Blake Griffin plays in Rising Stars Challenge, but not a lot

Reporting from Orlando, Fla. -- In the NBA's annual Friday night warmup celebration of no man-to-man defense, no zone defense and no getting back on defense, Team Chuck (as in Barkley) defeated Team Shaq (as in O'Neal), 146-133.

It's called The Rising Stars Challenge and used to pit first-year players against second-year players. But this year the two players turned broadcasters were empowered as general managers to select the teams.

Blake Griffin, the first player chosen by O'Neal, was a starter but pretty much saved his energy after competing all three days last year in Los Angeles. He played about five minutes in each 20-minute half. He did excite the crowd with four uncontested slams in the second half, finishing with 10 points. He was five for six from the field.

Cleveland's Kyrie Irving was the game's high scorer with 34 for Team Chuck.

Griffin is skipping the Saturday dunk competition this year.

"To be honest, I don't know when the dunk contest is," Griffin said. "Between this game and then the All-Star game and having stuff every day, I just kind of wanted to take a break and give my body a chance to rest tomorrow night."

No dunking stars

Saturday's dunk contest, once a marquee event, is in serious need of some star power. This year's participants are Derrick Williams (Minnesota), Paul George (Indiana), Jeremy Evans (Utah) and Chase Budinger (Houston).

Miami's LeBron James was asked why he never competed in the dunk contest.

"That's not me," James said. "I'm not a dunk contest kind of guy. I'm an in-game kind of dunker. I kind of improvise during the game. I'm not for scoreboards and all that kind of stuff."

However, James did open the door to competing if the contest were a winner-take-all.

"Wouldn't you?" he asked.

No Word on Howard

Orlando's Dwight Howard offered no insight as to where he might be playing after the March 15 trade deadline. Speaking to a large group of media at a mandatory interview session, he answered about the same way every time he was asked.

"I'm not going to take any trade questions," Howard said. "This is All-Star weekend and that's all I'm going to talk about."

The Lakers, along with the Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets, are the three teams that Howard's agent has been given permission to talk to about a trade. However, the Lakers are viewed as a longshot, with New Jersey the favorite.

It's also possible that Howard will still be a member of the Magic after the trade deadline. The Magic would then risk losing their star without any compensation, as happened with O'Neal when he signed with the Lakers in 1996.

The Magic said it would address the situation after March 1.

Where's Kobe?

Kobe Bryant kept the media waiting for 45 minutes before it was announced that he wouldn't be showing for the mandatory session because he was "ill."

A Lakers spokesman offered no explanation and said he hadn't seen Bryant all day. Here's guessing Bryant will be just fine for Sunday's game and beyond.

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