NBA to resume, with Lakers in funk and Heat on top

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He has not fit well in Mike D’Antoni’s offense and has acknowledged not always having fun this season. What’s more, he has given the Lakers no guarantee he will return when he becomes a free agent in July. But would they really deal a player who was the NBA’s dominant big man before his injuries?

“I don’t know what they are going to do. But at this point, it doesn’t matter,” Bryant said. “What matters to us is what we do on Wednesday and go from there. That’s the most important thing. That’s my message to the team, is that you can’t worry about the future, you can’t worry about the past. You just have to focus on the present.”

Chris Paul will also be a free agent in July, yet the Clippers have far less reason to think he would bolt. They have built a team that’s been as good as any when healthy, a deep group led by Paul, the MVP of the All-Star game after finishing with 20 points and 15 assists.

Four games behind the Spurs, the Clippers will have plenty of eyes on them heading in Thursday’s 3 p.m. EST deadline to see if they think there’s a move out there that would solidify them as a championship contender. Paul believes they already are.

“Whatever we have out there, we’re going to fight with. I don’t care what it is, either. We’re like brothers,” Paul said. “I love our team and what we’re doing and we’re going to keep moving forward.”

So, says Bryant, will the Lakers. An NBA Finals duel like the one he had with James down the stretch of the All-Star game seems out of reach this season. Yet the way Bryant defended shows he’s ready for the challenge.

“My switch never went off. It was on all weekend,” he said. “It was good to see the guys but at the same time there was an undercurrent that went on during the first half of the season that I won’t let go. Come Wednesday, we have to be ready to go.”

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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