Tag:2011 All-Star Game
Posted on: February 21, 2011 12:21 am
Edited on: February 21, 2011 1:14 am

On the scene at the All-Star Game: Kobe's night

Posted by Royce Young

LOS ANGELES -- In Kobe's town, it was Kobe's night.

The legendary Laker piled up 37 points -- five shy of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time NBA record -- en route to his fourth All-Star Game MVP trophy (tied most all-time with Bob Pettit) leading the West to a 148-143 win over the East. On top of the 37, Kobe also pulled in 14 rebounds.

Following the game, Bryant said, "It's probably my last All-Star Game in front of my home fans, so it was special."

The game itself was pretty entertaining. While there was the usual sloppiness with 36 combined turnovers between the two teams, there were big dunks, fancy passes, a great halftime performance from Rihanna and a close finish. Pretty much everything you could ask for.

Some notes, quotes and observations from the Staples Center Sunday night:
  • Holy crap the stars were out. Pretty much every spare second the arena had it was showing someone of fame. One thing of note though: Justin Bieber had front row courtside seats while Jack Nicholson sat in the third row for some reason. The fact he was next to sports reporter Jim Gray was also weird, but the fact Nicholson wasn't in the seats that are named after him, was odd.
  • One other Bieber note and I'm moving on: The PA guy called him "Justin Berber" when telling the crowd he won the celebrity game MVP. I found that hilarious for some reason. Berber ferver!
  • Lenny Kravitz played the All-Star introductions and while we were all checking our watches to make sure it wasn't 1997, it actually was pretty solid. Probably not the perfect choice, but the NBA never whiffs on these type of things like the NFL. There's always at least a solid opening act and a good halftime act. The NBA does this stuff up right.
  • All three hometown players (Blake Griffin, Kobe and Pau Gasol) addressed the crowd before the game tipped. Griffin's speech was, uh, dull. How can you blame him though? After his weekend, he probably needed a nap. He said after the game: "I can barely move right now. I'm pretty tired."
  • All five Eastern starters did LeBron James' powder toss before the game. Nice one, LeBron.
  • My favorite moment of the game was Doc Rivers putting in all four Celtics with his first sub. The crowd totally freaked upon Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo coming in. Slick move by Rivers, who never lacks in showmanship. Rivers on the move: "I thought that was beautiful."
  • Kobe had a couple of really, REALLY nice throwback dunks in this one. Like 2001 hops. He said after the game: "If you want to know the influence of Blake, just look at the dunks I had tonight."
  • Bill Russell was recognized for winning the Medal of Freedom, awarded by the president. And the Laker (and Clipper, I guess) fans were classy, giving the legend a good, long standing ovation.
  • Be honest: You forgot Joe Johnson was an All-Star at least five times Sunday, didn't you?
  • In a new NBA "big head" ad played in the arena, Chris Bosh and KD are next to each other in a pool and Bosh says "Feeling good Kevin?" Total coincidence? Or is the NBA pulling a funny one on us all here?
  • There were two different videos of players "auditioning" for a role in a new Spike Lee movie. Not the funniest thing ever, but one of those things where you grin the entire time and say, "Not bad" after it finishes.
The weekend was done up big for L.A. and I'd say it delivered. Friday night was as fun as it could possibly be with the Rookie game. Saturday's dunk contest was a blast, even if the props kind of water things down. And Sunday's game wasn't a classic by any means, but Kobe owned the game in his town, Blake Griffin dunked, LeBron threw up a triple-double (29-12-10) and Kevin Durant dropped in 34.

All in all, well done L.A.
Posted on: February 20, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 7:29 pm

NBA All-Star Game: 5 Things To Watch

5 Things to Watch in the NBA All-Star Game. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Here are five things to watch in tonight's NBA All-Star Game

1. The Last Ride?

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce. This could be the last ride for those players to all be in the All-Star Game. Most of them will be around in Orlando next year as All-Stars (if there's an All-Star Game next season, if there's a next season). But this is the last time to see them as all having earned their way through their play and not as legacy selections (you could argue Duncan's already hit that point but seeing as how his team is six games up in the West, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt). We do wish Steve Nash could have made it though. It's a shame the point guards in the West are so talented and deep, because it would have been good to see Nash out there one last time. 

2. The Boston Pops

How will Doc Rivers play the four Celtics? Will he play them together, giving them the chance to share the floor for their accomplishments? Will he hold them back, knowning that rest and injury are the two biggest concerns for the Celtics this season? The Celtics don't exactly get along with their Eastern teammates. Dwight Howard's been known to swing a few elbows and the Heat clearly have a problem with them. All teams are competitive, but the Celtics' culture takes it a bit further than most. Seeing how the Celtics play in what lineups, and how the L.A. crowd greets them will be worth watching, especially if it's anything like what greeted Paul Pierce in the three-point contest Saturday night. 

3. Rebounding Dominance

Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin. Four of the best rebounders in recent history are in this game, and if they give even three-quarters effort, this could be fun.  Defense isn't going to be played at all, but rebounds are necessary regardless, and all of these players are instinctive rebounders.  Love has something to prove as the replacement addition when everyone's wondering why LaMarcus Aldridge was left out, even with Love leading the league in rebounding. Howard can make a statement about his position as still the league's most dominant big, and Blake Griffin just wants to kill everything that moves. Speaking of...

4. Simply Blake Griffin

There are multiple championship rings taking the floor today, yet the biggest buzz will be when Blake Griffin takes the floor. A rookie, in the All-Star Game, for the Clippers, has captured the imagination of the NBA world. If that doesn't telll you how quickly his star has risen, nothing will. Griffin has to watch it, though. He's got to peel it back, or he's going to get on the nerves of his teammates who are pretty much there to not play defense and launch ill-advised three-pointers. But the first guy he posterizes is going to be seen on the news for the next 24 hours around the globe. Something tells me the Eastern centers will be watching out when Griffin makes a cut. 

5. Durant's moment? 

Kevin Durant is still the humble superstar. But he's also still the leading scorer in the NBA, and the leader of a club that no one seems to have noticed is closing in on first-round home court advantage. Durant's had a quiet season despite his scoring dominance because of heightened expectations. But the All-Star game could be his time to step up and showcase his abilities. He needs to after a dreadful performance in the three-point contest. An All-Star MVP trophy would go far in kicking off his MVP campaign in the second half of the season strong. 
Posted on: February 20, 2011 4:20 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2011 7:27 pm

NBA All-Star Game Preview: Lights, Camera, Action

We preview the NBA All-Star Game (Sunday 8 p.m. EST) by looking at what Hollywood films the All-Stars compare to. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The big game is here. OK, so the game's not actually all that big, considering it's a group of severely hungover 20 and 30-year-olds not playing defense and winging up ridiculous shots with little effort or focus. But it is a staple, a part of the game, and the crown jewel of sports' best All-Star Weekend, the NBA All-Star Game. It's a matter of recognition to be among these players, the best in their industry.  This year they're in Los Angeles, Hollywood, and in the spirit of that, we thought we'd break down for you what some of these players will be showing us tonight in relation to some classic movie performances. 

Carmelo Anthony as Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) in the Twilight Saga. You see, just as Bella must choose between werewolf beau Jacob and vampire soulmate Edward, so too does Carmelo Anthony have to choose between the New Jersey Nets and certain money/bigger market, and the New York Knicks, his franchise soulmate, who he's longed for for so long. All-Star Weekend has adopted the role of the woods where so many deep and meaningful conversations between Belo (see what I did there?) and his prospective mates have occurred.  After long conversations and serious contemplation, Belo must choose what life he is to lead. Plus, just like the Twilight Saga, everyone is completely and totally sick to death of this story. It's meandering, pointles storylines and overdramatic interpretations have left us weary, longing for the days when players played out their contracts and vampires were actually tough.  Sunday's game represents Breaking Dawn, the finale to this traveshamockery, and we all pray that afterwards we never have to hear about it again. 

Kobe Bryant as Seth Gecko (George Clooney) in From Dusk till Dawn. Kobe Bryant said last week that his favorite Robert Rodriguez movie was Desperado. But Byrant bears little resemblance to the tender-hearted, vengeance-starved dreamboat from El Mariachi. Instead, Bryant most closely resembles George Clooney's take on a violent criminal turned hero when a Mexican brothel turns out to be a feeding ground for vampires (I know, two vampire flicks in a row. Bear with me.).  Like Bryant, Seth is a cold hard killer who will do what it takes to survive and thrive, but is also portrayed as a hero due to the circumstances he falls under. You're left wondering if Gecko was a good or bad person, but you have no question as to whether he's the toughest S.O.B in the room. And, like Gecko, Bryant is forced to try and protect and carry along those weaker than him, like his Laker teammates. In short, expect a lot of firing out Bryant's guns, even in an All-Star Game he'll mostly be taking off due to injury.

Kevin Garnett as Jaws in Jaws. Garnett's coming off the bench for this All-Star game, so much like his counterpart, you won't see him for a while. But there's likely to be some scary moments when he steps on the floor, as Garnett struggles with turning his hyper-intense attitude off. Much like the gigantic man-eating creature in the horror classic, Garnett's mouth never stops moving as he's always running it at opponents. And like the monster, it takes a ridiculous sequence of events to destroy Garnett, involving a tank of compressed gas and a rifle shot from a piece of flotsam when the creature opens it's mouth having lodged the tank in its teeth.  This isn't exactly like the knee injury that sidelined him in 2009, but it's close. You also get the feeling that after this spring's playoffs, LeBron James may be left saying "We're going to need a bigger boat." 

Derrick Rose as Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson) in Pulp Fiction. A postmodern neo-noir exposition on the concept of cool? That's the very mark of Rose, who now steps into the spotlight as a starter for the first time in the All-Star Game. Rose is cool, calm and collected, much like Winfield, and just as Pulp Fiction is often overlooked now for its influence and yet wildly overrated for being a work of complete genius, so too does Rose both outperform our expectations and suffer from an overload of hype. Those who "get" Rose adore him, and those who don't think his game is little more than a flashy version of Stephon Marbury. But the impact of his play is just as considerable as the film that pushed Tarantino from indie-filmmaker to one of the world's premier directors. 

LeBron James as Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks) in Big. Yup, I went for the cheap laugh here. The overgrown child who winds up succeeding beyond his wildest dreams thanks to his natural ability? Hello, Lebron. But while Josh is endearing to the audience in Big thanks to Hanks' delicate performance of naivety, instead we play the part of John Heard's Paul Davenport, the annoyed boyfriend of the love interest who can't undestand why this guy keeps getting pushed when he's such a moron. In this way, LeBron reveals that we're at once right, and wrong, and it doesn't matter because in the end he gets to play with his friends and that's all that matters. 

Dwyane Wade as James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) in Star Trek. Smooth, aggressive, and constantly doubted by those in his life, Wade ends up saving the planet because of his ingenuity and bravado. That's Wade. This J.J. Abrams re-invention of the classic sci-fi tale serves as a comparison for Wade re-inventing himself as part of an ensemble cast rather than the lonely lead.  In this scenario, the 2007 season was Wade's time spent as Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) in Moon. Wade brings fast action and a nice smile to the game, and the knowledge that when you put him on the big screen, this flick is going to sell. Try not to get lost in the fact that J.J. Abram's penchant for formulaic character concepts wrapped in overly-developed plots are desperately similar to Erik Spoelstra's offensive schemes. 

Kevin Durant as Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) in The Bourne Identity. Humble, unassuming, and kill you quick. That's Durant. Durant also seems to have a hidden past, as he shows up as this fully formed phenom despite his time in D.C. And similarly, Durant is looking to escape the shadowy organization out to take hold of him. In this case, the media. 

Dwight Howard as Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) in The Truman Show. Just as the movie reprsented Carrey, the biggest comedic star in Hollywood at the time's first real attempt at drama, so too does this season see Dwight Howard straining for serious recognition as the best player in the game.  In the end, it's Carrey's humor that helps deliver the emotion and empathy needed for the Peter Weir film to carry us to a place of consideration, just as it will always be Howard's goofy demeanor combined with his freakish athleticism that puts him on the front page of the NBA paper. But whereas Carrey's Truman steps out of the world he's been placed in in order to experience reality, Howard seems to further immerse himself in the cocoon that's been placed around him, refusing to take responsibility for his part in the Magic's championship hopes and instead holding the threat of his departure to a bigger market over the heads in Orlando like the giant metal moon in The Truman Show
Posted on: February 19, 2011 9:43 pm

Kevin Durant stays in the dark about himself

Posted by Royce Young

Kevin Durant walks out of the locker room, head held high, and immediately starts shaking hands. His Thunder just destroyed the Sacramento Kings and Durant has completed his post-game interviews. He's the only Thunder player that speaks every night to the media and after 10 solid minutes of questioning, his night finally appears to be over.

But he comes out and starts shaking. He calls each security guard and Thunder employee by name, looks them in the eye and says thank you as they congratulate him on the win.

It's almost like a politician on the campaign trail, except there are no cameras capturing Durant's candid kindness. It's just KD being KD.

As Durant gets ready to play in his second All-Star Game and first as a starter, he's still the unassuming superstar. It’s like Brooklyn Decker looking in a mirror and saying, “What’s the big deal?” Durant’s constantly in the dark, but it’s one of the reasons it’s so easy to like him.

Just two years ago, while sitting on the All-Star bubble in his second season, Durant emphatically declared he was no star. Now, as the reigning scoring champ, the league's current leading scorer and the second leading vote getter in the West behind Kobe Bryant, it's hard to argue with that, but Durant is still trying.

“Nah, I don’t” Durant said with a small grin when I asked him if he feels like a star yet. “When I go to the other arenas and they call my name I kind of listen to the crowd. They don’t roar as much as they do for a Kobe or LeBron or Dwyane Wade or Carmelo. I’m not there. I’m happy with the progress I’m making as a player, I wouldn’t say I’m a star but I’m growing, I can tell you that.”

Durant’s personality gets almost as much pub as his game. Easy to understand why too. I mean, just read that quote again. We’re talking about the league’s leading scorer and someone that brought in more than 1.7 million All-Star votes. And yet he’s still no star in his own mind. Talk about not getting it.

In fact, while I was asking him the question about his own profile, I said, “Let’s face it it though, you’re an awesome basketball player.” Durant stopped me mid-sentence and sincerely said, “Thank you,” as if it was the first time someone had told him that. You see, this is the stuff I’m driving at.

More than just humble quotes   and ah-shucks attitude though, Durant has inadvertently endeared himself to fans with his simple nature. There was the announcement of his extension over the summer with a simple tweet that became the beacon of hope as LeBron James held a one-hour special. There are things like Durant requesting that little-known teammates Nenad Krstic and Thabo Sefolosha join him on a Sports Illustrated cover because Durant doesn’t feel like they get enough attention. And then there are stories like the one I told to start this thing off.   They’re almost endless honestly.

They’re stories, however, that Durant actually gets a bit tired of people (like me) repeating every time they talk or write about him.

“Yeah man, sometimes it gets a little annoying,” he said. “People make too much of a big deal out of it. Because other guys probably have done the same thing. I’m not the first guy to do things like that. But I’m just being myself.”

He’s right: It is a little odd how much appreciation there is for Durant’s humble attitude and “normal guy” routine. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so refreshing and different than what we’ve seen in other high profile stars, but when people speak of Durant, it’s almost always about what a player he is plus about what a great young man he is. And not always in that order.

But don’t think for a second though that Durant’s putting on an act. Don’t think that his team first talk and low-key demeanor are for show or some clever backwards marketing plan. Because he doesn’t want to hear that.

“I think the thing that really upsets me is a lot of people in talking about it too much try to say it was fake,” he said. “That’s something that I think is BS because I’m just being myself. I’m just doing the things I was taught basically. It is what it is. I’ve just got to continue to be me and not let anybody change me.”

So what’s it like being him? Pretty easy, he says. He talks incessantly about the dream he’s living and how he never imagined even being in the NBA, much less an All-Star starter in just his fourth season.  Maybe that’s why he doesn’t understand his own starpower – because he’s waiting for someone to pinch him.

Durant acknowledged that one of the ways he keeps his head straight is by always realizing there’s room to improve and by listening to his critics. Somehow, Durant’s 2010-11 campaign has disappointed some. He sizzled in Turkey, scoring nearly a point a minute for Team USA en route to gold an the tournament’s MVP. Most figured that he’d build on that momentum and last season’s stellar 30.1 point per game effort and roll out something like 32.5 ppg on 50-40-90 percentages and win an MVP. But he’s not. He’s averaging just 28.9 ppg, is shooting only 47 percent and his team is better than last year.

Expectations are a pain and if you had them too high for Durant before the season, that’s your problem, not his. If you’re worrying that he’s already touched his ceiling, chill. Remember, he’s just 22.

And he’s not done working. In the 10 minutes I talked to him, he mentioned working hard three times. It’s the first thing he said on draft night when he was taken second overall. He’s committed to his craft and even after 14-18 performance for 46 points, he says he’s goes to bed thinking about those four missed shots.

“I’m always thinking bigger,” Durant said. “Of course I’m happy with the progress I’m making. Sometimes I get a little too excited at times but then I need to calm down, but I’m always looking to get better and get bigger, so I can never really get too complacent.”

That’s who KD is. He’s an obsessive compulsive basketballer. Nothing is ever good enough for him. If you set expectations for Durant through the roof, I can promise you, he has them higher for himself. Every shot he misses you can tell, he’s just disgusted with himself. That’s why we probably haven’t even seen what Durant can truly offer yet. Because he doesn’t even know. And maybe that’s why he doesn’t give credence to the superstar tag.

While I was talking to him, I couldn’t help but wonder if there’d ever be a point things could change his own opinion of himself. Right now if you ask him who the league’s best scorer is, he’d tell you LeBron or Melo. If you ask him who’s a better scorer, him or Jimmer Fredette, he takes Jimmer. But what would it take for him to finally join in with the rest of the world and acknowledge that he’s awesome?

“I guess I just got to win a championship, I don’t know.” What about an MVP? Maybe 10 straight scoring titles?

“I guess then you could say that, but right now, I haven’t really done too much.”

Yeah, he's right. He's just 22. There's still a lot of time left.

Posted on: February 18, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2011 12:00 am

Melo: 'I'm ready for this whole thing to be over'

Carmelo Anthony speaks at All-Star media availability, and affirms no meetings scheduled with Nets or Knicks. Melo says he's "ready for this whole thing to be over."
Posted by Matt Moore

In front of one of the largest media assemblies at All-Star Media availability, Carmelo Anthony faced the throng to speak about his current situation, while rumors fly as heavy as any in recent memory. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com was there to capture Melo's quotes in our live feed

As he played the verbal tango with the media, Anthony made one thing clear: he's tired of all this. ""There's some things that I'm still thinking about in the back of my head. I'm ready for this whole thing to be over with," Melo said, as he reasserted that he had not scheduled meetings with either the Nets' or Knicks' representatives. His frustration with the situation was evident behind his usual (this season, anyway) cool, collected demeanor. "I'm mindboggled right now about this whole situation," he said. "I just want to get this thing over with right now. I wish there was just something, a legit offer on the table and the Nuggets can say, 'Let’s get it done.'"

He did say however that an extension with the Nets, the matter which is reportedly holding a nine-player deal in pending , is not off the table. ""That's something I'm going to have to think about," but he noted "there are a lot of things that come into play when dealing with that. The superstar was very clear that he wasn't going to get boxed into any decision, and that staying in Denver is still a possibility.

"I've told you guys this since day one, that's still an option," Melo said in regards to the possibility that he would re-sign with Denver. He reasserted that he's said that continuously since the summer, while of course omitting that he's also turned down the opportunity to sign that extension since July. However, he did say he hadn't talked with Denver in months about that possiblity. "I haven't had that conversation since November or December, it doesn't surprise me. It just tells me what they’re trying to do, obviously they're trying to get younger and save money over there. At the end of the day, it’s a business so they’ve got to make a business decision. And I've got to look at it as my career and as a business decision."
"I can't really sit here and say I want to go here or I want to go there," Melo said on his preference between New York and New Jersey, remaining coy while admitting that he was "pretty sure" the Nuggets were negotiating with N.J., giving a little weight to the reports of the past day while still feigning ignorance. Melo did say he was examining the possibility of being traded without an extension. "It’s a lot of situations that I look at. If the Nuggets came to me and said, 'This is a deal that we have, this is another deal that we have', I would have to look into that if my option is not to sign."

But the idea of being a "rental" as Melo referred to it, should he be traded without an extension, does not appeal to him. "Unless they’re trying to get car services and want to rent a car. I really don’t want to have to be a rental. I don’t feel like I'm a rental player. I don’t want to go somewhere and be a rental for two months and then have to deal with this all over again. I dont want to go there."

For all the talk that Melo is the one who can control his destiny, he says that Denver has just as much control over where he ends up. While he can tell the Nuggets where he wants to go, Anthony says it's still their job to figure out what's best for them. "They have to do what’s best for them and their organization, too. So at the end of the day, they can say, forget it, we have to take care of our organization, Melo. He did what he had to do here for eight years, but we have to do what we have to do, too."

Anthony said that the Knicks have a different situation from the Nuggets, because in Melo's mind, the Nuggets are looking to rebuild, while the Knicks are already ready to win. "Far as building, which the Nuggets are trying to obviously do in their near future they’re trying to start all over and build up – and don’t try to flip it on me – but New York already has something there. I think the city is looking forward to briging back great basketball and they’re looking forward to that. So if that’s my destination then that’s something that I can bring to that city."

So if Melo's so big on New York, what would he be looking for in a meeting with Knicks' owner James Dolan? "Just something that I want to look in Mr. Dolan’s eyes and see if he’s really interested in me coming to New York or see if Mr. Prokhorov is interested in me coming to Jersey. Whoever I deal with I want to have a sitdoown with. That’s just proper etiquitte."

Anthony made clear that New York and New Jersey aren't the only options, however. "I don’t think they're the only two teams that I can sit here and say, "Yo, I definitely want to be on those teams or nobody else." The Nuggets have to weigh their options. If it’s a deal with somebody else that’s legit then we all have to sit down and hash that out and talk about it. But time is ticking, man, and time is money."

The most revealing quote from Anthony was that he wanted to see a "legit" offer by the end of the weekend. He's through sitting back and being accepting of what has been happening. "Before I leave here I would love to have something on the table. I would love to have an offer, a legit offer on the table where they can sit down with me and say, 'Melo, this is what we have. Let’s try to figure it out.' But as of late there’s been a lot of things that have been going on in the media, deals in the media that haven't been legit."

"I would love to have something happen this weekend. I would love to have a legit offer to sit down and figure it out."

After six months, this thing may finally be coming to an end. At least Anthony understands the media and fans are tired of it as well.

"This has been  a long process for me, for my family, just for everybody, I'm pretty sure it’s been a long process for you guys too, to have to wake up in the morning and deal with the Melodrama."

Maybe this weekend is the breaking point for all this nonsense to end. 
Posted on: September 7, 2010 2:52 pm

Pop Quiz: How will the All-Star Game look?

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

What will the All-Star Game look like?

Los Angeles. City of Angels. Home of the back-to-back NBA champions, the legendary LA Lakers. And in February, home of the 2011 NBA All-Star Game. It's going to be ridiculous, it's going to be over-the-top (more so than even your normal All-Star Game). It's going to be expensive. Really, really expensive. It will also be interesting as next year there are likely to be big changes in the All-Star Game. So what exactly is that game going to look like?

It's difficult to predict, obviously, who will be participating in the game. Even more so than any other episode of predicting the future, there are so many factors that can play into who makes it. Not only things like injuries, team downturns, unexpected rises, and trades, but the popularity contest of the voting system. But there are some things we can examine the possibility of.

For starters, with Amar'e Stoudemire headed to New York, there's a spot down low for the West. You can slide in Tim Duncan, because he's like Johnny Cash. Steady like a freight train, sharp like a razor. Pau Gasol's another lock, as many think he's the best power forward in the league right no w. From there, you've got Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman as the other two bigs from last year's squad. Kaman's unlikely to return with the addition of Blake Griffin, and Randolph's success is tied to an inconsistent Grizzlies team. Meanwhile, Yao Ming returns from injury and will most likely look like a legitimate contender for the starting spot.

But what about Andrew Bynum? We've been waiting for Bynum to live up to his potential for three seasons, and he's constantly referred to as one of the best centers in the league, despite his numerous injury issues. With the Lakers getting older, and Bynum supposedly healthier than he has been in years, Bynum has to be considered a strong contender not just for the backup position, but possibly as a starting center (which would put Tim Duncan at power forward, where he belongs).

Speaking of Duncan, he and Dirk Nowitzki are headed down the stretch and it'll be important to note that one of them is going to take a step backwards. Age demands it. And though Duncan is widely considered the best power forward of all time by those that consider him a power forward, he's most likely to have the dropoff. You saw it at times last season. The writing isn't on the wall, but there's a pen by the chalkboard. Bear in mind we're talking about inches below the greatness he's always provided, but it might be enough with a rising Bynum to shove either him or Dirk out of the starting lineup. And that will just be weird.

This is all before we start trying to figure out the point guards in the West. Steve Nash showing no signs of slowing down. Chris Paul back to full health. Deron Williams healthy with Al Jefferson beside him and more of the offensive load. Tyreke Evans, out of the rookie well and into the general pool. Russell Westbrook, possibly coming on as one of the better slide and dice guards in the league on a team that looks poised to make a run. Stephoe Curry, a rookie of the year runner-up with another season under him and a license to score. This likely means Jason Kidd will not be returning to the team for the 11th time in his career.

And oh, yeah, Kobe will be back in the starting spot. No "probably." He will be.

In the East? Well, the Miami Triad was formed from guys in the East, so they're likely to stay. Even with a downturn in production from sharing the ball, all three should be locks, though it's hard to see Bosh making the starting spot as he was a reserve last season. Amar'e Stoudemire could wind up knocking Kevin Garnett out of the starting spot which would be another changing of the guard. But a more likely scenario is Joe Johnson being unable to reach the starting spot again and moving into the reserve spot as the East looks like the West from last year: four bigs and a guard (Dwyane Wade). Which will be disappointing considering Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo's existence, both of whom are probable to return as starters.

Carlos Boozer, freed from the big-heavy West, may be able to work his way into a spot, and Paul Pierce may be on the bubble. If Andrew Bogut returns healthy, he could complicate matters, along with Brandon Jennings. Basically, point guards are going to massively complicate these rosters.

Sure, some of these players are going to go down to injury, others will have downturn seasons. But there's a strong indication that this might be a year of big changes in the All-Star Game, both with starting rosters and the reserve spots.

But the parties will be awesome regardless.
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