NBA playoffs set to open without stars

By Tim Reynolds ,AP

MIAMI — The NBA playoffs are about to being without some of the most recognizable players in the game. The Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and New York’s Carmelo Anthony will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Miami’s Dwyane Wade are also out.

So is Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, the first scoring champion to miss the playoffs since Tracy McGrady in 2004.

��I’m at home, watching other teams play,�� Westbrook said when asked about the scoring title after Oklahoma City’s season ended Wednesday. ��It doesn’t mean nothing.��

There are still plenty of star players left in the postseason. Tim Duncan will try to win his sixth title with San Antonio and LeBron James is resuming his quest to bring a title to Cleveland. Stephen Curry and James Harden will try to lead Golden State and Houston to their first NBA Finals in decades.

And new faces are ready to make a splash. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love make their playoff debuts when Cleveland opens against Boston. Anthony Davis gets his first taste of the postseason when New Orleans takes on the Warriors.

Games will sell out and television ratings will surely be high, but something might just seem off.

��These (are) guys who’ve been in the playoffs year in and year out, who bring a lot of excitement to the game and to the postseason,�� Anthony said. ��So when I look back and see all the guys that’s out, it’s like the game is missing something.��

Bryant, Durant, Anthony and Chris Bosh were among those who saw their seasons end early because of injury or illness. Of those, only Bosh played in more than half of his team’s games.

Paul George made a gallant effort to help Indiana after he recovered from the horrific leg injury he suffered last summer, but the Pacers were ousted on the season’s final night. Wade and Miami had a chance until the next-to-last night.

��It’s been my toughest year by far,�� George wrote on Twitter, ��but looking forward to my greatest summer ahead!��

In all, nearly half of the league’s 32 highest-paid players won’t be in the playoffs.

Wade has had the shortest off-seasons in the last four years, with Miami going to the Finals in each. He played in 86 games during those four seasons, which means he basically logged an extra full season �X and then some �X during those postseasons.

��I haven’t had that much time off in a long time,�� Wade said. ��Playing into late June the last four years, it’s been a lot, mentally, especially physically.

Then coming right back into this season and all the things we went through, from the summer to the season with all the injuries and everything, it was a lot.��

Would he have rather been in the playoffs? Absolutely.

But with that not an option, Wade can see a positive outcome.

��It’ll be good for me to get away for a while,�� Wade said, ��and come back better next year.��