The NBA at the All-Star Break – 02/15/15

NBA Coast to Coast: All-Star game brings Gasol brothers together again

marc-gasol-pau-gasol-20150214 (2)

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol works in the post against his brother, Bulls forward Pau Gasol (16), in the first half of a game earlier this season. (Brandon Dill / Associated Press)

The NBA Coast To Coast at the break gives you a professional’s look at the current NBA season so far. Later on, I’ll be giving you my perspective. But first…

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

Ageless

Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, 49, the Western Conference All-Star coach, got a chuckle out of knowing that he’s going to coach former San Antonio teammate Tim Duncan, 38, in Sunday’s All-Star game. “I’m sure I’ll have some choice words for him too,” Kerr said. “And maybe even threaten to play him 42 minutes just to wear him down.”

I’ll be there

Golden State guard Stephen Curry couldn’t help but crack on his easy-going teammate, Klay Thompson. Curry was asked what Thompson’s response was when Thompson found out he was starting for the West in his first All-Star game. “Huh, really?” Curry said, imitating Thompson. “That’s cool. Wait, when’s the All-Star game?”

Jokester

So you think Gregg Popovich doesn’t have a sense of humor? When the San Antonio coach was asked how he relates to the younger players in the NBA, Popovich, 66, left the media laughing. “The young kids are easy,” Popovich said. “The old ones are hard. Timmy [Duncan] and I divorce once a year.” —Broderick Turner

GAME OF THE WEEK

San Antonio at Golden State

When: 7:30 PST. TV: ESPN

The first time the teams met in November, the upstart Warriors were shown how NBA champions do things, losing, 113-100, to the Spurs in Oakland. But since that time, the Warriors have produced the best record in the NBA and the Spurs are the seventh-seeded team in the West. Since it’s the second game on back-to-back nights after the All-Star break for San Antonio, it will be interesting to see whether Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich rests any of his regulars. — Broderick Turner

CHARLES’ TAKES

The league’s three most historic and storied teams, the Celtics, Lakers and Knicks are shells of themselves, but because of Danny Ainge’s aggressive and unemotional approach to letting go of the recent past, Boston is in the best shape of the these franchises. At the break, the Celtics are only 1 & ½ games out of the last playoff spot in the woebegone Eastern Conference and are loaded with draft picks for 2015 and 2016 with salary cap space as well. Meanwhile, both the Knicks and Lakers are in limbo with both of their superstars ailing; Carmelo Anthony is contemplating shutting it down after making a cameo appearance in today’s All-Star Game and Kobe Bryant, with one season left on his contract, is out for the third consecutive season with a major injury.

So far, the post-Dr. Jerry Buss Era is a failure (just ask Lakers legend and constant John Buss critic Magic Johnson) and the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson has admitted that this season is the same in New York. Critics of both franchise’s owners and front office abound in the media and blogosphere and many believe that things will get worse before they get better. The Lakers face another summer of trying to convince a premier free agent (or two) to ignore their recent history and take their money while in the Big Apple, first time president Phil Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher face an uphill battle to prove that they know what the hell they’re doing amid questions about Jackson’s long-term commitment at the age of 69 with fiancée (and Lakers co-owner) Jeanie Buss in sunny Los Angeles. And team owner James Dolan isn’t exactly helping things either.

Meanwhile, positive stories and rising young stars abound around the league. Golden State, Memphis and Portland are legitimate title contenders in the West; Andrew Wiggins is showing Minnesota and the Cavaliers why he was drafted so highly and other young players are coming to the forefront across the league. Speaking of the Cavaliers, after a rocky start and recent trades, the LeBronites seem to be gelling at the right time. The Bulls, as always, are as good as Derrick Rose’s knees while the Raptors are drawing record crowds in Toronto and showing why any title talk in the East must include them.

The All-Star Game weekend showed a changing in the guard and most likely featured final appearances by players such as Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki. Meanwhile, injuries to Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Dwyane Wade allowed young stars such as Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson to make their initial appearances on the globally broadcast game. And, taking full advantage of the extended break (a week), many of the game’s brightest stars and their celebrity counterparts from the worlds of movies and television and other sports gathered in New York City to network and party together.

For old-timers such as myself, it’s not our father’s NBA anymore. Adam Silver is celebrating one year as commissioner, the players association has an aggressive new executive director in Michele Roberts who’s already made it clear that the owners are in for a fight over increased revenues from the new TV contracts due to take effect for the 2016-17 season, and in what may be one of the most important player moves in recent history, Lebron James is taking an increased role as a leader of the game off the court.

Thursday’s trade deadline could portend who positions themselves for both a playoff run this season and this summer’s draft. Will the Lakers trade Steve Nash’s (yes he’s still alive) expiring contract or just hold tight and hope to keep their protected draft choice while waiting on promising rookie Julius Randle to heal from his broken leg suffered in the opening game of the season? What contender/s will make a bold move to bolster their roster? Can Kevin Durant get and stay healthy long enough to lead the Thunder, along with Russell Westbrook, to a playoff slot? And, are the Spurs just lying low, trying to conserve energy as only “Pop” can do?

For the first time in recent years, there’s no clear-cut leader to hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. And for fans, that’s a great thing as the playoffs promise to be exciting and thrill-filled from start to finish.

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