Now that the All-Star Game is out of the way, it's time to take a hardcore dive into NBA trade rumor season.
This year's trade deadline is Feb. 20, and the consensus is that the dynamic duo of salary-cap constraints and base-year contracts will make it nigh well impossible to complete a deal of any significance. But that won't stop teams from trying.
The most prominent name being mentioned is Seattle's Gary Payton, who has suitors in places such as Minnesota and Indiana. But Payton's impending free agency means any team acquiring him is taking a huge risk unless it can come to an agreement with him in the course of making the trade.
Kevin Garnett would love to get his buddy in Minnesota, but his team doesn't appear to have the assets to get a deal done. The Pacers could use a point man to lead their playoff push, but it's going to take a lot more than Austin Croshere to entice the Sonics into a deal.
The other guys on the trading block have similar issues:
Denver is looking to move Marcus Camby in return for youth, cap space or picks. But it would help if he ever got healthy so the Nuggets could showcase him, but few teams have the wherewithal to take on a big contract without sending one back.
The Hawks have made it abundantly clear that anyone on their roster is available and they'll even throw in a free toaster if you take Alan Henderson. But they want ending contracts in return so they can be a player in the free-agent market this summer.
New York has been trying to reshape its roster for ages, albeit without much success. Latrell Sprewell will be rumored in trades to half the teams in the league over the next week, but nobody wants a guy with a max contract who is, at best, a second banana.
The Lakers reportedly were willing to rock the boat a few weeks ago, but the five-game winning streak they took into the All-Star break is encouraging them to stand pat. They have limited salary flexibility anyway.
San Antonio was looking at a deal to send Steve Smith to the Hawks, but those talks are on hold -- rumor has it because there's a high likelihood Jason Kidd will move to the Alamo City this summer as long as they keep cap space open for him.
While the next 10 days will hold plenty of intrigue, the cap constraints and the universal demand for an ending contract makes it difficult to get anything done.
So look for a slow trading season, especially if Paul Allen and Mark Cuban lay low. Those two, the owners of Portland and Dallas, respectively, are the wild cards, because they're the only ones with deep enough pockets to absorb a bad contract without thinking twice.
Vince Carter gave Michael Jordan a starting spot, but the East couldn't get him a victory. Ironically, it was their continued feeding of the ball to Jordan at the end of regulation that allowed the West to come back and send the game to overtime, where Kevin Garnett eventually led the West to the double-OT victory.
David Stern couldn't stand the thought of the Mavericks and Lakers meeting in the first round and his league only getting five games of payola out of it. Give me a better reason the league decided to extend the opening round to seven games this season. Regardless, it's here, so get ready for an action-packed first two weeks of the playoffs.
Jason returns Jason Richardson stole the show at All-Star Saturday. He punctuated the Sophomores' win in the Rookie Game with a crowd-pleasing dribble off Carlos Boozer's head (though it was in questionable taste). Then, he capped the evening with a memorable jam to finish off his duel with Desmond Mason in the dunk contest.
SWISH: Kevin Garnett
Not only did he win All-Star Game MVP honors with 37 points, but Garnett went into the break by falling one assist shy of a triple-double in Minnesota's 103-89 win over Houston.
BRICK: Antoine Walker
Literally. 'Toine airballed three of his last five shots in the 3-point Shootout and then stormed out saying he was done with the event. Needless to say, the Shootout is done with him, too.
SWISH: Kobe Bryant
The Lakers guard averaged more than 40 points a game for the second straight week, hitting for 35 Tuesday and 46 Thursday as the Lakers finally got over the .500 hump. Bryant also made two foul shots in Sunday's All-Star Game to tie it at the end of overtime and ruin the ending for Michael Jordan.
BRICK: Carlos Boozer
Still scrubbing the word "Spalding" off his forehead, Boozer justifiably was upset at Jason Richardson's beanball at the end of the Rookie Challenge. But while we're on the topic of things bouncing off hard objects, Boozer also hit the wall before the break, scoring seven, six and 10 in his last three games.
SWISH: Scottie Pippen
Pippen found the fountain of youth just before the All-Star break. He scored a season-high 25 points Tuesday, then beat it with 26 a night later. He also grabbed 17 boards Monday, which was double what he had done in any other game this year.
San Antonio Spurs at Portland Trail Blazers, Tuesday, 10 p.m. EST
So much for those calls to can Bob Whitsitt. The Trail Blazers came into the All-Star break on a 22-5 hot streak that put them within a half-game of Sacramento -- and Portland has played eight more road games than home games. They'll get a key test against San Antonio on Tuesday; the winner walks out as the number No. 3 seed in the West.
San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers, Friday, 10:30 p.m. EST
The three-time defending champions are suddenly looking spunky, having won five straight games before the All-Star break to move above the .500 mark for the first time this season. The key for the Spurs is Tony Parker -- L.A. has had trouble with quick point guards all season.
San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings, Sunday, 3:30 p.m. EST
Do you get the impression that it might be a tough week for the Spurs? Their best-of-the-West road trip continues Sunday in Arco, the last of nine consecutive road games for San Antonio. But don't feel too bad for the Spurs -- two days later, they'll be back at home hosting the lowly Nuggets.
This department brings you thoughts and comments from around the country. Here's what people are saying this week:
How 'bout Van Gundy?
This All-Star wrap up starts out by openly lobbying for the Hawks to hire TNT analyst Jeff Van Gundy as coach in the offseason. Also, check out the line further down about the person asking Shaq moronic questions. I saw her doing the same thing with Kevin Garnett and several other players. More.
Toronto general manager Glen Grunwald thinks it's unlikely that the Raptors will make any moves before the trade deadline. Wait: You mean Vince Carter for Darius Miles is off the table? More.
Carter got fouled
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Terence Moore delivers a scorching rebuke of Isiah Thomas, who fairly obviously was the impetus behind Vince Carter's last-minute decision to give Michael Jordan the starting spot on Sunday. More
Kevin Garnett says Yao Ming's English is much better than he expected, and that Yao was calling things out on the court to other players. So maybe soon he'll ditch the interpreter and talk to us Fourth Estaters in our native tongue. More.
Things to do in Denver when you're dead
Next year's All-Star Game will be in Los Angeles (if you thought the traffic here in Atlanta was bad, just wait...), but the 2005 game is still open for bidding, and Denver is doing all it can to bring it to the Mile High City. More
Nick gets nabbed
Dallas guard Nick Van Exel was handcuffed after an incident at an All-Star Weekend party, but the real fun starts when the story says Indiana's Ron Artest was the antagonist. The Pacers sent out a press release Monday saying the story was wrong and Artest was with his family in Orlando at the time. Maybe he has an evil twin. More.
The good news for the Cavaliers and the Nuggets of the world is that the consolation prize in the LeBron Sweepstakes just got a lot better. While the reinstated James, who scored 52 in a tournament in Trenton, N.J. this weekend, remains far and away the coveted prize for any lottery winner, the league's announcement that Yugoslavian teenager Darko Milicic would be eligible for this year's draft put the NBA's bottom feeders in slightly better spirits.
In the wake of the previous week's column on the league's All-Star selections, the mail cup for Off The Glass runneth over this week, especially in regards to the merits of a certain Boston Celtic with a 39-percent shooting mark from the field.
This is the part where we ask you, the reader, to stop waving that towel on the sidelines, pull off the warmups, get on the floor and take some shots. Each week we'll ask a question and post the best responses a week later.
Last week WAAG asked what can be done to improve All-Star weekend. Based on your answers, quite a bit:
Instead of the regular old dunk contest, have a H.O.R.S.E dunk contest. The fans want to see how many of the guys can do the 360 no-look windmill jam without missing. Daniel Griffin, Portland, Ore.
Fans pick five, coaches pick five. Then the losing starting five gives five percent of their income to a national charity (tax write-off). Now I'd watch that. Michael J. Kendrew, London
Pick two players from each team. Put their names in a hat. Pick eight teams out (two teams will have eight players) and have a tournament, five-on-five full-court to 21. Just picture that. Nick Staie, Woodville, N.Y.
Since everyone always complains so much about how no one plays defense and the game is a joke, why not give the player with the best defensive performance his own trophy and a cash reward. Jon Schmidt, Eugene, Ore.
Let the fans vote for the participants in the dunk contest. If the weekend is really for the fans as the NBA contests, why don't they give us some say in what could be the most exciting event? Joe Price, Vancouver, B.C.
They should have a pie-eating contest between Shawn Kemp and Jerry Krause. Homer Stubbs, Huntsville, Ala.
How about foreigners vs. U.S.-born players instead of East-West in All-star weekend? I'm sure Nowitzki, Nash, Ilgauskas and Stojakovic can generate as much excitement and competition for Team USA as the World Championships. Naom Brousard, Tel Aviv, Israel
The winning conference team gets all the prize money and the losing conference team gets nothing. Desmond Yeung, Hong Kong
Maybe the players should vote who they think should be All-Star reserves. That way they might complain less, because they'll be chosen from the fellow players' view. Hans-Peter Fend Jimenez, Dublin, Ireland
Three words: girls on trampolines!!! Joe Mount, Columbus, Ohio
Have Marcus Camby run up and down the court and time how long it takes before he hurts himself. Fan with the closest guess gets a prize. Heywood Choi, Vancouver, B.C.
Cancel it. That way the players can rest up for the real games and stretch run to follow. Dean Davidov, Los Angeles
I think that it would be cool to see the All-Stars play a game of horse against the legends. Have them miked up so that we could hear the reactions of the players. Sonia Koopman, San Antonio, Tex.
This week's topic: Which team has the worst fans?
John Hollinger covers the NBA for CNNSI.com. "Week at a Glance" appears each Monday during the season.