The All-Star break is almost here.
The NBA's elite will flock to New York later this week for the annual sports spectacle, culminating with the marquee game at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. It's a time for the league to showcase itself and its stars, and it's a chance for players and coaches to pause from the regular season's 82-game grind.
And unlike in past years, everybody might actually be able to unwind.
The NBA doubled the days off between games this season after players encouraged Commissioner Adam Silver to rework the schedule. Teams will have a minimum break of eight days between games, allowing even those who participate in All-Star weekend to get a few days of real rest.
While nobody will complain about it, the extended break presents new challenges. Players will need to stay in rhythm, and coaches will need to keep them focused.
The Indiana Pacers' last game before the break is Wednesday's tip against the New Orleans Pelicans. Its next game will be nine days later: Feb. 20 at the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers (20-32) have been on a modest roll, winning four of their last five.
"I always thought the games were a little ragged after a four-day break. After an eight-day break, I'm not sure what to expect," said Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who is leading the Western Conference All-Star team.
Kerr, like most coaches, is telling his players to take a couple of days off to rest their bodies and then do some light conditioning and basketball activities to keep their bodies in tune. He's asking Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson not to overexert themselves with travel and the dizzying daze that is All-Star weekend.
Of course, most players are happy to participate in the league's showcase, especially younger ones and those on losing teams. After all, it's the only opportunity all season to get away from the tedious time with their teams.
"Once that is over, it's back to reality," said Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, a first time All-Star. "It's just going to be a break from reality."
Games will resume Thursday, Feb. 19, though most teams don't begin playing again until Feb. 20 and 21. The format is a one-year test and the league will discuss future scheduling in the offseason.
"It's different," Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. "The good thing is with the longer break there are two practice days coming off of it, so I think it'll be fine. I give Adam a lot of credit. He listened to the players about this and really immediately gave them what they asked for."