NBA Notes: Heat's Wade sits with soreness

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NBA Notes: Heat's Wade sits with soreness

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade has been ruled out for the Miami Heat's game against the Atlanta Hawks because of mild knee soreness.

The Heat have been giving Wade sporadic breaks this season in an effort to not overly tax his legs. Coach Erik Spoelstra says Wade arrived at the arena Monday night ready and expecting to play, but that the team decided it was best to give him the game off.

Ray Allen is in the starting lineup in Wade's place.

It's been a whirlwind few days for Wade, who got engaged to Gabrielle Union on Saturday and was selected Monday as the Eastern Conference's player of the week. He averaged 26.3 points on 60 percent shooting in a 3-0 week for Miami.

Rockets: Harden out, Lin returns
HOUSTON -- Houston guard James Harden is out for a second straight game for the Rockets against the Mavericks, but Jeremy Lin will play after missing time with back spasms.

Harden, who leads the team in scoring with 23.9 points a game, will sit out Monday night with a sprained left ankle. Lin has missed four games recently with back spasms.

The Rockets are also without guard Patrick Beverley, who has a right hand injury and center Omer Asik, who has missed the last nine games with a right thigh bruise.

Clippers: Barnes fined 25K
NEW YORK -- The NBA has fined Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes for failing to leave the court in a timely manner after he was ejected in the third quarter of Sunday's game against Minnesota.

The league announced the $25,000 penalty on Monday.

Barnes was thrown out with 56.8 seconds left in the period after he was whistled for a flagrant 2 foul against Kevin Love on a drive to the basket. The Clippers went on to a 120-116 overtime victory.

Barnes' foul was downgraded to a flagrant 1 after it was reviewed by the league.

NBA: Rodman mum on meeting North Korean leader
BEIJING -- Former basketball star Dennis Rodman left North Korea on Monday, but he plans to return next month -- even if a sponsor won't be with him.

Rodman's short visit was aimed at finalizing plans to bring 11 other former NBA players to Pyongyang for a Jan. 8 exhibition game marking Kim Jong Un's birthday. The two struck up a friendship when Rodman first traveled to the secretive state earlier this year, but Rodman did not answer questions from the media on whether he had met with Kim this time.

Rodman is the highest profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father in late 2011.

He wants to bring the group of players to Pyongyang for the exhibition, but has acknowledged that some of the Americans have been reluctant to come. He held tryouts for the North Korean team during his visit, which began Thursday. He has said he expects to announce the U.S. roster soon, and that he is planning another game in June (see full story).

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.