Wade Says Ankle is Fine, Plans to Play Tuesday
Written by Tim Reynolds, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, 22 February 2011 00:29
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Dwyane Wade's sore right ankle is not sore enough to present a problem for the Miami Heat.
Wade was able to practice Monday and pronounced himself ready to go when the Heat open their post-All-Star schedule at home Tuesday night against Sacramento — one of several pieces of positive news Miami got when it reconvened to start the final 26-game stretch of the regular season.
"I don't want to miss any time," Wade said Monday night. "It's not serious enough to miss any time."
Wade aggravated the ankle midway through the third quarter of Sunday's All-Star game when he tried an acrobatic pass and landed awkwardly. He left moments later and did not return.
Wade acknowledged that he was worried for a few moments Sunday night, but once the acute pain subsided, it was clear that the problem was minor.
"I think he's more tired than he is sore," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I think this was a tough turnaround for these guys to get in at 7 a.m. today and bounce back at a 5 p.m. practice. That makes it tough probably for your body, getting on a normal East coast clock."
For Miami's All-Star contingent — Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, along with 3-point shootout champion James Jones — some rest is still surely in order.
All-Star weekend — loaded with sponsor events, business meetings and then the game itself — proved hectic for everyone.
Even with Wade sitting the game's final 17:02, Miami's three representatives logged much more playing time Sunday than Boston's four All-Stars. Celtics coach Doc Rivers had Wade, James and Bosh play an average of about 24 minutes, while Boston's foursome of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett logged an average of 14 minutes.
Spoelstra wasn't bothered.
"The minutes in one particular game, that doesn't affect anything, big picture," Spoelstra said. "These guys are young."
James played 32 minutes, the most of anyone in the game for the second straight year.
Both the Heat and Celtics play on Tuesday, though Miami's All-Stars needed to make a cross-country flight home to get ready for Sacramento, while Boston's only had to make the quick trip to northern California for a game with Golden State.
"Man, I'm 26 years old," James said. "I don't go out to All-Star weekend to sit on no bench during the game. I want to play and I want to win. Me and Doc talked and I was fine with playing as many minutes as I did. I hate to come out of any game. I don't care if it's a recreation game in the summertime. I just love to play."
So Wade was feeling good, James was feeling good, and forward Mike Miller was feeling better.
From the Heat perspective, that's significant progress.
Spoelstra said tests have concluded that Miller did not have a concussion despite taking blows to the head three times in a five-day span before the break. Miller did some shooting Monday, was held out of practice and will not play Tuesday — but could be in the lineup as soon as Thursday when Miami visits Chicago.
"I feel good right now and I'm just waiting for them to let me play," said Miller, who added that he has no problems other than a nagging cold.
And forward Udonis Haslem, who hasn't played since November because of a ruptured ligament in his foot, was on the court with his team — in basketball sneakers, not a walking boot — for the first time in months on Monday.
It was more of an appearance than anything else. Haslem still is targeting a late March return, though that hardly seems guaranteed and his rehab process has several more significant steps.
"It's still real early," Haslem said. "Right now I'm taking it day by day. When I'm ready, I'll know."
Miami (41-15) is percentage points behind Boston (40-14) for the East's best record, is two games ahead of Chicago in the conference race, and 5½ ahead of Orlando in the Southeast Division.
"We're into the final sprint and our focus is not just generically getting our game right," Spoelstra said. "We want to improve and reach another level, reach higher or another two levels, which we're capable of. And I think that makes us unique than most of the teams contending. We don't necessarily know what our ceiling is."
Hornets' G Jarrett Jack Arrested, Charged with DUI
Written by (AP) Tuesday, 22 February 2011 00:22
Police in an Atlanta suburb say New Orleans Hornets' backup point guard Jarrett Jack has been arrested and charged with drunken driving.
Snellville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said in an e-mail Monday the 27-year-old former Georgia Tech star was pulled over early Sunday by an officer who clocked him at 66 mph in a 45-mph zone. Police say Jack's Mercedes was also weaving.
Whitehead says Jack failed a field sobriety test, then was taken to the Gwinnett County jail and given a breath test, which measured just under the legal limit of .08 more than an hour after Jack was stopped.
Jack was also charged with failure to maintain a lane. He was released Sunday night.
He did not immediately return a call for a telephone number listed for him in Atlanta.
Kobe Bryant Claims One More All-Star MVP Trophy
Written by Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer Monday, 21 February 2011 09:35
Kobe Bryant talks more about his past than his future these days.
The Los Angeles Lakers' five-time champion guard has said he can see the finish line of his career. He has even talked about clearing out of the way, allowing younger superstars to take charge of the NBA.
Those youngsters weren't ready to let this 32-year-old geezer out of the spotlight just yet — not at his hometown All-Star game, anyway.
Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star MVP award Sunday night with 37 points and 14 rebounds in the West's 148-143 win over the East, finishing five points shy of the All-Star scoring record.
Bryant clearly wanted the trophy that would tie him with Bob Pettit in NBA history, but until taking over the starring role on Sunday, Bryant said he spent the weekend attempting to cede the spotlight. He imagines himself sliding into a background role in the NBA cacophony behind LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates, or the Boston Celtics' four All-Stars, or even Clippers rookie Blake Griffin.
"I've been there, you know what I mean?" Bryant said. "It's not about that for me at this point in my career. It's very important for the game to continue to have young stars emerge. ... It's important for me to step aside. It's about me coming out and performing and staying healthy, and doing the right things after 15 years."
That didn't stop Bryant from going after an MVP trophy and a West win with unusually ferocious play for a glorified exhibition.
And even though James racked up a silky-smooth triple-double, Kevin Durant dropped 34 points in 30 minutes, and Amare Stoudemire slammed and jammed his way through Staples Center for 29 points, the All-Stars seemed uniformly pleased Bryant came away with one more trophy for his overstuffed case back home in Orange County.
"Everyone wanted him to get the MVP," said Miami's Dwyane Wade, last season's MVP. "He came out very aggressive, as aggressive as I've seen anybody in an All-Star game."
Both All-Star teams seemingly deferred to Bryant for much of the night, finding him on fast breaks and clearing a path for his dunks — a rarity these days for Bryant, who prefers to conserve the bounce in his aching knees. Bryant even threw down a slam against James' defense in the third quarter, following it up with a 3-pointer.
So enjoy it, Kobe. Hidden in all the adulation and goodwill around hometown All-Star weekend was another common theme: That's the last prize that will come easily to the Los Angeles Lakers' five-time champion guard this year.
LeBron's Miami Heat, K.D.'s rising Thunder and the archrival Celtics won't make it nearly as easy for Bryant to claim his sixth championship ring.
"He deserved it," Durant said. "Thirty-seven and 14? That's unbelievable numbers. I wanted him to get 40, but the old fella kind of tired out a little bit."
The Lakers are still title contenders, but they went into the break with three straight losses and serious questions about whether this veteran team can get motivated for a threepeat run. Bryant jokingly claimed he couldn't remember the Lakers' last game before the break — an inexplicable five-point loss at NBA-worst Cleveland.
Bryant plans to deal with all that Monday at practice in El Segundo.
"We're looking forward to it," Bryant said of the stretch run. "We're up for the challenge. Pau (Gasol) and I have been talking this whole time about looking forward to it, and getting back at it. We've been in communication with the rest of the fellas, and we all can't wait to get started."
Bryant fell short of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record 42 points in 1962, but not for lack of trying by his teammates. He went scoreless in the final 6:48.
"I wish we could have," New Orleans guard Chris Paul said. "But Kobe is one of those guys who has been in the league for 13 years, but it seems like he's getting younger, so he'll have another opportunity."
Melo-drama Overshadows All-Star Weekend
Written by Brian Mahoney, AP Basketball Writer Monday, 21 February 2011 08:08
East vs. West was overshadowed by New York vs. New Jersey during All-Star weekend.
And even though Kobe Bryant won the MVP, Carmelo Anthony made the most headlines.
Anthony took the meetings, gave no answers and ultimately got none, either. The only team that seems to have any is his Denver Nuggets.
"The Nuggets have known everything since day one (about his intentions), so just because we don't tell you guys everything, they know everything," Anthony said Sunday after the All-Star game.
But a resolution to the season-long trade speculation could come at any moment, landing him with the Knicks or the Nets. Or it could go right until Thursday's deadline — if it happens at all — which is what his wife, La La Vazquez, thinks.
"I do, I do, I really do, because I've been hearing about this for so many months and I was thinking, 'OK, something's going to happen," she said before the All-Star game. "So at this point, I do believe that it probably is going to go down to the wire. If anything, who is to say, it's just not, stay where you are? You know?"
The Melodrama reached perhaps its most bizarre point Sunday. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov essentially said at least the Nets drove up the Knicks price. And the Knicks hierarchy insisted they were unified in their pursuit of the All-Star forward amid reports someone who no longer works for the team was pulling the strings.
Anthony had said he hoped to resolve his future by the end of the weekend while the entire basketball world gathered in Los Angeles, but 'Melo seemed mellow about missing that soft deadline.
He finally acknowledged meeting with Prokhorov and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, saying they were "generic meetings that (the Nuggets) allowed me to take, but nothing specific."
Prokhorov told CNBC on Sunday he had a "fantastic" meeting with Anthony on Saturday night. The Russian billionaire had pulled the Nets out of talks last month, and even after they were recently renewed he said he originally had no plans to meet with Anthony during the All-Star weekend.
"As you know, my instinct was to stay away and I still think that is (the) right decision," Prokhorov said. "But when the meeting was fixed, (Nets general manager) Billy King called me and said, 'We need you.' I was convinced and I still think I'm right to stay away, but we have teamwork so sometimes we need to be all together."
Asked at Staples Center before the All-Star game if he had any news on a deal, Prokhorov said: "I don't care."
The Nets still believe Anthony would agree to sign a contract extension with them that would be a prerequisite to making the deal, despite previous reports that he would only do so if traded to the Knicks.
"I was just listening," Anthony said of his meeting with the Nets. "I didn't give anybody a definitive answer. It was a good meeting to have. I'm not going to talk about the selling points and all that stuff. It was interesting. It's hard for me to sit here and talk about what the Nets can do, because I'm not in a Nets uniform."
Even if they can't get an agreement from Anthony, Prokhorov sees value in the Nets' return to the trade talks.
"I think we made a very good tactical decision to force (the) Knicks to pay as much as they can," Prokhorov said. "So it's very good, it's very interesting, it's very competitive."
And it created reports that the Knicks' negotiations had been taken out of the hands of team president Donnie Walsh by Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan — with former Knicks president and coach Isiah Thomas advising him. The team attempted to shoot them down with a statement Sunday.
"We want to make it abundantly clear that we have been in constant communication throughout this process and the three of us are in complete agreement with everything that we are currently working on. Together, we will do what is best for the long-term success of the franchise," said the statement, which was attributed to Dolan, Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni.
Walsh has been patient in his approach with Anthony, who can become a free agent after the season. The Knicks could just sign him then without having to give up any of their young core in a trade with the Nuggets, but Anthony would prefer a deal during the season so he'd be eligible for the three-year, $65 million extension he's refused to sign with Denver.
"An extension will come into play, regardless of the situation," Anthony said. "I haven't talked to anybody today from the Denver Nuggets organization, so as of right now, I'm still a Nugget."
The New York Daily News reported Dolan met Thursday with Anthony in Los Angeles, and Yahoo! Sports reported the Knicks had increased their offer to the Nuggets to include three starters, triggering speculation the owner was overruling his basketball people because he wanted a trade done before Thursday's deadline.
Walsh previously had said he didn't understand the fuss about Dolan's involvement, since ownership always is when a trade becomes closer.
But Dolan's presence has sparked further belief — along with some panic and outrage by Knicks fans — that he is relying on Thomas, who led the team for a tumultuous 4½ years.
Though a plan to rehire Thomas as an official consultant fell through last August because his position as coach of Florida International University prevents him from being employed by an NBA team, Dolan said at the time that he would "continue to solicit his views."
But the Knicks say that's not happening on this deal.
"In addition, we want to make it clear that no one from outside our organization has been involved in this process in any way," the statement read.
The Knicks said they would not have any further comment.
All-Star Break Over, James Ready for Playoff Push
Written by Tim Reynolds, AP Sports Writer Monday, 21 February 2011 07:50
LeBron James acknowledges there is a point in the NBA schedule where regular-season games start carrying a little bit more significance.
He's not shy about saying that, either. Though they all count the same in the marathon 82-game schedule, games after the All-Star break just seem to carry more weight in James' mind. The reason is simple: With every passing game, he's that much closer to returning to the playoffs — and resuming his still-unfulfilled quest of winning an NBA championship.
Miami opens its post-All-Star schedule Tuesday at home against Sacramento. This time of year is often called the second half, but it's more accurate to depict it as the final third, since the Heat have just 26 games left before the opening postseason round begins.
James has been saying for weeks that he starts getting into playoff mode after the break.
The Heat can't wait to see what that really means.
"We're still learning each other," James said. "Our record is really good and we're excited about our record, but we understand, we've still got to continue to get better."
In other words, follow his lead.
He's the league's two-time reigning MVP, a title that he was widely expected to relinquish this season in exchange of pursuing, well, another title. With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh alongside him in Miami, many people — James included — thought he would be unlikely to put up MVP numbers for a third straight year.
But James' stats have gotten better each month. Scoring is up. Rebounding is up. Assists are up.
And the strange part is, he's doing it while the productivity for Wade and Bosh has increased as well, making Miami look more and more like a championship contender as the year rolls along.
"Here's what's interesting. As his personal numbers have increased the last few weeks, what's important is our level of team execution and trust and confidence has also increased," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "As long as those two things can work in concert, we're all for it. We're talking about an MVP, a two-time MVP, who is so dynamic and versatile with his skills he can impact the game in so many ways."
Just look at Sunday night's All-Star Game as proof of that. The Eastern Conference may have lost to the West All-Stars, but James still managed a triple-double — 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
The only other player in All-Star history to do that? Michael Jordan.
James comes out of the All-Star break ranked third in the league in scoring (26.1), 13th in assists (7.3, despite spending almost as much time lately at power forward than point guard), and tops the NBA charts in two categories that measure efficiency — plus-minus (plus 8.3 per game) and the combination of points, assists and rebounds (40.8).
"I didn't want to think about me being MVP this year," James said. "I wanted to think about bringing the Miami Heat an MVP player on the court. ... I've always said over my career team success comes individual accolades — and I guess my name is back in the race."
Miami's 9-8 start to the season is long forgotten. The Heat are 32-7 since.
Around the league, no one is surprised that the Heat turned things around. Suns coach Alvin Gentry scolded reporters in November for asking him about Miami's "struggles," answering those questions by saying onlookers would be crazy to think Miami's tough times would continue all season. That night, as if on cue, Gentry's team lost in Miami by 27 points.
Much got made of a team meeting in Dallas and a bump James gave Spoelstra during a time-out that same night, but in actuality, there may not have been one definitive launching moment for where things started clicking for Miami.
"We knew each other's games from playing on different teams, but it's different when you're playing with a guy," Wade said. "You have to make adjustments to not only the teammates around us, but to our style of play a little bit. ... It was just time. Time cures all. Anytime we had a point where we felt it wasn't going as smooth, we talked about it."
For his part, James doesn't look to a certain game as the springboard, either.
Miami's best basketball, he believes, is still to come — and given the way the Heat played going into the break, he may be right.
"I think he's more comfortable in the system, more comfortable playing with the guys, he knows where everybody's going to be," Heat center and longtime James teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. "We use a lot more of our playbook now. We have a lot more plays in. We just had to have some games under our belt as individuals and as a team for us to be comfortable."
Wade says that if he got an MVP vote now, he'd pick James.
It's tough to argue.
Still, remember what James said Jan. 1 about how he would handicap the MVP chances for either himself or Wade, who also hasn't seen any major dips in his stats despite having two other No. 1 options playing alongside him now. "When we decided to come together, our MVP chances went out the window," James said on New Year's night.
Care to reconsider, anyone?
"Look at his numbers. He's putting up great numbers on a good team," Wade said in Los Angeles at All-Star weekend. "It shows even more to average 26, 7, and 7 and you have another guy (himself) averaging 25 and you got another guy (Bosh) averaging almost 19. And you still are a very valuable player to this team. So there's no question he can."
Spoelstra has made a number of changes to the Heat lineup over the season, experimenting with different starting point guards, then always having either Mario Chalmers or Carlos Arroyo on the floor, then going to long stretches without either. James has been a hybrid, going from point guard to power forward — neither his preferred position, remember — at times within the span of one possession.
The biggest change was one that Wade and James may have made on their own. They're attack players who tried to defer to each other too much in the early going. So now, they find ways to attack at the same time.
"Me and D-Wade were trying to, I guess, shoot less and make sacrifices and it was really hurting our team," James said. "Until we turned the switch and said, 'OK, we need to just be ourselves and let everyone else catch up to us on the team,' it's then we started winning basketball games. And we knew we were going to be all right then."
James would prefer to be better than "all right." He desperately hopes this is the year to finally win it all.
Maybe the harbinger of what awaits came Sunday night. Jordan's All-Star triple-double was in 1997. His Bulls won that season's NBA championship.
James starts getting ready for that playoff mode on Tuesday.
"We'll go out there and just play the game the right way," James said. "We never get in each other's way."
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report.
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