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NBA PLAYOFFS / 1998 PREVIEW SECTION | NBA NOTES

Nets' Williams Gets Clearance to Face Bulls

April 23, 1998|From Associated Press

New Jersey center Jayson Williams received medical clearance to play in the Nets' Eastern Conference playoff opener against the Bulls Friday night in Chicago.

Williams sat out the last 11 games of the season after breaking his right thumb March 27. Team physician Charles Melone checked the latest X-rays and said Wednesday that Williams could play.

Williams will wear a protective covering over the thumb, but it was not determined how much playing time he will get.

Calipari did not rule out starting injured guard Sam Cassell (strained groin) against the Bulls.

"Whether he starts or not, you know he's playing 35 minutes," Calipari said. "I just want to figure out what is best for the team. If it's best for him to start, then he'll start."

Cassell did not practice Wednesday.

"I'll be ready for Friday," Cassell said. "If I can play, I'll start."

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Houston Rocket forward Charles Barkley worked out lightly in Houston and is expected to try to play in tonight's playoff opener against the Utah Jazz, but he said his hernia "is going to be a problem until we get it operated on."

"[Barkley] affects basketball games on the boards and offensively he commands attention," Rocket Coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "It's a big loss if he can't be effective."

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Indiana Pacer center Rik Smits, who played in only four of the last 12 regular-season games because of foot problems and a family death in his native Netherlands, is expected to be ready for the playoff opener tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"He'll be playing," Coach Larry Bird said. "We'll see how he reacts. We anticipate he'll be out there playing."

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The Charlotte Hornets probably will be without forward-center Matt Geiger (pulled hamstring) in their playoff opener tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.

Geiger, sidelined for the last four games of the regular season, was unable to practice Tuesday or Wednesday. He would not speak to reporters, but he underwent an MRI exam Monday that showed no significant damage.

Meanwhile, the Hornets, including center Vlade Divac, showed up for practice with 12 shaved heads in a show of solidarity for the postseason.

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As expected, Tim Duncan, the San Antonio Spurs' rookie center, and Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway were added to the 12-man U.S. team that will represent the United States at the World Championship in Greece this summer.

The first 10 members of the team were announced by USA Basketball Oct. 30.

They are Vin Baker and Gary Payton of the Seattle SuperSonics; Terrell Brandon of the Milwaukee Bucks; Kevin Garnett and Tom Gugliotta of the Minnesota Timberwolves; Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons; Allan Houston of the New York Knicks; Christian Laettner of the Atlanta Hawks; Glen Rice of the Charlotte Hornets and Chris Webber of the Washington Wizards.

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