National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

Durant says Westbrook to return Thursday

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Injured Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will return Thursday against the Miami Heat, his teammate, Kevin Durant said in a recent interview with Grantland's Bill Simmons.

Westbrook has missed 27 games since having surgery on Dec. 27 to deal with swelling in his injured right knee - the third procedure in nine months.

The three-time NBA All-Star tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during the second game of the playoffs last April. Westbrook underwent an operation after that injury and had another procedure on Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch.

Oklahoma City went 20-7 this season without him.

The Thunder didn't immediately respond to calls and emails regarding Westbrook's status.

Oklahoma City (43-12) entered the NBA All-Star break with the league's best record.

Saint Louis in top 10 first time since 1964-65

ST. LOUIS (AP) Saint Louis just keeps piling up the wins.

The Billikens are ranked No. 10 this week, moving into the top-10 for the first time in nearly 50 years. It is hard-earned recognition for a school closing in on a second straight Atlantic 10 Conference title.

"They're a terrific team," coach Shaka Smart of second-place VCU said after losing 64-62 on Saturday. "They have all the elements - great coaching, very good talent, experience."

The Billikens, who have won a school-record 17 games in a row, moved up two spots from the previous week. The ranking is the school's best since it was No. 9 in the poll on Dec. 29, 1964.

"I think we're good," guard Jordair Jett said. "But we've got a lot of room for improvement, so we're going to take it day by day."

That's a typical reaction from players and coach Jim Crews, in his second season after taking over for the late Rick Majerus. After the VCU win, Crews was unapologetic about leaning on "coach speak," as in taking it one game at a time.

"I like our position," Crews said. "The kids are doing unbelievably good."

Saint Louis is 23-2 overall and 10-0 in the Atlantic 10 with a three-game lead heading into Wednesday's game at George Mason. The school is seeking a second straight conference title.

The 10-0 conference start is one win shy of the school mark set in the 1946-47 season when Saint Louis was in the Missouri Valley.

"We were playing high level basketball last year and we are this year, too," Evans said. "We'll try to keep it rolling."

Experience has been a key. Crews has five senior starters led by Evans, coming off his sixth double-double, and Jett, a guard who has been a force inside and out.

Saint Louis has the stingiest defense in the conference, allowing 60 points per game.

The starters all played 33 or more minutes against VCU and responded to a late surge. Saint Louis squandered a 12-point lead, but after VCU tied it late, the Billikens scored seven consecutive points to put the game out of reach.

"Coach kept telling us, `Don't let up,"' Jett said. "He knows and we know."

The VCU win was the fourth by two or fewer points during the streak. A fifth - George Mason at home earlier this month - was decided in overtime.

"I think it's been a great character trait of our guys that they do respond," Crews said. "That doesn't mean we're going to win all the time. They don't quit on things. Even if we would have lost, they didn't quit on things."

Saint Louis had its first sellout of the season against VCU, setting an attendance record of 10,639 at the Chaifetz Arena.

"Playing VCU is always fun," Evans said. "It was a good crowd, a good environment. Having the arena full like that, and everyone involved, it definitely gives us energy.

"It's like the fans are out there with us."

Inheriting Cano's spot, Roberts hopes for health

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Brian Roberts remembered back a decade ago, when he was standing on second base and Derek Jeter approached.

"He just said, "You can hit .300 in this league,"' Roberts recalled Monday. "To hear it from somebody like that, it kind of opened your eyes."

Not that he took Jeter's analysis too literally.

"I don't think it's just me. I think he does it to everybody," Roberts said. "But for some reason when he tells it to you, you think you're the most important person in the world."

Now they're teammates, and Roberts has a locker next to Jeter's in the New York Yankees' spring training clubhouse.

With a void at second base following the departure of Robinson Cano, the Yankees have given the position to Roberts, a two-time All-Star who made five trips to the disabled list totaling 481 days over the past four seasons. His many maladies included a strained abdominal muscle, pneumonia, two concussions (one self-inflicted), a groin strain, hip tear and hamstring strain.

"I know he hasn't played a full season in the last few years and he's obviously a guy that has some age on him, too, but my plan is to run him out there almost every day," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Now 36, Roberts had hoped to be a Baltimore Orioles lifer, just like Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer and Cal Ripken Jr.

"I've come to love the city, the fans," he said in February 2009 when the Orioles gave him a contract guaranteeing $48 million over five years. "This was the only place I wanted to be the rest of my career."

It didn't work out that way.

After hitting .283 in 2009 with 16 homers, 79 RBIs and a big league-high 56 doubles, he missed most of the following spring training with a herniated disk in his back. His first concussion was sustained on Sept. 27, 2010, when he knocked himself on the batting helmet with his bat after striking out in the ninth inning at Tampa Bay.

His total of 77 games last season was his highest since the injuries began, and the switch-hitter batted .249 with eight homers and 39 RBIs. Baltimore made no effort to keep him after he hit .246 with 15 homers and 78 RBIs over the past four years. The offensive performance would have been decent but not spectacular had he compiled it over a single season.

"I don't know that you can necessarily put great words on how frustrating it is to have to sit on the sidelines and watch," Roberts said. "I've had numerous times over the last three or four years where I wondered if, for one, I'd be able to play again, and I think certainly going into last season I had no idea what the next year would hold, whether I would have a job in 2014, whether I wouldn't, whether I'd want a job."

New York signed him for the bargain price of $2 million, plus the chance to make $2.6 million in bonuses based on plate appearances. He'll be counted on for offense, given that the Yankees had 114 RBIs from second base last year, tops in the majors, according to STATS.

"There's going to be people that will want to look out there and say, `Well, he's not Robby.' And I'm not going to be Robby. I'm not going to try to be," Roberts said. "I'm going to be Brian Roberts and, hopefully, that's good enough most days."

New York's infield is more Take A Chance than Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance. First baseman Mark Teixeira played just 15 games last year because of a hand injury, and Jeter's broken ankle limited him to 17. With Alex Rodriguez serving a season-long drug suspension, Kelly Johnson figures to platoon at third with Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez and possibly Scott Sizemore.

"It's not the infield that we had in 2009," Girardi said. "But we believe that there's a lot of capable players in here to put up offensive and defensive numbers, and when you look at those numbers as a whole, they're going to be pretty good."

Roberts remains in touch with his former Orioles teammates.

"A lot of my closest friends in the world are there. So sure. I've talked to them all in the last couple days. Is it weird? Is it different? Do I miss them? Yeah," he said before recounting his friendships with Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeter and Brian McCann.

After Roberts spent 13 seasons in Baltimore's black and orange, the Yankees' pinstripes will take getting used to. Like McCann, he heard many people tell him "anybody but the Yankees" when he was a free agent.

"You either love them or you hate them, right? And that's OK," he said. "Now I love them."

SOCHI: US medals in two-man bobsled for first time since 1952

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Winless in the last three years in two-man bobsledding, Alexander Zubkov picked the perfect time and place to put that streak to an emphatic end.

At the Olympics. On home ice.

No one was even close, either.

The 39-year-old Russian -- who carried his nation's flag into the opening ceremony to start the Sochi Games -- found magic in all four of his runs, teaming with Alexey Voevoda to finish 0.66 seconds ahead of the Swiss team of Beat Hefti and brakeman Alex Baumann and win the gold medal Monday night.

"Long-awaited victory," said Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee.

And it was a night 62 years in the making for the U.S., with the pairing of Steven Holcomb of Park City, Utah, and Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., taking the bronze, the first two-man medal showing by an American sled since 1952.

It wasn't gold, but it was a medal savored by the Americans nonetheless. Holcomb wrapped U.S. coach Brian Shimer in a long embrace when he got out of his sled, as several teammates slapped each other on the back.

"Man, thank God," said Holcomb, who raced through a strained left calf that required treatment Sunday and Monday. "There was a lot of pressure on me there."

While the Americans finally didn't leave a two-man race empty-handed, this competition was all about the Russian, who apparently knows how to coax more speed out of this track than any other bobsledder in the world.

The fact that Zubkov was competitive was no surprise. The fact that he won, maybe a little surprising. To win by such a wide margin, that was stunning.

"He had four perfect runs," Hefti said. "He's the winner and that's OK."

Zubkov's last victory in an international two-man race was at the 2011 world championships. He'd been 0-for-25 since, yet led this competition wire to wire, even though his two closest challengers have consistently been faster during the past three seasons.

Head-to-head against Zubkov in two-man races since the start of the 2011-12 World Cup season, Holcomb had been 13-9. Hefti had simply owned the Russian, going 19-2.

Over two damp and foggy nights at the Sanki Sliding Center, none of that mattered. And neither Hefti nor Holcomb seemed disappointed with silver and bronze, either.

"This was our dream and the dream is real now," Hefti said. "We can move on. I'm happy."

Zubkov has had many, many more runs than anyone else down the Sanki ice, and it showed. Zubkov's four-run time was 3 minutes, 45.39 seconds. Hefti finished in 3:46.05, and Holcomb was clocked in 3:46.27 -- a mere 0.03 seconds ahead of another Russian sled that challenged for bronze.

Zubkov is the third-oldest pilot to win two-man gold and was dominant, just like every other gold medalist crowned so far at the Sochi Olympics. All seven medal competitions to date at the Sanki Sliding Center have been a blowout, with none decided by less than 0.476 seconds.

That's a massive gap in sports where hundreths and thousandths of seconds typically make the difference.

Germany, which had won the last three gold medals in two-man, had its top sled finish eighth, the worst showing for the sliding power in the event since 1956.

"If in 2010 we were sitting in a Formula One car, then this time we were sitting a trabby," brakeman Kevin Kuske said, referring to one of the least-popular cars ever sold in Germany. "It's definitely an equipment issue."

That used to be the case for the Americans. Not anymore.

Holcomb and Langton gave the U.S. its fourth sliding medal so far at the Sochi Games, a total that exceeds the three the Americans combined to win in Turin in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010. With women's bobsled and four-man bobsled still remaining, and the Americans expected to vie for golds in both, the U.S. has to be thinking their total will grow before the Sochi cauldron is extinguished.

"What Holcomb has done is unbelievable for the sport," Cunningham said. "He's put USA Bobsled on the international map."

Ending 62-year droughts seems to be Holcomb's forte. He was the driver of USA-1 that ended a 62-year American gap between four-man gold medals at the Vancouver Games, and now the two-man drought is history as well.

"Overwhelming," Holcomb said. "I guess 62's our number."

Holcomb became the sixth American to win at least two medals in bobsledding. He'll have a chance at a third -- which would tie Pat Martin for the most ever -- this weekend in the four-man event.

"Holcy's the man," USA-2 pilot Cory Butner said, "and he proved it again."

SOCHI: Costas returns to primetime for Monday coverage

SOCHI, Russia -- Bob Costas returns as host for NBC's prime-time Olympic coverage Tuesday night, if still not exactly clear-eyed, at least with a sharpened sense of respect for the colleagues and crew who covered for him during a six-day absence.

"The doctors told me the infection has to run its course, which is 2-to-3 weeks, which covers the entire Olympics. It's the all-time perfect bad timing, but what can you do? It's a curve ball and you've got to go with it," Costas chuckled during an interview with The Associated Press, "even though I couldn't spot the rotation on a curve ball right now."

Wrapping up preparations a few hours before air-time, the broadcaster who began his Olympic work as a late-night host at the 1988 Seoul Games looked relaxed at the NBC compound in a navy polo shirt and cardigan sweater. Traces of his bout with viral conjunctivitis were still visible -- the infection began in his left eye and spread quickly to the right -- and both are still reddened.

"I'm better than I was," he said, "but not as good as I'd like to be."

Costas nursed a cup of Starbucks coffee and propped his feet up on the desk as he discussed his unwanted week off.

He rated himself a 2 on a scale of 1-10. At one point, he thought there was about a 10 percent chance he wouldn't make it back for the games.

Costas interviewed President Obama on Feb. 6, the night before the opening ceremonies. He awakened the next morning "and my left eye was like a slit, and I'm thinking, `What the hell?" Costas recalled. "But I'm also thinking maybe I put a few eye drops in and it resolves itself. But as soon as the doctor got a look at it, he realized something was wrong."

Costas worked that night trying to cover up the redness by wearing glasses that made him look like a hipster. Drawing barbs from TV critics and snickers on social media, he finally sidelined himself after five nights of Olympic coverage when his blurred vision and sensitivity to light made working impossible.

"When something out of the ordinary happens, like with my eyes, you know (the attention is) coming, but again, the degree of attention to it makes me uncomfortable. Not because I don't understand it," he said, "but because that isn't the story that we came here expecting to talk about.

"So what I tried to do the first few nights -- when I thought it was only going to be a few nights -- is kiss it off with a candid line and move on and not dwell on it. But when it got to the point where I couldn't be on the air," Costas added, "you couldn't expect that people would ignore that.'

Current "Today" show host Matt Lauer and former co-anchor Meredith Vieira subbed for Costas. It was the first time anyone except Costas had been the host of an Olympic primetime telecast on any American network since 1998.

Costas said he spent three days in a darkened hotel room awake at odd hours. The chance to watch the NBC feed kept him current, but also gave him a different perspective on the coverage.

"When they did the hookup, it really didn't matter when I slept -- from noon to 8, or midnight to 8 in the morning. Generally, I was awake at 5 (a.m., Sochi time) so I watched a good portion of prime-time every night. ... I experienced it something closer to the way someone in the States would, except it was dawn when I was doing it," he added, "and it was a little blurry."

Costas also said he the chance to watch some of the network's cable coverage of events in real time, and thought about whether that would influence his own presentation.

"My Olympic road is closer to its end than its beginning," he said. "By the time I can foresee prime-time changing radically, somebody else will be doing it."

SOCHI: Davis, White give US first ice dancing gold

OCHI, Russia — Through 17 years of grueling practices, of defeats and victories, Meryl Davis and Charlie White insist they've never considered parting ways.

A perfect pairing, they were nearly flawless at the Sochi Olympics, and on Monday they became the first Americans to win an ice dance gold medal.

"The closest we came to breaking up, I can't pinpoint one because there hasn't been one," Davis, 27, said. "Certainly there have been struggles. It hasn't been easy to get where we are. ... It's a partnership which I couldn't have asked for more.

"Charlie and I are very different. We used those difference to balance it out. There has never been a moment of doubt."

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, the 2010 champions, took silver, while bronze went to Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

Davis and White won silver in Vancouver, but in the four years since they have overtaken the Canadians, their training partners in Detroit under Russian coach Marina Zoueva.

The reigning world champs scored 116.63 points in the free dance to finish with 195.52, 4.53 ahead of Virtue and Moir.

"No athletes like it to sit in this position," Moir said. "We came here to win the competition. But it's easier when we see them and know how hard these guys work."

When their program to "Scheherazade" ended with White on a knee, Davis rested her head on his back in exhausted elation. The two started skating together in 1997 in Michigan, and on the biggest day of their career, they performed just as they had visualized it.

"That in itself justified 17 years of hard work," White, 26, said.

The music swelling over the final minute of the program, their feet were in nonstop motion, yet every step was intricately choreographed. Their lifts were a blur as White spun across the ice with Davis held aloft, their movements and expressions still fierce despite the draining demands of the performance.

As they told the story of the Persian king and the woman who enchants him, White was regal in purple velvet, Davis beguiling in a lavender dress with jewels shimmering on her midriff.

They now have one medal of each color after winning bronze in the new team event in Sochi, the first American figure skaters to own three.

Virtue and Moir had become the first North American ice dance gold medalists at their home Olympics in Vancouver. Their free dance to Russian classical music told the story of their own partnership, which also stretches back to 1997.

In a performance at times tender and at others triumphant, Moir kissed her hand at the start and again throughout the program.

"I think there is relief," Moir said. "It has been a journey to get here since 2010, a lot of sleepless nights to get to the Olympic Games. If I could only have been that 22-year-old at Vancouver.

"The reason we stayed in is we wanted a different journey. Now, the pressures of this game are just melting away."

Ilinykh and Katsalapov were just ninth at last year's world championships but are now the latest Olympic ice dance medalists from Russia, finishing 7.51 points behind the Canadians. She's only 19; he's 22. The home fans started cheering when the first few notes of "Swan Lake" played for their free dance, and they were roaring when it ended with Katsalapov collapsed on his knees and Ilinykh weeping.

"The program builds and builds and builds," Katsalapov said through a translator, "and the audience gave us energy to keep building it more and more."

France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were fourth, 6.26 points out of bronze. The other U.S. teams, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, finished eighth and ninth.

Russia has won 18 of 33 medals in ice dance's Olympic history, but now North Americans own two straight golds. Virtue and Moir have said they'll likely retire. For Davis and White, talk of the future can wait until this historic victory starts feeling real.

"We wanted to fight for the best performance we could give and we did that. You dream of this for so long, work so hard, and they worked hard, too," White said, referring to Virtue and Moir. "They always have been with us, pushing us, and we couldn't have done it without them."

As NBA resumes, next James-Durant matchup nears

NEW ORLEANS (AP) LeBron James won't assume the eventual date with Indiana that so many others expect.

He definitely has another one with Kevin Durant - in just a few days.

The NBA's two best players went their separate ways after the East's 163-155 victory over the West in Sunday's NBA All-Star game, but only temporarily. They will be back on the same floor Thursday in Oklahoma City, perhaps even joined by Russell Westbrook.

Less than two months will remain in the regular season when play resumes Tuesday, with so much still to sort out in the loaded Western Conference.

Things seem so much simpler in the East, where a Miami-Indiana matchup in the Eastern Conference finals has seemed a certainty since the opening weeks of the season - except to James.

"This is more than a two-team race. There's a lot of good teams in the Eastern Conference," he said. "It's been a slow start for us as a whole, but there's so many good teams, you can't just count on us and one other team. I respect every team we go against."

Miami went into the break 2 1/2 games behind Indiana, with third-place Toronto having 10 more losses than the Heat. The Pacers lost Game 7 of the East finals in Miami last June, and they want home-court advantage if - when? - the teams meet again this spring.

The Heat are interested in it too, though only to a point.

"What matters more is that we're healthy. We're going to compete for first place of course, but we're not going to make it this huge thing," Chris Bosh said.

"We're within striking distance, 2 1/2 back. We like our chances."

The Thunder finally opened a little cushion atop the West with their strong finish to the first half, winning their final three games to take a four-game lead over injury-plagued San Antonio, the defending conference champion. Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland are all six games behind.

Durant is the NBA's leading scorer and has a good chance to end James' reign as the league's MVP. The Thunder could get even stronger when Westbrook returns from knee surgery, perhaps even Thursday in their first game after the break.

Durant scored 38 points in the All-Star game and has been unstoppable even in games where there is defense, averaging 31.5 points. He had 33 in the Thunder's 112-95 victory in Miami last month, but scoring is only part of what he's done to help Oklahoma City to a league-best 43-12 record even with only 25 games from Westbrook.

"KD is a great player. He's a great teammate. He does all the things that we have asked," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.

"He doesn't want to be just a scorer. He wants to be a playmaker, a defender and that's what he's done all season for us."

The trade deadline also is Thursday. The Heat and Pacers have perhaps already made their moves with the signings of centers Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum, but other contenders may seek the opportunity to make a deal they feel could position themselves to end the Heat's quest for a third straight championship.

The Pacers believe they can do it. Paul George isn't far from the James-Durant level, and a title would help him inch even closer.

"I want to be one of the best players to ever play in this league and be the best player in this league," George said, "so it's just taking every day to get better, every year to get better, and you know, I'm going to be at the top at some point."

So many others have a chance heading into the stretch run. The Clippers (Chris Paul and Blake Griffin), Rockets (Dwight Howard and James Harden) and Trail Blazers (LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard) all have All-Star duos, and don't forget the Spurs, who were less than a half-minute from finishing off the Heat last June.

"We definitely have the tools, we definitely have the team," Tony Parker said of his team, which has been playing without Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard. "We'll be in the mix as long as we stay healthy."

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

Ravens await details on Rice arrest

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) The Baltimore Ravens intend to talk to Ray Rice before deciding how to deal with the running back's arrest in a New Jersey casino.

Atlantic City police say Rice was arrested early Saturday morning after an argument with his fiancee turned physical.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said Monday that he's waiting to get all the details before deciding what action to take, if any.

"I have not had a chance to talk to Ray," Newsome said. "I really don't know that situation. With me, I get all the answers. Then that's when we make decisions within this organization - once we get all the information we can get."

Atlantic City police said Rice and Janay Palmer were both arrested on simple assault charges and were released on a summons after an incident at the Revel Casino.

Michael Diamondstein, an attorney for Rice, says that he's hopeful that after an investigation "the matter turns out to be little more than a misunderstanding."

Newsome and Ravens coach John Harbaugh met briefly Monday morning while linebacker Terrell Suggs signed a four-year contract extension.

"Neither John or I at this point have spoken with Ray," Newsome said. "I'm sure within the next 24 hours one of us will."

Asked if Rice's status with the team could be jeopardy, Newsome responded, "When I left my office 20 minutes ago, and John had probably been there 15 minutes before then, Ray Rice was still a big part of what we plan to do in 2014."

Rice played at Rutgers University in New Jersey before being drafted by the Ravens in the 2008 draft. He ran for more than 1,000 yards in four straight seasons from 2009-12 before gaining only 660 yards on the ground in 2013, in part because of a hip injury that forced him to miss a game in September and hampered his effectiveness the rest of the way.

"That was my first time dealing with a muscular kind of injury," Rice said after the season. "As far as taking a toll, I really didn't take the brunt of hits that I'm usually taking. I just had a muscular deal. The rest of my body feels fine but as far as my leg, once I get my leg rested and get the proper rest that was needed, I'll be back at full steam."

Rice is the Ravens' career leader in total yards from scrimmage (9.214) and ranks second behind Jamal Lewis in yards rushing.

No criminal wrongdoing in Schumacher ski accident

PARIS (AP) French investigators have ruled out any criminal wrongdoing in the debilitating ski accident of Formula One great Michael Schumacher, a state prosecutor said Monday.

Albertville prosecutor Patrick Quincy said "no infraction by anyone has been turned up" and the probe has been closed, his office said in a statement - responding to questions about whether the Meribel ski station in the French Alps or an equipment maker might have had some role in Schumacher's injury.

The 45-year-old German auto racing legend suffered serious head injuries on Dec. 29 when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock off the side of a demarcated slope in Meribel. Schumacher has been treated at Grenoble University Hospital in southeastern France since then.

Quincy's office said the rock that caused Schumacher to fall was 10.4 meters (34 feet) away from another rock upon which he hit his head - and each were more than 4 meters away from the edge of the red-level piste that he was on.

"The accident took place in an off-piste area," the prosecutor's statement said. "The signage, marking, staking and information provided about the edges of this slope adhere to French norms in place."

For many fans, the biggest concern is about Schumacher's health and recovery prospects - and doctors have started waking him from an induced coma. The most recent in a string of statements from his spokeswoman was released last week but declined to provide further details about his health, citing privacy concerns.

Experts have said it will likely be months before Schumacher's prognosis becomes clear - and that lasting brain damage is a possibility.

Schumacher earned universal acclaim for his uncommon and sometimes ruthless driving talent, which led to a record 91 race wins. He retired from Formula One in 2012 after garnering an unmatched seven world titles. His accident happened on a family vacation in the Alps as Schumacher was skiing with his 14-year-old son.

Irving validates All-Star starting nod, wins MVP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Kyrie Irving validated the fan vote and offered a glimpse of how good he can be when surrounded by first-rate players.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' point guard was selected MVP of the NBA All-Star game Sunday night after scoring 31 points, racking up 14 assists and playing with the energy required to rally the Eastern Conference from an 18-point deficit in the second half of its 163-155 victory over the West.

"It was definitely special, just being out there with all these great athletes," Irving said. "There's so many different MVPs out there on that floor, and to be named MVP amongst all those great stars is truly an honor."

Irving missed only three of the 17 shots he attempted, and all of those were from 3-point range, where he was 3 for 6.

He was at his best in the second half, hitting 11 of 13 shots and dishing out seven assists. Often refusing to settle for long jumpers unless they came in rhythm, he went hard to the basket and finished, showing the competitive spirit often lacking in All-Star exhibitions.

"I feel like that's what all the fans want to see us do is just compete at the highest level," Irving said. "I just wanted to give the fans what they wanted."

Eastern Conference coach Frank Vogel of the Indiana Pacers said Irving's performance was a reminder that while winning is important, players should be judged by more than just the records of the teams for which they play.

The Cavaliers are 20-33 at the All-Star break, 11th in the Eastern Conference. Still, Irving was elected by fans to start for the East alongside perennial All-Stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade.

"The history of the league is to reward the teams with winning records and the best players on those teams" with All-Star selections, Vogel said. "But there's certain players that stand out beyond that, and Kyrie is definitely one of them. ... He's one of the best in the world, and he showed it tonight."

Not bad for a 21-year-old in his third NBA season - even if he was the first overall pick in 2011.

When Irving was given the trophy, he got a little advice from James, who also was playing for the Cavs at age 21 when he won his first All-Star MVP award in 2006. James and several others reminded Irving to hold the trophy high above his head, so fans could see it.

Cleveland rooters watching on TV might have enjoyed that the most, offering hope that all the losing that has followed James' departure for Miami may end sooner rather than later - if Irving can get a little more help.

"It's a great accomplishment, bringing this (trophy) back to Cleveland," Irving said. "That's the most important thing."

East gets by Durant, Griffin to win All-Star game

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Carmelo Anthony made an All-Star record eight 3-pointers and scored 30 points, and the Eastern Conference overcame Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and the Western Conference for a 163-155 victory Sunday night.

Durant and Griffin each finished with 38 points, four shy of the NBA All-Star game record. But the East scored the final 10 points to pull out a game they trailed by 18.

Kyrie Irving had 31 points and 14 assists and was voted the game's MVP for the East, which snapped a three-game losing streak. LeBron James had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Griffin shot 19 of 23, while Durant finished with 10 rebounds and six assists.

Ravens' Ray Rice arrested at Atlantic City casino

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) Police in Atlantic City say Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested at a casino there after an argument with his fiance turned physical.

Atlantic City police said that Rice and Janay Palmer were both arrested on simple assault charges and were released on a summons after an incident at the Revel Casino early Saturday morning.

Both Rice and Palmer declined medical attention and neither reported any injuries.

Michael Diamondstein, an attorney for Rice, says that he's hopeful that after an investigation "the matter turns out to be little more than a misunderstanding."

The Ravens released a statement Sunday night.

"We are aware of the Friday night situation with Ray Rice and his fiance," the Ravens said. "We have spoken with Ray, and know that they returned home together after being detained."

Rice played at Rutgers University in New Jersey and was drafted in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Ravens.

Austin Dillon puts No. 3 on pole for Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) With the famed No. 3 on his car and memories of the late Dale Earnhardt fresh in his mind, Austin Dillon took the fabled number out of hibernation and straight to the top at Daytona.

Dillon reawakened the days of The Intimidator and proved he can handle the spotlight thrust on his ride in the 3, winning the pole Sunday for the season-opening Daytona 500.

He took the top spot with a lap at 196.019 mph in NASCAR's season opener in a car Richard Childress has refused to field at NASCAR's top level since Earnhardt's fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 race.

But with his 23-year-old grandson ready to move to the Sprint Cup Series, Childress allowed Dillon to use the number widely associated with the seven-time champion. Earnhardt won 67 races, six championships and the 1998 Daytona 500 driving the No. 3.

Dillon was a kid when he posed for a picture with Earnhardt in Victory Lane following his breakthrough 1998 win.

He'll have many more memories from this milestone, like the congratulatory handshake he received from Richard Petty when qualifying ended.

NASCAR's family roots run deep, so Childress never had to leave the family tree to find the right driver for the number.

Dillon has been using it in NASCAR national competition since 2009, when he made his Truck Series debut in the No. 3. He won the Truck championship in 2011 driving the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, and the Nationwide title last season in the same number.

So Childress knew - he always knew and has insisted that Earnhardt gave his blessing long before his death - that Dillon could use the number if he ever made it to Cup.

Dillon doesn't take the responsibility lightly.

"Everybody wants to see this number perform well, and that's what my goals are," Dillon said. "I love getting in that race car and driving it. I think once we get through some of these races here at the beginning of the year, everything will sink in and I'll get comfortable and be able to have some fun."

It's the fourth time the No. 3 has won the pole for the Daytona 500. Buddy Baker did it in 1969, Ricky Rudd in 1983 and Earnhardt in 1996.

But this one was emotional all the way through RCR, which had its ups-and-downs in performance in the 13 years since Earnhardt's death. Now Dillon comes in at another changing of the guard, as Kevin Harvick, the driver who slid into Earnhardt's seat the week after his death, has moved to another team.

Engine builder Danny Lawrence, who made his debut with the company at the 1998 Daytona 500 with Earnhardt, said the company ran on adrenaline after Earnhardt's death. Dillon has now given the organization a shot in the arm.

"On the sentimental side, I was really pretty good about this 3 thing," Lawrence said. "But when I saw that car hit the race track today, it kind of tore me up a little bit. Austin is such a good guy, he has been great for our company."

Said Childress: "The energy that he brings to our whole organization is huge. He's been in the shop so long, him and his brother, Ty. I can remember Dale pushing them around on a creeper down there in the garage when they were just little babies, so that's how far they go back."

Martin Truex Jr., driving a Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, qualified second with a lap at 195.852 mph. Truex's engine is built by Earnhardt-Childress Racing, giving the company a sweep of the Daytona 500 front row.

"Obviously without that thing under the hood, we wouldn't be where we are," said Truex, who won the Daytona 500 pole in 2009 with an ECR engine when he drove for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

"Got a pretty good track record of qualifying here with an ECR engine under the hood, and obviously they're building some big power.

The rest of the field is set Thursday through a pair of qualifying races, but Childress and the ECR engines are strong: They had five cars in the top 12 on Sunday.

Childress knew he had a shot at the pole, if not with Dillon then from another one of his four Richard Childress Racing entries. All were fast in January testing, and again in two Saturday practice sessions.

But it was Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., the first driver to make his qualifying attempt, who set the pace early and held down the provisional pole for most of the session. RCR drivers Brian Scott and Paul Menard failed to bump Earnhardt, and it was surprisingly Ford driver Greg Biffle who finally did it as the 33rd driver to take his turn.

Ryan Newman then took his shot for RCR and missed, and Dillon was the next driver out. He and crew chief Gil Martin knew the spotlight was on the No. 3, and stayed focused on the task at hand, even as Childress seemed to be on pins and needles.

"You try to keep the blinders on," Dillon said of the pressure to win the pole. "For me, it was hitting those shifts, putting in a good line. The funny thing is, there is a build-up to it, and my grandfather, me and Gil said, `Calm down, you're nervous!' He said, `I'm not nervous. I'm concerned.'

"So now he doesn't have to be concerned. We're on the pole, and things can be a little bit calm."

Childress celebrated by pumping his fist in the air. He won't be so reserved next week, admitting if Dillon pulls off a win, he'll celebrate in a far different way.

"The 3 is special to all of us; the family, the Earnhardt family, to every one of us," he said. "But I think it's special because Austin, our family is in the car. The emotion will fly if the 3 rolls in there on Sunday. I won't hold it back, I promise."

Teixeira: 'We're back to being the Yankees again'

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Mark Teixeira took swings from the right side of the plate and then the left, his first time batting outdoors since a wrist injury ended his 2013 season almost before it began.

He pronounced himself ready to return and gave what seemed like a warning to the rest of Major League Baseball. Last year was an aberration, when the New York Yankees missed the playoffs for only the second time in 19 years. In his mind, an offseason spending spree transformed Murmurers' Row back into Murderers' Row.

"You look at our lineup, we're back to being the Yankees again," he said Sunday. "Last year we weren't the Yankees."

Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran were signed to fortify a batting order that dropped from a team-record 245 homers in 2012 to an un-Bronx Bomber-like 144 last year, the largest falloff in baseball history for a non-strike season. Teixeira was limited to 15 games and Derek Jeter to 17, and Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson also missed long stretches.

After two days of canceled flights from New York, Teixeira started workouts four days ahead of the other position players. He fielded grounders at first base, took 53 swings off a tee and 43 more in batting practice in his first outdoor session since surgery last July 2 to repair a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist.

Jeter, still recovering from the effects of a broken ankle in October 2012, has been working out at the minor complex since Jan. 20. He reports to the big league camp Wednesday, when he will hold a news conference to discuss his announcement last week that this will be his final season.

With the Yankees weakened at second following the departure of Robinson Cano and at third because of Rodriguez's season-long suspension, New York is counting on Teixeira and Jeter to stabilize an infield in flux.

"They're back in my mind, but I think you have to get them into games to see exactly where they're at, to be fair to them and probably to alleviate any doubt that you might have," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The retirement decision by Jeter, who turns 40 in June, shocked Teixeira.

"I thought that Derek had a couple years left in him. I knew how excited he would be about this season, just the same way I am when you only play 15 or 17 games," he said. "I really could have seen Derek playing until he was 44 or 45."

Teixeira turns 34 in April and hopes to have five more productive seasons. He might not be ready when New York's exhibition season starts Feb. 25, but he thinks he'll be on the field sometime during the first week, get 50 exhibition at-bats and be able to play at least 150 games during the regular season.

He had more pop from his bat during his 49 right-handed swings than his 47 from the left side - although he said he felt his swing path was a lot better from the left. Given his injury, sustained while hitting off a tee last March 5, his wrist stiffness likely is more of an issue hitting left-handed - when the right hand provides most of the power.

"You can definitely tell I had surgery. But I had ankle surgery 13 years ago and I could tell I had ankle surgery after 13 years," he said. "So, it's just something I'm going to have to make sure that I loosen up, and make sure I do all the proper rehab and strengthening exercises."

A two-time All-Star, Teixeira usually is a slow starter. He has a .278 career average and 341 homers, but through April 30 each year his average is just .238 with 33 home runs in 11 seasons. A poor April wouldn't necessarily mean he hasn't sufficiently healed.

"I can always use that ammo," Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long said. "So that's in our back pocket."

Teixeira said his surgeon, Dr. Keith Raskin of New York University School of Medicine, told him the wrist will continue to improve for a year after the operation. But there always will be worries of a setback until Teixeira proves to himself that the injury isn't a hindrance, that he regularly can clear Yankee Stadium's right-field wall with what broadcaster John Sterling calls a "Tex message."

"There's going to be a mental part of it. He's going to have to get over the hump," Long said.

Teixeira watched from his home in Connecticut as Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made his moves.

"I was texting Cash like every two weeks, telling him congrats on another signing and great offseason," he said. "I basically told him: You did your job, now it's time for us to do ours. So no excuses this year. We have a team that can compete for a world championship."

Teixeira says he hasn't been this eager for a season since he was a rookie with Texas in 2003. His bounce back could determine whether the Yankees rebound.

"I take (a) silver lining in everything, and for me this year off - basically a year off - was me realizing how lucky I am to play baseball, realizing how much I loved playing baseball," he said. "I did a lot of charity stuff this offseason and spent a bunch of time with my family, and I loved that time, but I'm a baseball player, and there's nothing cooler than playing baseball for a living. And taking that year off really made realize that I want to do it as long as I can."

NOTES: A day after looking tired during a slow-mile run, RHP Masahiro Tanaka was happier with Sunday's condition. "Today was short distance. No problem at all," he said through a translator and then smiled. ... RHP Yoshinori Tateyama, his arrival delayed by a visa issue, was expected to report Monday.

SOCHI: Weibrecht, Miller win silver, bronze medals in Super-G

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Kjetil Jansrud won his audition for Norwegian idol at the Sochi Olympics.

In an Alpine event that Norway absolutely owns, Jansrud won a thrilling men's super-G race Sunday one week after earning bronze in downhill.

Norway's fourth straight super-G gold, and fifth in the past seven Winter Games, put the 28-year-old Jansrud in a proud Olympic tradition started by now-retired great Kjetil Andre Aamodt and extended by Aksel Lund Svindal, his more heralded teammate.

"He is absolutely an idol for young Norwegians today," the Scandinavian nation's prime minister, Erna Solberg, told reporters after watching Jansrud's victory. Pre-race favorite Svindal placed seventh in defense of his title.

Andrew Weibrecht charged late at Jansrud's time of 1 minute, 18.14 seconds to take a surprise silver, edging U.S. teammate Bode Miller and Jan Hudec of Canada into a tie for bronze.

Miller, 36, became the oldest ever Olympic Alpine medalist, surpassing the mark Aamodt set when he won the super-G at Turin in 2006 at age 34.

And with his sixth career Olympic medal, spread over 12 years, Miller took sole possession of second place on the all-time men's Alpine medal list, two behind Aamodt.

"It's big, insane," Jansrud said of Norway's dominance in super-G, a discipline that challenges racers to be fast and technically correct through a gate-setting they have never practiced. They are allowed a one-hour, early-morning course inspection.

"Somehow when you come to the Olympic Games, Norwegians are on the top of the podium and that is impossible to describe," he said. "It feels perfect so far."

Prime Minister Solberg said hosting the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic was a key point in developing Alpine racing in Norway, a land where cross-country skiing dominates.

Jansrud, who was eight when Aamodt took bronze in super-G at Lillehammer, singled out Miller as one of his own idols.

"He was already winning races when I was a little kid. He has been one of my heroes," Jansrud told The Associated Press. "He has had such an amazing career."

Miller, who started No. 13, took the lead with an exhilarating run, though he lost time going off line down the steep final slope after making the final jump.

"To be on the podium, it's a really big day for me," said Miller, who placed eighth in downhill and sixth in super-combined. "Emotionally, I had a lot riding on it. I'm super, super happy."

Miller let out his emotions, too, tearing up when he hugged wife, professional volleyball player Morgan Miller, after the race.

Jansrud started No. 21 and was 0.53 faster than Miller, whose time was matched by Hudec.

Still, No. 29 Weibrecht shook up the picture -- and made Jansrud's legs "like jelly" -- by being fastest on the upper half and racing into second, 0.30 back.

At these sunbathed Sochi Olympics, starting numbers above 22 have proved impossible to turn into medals on softening snow, and Weibrecht was in a bad mood the night before racing.

"I thought that 29 was kind of a death sentence in terms of having a good run," he said. "I consciously made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to let any of that affect my race."

Weibrecht peaked at the Olympics for the second time in an injury-ravaged career. Nicknamed "War Horse," the Lake Placid, N.Y., native has blown out each ankle and gone through surgeries on both shoulders since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where he got super-G bronze.

He lost his sponsorship from the U.S. ski team after a string of lackluster results, but that didn't make him any less of a threat in the eyes of the other skiers.

"With Andrew at the start, I was like, `There's a good chance he wins this run right now," said Miller, who took silver in the super-G at Vancouver.

The Americans shared the podium again Sunday. And, again, there was a Norwegian standing above them.

"I don't think we have any secrets," Norway men's Alpine coach Havard Tjorhom said. "Both (Lasse) Kjus and Aamodt have been a huge inspiration for both of our guys."

So, can new national hero Jansrud perhaps knock cross-country off Norway's newspaper back pages?

"I think we are not even close," Tjorhom said. "We just have to ski fast and, maybe, one day."

SOCHI: Davis, White set record, lead ice dancing qualifiers

SOCHI, Russia — Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the Olympic short dance Sunday and are now one performance away from a gold medal.

The reigning world champions earned an international personal best 78.89 points and lead 2010 gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada by 2.56.

Virtue and Moir rebounded from a shaky performance in the team event with a much stronger showing. But Davis and White, skating last, have overtaken their training partners over the last four years, and it was no different Sunday.

"I told Charlie in the middle of the program I felt like I was in a dream," Davis said. "It is such a surreal experience."

The free dance is Monday, when Davis and White can become the first Americans to win Olympic gold in ice dancing.

A Russian team was in third, but it wasn't world bronze medalists Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov were 3.29 points behind Virtue and Moir.

France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat were fourth, just 0.26 out of the bronze position. Bobrova and Soloviev were fifth.

Davis and White's twizzles are at another speed from the rest of the field, and yet they spin across the ice in perfect unison. Skating to "My Fair Lady," they gaze at each other and into the crowd with an exuberant bliss.

"They fly," said their coach, Marina Zoueva, who also works with the Virtue and Moir. "And you can see at the same time where they are strong. And they are so light at the same time and so flowing. ... They really did the best this program can be done, with joy. Total joy."

When it was over, they held their embrace for a few extra seconds.

"We kept in the moment and neither of us was pushing it," White said. "We were out there enjoying each other's company. This was special for us."

The other American teams, Madison Chock and Evan Bates and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani, were eighth and ninth.

Virtue had a bobble on a twizzle during the team short dance. On Sunday, their trademark crispness and vivacity were back as she and Moir performed to jazz standards from Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. In his black bowtie and suspenders, Moir, ever the showman, smiled coyly from start to finish, eyebrow arched. Virtue's face beamed brighter than the sparkles on her flapper-style dance.

With the two still posed cheek to cheek just like the lyrics to the final song in their medley, Moir shouted out "Yes!" and pumped a fist. He whirled across the ice in celebration, then lifted Virtue into the air, burying his face in her shoulder.

"That was more like it," Moir said afterward.

Wall leads East to All-Star dunk triumph

NEW ORLEANS (AP) John Wall soared over his mascot, and the East stomped on the West in the slam dunk contest.

Wall's sensational slam finished off a clean sweep for the Washington star, Paul George and Terrence Ross in the contest's new battle format, helping the Eastern Conference earn a 2-2 tie against the West on All-Star Saturday night.

Answering Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore's dunk in which he leaped over Shaquille O'Neal seated in a king's throne, Wall took the ball from Wizards mascot G-Man, who held it above his head, then brought it down between his legs and slammed down a two-handed reverse dunk.

"It was only my second time doing it. My first time was on Thursday," Wall said. "So I just felt comfortable with myself and I knew it was a dunk that hasn't been done before."

Judges Dominique Wilkins, Magic Johnson and Julius Erving all gave the victory to Wall in his matchup, after picking George over Harrison Barnes, and defending champion Ross over Damian Lillard in the first dunk contest with three All-Stars since 1988.

San Antonio's Marco Belinelli won the 3-point contest, and Lillard and Utah rookie Trey Burke won the skills challenge for the West's two victories. Miami's Chris Bosh, Wilkins and WNBA star Swin Cash won the night's first event for the East, the shooting stars.

The league tried to jazz up All-Star Saturday for its return to New Orleans, with a number of tweaks to the format that weren't all positively received. Players were given an entire rack of money balls worth 2 points in the 3-point contest, which they could place at any of the five spots on the floor.

The skills challenge became a team relay format, but the biggest change was in the dunk contest, which was broken into two parts. The first was the freestyle portion, where the teams had 90 seconds to execute as many dunks as they could, before the three 1-on-1 matchups in the battle format.

The East had already clinched that part by winning the first two, but Wall made it a resounding shutout.

McLemore came out wearing a king's robe and trailed by O'Neal, who unveiled a "Shaq-Lemore" jersey. He made it over O'Neal's throne on his second attempt, and O'Neal presented him with a crown.

But moments later, Wall was the real king.

"The slam dunk has returned," said Erving, one of the NBA's most famed dunkers.

Before that, the new format was confusing to fans and the West players themselves, creating a largely silent crowd during their turn. The East had it all figured out, winning the first stage with a passing and dunking display straight out the Harlem Globetrotters, capped by a three-man dunk where Ross threw if off the backboard to Wall, who lobbed it off the overhead shot clock for George to race in and slam it down.

That was just a warm-up for the second round, when Ross, the event's defending champion from Toronto, started things off by edging Lillard with an assist on his dunk from rapper Drake.

Lillard was the first person to compete in three All-Star Saturday events, adding that to Friday's Rising Stars Challenge and Sunday's game to give him the most ambitious itinerary ever.

He started 2 for 2 by following Friday's victory by winning the skills challenge for the second straight year, he and Burke beating Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo by a tenth of a second.

But Lillard's run was stopped when Belinelli made his final three shots to finish with 19 points, edging him by one to advance to the finals from the West.

"I was happy to just be invited to all of them and be able to compete in them, and I wanted to win at least one. And I won the first one, and then I thought there would be some momentum to continue to try and win all three of them," Lillard said. "But I fell short in the 3-point contest, and as you all saw in the dunk contest, they kind of just outclassed us."

Bradley Beal had 21 points to win the East bracket, then made his final six shots in the finals to tie Belinelli and force a tiebreaker. Belinelli won it by making six straight shots at one point, sweeping his fourth rack.

"I was a little bit nervous at the beginning and I think that I shot like two airballs," Belinelli said.

"But in the end I was focused. I really cared about this trophy."

Bosh, Wilkins and Cash won their second straight shooting stars title, with Bosh making a pair of halfcourt shots.

"I keep asking Coach to let me shoot that shot in the game," Bosh said of Miami's Erik Spoelstra. "He won't let me do it yet, but I think that today will give him confidence if he was watching."

The conferences split $500,000 in winnings for charity.

No. 3 Florida rallies past No. 14 Kentucky 69-59

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Scottie Wilbekin scored 23 points including five critical free throws down the stretch as No. 3 Florida rallied for a tense 69-59 victory over No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday night in a marquee showdown of the Southeastern Conference's top two teams.

The Gators tied a school record with their 17th straight win, and their first at Rupp Arena since 2007.

Trailing 45-38 with 11:12 remaining, the veteran Gators (23-2, 2-0) didn't flinch and outscored the young Wildcats (19-6, 9-3) 31-14 after that by putting the ball in the hands of their best players such as Wilbekin, who got to the line and finished 11 of 12 including two technical free throws with 8:14 left.

Casey Prather scored 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting, while Patric Young added 10 with the help of two 3-point plays during a 13-3 spurt that put Florida ahead for good.

Andrew Harrison scored 20 points for Kentucky.

Hamlin wins exhibition Sprint Unlimited at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Denny Hamlin has won the exhibition Sprint Unlimited - a race that ended with only eight cars running to the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway.

Half the 18-car field was knocked out of Saturday night's race during a nine-car accident during the second of three segments.

It was a bizarre kickoff to Speedweeks as Danica Patrick's race was ended when boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. slammed into her car during the melee, and the Chevrolet pace car later caught on fire.

A 75-lap race split over three segments, this version had a heavy fan involvement as sponsor Sprint allowed fans to vote for various aspects of the race. Among them was the starting order, how the segments were split and how the cars lined up in the final segment.

Silver delivers first press conference as NBA boss

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Adam Silver kept his focus on the game but hinted at some changes to the business during his first press conference as NBA commissioner.

From the look of the draft to the look of the uniforms, Silver touched on a number of topics during his remarks that ran about 40 minutes. He replaced David Stern on Feb. 1 and replaced Stern's old format Saturday, standing at a podium instead of sitting at a table.

Silver would like to raise the age limit but isn't sure there's need to change the lottery that precedes the draft. Expansion isn't a current priority - domestically or internationally - but lengthening the All-Star break might be considered.

"This is a fabulous league that has its best years still ahead of it," Silver said.

Among his ways to improve it:

-The draft: Silver said everywhere he goes that "people dislike so-called one and done," referring to the many players who go to college for just one year to meet the league's age minimum of being one year out of high school and 19 years old. He favors pushing the age minimum to 20.

"It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league," he said. "And I know from a competitive standpoint that's something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders as part of college programs."

-Tanking: "My understanding of tanking would be losing games on purpose, and there's absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game," Silver said.

Nevertheless, he said the Competition Committee would examine the lottery system that gives teams with the worst records the best chance to win the No. 1 pick. "But I'm not overly concerned right now," he said.

-The length of the season: He likes the current 82 games, but will look at the idea of longer break at midseason. The league currently shuts down Friday-Monday for All-Star weekend.

"That's something I've heard directly from players on," Silver said. "They're saying that if they could get a few more days off around All-Star, especially the All-Stars, I think, who as we know are so busy over the course of these few days, it would be helpful to them to get some additional rest."

-The jerseys: "From a fan standpoint, the greatest indicator is how are they selling, and I'll say we're having trouble keeping them in stores," Silver said, referring to the somewhat-maligned sleeved jerseys that were worn on Christmas Day and will be again in Sunday's All-Star game.

But he said some players have complained, though not about them affecting their shooting, and said it was not the league's or outfitter Adidas' intention to change the core uniform. He also said the league is "not close at the moment" on sponsors on jerseys but he believes "ultimately it will happen in the NBA."

-Expansion: "It's not on the top of my list right now," Silver said, because he said all 30 teams weren't healthy financially now even after the league's gains during the 2011 lockout.

"My job is to ensure that 30 teams are healthy and competitive, and so that's what my priority is right now as opposed to expansion."

-The salary cap: Owners fought for a hard cap like the NFL in 2011, as opposed to the current NBA system that allows teams to exceed it through the use of certain exceptions. Sounds like that hasn't changed.

"I would like a harder system to distribute players better as opposed to the tax system we have in place now," Silver said.

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