NBA General

Around the Rim: Third time’s a charm

1. Two down, 14 to go
With a 108-90 victory over the Timberwolves last night, Phoenix won the Pacific Division and has now joined Dallas as the only other team to have secured a playoff spot. Kevin Garnett put up another monster effort for Minnesota but, as usual, he couldn’t get it done by himself and the Suns rolled despite getting only four points and two rebounds out of Amare Stoudemire as he sat on the bench for most of the game with foul trouble. This is the third consecutive division crown for Phoenix but despite their success they can’t seem to get past the Western Conference finals. But perhaps this is the year; the Suns are deeper than they have ever been and unlike last year they should have a healthy Stoudemire to provide the team with an inside presence when it comes time to slow the game down. Unfortunately, the West is as strong as it has ever been with Utah, San Antonio and Dallas all in contention for a Finals appearance.

2. Rocky Mountain roll

It might have taken a while for the dynamic scoring duo of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony but the Nuggets are now the hottest team in the league after ripping off five wins in a row. Melo put up 30 in Denver’s first win in New Jersey since 2000 and the Nuggets got another 20 from the Answer as the team has finally established some breathing room between themselves and the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. A lot will be determined about this team in the upcoming couple of weeks because the Nuggets have four games left on their current road trip against Chicago, Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland before they return home against a struggling Seattle club. Then they have to end the season with difficult games against Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Utah and the Lakers.

3. Big Baby wants to play with the big boys
One year after former teammate Tyrus Thomas made the jump to the NBA, LSU big man Glen “Big Baby” Davis has made his decision to finally make the leap. The 6-9, 290 pounder will forgo his senior year after averaging 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds and becoming the only player not named Shaq to amass 1,500 points, 900 rebounds and 100 blocks for the Tigers. Currently there’s no guarantee that Davis will be selected in the first round of the draft but if he wants to get paid some legitimate NBA money then he needs to solidify his first round position by performing well at the league’s predraft camp which is held in Orlando at the end of May. Any player selected in the first-round pick will receive a guaranteed three-year contract while second-round players are not so fortunate. Well, we know at least two players he won’t be picked ahead of.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Golden State 38 min, 25 pts (FG: 11-18, FT: 3-4), 21 reb, 5 ast

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (55-11) @ Cleveland (41-26) Both teams have the disadvantage of playing in games last night, however the Cavs will have the benefit of their home crowd cheering them on as opposed to Dallas who will be coming off short night’s rest at the local Radisson. LeBron James has his boys surging in the East and the Cavaliers now sit just 2 ½ games behind Detroit for the best record in the conference after winning nine of their last 11 games. Dallas is beginning to recover from a two game skid that was capped off with a heart breaker to the Suns in double OT last Wednesday. But the Mavs have bounced back and now have a three game win streak.

Buzzer Beater: How is that every single year Yao Ming is by far the most voted on player when the All-Star game rolls around but he can’t even top the jersey selling charts in his own country? In fact, Yao ranks sixth in jersey sells in China. Even his teammate Tracy McGrady is getting more love than Yao from the Chinese as his jersey was the third most purchased for the 2006-07 season but it is a drop from being the most popular jersey in China last year. So, who is the most popular NBA baller in China right now? Why Kobe Bryant of course, the Chinese just love his in-game Bruce Lee impersonations.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Playoff Picture Begins To Come Into Focus

1. One Down, 15 to Go
With a 13 point victory over the Nets, the Mavericks not only extended their current winning streak to 16 (23 straight at home), but they tied 1982-83 76ers and the 1971-72 Lakers with the fourth best record after 60 games (51-9). And while it was only a matter of time, the Mavs also became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. And sitting in the front row during the game was a trophy hungry Scottie Pippen who seems more than willing to provide his services to the Mavericks during their postseason run. But how much more talent does Mark Cuban need on one roster? In last night’s game, all five starters finished with double digits in points while two more players came off the bench to score at least ten.

2. Melo Mopes as the Nuggets Nosedive
Allen Iverson seems to be happy in his new Rocky Mountain surroundings but his fellow All-Star is probably not as cheery about his current situation. Denver coach George Karl has been critical of Carmelo Anthony’s selfishness and says that he fails to play smart, team basketball. In fact, Karl is so tired of Melo’s self-centered antics that benching the league’s top scorer is the coach’s next step. As expected, Anthony has been the team’s top scorer for almost every game since returning from his 15 game suspension, but the Nuggets have only won nine of their last 21 games and are in serious jeopardy of falling out of the playoff picture. All the pieces are there but Anthony just hasn’t developed the ability to lead his team, which is exactly what Karl is desperately trying to draw out of his superstar. It would be a ballsy move by Karl, but maybe riding the pine will pain Melo to the point of maturity.

3. Yes, We’re Talking About Practice
So, what do you do when as one of the worst teams in the NBA you suddenly rip off a four game winning streak? Well, if you’re a member of the Philadelphia 76ers then you take in a game of paintball at the local field. Much like a group of ten year olds at a birthday party, the Sixers were running, jumping, diving and hiding from each other on Tuesday as they currently sit six games out of the final playoff spot. Not to be a buzzkill, but shouldn’t these guys be practicing? After all, a four game win streak doesn’t exactly cancel out the team’s 18-38 start to the season.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant @ Minnesota 53 min, 40 pts (FG: 13-30, 3FG: 3-10, FT: 11-13), 13 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Cleveland (35-25) @ Detroit (37-21) It’s a division battle, a budding rivalry and a showdown between the East’s two best teams all wrapped into one. The Pistons are three games ahead of the Cavs for the conference crown but it’s Cleveland who has won three of their last four games. Nobody has been hotter than LeBron James over the past few weeks but the Pistons notorious defense could put an end to James’ streak. Detroit seems to finally be cooling down (1-2 in their last three games) after going on a run of 15 wins in the team’s first 19 games with Chris Webber. The modern day Bad Boys need to make the remainder of this season count because Chauncey Billups has said that he will consider joining the Grizzlies when he becomes a free agent in the offseason.

Buzzer Beater: Dammit! Kobe did it again, and I’m not referring to his 40 point effort. In last night’s game against the Timberwolves, Bryant delivered a blatant forearm to the head of Marko Jaric on the follow-through of a jumper with under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. The scene was eerily similar to the one in LA about five weeks ago when Manu Ginobili took an “unintentional” elbow from the Mamba. Both the players spent significant time crumpled on the hardwood after being hit by the supposedly legitimate release. Bryant might think his cheap shot tactic is smooth, but his intent is obvious and malicious and the scenario is becoming far too frequent. Go get him Stern!

NBA General

Around the Rim: Oh No He Didn’!

1. Makin’ Bacon
We all know that Boston is clueless as a basketball team, but now we know that the lack of common sense reaches all the way to the team’s on air personalities. After radio analyst Cedric Maxwell observed what he believed was a questionable call during the Celtics-Rockets game on Monday, he said that female referee Violet Palmer should “go back to the kitchen” and “go in there and make me some bacon and eggs, would you?” Was Maxwell in a cave during the whole Tim Hardaway incident? Let me guess; that’s just how you talk, right? Maxwell apologized at last night’s game, but it could be too little too late. Entercom is the corporate owners of the radio station that Maxwell works for and, unfortunately for him, they don’t take too kindly to chauvinistic commentary. Entercom fired talk show host John DePetro in November after he called gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross a “fat lesbian” while doing a show last year.

2. Playoff Bound, For Now
New Orleans has been receiving some bad pub of late, but despite being hated on by front office officials and players alike, as a team, New Orleans has been doing pretty good for themselves. The finish line is approaching quickly and the Hornets are making a frantic push to make the postseason. With a healthy Chris Paul back in the lineup, New Orleans is sitting in the eighth position after winning seven of their last ten games including 107-100 victory over the lowly Hawks last night. Against Atlanta, CP3 went off for 24 points, five rebounds, 13 assists and four steals, while spurring Tyson Chandler and David West to double-double’s of their own. But the Hornets are going to have a tough time holding on to their playoff hopes with virtually every Western Conference team, minus Memphis, breathing down their necks.

3. The Matrix Replaced
Everybody is always talking about how important Steve Nash is to the Suns’ success, but apparently Shawn Marion is a pretty valuable piece. Without the Matrix last night, Phoenix fell to the 76ers and blew their opportunity to become the only team in league history to go undefeated in interconference road play. Marion didn’t play because of a bruised hand and a bruised quad. He has the complete package as a basketball player and is one of the most underrated players in the league every year. Marion could be a superstar on almost any other team, but unfortunately his talents are often overlooked as Nash and Amare Stoudemire grab the media spotlight. But while Nash and Stoudemire are becoming one of the best combinations in the league, it’s Marion’s 18 points on 52 percent shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks per game that are putting the Suns over the top.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson vs. Orlando 46 min, 34 pts (FG: 13-25, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 7-9), 4 reb, 7 ast, 5 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Cleveland (33-24) @ Dallas (48-9) LeBron James has been on a tear of late, racking up at least 29 points in each of the last five games. And the Cavs are going to need another monumental effort if they are going the defeat the leagues hottest team. The Mavericks continue to plow over everyone in their way as their streak has grown to 13 consecutive games. But these aren’t the same Mavs you’re use to. This squad is playing defense. On Tuesday, Dallas set a franchise record by holding the Timberwolves to just 65 points and became the first team this year to hold Minnesota to under 30 percent shooting from the field (.296 on 24 of 81 FGs). The last time Cleveland visited Big D, James went off for 36 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, while Dirk chipped in 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as the Mavericks held on for a 91-87 victory. We could be in for a similarly thrilling contest.

Buzzer Beater: What’s up with the Celtics? After being the laughingstock of the league for practically the entire season, Boston goes off and uncharacteristically wins back-to-back games for the first time in two and a half months. To say this has been a tough year for the Celtics organization would be like saying Britney Spears has shown subtle symptoms of neurosis over the past few months. But maybe this is the turning point that will allow Boston to finish strong and end their season with some respectability. Oh, who am I fooling; tank ‘em all and grab Kevin Durant with the first pick.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Step Aside Showgirls

1. Vegas Rules
Forget about Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Gilbert Arenas. The real all-stars are performing during the timeouts. So, for the first time, is compiling votes in order to assemble The 2007 Las Vegas NBA All-Star Dance team which will be composed of one girl from each NBA team. Now, you can go online and, ahem, entertain yourself with pictures and bios from every babe, I mean dancer, on every team. Finally, the talent and inner beauty of women like Courtney from Boston, Katherine from Miami and Julie from Houston can get the proper recognition they deserve. So, show these ladies how much you truly appreciate them; vote early, vote often and send a thank you to for creating a one stop shop for dancing divas from around the league.

2. Way Downtown
The Cavs LeBron James proved on Wednesday that he is capable of hitting the long range bombs in real life, as well as in commercials. When he nailed an 83 footer at the end of the third quarter against Boston, not only did he add three points to his scoring total but he also added his name to the record books. According to a statistician, James’ shot was the third longest in NBA history. Only an 84 footer by Chicago’s Norm Van Lier in 1977 and an 89 footer by Baron Davis (then with Charlotte) had more air time than James’. Kinda makes you wonder if he really was hitting jumpers from the opposite baseline in those ads. Nah, he couldn’t do that. Could he?

3. The Hornet with No Sting
Tyson Chandler isn’t far from becoming a big time player in this league. Chandler cleans the glass with the elite in the league, he’s currently sixth in boards, and he’s been blocking shots with ferocity of late. But despite all of the talent that he possesses, Chandler appears to have absolutely no desire to score. In fact, his season high is only 14 points and he hasn’t taken ten shots in any game this year. The Hornets have got to find a way to get more offense out of his 7-1, 245 pound frame and Chandler must learn to be aggressive if he’s ever going to live up to his second pick potential.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant @ Sacramento 48 min, 42 pts (FG: 11-21, 3FG: 3-5, FT: 17-20), 10 reb, 9 ast

Friday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (26-7) @ San Antonio (23-10) It’s probably the biggest rivalry in the NBA and tonight’s game should be another great game between these two division foes. The Mavericks have a 10-4 record away from Dallas this season, as well as a three game lead over the Spurs in the Southwest Division that has been steadily growing during the Mavs current 12 game win streak. San Antonio, on the other hand, has struggled recently; losing two in a row and four of their last seven. This will be the third game between these two with each team winning in the others gym.

Buzzer Beater: The referees in last night’s game between the Lakers and Kings became a bit whistle happy in the second quarter as they sent players to line an astounding 47 times. Talk about a snore fest! By half-time of the game there had been 38 total fouls called and six players had already picked up three fouls each. After regulation and overtime ended, a total of 80 fouls had been called and 102 free throws had been shot. I hope that the NBA front office takes note and remembers this performance when it comes time to assign referees to the All-Star Game. Please Mr. Stern, just say no to Dick Bavetta, Jess Kersey and Robby Robinson.

NBA General

Around the Rim: What Does the Future Hold?

One way for Iverson and Melo to coexist

1. Weapons of Mass Destruction
Plenty of questions surround the trade involving Allen Iverson and the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, with the suspension of Carmelo Anthony, we have to wait until January 20 to see the new look Nuggets. But if the league’s top two scorers can mesh together, Denver could have the best starting five in the NBA next season. The question mark in the lineup will fall on the power forward spot and the health of Kenyon Martin. However, should K-Mart return to his old form, this would be one of the most powerful and explosive lineups in the game. Iverson, J.R. Smith, Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby; now that’s a versatile group of starters. The general concern is about how this trade will play out this season, but the true potential for both teams involved will not come to realization until next year.

2. LBJ Hits the Wall
Reports from Cleveland say that LeBron James’ body is wearing down and, while he won’t admit it, he’s become tired and fatigued of late. While his statistics don’t indicate any problem, it seems he is lacking the same explosion. And, frankly, who can blame him? He’s fourth in the league in minutes with 40 a game, and he has to carry the weight of a struggling team on his back every single game. Perhaps no individual player does more to contribute to his team than James. Sure, he’s only 21 years old but he played a full season that went into the playoffs last year and spent his entire summer with Team USA before returning to preseason workouts. LeBron probably does need rest, but it’s not coming anytime soon as James made a three year commitment to USA Basketball.

3. Suns Are Hot
With a 17 point win over the Raptors last night, Phoenix set a franchise record by recording their 15th straight victory. And the Suns are only going to keep improving as their young stud Amare Stoudemire continues to progress after having microfracture knee surgery. Coach Mike D’Antoni was slow to give Stoudemire too many minutes earlier in the season, but since inserting him into the starting five, Stoudemire has not disappointed. His numbers continue to grow with the team’s streak as he is averaging 21.2 points and 8.9 rebounds during December. As far as the team’s win streak is concerned, it could increase to 18 before the Suns face a tough Mavericks team on December 28.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire vs. Toronto 28 min, 28 pts (FG: 11-14, FT: 6-6), 10 reb, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (18-6) @ Denver (14-9) Phoenix rides a 15 game winning streak into the Mile High City as the Suns will look to take advantage of a depleted Nuggets roster. Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith will not be playing, but it’s possible that Denver’s newest player might. Allen Iverson could make his debut in a Nuggets uniform tonight, but according to his agent he probably won’t. If A.I. doesn’t suit up, you can still see history be made as the Suns could tie the 1991 Portland Trailblazers for the fifth longest winning streak.

Buzzer Beater: Kobe Bryant fouled out for the first time in over a year last night in a 94-89 loss to Chicago. His sixth foul capped off a miserable 6 of 19 shooting performance. Without Lamar Odom in the lineup, the defensive minded Bulls cast were able to concentrate their efforts onto Bryant. Chicago continues to prove that with a focused Ben Wallace in the paint, the Bulls are able to shut down even to leagues most potent scorers.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Fun ‘n’ Run

1. What a Game!
No, we’re not in the 1980’s again. And no, you’re not experiencing a flashback. Phoenix actually did beat New Jersey by a score of 161 to 157. It took two overtimes but the Suns won the game that tied for fourth highest in league history. Fans were witnesses to a game that compiled 318 points, 27 three pointers, 89 rebounds and 80 assists! But what would expect from two of the best point guards in the league who both love to run? Jason Kidd picked up his third triple double of the season with 38 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists and tied Wilt Chamberlain for third all-time in triple dips with 78 (its unknown where Kidd ranks on Wilt’s impressive love list), but the reigning MVP wouldn’t let Kidd get the PG glory or the W. Steve Nash ended the game with a career high 42 points to go along with six rebounds and 13 assists while nailing the critical free throws which proved to be the final points of the game.

2. Texas Exes
If you’re a Texas Longhorn fan, then you had to enjoy the game between Cleveland and Toronto on Wednesday evening. That’s because Daniel Gibson got his first start since leaving the Horns for the NBA. Gibson looked good as he hooked his team up with 18 points, hitting three treys, and grabbing five boards. Oh, but Gibson wasn’t the only player to get the Longhorn reunion invitation. The greatest player to ever dawn the burnt orange was starting at point guard for the opposition as T.J. Ford dished out 10 assists. If only P.J. Tucker could have made it into the game.

3. Sub-Par Sonics
Seattle has been struggling through the early part of this season and there luck isn’t going to be changing any time soon. Ray Allen was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right ankle and will miss at least the next seven games before being reevaluated in two weeks. That’s bad news for the Sonics but there is a small silver lining in the cumulonimbus cloud that hangs over a soggy Seattle. This is a terrific opportunity for Rashard Lewis to fully extend his wings and soar. At 6-10 he’s a tough defensive assignment for any small forward and he has one of the most complete games around. Lewis is scoring a career high 22.9 points and can improve on that number with the increased workload. With trade rumors swirling, Lewis might not be not be in Seattle much longer. It looks like the sun might be starting to shine on Lewis in more ways than one.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Jason Kidd vs. Phoenix 48 min, 38 pts (FG: 13-26, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 9-9), 14 reb, 14 ast, 1 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (12-7) @ Orlando (14-6) It’s a match-up between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference as Detroit hopes to continue their winning ways after knocking off the Mavericks last night in Dallas. Orlando is 7-1 at home and will be looking forward to some home cookin’ after playing the last six games on the road. Dwight Howard was magical for Orlando as he led the team in both scoring and rebounding during the entire road trip.

Buzzer Beater: Devin Harris is suppose to be the point guard of the Mavericks future, but last night he looked like a point guard from Dallas’ past. And I’m not talking about Kidd, Nash or Derek Harper. More like Ollie Mack or Jim Spanarkel. Harris started the game but did nothing with his floor time. He ended with one point and four assists. Chauncey Billups abused Harris for the 28 minutes that Avery Johnson wasted with him on the court.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Remembering the Life of LBJ

1. The House of James
Have you every wanted to completely immerse yourself into all things LeBron James? Well, now you can. That’s because Nike has opened up a temporary store named IV in the heart of New York’s SoHo district. It is part shoe store and part LeBron James Historical Museum. The store takes its customers along a journey that spans the entire life of the soon-to-be 21 year old. Memorabilia from old football and basketball uniforms to baby shoes and childhood pictures are scattered throughout the store. Models of shoes that were never released are on display, and written on the floor are quotes about him from important people in his life. But The Big Apple has even more to offer the hardcore LeBron groupies. A block from Madison Square Garden there is a neon sign several stories high promoting Nike’s “Witness” campaign, in which James is seen performing a trademark dunk.

2. Portland Woes
Despite all the praise Zach Randolph has been recently receiving from basketball critics for his great play on the court; he will now have to be subject to criticism of a much more serious nature by a judge in a court of law. A woman has filed a $2 million civil lawsuit, claiming she was sexually assaulted by the Portland power forward. Allegedly, the incident took place on August 11 in a hotel room. The woman, identified as Jane Doe, filed a complaint on August 14 but Randolph was never identified by police as a witness and in September, the county’s district attorney decided not to prosecute the case.

We’ve seen enough of these types of cases in the NBA to know that it is possible for players to take refuge in the game and maintain high levels of success during times of stress. Just look at Kobe Bryant and his rape case. But we’ve also learned that once a player becomes involved with any type of sexual misconduct, regardless of the case’s outcome, the endorsement deals go away. Just look at Kobe Bryant and his rape case.

3. More Portland Woes
Darius Miles had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday and will miss the remainder of the season. While in surgery, doctors discovered that Miles also needed microfracture surgery. The procedures were successful and Miles is expected to begin rehab soon, hopefully allowing him to recover fully. This is not good news for the Trailblazers organization who is already struggling to capture victories with consistency. The team lacks depth at the small forward position and was hoping that Miles could provide help at some point this year. Portland needs all the aid they can get and, unfortunately, they can’t even rely on their rookies for minutes early in the year. The second pick overall, LaMarcus Aldridge has played in only two games this season after having shoulder surgery in August and Brandon Roy is expected to miss at least a week with a banged up left foot.

4. Finally!
After dropping the first four games of the season, the Dallas Mavericks are on a three game winning streak and have, at last, won a home game. Heads were being scratched all over when the Mavericks opened the season playing such lousy basketball, but since their eight game losing streak, stretching back to last year’s Finals, was snapped, the team has looked more like the Mavs of old. During the first four games of the season, Dallas was struggling to score points, averaging 89 points per game. In the three wins, Dallas has scored 119, 103 and 111 points. The winning can also be attributed more directly to the performance of Dirk Nowitzki. In the three wins this season, Nowitzki has averaged 30.7 points per game while during the four game skid he was only getting 22.5. Coincidentally, the winning streak has come while one of the team’s best players, Josh Howard, sits on the bench due to injury.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Dwyane Wade vs. Denver 45 min, 37 pts (FG: 9-21, 3FG: 3-5, FT: 16-17), 8 reb, 11 ast, 2 stl

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Denver (3-3) @ Orlando (5-3) If you love to watch the future stars of the NBA, then this is the game for you. Denver’s Carmelo Anthony is averaging 29.4 points per game and J.R. Smith is always only a head fake away from slam dunking on someone’s cranium. Orlando seems to have found their point guard, power forward combination of the future as Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard have begun to develop a nice chemistry. Howard plays like a veteran at 20 years old; averaging 15 points, 13 rebounds and over two blocks a game. And if you enjoy watching the great players on their way out, keep your eyes on Grant Hill who could hang up his sneakers for good if his left ankle goes out on him yet again.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Suns Burned

1. Arizona Heat
Coach Mike D’Antoni had some harsh word for his Suns team after falling to
1-5. “We’re soft as freaking cupcakes out there,” said D’Antoni. The
coach’s frustrations boiled over after a 119-112 loss to the Dallas
Mavericks but they had been simmering for quite some time. The Suns are on
a four game losing streak and have blown substantial lead in all of the
losses. What’s worse is that all have been conference loses, a conference
that Phoenix has made it to the finals in for the past two seasons.
Obviously, D’Antoni is upset with the defensive effort of his team. The
coach went on to say, “”We’re done messing around and we’re going to play
guys that are going to play hard.” Unfortunately, when you look at the box
scores, the Suns are hot on offense but seem to fear an overexposure from
defensive plays.

2. Cav Quitter?
LeBron James has been criticized since Tuesday night for walking off of the
court during the final moments of an overtime loss to Atlanta. According to
some, James quit on his team and showed poor sportsmanship. The incident
happened in the last ten seconds of the game with his team down by nine
points. James said that he never left the court although the television
footage doesn’t show it that way. He also questions whether this would be
an issue if it happened during a victory. Was he frustrated? Of course,
his team lost to one of the doormats of the NBA over the last eight years or
so. Should he have stuck around to shake hands with the other team?
Probably so, but I wouldn’t consider 34 points, seven rebounds and six
assists as quitting on your team. Following the controversy, the Cavs went
on to dominate the Bulls behind the efforts of James who had 19 points and
12 assists. Most would consider that to be a pretty good teammate.

3. C’mon Down!
Charles Barkley put up a new career high last night. And it didn’t involve
the gobbling up of rebounds or baked goods. On TNT’s Inside the NBA,
Barkley stunned the world when he proved to be somewhat knowledgeable on the
league’s players. The studio crew brought back its annual game show parody
named, “Who He Play For?” where Barkley attempts to name the team of a
player that has recently relocated. The Chuckster has been notoriously
awful over the past few years; however, this year he smashed his previous
best by correctly answering three out of five. Barkley knew that Raef
LaFrentz played for Portland, Theo Ratliff was on Boston and Darrell
Armstrong now resides in Indiana. Sir Charles was unaware that Alan Houston
played for Philadelphia or that Othella Harrington went to Charlotte.
Barkley’s playful excuse was that he only keeps up with the players that
actually get into the games.

4. So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance
Joe Johnson is beginning to spread his wings as he has the Atlanta Hawks
soaring to the best record in the eastern conference. As unbelievable as it
may sound, Atlanta has a 3-1 record and is riding a three game winning
streak. Credit has to be given to Johnson as he is putting up some MVP type
numbers early on in the season. Johnson is averaging 40 minutes, 27.8
points, four rebounds, five assists and 1.5 steals per game. In addition,
his shooting numbers are terrific. Currently he sits at 48 percent on field
goals and 50 percent from behind the three point line, both are career
highs. While Atlanta has a few good, young players on their roster, at 25,
Johnson is the only diamond out of the batch. Johnson leads the team in
minutes, points and assists, and ranks 5th in rebounds, 3rd in blocks, and
3rd in steals. With Johnson, Atlanta has an outside shot of cracking the
top eight in the conference but without him, this team is guaranteed to
repeat their past performances as division cellar dwellers.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Baron Davis vs. New Orleans 44 min, 36 pts
(FG: 11-17, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 13-17), 4 reb, 9 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: New Orleans (4-1) @ Portland (3-2) Doesn’t look
right on paper, does it? But Portland is undefeated at home behind the
impressive efforts of power forward Zach Randolph who is averaging 28 points
on 52 percent shooting to go along with 10 rebounds, a steal and a block per
game. The Hornets are off to their best start in franchise history and tied
for the western conference’s best record. Second year point guard Chris
Paul is leading the way for the team as he comes off a career high night,
scoring 34 points against Golden State.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Welcome to Sportscolumn’s new daily NBA blog

[Editor’s Note: Around the Rim is a new daily NBA blog written by Clay Whittington.]

Average dunk

1. Mediocre Man
Jason Richardson was recently named Mr. Average by It’s probably not the recognition that J-Rich was looking for in order to get that next big endorsement deal, but things could be worse. The last two players to be considered run-of-the-mill by league averages have proven to be anything but. Last year’s winner was Richard Jefferson and the year before that the title was given to Shawn Marion. Average by NBA terms for this season is standing 6’6″ and weighing 225 pounds at 26 years old with five years of experience. But in Richardson’s case, average also includes being the only person besides Michael Jordan to win consecutive slam dunk titles.

2. Transplanted Rose
Jalen Rose has decided to join the Phoenix Suns for one year at $1.5 million, just slightly above the veteran’s minimum. This move adds even more offense to the Suns lineup and gives Rose a legit shot at winning a championship, but its biggest impact will be felt in Rose’s checking account. While $1.5 million might not sound like an impressive payday for an NBA player, consider that in addition to being rescued from a sinking New York franchise, Rose received a $14.5 million buyout from the Knicks. Apparently, playing on a poorly managed team known for overpaying and underachieving does have some advantages. Mainly, you get paid to play for someone else.

3. Royal-ties
LeBron “King” James gained an advantage over Dwyane Wade in their battle to become the new, young face of the Association when James was considered to be the most marketable NBA player in a survey conducted by SportsBusiness Daily. And who could argue with the decision? Endorsement should be this kid’s middle name. At 21 years old, James has already made some memorable commercials in his young career. Some of these include a series of Sprite spots with Lil’ Penny’s long lost rip-off, Thirst, and his current Nike campaign where he portrays a quartet of characters collectively known as “The LeBrons.” Since high school, James has been more popular than almost any NBA player and he beat out fellow classmate Wade, as well as, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and Yao Ming in the poll. While championship rings might get you a spot on the list, the marketing throne is reserved for the young king.

4. Celtic Girls
On Friday, the Boston Celtics became the last team in the NBA to introduce a dance team to their courtside entertainment. While the choice was applauded by the male contingent of the team’s fan base, the timing of their debut could have been a bit more appropriate. The late Red Auerbach was openly opposed to the dancers because he felt that the game itself should always remain as the center of attention. So, less than a week after Auerbach’s death, the front office brought the dance team out to shake and gyrate on the parquet floor that the legendary coach cherished so deeply. Hardly the proper tribute to a man that meant so much.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Ray Allen vs. LA Lakers 36 min, 32 pts (FG: 10-16, 3FG: 3-4, FT: 9-9), 3 reb, 6 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (2-1) @ Utah (3-0) Detroit hasn’t lost on the road and Utah has yet to lose at home. Obviously, something has to give. Utah is looking to move back into the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03 and an early win over Detroit could give the team a boost in confidence. Detroit needs to win in order to keep pace with a tough central division that includes the Bucks, Bulls, Cavs and Pacers.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cavaliers fans cheer Rasheed’s injury

How many times have you heard that Philly fans cheered when Michael Irvin went down with a spine injury? That happened seven years ago. How long do you think anyone will bring up the fact that Cavs fans cheered when Rasheed rolled his ankle and had to (temporarily) leave the game? That story has the shelf life of about 3 days. Cleveland fans throw bottles onto the field, cheered when their own QB was inured, and, now, cheer opposing player injuries. Yet, somehow, Philly fans are the worst. We’re calling bullshit.

Meanwhile… back to the series. Rasheed and the Pistons couldn’t back up his guaranteed victory in game 4 but that didn’t keep Sheed from guaranteeing a series victory.

Even the sun shines on a dog’s ass. There ain’t no way . . . they’re going to beat us in no series. They beat us tonight, which is good for them. . . . But, nah, they ain’t going to beat us in the series.

You gotta hand it to the guy. In a world of “we’re going to take it one game at a time”, “they are a quality opponent”, and “she said she was 18, your honor”, it’s refreshing to have Sheed in the mix.


[Cleveland Plain Dealer]: Limping Wallace still running mouth
[Detroit Free Press]: MIRCH ALBOM: No more guarantees because talk is cheap
[Yay Sports]: The Pistons are in denial