NEW ORLEANS — Another All-Star weekend is in the books, and now it's all about the trade deadline as teams have been as active as ever going into the stretch run of the season.
In the East, a lot of it has to do with the Cleveland Cavaliers being viewed as vulnerable.
They're still the favorites to advance to another NBA Finals but the Raptors, Wizards and Celtics believe they have a chance to make them uncomfortable.
There will be drama.
1. Russell Westbrook is the Silky Johnson of All-Star Games. If you don't know who that is, see Chappelle Show.
What Westbrook did in taking 26 shots in 20 minutes for 41 points is try to lift the MVP from Anthony Davis, who was playing at home.
Davis wound up earning it with an All-Star record 52 points. Maybe Westbrook was just playing hard, but he came off the bench as a reserve and really wanted that trophy. He has no off button, but if that's not hatin' I'm not sure what is. Everyone on the West team was on board with helping Davis shine -- except Westbrook. But in a way, I respect that.
2. James Dolan and the New York Knicks can be thankful for the Sacramento Kings, who makes their incompetence as an organization pale in comparison.
The Kings gave up a three-time All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins for a rookie whose ceiling is unknown (Buddy Hield), a known quantity who is a role player at best (Tyreke Evans) and future draft picks with value that only can be gauged by the success of those picks. In other words, whatever Cousins' flaws -- and he has many -- draft picks mean little if the Kings don't draft well. And they don't have a history of doing so. The most difficult thing to project is the celing for players who are 19 and 20 years old.
3. Pelicans GM Dell Demps, who has been undermined at almost every turn in his tenure because of ownership issues, pulled off a deal that should solidify his spot if not in New Orleans with a future organization. He knocked this deal for Cousins out of the park. It's a risk worth taking to pair him with Davis. A playoff berth is in reach as the West isn't as strong at the bottom as it used to be.
4. Some semblance of defense needs to be played to resemble an actual game.
Then again, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and Isaiah Thomas rarely play defense in actual NBA games so in an exhibition it's all downhill.
Bradley Beal, who would've been a first-time All-Star, would've played harder. A vet like Anthony, in his 10th apperance and admittetdly didn't want to be there after he was named as a commissioner's pick, is too concerned with not getting hurt. The last All-Star Game at Verizon Center in 2001, the final score was 111-110. That's 131 fewer total point scored than Sunday and an indication of how far the effort has waned.
5. Not buying that the Westbrook-Kevin Durant rivalry is over just because they passed the ball to each other. It's a nice, warm and fuzzy storyline for now.
6. To spice up All-Star Saturday night, sprinkle in some of the better D-League players compete with NBA players in the three-point shootout, skills competition and dunk contest. They'll take them more seriously which makes for a better product. NBA players won't want to be shown up and will try harder and lead to a better product.
7. Given that the East had so many guards, the idea that they needed another frontline player in Anthony to "balance" the lineups is ridiculous.
It's a jump-shooting and dunking contest. No one is calling for iso post-ups in an All-Star Game. So Kevin Love's replacment didn't have to be Anthony (Yes, I'm beating the Beal shouldve been an All-Star dead horse).
8. How great is it to have an All-Star weekend free of labor strife and jockeying for postion over a new collective bargaining agreement?
That baby was put to bed long ago and it's a signal at how new leadership for the league (Adam Silver) and players (Michele Roberts) have led to a more common sense approach to doing business.
A lockout benefits no one.
9. Draft picks have become so overvalued.
As with the Kings, they're only as good as the selections that are made.
If it's a weak year (see 2016) then those picks aren't that big of a deal as it would be in a strong year (see 2017). All of this, however, is about projections. It's not an exact science. You can put a tape measure on things like height, weight, vertical leap but not heart, will and work ethic. When a variable such as millions of dollars enters the picture, it's impossible to tell how it will impact those traits positively or negatively. Therefore if I'm trading an All-Star, I want certainty in return for his services as in a proven impact player (though not necessarily an All-Star) and a pick or two.
10. Did I mention that the Kings' front office is the worst in basketball?
They clearly believed they couldn't get more in return for Cousins which is why they should've a) traded him sooner; b) held onto him until this summer because they still had his rights; c) not be deceptive and dishonest about their intentions to the player and his representation. That's bad business.