NBA Capsules: Lakers hit midway mark with 96-91 win over Dallas - Brownsville Herald

DALLAS (AP) — Andrew Bynum had a huge smile on his face after he grabbed a rebound of his own miss and got fouled on an attempted putback.

Not long after making both those free throws that put the Los Angeles Lakers ahead to stay, Bynum was running after teammate Derek Fisher to give him a big hug following a 3-pointer.

Bynum had 19 points and 14 rebounds, including several big plays in the final 5½ minutes, as the Lakers hit the halfway point of their season with a 96-91 victory over the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

"Andrew was great," coach Mike Brown said.

The free throws by Bynum broke an 82-all tie with 5:29 left and put the Lakers (20-13) ahead to stay after 13 ties and 10 lead changes.

After the Mavericks failed to take advantage of a turnover by Kobe Bryant when Jason Terry gave it right back, Bynum was underneath the basket with the ball. But he instead passed it to Fisher in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Bynum was smiling broadly when he chased down and hugged Fisher when Dallas called timeout.

Fisher, whose driving short jumper with 3:41 left ended a 9-0 run and made it 89-82, had given Bynum a pep talk before the game. They were also thinking about the playoffs against Dallas last season.

"We got swept last year, and it was on our minds," Bynum said.

There was also Bynum's alley-oop dunk from Bryant with 1:05 left that stretched the lead to 93-86. The Lakers then held on despite missing six consecutive free throws after that.

Bryant missed two free throws with 37 seconds left. After Dirk Nowitzki's tip-in got Dallas within 93-91, Pau Gasol was fouled and missed both of his free throws with 20 seconds left.

"I'm a little overweight, I'm too young to have a heart attack," Brown said after watching all those misses.

But Matt Barnes grabbed the rebound after Gasol's second miss and was quickly fouled himself. He ended the Lakers' charity-line slump with two free throws.

"That was big," Fisher said. "The way last season ended, this game was big for a lot of us."

Gasol had 24 points for the Lakers, while Bryant and Fisher each had 15. Bryant shot 4 of 15 while being held 14 below his NBA-leading scoring average, and was scoreless until two free throws with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.

Nowitzki had 25 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Mavericks (21-13), who played their final game before the All-Star break after winning seven of their previous eight games. Vince Carter had 20.

"I'm disappointing tonight, I'm not dismayed," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Our effort was there, we just didn't make enough plays at both ends. ... The break's coming at a good time."

The Lakers have one more game before the All-Star break. They play Thursday night at Oklahoma City.

Lamar Odom missed the game for the Mavericks against his former team. Odom was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for the Lakers last season and won three NBA championship rings in seven years in Los Angeles.

Carlisle said Odom was excused from the game to attend to a family matter and will rejoin the team after the All-Star break.

The Lakers had their biggest lead when Steve Blake had a steal and passed ahead to Gasol for a running one-handed slam that made it 42-28 with 6:21 left in the first half. That ended 12 consecutive points and a 17-2 Los Angeles run.

"I was aggressive in the beginning. I was able to knock down some shots and make plays," Gasol said. "(This win) shows we're on the same page and we've got a lot of character."

But the Mavericks finished the half with a 20-6 run over the final 5:33 to tie the game at 48-all by the break.

Nowitzki scored the last six Dallas points, two free throws with 1:23 left and then a pair of jumpers in the final 42 seconds. He made a 15-foot floater and after grabbing a long rebound of a miss by Gasol, Nowitzki made a tying jumper.

"It just seemed like we'd get a little momentum and then we had trouble sustaining," Carlisle said. "Tough game, but you've got to give them credit."

Notes: All the Mavericks except Nowitzki, who will make his 11th consecutive All-Star appearance, have the next four days off. They play nine games in 12 days, starting with Tuesday's home game against New Jersey. ... Texas Rangers designated hitter/first baseman Michael Young was shown on the overhead video board before the start of the fourth quarter. Young is a big Lakers fan. Rangers position players don't have to report to training camp in Arizona until Saturday. .... The Lakers jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the first 4 minutes, and Carlisle used two timeouts in that span.

Scola, Lowry lead Rockets past Sixers

HOUSTON (AP) — Kyle Lowry had a scraped right forearm, a sore right ankle and a smile on his face after the Houston Rockets pulled out a grinding victory over his hometown team on Wednesday night.

Lowry scored 13 points and converted two crucial three point-plays in the final two minutes of the Rockets' 93-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Houston's third straight victory.

The Philly native and former Villanova star took hard shots on both drives, but the points turned out to be the margin of victory in both teams' final game before the All-Star break.

"I hit the floor a few times but it doesn't matter, we got the win," said Lowry, who briefly left in the first quarter after spraining his right ankle.

Luis Scola had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Kevin Martin scored 16 points for Houston, which snapped a four-game home-court losing streak to Philadelphia.

The Rockets head into the break at 20-14, and in much better shape than last season, when they were five games under .500 at All-Star weekend.

"I'm never going to say we're overachieving, or underachieving," Lowry said. "I think we're a good team, and I think we're going where we're supposed to be going."

The 76ers, meanwhile, are limping into the break on a five-game losing streak, and their top two rebounders — Spencer Hawes (left Achilles strain) and Elton Brand (right thumb sprain) are out indefinitely.

"I would say that we'd be happy to be where we are now, when the season started," Andre Iguodala said. "We put ourselves in position to be one of the top teams in our division. We are where we want to be, but not playing the way we want to now. Every team is going through tough stretches like this."

Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 18 points and Thaddeus Young had 15 for the 76ers, who lost for only the second time in their past nine meetings with Houston.

Philly was held without a 3-pointer for the first time this season, missing all nine attempts. The Rockets went 5 for 18 from 3-point range, with all but one of the makes coming in the second half.

The lead changed hands five times in the final five minutes before Lowry drove into Vucevic for a layup, drew the foul and made the free throw for an 86-84 lead.

Louis Williams made a free throw with 1:38 remaining, but Lowry then converted another three-point play, drawing a foul on Young this time, with 59 seconds left to make it 89-85.

Williams slipped on the baseline in front of the Houston bench, the 76ers' 13th turnover, and the Rockets hit their free throws in the last minute to preserve the victory.

"Good thing we won," Martin said. "That would've been a bad loss for us. We played with a little bit of fire."

Lowry also had eight rebounds and Chandler Parsons scored 12 points for the Rockets. Williams scored 17 points for the 76ers.

Both teams shot poorly early, and neither had scored 10 points midway through the first quarter. Lowry left four minutes into the game after stepping on Scola's foot, and he limped to the locker room with athletics trainer Keith Jones.

Houston found its shooting touch first and took a 19-16 lead. Lowry returned to the bench with Jones in the last minute of the quarter, and was back on the floor for the start of the second.

The Rockets picked up the offensive pace in the third quarter, stretching the lead to eight points. The 76ers attacked Houston's small lineup inside, answering with a 10-0 run that gave them a 56-54 lead.

Houston went cold late in the third quarter, and mustered only 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. The 76ers scored 14 of their 24 third-quarter points in the paint and led 65-61 heading to the fourth.

Martin swished back-to-back 3-pointers near the nine-minute mark to keep Houston within three. After Thaddeus Young scored inside, Martin hit another 3 and Patrick Patterson scored to tie it at 75-all.

Notes: The Rockets have won 24 consecutive games when holding their opponent to less than 90 points. ... Lowry missed his first free-throw attempt, after making his previous 25. ... The 76ers dropped to 7-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets this season. ... Philly coach Doug Collins couldn't give a timetable for Hawes' return from a left Achilles strain. Collins said Hawes will visit a doctor in Los Angeles during the All-Star break and wear a protective boot.

-- Chris Duncan

Related State News

Odom excused by Mavericks for game against Lakers

DALLAS (AP) — Lamar Odom missed the Dallas Mavericks' game Wednesday night's against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach Rick Carlisle said Odom was excused from the game to attend to a family matter.

"He will rejoin us after the break," Carlisle said, without elaborating, when he announced Odom's absence at the end of his pregame availability.

Odom has struggled much of the season with the Mavericks after being the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year for the Lakers last season. He won three NBA titles in seven seasons with the Lakers.

Los Angeles attempted to trade Odom to New Orleans in a deal for Chris Paul before the season — a trade that was blocked by the league. The Mavericks acquired Odom three days later for a trade exception and a draft pick.

Odom is averaging 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. He was only 3-of-14 shooting the last two games.

"He's a guy that's 6-10, 6-11 that's extremely versatile, can help you on both ends of the floor," Lakers coach Mike Brown said. "I think they'll miss him, but they're still a formidable team without him. They have some veteran players on their team, they're NBA champions who play the right way."

But Odom, a 13-year veteran, is posting some of the lowest numbers of his career. He had missed only one of the Mavericks' 33 games before Wednesday night.

When the Mavericks played the Lakers last month, Odom had 10 points and four rebounds in his return to Los Angeles.

The Lakers play again in Dallas on March 21, and the Mavericks play in Los Angeles on April 15.

Other NBA Capsules

Lin, Knicks roll past Hawks

NEW YORK (AP) — Jeremy Lin had an easy night ahead of his toughest opponent yet, and the New York Knicks tuned up for their trip to Miami by beating the Atlanta Hawks 99-82 Wednesday night.

Lin had 17 points and nine assists, sitting out most of the fourth quarter in a rare game during his remarkable run that the Knicks needed little from him.

Carmelo Anthony scored 15 points in his second game back from injury for the Knicks, who led the depleted Hawks by 25 points at halftime. New York bounced back from a loss to New Jersey on Monday and won for the ninth time in 11 games since Lin joined the rotation.

Jeff Teague scored 16 points for the Hawks, who played without Joe Johnson. The All-Star guard left their loss at Chicago on Monday with a sore left knee and had to pull out of Sunday's game in Orlando. Atlanta has lost three straight and five of six.

The Knicks shot 52 percent in the first half and led 60-35 at the break.


CHICAGO (AP) — Carlos Boozer scored 20 points, Derrick Rose and Luol Deng each added 16, and Chicago beat Milwaukee for the seventh straight time.

Joakim Noah had 13 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double by a Chicago center in roughly 35 years. Not since Artis Gilmore had 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocks against Atlanta on Dec. 20, 1977, had a Bulls center accomplished the feat.

The Central Division leaders built an 11-point halftime lead and broke it open in the third quarter, a nice send-off for the All-Star break.

Brandon Jennings scored 20 points to lead the Bucks.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Russell Westbrook scored 31 points, Kevin Durant added 28 and Oklahoma City beat Boston for its 11th straight win at home.

Kevin Garnett's return after a two-game absence wasn't enough to lift the Celtics, who were still without point guard Rajon Rondo as he served the second of a two-game suspension.

Paul Pierce and Garnett scored 23 points apiece, and Garnett also had 13 rebounds after missing the previous two games for personal reasons. The Celtics lost their fifth straight.

Boston trailed by as many as 27 before pulling to 108-102 with 3:31 left. Durant banked in a pair of jumpers and hit two free throws during an 11-2 run that sealed it for Oklahoma City.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tyler Hansbrough had a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds as Indiana continued its dominance of Charlotte.

The Pacers have beaten the Bobcats nine time straight times, including twice this week. This game was much closer than the 35-point rout Sunday in Indianapolis — for three quarters.

The Pacers led by 10 after three but began to pull away in the fourth. Danny Granger had 12 points and Lou Amundson had a season-high 11 rebounds as Indiana won its fourth game in a row to remain in second place in the Central Division.

Corey Maggette scored 20 points as Charlotte lost its 18th in 19 games.

MAGIC 108, NETS 91

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Dwight Howard had 20 points and 17 rebounds to help Orlando roll to victory against New Jersey.

Glen Davis, who hit his first seven shots, added 16 points for Orlando, which won for the eighth time in 11 games.

Deron Williams had 23 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead New Jersey, which headed into the All-Star breaking having lost 8 of 11. Rookie MarShon Brooks added a game-high 24, while Brook Lopez had 15 in his second game since his return from a broken right foot.

Orlando shot 62.5 percent in the opening 12 minutes and jumped to a 34-17 lead.


TORONTO (AP) — DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points, Aaron Gray set season highs with 12 points and 12 rebounds and Toronto beat Detroit to snap a three-game losing streak.

Leandro Barbosa scored 17 points, James Johnson had 15 and Amir Johnson added 11 for the Raptors, who had lost seven of eight coming in. Ed Davis scored 10 points and Jose Calderon added 15 assists as Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak against Detroit.

Greg Monroe had 30 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons, Brandon Knight scored 16 and Tayshaun Prince had 14 as Detroit dropped to 3-14 on the road.

The Pistons had won three of four and seven of 10 coming in.


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Luke Ridnour hit a floater in the lane at the buzzer, capping Minnesota's comeback from 16 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Utah.

Utah's Al Jefferson sank a jumper with Kevin Love in his face to tie the score 98-all with 7 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Ridnour took a pass from J.J. Barea, drove the lane, and sank a shot over Jefferson as the buzzer sounded.

Barea finished 22 points and matched a career high with five 3-pointers, and Ridnour added 17 points.

Paul Millsap scored 25 and Josh Howard added 19 as the Jazz lost their third straight.


CLEVELAND (AP) — Chris Kaman scored 21 points, Marco Belinelli added 19 and New Orleans held off a late rallly to beat Cleveland.

Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, who made several clutch plays in Cleveland's back-to-back one-point wins over Sacramento and Detroit, was held to six points. Irving's jumper with 2:08 to play cut New Orleans' lead to 76-74, but Kaman's dunk and Belinelli's 3-pointer put the Hornets ahead 81-74 with 1:04 on the clock.

Antawn Jamison led Cleveland with 22 points and Irving had career-high 11 assists.

Jarrett Jack scored 16 points for New Orleans and Kaman grabbed 13 rebounds.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Marcus Thornton scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, and rookie Isaiah Thomas had 16 of his 18 after halftime to lead Sacramento past Washington.

Tyreke Evans added 22 points — 20 in the first half — and DeMarcus Cousins had 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings, who broke a six-game losing streak and salvaged a win in the finale of their six-game road trip.

Jordan Crawford scored a season-high 32 points, and John Wall had 21 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards, who have lost four straight.

The Kings led 104-103 with 3:44 to play before closing with an 11-4 run.


PHOENIX (AP) — Monta Ellis hit an 20-foot fadeaway jump shot with 1 second remaining to lift Golden State.

Channing Frye's 3-point attempt rolled off the back of the rim at the buzzer, giving the Warriors their first win in Phoenix since March 18, 2005.

Ellis finished with a game-high 26 points, Dorell Wright had 23 and David Lee added 22 for the Warriors, who squandered a 21-point lead before rallying in the final 2:16.

Golden State played all but 1 minute of the final three quarters and the entire second half without Stephen Curry, who strained a tendon in his right foot with 2:19 to play in the first quarter.

Frye had 22 points, Marcin Gortat scored 21 and Jared Dudley finished with 17 for the Suns, whose two-game winning streak was snapped.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul scored a season-high 36 points, Blake Griffin added 27 and the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a two-game skid in their last game before the All-Star break.

Paul and Griffin are headed to the game as starters in Orlando, having led their team to a 20-11 record in the first half of the lockout-shortened season. Griffin had 12 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan had 16 boards as the Clippers improved to 12-4 at home.

Arron Afflalo scored 20 points and rookie Jordan Hamilton added a season-high 18 points for the injury-riddled Nuggets, who lost their fifth in a row on the road. They played without Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Nene and Rudy Fernandez.

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Spoelstra: Celebrate Lin for his play

MIAMI (AP) — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra makes no secret about the fact that he's enjoying the Jeremy Lin story.

An undrafted player from Harvard bounces around and auditions for a handful of NBA clubs, even spends some time in the NBA Development League, then finally gets a chance to play with the Knicks. And on New York's stage instantly becomes a star who's putting up monster numbers every night while seeming to carry one of the league's most storied franchises with ease.

"It's a great story," Spoelstra said. "It really is."

In Spoelstra's mind, it's a good enough story to stand on those merits alone.

Nonetheless, heritage is a massive part of the Linsanity craze. Lin — the son of Taiwanese parents — is not the NBA's first Asian-American player, but surely the first to generate this much interest. Spoelstra's mother is from the Philippines, making him the league's first Asian-American coach. He and Lin will be on opposite ends of the court in Miami on Thursday night when the NBA-leading Heat hosts the Knicks.

"It's a great rags-to-riches story," Spoelstra said. "That's the bigger story. And hopefully years from now it'll be about that, not about the ethnicity."

After helping New York reach .500 by beating Atlanta on Wednesday, Lin is averaging 23.9 points and 9.2 assists in an 11-game stretch since joining the Knicks' rotation. New York is 9-2 in those games, saving a season that was spiraling out of control.

Facing the Heat figures to be Lin's biggest challenge yet this season. Miami goes into Thursday as the NBA's hottest team, winning seven straight games — all by double figures — and tied with Oklahoma City for the league's best record at 26-7.

Basketball's reach has long been global, which is evident every time Spoelstra speaks with reporters. Whether it's in the Heat press room or on the practice floor, his media availabilities almost always take place with him standing or seated before a drape bearing with the Heat logo — and one for Tsingtao, a Chinese beer company that entered into a multiyear agreement with the team a few months ago.

And Spoelstra's following in the Philippines — a place he went more than 30 years without seeing — is massive.

The Heat broadcast department streamed live pregame, halftime and postgame shows on the team's website during last season's playoffs, getting more clicks from the Philippines than any other foreign country. He has made trips there in recent summers for camps and clinics, typically being overwhelmed by the sizes of crowds coming out for those events.

Still, no one ever coined the term Sposanity.

Linsanity, meanwhile, has fast become a part of the everyday sports lexicon.

"I think it's taken away from it, honestly," Heat forward LeBron James said, when asked if the attention on Lin's heritage overshadows his play. "But at the end of the day, he's winning ball games. That's ultimately what it comes down to. You average 25 and 9 and lose, it doesn't mean much. You should realize how good of a player he is and not get caught up in everything else. He's a really good player."

Spoelstra remembers the first time he heard of Lin, and it wasn't when he started turning the Knicks around.

It was July 2010, about a week after James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh dominated the NBA news cycle by all deciding to play together in Miami. Lin was with the Dallas Mavericks' summer league team in Las Vegas, simply trying to make an NBA roster.

"We were playing in the game after," Spoelstra said. "So I showed up at the gym, and it was the auxiliary gym next door (to where the Heat summer team was playing). And you could hear all the noise. We heard John Wall was playing, so when everybody came into our gym there was a buzz. We all assumed it was John Wall that dominated that game. And then people were talking about a Lin kid who dominated the fourth quarter. Nobody knew who he was.

"Everybody in the gym was talking about him."

And now, that's still true — just on a much bigger scale.

"The fact that he came from oblivion ... it shows his fortitude, his character, his resiliency," Spoelstra said.

-- Tim Reynolds

Sacramento, NBA close to arena financing deal

Sacramento's last shot to remain an NBA city appears headed for another overtime.

NBA Commissioner David Stern and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson announced a joint work plan Wednesday for the two sides to reach an agreement to finance a new arena by the March 1 deadline. Johnson, Stern and the Maloof family, which owns the Sacramento Kings, will meet during this weekend's All-Star festivities in Orlando, Fla.

If the final details are resolved in time, a term sheet will be announced March 1 and the Sacramento City Council will vote on the plan at its March 6 meeting, possibly avoiding the relocation talk that surrounded the team last spring when it almost moved to Anaheim.

"I feel very confident that we as a city are going to be able to do our part," Johnson said at a late afternoon news conference at City Hall with six council members standing behind him. "The city controls its own destiny."

The major sticking point in negotiations remains how much the Kings will contribute.

Under the proposed agreement, the city of Sacramento will raise about $190-$230 million by leasing out parking garages to private investors, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, said another $75-$100 million is expected from the Kings and $40-$60 million from arena operator AEG.

The remaining gap will be covered by some combination of a ticket surcharge, advertising around the arena, allocating a portion of the city's existing transient occupancy tax or a sale of three or four parcels of city land.

The final price tag for AEG depends largely on the team's contribution.

The Kings' portion would include upfront cash — the city had initially asked for $60 million — and donating back the land around the franchise's current suburban Sacramento arena, estimated at about $25 million. AEG's contribution will be impacted by the splits with the team in arena-related revenue.

Johnson and Stern still have some disagreement on how much, if any, of AEG's portion is included in the Kings' contribution. Major points for the city also include making sure rates don't soar if the garages and street parking are sold to private investors, and getting Sacramento County's agreement to use a parking garage near the arena site.

The two sides are making progress and hope to bridge the gap to finance the estimated $406 million arena, which would open for the 2015-16 season in the downtown Sacramento rail yards. The Kings nearly moved south to Anaheim last year, twice extending the relocation deadline and struggling to gain approval from league owners.

Johnson made a desperate pitch to the NBA Board of Governors last April to give the city a final chance to come up with an arena plan. He also bought time by presenting more than $10 million in commitments for new advertising, ticket purchases and other financial support from regional businesses for this season.

Despite attempts by Anaheim and Seattle to swoop in and lure the Kings, Stern said the league is making every attempt to keep the franchise in California's capital.

"We appreciate the work of the City of Sacramento and (our) discussions have been constructive," Stern said in a statement. "Our hope is that current momentum continues in a way that we're able to reach a deal by March 1 that makes sense for all parties."

Johnson described the discussions as having "great momentum," but disagreed with Stern on a key point: the portion of the arena cost that should be counted as coming from the Maloofs. Stern said in a TNT interview Tuesday that contributions from arena operator AEG should be included as part of the Maloofs' share, but Johnson was adamant that the city hired AEG and the Maloofs' contribution should be considered separately.

"This is where a feisty point guard and the commissioner get into a little bit of a spirited discussion," said Johnson, a former All-Star with the Phoenix Suns. He said he last talked to Stern after the city council meeting Tuesday night.

Word of the extended arena talks also reached the Kings before the team's game at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

"It's good for the team and the city, the positive news of today," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "But for the basketball players, their focus is on the game."

Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof haven't been involved in negotiations. The league is bargaining with Sacramento officials on the franchise's behalf and will present the final proposal to the team.

Joel Litvin, president of league operations, and Harvey Benjamin, executive counsel for business and finance, are the NBA's lead negotiators. Stern also has been receiving updates.

The NBA could force the Maloofs into bringing in investment partners or — as a last resort — even sell the team if the owners walk away from a plan that has the league's approval.

Southern California billionaire Ron Burkle remains interested in buying the Kings. And Christopher Hansen, a hedge-fund manager based in San Francisco and a Seattle native, is also making proposals to bring an NBA team to Seattle — with eyes on the Kings if Sacramento's latest plan collapses.

The Maloofs insist they're not selling the team. A Kings spokesman said the team is refraining from comment until the NBA and the city complete a proposed plan.

At the very least, the latest development shows progress. A year ago, Sacramento "needed to sink a full court shot" to keep the Kings from relocating to Anaheim, Johnson said.

"Now I think we're on the free throw line," he said. "Shaquille O'Neal is not shooting the free throws for us. We could go with Steve Nash."

Asked about his own shooting percentage, Johnson joked, "I could sink two if I had to."

-- Antonio Gonzalez

Rose says pain in back is gone

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago's Derrick Rose said his back is pain-free and he expects to play in the All-Star game this weekend.

The league's reigning MVP was again in the Bulls' lineup against the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday. He returned Monday against Atlanta and scored 23 points in a win after missing the previous five games with lower back pain.

"I'm not worried about it anymore," Rose said. "I don't feel any pain anymore."

Asked about the All-Star game, Rose said, "I'm good. Like I said, I don't feel any pain in my back. My hamstring is not tight. I feel loose. I feel good. Fatigue is another thing from not playing, but it's coming along."

Rose said he'll continue to see a chiropractor and do more stretching, but he doesn't expect the back to be a problem anymore. He acknowledged Wednesday he was tired of talking about it and apologized to reporters for not making himself available for comment on Monday. Chicago did not practice on Tuesday.

Rose also denied reports that he told Bulls management he would trade Carlos Boozer to the Los Angeles Lakers for Pau Gasol, saying, "That's something that I wouldn't say to anyone — that I need someone to come to this team or trying to get rid of someone on this team. It was all false."

The Bulls are still down a point guard, even though their superstar appears to be fine.

Backup C.J. Watson missed his second straight game because of a mild concussion after taking a blow to the head from New Jersey's Kris Humphries in Saturday's loss. Watson needs to meet league guidelines before he can return.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said veteran guard Richard Hamilton "is doing a lot more" and is "taking on contact now," but his return date remains up in the air. Hamilton has been limited to 11 games this season because of thigh and groin problems.

The Bucks' Stephen Jackson did not travel with the team because of a sore right hamstring, and Drew Gooden missed his fourth straight game because of a sprained right wrist.

-- Andrew Seligman

Stern: Hoping to finalize Hornets deal by March 1

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Commissioner David Stern says the NBA is talking to a couple of buyers for the Hornets and hopes to have a deal by March 1.

Stern did not name the potential buyers during an NBA TV interview but said, "we're down to one in the lead and a second" candidate and awaiting further events.

He said the league is "very close" on a deal that is moving on dual tracks with a buyer and contributions from the state of Louisiana "under a new lease." The commissioner said both deals will likely be completed on or about March 1.

Stern said the deal can't be closed until the legislature confirms the role of the state and the legislature will not convene until March. Stern said the buyer will keep the Hornets in New Orleans and doesn't think it was a mistake for the NBA to buy the team.

"We had a city that had stood by us and we by it. A state that had supported us and we it," he said.

Former Hornets owner George Shinn was saddled with too much debt to continue operating the club effectively and needed to sell. Shinn has said he did not want to sell the team to someone who would immediately move it out of Louisiana.

However, he also could not reach a deal to sell his shares of the club to then-minority owner Gary Chouest, a Louisiana native and owner of a thriving business that builds and operates supply boats to the offshore oil and gas industries.

Stern said we the league intervened because the Hornets had an owner who was tired and didn't have the resources to continue.

"So we stepped in rather than make it a free-for-all," he said.

Stern said that although the team has struggled since the Chris Paul trade, which brought guard Eric Gordon and several others to New Orleans, overall the commissioner is satisfied with the way things have played out.

"The good news for us is that the team is not in bankruptcy, it's been an orderly transition," he said. "Ticket sales are up, sponsorships sales are up and the city seems to be supporting the team even though it's struggling a bit."

Stern said he is not second-guessing any of his decisions.

"Do I have pause that Eric Gordon is injured and the main player in the (Paul) trade hasn't played? No, that's what happens."

Knicks' Lin makes second straight SI cover

NEW YORK (AP) — Covering Jeremy Lin has been easy for Sports Illustrated.

The high-scoring Knicks newcomer is on the cover of SI for the second week in a row. He's the first New York-based team athlete to be given such treatment since the magazine started in 1954 — not even Mickey Mantle, Joe Namath or Eli Manning made two straight.

Lin became a global star after getting a chance to start for the Knicks. The unheralded point guard from Harvard is playing with a flair that has revitalized the team and the fans. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was asked if all the attention on Lin could become a negative.

"It might, who knows. You never know, but we're not afraid of it. He's a great kid and he deserves it," D'Antoni said. "It's an unbelievable story, it's fun, people are excited and we'll see where it goes.

"Will it be a storybook ending? Everybody hopes so and that's what we're going to work for. But I do know he's a heck of a basketball player, so we'll just ride it and see where it goes."

Lin is the 12th athlete to appear on the SI cover at least two weeks in a row since 1990. Dirk Nowitzki did it during last season's NBA finals. Michael Jordan holds the SI cover record with three in row.

Portland pursuing Przybilla

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers are pursuing free agent Joel Przybilla, but a deal with the 7-foot-1 center would be contingent on a physical exam.

The Blazers would also have to cut a player to make room on the roster for Przybilla, who spent more than six seasons in Portland before he was traded to Charlotte last season.

Yahoo! Sports and both reported that Przybilla has agreed to a veteran's minimum deal with the Blazers. A person close to the team told The Associated Press on Wednesday that a physical exam was tentatively set for this weekend. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because a deal is not final.

"It appears imminent," said Przybilla's agent, Bill Duffy.

The 32-year-old Przybilla has not played this season. He has also been pursued by Chicago, Miami and Milwaukee.

Over an 11-year NBA career, Przybilla has averaged 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and four points per game.

He ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee in December 2009 and had two surgeries. Pain in the knee hampered him last season and he played just five games with the Bobcats.

Jordan suing Chinese company

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Former NBA star and current Bobcats owner Michael Jordan filed suit in a Chinese court against Qiaodan Sports Company Limited, a sportswear and footwear manufacturer, for unauthorized use of his name.

In a statement released through his spokeswoman, Jordan says he's worked hard to establish his name and calls the issue "deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the number 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children."

Jordan says he's "This complaint is not about money, it's about principle and protecting my name."

The Chinese company has registered and uses the name "Qiaodan" — the moniker Jordan has been known by in China since he gained widespread popularity in the mid-1980s.

Hawks' Johnson to miss All-Star game

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson will miss the All-Star game because of tendinitis in his left knee.

NBA Commissioner David Stern picked Boston guard Rajon Rondo to replace Johnson in the All-Star Game at Orlando this weekend, passing over Atlanta forward Josh Smith. Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant will take Johnson's place in the 3-point contest.

Johnson is also skipping the Hawks' last two games before the break: at New York on Wednesday night and a home game against Orlando on Thursday night.

He leads the Hawks in scoring at 17.6 points a game and was named to the All-Star team for the sixth year in a row. After the break, Johnson will be re-evaluated before Atlanta's next game against Golden State on Feb. 29.

Celtics' Rondo named All-Star replacement

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo got a strange combination from the NBA on his 26th birthday.

Rondo was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team Wednesday night, replacing injured Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson. However, he was out of the Celtics' lineup for a game at Oklahoma City while serving the second game of a two-game suspension.

Coach Doc Rivers joked that, "When you get named to the All-star, you should take one game of suspension away."

Instead, he pointed out, Rondo will be paying fines to the league.

Rondo averages 14.8 points and is second in the NBA with 9.5 assists per game.

The league also announced that Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant will compete in the 3-point contest for the first time, replacing Johnson.

Garnett returns for Celtics

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — All-Star forward Kevin Garnett is returning to the Boston Celtics lineup after missing two games for personal reasons.

Coach Doc Rivers says Garnett will play Wednesday night when the Celtics visit Oklahoma City. Boston will be without starting point guard Rajon Rondo, who is serving the second and final game of a suspension.

The Celtics are also without forward Brandon Bass (knee) and centers Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) and Chris Wilcox (thigh) due to injuries.

Rivers says Garnett is likely to play mostly at center because of the injuries.

Utah's Evans replaces Shumpert in dunk contest

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert has pulled out of the slam dunk contest with an injury and will be replaced by Utah's Jeremy Evans.

Shumpert has tendinitis in his left knee and won't play this week. The Knicks said he will be re-evaluated during the All-Star break.

Evans, a second-year forward, joins Indiana's Paul George, Houston's Chase Budinger and Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams in Saturday's event at Orlando. Of Evans' 88 baskets in the NBA, 61 have been dunks.

This year's contest will be reduced to one round, with the winner being determined by fan voting online and through text messaging.

MSG disciplines radio announcer for offensive term

NEW YORK (AP) — MSG says it has punished a radio announcer who used an offensive term about Knicks guard Jeremy Lin.

The network says the term Spero Dedes "unintentionally and inadvertently" used was "inappropriate and inconsistent with the high regard we have for Jeremy Lin as a member of our MSG family, as well as for the Asian community."

In a statement, Dedes says he has apologized to Lin and will be more sensitive about his choice of words.

Lin is the first American-born NBA player of Taiwanese or Chinese descent. One ESPN employee was fired and another suspended for using the same term as Dedes, which also can be used as a slur against Chinese people.

Nets F  Williams has surgery on left foot

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Nets forward Shawne Williams had surgery to repair an old fracture and remove two small bone fragments in his left foot Wednesday. He will miss the rest of the season.

At the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. Dr. Martin O'Malley, a foot specialist, and Nets orthopedist Dr. Riley Williams III, inserted three small screws to repair the fracture. Williams should make a full recovery in time for the beginning of training camp.

Signed as a free agent prior to the season, Williams appeared in 25 games, averaging 4.5 points and 2.7 rebounds in 20.6 minutes.

Utah's Bell out against Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Utah Jazz guard Raja Bell will miss Wednesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a strained left adductor.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said before the game that Josh Howard will start at small forward and Gordon Hayward will move to shooting guard.

Bell is averaging 7.4 points per game and has hit a 3-pointer in 18 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA.

Nets F Humphries out with calf issue vs. Magic

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Nets forward Kris Humphries missed Wednesday night's game against the Orlando Magic with a calf injury.

Coach Avery Johnson said Humphries strained his left calf a couple of games ago. He is expected to return to action when the Nets get back from the All-Star break next week against Dallas.

Humphries was averaging 13.6 points and 10.5 rebounds in 32 games, all starts.

Related NBA News

Ex-NBA player Crittenton jailed on speeding charge

RIVERDALE, Ga. (AP) — Former NBA player Javaris Crittenton is back in jail.

Out on bond on charges that he killed a woman in an August drive-by shooting in south Atlanta, authorities said he was jailed on Wednesday after being pulled over for speeding and refusing to get out of his Porsche.

The former Washington Wizards player was pulled over for going more than 60 mph in a 45-mph zone, said Riverdale police Maj. Greg Barney.

The former Georgia Tech star initially refused to get out of his "fairly new" black Porsche and refused to sign the speeding ticket, forcing the officer to call for backup, Barney said.

"He was very argumentative," Barney said of Crittenton, 24. "Initially, he just did not want to cooperate with the officer."

A message left for Crittenton's attorney, Brian Steel, was not immediately returned Wednesday night.

Police have said the former first-round draft pick for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2007 was retaliating for being robbed of $55,000 in jewelry when the Aug. 19 shooting happened. He is accused of killing Jullian Jones, a 23-year-old mother of four, outside her house. A trial date for that charge has not been set.

Crittenton was with the Wizards in December 2009 when he and Arenas had a dispute over a card game. Two days later, Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and set them in front of Crittenton's locker with a sign telling him to "PICK 1." Crittenton then took out his own gun.

Crittenton pleaded guilty in January 2010 to a misdemeanor gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation. Arenas entered a guilty plea on Jan. 15, 2010, and served a short time in a halfway house.

For most of his career, Crittenton played little with Los Angeles, the Memphis Grizzles and Washington. After the Wizards declined to re-sign him, he signed a non-guaranteed contract with Charlotte last year but eventually was waived.

He then played five games in China for the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, averaging 25.8 points.

After the incident with Arenas, there wasn't much demand in the NBA for Crittenton, who averaged 5.3 points and 1.8 assists during his four-year career. He also played for the NBA Development League's Dakota Wizards, averaging 14.3 points in 20 games last year.


Mystics sign free agent guard Canty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Mystics have signed veteran free agent guard Dominique Canty. The Mystics announced the move Wednesday.

Canty has averaged 7.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in her 13-year WNBA career. She played with Detroit and Houston before spending the last five seasons with Chicago.


23 Feb, 2012

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