NEW YORK — LeBron James isn't used to looking up at so many teams at the All-Star break.
The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks occupy his former perch atop the standings, and Stephen Curry and Paul Millsap think that's where their teams belong. The Western Conference is loaded as usual — so good that All-Star Game MVP Russell Westbrook wouldn't even be in the playoffs if they started now.
There are three teams between the Hawks and fifth-place Cleveland in the East, putting James in the rare position of chaser.
He can't wait to try.
"I'm excited. I'm excited what our team can accomplish," he said. "We entered the break playing some really, really good basketball."
The NBA has a longer midseason break than usual this season, with play not resuming until Friday. That gives Westbrook extra time to rest after pouring in 41 points Sunday in the West's 163-158 victory at Madison Square Garden.
His Oklahoma City Thunder are still just outside the West's top eight. No such worries for the Warriors, who rolled into the break with a 42-9 record and an MVP candidate in Curry.
"You want to just embrace the higher expectations that we put on ourselves," Curry said. We talk about what we're trying to do this year. We want to back it up."
It won't be easy, with challenges throughout a rugged West where defending champion San Antonio will try to mount a charge.
The East was widely expected to come down to Chicago and Cleveland, and maybe it still will. Besides the Cavaliers' strong run to the first-half finish, with James looking healthy and Kevin Love appearing more comfortable, the Bulls won their last four to surge into third place.
Neither is likely to catch the Hawks, who rode an undefeated January to a 43-11 record. Their balanced team play put four players in the All-Star Game, and in two months they can try to prove it would work in the postseason.
"I'm not going to look too far ahead," Millsap said. "We're going to try to take care of the regular season first, but we feel like there's still room for improvement. We still feel like we haven't played our best basketball."