Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks

Winderman: So who backs out of All-Star Game as “injured?”

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It certainly will not reach the point of the Pro Bowl, where many are chosen but few elect to serve.

But the impending All-Star Weekend comes at the time when the entire injury-ravaged, schedule-drained NBA could use a four-day break.

For most of the league, that will be the case, with no games scheduled Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

But for those committed to Orlando, the break will still require at least suiting up and going through the motions.

All of which could make the next few days a bit curious. Basically, the implied rule is if you play in your team’s final game before the break and you’ve been selected to participate in All-Star Weekend, well, pack your bags, and show up at Friday’s interview sessions or be fined.

Now Joe Johnson looks like he’s out of the Hawks’ Wednesday home game against the Knicks. That could create the first of many voids.

It would be difficult to argue that Derrick Rose, amid his lingering back issues, wouldn’t be better served with four days in traction (OK, or at least four days in the Caribbean). Of course, with Tom Thibodeau coaching the East, Rose could be limited merely to the opening tip before Thibs runs LeBron, Wade and Bosh into the ground.

In many ways, the NBA All-Star Game is like the Pro Bowl in that the honor is in the selection (the new collective-bargaining agreement actually provides rookie-scale incentives with a mere selection).

Put the All-Star Game in L.A. or Vegas or Atlanta, and attendance is not an issue.

But we’re talking Orlando, where Church Street hardly rivals South Beach (but is a short flight way, hmm.)

What the NBA needs is a four-day break. More to the point, what it needed, was having these four days available to allow for games to be more evenly spaced in this lockout-compressed schedule (but we appreciate that marking rules all).

For players such as Manu Ginobili, Kevin Garnett, Ty Lawson, the break comes at a perfect time, providing a period for healing without additional lost time.

But when the schedule resumes, it resumes with its typical 2011-12 fury, nine games the first day back, next Tuesday, followed by 12 on Feb. 29.

So keep an eye on those ankles and quads and tendons. Because this is a league about to enter a homestretch like no other in recent seasons, where four days at home on the sofa could prove to be the most valuable of all All-Star experiences.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

LeBron James says he doesn’t see Cavaliers-Warriors as rivalry

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers passes while under pressure from Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena on December 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Tyronn Lue said Cavaliers-Warriors could eventually match Celtics-Lakers as a rivalry.

First, if you ask LeBron James, Cleveland-Golden State would have to become a rivalry at all.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon Cleveland.com:

“We don’t look at it as a rival,” James said. “They’re a great team. They’ve been the best team the last couple years, last three years.”

“It’s just the next game, it’s Golden State,” James said. “They’re a helluva team, like I said the best team in the league and they’ve been that way the last three years, four years, however long it’s been, I’m not quite sure. But, listen, you guys know, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket for one game.”

Of course, Cavaliers-Warriors is a rivalry. These teams have met in the last two NBA Finals, played each other with relentless intensity, talked plenty of trash and remained elite.

LeBron just doesn’t want the Cavs to become comfortable. They’ve beat Golden State in four straight games – the last three of the 2016 Finals and on Christmas – and could extend the streak to five today. Beating a rival that frequently is a cause for celebration, and celebration leads to contentment. LeBron would rather keep Cleveland focused and hungry. Hence, saying the Warriors aren’t a rival.

Andre Drummond hits 3-pointer from inside Pistons’ own 3-point arc (video)

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Andre Drummond is really good at these deep heaves.

His 3-point percentage (44%) is even better than his free-throw percentage (38%) the last two years, though that says too much about his work from the line.

Drummond wasn’t the only Pistons player converting to end quarters. Ish Smith and Tobias Harris also stepped up in the Pistons’ 102-97 win over the Lakers:

NBA: Suns got away with offensive foul before key points in win over Spurs

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker acknowledges a foul as San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker lies crumpled on the floor, in the second half of their regular-season NBA basketball game in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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Devin Booker scored 39 points in the Suns’ 108-105 win over the Spurs on Saturday in Mexico City.

But Booker’s last four – which put Phoenix up for good – came directly after incorrect calls, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

First, Booker drew a (legitimate) foul on Pau Gasol with 1:08 left and made both free throws. The problem: One second before that, Suns center Tyson Chandler should have been called for offensively fouling Tony Parker, according to the league:

Chandler (PHX) sets the screen on Parker (SAS) and makes leg to leg contact that affects his ability to defend the play.

That would’ve ended Phoenix’s possession rather than allowing Booker to get to the line.

The other missed call in the two-minute report is trickier, because it directly benefitted the Spurs but indirectly benefitted the Suns.

Manu Ginobili got away with travelling with 59.1 seconds left, according to  the league:

Ginobili (SAS) moves his pivot foot.

But he coughed up the ball moments later anyway, and – thrilled to gain possession with a live-ball turnover rather than a dead-ball turnover – Booker turned the miscue into a fastbreak dunk.

Rather than debate how to evaluate San Antonio getting away with a travel and it ultimately helping Phoenix more, let’s stick to just the uncalled Chandler offensive foul. That netted the Suns two points. Their lead when the Spurs began intentionally fouling? One.

Russell Westbrook puts up 20th triple-double of season, lifts Thunder past Kings (VIDEO)

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Through 41 games — half the season — Russell Westbrook is averaging 30.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.5 assists a game. Those numbers are insane, particularly considering his 42 percent usage rate. He has to put up numbers and do so fairly efficiently or the Thunder stand no chance of winning — and he has the Thunder on pace for 48 wins this season.

The Thunder picked up another of those wins Sunday night knocking off the Sacramento Kings behind Westbrook’s 20th triple-double in 41 games — 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. The video highlights are above.

It’s going to be fun watching him and James Harden go back-and-forth in the MVP race for the next few months.