9A: Wade Pain-Free; NFL Owners Optimistic On CBA; Former Agent Paid 30+ Players



ERIK SPOELSTRA: DWYANE WADE HAMSTRING IS VIRTUALLY PAIN-FREE:
According to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, D-Wade is virtually pain-free. But the Heat won't rush the 2006 NBA finals MVP back into the lineup, citing a desire to make sure he's fully healed before risking anything further. "We would definitely want to get a preseason game in," two-time NBA MVP LeBron James said. "Not going to sit here and lie and say the 26th is the first day that we want him back. We would love for him to get some in-game action, for us to get in-game action as a full unit. Hopefully that happens. I'm not sure what his target date is, but I know he's making progress." NFL OWNERS OPTIMISTIC ON CBA:
Patriots owner Robert Kraft said it's a realistic goal to reach a new CBA before the end of the season. At the conclusion of the league's fall meetings, Kraft said "we're moving ahead. I'd like to see this get done before the season ends." Asked if that was a realistic objective, he added "to me it is." Even as the 32 owners were discussing strategies for negotiations with the NFL Players Association and the possibility of a work stoppage, many of them were expressing confidence that pro football is not headed for a lockout. The CBA expires in March, and union officials steadfastly claim they expect to be locked out if a new deal isn't reached.

FORMER AGENT SAYS HE PAID MORE THAN 30 PLAYERS:
Former agent Josh Luchs tells Sports Illustrated he paid college football players in an attempt to gain clients early in his career. Luchs estimates he paid more than 30 players from 1990-96, including former No. 2 pick Ryan Leaf. Leaf declined comment to the magazine. Seven former players confirmed taking money from Luchs. Others, such as Jets receiver Santonio Holmes, denied Luchs' story. Luchs also says that other agents use media contacts, including ESPN draft insider Mel Kiper Jr., to help recruit players. Kiper denies playing any role in recruiting players, and says, "Conversations with players, which are occasionally facilitated by agents, are a valuable way to get to know the players. These conversations have never compromised my integrity, and my 32-year record supports that."