Utah Jazz

Around the Rim: Utah’s Most Wanted

1. Naughty, naughty Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki’s frustrations were evident just five minutes into the game. And they were equally obvious by the time the final buzzer sounded in Utah’s 116-110 home victory over the Mavericks. With Big D down 19-6 in the opening minutes of the game, Dirk’s dark side came out as he took an obvious cheap shot at Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, knocking him out of the game with a hip injury. However, Utah rallied without AK-47 in the lineup, producing a late-game 16-0 run to secure the victory. Deron Williams finished with 17 points and an eye-popping 20 assists to compliment Carlos Boozer’s game-high 28 points and Mehmet Okur’s 20-point, 12-rebound double-double. Dallas was led by Josh Howard’s 25 points and Jason Kidd’s nine assists, but Nowitzki managed to produce 23 points while being hissed at for the entire evening. After the game, he pretended he had no idea why the crowd wanted his blood.

I kind of tried to grab him, and unfortunately grabbed him around the neck,” Nowitzki said. “Things went so fast, I didn’t mean to grab the neck, but I just tried to hold him so he doesn’t score. I happened to grab his neck and it was a bad fall.

2. Welcome to Club 40

With a 100-88 smackdown of New York on Monday night, the Hornets became the third Western Conference contender and fifth team overall to reach the 40-win plateau. More importantly, New Orleans pulled within 1 ½ games of San Antonio in the race for the Southwest Division crown. Chris Paul had another big performance with 27 points, eight assists and three steals while teammate Tyson Chandler scored 15 to go with 18 rebounds. The Knicks were without Zach Randolph for the contest which might help fans excuse the loss, but it certainly can’t explain the seven years of futility in the Garden. The home shellacking gave New York an 18-42 record, securing their seventh consecutive season under .500.

3. Cheer up China
Not that it matters a whole heck of a lot at the moment to Rockets fans, but Yao Ming underwent successful surgery on his left foot on Monday meaning that if all goes according to plan, he’ll be ready to suit up for the Chinese team at the Olympics is Beijing. yeah. Despite the injury, Houstonians can’t be too disappointed with their squad…at least, not yet. The Rockets will be riding a 15-game winning streak when they meet up with the Pacers on Wednesday. After being expected to sink into the deep, dark Western Conference waters, Houston has continued to stay float, winning three consecutive games since losing their Mr. International. The question is how much longer they can keep their emotional life preserver inflated? After Indiana, the Rockets take on West powerhouses in Dallas and New Orleans.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Dallas 45 min, 17 pts (FG: 7-17, 3FG: 1-5, FT: 2-2), 5 reb, 20 ast, 2 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (32-26) @ Orlando (38-23)
It doesn’t get much better than Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh. Unfortunately, Bosh won’t be in uniform for this round as he continues to nurse a bum knee. However, just because the Raps are without their alpha male, it doesn’t take any importance away from the budding rivalry. Orlando has won five of their last six games in an effort to rundown the Pistons and Celtics before season’s end. Currently, the third-place Magic are six games behind Detroit in the Eastern Conference race. Meanwhile, Toronto is just a game behind Cleveland for fourth place and the first round home court advantage that comes along with it.

Buzzer Beater: Sam Cassell is set to officially become a member of the Boston Celtics today, reuniting with Kevin Garnett as they prepare to take their second swipe at the elusive golden apple. The Celtics critics have been taking shots at Rajon Rondo all season, crying that his inexperience would cost Boston when the playoffs roll around. Well, that argument is now squashed. Cassell might be 38 years old and injury prone, but when he is healthy, he is undoubtedly a winner. It’s been a long time since he had a championship reign and you know he is just dying to get his bony little fingers on his ‘precious’ once again.

Utah Jazz

Stephon Marbury isn’t the only player that wants to ball overseas

We’ve known for some time now that Andrei Kirilenko has been unhappy in Utah. We’ve even heard about how his poor, Kobe-like mentality has him demanding a trade. So, we knew that things were bad, but we just didn’t really believe all the hype, until AK-47 said that he’d be willing to skip out on his contract’s remaining $63 million. That’s when realized that he really friggin’ hates that team.

According to a translation by The Salt Lake Tribune, Kirilenko said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Sport Express that he is prepared to go without the money remaining on his NBA contract to get away from the Jazz.

According to the Tribune, Kirilenko is quoted in the Russian newspaper as saying: “I just want to explain to everybody what I think and feel and that I could sacrifice my career with the NBA. The only thing I’m not prepared for is if I’m told, ‘Andrei, we want you to stay anyway.’ I’m sure then the next season would be a repetition of the previous one, and what will the fans say then? How could you possibly rely on a player who wants to leave?”

Kirilenko, who is under contract through the 2010-11 season, told Sport Express he thinks the chances of his contract being voided are small. But he remains steadfast in his desire to leave Utah, even if it means playing on a worse team, NBA or otherwise.

“I have never been unfair and I don’t want to enjoy something that I don’t deserve,” Kirilenko told Sport Express. “Big money is obviously good, but I am prepared to make less. The size of my salary doesn’t mean that much for me. The main thing is to play with a spark.

Kirilenko went on to say that he’d like to play somewhere in Russia, but at this point it sounds like he’d be willing to play in Guatemala if it meant he didn’t have to be around Jerry Sloan anymore. A fine or suspension could be around the corner if Kirilenko fails to show up for camp on October 1.

I would like to be where I am needed and right now I feel that my country needs me,” Kirilenko told Sport Express. “But I cannot exclude some European clubs. Trust me, I really am prepared to leave NBA. It certainly does not mean that I’m dying to go to Europe. I’m just ready.”

“Last year, we had a conversation with him,” Kirilenko told Sport Express “and Sloan said, ‘Andrei, if you don’t like something about the way I conduct training you could always break the contract with the Jazz.’ So that’s exactly what I want to do now!

We love the added emphasis Andrei put on the last sentence. It almost as if he’s convinced that he’s talking to Sloan and not some Russian reporter. Settle down a bit, Andrei, there’s no need to yell. Maybe now would be a good time to break out your `free tail’ pass and release some of that frustration that’s been mounting.


[]: Kirilenko `ready’ to leave NBA, $63M contract

NBA General

Around the Rim: The West is almost set

1. No Mailman needed for this West finals delivery
The best story in the NBA postseason is finally over as the Jazz put together a late run and sent the league’s version of Cinderella packing for the offseason with a 100-87 victory in Game 5, but, more importantly, the win put Utah into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1998. But just because Golden State is out of the picture doesn’t mean that there are no true heroes left. At least that’s what the media keeps shoving down our throat about Derek Fisher. Handling the rock in all the critical moments and knocking down his shots with a sharpshooters’ precision (7-10 FG, 4-5 3FG), Fisher left his fingerprints all over this game. Now the Jazz are left to practice, watch, wait and repeat until the dramatics over in the other half of the West bracket finally get hashed out. But GS can still be proud of what they did this year and how they played. Unfortunately, they were just a bit too raw for the refined playoffs and while it was rabid emotion that carried the Warriors over the Mavericks, it was that same enthusiasm which would eventually be their downfall. There was a whirlwind of whistles directed at The City ballers toward the end of the third quarter and the Warriors just began to slowly unravel over the final 12 minutes. We all knew that the Golden State run would eventually end but it still doesn’t make it any easier to say goodbye to Jessica Alba.

2. Who’s getting Bull-ied around now?

Two games ago, the Bulls were beaten up, thrown around and left for dead on the side of the road after falling down 3-0 to Detroit. But unlike those bloated deer that get blasted by speeding SUVs on streets across the nation, these guys rose from the dead to win two consecutive games against the Pistons. Never seen road kill do that before. Ben Gordon was obviously alive and well as he scored a game-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field that included a 5-of-6 performance from behind the arc. Kirk Hinrich didn’t resemble a dead armadillo or opossum either as he dished out 13 helpers to go with 17 points in the 108-92 Chicago victory. The Pistons are known for blowing comfy leads in the postseason but they are also known for winning the games that they have to have. But if they want to end this series quickly they are going to have to take care of business on the road. And Chicago is where Ben Wallace has had his biggest games of the series. In the two games in Chi-Town, Big Ben has pulled down 29 rebound while he only has 20 boards in the three Detroit contests.

3. The commish shows no love for Amare
We all knew that there would probably be suspensions handed out by David Stern after Robert Horry sent Steve Nash flopping flying into the scorer’s table. The incident had Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw hopping mad, and unfortunately for the Suns they hopped off the bench and onto the court which earned each of them a game suspension. Guess the whole “I was checking into the game” strategy didn’t work out for Amare. On the other side of the series, Horry’s actions earned him a two game suspension. It would seem that the Suns just lost Game 5 but now there is a ton of extra pressure on the Spurs as the suspensions have put them in a must-win situation that they must capitalize on. But, hell, we think it’s pretty safe to say that any coach in the league would rather be in Gregg Popovich‘s loafers instead of Mike D’Antoni‘s in this pivotal Game 5.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Andrei Kirilenko vs. Utah 34 min, 21 pts (FG: 8-12, FT: 5-5), 15 reb, 1 ast, 3 stl

Buzzer Beater: Dwyane Wade had to be feeling like a total idiot as he started putting on that stupid paper garment before going under the knife to repair both knee and shoulder. This was a surgery that he could have done back in February but instead opted to skip the procedure and rehab his way back into shape for the playoffs. And we think everybody knows how productive that decision turned out to be for Flash. Turns out that Dwyane’s pains were primarily coming from his knee and not the shoulder that sent him sobbing from the arena in a wheelchair. The recovery will probably take the entire offseason and possibly longer. Unfortunately, for Miami the “jumper’s knee” condition is nothing new to the franchise. Jason Williams had a similar operation performed last July and he was still in pain for half of the season.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Warriors sure could use a beer about now

1. The Jazz step up at home
Derek Fisher took one shot during Game 2 of the Utah/Golden State series but it was a biggie as his 3-pointer during overtime gave the Jazz a 123-117 lead that would eventually grow to the final score of 127-117. Fisher was welcomed to the arena with a thunderous ovation late in the game after he had left his daughter’s side who was in the hospital with a rare form of cancer in order to play. While Fisher steals the glory for this victory, it was a total team effort from the Jazz that deserves the credit. Carlos Boozer (30 points, 13 rebounds), Mehmet Okur (23 points, 18 rebounds), and Deron Williams (17 points, 14 assists) all finished the game with double-doubles while Andrei Kirilenko (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six blocks) finally is starting to play like we all knew he could. See what happens when you dry those tears, baby boy. The Warriors had some pretty big games from their stars as well, but when you live by the 3 then a lot of times you’ll end up dying by the 3. And going 15-of-40 from behind the arc is one good way to waste key possessions that are so valuable in the postseason. But just wait until Friday night when the court is surrounded by a golden clad crowd; the Mavericks didn’t seem to adjust very well to that rowdy atmosphere.

2. Pierce says buh-bye to Beijing

Apparently the Boston Celtics don’t have a solid grasp of exactly how the NBA lottery system works because it looks like Paul Pierce will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics due to his injuries. We know that Danny Ainge is desperate to get that hopper loaded full of green and white ping pong balls but someone should tell him that international competition doesn’t count. You know how naïve good ol’ Danny boy can be when it comes to things like this. Remember that time that he just “accidentally” ended up sitting next to Kevin Durant‘s mom during the Big 12 Tournament? Talk about a desperate franchise; after the season they just had, there’s no way that Ainge is going to let his lone All-Star anywhere near harm’s way, even if it is in the name of the U.S.A. And if those ping pong balls bounce Boston’s way then the Celtics could be sporting a pair of superstars when the season starts anew in the fall.

3. T-Mac’s got your back
Jeff Van Gundy might not be sure if he’s going to return for another season as head coach of the Houston Rockets but it sounds like his players definitely want him back. Well, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady both want him back and in Houston those are just about the only opinions that really matter. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s still our coach. Absolutely,” McGrady said. “I’ve said in the past (that) he’s the best coach I’ve played for.” No knock on Van Gundy, but it’s pretty easy to be the best coach in T-Mac’s career; after all, have you seen some of the teams that he’s played on? There’s a reason that McGrady has never made it past the first round of the postseason and it’s not his 28.8 career playoff point per game average.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Mehmet Okur vs. Utah 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-7), 18 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Reports on Wednesday said that Jermaine O’Neal isn’t demanding a trade from the Pacers and that Miami is not looking to deal away Shaquille O’Neal. So, if the O’Neal boys are already off the market, then who is gonna be involved in the summer blockbuster trade? We’d like to say Kevin Garnett but there have been so many conflicting stories coming out of Minnesota, we don’t know what the hell Kevin McHale is thinking anymore. But we’re not going to be surprised by anything that happens involving the Timberwolves, because if McHale can be named the best GM in sports then nothing is impossible in Minny. Except getting KG a supporting cast of course.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Let the celebration begin!

1. The Warriors came out to play (and win)
Well, we’ve been talking about the “biggest upset in playoff history” for what feels like an eternity, but now it’s time to start discussing exactly where this bad boy ranks on the all-time upsets in the history of sports. Golden State used a 36-15 spanking throughout the third quarter to hammer the final nail into the Mavericks’ coffin, 111-86. Yup, that’s no typo; 111-86. Dallas now has to be considered one of the biggest chokers in recent postseason memory after blowing last year’s Finals to the Heat and now this inexcusable defeat to the Warriors. It’s surprising that Mark Cuban didn’t spontaneously combust during the game. Dirk Nowitzki didn’t even bother to show up in the biggest game of the year, but why should he? After all, he already said that the series would be over if they lost Game 4, which they did. Way to go Dirk, you just gift wrapped the MVP for Steve Nash with your pathetic postseason performance. Then again, that’s what friends are for.

2. Home cookin’ makes all the difference

This is what all fans of basketball look forward to every year, and now we finally have our first Game 7 of the 2007 postseason. So far the series between Utah and Houston has gone exactly according to form with each team winning the games on their home floor and Game 6 was no different as Utah used a late surge to force the ultimate win or go home scenario and won 94-82 in Salt Lake City. The Jazz big men led the way with 41 points and 18 rebounds and cry baby Andrei Kirilenko even wiped away his tears long enough to chip in a nice defensive effort of three steals and five blocks to go along with 14 points. The Rockets got decent offensive games from their stars but nobody else bothered to step up in the close out situation. Well, we can’t really say nobody; after all, this is a team that had only four players score in a game not too long ago.

3. Boy, Luol, you’re swell
Well, David Robinson, Grant Hill, AC Green and Joe Dumars will have to set the prim and proper table with one more setting for the newest member of the good guy club as Luol Deng snatched up the NBA’s sportsmanship award on Thursday. Receiving the award is a pretty lofty accomplishment but what’s even more impressive is that Deng beat out Mr. Manners Shane Battier. However, it wasn’t by much: 22 total votes to be exact. But we’re in the playoffs man, who really cares about sportsmanship? It’s good to know that there actually are players who give the league a positive image but now’s the time when we wanna see Deng start throwing some elbows when crashing the boards and putting a little extra umph into those picks. Chicago has Detroit in the next round and Deng has been a good boy long enough, it’s time for him to channel his inner Bad Boy.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Stephen Jackson vs. Dallas 44 min, 33 pts (FG: 10-19, 3FG: 7-8, FT: 6-8), 5 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl

Buzzer Beater: Ron Artest finally got sentenced for smacking his wife back in March and now he gets to spend a nice sized chunk of his summer picking up trash alongside the highway. A judge sentenced Ron Ron to 100 hours of community service and a 10-day work project to go along with a whole butt load of counseling. Despite what some reports said, Artest lucked out and avoided jail time; there goes his hardcore rap image. You can’t really get street cred by doing hard time in a 10-day work project. Something tells us that Tupac is looking at Artest from somewhere out there and just laughing his ass off.

Utah Jazz

Mrs. Kirilenko says Andrei’s crappy play is due to a language barrier

Andrei Kirilenko got some heat earlier in the week for crying after practice because he wasn’t happy about his role during the Jazz’s opening game loss to the Rockets on Saturday. Well, things are probably going to get worse for AK-47 now that his wife has come to his aid in a very Brenda Warner-esque move. Masha Kirilenko wrote an email to several journalists that explained that perhaps an interpreter would solve the problems between Kirilenko and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. Here are her views on the subject according to the article.

It’s frustrating,” she said. “His English is not so good. Sometimes he can’t explain himself. Maybe he needs an interpreter.”

She claimed Houston’s Yao Ming, from China, “has an interpreter all the time” and added “maybe we’ll hire one.”

Masha went on to say that, “with the coach and Andrei that’s certainly a language barrier and it looks like there could be a misunderstanding with both guys.”

Asked if she thinks Sloan and his player can work out their differences regarding playing style and time, she said, “Two smart people like that can work it out.”

She was motivated to speak on the subject when she saw her husband’s red-eyed picture in the newspapers on Monday. “I said, ‘This is not happening,'” she said. “I’ve never seen him like this.

We know that your intentions were probably good, but you’re just making things worse for your hubby. Just keep giving him that yearly free pass to have sex with a random groupie and call it a day. Nothing good can come from your interference into your husband’s career.


[]: From Masha with love

Utah Jazz

Kirilenko doubles as Utah’s bracketologist

The Utah Jazz know a thing or two about pro hoops, after all they are one of the top teams in a vicious Western Conference. But it looks like the guys could really use a refresher course in College Basketball 101.

Like most coworkers, the Jazz got together and set up a March Madness pool for bragging rights and probably a nice chunk of change. So, who has the cleanest bracket on the team after all but four teams have been eliminated you ask. Why, Andrei Kirilenko of course.

I’m telling you,” Kirilenko said, “I filled out my brackets in, like, 30 seconds.

If a Russian dominating the team’s tourney pool isn’t strange enough for you, then what do you think about Jazz sophomore C.J. Miles claiming that he doesn’t even care about bracketology. Now, that’s just sad. But guard Derek Fisher can’t get over the fact that Ivan Drago is winning the team’s pool.

That’s proof that there’s no science to the whole thing. I’m like tied for eighth or ninth or something like that. I’m so far removed from college basketball. Other than the big schools, I don’t even know half these schools.

And then you always have the problem with that guy in the office that fills out multiple brackets and then brags about getting one right.

This is my first time to participate with the Jazz and, personally, I think you should only be able to submit one bracket,” Fisher said. “But people around here, you can submit, like, four, five or six brackets. That doesn’t make any sense to me. So of course you can end up in first place because at some point, one of your brackets is going to be good. But if you just have to pick one bracket, which I did because I’m a man of (integrity), you’re tied for ninth.

Sounds to us like somebody is a lil’ bitter.


[]: Kirilenko knows his stuff