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MVP RACE: In an NBA season defined by big trades, Boston's rebirth, New York's prolonged plunge as well as a scramble for supremacy in the wild, wild Western Conference, LeBron James has become an almost unstoppable force. He's on a short list of front-running MVP candidates along with Kobe Bryant , Chris Paul and Kevin Garnett .

James, though, seems to be regarded by most media voters --- ballots are due on April 17 --- as no higher than the third choice. Bryant and Paul have led their teams to better records and are locked in an Obama-Clinton-like race to the wire. Garnett has orchestrated the Celtics' impressive turnaround.

But the 6-foot-8, 250-plus-pound James, who plays anywhere he wants to on the floor, was leading the league in scoring at 30.3 points per game through Friday, and was averaging career-highs in rebounds (7.9), assists (7.2) and field-goal percentage (.484).

WIZARDS: All-Star forward Caron Butler missed Washington's game Saturday night against Philadelphia because of a bruised right knee.


Butler banged knees with Rodney Stuckey in the second quarter of a loss to Detroit on Friday night. Butler returned after halftime but finished 1-for-7 from the field and scored only six points. Butler has missed 22 games this season.

STANDS COLLAPSE: Three people were injured Saturday night before a game between Minnesota and Memphis when a small section of the stands at the Grizzlies' FedExForum collapsed.


One man was taken away on a stretcher and two others were treated at the scene, arena officials said.


The incident happened about an hour before the 8 p.m. tip-off as some of the Grizzlies were leaving the floor after the pregame shootaround.


Fans were standing at the rail of the section leaning over seeking autographs from the players. The section was roped off and the season ticket holders who normally sit there were relocated.


BUCKS: Longtime Pistons official Tom Hammond was introduces as Milwaukee's new GM on Saturday.


Bucks owner and Sen. Herb Kohl is giving Hammond, who spent the past seven seasons in Detroit as the vice president of basketball operations, a five-year contract.
The Busks have made just one playoff appearance in the past four seasons.


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