As more and more players go down with injuries, Saunders wonders about long All-Star break

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In a season full of injuries, many hoped that the new, longer All-Star break would help NBA players catch their breath and recover after a grueling first 3 1/2 months.

Commissioner Adam Silver extended the break at the players' behest, but it resulted in a more compressed season, more back-to-backs, less practice time and less rest between games for beat-up bodies.

Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Ricky Rubio. The list goes on and on of players who missed significant time in the first half of the season. Even LeBron James had to take time off to rest his body, and it hasn't gotten any better after the long break.

Derrick Rose, Durant and Westbrook again, Bradley Beal, DeMarcus Cousins, Kyrie Irving and so many more key players going down with injuries major or minor, leading Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders to wonder if the break is actually a little bit too long for the players' good.

"That long time, giving a player six, seven days off, where basically they go off to Hawaii or the Bahamas and don't do anything, has it become counter-productive?" Saunders wondered. "Are we going to have more injuries when they come back? I think we kind of have to evaluate that after the season."

That may not make Saunders very popular with his own players who raved about how the added time off allowed them to recharge their batteries. But it does mean some teams' officials are wondering how they can try to balance having their players get the time off they need to rejuvenate themselves while also making sure they are taking care of their bodies.

They could prescribe some sort of workout program so the players don't get too rusty over the break. Or they might give their players the space and try not to infringe on something they lobbied Silver for and the commissioner granted as a show of good faith.


Some things to watch in the NBA this week:

WESTBROOK FOR MVP: The only thing that can stop Russell Westbrook is Russell Westbrook. The Thunder PG had three straight triple-doubles last week, including 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists against Portland on Thursday night. But he missed the game Sunday with a broken cheek bone and will be evaluated this week.

RONDO WATCH: The mercurial Rajon Rondo is clashing with the Mavericks and coach Rick Carlisle. Dallas visits the Lakers on Sunday. Remember, Rondo created a stir earlier this season when he had breakfast with Kobe Bryant when the Lakers played the Celtics.

DRAGIC BOWL: The Suns visit the Heat on Monday for the first time since trading disgruntled star Goran Dragic — and his brother Zoran — to the Heat. Suns GM Ryan McDonough raised eyebrows with some pointed comments about Dragic after the trade.

WIZARDS SLIDE: They looked poised to challenge in the Eastern Conference until Beal went out with an injury. They have lost 11 of 14 and play at Chicago on Tuesday, host Miami on Friday and visit Milwaukee on Saturday while coach Randy Wittman faces questions about his job.

PAUL GEORGE: The Pacers star has been practicing with the team now since Thursday as he bids to make an inspirational comeback from a horrific leg injury last summer at a Team USA scrimmage. The Pacers host the Knicks on Wednesday and the Bulls on Friday before heading to Madison Square Garden on Saturday, but George doesn't figure to be ready until the middle of the month at the earliest.


STAT LINE OF THE WEEK

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves: 5 points, 2 for 7 FG, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 19 minutes. Not great stats, but 20,000 Timberwolves fans packed the Target Center to see a 13-43 team play on Wednesday night. Garnett's return was emotional for him, and the fans that missed the face of the franchise for the last 7 1/2 years.

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