Around the Rim:The more things change, the more they stay the same


1. Marion can’t spark the Heat
The Heat were one unhealthy, unhappy superstar lighter on Sunday with Shaquille O’Neal departed for the desert, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the scoreboard. Shawn Marion made a dazzling debut for Miami, scoring 15 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and getting a trio of steals and blocks, but the result was the same: a loss. Kobe Bryant racked up 33 points to lead the Lakers past the Heat by 10 points, 104-94. Lamar Odom continues to improve his play with Andrew Bynum out, finishing with 15 points, 18 rebounds and six assists while Pau Gasol scored 12. In addition to Marion, all of the other Heat starters finished with double-digit points, led by Mark Blount’s 22 and Dwyane Wade’s 19.

2. Carmelo gets the best of his buddy

It got really ugly really quick in Cleveland for the home team last night. Right out of the gate, the Nuggets ran all over the Cavs and when the brutality finally ended, Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson combined for 52 points in a 113-83 stomping. It got so bad for Cleveland, LeBron James reverted to a five-year-old, throwing a mad fit between the third and fourth quarters when the Cavaliers were staring up from a 26-point hole.

I know he hates losing to me,” Anthony said with a laugh.

But even if James can’t stand losing to Melo, he’s still got love for his bro and he’s happy to be lining up across from Anthony in this year’s All-Star game.

People realize he’s one of the best players in our league, definitely one of the best scorers,” James said. “It took five years to finally get the opportunity.

3. The P.P. show
Paul Pierce did what Paul Pierce wanted to do against the Spurs on Sunday and it turns out Paul Pierce wanted to win. With Kevin Garnett sidelined again due to an abdominal strain, the O.C. (Original Celtic) reminded everyone that Beantown is his town. Pierce finished with a game-high 35 points, including 14 of the team’s 20 first quarter points, leading Boston to a 98-90 victory over San Antonio. Manu Ginobili started equally hot for the Spurs, scoring 11 in the first period before ending with 21. Boston improved to 5-2 without Garnett and after the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers broke the news that K.G. won’t be back into the lineup until after the All-Star game. But the biggest bummer of all is that Rivers hinted he might even miss the All-Star game itself. So, maybe Chris Bosh’s campaign will pay off with a starting spot after all.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire vs. Washington 43 min, 31 pts (FG: 10-17, 3FG: 1-1, FT: 10-10), 13 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 4 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Cleveland (28-22) @ Orlando (32-20)
When you talk about the future of the NBA, two of the first names to roll off your lips have to be LeBron James and Dwight Howard. At the ripe, young age of 23, James leads the league in scoring, averaging 30.1 points per game while Howard is the NBA’s best rebounder, pulling down 14.5 boards and he’s only 22. But it’s not just James and Howard who are getting better and better, the teams surrounding the young studs are constantly improving as well. Along with Boston and Detroit, Cleveland and Orlando are really the only other Eastern Conference teams getting any love as potential representatives in the Finals.

Buzzer Beater: The Phoenix Suns have Shaq on the roster, but they still haven’t needed the big fella. As Shaq Daddy continues to sit, the Suns continue to shine, but it’s getting harder. Phoenix eked out a one-point victory, 108-107, over the Wizards at home on Sunday night. All five Suns starters finished in double-digits with Amare Stoudemire (31 pts, 13 reb) and Steve Nash (10 pts, 12 ast) recording double-doubles. Even in victory, the Suns could have used the defensive skills of Shawn Marion. The entire Wiz roster went off, including some guys name Andray Blatche (10 pts, 11 reb), Roger Mason (18 pts) and Nick Young (10 pts).

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