NBA heads back to work, including Riley |

NBA heads back to work, including Riley

LAS VEGAS ” Time for Allen Iverson, Pat Riley, Steve Nash and the rest of the NBA to get back to work.

Jason Kidd, too, though even he wasn’t sure how much longer he’ll be doing it in New Jersey.

The show is over in Las Vegas, where the NBA capped its weekend of All-Star festivities with the West’s victory over the East on Sunday night.

Now it’s time to get serious again.

“Being in Vegas, it’s a great place to be, a great place to chill,” Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett said. “But it’s out with the fantasy and back to reality.”

That means trade talk for some teams, playoff pushes for others. It all gets started Tuesday night when play resumes with 10 games. Riley returns to Miami’s bench the following night, and the next big event on the league’s calendar comes quickly after that.

The trade deadline is Thursday, with Pau Gasol and Kidd among the big names who will wait to see if they have a new destination. Gasol has asked out of Memphis and the Grizzlies are trying to accommodate him, while Kidd, who missed the All-Star game because of a back injury, acknowledged during the break that teams have asked about getting him out of New Jersey.

In the East, landing one proven star could be all a team needs to seize control in a mediocre conference. Teams in the West could be looking to deal for a better chance to compete with powerful Dallas and Phoenix.

Denver hoped it had done that when it acquired Iverson from Philadelphia in December to pair with Carmelo Anthony, but the results haven’t been there yet, mostly because the duo hasn’t been on the court enough. Anthony was serving his 15-game suspension when Iverson was acquired, and Iverson missed eight of the last nine games because of a sprained ankle.

So despite having two of the NBA’s top five scorers, Denver is only seventh in the West, two games ahead of the ninth-place Clippers. But Anthony thinks the Nuggets are ready to make their move.

“Now that this is over with, I can focus on my season, the rest of the season,” Anthony said after the All-Star game. “A.I. told me today he’d be ready to play Tuesday, so that was a good sign.

“We need some wins. This first half of the season was rocky for us. Hopefully we can put that behind us and get better.”

Nash joined Iverson on the West bench because of a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the last four games, though hopes to return Tuesday. The Suns couldn’t keep up their sizzling pace without their two-time MVP, losing three times to fall 4 1/2 games behind Dallas for the league’s best record.

The Heat already know their big piece is ready.

Riley is set to take the coaching reins back from Ron Rothstein when Miami visits Houston on Wednesday night. He returns to a team that looks much different from the one he left on Jan. 3 to have knee and hip surgery.

Shaquille O’Neal has since come back and the Heat have won seven of their last eight games, rebounding from a horrendous start and moving into eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The defending NBA champions are only four games behind Washington in the Southeast Division.

“We wanted at the beginning of the year to come out of the blocks strong but it wasn’t scripted that way,” Dwyane Wade said. “So we have to take what we have and go into the second half of the season, and hopefully Jason Williams gets back healthy and we have all our guns and we have our coach back and just try to defend our title. It’s going to be very tough and whatever happens, we can say we all did it together.”

The Heat still have plenty of time to move up in the East, where Detroit has looked like the class of the conference since signing Chris Webber. Even teams such as Atlanta and New York, both coming off dismal seasons and well below .500 in this one, still have playoff hopes heading into the final two months.

The West has four teams right behind Garnett’s Timberwolves for the final playoff spot, but it’s hard to imagine any of the teams at the bottom doing any damage in the playoffs since they’d have to face the Mavs or Suns right away.

But teams like Utah and Houston could be dangerous second-round foes, especially if injured All-Stars Carlos Boozer and Yao Ming make successful comebacks.

That can wait. There’s enough to keep the NBA busy Thursday ” trades during the day and an NBA finals rematch in Dallas that night.

“Obviously we have a lot of work to do,” the Mavs’ Dirk Nowitzki said. “We have a big game on Thursday, so it should be fun.”

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