Jonas Valanciunas Womens Jersey

CLEVELAND — Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas(Jonas Valanciunas Jersey) checked in Wednesday night with 6:05 left in the first quarter of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, playing for the first time since Game 3 of the second round of the playoffs.

Valanciunas had missed eight games because of a sprained right ankle. He was active and available for Game 4 but did not play.

Asked before the game how close he was to 100 percent, Valanciunas smiled and replied, “Close. No, I’m ready to go. Percentage-wise, the ankle doesn’t tell you that. I’m just ready to go.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Tuesday he would like to get his 7-footer some minutes, but it depended on matchups.

“Hopefully we can get him involved, but it depends on the lineup they have on the court,” Casey said. “I know he’s our starting center, but it’s tough to put him out there if they’re playing Channing Frye big minutes at the 5. We just have to make sure that he has a matchup, and he’s not out there chasing 3-point shooters all over the perimeter.

“But if he does get called, we’ve got to be able to make them pay and have him in the paint, posting up and getting touches down there. And also, too, he’s going to be valuable for us because he is an excellent passer and can make plays at the top of the key.”

Valanciunas was averaging 15 points and 12.1 rebounds before getting hurt in Game 3 of the team’s second-round series with the Miami Heat. Reserve Bismack Biyombo has filled in admirably with Valanciunas out.

Lightning Ben Bishop Jersey

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop(Ben Bishop Jersey), who suffered a left-knee/leg injury early in Game 1, will not be in the starting lineup for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.

Coach John Cooper, however, remains optimistic that his star goaltender will return during the best-of-seven series, which is tied 1-1 after Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime victory over Tampa Bay on Monday night in Pittsburgh. Games 3 and 4 will be played in Tampa on Wednesday and Friday.

Bishop, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, was in full gear before the team’s morning skate Wednesday. Cooper is hopeful that Bishop could rejoin the Lightning for a full practice as early as Thursday.

“We are, but hopeful is the key word,” Cooper said.

Bishop fell awkwardly in his crease and was taken off the ice on a stretcher midway through the first period of Game 1 on Friday. X-rays came back negative.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, who earned a 3-1 victory Friday and took the loss Monday, will start Game 3 for the Lightning on Wednesday. Kristers Gudlevskis will serve as the backup.

With the two teams playing every other day now until the end of the series, it does create some challenges in getting Bishop back, Cooper acknowledged.

“I think when you’re playing every other day it’s tougher for anybody to come back,” Cooper said Tuesday. “But ultimately whether it’s one day, two days or three days, if he’s ready to go he’s ready to go and I don’t think an extra day is going to help out. He’s making progress every day, so hopefully you’ll see him soon.”

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was not on the ice Wednesday morning and will also miss Game 3 as he continues to recover from surgery to remove a blood clot in his right collarbone area. He has not played at all in the playoffs.

The Lightning will get rugged forward Ryan Callahan back, though, as he has recovered from the flu that kept him out of Game 2.

“He’s a lot better than he was,” Cooper said of Callahan. “That kid is tough as nails. He actually had a really good line. He said last year I played a game three days after getting my appendix out and this year I can’t even play through the damn flu.”

Authentic LeBron James Jersey

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — LeBron James(LeBron James Jersey) won’t debate whether Golden State’s Stephen Curry should be the NBA’s MVP this season. That’s indisputable.

But James might argue about how the award’s name should be defined.

One day after Curry was voted the first unanimous winner in 61 years, James, who finished third behind Curry and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, said the honor can be interpreted in different ways.

“I think sometimes the word ‘valuable’ or best player of the year you can have different results,” said James, a four-time MVP. “You know, that’s not taking anything from anyone that’s ever won the award.”

Curry is the 11th player in league history to be voted MVP in consecutive seasons and the first to do so since James did it in 2012 and 2013. The Warriors’ backcourt wizard is also the first guard to do it since Phoenix’s Steve Nash in 2005 and 2006.

James, who averaged 25.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists during the regular season, was awed by Curry’s shooting prowess.

“Look at Steph’s numbers,” he said. “He averaged 30, he led the league in steals, he was 90-50-40 [shooting percentages from the free throw line, field and beyond the 3-point line] and they won 73 [games]. So, I don’t — do you have any debate over that, really, when it comes to that award? But when you talk about most ‘valuable,’ then you can have a different conversation, so, take nothing away from him, he’s definitely deserving of that award, for sure.”

Coincidentally, James and Curry are both from Akron, Ohio. They were born in the same hospital 39 months apart.

Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks Jersey

DALLAS — Dirk Nowitzki(Dirk Nowitzki Jersey) has decided to opt out of the final season of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks but has no intention of leaving the team.

Nowitzki, who has previously stated on several occasions that he planned to play out his three-year, $25 million deal, announced his decision during an appearance Monday on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas.

“We had one more year on the contract, but I think this is the right thing to do,” he said. “We’re going to sit with [owner] Mark [Cuban] and [General Manager] Donnie [Nelson] obviously over the next few weeks and figure out how to improve this franchise again.

“Ever since after the championship, we’ve been basically a first-round exit. We’ve been a seven, eight seed. We’ve only won a few playoff games, and obviously the goal was to compete at the highest level in my last couple of years. So there is some moving to do, some thinking, some putting our heads together the next few weeks heading into free agency, heading into the draft. So this is just one move that hopefully starts a chain reaction for us to get better again, to compete really at a high level. We’ll see how it goes.”

Nowitzki, 37, would have made $8.7 million next season if he opted to complete his three-year contract. He could take a lower salary to give the Mavs more flexibility this summer.

Nowitzki, the sixth-leading scorer in NBA history, has said that it would be special for him to join Kobe Bryant as the only players to have a 20-year career with only one franchise. That would require Nowitzki to play two more seasons with the Mavericks.

Nowitzki reiterated Monday that he is committed to remaining with the Mavs for the rest of his career, saying that decision was essentially made when Dallas won the championship in 2011.

“That would have been the only scenario where I go somewhere at the end to kind of hang on and maybe try to win one,” Nowitzki said, referring to what he might have done if he hadn’t won a ring. “But ever since I won a championship here and we did that, I want to finish my career here. I always said that. The only scenario where I’ll try to go somewhere is if we’re rebuilding, if we really say, ‘This is the end of the line. We tried every which way and we can’t go any further and we’re starting basically with five rookies.’

“Obviously, that’s not what I want my last couple of years. But knowing Mark and Donnie, they always want this to be a winning franchise, so there’s no reason for me to go anywhere.”