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Uncertainty Leaves Bryant, Kidd in Limbo

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[February 16, 2008]  NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Jason Kidd is Eastern Conference All-Star, who by Sunday could play for a team in the West.

How's the NBA supposed to handle that one?

"I told him he should have spent 30 minutes in the Western Conference meetings, and 30 minutes in the Eastern Conference meeting," Cleveland's LeBron James said Friday. "He's with us right now at halftime, but he might go play for the West."

Kidd's stalled trade from New Jersey to Dallas probably won't change the color of his uniform for Sunday's All-Star game, but it added a level of uncertainty to the opening day of All-Star weekend.

"He's kind of in limbo," Kobe Bryant said.

So is Bryant.

Bryant said he'd "rather not play" Sunday night because of a torn ligament in his right pinkie, but doesn't think he has a choice. NBA policy dictates that if a player is healthy enough to play in the final game before the break and the first one after, he won't be excused from the All-Star game. Bryant is hardly pleased with the rule.

"But what can you do?" he said. "I don't want to be suspended, miss a game."

It wasn't clear if Bryant, wearing a black splint over the finger, would in fact be suspended if he sat out. He expected the Lakers to talk to the league about his options, and couldn't say for sure if he would play.

"Honestly, I don't know what to tell you," Bryant said. "I'm not really sure where the NBA stands. I have no idea."

Bryant, Kidd and the rest of the All-Stars joined with an expected 2,500 volunteers to take part in a day of community service throughout New Orleans on Friday, helping aid in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Bryant played Wednesday night in Minnesota, then returned to Los Angeles and learned his injury was worse than originally thought. He declined the doctor's recommendation of surgery, even though he said Lakers owner Jerry Buss encouraged such an option to prevent a longer-lasting injury.

Bryant already pulled out of Saturday's 3-point contest and was replaced by Dirk Nowitzki - who's still awaiting word if he's getting a new teammate.

The Mavericks and Nets agreed to a deal Wednesday that would have sent Kidd to Dallas. But Devean George exercised his right in the collective bargaining agreement to block the trade. So the Kidd trade rumors, which have dragged on for most of the season, showed up in New Orleans with him.

"It is what is. I don't know if I'm going to be with the Nets or Mavs or whoever it may be, but this is one of the biggest stages for the NBA until the playoffs start," Kidd said. "It just happens that me being traded or me being on hold until being traded has taken on a life of its own and it's a big topic right now."

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Nets president Rod Thorn said George's stance hadn't changed as of Friday morning, which spares the NBA from having to figure out what to do when the starting point guard for the East happens to play for a team in the West.

"I haven't played for a Western Conference team. So I think I would be on the East," Kidd said. "It might have been different had I played last night for the Mavs, but I think everything will work itself out and I'll be on the East for right now."

It's the second straight year that Kidd and Bryant were in the All-Star weekend headlines. Kidd believed a trade was possible last year before the deadline and the Lakers were a candidate. A deal was almost made days later before falling through when the Lakers wouldn't include center Andrew Bynum, which angered Bryant.

So he knows how Nowitzki must feel.

"I saw him walking around," Bryant said. "I don't know how he's dealing with this - that close to getting Jason Kidd."

The Lakers aren't the only ones holding their breath over Bryant's injury. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said coach Mike Krzyzewski called him in the morning when he heard news that could be damaging to the Americans' gold-medal hopes.

"I'm pulling for Kobe and I want him healthy because I want him in our uniform this summer," Colangelo said.

Bryant, who had to withdraw from U.S. teams in 2003, '04 and '06 before finally making his debut last summer, says he will play in the Olympics.

"I'm not missing this summer," he said. "Unless something drastic happens, God forbid. I've been waiting to play on this team for too long."

Bryant, who won his second All-Star game MVP award last year, is among the NBA's fiercest competitors. But don't expect to see him asking West coach Byron Scott to put him in at the end if Sunday's game is close.

"In my youth, yeah," he said. "In my old age of 29, no."

[Associated Press; By BRIAN MAHONEY]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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