2011 All-Star

A more mellow Melo moment

LOS ANGELES — It’s official now: The Carmelo Anthony saga is being treated as a parody even by the players themselves.

After the East and West teams conducted a light and fun practice yesterday, on the eve of the All-Star Game, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and LeBron James all sat — strategically? — next to Melo and awaited the avalanche of questions. Predictable questions, of course, when it comes to Melo and where might he be heading.

At one point, Paul interrupted Melo and turned the questioning to the media.

Paul: “Where y’all think he’s going to go? Seriously?

Media: “New York.”

Another media: “New Jersey.”

Paul: “Alright, so we got New York and Jersey.”

Media to Paul: “Where do you think he’s going?”

Paul, turning to Melo: “Tell them what answer I gave for you to say.”

Melo: “Do what’s best for me and my family.”

Paul: “And where did I tell you to go?”

Melo, shaking his head: “Naw, man, I’m not going to the home of Muddy Waters.”

Paul to media: “I told him to come to New Orleans if he wants to. We got good ownership … ”

Melo: “And who’s your owner?”

Paul “… David Stern.”

Melo then gestured toward LeBron. “He’s the reason all this is going on right now.”

LeBron: “Don’t do that to me, man.”

Laughter all around. At this point, the Melodrama, now in its fourth month and once again picking up steam as the Thursday trading deadline approaches, is truly a running joke. Anthony had nothing to add yesterday and dismissed reports that had him negotiating directly with Knicks owner James Dolan.

LeBron said: “If I’m the owner I wouldn’t want to lose one of the top 10 players in the league. You try to do whatever’s in your power to keep him. And if you’re the owner of the Denver Nuggets and you’re not sure if Carmelo Anthony was going to sign an extension, what would you do?”

Get something for him, perhaps?

“That’s what I would do.”

Carmelo had the last word: “I don’t feel stressed out about it. It’s the same stuff every day. It doesn’t bother me. I look forward to the end, one way or another. I just don’t know how it’s going to end.”

Rose’s 2nd half surprise; Snoop VIP

LOS ANGELES — This weekend may not be for the basketball purists, but the basketball sneaker purists sure love it. New kicks debut all weekend, in just about every contest and competition imaginable. Is there a better place to flaunt your wares than the NBA’s most-glamorous stage?

Chicago Bulls All-Star point guard Derrick Rose is holding on the introducing his latest offering, adiZero Rose 1.5, until the second half of Sunday’s All-Star Game. Why? Well, perhaps to symbolize the “second half” of the season beginning after the All-Star break. Or maybe it’s just marketing.

In any event, the black and red design is inspired by Rose’s hometown of Chicago and his path to the NBA. It takes into account the Windy City’s architectural history and Rose’s own. The three panels on the side of the shoe represent his three brothers Reggie, Allan and Dwayne.

Speaking of hometowns, we’re in Snoop Dogg‘s this weekend, so why not roll VIP with the legendary rapper and West Coast icon? Tune into the adidas on Facebook to catch Snoop live on camera giving fans an up-close look at experiencing All-Star from his VIP vantage point. Snoop is inviting everyone to the party.

All-Star Saturday Night Predictions

LOS ANGELES — After detailed debate and two intense days of examination, the Hang Time crew has come up with our own set of predictions for All-Star Saturday night.

As you might expect, Blake Griffin‘s name came up often. Piling up 137 dunks by All-Star Weekend has a way of making you a favorite for the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Same goes for Ray Allen in the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest. But there’s more to All-Star Saturday night than just those two competitions. We’ve got the Haier Shooting Stars and the Taco Bell Skills Challenge to think about.

So without further ado, our picks:

Steve Aschburner

Shooting Stars — Team Los Angeles

Skills Challenge — Derrick Rose

3-Point Contest — Paul Pierce

Slam Dunk — Blake Griffin

Fran Blinebury

Shooting Stars — Team Texas

Skills Challenge — Derrick Rose

3-point Contests — Ray Allen

Slam Dunk — Blake Griffin

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All-Star Friday Night Revisited

LOS ANGELES — Blake Griffin‘s work in Friday’s T-Mobile Rookie Challenge was just the beginning of his whirlwind journey through the first of what should be many All-Star Weekends for the Loss Angeles Clippers’ superstar.

He didn’t snag MVP honors in the game, fellow rookie John Wall did. But we suspect he has a decent chance of exiting the Staples Center floor tonight with a trophy of his own after the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Just in case you missed any of Friday’s All-Star Weekend action, we’ve got a nice little recap here for you (courtesy of the good folks in the HT audio-visual club):

All-Stars show for labor meeting

BEVERLY HILLS — LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul were among the All-Star contingent arriving at a Beverly Hills hotel for Friday afternoon’s meeting between the league and the players.

The session was billed earlier in the week as an informational gathering open to any of the players or principal owners to attend. The two sides hadn’t met formally since November.

“I’m worried about the league,” Wade said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s the future of the NBA. We want to be able to be sure this game can continue to grow and  prosper. We want this game to go on for many, many years.”

The union was also represented by executive director Billy Hunter, executive committee president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Keyon Dooling, Etan Thomas and Paul. All-Stars in attendance included Kevin Durant, Amar’e Stoudemire, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Al Horford.

“We understand that a deal has to be done,” Wade said. “Both sides have to come to an agreement and neither side is going to agree until we meet halfway. Me being one of the ‘faces of the league,’ it’s just coming in and learning more and trying to understand what both sides are going through. That’s the biggest thing.”

The league negotiating team here is headed up by commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver and labor relations chairman Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs. Among other owners in the room were Michael Jordan (Charlotte Bobcats), Jerry Buss (L.A. Lakers), Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and Donald Sterling (L.A. Clippers).

The union is expected to hold a press conference after the meeting in downtown Los Angeles. Stern will hold one Saturday.

The Hall should call Gilmore and King

LOS ANGELES – It was good to hear national director of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo say that the Hall of Fame nominating process was to going to become more transparent and also more welcoming to players who’ve been overlooked in the past.

Now when the voters get it right with Bernard King and Artis Gilmore we can conclude that the system has been fixed.

Yes, there are plenty of other candidates who merit another look. But it continues to be almost beyond belief that Gilmore and King cannot get a foot inside the front door.

Gilmore had the numbers and the longevity and respect of all of the other centers who went up against him in his 17 years in the ABA and NBA. He was a first-time All-ABA center in five seasons with the Kentucky Colonels and that was after leading Jacksonville to the NCAA Final Four.

King, though he had personal problems off the court, was simply magnificent during his prime seasons in the NBA in the 1970s and 1980s.

In fact, Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins says that King is the most glaring omission from the Hall in his opinion.

“I was always confident of my ability and pretty fearless on the court during my career,” Wilkins has said. “But Bernard King was the one guy that put some fear into me as far as trying to guard him. There were times when I couldn’t. He could be unstoppable, an amazing talent and I think it’s time that his talent and ability should be recognized.”

If Colangelo and the Hall of Fame are going to sweep up players who have been brushed under the carpet, Gilmore and King are two of the most deserving places to start.

Melo to the Nets (Again)?

LOS ANGELES — The Carmelo Anthony trade saga finally may be coming to an end. The Record of Bergen County is reporting today that the Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets have reached an agreement on a trade that would send Melo to New Jersey.

The holdup, of course, is Melo. For the deal to go through, Anthony must agree to a contract extension that would put him in a Nets uniform through the 2014-15 season.

If Anthony OK’s the deal, the Nuggets would send Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Melvin Ely and Shelden Williams to the Nets, who would send Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round picks to Denver.

In order to save a ton of money in luxury tax payments, the Nuggets could then send Murphy (along with a couple of the picks) to Cleveland, who could use their LeBron James trade exception to absorb the contract.

TNT’s David Aldridge reports that the Nets have talked with the Golden State Warriors about moving Murphy there, according to sources. The Warriors would send New Jersey expiring contracts, believed to be those of forward Vladimir Radmonovic and center Dan Gadzuric, in exchange for Murphy, who played his first five-plus seasons in Golden State before being traded to Indiana in 2007. Although the Warriors would like to get the first-round pick back that they originally sent to the Nets in 2008 for guard Marcus Williams, Golden State would currently not get any of the four first-round picks that the Nets control and are willing to use to facilitate the Anthony deal, according to a league source.

The belief all along has been that Melo wants to play for the New York Knicks. But this trade may be the only way he gets the money in the extension that the Nuggets have offered. With the Nets in Newark now and in Brooklyn in 2012, he’d still get to return to the city where he was born.

The Nets reportedly will meet with Melo here in Los Angeles, hoping to convince him that New Jersey and Brooklyn are the places to be. But the Associated Press reported Friday that Melo has no plans to meet with the Nets or owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “If I was to meet with that guy (Prokhorov) to be honest I really don’t know what I would say,” Anthony told the AP.

At 17-40, the Nets would have a hard time making the playoffs this season, even if they made this trade right now. But of course, the trade would be made with the future and a return to relevance in mind. And you can be sure that when the Nets meet with Anthony, Chris Paul‘s name will be mentioned. Billups’ contract expires in 2012, right when Paul can become a free agent.

Today when asked which hometown hero, Kobe Bryant or Blake Griffin, he would be setting up for MVP honors in Sunday’s All-Star Game, Paul mentioned Anthony’s name instead.

“I got asked that question yesterday and I said Carmelo,” Paul said. “With the way he scores, if we would have won that game last year, he would have got MVP.”

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

KD doesn’t regret calling out CB

LOS ANGELES — Kevin Durant was emotional but didn’t let his emotions get the best of him when he called Chris Bosh a “fake tough guy” last month. The Oklahoma City All-Star knew exactly what he was doing after the 108-103 home loss to Miami.

If presented with the same situation, Durant would say it again.

“I don’t regret it at all,” Durant told NBA.com. “I said it. I knew what I was doing. Nobody influenced me to say it. I knew what I was doing. At the same time, I’m not the type of person that lets emotions get to me. I was so upset about the loss.

“I wanted to win that game so bad. We were up one with a couple seconds to go, we made them miss and we didn’t get the rebound. I was more upset with how we didn’t finish the game. I guess people want to say I was a sore loser, but I’ll take that, too.”

The two All-Star forwards exchanged words and picked up technicals in the first quarter of that nationally-televised game on Jan. 30. There’s a good chance Bosh and Durant run into each other before Sunday’s All-Star Game.

And if not, there is no avoiding the other once Sunday night rolls around at Staples Center. Bosh is a reserve for the Eastern Conference team and Durant is making his first career start for the West.

“If I happen to walk past him,” Durant said, “I’ll give him a head nod or say, ‘What’s up?’ But I’m not going to go out of my way to talk to him about the situation because I’m sure that’s not the first time he’s gotten into it with somebody and it’s not the first time I got into it with somebody. It’s a part of this league and competitive nature comes out of everybody.

“Hopefully, people understand.”

As for Durant’s experience this weekend, he’s enjoying his second All-Star trip with a smile on his face.

“Last year I was kind of like a deer in headlights not knowing what to expect,” he said. “This year I know what to expect. To be an All-Star starter is such a blessing for me. I’m very thankful for the people that voted for me. I’m just trying to go out there and represent as much as I can.”

Starless Rockets seek sparkle

LOS ANGELES – While the brightest trade spotlight is on Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets and the critical focus is on the suddenly-slumping Lakers again, is there a team entering All-Star Weekend in more desperate need of a change than Houston?

General manager Daryl Morey started the season saying he had a playoff team and a roster that was capable of getting one of the top four playoffs seeds in the West. Now the Rockets limp into the break with a 5-8 home record since Jan. 1, three losses in their last four games at Toyota Center and are currently bumping along close to the bottom in 12th place. Team owner Leslie Alexander is not happy.

Once a team that for years was built around the big names of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, Houston is now starless.

The problems, of course, began when Yao suffered another broken bone in his foot and was done for the season after playing just five games. Now things have broken down completely.

Morey will spend the weekend amid the glamour of the All-Stars trying to do anything to jumpstart his team. The Rockets can offer financial incentives to trade partners in the form of the expiring contracts of Yao, Aaron Brooks, Jared Jeffries and Shane Battier. At one time or another, Morey has been willing to offer up any player on his roster to make a deal.

Foremost on the list of needs by the Rockets is a big man. If Denver breaks up its team by dealing Anthony, Houston will put on a full-court press to get Nene. They’d also like to get their hands on the Bulls’ Omer Asik. Could an offer built around Courtney Lee convince Chicago to do it? And if they are truly desperate, would the Rockets be willing to take a gamble on Hasheem Thabeet from Memphis?

So while the ‘Melo Drama is cooking this weekend and the Lakers’ feet are once more back on the fire, keep an eye on the fizzling Rockets and a trading desire that has reached the boiling point.

Holiday’s Homecoming

LOS ANGELES — Finding Jrue Holiday in the crowd during All-Star Weekend shouldn’t be tough. He punctuated his arrival here in his hometown for tonight’s T-Mobile Rookie Challenge by sporting a bright blue “LA Loves Me” t-shirt and a blue Dodgers baseball cap to match.

As much as Kobe Bryant and Blake Griffin, among others, will play the role of hometown fave throughout this weekend’s festivities, neither Bryant nor Griffin has roots that run deeper than Holiday’s in this city.

He was born and raised here, starred in high school and won state championships at Hollywood’s Campbell Hall and spent his lone college season at UCLA, alongside Darren Collison, before being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. So if anyone can appreciate the experience of the 60th All-Star Game and all that comes with it, Holiday is your man.

“I don’t think I could ask for anything more than maybe making the big game, the All-Star Game in my hometown,” Holiday said in a hallway at his downtown hotel. “But really, for my first All-Star experience to be here in my city, with all my family already here, I couldn’t have asked for more.”

The second-year point guard has turned out to be everything the 76ers hoped he would when they selected him with the 17th pick in the 2009 draft, even after he wasn’t selected for tonight’s T-Mobile Rookie Challenge as a rookie. (Sixers rookie Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 Draft, did not make the cut this year.)

“That makes it even sweeter,” Holiday said when reminded that he missed out on this experience last season. “This let’s you know that you’re on the right path, that you are growing and improving. Like I said, I really couldn’t have asked for more.”

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