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ALL-STAR NOTES

Carter Remains Puzzling

February 10, 2003|Mark Heisler

ATLANTA — One thing about Vince Carter, he's consistent. When he refused to let Michael Jordan start in his place in the All-Star game, it was difficult to understand his reasoning.

When he did the gracious thing and let Jordan start in his place Sunday, it was still hard to understand his reasoning.

"Simple," Carter said. "What I've been saying all week and coming up to it is I felt that I owed the fans the respect of being on the court. Right before the game, when it all boiled down to it, this is a storybook ending for Michael Jordan.... He's supposed to be out on the court. I realized that later on and that's how I wanted it. I felt I needed to get my point across and I wanted my fans, the people who voted for me to understand that I was going to stick by my decision. In the end, he needed to be out there."

*

In case you haven't heard, the Lakers are No. 9 in the Western Conference, which won't get you in the playoffs, and the Houston Rockets are No. 8, which will.

Of course, the Lakers intend to overhaul the Rockets soon, or so they informed them here.

"I told Stevie [Francis] that," said Kobe Bryant.

"He said, 'Hey man, I'm just trying to get to the playoffs.'

"I said, 'Good, me too.' "

*

People here were already calling the new seven-game first-round playoff format "the Laker playoffs," contending it gives them a better chance. Of course, with the prospect of having to start every series on the road for as long as they last, the Lakers don't see it that way. Said Bryant: "I kind of like the days off between the first and second rounds ... I'd rather sit at home for a couple of days.".... Bryant on the first Shaquille O'Neal-Yao Ming showdown: "Start of the game, I was pretty shocked, actually, because Yao seemed like he was comfortable in the game, he wasn't uncomfortable in his surroundings, he wasn't overwhelmed, he wasn't nervous. He might have been nervous but he wasn't scared."

-- Mark Heisler

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