Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: Better late than never

1. Finals rematch
The Cavs finally won a game against the Spurs. Too bad it is about seven months too late. The game was tied at 88 before LeBron James hit the game-clinching hoop with 33.6 seconds left. The speed King finished with 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as he continues to lead Cleveland back to respectability. The Spurs had a chance to tie the game on a last shot, but Manu Ginobili’s buzzer-beater was off target. Ginobili scored a game-high 31 points off the bench on 10-of-15 shooting.

2. What type of party is it? It’s a block party!

The virtually unheard of Linas Kleiza scored a career-high 41 points, Allen Iverson went off for 28 and Carmelo Anthony banged in 23 points in an easy 120-109 home victory over the Jazz, but all that is secondary to the performance of the defending defensive player of the year. Marcus Camby came up two points shy of having a monstrous triple-double with eight points, 24 rebounds and 11 blocks. Since 1973-74, when blocks became a stat, only three players have gone off for 24 or more rebounds and at least 11 blocks in a single game. Camby now sits with some pretty elite company, joining Shaquille O’Neal (28-15 in 1993) and Elvin Hayes (27-11 in 1978) as the lucky few.

3. Suns rise
As quickly as they let the best record in the West slip away, they regained it. Phoenix jumped from the sixth seed all the way to the top seed with a 106-98 victory against the Lakers. Steve Nash dished out a season-high 20 assists in the win and Kobe Bryant had 30 points on the losing side of things, but the real story of the game was Kwame Brown’s play or lack thereof. Brown, playing in place of the injured Andrew Bynum, had eight points, six rebounds and seven turnovers. His play was so bad that at one point the home crowd began booing the former No. 1 draft pick.

I thought it was terrible,” said Kobe Bryant, who led the Lakers with 30 points and seven rebounds. “If they want to do that, they can stay home. He’s going to be our guy here for two months. He’s going to do fine, he’s going to play well the next game.

“Kwame’s sensitive. You boo him, it’s going to affect him. I told him I’ve got his back.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Marcus Camby vs. Utah 44 min, 8 pts (FG: 4-13, 3FG: 0-1), 24 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 11 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Charlotte (15-23) @ New Orleans (26-12)
Charlotte is winning some big time games of late with recent defeats of Boston, Denver and Orlando all under their belt. The next step for the Cats is to clinch their first three-game winning steak of the season by beating the Hornets. But that won’t be easy considering Nawlins is sizzling as well. The Hornets have won three consecutive and 12 of their previous 15 games, taking them to the top of a stacked Southwest Division where they are currently tied with Dallas. The battle in the paint between Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler alone should be worth the price of admission.

Buzzer Beater: Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go, but we didn’t need to tell JamesOn Curry that.

Chicago Bulls rookie JamesOn Curry has been arrested in Boise and charged with misdemeanor counts of urinating in public and resisting arrest.

Police arrested Curry early Thursday morning and took him to the Ada County Jail. He was released a few hours later after posting $600 bond.

Curry has until February 7 to make a plea, and then must be in Boise again for either a jury trial or sentencing.

Eh, it happens.

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.

Washington Wizards

Around the Rim: All that glitters is not gold

1. Double trouble
We’ve heard of unlucky No. 13, but unlucky No. 30 is something new to us. The Celtics (30-6), on the other hand, are learning all about the doomed three-zero. At 29-3, Boston was rolling right along, but then it took them a pair of contests before reaching their 30th victory and now Washington’s will gives the Cs their third loss in four games. After slapping down the Celtics on Saturday, the Wiz traveled to Boston for the back side of the home-and-home and escaped with an 88-83 win. Caron Butler led the way for Washington with 21 points, followed up by Antawn Jamison’s 20 and 10 rebounds. Like usual, the big three showed up for Boston (57 points), but that was about it as Beantown felt their second consecutive defeat for the first time this year.

2. Charlotte surprise

Carmelo Anthony (35 pts) and Allen Iverson (23 pts) combined for over 50 and Marcus Camby went bonkers with 20 points and 23 rebounds, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the Bobcats in Charlotte. Gerald Wallace scored 40 for the Cats who improved to 14-23 with the 119-116 victory. The road doesn’t get any easier for Charlotte who has contests against Orlando, New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas on the horizon. The loss doesn’t spell disaster for Denver, but coupled with Portland’s beatdown of New Jersey, the Nuggets fell a half game behind the Blazers in the division standings.

3. Kobe is super against the Sonics
The Lakers got some bad news on Monday when they found out Andrew Bynum would be out of action for the next eight weeks with a left kneecap injury. Later on in the day, Kobe Bryant grieved the only way he knows how: by jacking up a ridiculous amount of shots. Bryant went 21-of-44 from the field for 48 points in the Lakers 123-121 overtime victory in Seattle. In addition to the offensive outburst from Bryant, L.A. cleaned the glass better than a homeless guy on the corner as Lamar Odom (14 reb), Luke Walton (10 reb) and Kwame Brown (10 reb) all finished with double-digit boards in Bynum’s absence. The Sonics were able to hang around thanks to seven double-figure scorers, led by Nick Collision’s 24 points to go with 18 rebounds. Kevin Durant couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean, hitting just six of his 26 shot attempts.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Milwaukee 37 min, 33 pts (FG: 8-14, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 16-20), 5 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (20-17) @ Detroit (28-10)
The Raptors are beginning to prove they have all the pieces to become a great team in the NBA. They’re young, hungry, talented and they are building the core chemistry that takes teams deep into the playoffs. Nobody is currently considering them as a possible Eastern Conference representative in this year’s Finals, but they could defiantly take a step in the right direction with a road win against the Pistons. Problem is the Bad Boys are ready to unleash their fury on someone after dropping three of their previous five games, including a humiliating blowout loss to the Knicks on Sunday when they could only muster a measly 65 points.

Buzzer Beater: Even with four championship rings, two regular season MVPs and a trio of Finals MVP awards in your back pocket, it can be tough to get a little respect.

During a tight fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tim Duncan twice told San Antonio Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili to pass the ball.

One couldn’t blame Duncan for his advice as Ginobili had gone 0-of-6 from the field through the first three quarters of the game.

Ginobili didn’t listen to the Spurs’ star center.

The Spurs’ super sub hit four 3-pointers in the period, his only field goals of the entire game, to lead the Spurs to an 89-82 victory over the 76ers Monday night.

“I think I was talking in the middle of his shots … two of his shots, telling him to swing the ball,” Duncan said. “And he’s firing away anyway, and they go down for him. So he felt it. And he gets one to go down, he gets two to go down. All of a sudden he’s on a hot streak and you want him taking those shots.”

Ginobili scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by the two pairs of consecutive 3s.

“I heard him,” Ginobili said of Duncan’s counsel. “But I told him that I was feeling good and I was going to take them.”

“He never listens to me,” Duncan joked.

Charlotte Bobcats

Around the Rim: Bobcats bounce Boston

1. J-Rich cashes in
The Boston Celtics are making a run at history and the Charlotte Bobcats with a 1-11 road record were supposed to be another notch on the belt of the Leprechauns. Well, what was supposed to be an easy win for Boston turned into a 12-point loss, 95-83, at the hands of one of the conference’s worst teams. Guess that is why they actually play the game. Jason Richardson blew up for 34 points and nine rebounds, sticking the dagger in the Cs hearts and twisting it several times during Boston’s attempts to make a comeback. “The Boston Three Party” was a man short on Wednesday as Ray Allen rode the pine with a pinched nerve in his neck, leaving Kevin Garnett (24 pts) and Paul Pierce (13 pts) with all the heavy lifting. So far, Charlotte practically has the Celtics number in their back pocket, winning in Boston and coming one last-second shot away from winning at home. Game three comes in late February in Beantown.

2. Portland’s prosperity

Brandon Roy fell to the court in the second quarter with an apparent knee injury, followed by Steve Blake’s calf clutching on the hardwood in the second half. But the good times kept on rolling as both players’ injuries turned out to be minor and the Trail Blazers picked up their 17th win in 18 games, downing Golden State 109-91. However, the biggest reason to celebrate in Portland wasn’t the victory or the victories or even the successful injury scare. Nope, the real reason for the Blazers smiles is because for the first time since 2001, Portland is atop their division. The Blaze currently owns a ½ game lead over Denver in the Northwest Division, but holding the position won’t be easy with a seven-game, East coast road trip on tap.

3. Suns win a track meet against Pacers
Indiana and Phoenix played five extra minutes and scored a whopping 251 combined points. Unfortunately for the Pacers, Phoenix ended with a majority of the points scored – 129 to be exact. Without Grant Hill who will miss some time (2-3 weeks) after undergoing an appendectomy, the Suns received a lift from Raja Bell (27 pts, 9 reb) and Leandro Barbosa. The Brazilian Blur finished with 27 points off the bench to compliment the double-doubles from starters Shawn Marion (23 pts, 12 reb) and Amare Stoudemire (25 pts, 11 reb). Led by Danny Granger and Shawne Williams who each scored 22 points, six players reached double-digits offensively for Indiana, but it just wasn’t enough against the short-handed Suns. In addition to Hill’s absence, Steve Nash departed from the game early due to a stomach flu, playing just 24 minutes.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Yao Ming @ New York 42 min, 36 pts (FG: 14-21, FT: 8-9), 11 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (26-9) @ San Antonio (23-10)
It wasn’t that long ago when these two teams were hooking up to see who would be the NBA champions. Now, both clubs are just playing to get off the schnide. The Pistons own the East’s second best record, but are losers of their previous two games against Boston and Dallas. In order to avoid their first three-game slide of the season, the Bad Boys must win in San Antonio against a Spurs team bitter about another road loss. The Spurs are a league-best 17-2 at home and know they have to take care of business in San Antonio considering their sorry 6-8 road record.

Buzzer Beater: Good news in Clipper land. Looks like Shaun Livingston could be returning to the other L.A. team’s lineup at some point this year.

The medical team feels he’s going to make a full recovery,” team president Andy Roeser said at halftime of Wednesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic. “There’s a pretty good chance he’ll be on the court before the end of the season.

“The most significant thing is whether he makes a full recovery. It’s significant that we think he can make a full recovery.

Pretty amazing stuff considering it looked like Livingston was going to be made into glue after turning stomachs in late February of 2007.

Charlotte Bobcats

Around the Rim: Don’t call it a comeback

1. Master of the obvious
Michael Jordan took the court yesterday, practicing with his Charlotte Bobcats in an attempt to motivate them toward a better record; hopefully, a much better record. The Cats have lost 10 of their last 12 games, earning them an 8-14 overall record. While his game might be a bit rusty from the recent years spent as a front office fat-cat, M.J.’s ability to evaluate talent and overall understanding of the game has never been more on point.

I also told them yesterday that on this team we have no All-Stars — none,” Jordan said.

What’s next? Are you going to tell them that water is wet?

2. Lakers bully the Bulls

How bad are the Bulls? Turns out they’re so bad Kobe Bryant can shoot seven-of-19 from the field and the Lakers still roll to easy 12-point victory in Chicago. As Charles Barkley would say, Michael Jordan must be rolling over in his grave. Bryant finished with just 18 points on his poor shooting performance, but thanks to Sasha Vujacic’s team-high 19 points, Lamar Odom’s 17-point, 16-rebound explosion and Andrew Bynum’s double-double (12 pts, 10 reb), the Lakers won 103-91. Luol Deng showed up for Chicago, but that was about it. Ben Gordon had eight points, Ben Wallace grabbed five rebounds and the team committed a total of 18 turnovers as they fell to 8-14 overall, tying them with Charlotte for the conference’s second worst record.

Not surprisingly, the Clippers lost again last night, falling to the Raptors 80-77. The Clippers fell into some success for a couple of years there, but after getting ravaged by injuries they are back where they feel most comfortable, the NBA’s cellar. But you can’t blame Chris Kaman for the Clips recent struggles. Kaman grabbed his 20th double-double in 24 games this season on Tuesday, finishing with 12 points and 16 rebounds against Toronto. The seven-footer only managed to amass 16 double-dips last season. With fat averages of 18.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 2.71 blocks per game, Kaman is well on his way to All-Star weekend even if the Clippers are headed nowhere fast.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: John Salmons @ New Jersey 43 min, 31 pts (FG: 13-18, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-5), 4 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (18-7) @ Dallas (17-9)
The old drinking buddies are together again! Meeting for the first time this season, Steve Nash returns to Big D for a clash against his former squad in Phoenix’s only trip to Dallas this year. The Suns are coming off a big win in San Antonio on Monday and will now try to defeat both Texas rivals on the same road trip for the first time since 1998. But it won’t be easy as Dallas is currently cruising, winning their last three (vs. NO, @ HOU, vs. ORL) and five of their previous six games. Josh Howard, not Dirk Nowitzki, has been making things roll for the Mavericks, averaging a team-high 21.8 points per game while pulling down a career-high 7.1 rebounds (2nd on the team).

Buzzer Beater: Don’t ask us why, but we try to keep up with Gilbert Arena’s blog entries. What stood out to us this week was Gilbo’s rather interesting Christmas gift selection.

We used to have a team gift exchange and they started getting mad at the gifts I was giving out. I gave Larry Hughes a bobblehead of me one year. I’ve also given out highlight tapes of myself. I give big, signed pictures of myself so they can look at me over the summer. You know, big ones that they can put on the wall or put it in the family room. That’s the kind of funny gifts I do. I don’t want to go out there and spend no money.

Of course, just a handful of paragraphs prior, the penny pinching Arenas mentioned how he went from making $4.2 million in Golden State to $65 million in Washington.

Charlotte Bobcats

Joakim Noah will officially be the ugliest guy in a NBA uniform this year

The NBA suffered a major blow when top overall selection Greg Oden went down for the year. Well, the injury bug struck again, but this time it went straight for one of the most pedestrian No. 3 picks in history. Yup, if you’re a fan goofy hair, bad moustaches and ridiculous Larry Bird comparisons then you might want to sit down for this.

Adam Morrison is probably going to be out for the year after an MRI showed that he has a torn ligament in his left knee suffered during a preseason game against the Lakers on Saturday.

Our medical staff has had a chance to review the MRI, and they’re saying right now they believe there is some sort of tear,” coach Sam Vincent said Sunday, about an hour before the Bobcats took on Phoenix in the second day of the annual Staples Center shootout.

“Until they get in there and do whatever they do, who knows? But they are saying there’s a good chance he will be out for the year. So I’m not counting on him playing,” Vincent added.

“I talked to him before the coaches and players meeting this morning when he had just gotten back from taking the MRI, and he pretty much knew the results,” Vincent said. “He’s obviously down.

And we all know about how emotional Adam gets about things. Don’t you remember his self-deprecating ad that ended with “More people should cry. And when I get to the NBA, more people will cry”?

Sorry to disappoint you big guy, but the only person crying after you hit the pros is Michael Jordan.

AKA: Charlotte’s Manager of Basketball Operations

AKA: The guy who wasted the Wizards first pick on Kwame Brown

AKA: The numbskull that made Morrison his pet project in Charlotte.


[]: Bobcats’ Morrison likely done for season

NBA General

2007 NBA Draft: The Northwest Division gets a serious facelift

The future is now for the NBA’s stars of tomorrow.

Wow! It’s been a long time since the NBA has seen that much action in one night; we’re talking about Wilt Chamberlain on a Saturday night type of action here. The night got kicked off when David Stern spoke those magical words that every kid grows up dreaming about:

With the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, the Portland Trailblazers select Greg Oden from Ohio State University.

Okay, so scratch the Portland Trailblazers part out because no kid is ever going to dream about going there, but other than that it’s a shooting star’s wish come true. That, of course, was followed by the easiest pick in the history of draft picks as Seattle scooped up the scraps left by Portland and selected Kevin Durant with the second overall pick. And by scraps, we mean the most polished freshman ever! But that was all pretty common sense stuff for the most part after rumors starting spreading on Thursday that the Blazers were committed to Oden. The real fun started after the no-brainers were off the board.

Seattle continued to change the Sonics guard and promptly shipped off Ray Allen and the rights to Big Baby Glen Davis to Boston for the fifth pick which turned out to be Jeff Green, Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak. We’re guessing that Paul Pierce would rather have Kevin Garnett on his team, but Allen will make a nice compliment to Pierce. And in the East, there’s no telling who’s going to be making the postseason anymore.

Then there’s the evolving Portland squad that kicked the troublesome Zach Randolph out the door as soon as Oden’s name was read. And of course, Isiah Thomas was the sucker that took on the talented but troubled semi star. But we have to commend Zeke for finally getting rid of Steve Francis who has been nothing but a pain for the team since arriving. The Blazers also sent Dan Dickau and Fred Jones in the deal and New York shipped Channing Frye along with Francis. Now, Portland has a fierce front court with Oden joining a hopefully healthy LaMarcus Aldridge.

Then there are the Bobcats who are desperate to get their hands on an All-Star caliber player and ended up trading off their eighth pick in Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson. Charlotte also picked up Golden State’s second-round pick Jermareo Davidson. Warriors fans are probably pissed that they got rid of a huge part of their recent only playoff success, but it was a great move financially as Richardson is owed $51 million over the last four seasons on his contract.

But even after all that; the real thing that we’re going to remember this draft for is the gosh awful outfit that Joakim Noah wore to the big show. We’re sure Chicago must be so proud.

The rest of the results from the 2007 NBA Draft, broken down by team, can be found after the jump.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Warriors’ grip slips

1. Another fight to the finish
The Warriors were down by 21 points in the first half of Tuesday’s Game 5 against Dallas, but a 3-point barrage helped them fight all the way back and take the game to another exciting finish. In the end, despite the fantastic comeback by Golden State, it was Dirk Nowitzki and his boys who barely made it off their home floor with a win, 118-112. Dallas was finally able to prevent the Warriors from getting all the way to the hoop in transition but it almost didn’t matter as GS went 16-of-35 from behind the arc. Now, the Warriors will take a 3-2 lead back to Oakland where a rowdy arena full of yellow-shirted fans will be going bonkers in hopes of seeing the first ever No. 1 vs. No. 8 upset in a seven game series. Golden State better treat this like a Game 7 because they won’t win in Dallas should the series return.

2. Marie Elie wants to be a rookie again

The Charlotte Bobcats are in need of a head coach to turn the franchise around and Larry Brown has been rumored to be in the running for the position. Brown has evolving pretenders into contenders for his entire career (minus that New York thing of course), but apparently the Cats aren’t quite ready to enter the cocoon. Well, maybe they are just exploring all their possible options because on Tuesday Charlotte interviewed former Rocket great Mario Elie for the head coaching vacancy. Elie might have potential but he’s not going to be taking this crummy team to the playoffs anytime soon. If the Bobcats decide to save some cash and go with Elie they can give their post season dreams the kiss of death.

3. Raptors almost blow a lead of Jurassic proportions
Game 5 between the Raptors and the Nets turned out to be a lot closer than anyone expected, especially Toronto’s fans. The Raptors were up by 17 in the second half but almost gave it away as New Jersey got to within two points at the final buzzer, 98-96. But hey, a win is a win and when you’re facing elimination you’ll take `em any way they come. Four of the five Toronto starters finished the game with double figures in scoring, the only one not to reach that plateau was T.J. Ford who went down in the first quarter after getting walloped and flopped on by Vince Carter. Eh, no biggie; Jose Calderon came off the bench to score a team-high 25 points to go along with eight assists. With a 3-2 Nets’ lead the series will shift back to Jersey for Game 6; maybe Chris Bosh will figure out how to be a post season All-Star by then after going just 3-11 for 11 points in the last game. Guess it was good that Ford got injured so Calderon could save the day.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki vs. Golden State 40 min, 30 pts (FG: 7-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 14-15), 12 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Chauncey Billups will become a free agent at the end of the year and there are tons o’ teams who are desperate to add the former Finals MVP to their squad. One unexpected team to be making at run at Billups is the former champs turned first round sweep victims, the Miami Heat. Now, talk about a dynamic duo in the backcourt; Billups and Dwyane Wade would make quite the formidable threat as the Heat tried to bounce back from their fall from grace. Personally, we don’t care where Chauncey ends up as long as it’s not with that retarded PA in Detroit as he stutters out Mr. Big Shot’s first name. Hell, we’d rather see Billups suit up with Memphis than stick around for another year of Detroit’s gi-gi-gi-gimmick.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The NBA’s call was too sweet to resist

Kevin Durant has millions of
reasons to leave his coach
and school behind.

1. The NBA hooks Durant
Kevin Durant was only at Texas for one year, but that was all it took for the 6-9 forward to become the elite of the Big 12 Conference, as well as the NCAA. Now, Durant has made his intentions public as he threw his hat into the NBA draft pool with the worst case scenario being selected as a second pick. There is no way that Durant can improve on his current standing as the recipient of every major national award while he rewrote the Texas record books. The only question left is if the nation’s other freshman phenom, Greg Oden, will be joining Durant in the upcoming draft. If Oden decides to make the jump, he will probably be selected first by most teams based on his defensive potential, but don’t get fooled into thinking that only the sorry teams will have a shot a the young `ens. Plenty of franchises will be dying to put together deals for this year’s exceptional cornerstone pieces.

2. NJ has pieces, just not the passion

The Nets have got to be one of the most pathetic franchises in recent history. Despite having a starting lineup that is stacked with three of the most athletic players the league has and being in a position where they are close to losing their current playoff spot, the Nets can’t put away the injury plagued Wizards until 30 seconds remain in the game. But regardless of the aesthetic quality of the win, the Nets still came out of the contest with a much needed victory and can now breathe a sigh of relief as it looks like they have virtually secured a post season berth. But if NJ is having trouble putting away a demolished Washington crew, how are they possibly going to handle a healthy Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto or Miami club? Easy answer, they’re not.

3. Bonsai! Bonzi bails
Bonzi Wells left the Rockets high and dry on Monday night when he simply didn’t show up for the team’s road game against the Sonics. Wells reportedly didn’t want to be a further distraction to the team and basically bailed on his boys without even telling his coach what was up. “He’s not here tonight. I don’t know where he’s at. I haven’t talked to him,” Van Gundy said. “I want to make sure he’s safe first.” Don’t worry coach, the only danger Wells faced was a possible brain freeze as he lounges back with some ice cream and a remote control. Wells had been in the dog house all season because of his lack of fitness after he was expected to be the X-factor for the Rockets. But now, he’s just destined to be an ex-Rocket.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Elton Brand @ New Orleans 45 min, 37 pts (FG: 15-23, FT: 7-9), 10 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Denver (41-36) @ Utah (48-29) The Nuggets have gained some late season momentum and are now rolling on a six game win streak as they prepare to unleash Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson on their playoff opponent. Utah on the other hand needs to grab a victory if they don’t want to be the victim of circumstance by winning their division but losing home-court advantage in the first round to Houston. The Jazz are the only team besides the Lakers in the West who are currently riding a losing streak. With four inexcusable losses over the past week, Utah is definitely due for a dominating performance and their 19-8 home record can only help their cause.

Buzzer Beater: Adam Morrison had a bit of a meltdown during the Bobcats 111-103 victory over the Heat in overtime on Sunday. But it wasn’t an on-court dumb decision that made Morrison look like a fool. No it was an on-bench hand gesture that got the rookie in hot water. Apparently some dude kept calling Morrison “white trash,” and eventually the cry baby, adolescent mustache sporting Morrison shot the bird to the heckler in the stands. The Charlotte big wigs fined Morrison $25,000 for his actions, but you can’t really blame Morrison for getting frustrated. However, you’d expect that he could handle the ribbing because with facial hair like his, teasing should be second nature by this point.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Jazz Perform a Late Jam Session

1. Turkish Sharpshooter
With a 21 point lead at the end of the third quarter, Atlanta figured they had stolen a win from a formidable Western Conference foe. But the Hawks didn’t count on Mehmet Okur and company making a furious fourth quarter rally that would bring the Jazz all the way back to win the game 112-106 in Atlanta. With twelve minutes remaining in the game the score was 93-72. Then Okur lead the comeback with 12 points in the fourth, including two big threes with less than two minutes in the game. Okur shot four of five from behind the arc and finished the game with 30 points and ten rebounds to go along with 14,823 broken hearts in Hotlanta.

2. Rare Sprewell Sighting
Latrell Sprewell disappeared from the NBA faster than you can say “choke artist” after turning down an offer from the Timberwolves in 2005. And while, according to Spree, $21 million wasn’t enough money to feed his family, apparently he found the funds to dine out with former Minnesota teammates Kevin Garnett, Trenton Hassell and Troy Hudson in Milwaukee last week. Reports are that Sprewell has no desire to return to the league but maybe New York could change his mind with another ill-advised, over-inflated contract they have become infamous for.

3. Overtime State of Mind
After a blowout loss to Denver which ended with an ugly brawl, New York has responded by playing competitively in their last two contests. On Monday, a shorthanded Knicks squad pulled out a one point win in overtime against an excellent Utah team, and last night they squeaked out a 111-109 victory in double overtime versus Charlotte. While David Lee has been solid throughout the season, he has been especially active since the team received their share of suspensions from the outbreak against the Nuggets. The second year forward from Florida followed up a 17 point, 20 rebound effort against Utah with a ten point, 19 rebound game against the Bobcats that included a buzzer beating tip-in to win the game for New York.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Mehmet Okur @ Atlanta 36 min, 30 pts (FG: 11-17, 3FG: 4-5, FT: 4-5), 10 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (15-8) @ Cleveland (14-10) After starting the season with a 2-3 road record, the Pistons have become road warriors going 6-2 since then. Detroit currently sits atop the Central Division, two games ahead of the Cavs. Despite their recent struggles, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland has provided an edge to the Cavaliers who have gone 11-2 at home. LeBron James is coming off a 37 point, eight assist performance in a loss to New Jersey on Wednesday.

Buzzer Beater: Tim Duncan proved once again why he will forever be remembered as a horrible free throw shooter. Along with Shaquille O’Neal, Duncan has dominated opponents from everywhere on the court. Everywhere except the charity stripe. Last night against Memphis, Duncan was a perfect 8-8 from the field but he was a pathetic 5-10 from the line. Big men are notoriously bad free throw shooters, but once a percentage dips below 65, it’s probably time to resort to a more effective granny shot. While it’s quite embarrassing, at least there’s nothing underhanded about it.