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Different looks for Heat, Lakers at All-Star break

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Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat will enter this weekend's All-Star Game with their teams on different paths. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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By The Associated Press
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, 7:45 p.m.
 

HOUSTON — If Kobe Bryant's season seems tough, imagine what Dwyane Wade went through five years ago.

“I came to All-Star weekend one year, I think we had won nine games. Seriously,” Wade said Friday. “I was looking for my 10th win at the All-Star Game.”

Things sure have changed for his Miami Heat.

Back where they first teamed up as all-stars in 2006, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh return as NBA champions who will start together for the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.

Now the misery belongs to Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose season has been so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a “retreat” for him.

“I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on,” he said.

As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that — a break — from a forgettable season.

He arrived for the 2008 All-Star Game with a 9-43 record, on their way to a 15-win debacle just two years after they won the NBA title.

This year, the Heat celebrated Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City with a 110-100 victory over the Thunder, the team they beat in five games last summer for the title. They have won seven in a row, James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, and they can relax and reminisce as they return to Houston.

“It's really indescribable,” Bosh said.

James, Wade and Bosh were in their third NBA seasons when they were chosen for the 2006 game, which turned out like so many Heat games these days. James was voted MVP after scoring 29 points and leading a huge East comeback that was wrapped up when Wade made the go-ahead basket with 16 seconds left.

Think about that: James was already the best player that night, and he was nowhere near the player he is today.

“I'm a better player. At that point in time, I wasn't a complete basketball player. I couldn't shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then,” James said. “Seven years, I've tried to improve each and every year.”

He's gotten to the point now where he ran off an NBA-record six straight games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting from the field, and seems to be distancing himself from anyone else who can take the MVP award he won last year for the third time in four years.

“He's doing well,” Bosh said in a Texas-sized understatement. “That's the best way to put it.”

Bosh was chosen as a starter Friday by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who will lead the East. He replaces Boston guard Rajon Rondo, who pulled out with a torn ACL.

Bryant and Howard still are here, away from a Los Angeles season that's been anything but a Hollywood story.

Considered a title contender after landing Howard and Steve Nash in the summer, the Lakers fell to 25-29 after they were beaten Wednesday by the Clippers.

Smiling as he sat with his daughter, Natalia, Bryant laughed that he wished the All-Star break was a chance for the Lakers to “hit the reset button.”

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