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Your All-Star weekend schedule

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It was so nice of David Stern and the NBA to bring the All-Star Game to the home city of PBT (myself and John Krolik both live here). That way we still have to deal with family and other responsibilities in addition to work. No trip out of town for us. No working vacation. Nope, just our regular responsibilities plus a million new ones. Thanks for that, Mr. Stern.

Still, we will be all over the events and reporting from everything. There will be live blogs and interviews and we’ll do everything but get you invited up to the Playboy Mansion this weekend. Which may not really be the place to be right now anyway.

Here’s a rundown of the weekend events (all times Eastern).

Friday (February 18)

7 p.m. Celebrity Game (ESPN). Have you ever wondered how good Justin Bieber’s crossover is? Of course you have, who hasn’t? Now you can find out in person. There will be former NBA players (Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson, Bill Walton) trying to set up Bieber, who by my guess is 3’8” tall. Also playing will be Common, because a rapper is a required part of this.

9 p.m. Rookie Challenge (TNT). John Wall lobbing ally-oop passes to Blake Griifin. Normally we don’t recommend watching this game, but Wall to Griffin might be reason to tune in. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will be coaching (and talking about how to exploit free agency).

Saturday (February 19)

8 p.m. We will be live-blogging all of the excitement here at PBT. Well, not just the exciting parts, we’ll do the Shooting Stars, too. Come on by and we’ll ignore that event and talk dunks.

8 p.m. Shooting Stars (TNT). It’s a tough call, but this may be the least watchable of all the All-Star events. If you need to spend 30 minutes of quality time with your family, this is a good time. Teams consisting of an NBA player, a WNBA player and a TNT Analyst shoot shots and get times on it. Your defending champ is Team Texas with Dirk Nowitzki, Roneeka Hodges and Kenny Smith.

8:30 p.m. Skills Challenge (TNT). Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, John Wall, Russell Westbrook will dribble around cones and pass through tubes. Basically, they run drills.  This event is sponsored by Taco Bell and it would be appropriate if the Staples Center crowd started chanting “We Want Ta-cos.”

9ish p.m. (after the Skills Challenge ends), Three-Point Contest (TNT). Ray Allen and Paul Pierce take on Kevin Durant and a bunch of guys LeBron James used to or currently set up for threes in this one.

9:15ish p.m. (after the Three-Point Contest) Dunk Contest (TNT). Can Blake Griffin live up to the hype? Does he have jump off the top of the Staples Center scoreboard to meet expectations? Griffin is the favorite but watch out for Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, he can in second last year and is a Los Angeles guy, too (USC, just up Fig a few blocks from Staples Center). Serge Ibaka and JaVale McGee will be there, too.

Sunday (February 20)

8 p.m., another PBT live blog. So that you have a place to laugh with friends when the Staples Center crowd starts booing LeBron James.

8 p.m., NBA All-Star Game, (TNT). Will Celtics players pass to Heat players? Will Heat players pass to Celtics players? Will Kobe Bryant pass to anyone? Remember to relax and remember that this is an exhibition — nobody is going to play defense or anything close to it. Pau Gasol already started practicing that against the Cavaliers. The big question is who decides to demand the ball and goes all out to win MVP. I’ll call my Derrick Rose shot now.

Blake Griffin suspended four games, docked five games pay

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Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers said the NBA would lead any punishment for Blake Griffin, who broke his hand punching a team equipment manager at a dinner. The league investigated, and…

A suspension was announced by the Clippers.

Clippers release:

The following is a joint statement from L.A. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach Doc Rivers:

The L.A. Clippers announced today that forward Blake Griffin has been suspended without pay for four games for striking a team employee on Jan. 23 and his wages will be withheld for one additional game for injuries he sustained. The NBA has assisted us in this process.

The Clippers will donate the salary from the five games to charities focused on disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles. At his request, Blake will support this activity with his time.

We have made it clear that this conduct has no place in the Clippers organization. Blake is remorseful and has apologized for his actions. He is a valued member of our Clippers family and we support him as he rejoins the team. He understands his actions have consequences, and is eager to get back to work with his teammates, the organization and Clipper Nation which starts immediately with rehab, appearances and attendance at games.

For our team and organization, it is time to move forward which begins today and ultimately concludes when we have Blake back on the court.

If you want to parse the statement, it doesn’t say the Clippers suspended Griffin. It’s in passive voice — “has been suspended without pay” — and leaves open the possibility the NBA suspended him. We just know the Clippers announced it, which would be strange for an NBA suspension. So, I believe the Clippers suspended him. I’m just not absolutely certain.

NBA suspensions typically begin only once a player is healthy enough to play. It’s unclear how that applies to this situation, but I’d guess – no matter who levied the suspension – the same rule will apply. Again, that’s not a given – especially given the hard-to-follow use of “which starts immediately with rehab, appearances and attendance at games.”

The Clippers announced on Jan. 26 Griffin would miss 4-6 weeks, a timeline unaffected by a second surgery on his swollen, scarred hand. But Rivers called a 4-6 recovery period “unrealistic.” So, if he can’t serve his suspension until healthy, good luck figuring out when that is. Probably just have to trust the Clippers.

For each game a player is suspended by the NBA, he loses 1/110th of his salary. If that applies to this suspension, it’d cost Griffin $859,442.

Teams also have their team salary as it applies to the luxury tax – which the Clippers are in line to pay – reduced by that amount. Again, more conclusion. It’s unclear whether the Clippers will get their tax bill trimmed. If they suspended him and don’t receive the savings, that’s a significant difference – $2,148,605 in tax payments (or $1,718,884 if you count only the four games actually suspended).

Four games and a fifth game of pay is probably a break for Griffin. This could’ve been much worse for him, including legal action. But Matt Barnes received just a two-game suspension for a similar situation – one NBA employee attacking another while away from official team business. What’s the difference here?

The Clippers want to move on, but this result provides more confusion than clarity.

Marv Albert gets contract extension to call NBA on TNT

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Marv Albert attends the New York Knicks vs Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on December 5, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Veteran broadcaster Marv Albert has agreed to a multiyear contract extension with TNT to call NBA games.

Albert will call this weekend’s All-Star Game in Toronto, his 21st year providing commentary for the event. He’ll continue to call regular-season and playoff games for the network.

The Hall of Fame broadcaster has been associated with the NBA for nearly 50 years.

Turner Sports executive Craig Barry on Tuesday calls Albert a “legendary broadcaster,” who has been “a true icon in the industry.”

Albert is in his 18th season as a play-by-play commentator for TNT. He has won five national Sports Emmy Awards and was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame last year.

Miami Heat to retire Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey next season

Shaquille O'Neal Heat
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Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey already hangs in the rafters at Staples Center for the Lakers.  He’s getting a statue there, too.

Next season, he will have his number retired on the other warm southern coast, this time in Miami.

The Heat have announced they will retire Shaq’s No. 32 jersey next season.

“Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a Heat uniform,” team president Pat Riley said in a released statement. “He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship. Retiring his number in the rafters, along with Heat greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.”

Riley left out that the Heat also retired Michael Jordan’s 23, and Dan Marino’s 12 also hangs in the rafters of the arena. Neither of those make much sense, but whatever.

Shaq played three-and-a-half seasons in Miami, averaging 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. Shaq was a three-time All-Star with the Heat and was at the heart of the franchise’s first title, along with Dwyane Wade… and Mark Cuban would tell you the officials. But that’s another discussion. He was also bitter after being traded to Phoenix and slammed Miami management and players on his way out the door.

Time heals all wounds.

Bull for Bull: Pau Gasol to replace Jimmy Butler in All-Star Game

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Jimmy Butler is out of the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto this weekend due to a strained knee. Which suck, because he earned that spot, and while the fans didn’t vote him in the coach’s did.

Butler’s teammate Pau Gasol will replace him.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gets to make the call on a replacement, and he stayed in Chicago, but he added a front court player to replace a guard. Keeping a Bulls representative might have been part of the thinking. The coaches’ votes on replacement players has been weighed in the past (Gasol may have been high on that list, coaches love him). Also, the East roster has a lot of wings and was light on bigs (Andre Drummond, Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh are the only real bigs), so this gives coach Tyronn Lue some flexibility up front.

The East leading Cleveland Cavaliers remain with just one representative, LeBron James (voted in by the fans).

Gasol is averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, and a couple blocks a game, and is the only thing close to a consistent performer the Bulls have. Besides the injured Butler.