NBA General

Around the Rim: Second Rate All-Stars

Vegas bound

1. Wrecked West
All-Stars are dropping like flies and now, in addition to Carlos Boozer and Yao Ming, Steve Nash and Allen Iverson will both miss the contest for the West. Mehmet Okur and Ray Allen were named as their replacements by David Stern on Tuesday. Stern also inserted Carmelo Anthony and Josh Howard into the squad for Boozer and Ming. Now, there are a total of 16 All-Stars in the Western Conference but it appears the East will be assigned a new player soon after Jason Kidd announced he will miss at least one more game with a strained back. No word yet on who could replace Kidd, but we do know that the Hornets’ Chris Paul will replace Nash in the skills competition.

2. He’s Not All Bad
Ron Artest has been playing great lately with at least 20 points in eight of his last nine games but, last night, Artest put together the best offensive output of his career. Artest went off against the Rockets and scored 39 (5-7 3-pointers) points and grabbed eight big boards for the Kings, but it wasn’t enough as Sacramento lost to Houston in overtime. The Kings are now sitting in the basement of their division as Artest and Mike Bibby have both become hot commodities with the trade deadline approaching. The latest rumor had Bibby heading to Cleveland for Cavs forward Drew Gooden.

3. Hornets Get Stung
The Hornets were in position to move into the playoff picture last night, and all they had to do was beat the pathetic Grizzlies. But it wasn’t New Orleans’ night as Memphis picked up their first division win of the season with an exciting 108-104 victory at home. It was the Grizzlies third crack at the Hornets this year; in all Memphis was 0-13 versus division foes (0-4 vs. DAL, 0-4 vs. HOU, 0-3 vs. SA, 1-2 vs. NO) before they finally picked up a win. Tyson Chandler went bananas, grabbing a franchise record-tying 23 rebounds while matching his career-high in points with 17. With the win, the Grizzlies are now only 11 ½ games out of the playoff picture. Keep up the good work guys.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki @ Milwaukee 43 min, 38 pts (FG: 15-28, 3FG: 2-6, FT: 6-6), 11 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (34-18) @ Detroit (32-18) The road trip continues for San Antonio and so far the Spurs have been on a pretty bumpy ride. SA is 3-4 during the stretch but gained some confidence last night after blowing out a struggling Nets team. Detroit will prove a tough task as they are 17-9 at home this year and currently riding a seven game win streak. Much like when the Pistons added Rasheed Wallace to their squad mid-season a few years ago, Detroit is becoming better and better as the postseason approaches.

Buzzer Beater: It took a few seasons but Eddy Curry is finally living up to the draft day hype. He scored 19 points against the Lakers last night and scored the go-ahead basket with seven seconds remaining. Curry is even received some All-Star consideration and if Jason Kidd misses the game, Curry could still be injected into the Eastern Conference’s lineup but it’ll be tough for the commish to pass on a high scoring Joe Johnson.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Knocked Out

1. The Mamba Strikes
Kobe Bryant is in trouble again for something he claims was unintentional, but at least there is no police involvement in this case. Bryant said that he was “shocked” to be suspended for last night’s game because of an elbow to the face of Manu Ginobili during the Spurs-Lakers game on Sunday. David Stern turned down an appeal hearing that was requested by Bryant yesterday. Last year, Bryant was suspended for two games after a stiff forearm to the throat of Mike Miller. The Mamba says that he felt awful after he realized Ginobili had gone down, but he also felt awful in a tearful press conference after being accused of rape. That doesn’t mean he didn’t sleep with a gold-digger.

2. Hopeful Hornets
One of the best point guards in the league could be back on the court by Friday; that’s because Chris Paul says he’s feeling great and ready to get on the floor. The Hornets have been destroyed by injuries this year after having a solid start to the season, but New Orleans has still been able to hold their own of late and win seven of their last ten. Desmond Mason and Tyson Chandler have been impressive in Paul’s absence and their numbers could get better when their leader returns. Even though Paul leads the team in scoring, he is much more focused on distributing the rock.

3. The Big Benchwarmer
After missing almost the entire season so far, Shaq made his long awaited return last week. But after playing in only two games, he’s been placed back on a very sturdy shelf. The Diesel hurt his calf in practice on Monday and is considered day to day. It looks like this could be the beginning of a series of nagging injuries for the big fella. O’Neal use to claim that despite his regular season obstacles, he would always be ready to go when the playoffs rolled around. But his age is catching up with his body and the results have not been pretty. Considering Shaq’s current conditioning, he’ll need to be completely healthy for a full four to six weeks before the postseason begins to be at his best when it counts.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas vs. Detroit 44 min, 36 pts (FG: 10-20, 3FG: 5-12, FT: 11-12), 7 reb, 11 ast

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (32-14) @ Utah (29-17) This is a great match-up despite the team’s struggles of late. Tim Duncan is currently playing some his best ball of the year, as he usually does during the Spurs yearly rodeo road trip. Utah has only lost six games at home and owns a commanding lead in the Northwest Division behind the play of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. The Jazz have been considering moving Andrei Kirilenko and bringing in someone like Ray Allen or Vince Carter since AK-47 just can’t seem to play up to his standards. Tonight, Kirilenko will need to step up against Bruce Bowen to possibly save in job in Utah.

Buzzer Beater: In case you hadn’t noticed; the Bucks suck. This January, Milwaukee has gone a pathetic 2-12. But things could be changing for the Bucks soon because Michael Redd has said that he could return by next week. That would put Redd in the lineup against Orlando. Currently, the Bucks are four games behind eighth place in the East; which isn’t exactly a death sentence in a fairly pathetic conference. Redd has been rehabbing since going down with a strained patellar tendon in his left leg, leaving his team with a 27.7 point hole to crawl out of every night.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Divorce Court

It’s over?

1. Gold Digger Alert
By this point, everyone is familiar with the unusual circumstances surrounding the divorce proceedings between Jason Kidd and his wife Joumana. But did you know that Kidd isn’t the only Net who is going through a split. In a far less entertaining manner, Vince Carter and his wife, Ellen Rucker, have initiated the paperwork to dissolve their relationship as well. So far, “Half-Man, Half-A Commitment” has not publicly admitted to quitting on the marriage, but the breakup could be the leading factor in a move from New Jersey. Rucker will most likely move to Orlando or her hometown of Charlotte and take the couple’s daughter with her. Carter will become a free agent at the end of the year, making these very tempting destinations as they might be able to offer Vince, the dad, an incentive that no other team could. By the way, the Nets have finally moved into first place in their division thanks to a 15-19 record that management would like to annul.

2. Sixers buyout Chris Webber
Speaking of divorces, the Sixers are getting rid of all their big contracts this year. The latest is a buyout of Chris Webber’s contract. Scheduled to make $45M combined this year and next, Webber is expected to only give back less than $5M and becomes a free agent. This is a win-win because Webber potentially gets to make more money or goes to a contending team for less than his usual asking price while the Sixers get salary cap and luxury tax relief — not to mention no-defense-playing relief.

3. We’re Going Streaking!
Believe it or not, but teams other than Dallas can string together consecutive wins. And since the Mavs latest streak is currently only at one, there’s an opportunity to recognize them as well. Phoenix is no stranger to great spurts of play, and owns the longest active win streak at seven. This comes after the Suns ripped off 15 in a row earlier in the year. The Cavs can take credit as the hottest team in the East after winning their last five games. On the other side of the coin, New Orleans and Seattle get to share the humiliation of being the leagues reigning bottom feeders since both teams have dropped their previous five contests.

4. Five Times the Pain
Nobody has every questioned Bobby Jackson’s work ethic in the past, and now we know why. Jackson was injured during a game in late November against Toronto and it was determined that he had a cracked rib. The painful injury kept him sidelined until January 4th when he returned to play for ten minutes against Detroit. On Tuesday, a CT scan showed that Jackson had played with not one, but five cracked ribs. And the former sixth man of the year is only listed as day to day! Talk about a pain threshold. Luckily, no additional damage was sustained in his brief return to the court, but Jackson might want to reconsider his choice of medical practitioners before his next annual checkup.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Nick Collison @ Phoenix 44 min, 29 pts (FG: 12-18, FT: 5-9), 21 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Chicago (20-15) @ Washington (19-14) Chicago has struggled recently by losing three of their last four games, but they remain one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference behind a solid starting five and one of the best sixth men the league has ever witnessed. Ben Gordon leads the Bulls in scoring despite being fourth on the team in minutes. But when it comes to scoring, it’s Washington that has the obvious advantage with MVP candidate Gilbert Arenas. Arenas is second in the league scoring and has been collecting 40 point games like stamps all year long. The Bulls will have to step up their pathetic play on the road against a Wiz team that is 13-3 in D.C. if they plan to escape the Verizon Center with a win.

Buzzer Beater: T.J. Ford had one of the worst games of his career last night against the Nets. In 18 minutes, Ford missed all of his shots (0-8) and finished with zero points and one assist. After being wheeled off the court on a stretcher, this is no big deal for Ford, but Toronto has got to be worried about the recent play from their point guard. An ankle injury has benched Ford in three of the last five games after he averaged 17 points and nine assists with five double-doubles in December.

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: The Big Uneasy

1. New Orleans Hor-nots
The Hornets started off the year looking like a team that was determined to make the playoffs. Now, they look more like a team that is simply determined to get off the trainers table. Chris Paul twisted his ankle on Tuesday against Seattle and is expected to miss two more games. Paul is just the latest Hornet to be bitten by the injury bug. Peja Stojakovic is scheduled to miss at least two months after having surgery on his back and David West is expected to miss anywhere from two to eight weeks after surgery on his shoulder. But losing three starters just isn’t enough for this team. Sixth man Bobby Jackson is out until next month due to a cracked rib. The problems continue to mount for the team with no home as they have lost three in a row and eight of their last ten.

2. The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
Now that Allen Iverson has been traded to Denver, who is going to be the next big star to don a new uniform? The answer might be in California where it appears Corey Maggette is ready to leave the Clippers. Recently, Maggette was quoted as saying, “Me and coach Dunleavy, we don’t see eye to eye.” Apparently the team is talking with Sacramento about a trade involving Ron Artest. It is certain that Maggette’s days are done in L.A. but finding a proper trade has been difficult for the team. The Kings want more for Artest and the Clippers don’t want to lose too much of their current squad. This could turn into another waiting game as the Clippers continue to search for a reasonable trade. But at 12-16 and sitting at the bottom of their division, time is definitely not on L.A.’s side.

3. 20/20 Vision
Jason Kidd was fined $20,000 after referring to the referees in New Jersey’s game versus Detroit as “three blind mice.” The comments came after a questionable no-call at the end of the game when Vince Carter and Rasheed Wallace made contact as Carter took what could have been a game-winning shot. Net’s coach Lawrence Frank was not fined after he yelled at the referees after the game. Kidd did not back down from his comments after being fined by the league. Perhaps he had yet to review the tape as it appeared that Carter was more responsible for the contact as he pushed-off of Wallace. Maybe Kidd should be the one to schedule an appointment with an optometrist.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Gerald Wallace vs. Washington 42 min, 40 pts (FG: 15-27, 3FG: 0-2, FT: 10-11), 14 reb, 6 stl, 4 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (19-7) @ Dallas (21-7) It’s a battle between up-tempo and really up-tempo. Dallas is 12-3 at home and has won seven in row while the Suns are attempting to start a new streak after having their 15 game win streak snapped by Washington. Steve Nash returns to Dallas with two consecutive MVP awards as former teammate Dirk Nowitzki is hoping to take the trophy away from his buddy this season. Expect a barn-burner tonight in Big D.

Buzzer Beater: Chris Webber returned to Sacramento last night but there was certainly no home-coming party. Webber struggled throughout the game and ended the night with a pathetic four points on 2-9 shooting in 26 minutes. It seems like Webber would be motivated to step-up his game with A.I. gone and his old team on the schedule. But the poor performances just continue to mount for the former double-double King.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Winners and Losers

Dirty player?

1. Big Winners
And then there were two. New Orleans and Utah, both at 4-0, currently sit above the rest of the league as the only remaining undefeated teams. Unexpected, considering that neither team made the playoffs last year. Unfortunately, both teams are in a tough western conference so their reign at the top probably won’t last long. New Orleans shares a division with San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Memphis, and it is unlikely that they will win the division or even come in second. However, Utah, on the other hand, is putting themselves in a position to finally return to the playoffs. The Jazz are in a much weaker division and these early wins could allow them to be in contention for the division crown later in the season. Win your division and you receive a golden ticket to the postseason; simple as that. While New Orleans’ early run to 4-0 might be more surprising, the path to the playoffs has far fewer obstacles for Utah.

2. Big Losers

Boston, Dallas and Denver remain as the three teams who have yet to pick up a victory. It is not surprising to find the Celtics in this position but Denver’s rocky start was unexpected. However, Denver has only played in two games, losing by a total of four points. And you can expect the team to grab their first victory tonight when they host the Knicks. Without doubt, the biggest loser of this young season has to be the Mavericks who are 0-3, with two home losses and losses to both in-state rivals. Go back to last year’s collapse in the Finals against Miami and you have a team on a seven game losing streak that is becoming desperate for a win. With a tough three game road trip starting tonight against the Clippers, followed by the Suns tomorrow, it might be Sunday at Portland before Dallas grabs their first win. As if the schedule isn’t tough enough, Josh Howard will be out for two weeks with an ankle injury.

3. Fight Club

Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood have become more than just teammates, they’ve become sparring partners. Apparently, the two Washington centers had a verbal argument in the locker room on Thursday that led to Thomas throwing a punch. Haywood proceeded to throw Thomas to the ground and rip out two of his dreadlocks before teammates could separate them. And this isn’t the first time these two have gone toe to toe. Haywood was suspended for a game last year after an unpleasant incident occurred with Thomas during practice. Haywood appears to be upset with his demotion behind Thomas. Couple that with the fact that these two have a history with one another and it’s likely that Haywood will be traded at some point during the season.

4. Ankle Breaker

Bruce Bowen is building up a reputation throughout the league, and it’s not for his work in the community. Bowen is becoming known as one of the dirtiest players in the game after he was, once again, the cause of an opponent’s sprained ankle. His latest victim, Knicks guards Steve Francis. While Francis never publicly accused Bowen of intentionally sticking his foot underneath him while in the act of shooting, other players have. Vince Carter had incidents over the same issue with Bowen in Toronto and again in New Jersey. Along with Carter, Ray Allen and Vladimir Radmanovic have both blatantly accused Bowen of being dirty. Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady have also felt the pain from Bowen’s aggressive style. Bowen is known for his smothering defense and it is tough to determine if the injuries are a byproduct of tight positioning or caused by malicious intent. But at this point, the controversy has been created and the label of “dirty” is going to stick to Bowen like he sticks to shooting guards.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett @ LA Lakers 39 min, 26 pts (FG:10-18, FT: 6-6), 9 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (1-3) @ San Antonio (3-1) A rematch from the 2005 western conference finals, San Antonio will be motivated to redeem their home loss to Cleveland and a sloppy finish versus New York. Phoenix is determined to pick up a victory and thus, Amare Stoudemire is expected to make his first start of the season. Despite getting the start, you can expect to see Kurt Thomas defend Duncan for a good portion of the game as the Suns won’t try to rush their young stud.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Drama in Dallas

I got your money Nellie!

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

1. Cuban Millions Crisis
On Monday, Don Nelson returned to Dallas as coach of a different team, but he still had the same old relationship with his former boss Mark Cuban. And that is, none at all. The two no longer speak to one another and according to Nelson, Cuban still owes him $6.6 million. Apparently, the relationship turned sour after a bitter negotiation over Nelson’s last contract, prompting the two to cease any personal association with one another. Nelson was named as a consultant but once personnel moves were being made without Nelson’s involvement, he decided it was time to leave. Cuban has been quiet about the situation, “I have nothing to say at all. He coaches the bad guys now.” Has Cuban turned over a new leaf? Are we seeing a more reserved, more mature Mark Cuban? Unlikely.

2. Cuban Conspiracy Theory
Cuban raised eyebrows on opening night when he decided not to unveil the team’s western conference championship banner against rivals San Antonio. Cuban played the move off as a gesture to the fans, allowing them to enjoy both an opening night and a championship celebration. Now, with the emergence of Nelson in Golden State, the picture is becoming clearer. Cuban, who is known for his brash behavior, simply passed up an opportunity to rub his success in the faces of the Spurs for an opportunity to rub his success in the face of his former coach. The ceremony was to serve as a reminder to Nelson of the achievement gained upon his departure. With David Stern cracking down on “whining” in the league, these types of nonverbal gestures could prove to be more advantageous for the calculating business guru. Cuban will always get the last word in whether it’s spoken or not. Don’t mistake a quiet Cuban for a changed Cuban.

3. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
It’s only the first week of the season but Allen Iverson is already having a great season. With 34.0 points a game, he is leading the NBA in scoring, but the points aren’t surprising. What is, however, is the accuracy with which he gets them. A career 42 percent shooter, he’s currently shooting 49 percent from the field and an eye-popping 55 percent from behind the three point line. And don’t try to call him selfish anymore. His assists are up to 9.7 per game, another career high. The injury prone Iverson continues to put his body on the line for his team, leading the NBA in minutes per game and free throws attempted. On the flip side, one of Iverson’s signatures has always been his turnovers and this year is no different as he dubiously leads the league in that category as well with 5.33 per game. Will any of these numbers hold over a full season? Time will tell, but with A.I. in MVP form and his team jumping out to a 3-0 start for the first time in six seasons things are definitely looking brighter for Philly fans.

4. Second Home Coming
The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets will have their second home opener of the season tonight. The team brings a 3-0 record to their home away from home as they play Golden State in Oklahoma City. Chris Paul led the team to a victory over Houston in New Orleans on Sunday. David Stern emphasized over the weekend that the Hornets will return to The Big Easy full-time next season. Over the past two seasons, Oklahoma City has proven to be hungry for professional sports and their commitment to the Hornets franchise has created an opportunity for the NBA to set up shop in the Heartland. Coincidentally, the Seattle Sonics were recently purchased by an Oklahoma City-based ownership group; an acquisition that has Sonic fans sleepless in Seattle.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Zach Randolph @ LA Clippers 38 min, 35 pts (FG: 11-17, FT: 13-15), 13 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Minnesota (2-2) @ LA Lakers (3-1) The Lakers are perfect at home on the year as former MVP, Kevin Garnett, comes to town. Kobe Bryant has been quiet in the two games he has played this season, taking only 25 shots total, but he will look to explode against the T-Wolves after losing in Seattle. Lamar Odom has been sporadic since Bryant’s return and appeared more comfortable as the lead role in the opening game that Bryant missed.