Steph Curry was hailed as the "greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs" after a 34-point performance from the bench that made that case.

Two-time NBA MVP Curry is working his way back from a foot injury and has been kept out of the Golden State Warriors' lineup for their first two games against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

The Warriors have won both, though, and Curry had a huge role to play in Game 2, scoring 34 points in just 23 minutes on 12-of-17 shooting to earn a plus/minus of 32.

"Jesus," said Draymond Green when he looked at the stat sheet. "Steph plus-32... that's incredible. Wow."

It was only Curry's fourth playoff appearance from the bench, and his 34 points still fell short of the 40 he scored against the Portland Trail Blazers in his first such appearance in 2016 – the most by any player coming off the bench in the postseason since at least 1985-86.

He has averaged 29.5 points across those four games, another record over that period.

The performance against the Blazers came in 37 minutes, however, with this latest display against the Nuggets the best performance by a bench player in 25 minutes or fewer. Only Paul George – 35 against the Dallas Mavericks in 2020 – has scored more in 25 playoff minutes as a starter.

"I'm back," Curry bellowed at one stage, later explaining: "In the first game, I didn't really feel normal, like I had the real flow. Then the first half [of Game 2] I had a little pep in my step and my body felt good.

"I was able to get to some spots, and when you make certain shots, it feels a little different. It feels a little bit more normal and more emotion comes out. It was a nice feeling."

Meanwhile, Jordan Poole, starting in Curry's place, followed up his 30 points in Game 1 with 29 in Game 2. Klay Thompson added 21.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: "You have three guys that are capable of putting up 30, 40 points.

"Jordan Poole had 30 points in Game 1, he had 29 tonight. Steph Curry is the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs. They bring a guy off the bench like that, 34 points, five threes... and then Klay Thompson."

The Warriors have an issue now, Green acknowledges, working out how to get all three guards into the same lineup.

"We're not going to keep Steph in the sixth man role, forget that," he said. "But saying that, ultimately, Jordan is probably going to have to start, too.

"Ultimately, we've got to figure a bunch of stuff out. It's a good problem to have, a great problem to have."

Green was happy to let Steve Kerr "figure that one out", but the coach is very pleased with Curry's attitude to returning to action on the bench.

"Steph is Steph," Kerr said. "You don't need to sell him on anything.

"He's very unique. He's incredibly humble and incredibly arrogant on the floor – humble off the floor, arrogant on the floor. It's a great combination. Anything that is going to help the team he's all for."

In what could be a Western Conference Finals preview, the Phoenix Suns came up big on the road with a 107-103 win over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Between first and third in the West, there was a playoff atmosphere from the opening tip, and momentum swings throughout culminated with six lead changes in the final quarter.

Without the injured Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole put up 38 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but it was not enough as the Suns executed in the big moments.

Draymond Green tied the game with 2:21 remaining, converting a critical and-one after finishing through the contact from Jae Crowder.

The Warriors came up big defensively once again while in the bonus down the stretch, forcing a miss and foul from Devin Booker from the ensuing scramble for the rebound. Jordan Poole converted both from the line for a 101-100 lead with 39.8 seconds remaining.

Ultimately, Chris Paul managed to penetrate and collapse the defence in timely moments, adding eight assists to his 15 points, and all six of his field goals coming inside the arc.

Grizz secure second in the West

Meanwhile in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies secured the second seed on Wednesday, with a 112-11 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

With Ja Morant still watching on from the sidelines due to knee injury, Tyus Jones put up 25 points, while adding six assists and five rebounds.

While the Grizz clinched the second seed, the end to a four-game winning streak saw San Antonio fall half a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the West's last play-in spot.

Heat fire up in Boston

The Miami Heat defeated on of their chief rivals for the Eastern Conference top seed, coming out with a big 106-98 road win over the Boston Celtics.

Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry combined for 47 points, while Bam Adebayo finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds to break a season-worst four-game losing streak.

Boston had their chance late trailing 102-98 but Jayson Tatum was called for an offensive foul and Marcus Smart was ejected in the fallout.

Draymond Green says the Golden State Warriors are "playing stupid" after they got "punked" by "one of the worst teams in the league" the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

The Warriors slumped to a third consecutive defeat, going down 94-90 after scoring only 16 points in the final quarter at Amway Center.

Golden State slipped to 47-25 and are third in the Western Conference, with the struggling Magic registering only a 20th win of the season.

Steve Kerr's Warriors side were once again out of sorts in the absence of the injured Stephen Curry and Green pulled no punches with his verdict on their latest loss.

The four-time NBA All-Star said: "I think we're playing soft. We're playing stupid. We're just not playing good basketball and we're getting punked.

"It's hard to win a game getting punked. So that's where we are right now."

Green added: "In order to execute, that requires a certain level of physicality. We're not meeting that.

"No disrespect to the Orlando Magic, but that's one of the worst teams in the league. We can't match that with them. And if you can't match that with them, you definitely can't match that going against a great team."

 

Head coach Kerr also gave a frank assessment of Golden State's shortcomings.

He said: "We have to be smarter. There has to be a level of discipline and accountability, of competitive desire.

"And, I know these are great guys. I love these guys. I know they want to win. But we have to learn how to win. Right now we don't know how to win."

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said his team needs to appreciate a decreased margin for error with Stephen Curry injured, after their 110-108 home loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

Curry is in a race to return to the court before the playoffs begin in April, and the Warriors felt his absence, getting out-shot from long range by the 28-44 Spurs, currently 11th in the Western Conference.

The Warriors have been undermanned all season with their big-man stocks as James Wiseman, the second pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, is yet to make his season debut.

Coach Kerr stressed this point, and pointed out that he did not feel like his team brought the requisite intensity before it was too late.

"We have to understand – and I told the guys this at half-time and after the game – that we're undermanned," he said.

"There's 11 games left now, and we're looking at the playoffs, and there's gotta be a sense of urgency. 

"There's gotta be a sense of competitive fight that we take to the other team from the very beginning of the game, and I did not see that until we were really late in the game.

"We were great in that fourth quarter, fighting like crazy, but we need to fight like crazy from the start."

Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson enjoyed an on-court reunion on Monday, which was described by the latter as "magical".

For the first time since Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the Warriors had their star trio of Curry, Green and Thompson on the court together.

Green had been out since early January due to a back injury, meaning he had been unable to feature since Thompson's return from two serious injury lay-offs.

But the trio were back and as good as ever against the Washington Wizards, who the Warriors defeated 126-112.

Green featured for 20 minutes and had six points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Thompson added 20 points to the Warriors' tally.

Curry, meanwhile, marked his 34th birthday in sensational style, scoring a season-high 47 points and finishing with six rebounds and as many assists. 

It was the sixth time in 2021-22 that Curry has enjoyed a 40-plus point game.

"That was magical," Thompson told reporters, while Green enthused: "It was beautiful."

Curry explained: "I think what it did for him is what it did for all of us. You could tell the energy picked up.

"It's not anything more than what's built on 10 years of experience and chemistry and winning and an understanding of how we do things. No matter how much time we have off, we can get right back to it.

"It is crazy to think first time me, Klay and Draymond had been on the court in a very, very long time.

"We want to keep building on that. We know each other like the back of our hand, we complement each other very well."

Golden State have now won four straight games all by double digits, following a five-game losing streak.

The Warriors moved to 47-22 for the season and have now beat every other team in the NBA at least once this season.

All-Star Draymond Green has revealed he is targeting a return to the NBA next week after being sidelined since January with a lower back injury.

Green has not played for the Golden State Warriors since January 9, with the side struggling recently, losing nine of their past 11 games.

The 32-year-old four-time All-Star revealed that he was hoping to play next week when the Warriors face the Washington Wizards.

"Next Monday, the 14th, against the Wizards. That is the date I am targeting," Green said on his podcast 'The Draymond Green Show'.

"I am excited as hell. It's been two and a half months, almost ... I have never missed that much time during the season ... this is something different for me. I am extremely excited to get back out there with my guys to try right this ship."

Green was absent as the Warriors lost 131-124 to the Denver Nuggets on Monday, marking their fifth straight defeat.

The game was a catch-up fixture rearranged from December 30 due to COVID-19, which left Warriors head coach Steve Kerr frustrated, particularly with another game on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"It puts us in a way tougher spot than them," Kerr told reporters pre-game. "We had to fly here again. They didn't have to make an extra trip.

"They've got to play a back-to-back, I know. This was just another in many, many games rescheduled around the league that are inconvenient for everybody, but necessary to keep the league going, so you just do what you have to do."

On Green's progress, Kerr added: "He's had about a week, week and a half of being on the court almost every day, getting a lot of shots up, scrimmaging. He's feeling a lot better and coming along."

Draymond Green has returned to practice for the first time with the Golden State Warriors since early January as he closes in on a return from injury.

Green has been out since January 9 with a lower back injury but joined in shooting drills and 5-on-0 conditioning.

The All-Star forward has spent plenty of time during his rehab phase in the weight room and said he was "stronger than I've ever been in my life" in an ominous sign for the Warriors.

"My progress has been tremendous," Green said. "I think, where I am today, if you knew where I was eight weeks ago or seven weeks ago, it's night and day."

He added: "I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life. I spent six weeks just sitting in the weight room, working in there for four, five hours a day."

The Warriors remain reluctant to offer a firm timeframe on Green's return to play, with head coach Steve Kerr simply stating it was good to have him back in team practice.

Green, however, admitted he was still weeks away but he should return to get some on-court time ahead of the playoffs, with the Warriors well placed at 43-17 and second in the west.

"I'm trying to stick to as fast as I can possibly get back," Green said. "From where I am, you feel like it's three weeks or so, but it could be five weeks or so. It's no set thing.

"In a week and a half, it could be like my conditioning is at a level, my strength is at a level, my explosiveness is at a level where you can go back out there.

"Like I said, as soon as I feel like I'm whole and can get back out there and get my feet back under me before the playoffs, great. If that's 15 games, fantastic. If it's 10, I'll make do. If it's five, then five is going to have to work."

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball and San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray will both make their NBA All-Star Game debuts after being added as injury replacements on Monday.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver confirmed that the pair would be added with Draymond Green (back) and Kevin Durant (knee) out injured.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum will come into the Eastern Conference's starting line-up for Durant.

Durant will still participate as the east's captain in the All-Star Draft on Thursday alongside Western Conference captain LeBron James.

Last season's NBA Rookie of the Year Ball is averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 assists and 7.1 rebounds per game this season.

Murray is averaging 19.6 points, 9.2 assists, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals so far in 2021-22.

The All-Star Game is due to take place on February 20 in Cleveland.

Darius Garland and Fred VanVleet have both been selected to the NBA All-Star Game for the first time as Eastern Conference reserves.

After the 2022 captains and starters were announced a week earlier, the rest of the pool of players was filled out on Thursday.

Garland, having led the Cleveland Cavaliers into fifth place in the East, was a popular pick.

Charles Barkley said on TNT: "I like it when they earn it. They don't just get the fan vote, like a lifetime achievement award. This kid deserves to be at the All-Star Game."

Third-year point guard Garland becomes the first Cav to be recognised since LeBron James left the team, rewarded for averaging 19.8 points and 8.2 assists this season.

He is not the only new face, however, as VanVleet also made the cut in a career year. The 2019 champion is leading the Toronto Raptors in scoring with his 21.5 points.

Fellow pick in the East James Harden is far more familiar with this stage, included for a 10th consecutive season. Only James (18) is on a longer active streak.

Jimmy Butler, Zach LaVine, Khris Middleton and Jayson Tatum all also return.

LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges, Tyler Herro and Jarrett Allen were among the players to narrowly miss out in a hugely talented Eastern Conference.

In the West, Chris Paul makes his 12th appearance, and Luka Doncic is also included.

Paul is joined by Phoenix Suns team-mate Devin Booker, while Draymond Green boosts the number of Golden State Warriors to three, alongside starters Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins.

Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns complete the roster.

Injured Warriors forward Green, speaking in his role as a pundit, said he hoped the San Antonio Spurs' Dejounte Murray would be called up in his place.

Earlier on Thursday, the NBA unveiled new designs for the trophies to be handed out across All-Star Weekend – including the Kobe Bryant Trophy, awarded to the All-Star Game MVP.

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