Will Kevin Durant break the scoring record in the All-Star Game? -- Tim, Washington D.C.
You've put your finger on the most compelling story of All-Star Weekend. Will Durant be able to continue his torrid play in New Orleans against rival LeBron James, whose hold on the league MVP (four in the last five years) is on the verge of being pried away by Durant?
The All-Star record of 42 points was set in 1962 by Wilt Chamberlain, who had an off night compared to his preposterous 50.4 points per game average that season. He was 25, as Durant is now. That All-Star Game framed Chamberlain as a frustrated scorer -- the theme that would define most of his career. He would go 17 for 23 from the field (and 8 of 16 from the line) with 24 rebounds, and yet he was neither the victor nor MVP. Both honors went to opposing big man Bob Pettit, who generated 25 points and 27 rebounds on his St. Louis homecourt in a 150-130 win for the West.
Chamberlain's career-long rival, Bill Russell, was on the Eastern team with him and came off the bench behind Chamberlain while also playing with him at times. It is good for the All-Star Game that the league's top two players -- James and Durant - will be opponents this weekend, even though the game itself isn't nearly as competitive as it was in Chamberlain's day, when winning the game was important to the opposing conferences.
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The outcome will have no bearing on the MVP race, much less on the title hopes of both players. But it promises to be an entertaining exhibition of their divergent skills, as Durant showcases the scoring ability that has reached a transcendent level in the absence of teammate Russell Westbrook, while James displays the all-around skills that have won him two championships while creating endless matchup problems.
The fight between them has never been more evenly fought. There will be other reasons to watch this weekend, but none more fascinating than Durant vs. LeBron.
Did the Pistons make a mistake firing Maurice Cheeks? Who is to blame in Detroit? -- Albert, East Lansing, Mich.
If owner Tom Gores is inclined to hold anyone accountable beyond Cheeks, then it will have to be team president Joe Dumars, because there is no one left to blame. The next coach of the Pistons will be their sixth in seven years. It depends on whether Gores sees potential in the young talent that Dumars has collected, which has yet to fit together but may, at the right time, be traded for the missing links.
MAHONEY: Pistons' problems point to the front office
John Loyer, the interim, is an outstanding coach who will be a full-time head coach in the NBA someday soon. But the reading of many in the league is that the Pistons will take advantage of the timing of Cheeks' firing by making a move at Lionel Hollins over the upcoming break.
If Gores is impatient to make the playoffs in the ever-forgiving East, then there will likely be more moves to come unless the Pistons show meaningful improvement over the next couple of months.
Will there by any moves made by the Cleveland Cavs and if so, what are you thinking -- @ND419
You're on the right track: Chris Grant wasn't fired in order to keep things the same. The question is whether they should be trading a young talent like Dion Waiters at a time when his value has suffered. This is a team desperate for leadership, however, which means the Cavs may be forced to give up one of their promising young players in order to acquire more experience.
Chances Carmelo is moved before the deadline and to whom? -- @nittanylion54
I don't see it. If he were to let them know that he wants out of New York then the Knicks would have to scramble; but Anthony has yet to make that threat.
Is Carmelo coming to the Bulls? -- @EddyBamBrown
Not in a trade this month. His future as a free agent is still too foggy to see.
Any chance Harrison Barnes goes anywhere before the deadline? Will the Warriors try to get pick in the 2014 draft? -- @sneakerhead886
There's no doubt he could be moved, but that's because his limitations have been revealed. I'd advise against it: He was a high pick at No. 7 just two years ago, and a trade isn't likely to net the Warriors such a high pick in return. Better to keep developing him and show patience as he rounds out his game and his coaches come up with new ways to make use of him.
Which NBA coach is on the hottest seat heading into All-Star Weekend? -- Brent G., Atlanta
That's easy, Brent: Mike Woodson is currently out of the playoffs with the second-most expensive roster in the league. Some of his players (Anthony is not among them) are openly undermining him during games.
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Which team do you think should try and land Pau Gasol before the deadline? -- Sam R., Phoenix
The interest of the Suns makes a lot of sense -- if Gasol is healthy and reliable to help them strive for the playoffs. He would fit nicely with their style of play and their team-first attitude.
Steve Nash is 40 and still playing! Do you think there's a contender that might try and trade for him? -- Kevin, Houston
I don't think so, Kevin. Nash's lingering injuries create too much doubt for his ability to finish the season.
What's the best All-Star Game city? Do you like it rotating or should it be in one place? -- Richard, Charlotte
I agree with my old colleague Bob Ryan that New Orleans is the best place for everything -- All-Star Games, Super Bowls, Finals Fours. Everything should be there all of the time. But that won't happen, and so my advice is for the rotation of the All-Star Game to expand internationally and visit Paris, London, Rome and beyond.
SI Now: GM Joe Dumars is the real problem in Detroit
On Monday's SI Now, NBA producer Matt Dollinger discusses the firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks by the Detroit Pistons
and says GM Joe Dumars was the one who assembled a roster that doesn't make sense and should be the one getting dismissed.