James, Heat stop Lakers cold

MIAMI — was sitting at his locker after the game, a bottle of cold medicine at his side.

The would be hard-pressed to believe it was needed.

James shook off flu-like symptoms to put up 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists — hours after being told to stay away from the team’s shootaround practice after calling in with a cough and chest congestion — and the topped the Lakers 98-87 on Thursday night. scored 15 for Miami, which won its second straight after a three-game slide.

“A chest cold can get to you at times,” James said. “But I felt like I could help the team.”

Shane Battier scored 11 and led the way defensively on . finished with 10 for Miami, which led by as many as 23 points and improved to 5-1 at home.

Miami moved to 5-0 this season without , who missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. He missed three games earlier this season with left foot soreness.

“We don’t take (James’) talent for granted, nor do we take Dwyane’s talent or Chris’ talent,” Heat coach said. “They’re special players, and they can rise to the occasion.”

Pau Gasol scored a season-high 26 for the Lakers, Bryant scored 24 — 14 in the fourth quarter — and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

It was the first time James had gone against L.A.’s , his former coach in Cleveland. James ran over to Brown moments before tipoff for a long embrace.

“I had a great time coaching LeBron,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t be in this suit if it wasn’t for him.”

Unlocked: Now what for Spurs?

The NBA lockout is almost over. The “nuclear winter” commissioner David Stern promised turned out to be a mild snowstorm. What can the Spurs expect from a shortened training camp, condensed free-agent period and truncated 66-game regular season slated to start after Christmas? Express-News Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald takes a guess:

Will the shortened season really help an old team like the Spurs?

In 1999, when the Spurs parlayed a lockout-shrunken, 50-game season into the first championship in franchise history, their starting lineup averaged 30.8 years.

This season’s projected starting lineup averages 31. For an older team, it seems logical that fewer regular-season games should result in fresher legs once the playoffs roll around.

Last season, the Spurs were 54-12 and peaking at the 66-game mark. Had the postseason started then, perhaps they would have lasted past the first round.

How many back-to-backs (and back-to-back-to-backs) can older stars such as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili be expected to handle?

The downside for an old team facing a compressed schedule: a greater percentage of those dreaded back-to-backs, and the possibility of back-to-back-to-backs as schedule makers attempt to shoehorn 66 games into a four-month window.

In a normal season, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is vigilant about resting his older stars during the rigorous portions of the schedule. With Duncan 35 and Ginobili 34, expect that caution to approach paranoia this season.

When Ginobili had to play eight games in 11 nights in an Olympic qualifier in Argentina this past summer, he complained of exhaustion by the end of it. Chances are, he won’t be given a chance to repeat that experience for Popovich.

What kind of shape will most players be in once training camp commences?

Don’t expect many fat, out-of-shape guys among the Spurs’ key players.

Throughout the lockout, Duncan has been leading regular workouts for San Antonio-based players and is reported to be in fine fighting shape. Ginobili has kept himself in shape after playing for Argentina. Tony Parker played for France and is now playing professional ball in that country.

The Spurs’ veterans have been there and done that and know how to prepare their bodies for the nightly grind of the NBA. Younger players, given too much downtime away from the watchful eyes of the Spurs’ new strength and conditioning staff, might not fare so well. It will be interesting to see who is gassed and who is not come the first day of camp.

Will Richard Jefferson still be here opening night?

The new collective bargaining agreement is expected to contain an amnesty provision that would allow teams to waive one player without incurring the accompanying salary-cap hit.

Richard Jefferson, the 31-year-old small forward who has mostly underwhelmed in two seasons in San Antonio, appears to be a prime candidate for the axe. But not so fast.

Jettisoning Jefferson and his $9.2 million salary wouldn’t put the Spurs below the cap, limiting their ability to replace him via free agency. It is possible, perhaps even likely, the Spurs hold on to Jefferson for the time being, using him as a de facto expiring contract at the trade deadline.

Or, they could wait and waive him until next summer, when the Spurs also have Duncan’s $21.3 million coming off the books, to create enough cap room to attract a higher class of free agents in 2012.

How active should we expect the Spurs to be in the December free agent frenzy?

Not very. Even if the Spurs do use amnesty provision on Jefferson and lose Antonio McDyess and his $5.2 million contract to retirement, they still won’t fall far enough below the cap line to make much of a splash in free agency.

For the Spurs, the free-agent period expected to start Dec. 9 — the same day teams can open camp — will probably look much like the one that usually starts July 1. The team will use its mid-level exception and minimum contracts to fill out the roster with role players (Shane Battier, anyone?) and hope the core of a team that won 61 games last season will be enough to keep it competitive this season.

Spurs No. 2 bad moment: Grizzlies stun Spurs in Game 1 with first playoff victory in team history

Playing without Manu Ginobili for the first game of the playoffs was going to be a challenge for the Spurs.

And that was even before Zach Randolph took the series over in that history-making game for the Memphis franchise.

The Grizzlies snapped a 12-game playoff losing streak as they notched the first playoff victory in franchise history with a stunning 101-98 victory over the Spurs in Game 1 on April 17.

Ginobili returned for the next game, but the Grizzlies snatched homecourt advantage from the opening game.

The Spurs were never able to overcome that deficit.

No. 2: Spurs miss Manu as Grizzlies steal Game 1.

When: April 17, 2011

Where: ATT Center, San Antonio

What happened: Playing without Ginobili, the Spurs stumbled  in a Game 1 loss to Memphis, a franchise that had never won a playoff game in their previous three series in a 101-98 loss. The Spurs jumped to a 10-point lead in the third quarter and had a 96-94 lead with 1:28 left on Matt Bonner’s three. But Shane Battier hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left as Randolph notched 25 points and 14 rebounds to lead the upset.  

What was said, Part I: ”It’s nice from an annoyance perspective to have it out of the way, because I don’t have to answer questions about being 0 and 13,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins on the first playoff victory in franchise history.

What was said, Part II: ”I was wide open,” Spurs forward Richard Jefferson, on his missed game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

What was said, Part III: “When you’re on the road, down two, may as well go for the 3,” Battier, describing his  clutch 3-point shot to the Associated Press.

What was said, Part IV: ”You know damned well he’s not happy with me. And you know damned well he wants to be on that court. But I made my decision,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, explaining Ginobili’s reaction to not playing in Game 1.  

GAME NOTES: Ginobili briefly worked out before the game, but was informed he would not play by Popovich shortly before the tip-off. Despite his absence, the Spurs led for much of the game before Memphis’ late rally. Battier was the only player to experience each of Memphis’ previous playoff games. His three put the Grizzlies ahead 99-98 on a 3-pointer with 23.9 seconds left. Tony Allen then added two clinching free throws and Jefferson missed a wide-open game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Randolph (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Marc Gasol (24 points, nine rebounds) dominated the Spurs inside. The Spurs stormed back on a late 11-2 charge to take the lead that included two 3-pointers by Bonner. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 20 points, but hit only 4-for-16 from the field as the Spurs hit 40 percent from the field for the game. The Spurs were limited to 33 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. The game was physical as the Spurs shot 47 foul shots and the Grizzlies had 33. Memphis overcame 16 turnovers as they shot 55 percent from the field. Tim Duncan had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Battier celebrated the birth of his daughter, Eloise Susan Battier, who was born in Houston shortly after the game.

Previous bad memories:

No. 10: .

No. 9: Black Friday fourth-quarter collapse against Dallas helps snap Spurs’ .  

No. 8: : Spurs blown out by Orlando by 22.

No. 7: Lowly Clips to Spurs.

No. 6:  Heat’sfrom 30-point loss 10 days earlier.

No. 5: Blowout loss to Lakers .

No. 4: Duncan’s ankle injury.  

No.3: Manu injures elbow in.

Previous good memories:

No. 10: .

No. 9: boosts comeback victory over Thunder.

No. 8: leads overtime victory over Memphis.

No. 7:boosts Spurs past Warriors.

No. 6: TD becomesin one game.

No. 5:with record 3-point binge.

No. 4: Pop passes Auerbach on.

No. 3: McDyess’ tip over Lakers.