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Huge crowds for All-Star Game cause even greater traffic problems in Atlanta

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Huge crowds for All-Star Game cause even greater traffic problems in Atlanta
Michael Jordan of the Washington Wizards, flanked by a video of himself, is introduced before the start of the 2003 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta. Jordan was playing his final All-Star Game. (AP photo)

ATLANTA (AP) -- Shawn Marion sat in a limo for 90 minutes trying to go two blocks. Ben Wallace needed 2.5 hours to make it in from the airport. Dirk Nowitzki walked to Philips Arena from his hotel.

Atlanta's traffic is notoriously thick, but All-Star weekend has caused massive gridlock in Hot 'Lanta.

"It's a pain in the butt to get from point A to point B," said Nowitzki, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks. "You're stuck everywhere. I just walked over for the Saturday night (festivities, which included the dunk and 3-point competition) because it was so packed. It's a circus."

Marion, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, said he loves visiting Atlanta but doesn't think the city is equipped to handle major sporting events.

"It's just too congested," he said before Sunday's All-Star game. "Everything is right downtown. It would be better if it was spread out some. Everyone is downtown. It's crazy."

Marion sat in traffic for two hours trying to make the 10-mile drive to the trendy Buckhead neighborhood. He was caught in another massive jam as he tried to get from the arena to his hotel after All-Star Saturday.

"Two blocks to the hotel took an hour and half," he said. "You're better off walking."

-- HEAVY HEART: Ben Wallace joined his East teammates Saturday night after his mother's funeral in Alabama.

"I know mom would have wanted me to be here," Wallace said. "I'm trying to be strong for my family. She wouldn't want us to stop. She raised 11 kids and lost none of them to nonsense. She would want us to go on."

The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Wallace is the first undrafted player to be voted as an All-Star starter.

"I wanted to do it for all the other players who didn't get drafted," Wallace said.

-- RE-GUARDING JORDAN: West coach Rick Adelman had some special plans for Michael Jordan's final All-Star game.

"Try to shut him down, not let him score 10 points, double-team him every time he gets the ball," Adelman quipped.

Turning more serious, Adelman said, "I think that we're just going to let the game happen. I'm sure he's going to be revved up to do a good job in this game, and let people remember who he is and how he's played this game."

Adelman had more things on his mind other than Jordan, though.

"It's going to be fun, but my biggest concern is helping them get minutes," Adelman said of his 12 players. "That's always a problem in this game. I'm just going to kind of let it happen."

LAKERS REBOUND:@ West coach Rick Adelman of the Sacramento Kings has been as surprised with the recent hot streak by the Los Angeles Lakers as he was by their earlier struggles.

Center Shaquille O'Neal missed the first 12 games after toe surgery. Even when he returned, the Lakers continued to flounder, eventually falling to 11-19.

Now, Los Angeles has won 13 of its last 17 games to improve to 24-23. Kobe Bryant has scored at least 35 points in the past five games.

"I think anybody, when you knew Shaq was going to be out, you felt they were going to struggle early," Adelman said. "I've said before, it's just a matter of time before they start playing.

"I was very surprised at how long it lasted. Three weeks ago, if you asked me that, I'd say, 'Geez, I'm not sure. It doesn't look like they are going to get it together.' I thought Kobe looked tired a couple of weeks ago watching him, and now he looks refreshed."

Los Angeles have closed within eight games of the Pacific Division-leading Kings.

"Face facts," Adelman said. "It doesn't matter where they are: If they are healthy and they are in the playoffs, they are the team to beat. Simple as that."

HEAD GAMES:@ Several All-Stars were amused by Jason Richardson's head-bouncing finale to the rookie-sophomore game on Saturday.

With the sophomores comfortably ahead and the clock winding down, Richardson bounced the ball off Carlos Boozer's head, caught the rebound and sank a 3-pointer.

Boozer, a rookie with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was not amused by the move, saying Richardson showed no class.

"In this game, it's kill or be killed," Minnesota's Kevin Garnett said. "Creativity is everything. It's no different than dunking on somebody. You've got to suck it up and move on."

Just don't try a similar move in a real game, Houston's Steve Francis said.

"There would be a fight," he said. "You can do that to a rookie. If it's a veteran, you don't want to show him up like that."

PRELIMINARY GAME:@ Houston's Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury of Phoenix spent the afternoon rooting on their college teams.

Georgia Tech defeated Maryland 90-84 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, just a couple of miles away from Philips Arena.

Marbury sat behind the Georgia Tech bench, while Francis cheered on his alma mater from behind the Terrapins bench.

Marbury got the last laugh -- the Yellow Jackets upset eighth-ranked Maryland 90-84.

"It was my first time back," said Marbury, who played at Georgia Tech for one season. "I had a good time watching the guys play. They wanted it more than Maryland did."

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