'This is slander!' Charles Barkley defends Jazz after Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert are last two taken in All-Star draft

Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) and Rudy Gobert (27) walk on the court in the second half during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — At least, Rudy Gobert knows that his All-Star coach values him.

His captain? That's a little up for debate.

Utah's two All-Stars, Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, were the last two picked in the now-annual All-Star Draft, broadcast by TNT on Thursday.

Mitchell went No. 22 to Kevin Durant's squad, and Gobert got the unenviable distinction of being the last All-Star on the board and will play for LeBron James's team.

"I'm not going for this Utah Jazz slander right now," Charles Barkley said after it became clear Mitchell and Gobert would be the last two picks. "They got the best record in the NBA and their two best players are the last two standing. This is slander. This is slander, America."

Inside the NBA host Ernie Johnson even jumped in by asking James and Durant, "Shaq's not in your ear, is he?"

After the picks were finished, James tried to make it clear there was no disrespect to the Jazz players.

"I just want to say something: There is no slander to the Utah Jazz," James said. "You guys got to understand. Just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we never picked those guys in video games. Never."

Using childhood NBA Jam favorites is an odd way of selecting a team but to each their own. Barkley responded to James by reminding him of what he had said before he picked Indiana center Domantas Sabonis.

"LeBron says, 'I really need some size' and he got 7-5 Rudy Gobert and he goes with 6-2 Domantas Sabonis. Are you kidding me?" Barkley said.

Barkley has become somewhat of a champion for the Jazz as they have catapulted up the NBA standings. After the All-Star starters were announced, Barkley said it was "unfortunate" that Mitchell wasn't named as one of them. So it was no surprise he had some thoughts on Utah's two All-Stars being taken last behind players who have had much less success this season.

And another thing: Gobert was really good in the All-Star Game last year. He scored 21 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had the third-best plus/minus of the game. In fact, he very well could have won MVP if he would have played down the stretch.

This year, he might have a coach that'll let him do just that.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder will lead Team LeBron in the All-Star Game, something he has said is a great honor.

"The players involved in the game and people that I've had a chance to watch and coach against and there's just a tremendous level of respect," Snyder said. "Those guys are the best players in the world. And the opportunity to be a part of that is something obviously for a coach is special."

Snyder will lead a team that will feature James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic as starters. Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, Paul Geoge, Domantas Sabonis and Gobert will be the reserves.

Donovan MItchell will be on Team Durant, headlined by starters Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Kawhi Leonard, Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum (Durant will miss the game due to injury). James Harden, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, Zach LaVine, Julius Randle, Nikola Vucevic are the other reserves.

Team LeBron

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee

Steph Curry, Golden State

Luka Doncic, Dallas

Nikola Jokic, Denver

Damian Lillard, Portland

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia

Chris Paul, Phoenix

Jaylen Brown, Boston

Paul George, LA Clippers

Domantas Sabonis, Indiana

Rudy Gobert, Utah

Team Durant

Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia

Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

Jayson Tatum, Boston

Bradley Beal, Washington

James Harden, Brooklyn

Devin Booker, Phoenix

Zion Williamson, New Orleans

Zach Lavine, Chicago

Julius Randle, New York

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando

Donovan Mitchell, Utah

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Ryan Miller has covered the Utah Jazz for KSL.com since 2018.


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