Posted: Friday February 18, 2011 1:22PM ; Updated: Saturday February 19, 2011 1:35AM
Ian Thomsen
Ian Thomsen>THE SIXTH MAN

Carmelo trade saga hovers over NBA's packed All-Star weekend

Story Highlights

The league's midseason exhibition will go down Sunday in Los Angeles

Ongoing talks of a Carmelo trade, CBA negotiations cloud the weekend's events

Other All-Star storylines: Derrick Rose's performance, Blake Griffin's dunks

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The All-Stars are in Los Angeles, but this weekend is about more than allowing a lot of uncontested dunks in the big game Sunday night. Here are the top storylines to watch:

'Melo-Drama. More interesting than the uncontested dunks are the ongoing trade talks as the Feb. 24 deadline nears. Discussions involving Carmelo Anthony, who reportedly plans to meet with the owners of the Knicks and Nets this weekend as each team tries to deal for him. Anthony wants to play for the Knicks, but the Nets can offer Denver the better package of prospects and draft picks. It was reported by Yahoo! Sports' on Thursday night that Nets and Nuggets were in advanced talks for a deal that would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Melvin Ely, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams to New Jersey for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round draft picks.

Trail Blazers GM Rich Cho has acknowledged that other potential trades have been on hold as teams have waited for a resolution of Anthony's situation. Will Devin Harris be included a deal for Anthony, or could he be sent elsewhere? If the Nuggets move Anthony will they next week to trade center Nene? What will become of Chauncey Billups?

The Anthony trade talk has been going on since last August, and this may be the weekend it is resolved, to the relief of fans who long ago grew tired of the endless speculation and conflicting rumors.

Derrick Rose's big coming out. Rose is an MVP candidate in his third season, averaging 24.9 points and 8.2 assists to drive the Bulls into championship contention despite injuries this season to big men Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. He played a limited 15 minutes off the bench as an All-Star last year, but this weekend as a starter he'll be showing he belongs in the competition with fellow MVP candidates LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, all of whom have won the award.

Rose is the point-guard version of Tim Duncan -- a quiet star who doesn't feel the need to draw attention to himself. This will be the first weekend he'll be viewed as belonging with the best players in the game, and it will be interesting to see how he carries himself and how the other stars react to him. There is no hype behind Rose's ascension -- he has earned it on the court as the point man who complements his prolific numbers by serving as the out-front leader of one of the NBA's top three defensive teams.

He scored a career-best 42 points -- including the game's last 10 -- to knock off the league-leading Spurs 109-99 Thursday to pull his Bulls with two games of the top teams in the East, Boston and Miami. Everyone will be talking about Rose this weekend, while a strong All-Star performance Sunday will influence his MVP candidacy by driving home his upgraded status among his peers.

The three-point shootout. This may be the highlight of the Saturday night events as defending champion Paul Pierce takes on his Celtics teammate Ray Allen, who recently set the all-time record for triples. Kevin Durant of the Thunder is another big name (along with the Heat's James Jones, the Warriors' Dorell Wright and the Cavaliers' Daniel Gibson), suggesting that the shooting contest has grown to attract the establish stars, much as the dunk contest did in Michael Jordan's day.

State of the Lakers. They (along with Blake Griffin's Clippers) are hosting the weekend, but the two-time champs aren't in the mood to enjoy themselves after losing successive games at Charlotte and Cleveland. When GM Mitch Kupchak spoke Thursday at the unveiling of Jerry West's statue at the Staples Center, he opened by referring to the dreadful 104-99 loss to the 10-46 Cavaliers. "Jerry, that handbook you left on my desk, 'How to Be a Good General Manager' -- I looked this morning and there's not a chapter on what to do after a game like last night," Kupchak admitted. After the ceremony, Kupchak told reporters he doubted whether he'll make a trade to shake up his team, though he acknowledged there will be conversations this weekend.

Meanwhile, West spent a full minute whispering a pep talk into the ear of Pau Gasol, who attended the ceremony (along with Shaquille O'Neal, to whom West whispered from the stage, "I love you") while Kobe Bryant did not. Coach Phil Jackson has spent the last two games yelling uncharacteristically at his Lakers. They will feel as if they have little to celebrate this weekend.

The CBA negotiations. Owners and players are scheduled to meet this weekend in an attempt to create dialog in pursuit of a new collective bargaining agreement. Commissioner David Stern and union chief Billy Hunter will hold a news conference Saturday to provide an update on the talks, but the sides are far apart and pessimistic of avoiding a lockout this summer.

Blake Griffin's weekend. The Clippers' explosive rookie will make his All-Star game debut Sunday, and he'll also be the headliner for the dunk contest Saturday. Griffin represents hope for a turnaround by the Clippers over the next few years, and he'll attract a large following this weekend.

The Celtics-Heat marriage. The two contenders dominate the East roster, with Miami contributing three stars to go with four from Boston, and the Celtics' Doc Rivers will be coach of the team. This time, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade won't have reason to shove Rajon Rondo out of the huddle, as happened last weekend when the two teams met in Boston.

 
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