NBA General

Around the Rim: Artest gets arraigned

1. What did the five fingers say to the face?
It’s all fun and games for Ron Artest while he’s slapping his wife but now Ron Ron is facing the potential punishment for his lack of anger management. Artest will be arraigned today on charges of battery and corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. That sucks for Artest because each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in the slammer. Artest should shoot a text over to Stephen Jackson and get some tips on how he’s managed to avoid jail time after his strip club incident. But the NBA’s bad boy has had plenty of time to prepare for this day considering that sheriff’s have made the trip to Artest’s home five times since last August, and two of those responses involved some type of domestic disturbance. In fact, the Tru Warier has been involved with the law so frequently that he will be eligible for a limited edition Pacman Jones bobble-head with just three more arrests!

2. Kids in men’s clothing

Last night was another great battle between two of the league’s most promising big men in Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard but Toronto got more help when it counted and the Raptors ended up on top, 92-85. But back to the individual battle; while Howard had a respectable night with 17 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three assists it just wasn’t enough to outdo his fellow Eastern Conference All-Star who racked up 34 points, 16 rebounds and a pair of swats. And TJ Ford didn’t help Orlando out any as he put up 16 points and 12 assists. This Toronto/Orlando rivalry is becoming must watch TV thanks to the new breed superstars. The last time these teams hooked up on Feb. 7, Bosh had a career-high 41 points while Howard had a career-high night of his own with 32 points on 13-for-14 shooting.

3. Three down, 13 to go
With an easy victory over the slumping Pacers last night, the Spurs became the third team to lock up a playoff spot. The 90-72 win couldn’t have come at a better time for San Antonio who went on a two-game losing skid after winning a season-high 13 consecutive games prior to that. Tim Duncan beginning to look very spry with the post season approaching as he torched Indiana for 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting. He even hit five of his eight free throws and for Timmy, that’s pretty darn good. The Spurs have now joined Phoenix and Dallas in the post season with Utah and Houston set to guarantee their slot any day now. It’s really only a matter of which teams grab the final three spots and secure their series with one of the major players in the West.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas @ Seattle 38 min, 42 pts (FG: 13-24, 3FG: 6-12, FT: 10-12), 4 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (35-32) @ Memphis (17-51) It’s really hard not to put Detroit at Houston as the game of the day but with the way Kobe Bryant has been stroking it lately you have got to tune in to see what he does next. And c’mon, it’s the Grizz; Bryant could be looking at a “double nickel” by the end of the third quarter if he’s feeling good. Should Kobe top 50 points he would become the first Laker to accomplish that feat since Elgin Baylor did it in December of 1962. That would be pretty freakin’ amazing considering that Kareem, Magic and Shaq have all worn the purple and gold. The Mamba has a two-game total of 115 points which is good for the third highest in the last 40 seasons. Only Michael Jordan and, well, Kobe Bryant have a higher total in two games after each managed to rack up 118 points. In other words, he’s hot.

Buzzer Beater: As pathetic as it sounds, the United States basketball team will have to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. If the red, white and blue is going to be involved in the Olympic experience they will have to start off by beating Venezuela in the Americas Tournament which will be held in Las Vegas from August 22 to September 2. Also in the same group as the US are Brazil, Canada and the US Virgin Islands. At least Greece isn’t in this tourney, because it was the Greeks that knocked Team USA out of contention for the championship round at the 2006 World Championship. And it was that loss that is now forcing the States to qualify before they can even get invited to the Olympics. As Charles Barkley would say, “Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson must be rollin’ over in their graves.”

NBA General

Around the Rim: They All Look Like a Bunch of Girlie Men, Right?

I just pop random pills!

1. What’s Wrong With Kids These Days?
Kobe Bryant’s smack to Marko Jaric’s head didn’t result in a win for the Lakers against the Timberwolves, and it probably cost Los Angeles their game against Milwaukee last night. That’s because David Stern suspended Bryant for the game against the Bucks, stripping the Lakers of his 29.2 points per game average as Milwaukee rolled to an easy 110-90 victory. Lex Luthor, er, Charlie Villanueva torched the Zen Master’s decimated lineup for 26 points on 10 of 12 shooting.

While Bryant kept quiet about the incident, Jaric came out and actually supported Bryant’s behavior. “I haven’t seen the replay, but if you ask me what I thought about the play when it happened, I don’t think he did it intentionally, and I don’t think players should be suspended for things that happen unintentionally,” Jaric told First Tyler Hansborough says Gerald Henderson smashing his nose into his face was accidental, and now Jaric calls Bryant’s cheap shot unintentional? It’s getting kinda hard to blame the sucker punchers when the sucker punchees condone getting their craniums cracked.

2. $5 Million Bargain
Dwight Howard’s 18 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game has earned him a lot of recognition this year, but he’s not going to receive his most valuable award until this summer when he becomes a free agent. Orlando is expected to offer Howard a deal which would generate the young All-Star $87.5 million over the next five years. The first year of the deal would be worth approximately $14.5 million and increase to about $20.5 million. That’s about a $10 million raise from his current salary of $4.8 million. Howard is obviously the future of the franchise and he might be the future of the league. At 6-11 and 265 pounds, Howard has one of the most chiseled bodies in all the league and he can perform feats that smaller players only dream about. Once the Magic begin giving Howard a superstar’s share of the shots, he’s only averaging 11 attempts per game, he’s going to truly become an unstoppable force on both ends of the court.

3. Dropping Bombs
After smoking virtually every team in the NBA this year, the Suns nearly dropped the ball against one of the weakest teams in the league. In fact, it took a career-high 32 points from Leandro Barbosa off the bench and an extra five minutes for the Suns could put away the Bobcats, 115-106. Phoenix’s previous five games against the Cats were won by an average of 15.8 points. Barbosa nailed seven of the team’s 19 treys which was just one shy of the franchise record. Raja Bell threw in five triples of his own in the contest to help offset some of 44 points that Adam Morrison and Gerald Wallace teamed up for. It probably wasn’t the kind of win Phoenix was expecting before the game, but winning eight out of nine games is still pretty good, regardless of the competition.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Detroit 51 min, 41 pts (FG: 17-31, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 6-8), 7 reb, 8 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (43-18) @ Sacramento (28-32) Thanks to a ten game win streak, the Spurs have quietly moved ahead of Utah for the third best record in the league. It took a while, but SA has regained their trademark defense (league best 89.8 points against) that led them to three championships in seven years. Tim Duncan appears to be completely healthy for the first time in a long time which is bad news for opposing defenders. The Kings have won five of their last six games and sit just one game behind the Clippers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It will be interesting to see just how long the Kings can maintain their current high level of play without starter Ron Artest who was dismissed from the team on Monday.

Buzzer Beater: One of the league’s most admirable citizens over the past decade has been Lindsey Hunter, but being a good guy doesn’t get anyone out of a positive drug test. But it’s probably not what you think; it’s not weed, it’s not cocaine or steroids. No, Hunter proved that he was indeed a good guy by getting busted for phentermine, a pill commonly used by his wife for weight loss. Hunter’s airtight explanation for popping his partner’s pills was simply that “we do that at our house.” But regardless of reason, the little pill is going to cost Hunter a lot of money. $205,000 over a 10 game suspension to be exact. But it’s worth it; have you seen how trim he looks?

NBA General

Around the Rim: Even Vegas Won’t Touch Him

1. Banished
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but too bad for Tim Hardaway he’ll never make it to Vegas. That’s because David Stern has banned Hardaway from appearing at any NBA functions over the All-Star weekend after he publicly blasted John Ameachi and other gays for their lifestyles. You can’t blame Stern for his decision; he can’t release a loose cannon like Hardaway and trust him to properly represent the league during their annual self promotion weekend after he demonstrated zero self control on the radio. Like it or not, Hardaway will be now always been considered a homophobic, venom-spewing hate monger instead of the originator of the killer crossover.

2. In Search of Seven
A familiar face could be returning from retirement after the All-Star break. 41 year old Scottie Pippen says he is seriously considering a comeback, but he wants to play for a contender, perhaps Phoenix. Pip says that this is the best he has felt in the past five years. The last time Pippen was in the league was during the 2003-04 season when he played for a Michael Jordanless Chicago Bulls team. Well, played might be a bit of an overstatement considering that he only saw action in 23 games. No matter how old some of these guys get, they just can’t sit at home and roll in their millions like Scrooge McDuck. Guess six rings isn’t enough.

3. High Hopes and High Hoops
Dwight Howard has big ideas for his performance during Saturday’s slam dunk competition, but it seems like the league isn’t going to let them come to fruition. Howard wants the hoop to be elevated for several of his attempts, but his requests have been oddly denied. One move that Howard has been practicing in Orlando is a 360 slam with the rim set to a height of 12 feet. Another dunk that Howard has been working on is an “East Bay Funk Dunk” type maneuver between his legs with the rim set a full foot and a half higher than the regulation setting.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Cleveland 41 min, 34 pts (FG: 9-22, 3FG: 2-7, FT: 14-15), 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: The Kobe Bryant/LeBron James is becoming one of the best individual rivalries in the game today. In the past week, we’ve seen these two compete in their only pair of games this year. In the two games, Bryant scored a total of 70 points but went home as the loser both times. James, on the other hand, put up 56 points as his team walked away with a pair of closely contested victories. It’s probably not too hard to see these two hooking up in a classic Finals series one day, but it’s definitely not this year.