Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: Cleveland rocks the trade deadline

1. Wheeling and dealing
LeBron James has been begging for some help for quite a while now and on Thursday, he finally got it; just not on offense. The Cavs were part of a three-team, 11-player trade right before the deadline, acquiring Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and a 2nd-round draft pick from the Bulls, along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West from the Sonics. The move definitely helps Cleveland in the front court where Zydrunas Illgauskas and Wallace now roam on defense. Szczerbiak isn’t exactly the point guard LBJ was wanting, but his perimeter shooting will come in handy in the playoffs. Of course, the Cavs had to give up some players as well, sending Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown to the Bulls and dealing Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall to the Sonics. Seattle also received Adrian Griffin from the Chicago. The bad news for Cleveland fans is they won’t get to see their complete new-look team anytime soon because Daniel Gibson is out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury.

2. Manu Ginobili pours in the points

San Antonio and Minnesota put on a show last night, going down to the wire before Manu Ginobili stole the show. Ginobili finished with 44 points, including the game winner to knock off the ever-improving T-Wolves 100-99. Manu was on fire in the contest, connecting on 13-of-18 shots, including 7-of-9 from behind the arc. But that wasn’t the best news of the night for the defending champs because Tony Parker finally returned to the lineup after missing a nice chunk of time with a foot/heel injury. Mr. Longoria had a decent showing in 18 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points while Tim Duncan was a stat sheet stuffer, recording 24 points, 14 boards, seven assists, three steals and four blocks. Al Jefferson continues to impress, even in defeat, scoring 28 points in his matchup versus one of the league’s best defenders.

3. Red hot Rockets
Shawn Marion is still looking for his first win in a Miami uniform after Houston denied the Matrix for the fourth time since the trade. However, the Heat had a shot late, but couldn’t pull it out, losing 112-110 in Houston. Yao Ming (21 pts) and Tracy McGrady (23 pts) lifted the Rockets to their 10th consecutive victory while dropping the Heat to their 10th consecutive loss. Looking at the bigger picture, Houston has won 14 of their last 15 games which is good enough for seventh in a loaded Western Conference. But the two-point victory wasn’t the only noise Houston made on Thursday. The Rockets were involved in a trade that sent Mike James and Bonzi Wells to New Orleans for Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska while simultaneously receiving Gerald Green from Minnesota for Kirk Snyder.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Manu Ginobili @ Minnesota 38 min, 44 pts (FG: 13-18, 3FG: 7-9, FT: 11-12), 3 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Boston (41-11) @ Phoenix (37-17)
Nobody could have predicted at this time last year that Kevin Garnett would be sporting Celtic green or that Shaquille O’Neal would be calling himself the “Big Cactus.” But here we are and both are a reality. Better yet, this could be a preview of the NBA Finals. Boston has been rolling all year long, especially against the West where they just received their first two losses against the conference this year in back-to-back games. Three in a row is a defiantly possibility as the new look Suns try to get Shaq his first win in the desert. Of course, the real matchup we want to see is Garnett versus Amare Stoudemire. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see each of them score 30 and grab 15 boards. Star power is not an issue at all in this game as it will look last weekend in New Orleans when they tip tonight. The only difference is Shaq and Garnett will be on the court.

Buzzer Beater: Greg Oden must be getting really, really bored sitting on the sidelines this season. In fact, he’s resorted to self mutilation to kill the free time. Last night when Seattle and Portland hooked up in the Rose Garden, Oden was spotted on the bench sporting a brand new Mohawk haircut

Boston Celtics

Around the Rim: Blaze extinguished

1. Beantown bounces back
The Blazers were scorching hot coming into their contest against the Celtics in Beantown, but they weren’t hot enough to knock off the league’s top dogs. Ray Allen was on fire, hitting 12-of-20 shots for a game-high 35 points while Kevin Garnett scored 26, helping Boston grab a 100-90 win. After dropping three of their previous four games, this could be the beginning of another big run for the Leprechauns with Philadelphia, New York, Minnesota and Miami coming up on the schedule. Despite their winning ways of late, Portland has struggled away from home this season, losing 12 of their 18 road games. Against the Celtics, the Blaze committed 17 turnovers, including four apiece from Brandon Roy (22 pts) and LaMarcus Aldridge (16 pts).

2. Welcome back, here’s a trouncing

Sacramento and Miami were thrilled before tipoff of their respective games on Wednesday thanks to the return of Shaquille O’Neal and Mike Bibby to the active roster. But that was before the game; afterwards was a whole different story. The Diesel had a great game in his return, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against the Bulls, but as Charles Barkley would say “The operation was a success, but the patient died” because Miami lost by 30 points at home, 126-96. Up in Canada, it wasn’t much better for the Kings who had Mike Bibby (19 pts, 6 reb) in uniform for the first time this season but lost by 25, 116-91.

3. Heart attack Cats
Well, we’ll be darned if they ain’t done done it again. The Bobcats went into halftime against the Magic down by 15 points and fell down by 19 early in third quarter before making another furious rally to victory. Gerald Wallace netted 36 and grabbed 14 points while teammate Jason Richardson scored 26 points, including a bevy of clutch shots in the final moments, giving the Cats a 99-93 win. Charlotte (15-23) has now won four of their last six games against some pretty decent competition, knocking off the Nets, Celtics, Nuggets and, now, the Magic. Dwight Howard was ginormous in defeat, going for 24 points and 21 rebounds.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Dwight Howard @ Charlotte 42 min, 24 pts (FG: 8-15, FT: 8-13), 21 reb, 1 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (26-12) @ Los Angeles Lakers (26-11)
The race for the postseason in the West is tighter than it has been in years and when a team slips-up, they can go sliding all the way down the ladder. Phoenix just learned this lesson the hard way by losing to the Clippers and dropping like a stone from first to fifth in the conference standings. And thanks to the Hornets defeating the Sonics on Wednesday, Phoenix now has the sixth seed behind New Orleans. The lucky beneficiaries of the Suns setting was the Lakers who jumped all the way to the top of the West, a place they hadn’t been since the Diesel was rolling in L.A. This should be a brawl between a pair Pacific Division rivals that hate each other with a passion.

Buzzer Beater: Oddball Joakim Noah and Ben Wallace had a bit of tiff during the Bulls loss to Orlando on Tuesday, just don’t tell Joakim that.

You know what makes me mad, that somebody actually said and told you guys that there was a situation,” Noah told WSCR radio station in Chicago. “That’s what makes me mad. That’s the only reason why I’m doing this right now. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it.

“For people to say we’ve had a clash … this is the kind of stuff that divides a team. You guys write these stories and hype things up. It’s crazy.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Detroit is going home, and that’s a good thing

1. Detroit makes the East finals, again
Detroit was on the verge of giving up a 3-0 lead to the Chicago Bulls but the Pistons went into Chi-Town for Game 5 and sealed up their fifth consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference finals with a 95-85 victory. In typical Detroit fashion, there was no flash or flare from any one player; it was just nine role players falling into line for the one uniting cause. The former Bad Boy and current Baby Bull Ben Wallace had to be extra disgusted as his old team celebrated in his new arena after he could only muster six points and seven rebounds in the elimination situation. Now that’s one stone cold fro! So, now there’s only thing on Detroit’s mind…

2. Who’s coming with us?

The Cavaliers will have another chance to put away those pesky Nets but this time they are going to have to do it with an arena full of fans telling `em that they suck. Then again, some Cleveland fans were making it rain boos during the fourth quarter as the Cavs shot just 3-of-16 in the period and didn’t make a bucket in the final 6:58 of the game. If Jason Kidd can manage to give another Big O type effort then this series will most likely be headed to the most loved and feared prospect in the playoffs: Game 7. Kidd is just short of averaging a triple-double for the series (14.4 pts, 11.8 reb, 8.8 ast), but don’t feel bad for the guy; after all, he is averaging a triple dip over the entire playoffs. That’s an amazing average of 14.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and 11.2 assists over an 11 game stretch! And so we don’t overlook his defensive production, we should also point out that Kidd is also 1.82 steals and .45 blocks per game. He’s a virtual human Swiss Army Knife.

3. And on the other side of the bracket
We know that the Utah Jazz are patiently awaiting the winner of the Phoenix/San Antonio series, but what we don’t know is if we are going to be witness to one or two more big time brawls before the West finals are set. The Suns fans are still pissed about the Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspensions for Game 5 in which the Spurs barely escaped Phoenix with victory and a 3-2 series edge, but obviously Mike D’Antoni and his staff are no longer concerned with the past. They can’t be; it’s time to win or go home as the old saying goes. The Spurs have got to be a bit worried after the Stoudemireless Suns almost bucked the odds because Steve Nash now has his favorite target back in the lineup which has got to be giving Gregg Popovich some serious stress headaches. Luckily, San Antonio will have the advantage of playing at home with a raucous crowd yelling at the top of their lungs. We just hope that they can come up with something a little more clever than “Dirty! Dirty!”

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace @ Chicago 39 min, 16 pts (FG: 7-14, 3FG: 2-8, FT: 0-1), 13 reb, 4 ast, 2 blk

Buzzer Beater: First the USA Basketball committee tried to put together a team of NBA superstars who were supposed to razzle-dazzle the international competition, but instead they just got exposed for the selfish hot dogers they were. So, then the masterminds decided that they would go after the hungrier, grittier ballers who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty against the scrappy Euros and other quickly acclimating squads. That’s a much better strategy than trying to assemble another Dream Team except for when those hardnosed guys decide to turn you down. Recently crowned defensive player of the year Marcus Camby told USA Basketball that although it was a great honor, he would not be able to accept their invitation to participate in the qualifiers for the 2008 Olympics. So, now where does the red, white and blue look for their presence in the middle? None of the superstars are walking through that door, to steal a phrase, and the lower tier Cambys and Brad Millers of the league have other agendas (family, rehab, vacation, rolling in money) and don’t want to be part of the humiliation that has become USA Basketball. That gold medal is just becoming more and more unrealistic with every day that passes.

NHL General

Odds and Ends: Go ahead, drink and drive (the Zamboni)

A New Jersey Superior Court judge ruled yesterday that John Peragallo was not guilty of DWI and should have his license reinstated. Peragallo lost his license last year after arena officials saw him swerving while cleaning the ice. The judge ruled that Zambonis are not, in fact, motor vehicles. No word on whether the man was fined for wearing square pants.

In other news…

[ESPN]: Oddsmaker had previously filed a report of suspicious activity on Toledo

[Indy Star]: Colts play arrested on marijuana charge — this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t lent his water bottle to Michael Vick

[Page Six]: Let’s hope Greg Norman doesn’t fold under courtroom pressure

[Sport People]: A fairly amusing collection of sports photos. (Yet somehow misses this photo.)

[basketbawful]: What nobody was asking for: the Ben Wallace throw pillow

NBA General

Around the Rim: Garnett regret

1. Run, Kevin, Run!
Last night was not a good night to be on the Minnesota Timberwolves. Well, it wasn’t so bad until about halfway through the third quarter. That’s when Seattle decided to put the Super back in front of Sonics and erased a 25 point deficit with 51-18 run over the remainder of the game. Rashard Lewis single handedly outscored the Timberwolves 27 to 18. If that isn’t bad enough for Minny, they ended the game by getting smoked on a 25-2 run. It was the biggest lead ever to be blown by T-Wolves and marked the first game in over three years in which the visiting team pulled off a 25 point comeback. The last team to do it was 2003-04 Knicks who came back from 26 down in Milwaukee to snatch a three point victory, 103-100, from the jaws of defeat. Kevin Garnett really doesn’t deserve this; actually, he does. It’s time to demand a trade.

2. New Jersey’s losing finally pays off

Thanks to a monumental meltdown by the Pacers since the All-Star break, New Jersey, yes New Jersey has moved into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. For almost the entire season it appeared that the Pacific Division would be sending only one team to the post season but the Nets are hoping to continue their limp into the playoffs. New Jersey has lost eight of their last 12 games but that sorry performance actually improves their positioning because the Pacers have lost 15 of their last 17. If that’s not the sign of a pathetic conference then nothing is. So, all things considered, what would you expect from the basketball gods in a situation like this? Why a match-up between the two teams tonight in Jersey with a playoff spot on the line, of course. The only positive thing about this game is that one of them has to win.

3. Big Ben buys in
Stephon Marbury has been selling cheap, I mean affordable sneakers for long enough to know that he can’t build a successful corporation by himself, so he has brought in some big help. Ben Wallace has jumped aboard the Starbury Movement and is now sporting the new $14.98 Starbury II shoe, and it won’t be long until his own sneak (Big Ben) is released on the line. So, while Marbury’s team struggles on the court, his business team is growing by leaps and bounds. His line has expanded from 50 to 200 products that are all available for under $15. And nobody understands about the need for affordable apparel more than Wallace. Big Ben grew up poor as the 10th of 11 children and the youngest of eight boys. “I had to wait in line,” said Wallace. Now he just hopes that others will be lining up for a piece of his new investment.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Josh Howard @ New Orleans 32 min, 25 pts (FG: 10-16, 3FG: 2-2, FT: 3-3), 10 reb, 2 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Houston (45-26) @ Los Angeles Clippers (34-36) The Clippers are just barely holding onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference but they have currently won five of their last six games. That’s the equivalent of winning 15 straight for any normal NBA team. Houston is enjoying having their man in the middle back and they have now won nine of their last 11 games. Since returning from his injury Yao is averaging 21 points to go along with nine rebounds. And Tracy McGrady is playing pretty well himself as the team hopes to catch the Jazz which would get them home court advantage against Utah in the first round but Houston would still remain in the fifth spot.

Buzzer Beater: Well, the streak is officially over for Kobe. After games of 65, 50, 60, 50 and 43, Bryant finally returned to earth and scored a human-like performance of only 23. Now, that might sound like a small number but, for comparison’s sake, that’s the amount of points that former MVP Kevin Garnett currently averages (22.8). The Mamba started the game hot and looked like he was getting ready to explode for another 60 point performance after he scored nine of the team’s first 11 points. But after that Bryant went cold as he was a pathetic 4-of-23 for the remainder of the game. Bryant also received a taste of his own medicine in the second quarter when he took a forearm to the melon from Pau Gasol that sent him to the famous LA hardwood. Mmmm, tastes like pain.

NBA General

Around the Rim: It’s a Ring Thing

1. Lord of the Rings to Be?
Now that the trade deadline has passed, the only interesting move left for teams to make involves the veteran champion, Scottie Pippen. Looks like the two leading candidates in the Pip sweepstakes are the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Pippen would be an excellent addition to either team, but he could probably adapt to Phil Jackson’s system a little bit quicker since he has some past experience with the Zen Master. San Antonio would offer a better opportunity for Pippen to get his seventh ring. He’d be joining a veteran team and most likely assume a role similar to the one Robert Horry has filled for the past few years. Pippen can’t be the player he once was, but any team would be happy to acquire a guy who has big game experience as the season is reaching its end.

2. The Nowitzki Experience
The Mavericks franchise tried to give their superstar a push for MVP last night by passing out about 20,000 T-shirts to the crowd. But Dirk didn’t really need any help as he scored 31 to go with 11 rebounds, six rebounds and two blocks. There’s lots and lots of big-time talent in the league this year, but Dirk has outshined them all. The Mavs have been riding on the back of Dirk all year en route to the league’s best record on three separate 10+ game win streaks. With one of the sweetest strokes in the game today, Nowitzki has been shooting the lights out all year long as he is averaging 25 points per game. And considering that the award usually is simply handed to the best player on the league’s best team; Nowitzki is definitely in the driver’s seat for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award.

3. Headbandless Hero
Remember at the beginning of the season when everybody thought that something was wrong with Ben Wallace? Well, that doesn’t seem to a topic of conversation anymore. Big Ben might have had the greatest game of his career last night against the Cavaliers when he had 14 points, 19 rebound, five assists, two steals and seven blocks. After a slow start to the year, Wallace has methodically increased his rebounding average back to double digits (10.5). But the Bulls are still sitting five games behind the Central Division leading Pistons. Chicago could have probably benefited from a trade, but Luol Deng and Ben Gordon just have too much potential for the Bulls to let them go.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas vs. Sacramento 45 min, 43 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 3-8, FT: 16-17), 7 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Utah (35-18) @ Denver (26-26) Every game involving the Nuggets is interesting as everybody is waiting to see Carmelo

Anthony and Allen Iverson finally gel. So far, it hasn’t happened. In fact, the two have still yet to even play in a significant number of games together. Overall, the Nuggets are 9-4 over their last 13 games with the latest loss coming while the dynamic duo was intact. Utah hasn’t been the team they were when the season started, but they are still a very dangerous club. The Jazz have won six of their last seven as Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams continue to pick up the slack while forward Carlos Boozer continues to watch from the bench.

Buzzer Beater: As usual, we approached the trade deadline with lots of talk about superstars changing teams. But, as usual, the deadline came and went and nobody of significance was involved in a swap. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Pau Gasol, Mike Bibby and Ray Allen were just a few of the names dropped in the weeks leading up to yesterday. And what about Corey Maggette? Trade rumors have been swirling around him for months now as his relationship with Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy seemed to deteriorate daily. Apparently, they are going to have to tolerate each other for a few more months. In the end, only lower tier players got new addresses; Anthony Johnson to Dallas, Fred Jones went to Portland in a deal for Juan Dixon who got sent to Toronto and the Jazz picked up Alan Henderson.