The All-Star Game is about the stars, of course, but the All-Star break is about shooting stars, going in opposite directions. Once again, we see teams, players, coaches and general managers either enjoying a surge or suffering from stagnation.
Therefore, he’s a quick look at who’s going up and down heading into the break.
On the rise
* The Knicks: Forget the loss at home to the Nets; the Knicks have time to work on their chemistry issues and enter the playoffs (yes, they’re going) as an intriguing team. It’s all due, of course, to Jeremy Lin, the discovery of the decade, although now we’ll see how Carmelo Anthony gets with the program.
* Tony Parker’s Hall of Fame credentials. Seriously, he’ll have to be considered for Springfield someday. He has a few championships, a Finals MVP, All-Star appearances (including one this weekend), remarkable career consistency across the board and is enjoying a fine season (20 points, eight assists). Plus he’s only 29. Seems like he’s been around forever, but then, star players are like that.
* Kobe Bryant’s temperature: You know, Kobe’s “rant” about Pau Gasol and the Lakers and trade rumors had less to do with what he said and more to do with the state of the Lakers. If they were winning and squarely into the championship mix, would we even hear from Kobe? Of course not. But the Lakers have money concerns and besides, they’re trying to make a play for Dwight Howard. So Kobe should shut up and play and let this play itself out.
* Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry: He’s getting better by the month, the only drawback being his spotty shooting (41 percent), but Lowry is one of those under-the-radar guys who’s doing well for the Rockets. Go ahead and trash him for outplaying Lin in practice and convincing the Rockets to cut the guy.
* Suns point guard Steve Nash: The bad news is the Knicks don’t need him anymore. The good news is Nash is looking mighty springy at age 38 and doing well in Phoenix, thank you. In a recent three-game stretch he had 14, 17 and 16 assists. Plus he’s shooting 40 percent on threes. Which means his trade value is up, should the Suns try to get something for him while they can.
* Wolves center Nikola Pekovic: Imagine, if not for Lin, the most unexpected surprise would be found in Minnesota. Pek has been a lottery ticket for the Wolves, who just stumbled on a big man with soft hands. Score another for Kevin McHale, who drafted Pek (in addition to trading for Kevin Love) in 2008 before leaving the Wolves. Pek was a second-rounder who stayed in Europe before joining the Wolves just in time to catch passes from Ricky Rubio. After initially sitting behind Darko Milicic (!) Pek is averaging 17 and 10 in January.
* The Jazz: Just as many suspected, the Jazz were fooling us with a fast start. They’re 3-9 this month with bad losses to the Hornets, Warriors and the Knicks (during the height of Linsanity). They’ll need to upgrade their point guard and find a consistent scorer at the swing positions, both unlikely to happen in time to save Utah’s playoff chances.
* Bucks coach Scott Skiles: The Bucks are on pace to regress for the second straight season after making a brief-but-spirited playoff run in 2010. Skiles doesn’t deserve any heat for being called out by Stephen Jackson, a notorious bridge-burner, but the development of the Bucks has been slow. To his credit, Skiles has had Andrew Bogut on the floor for about 10 minutes.
* Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo: The son of an excellent basketball man (Jerry Colangelo) is having a rough tenure in Toronto with few signs of relief. DeMar DeRozan is shooting 40 percent, second-year big man Ed Davis can’t get major minutes for a soft team, Jose Calderon can’t be traded and Amir Johnson averages under seven points and seven rebounds. There’s no star in the making for a team that must rely on the lottery yet again. Does Colangelo have a future in that town?
* Blazers point guard Raymond Felton: He lost his starting job to Jamal Crawford, who’s hardly a point guard, which is a clear sign the Blazers will shop for one this summer. And that could mean Felton will be with his fourth team in four years next fall.