James, Wade Wait to See if Help is Coming

Published February 16, 2010

DALLAS – Electrifying as teammates for one night, imagine LeBron James and Dwyane Wade together for an entire season.

At least one of them does.

"We can dream, can't we?" Wade said. "I dream."

After watching them Sunday night in the All-Star game at Cowboys Stadium, who wouldn't? Well, except rival coaches.

"I don't think you needed to see tonight to understand that that would scare any of us in this league," Eastern Conference coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Wade scored 28 points and was the MVP, James added 25 and the East beat the West 141-139 before 108,713 fans, the largest crowd ever to attend a basketball game.

A James-Wade partnership could happen, but that wouldn't be until the summer. In the meantime, one or both of them still could get some All-Star caliber help.

The NBA trade deadline is Thursday, with Cleveland and Miami among the teams most frequently appearing in the usual mid-February speculation. And for the second consecutive year, much of it focuses on Amare Stoudemire of Phoenix.

The Cavaliers and Heat both have been linked to the All-Star forward, a terrific Plan B if neither can make a James-Wade tandem happen.

"I'm aware of the talk just like everybody else," James said. "I've been a part of guys getting traded to our team and getting traded away from our team. I never get caught up into it until I know or hear from our coaching staff or GMs that the deal has actually happened."

Stoudemire seemed to acknowledge the trade talk surrounding the Cavs in a post on his Twitter feed Monday night, defending his play with Shaquille O'Neal when the Cleveland center was with Phoenix last season.

"I play very well with Shaq. I adverage (sic) more pts last year WITH him an (sic) played better D," Stoudemire tweeted. "You guys can stop saying we don't play well together."

The Cavaliers may not need a deal after rolling into the break with a 13-game winning streak and an NBA-best 43-11 record, even without the injured Mo Williams. But they also want to show James they are totally committed to winning before he becomes a free agent this summer, and there's still some improving that can be done.

Cleveland thought it had a team that could win last season, but Orlando exploited its lack of athleticism at the power forward spot in the Eastern Conference finals. A player such as Stoudemire or Washington's Antawn Jamison could fill that void.

Miami needs a little of everything after reaching the break in seventh place in the East with a 26-27 record. Wade has warned the Heat his decision to stay this summer will be based on whether he believes his team can compete for the championship.

"I haven't been following it too much. I always know that when trade deadline comes, the city of Miami is going to be in something because it's a very attractive city, so automatically our name is going to come up," Wade said Friday. "But I'm a believer you wait for things to happen before you go too much into it."

Some recent deadline days have been duds, but more teams could have incentive to deal this year. There's a chance to save money for owners who are losing millions, or the opportunity to position themselves to be buyers in what's expected to be a stellar free-agent class.

Dallas jumped on a Washington team looking to cut payroll during a disastrous season by acquiring two-time All-Star Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood in a seven-player deal Saturday. If the Wizards keep cutting, Jamison also could be moved this week.

The second half begins again with the NBA dreaming of a Cavaliers-Lakers final that would deliver a highly anticipated matchup between Kobe Bryant and James — this time even bigger with the inclusion of Shaquille O'Neal, too.

The Lakers won their last three before the break and will be even stronger once Bryant returns from an injured left ankle that forced him to skip the All-Star game.

"Hopefully I'll be — I'll definitely be — healthier than I was the last month, so that's a plus," Bryant said.

Those teams have the same pursuers as a year ago. Denver is running second in the West, while Orlando trails Cleveland just in front of Atlanta and Boston, which has to hope Kevin Garnett stays healthy and Ray Allen relocates his shot.

There's plenty more in the final two months of the season.

Kevin Durant tries to beat out James and Carmelo Anthony for the scoring title and lead surging Oklahoma City to its first playoff berth. The New Jersey Nets, 4-48 at the break, hope to find a spark that can help them avoid the worst finish in NBA history.

And the stories don't end this season once a champion is crowned. Free agency begins July 1, with James and Wade looking to cash in — perhaps together.

"He's a great player and tonight he showcased why he's one of the best players on the planet," James said. "You want to play with guys that are great and want to win and want to compete at a high level every night. We'll see."

Written by BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer

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