Stars shining, but return to real NBA can’t come soon enough

With his numbers down all across the board this year, it will be interesting to see how Kyrie Irving performs in a free-flowing game such as the All-Star Game.

Bob Donnan/Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NBA All-Star Game

Venue: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

TV: 8 p.m., TNT


F LeBron James (Miami Heat); F Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks); F Paul George (Indiana Pacers); G Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat); G Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers).


F/C Chris Bosh (Miami Heat); G DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors); C Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers); G Joe Johnson (Brooklyn Nets); F Paul Millsap (Atlanta Hawks); C Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls); G John Wall (Washington Wizards). Coach: Frank Vogel (Indiana Pacers).


F Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves); F Blake Griffin (Los Angeles Clippers); F Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder); G Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors); G James Harden (Houston Rockets).


F LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers); F/C Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans); C Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets); G Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers); F Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks); G Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs); G Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers); G Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers — injured). Coach: Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder)..

Pregame Notes:

— When it comes to the actual All-Star Game, I don’t really care. It’s a fun break for the players and fans, though, and that I can appreciate. It’s also a nice break for media members such as myself who don’t have (or want) to go.

— Every year, there’s someone who should probably be named to the team who doesn’t get voted in by fans or selected by the coaches. The first name that comes to mind for me is Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns. How the Suns have zero people in the game, when you consider their wonderful story of a season, is a basketball crime.

— I also hate how Tim Duncan of the Spurs was left out. He’s better than Bosh, who gets to go because he plays next to LeBron. Obviously, Duncan is in the West, and I’m not sure who you’d leave out. Everybody on the West, sans the injured Kobe Bryant, deserves to be there.

— My pick for most underrated All-Star: Paul Millsap of the Hawks. No way should the Hawks be as good as they’ve been, especially now that center Al Horford is injured (and out for the year). A lot of credit must go to first-year coach Mike Budenholzer. But Millsap has been fantastic, and even better since Horford went down. The Hawks don’t look very good on paper, but general manager Danny Ferry has assembled a group that plays as a team.


— It will be interesting to see how Kyrie Irving performs in a free-flowing game such as this. His numbers are down across the board, and that’s typical of a player in Mike Brown’s offense. That’s not a criticism; it’s just a fact. Kyrie also shot poorly in the 3-point competition. Makes me wonder if the Cavs spend enough time at the end of the floor, or if Kyrie just took the summer off.

— I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. The Cavs have won four straight. But Kyrie hasn’t been the same, at least not consistently. One opposing GM defined Kyrie as a "pretty-boy point guard who’s suddenly being used like an ugly step-child." Yes, that GM was blaming Brown, saying the Cavs should "adjust their system to the players’ abilities," as opposed to bringing the offense "to a grinding halt." Not saying I agree with the GM, but outside expert opinions are sometimes worth noting.

— If I picked the starters, here is how they would go based on this season: East – James, Anthony, Wall, George, Hibbert. West — Love, Durant, Curry, Harden, Howard. So overall, I’d say the fans did a nice job. I should add, however, I think Irving is more gifted all-around than Wall. But Wall is having a better year and the Wizards look like a real playoff team.

— If I sound cranky, I apologize. But the hype surrounding the All-Star Game sometimes gets under my skin. I love the pro game, however, and while this can be a little annoying, I still watch and enjoy most of the weekend. But by the end of it, I’m sure longing for some real basketball again.

— OK, that’s enough about the game, etc. All-Star weekend is mostly entertaining because everyone is talking about Thursday’s trade deadline. Some intriguing names to keep eye on as potential moving parts, mentioned to me by league insiders: Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova and guard Gary Neal; Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young; Detroit Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey; and, of course, Rockets center Omer Asik.

— The Spurs, I am told, would love to land Ilyasova or Young. But no one’s sure how they could actually make that happen.

— Interestingly, league executives re suddenly saying they think the Boston Celtics will end up keeping their current roster intact and make the majority of any moves after the season. Also, most feel the same about interim GM David Griffin and the Cavs. And most everyone seems to think the Lakers won’t be able to reach a deal involving Pau Gasol.

— That said, no one can predict what actually happens at the trading deadline. Lots of conversations will take place between now and then. And even if nothing happens, it’s fun to talk and think (and write) about.