LeBron backs off contraction comments

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:38 PM ET

LeBron James is backtracking after various NBA types responded to his comments on contraction.

James said last week that he’d like to see a return to when the league had less teams and more elite players on each team and alluded that removing teams to get back to that situation would make some sense.

“Imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the (NBA),” James said Thursday. “Looking at some of the teams that aren’t that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren’t that good right now and you add him to a team that could be really good. Not saying let’s take New Jersey and let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid, I’m not stupid, it would be great for the league.”

New Jersey Nets coach Avery Johnson thought otherwise.

“I disagree,” Johnson told reporters, before taking a shot at James and the stacked Miami Heat. “Maybe the league would be better if we didn’t have three stars on one team.”

James, of course, chose to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on a “super-team” in the hope of winning his first title.

Love was more diplomatic.

“I saw what he said and it is not like that he is the only one that thought of that before or thought of that lately. You hear rumblings of contraction,” Love told the press.

“That was just something he said,” Love added. “I didn’t really pay too much attention to it. I just figure that when the time comes with the (collective bargaining agreement), the owners and players and everybody involved will make their decision. I didn’t really think much of it.”

On Monday, James attempted to clarify his original statement.

“I didn’t mean to upset nobody,” James told the New York Post.

“I didn’t say let’s abandon the Nets and not let them move to Brooklyn. Or tear down the Target Center in Minnesota. I never said that.”

“I never mentioned the word contraction, the word never came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the ’80s, that would be good again. I never said take some of the teams out”

DOWN GOES HARRINGTON

Just when the Denver Nuggets appeared to be getting back to full strength, they lost another key player on the weekend.

Sixth man Al Harrington dislocated his right thumb in Denver’s loss to Philadelphia when the ball was knocked away from him.

Carmelo Anthony has been day-to-day for a bit, while Kenyon Martin just made his season debut last week and Chris Andersen is finally back from injury as well.

Even Chauncey Billups is rounding into form after Ty Lawson threatened to take the starting job away from him, but losing Harrington’s scoring punch will hurt.

END OF YAO DYNASTY?

Apparently Yao Ming’s most recent injury setback was the straw that broke the camel’s back in Houston.

After years of waiting for their franchise cornerstone to return to health, according to Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets have placed the 7-foot-6 centre on the trading block.

The report claims several teams have been in discussions with the Rockets either to get Yao for his $17.7 million US expiring contract (insurance will pay $8 million of it), or in the hopes of re-signing him to an extension.

Yao, 30, a perennial all-star, suffered a stress fracture in his ankle and is out for the season. He has played in just five games over the past two seasons.

It is unlikely a team will give Houston an elite talent or a high draft pick for Yao, given the uncertainty around his health, but offering him around the league is a new step in the saga of the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

More likely, he will be brought back by the Rockets for a much smaller, incentive-laden deal.

GAY PROVES HIS WORTH

Very quietly, Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay is quieting a lot of doubters.

When the Grizzlies gave Gay a max money extension this summer, many pundits mocked the team, saying he’d never be a difference-maker.

Well, Gay is proving his worth, putting up career best numbers in most offensive categories. He scored 30 points, added eight rebounds, five steals and five assists in a win against Indiana on Sunday night.

Gay slipped in the 2006 NBA Draft due to questions about his mental makeup, but it appears Memphis made a shrewd move trading Shane Battier to Houston for his rights. With Brandon Roy’s knees failing, there is a legitimate debate that Gay and Boston’s Rajon Rondo are currently the two best players from that draft.

Gay was always a solid player, but has added a new wrinkle to his game this season. After shooting 32% from three last year, he is up to 42% through 29 games. He is also shooting almost 10% better from the free throw line while contributing a career-best 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

PERKINS EYES EARLY RETURN

The Boston Celtics entered the week 23-5 without a single minute’s contribution from the man who started at centre for the team in two NBA finals (including one title victory).

No doubt elite NBA teams paid attention when Kendrick Perkins recently said he expects to be back far sooner than expected from off-season knee surgery.

Perkins, the anchor in the middle — along with Kevin Garnett — of the league’s most fearsome defence, was originally expected to be back in late January or early February.

Now, a mid-January return is looking realistic.

Perkins isn’t yet cleared for contact, but is doing basketball-related work.

Perkins is aware knee surgeries as drastic as his usually take a long time to recover from, but he says his drive will get him back quickly.

“Believe it or not, me and (Garnett) are mentally different. KG had to take his time getting back, and I’m a guy who will push to get back quicker,” Perkins told the Boston Herald.

“You can kind of be scared on it the first couple of times, but it felt all right.”

Perkins even completed his first dunk since last June.

KOBE DELIVERS WAKEUP CALL

While players and coaches whined about playing on Christmas, Kobe Bryant got mad that his teammates didn’t show up for its much-hyped holiday matchup with the Miami Heat.

Miami beat the Lakers by 16 and afterwards, Bryant was enraged.

“This is serious stuff,” Bryant told the Los Angeles Times.

“You don’t just have two rings and say we’re satisfied with what we’ve got and let it slide. I’m not rolling with that.”

Bryant thinks the two-time defending champs don’t take the regular season seriously enough.

“I think these games mean more to our opponent than they do us,” he said. “I think we need to get that straight. I think we need to play with more focus and put more importance on these games. I don’t like it.”

Bryant has studied for years at the feet of his coach, motivational master Phil Jackson, so this is likely an exaggerated blast aimed at his teammates in the hopes of getting them to play their best more often.

It is also out of the playbook of Bryant’s idol, Michael Jordan, who was never shy about getting on the other members of his team if he thought they could be better.

AROUND THE RIM

Vince Carter is expected to debut for the Phoenix Suns “within a week,” according to head coach Alvin Gentry ... James and Monta Ellis of Golden State are the NBA’s players of the week ... Point guard Jason Williams is considering calling it quits again (he already retired for a season a few years ago) due to foot pain. He did not travel with Orlando and doctors have said it is not getting much better. Williams is also buried on Orlando’s depth chart ... Ron Artest has auctioned off his championship ring for charity ... the Lakers-Heat Christmas Day game got the highest television ratings in the U.S. for a regular season game since 2004 ... Steve Francis, predictably, has flamed out in China. Francis was released by the Beijing Shougang Ducks ... Some random stats via Statcenter and ESPN: Utah had the fifth-highest turnover rate in the league last season. This year, they have the third-best; Former Raptor Kris Humphries is averaging 9.2 rebounds per game after averaging under four per game over the previous three seasons; Detroit’s Ben Wallace became the first of the 95 NBA players to reach 1,000 games to do so without a 25-point game (he had 29 once in the playoffs though and scored 23 recently against the Raptors); Dwight Howard has 28 20 point, 20 rebound games, second among active players to Shaquille O’Neal, who has 34. Shaq has played for 12 more seasons than Howard though. Next-best since Howard began his career? Kevin Garnett’s eight 20-20 games; Kevin Durant’s 27.5 points per game are the lowest to lead the league since Allen Iverson’s 26.8 per game back in 1999.


Videos

Photos