Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 19 News List

NBA: Players back on court as season nears

NYC FOR CP3?The media are abuzz with free-agency speculation, including talk that the Hornets’ Chris Paul is looking to play in New York with Carmelo Anthony

AP, NEW YORK

NBA stars Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony returned to work on Thursday — and immediately were asked about working together.

Dallas Mavericks players took the floor without knowing if starting center Tyson Chandler would ever join them, while the Miami Heat team they beat in the NBA finals arrived to some bad injury news.

Finally, NBA players are back.

Owners opened the doors of their facilities to players for the first time since locking them out on July 1. Exactly one month after the regular season was originally scheduled to begin, players could work out, but their coaching staffs could not be present because there is not a new labor deal yet.

“I’ve got to be the happiest person in the world right now just to be back in the gym, getting a chance to work out with a couple of my teammates,” Paul, who is nicknamed “CP3,” said in New Orleans. “I’m just happy to be back and be back on the court, as I’m sure all the players are.”

League officials hope to open training camps by the end of next week and that stayed on track on Thursday when more than 300 players submitted signatures authorizing the re-formation of the players’ association. That paves the way for negotiations to continue on the remaining issues and both sides hope the deal is ratified sometime next week.

In the meantime, the big news remained the focus on the headliners of this season’s free-agent class, which also includes Dwight Howard.

The agent for Deron Williams told the Record of Bergen newspaper that his client would opt for free agency instead of a contract extension with the New Jersey Nets, while Yahoo Sports reported that Paul’s agent informed the New Orleans Hornets that he wanted a trade to the New York Knicks.

Paul and Anthony are friends who spent time together this summer and it is long been speculated they wanted to play together, but Anthony denied trying to recruit his Olympic teammate.

“As far as me recruiting Chris Paul, no, not at all,” Anthony said at the Knicks’ training facility. “We’re very close friends. I’m pretty sure you guys saw him in New York a lot due to the player meetings and stuff like that, but we’ve never had any conversation about him coming to New York. That’s something that I would leave up to him, him and his family. I’m staying away from that.”

Anthony was part of a trade saga that lasted from the summer of last year until Denver finally dealt him to the Knicks in February, and he said he does not think the NBA needs a repeat of that saga now.

Yet, he also realizes that “regardless of what I’m saying right here today, that will be the biggest topic, the biggest discussion, at the beginning of the season, the beginning of training camp.”

In the meantime, the status of the current free agents must be solved. Chandler is one of the biggest and though he provided the Mavericks the interior defense they needed to finally win a title, they might not spend the money necessary to bring him back.

Chris Bosh, looking more muscular, arrived at Miami’s facility, where LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are not expected until next week. The Heat also were without Mike Miller, who has battled injuries since signing there last summer. He will miss about eight weeks while recovering from hernia surgery this week.

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