LA Clippers

All of L.A. will soon be sporting Baron Davis beards

Baron Davis stunned the basketball world by bolting from Golden State for one of the most pathetic franchises ever in existence: the Clippers. There’s really only two ways this can work out for B-Dizzle, a) he helps turn around a team’s fortunes, dotting the NBA landscape with two relevant Los Angeles squads or b) he looks back in a few years and says “Dear Lord, what have I done?” Either way, Clipper Nation (if there is such a thing) wins big. The fans finally have a legitimate star to root for and he’s a hometown hero to boot. Davis deserves a lot of credit for making such a gigantic leap of faith, but, frankly, we think the City of Angels owes this guy a beer for being the influencing factor in the move. After all, how could B.D. resist this sultry serenade home?

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Dallas is dancing

1. Dirk saves the best for last
Thanks to a last-second dagger from Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs are in the playoffs. With the scored tied at 94 apiece, Nowitzki got a trey to fall with 0.9 seconds on the clock and Dallas secured a seed in the second season. Nowitzki scored a game-high 32 points in the 97-94 home floor victory to go along with 21 points – all in the second half – from Jason Terry. The twosome was basically impossible to stop down the stretch as they combined for 25 points in the fourth quarter. After picking up a big time road win in New Orleans on Tuesday, the Jazz returned to their disappointing ways away from home. Utah is now 17-23 on the road, but thanks to its division title, it will have homecourt advantage in the opening round regardless of how their regular season ends.

2. Warriors dealt a brutal blow

For the Nuggets and the Warriors, last night’s battle was perhaps the most important game to date for either team. In the end, Allen Iverson and the Nuggets proved too difficult a challenge and laid claim to a one game lead in the home stretch of an intense playoff race. A.I. posted 33 points in the 114-105 win at Golden State and the Nuggets finally have a measure of breathing room. Carmelo Anthony added 25 points, nine rebounds and five steals while J.R. Smith came off the bench to score 24. Led by Baron Davis’ third triple-double of the season (20 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast), all five starters for the Warriors finished in double-figures. But the numbers mean nothing at this point because the loss was devastating for Golden State. The Warriors almost have to win their final three games while praying the Nuggets drop at least two.

3. LA beats LA in LA
The Lakers only got 16 points out of Kobe Bryant last night against the Clippers and that was 16 more than they needed. Los Angeles grabbed a road victory by pounding the Clippers 106-78. What was briefly a rivalry between the two L.A. clubs has again turned into a manhandling. On Thursday, Luke Walton had the honors of personally dismantling the Clips by scoring 18 points while Lamar Odom went off for a double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Lakers are still trying to catch New Orleans for the top seed in the playoffs, but need to move up another 1 ½ games to do so. Coincidentally, the two just so happen to be playing each other tonight.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson @ Golden State 48 min, 33 pts (FG: 12-21, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 8-12), 3 reb, 9 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: New Orleans (55-23) @ Los Angeles Lakers (54-25)
This game has a whole slew of storylines. First off, the clubs are battling it out for conference supremacy with Nawlins currently holding a slight (1 ½ game) lead over the Lakers. To date, the Hornets own a 2-1 advantage in head-to-head battles this season, including a 118-104 victory in Los Angeles back in November. But, perhaps, the most compelling reason to watch this game has to do with the matchup between the two most popular candidates for league MVP. Kobe Bryant is the most explosive scorer in the league and he’s become one of the best team players in the league, averaging 28.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Meanwhile, Chris Paul is playing out of his mind this season, averaging 21.2 points and posting league-best numbers in assists (11.5) and steals (2.7) per game.

Buzzer Beater: Good news for Miami Heat fans, if there are any left. The team is desperate to get people back into the arena after an embarrassing 14-64 season, which means cheap seats!

The team with the NBA’s worst record is offering $10-per-game season tickets for 2008-09.

The Miami Heat announced the “Ten Gets You In!” promotion on Wednesday. The seats selling for $10 are in the upper deck behind the baselines.

Get ’em while they’re hot!

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Welcome back

1. Dirk Nowitzki does his best Willis Reed impersonation
Dirk Nowitzki knew that he team was circling the drain while he rode the pine with a leg injury, so on Wednesday night, the German sharpshooter decided to suit up and help his team climb out of the toilet. It worked. For the first time since acquiring Jason Kidd, the Mavericks defeated a team with a winning record and they did so in convincing fashion, stomping a mud hole in their bitter rivals from Golden State. Nowitzki finished with 18 points and Jason Terry posted a game-high 31 as Dallas cruised to an easy 111-86 victory. The Warriors just could not find their offense, needing 86 attempts to tally 86 points while the Mavs drained 48 percent of their field goals. Led by Kidd’s 17 dimes, Dallas finished with a whopping 35 assists compared to Golden State’s 10 and killed the normally up-tempo Warriors in fastbreak points, 44-16.

2. Brand new

After missing nearly a year of action, Elton Brand is back. The mild-mannered, double-double machine took to the court against the Sonics on Wednesday evening and posted 19 points – 13 in the fourth quarter – and five rebounds to help the Clippers pound Seattle 102-84. Brand went down with a torn left Achilles back on April 18, 2007, and wasn’t expected to return until Thursday, but he felt so good before the game that coach Mike Dunleavy decided to go ahead and give him some minutes; 26 to be exact. Kevin Durant had one of his best games, finishing with 30 points on 13-of-23 shooting, but it couldn’t overshadow the play of Brand. In addition to his points and boards, Brand dished out three assists, blocked a shot and tallied a steal.

3. Lakers get their groove back
The Lakers got a boost of their own last night as Pau Gasol returned to the lineup and posted 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists in a 104-91 victory over Portland. Gasol had been out of action due to a sprained ankle he suffered nearly three weeks ago. Kobe Bryant racked up 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and grabbed 13 rebounds to help his squad pull within 1 ½ games of first place New Orleans. The Lakers lost four of nine games without Gasol after posting a 15-4 record following his acquisition. The return is huge for a relatively small lineup in L.A., but the key for any sort of Lakers postseason success lies in the return of center Andrew Bynum. As of now, Los Angeles is hoping and praying the big man is healthy enough to get some critical minutes before the second season starts.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Portland 41 min, 36 pts (FG: 10-16, 3FG: 4-5, FT: 12-13), 13 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Houston (49-25) @ Portland (38-37)
Hey, on a night when Cleveland plays Chicago and the Clippers face the Kings, we decided to choose the lesser of three evils. Houston continues to flounder since running off 22 consecutive wins and they are now on a two-game losing streak and have lost five of its last 10 games. Portland isn’t much better, dropping three in a row and six of its last 10. Luckily, Inside the NBA comes on tonight and we’ll get to hear Charles Barkley rip both of these clubs for being as soft as his belly.

Buzzer Beater: On a night when injured players returned left and right, we would be remiss to not mention the comeback of Gilbert Arenas. Agent 0 missed 66 games with a knee injury before scoring 17 points against the Bucks on Wednesday. Unfortunately for Arenas, his return was overshadowed by Ramon Sessions and his buzzer-beater that gave Milwaukee a 110-109 victory. And the bad night didn’t stop there for Washington. Right when it appeared the Wizards were back to full capacity, new injuries to key components took their toll. Antawn Jamison left the game with a sprained right shoulder and the thickly bearded DeShawn Stevenson exited with a sprained right ankle.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: Special delivery driver

1. James nets 51
On Tuesday, there were no high speeds recorded or tickets issued to the NBA’s young King, but LeBron James definitely had the throttle down against Memphis. James scored a season-high 51 points in a 132-124 road win over the Grizzlies. In addition to his scoring, James grabbed eight rebounds and dished out nine assists. The last person to go for 50 points, eight boards and eight dimes was Gilbert Arenas (60-8-8) against the Lakers in 2006. With the victory, Cleveland is two games over .500 (20-18) for the first time since going on a horrendous skid in which they lost 10 of 13 games beginning in late November.

2. Suns slide

When Sam Cassell is on top of his game, even the Clippers become tough to beat; just ask Phoenix. Cassell finished with a game-high 32 points to go with seven assists and the Clippers beat Phoenix 97-90. Los Angeles took over in the third quarter, outscoring the Suns 25-17, and managed to hold on over the final 12 minutes. Amare Stoudemire had 29 points, Steve Nash got 13 assists and Shawn Marion finished with a big double-double (14 pts, 17 reb) in a losing effort. The loss knocked Phoenix all the way down from first in the Western Conference to fifth behind Portland, Dallas, San Antonio and the new top dogs out west, the Los Angeles Lakers.

3. 76ers finally show a little heart
The sun shines on a dog’s butt every now and again and on Tuesday, those warm, golden beams landed directly on the 76ers derriere. Philadelphia trailed by 16 points to the Rockets in the second half, but somehow found a way to rip off a 37-22 beatdown in the fourth quarter and snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 111-107 victory in Houston. Their last win was also on the road, against the lowly Sonics on New Years Eve. Andre Miller scored 26 points and Samuel Dalembert finished with 19 while Louis Williams (18 pts) and Andre Iguodala (17 pts) had solid games as well. Yao Ming & Co. hope they just played their final game with Tracy McGrady who has missed the previous 10 contests with an injured knee. T-Mac is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday against the Spurs.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Memphis 47 min, 51 pts (FG: 18-28, 3FG: 6-12, FT: 9-16), 8 reb, 9 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Portland (23-14) @ Boston (30-6)
If there is such a thing as a “good” time to play the Boston Celtics then this would be it. Boston is currently riding a two-game losing streak, their first of the year, and has lost three of their previous four games. Before their current slide, the Cs were 29-3. Portland on the other hand is probably dying for an opportunity at the league’s best in order to prove their current 18-2 streak isn’t a fluke. Unlike Boston, the Trail Blazers started the season in a funk, going 5-12 before embarking on their current tear.

Buzzer Beater: The Pistons bounced back from an ugly defeat at the hands of New York and soundly routed the Raptors 103-89. Richard Hamilton scored a season-high 39 points in the game, including a career-high five 3-pointers. After the game, he let everyone know that anything in the corners and behind the arc is his and you gotta pay rent if you wind up there.

That’s my real estate in the corner,” he said. “It’s like Monopoly. I’ve got four houses and a hotel on there. It’s what I do.

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Distraught in Dallas

1. Big D continues shrinking
The last time Cleveland grabbed a victory in Dallas was in 2000 PJ. To those who don’t know, PJ means pre-James; as in LeBron James. On Thursday night, that streak came to an end as James scored 24 points to lift his squad to an 88-81 victory over the sagging Mavericks. Dallas is now 19-11 on the season with no end in sight for their inconsistencies. Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 points to go with his 20 rebounds, but the tailspin continues for Big D who had just 15 losses in the entire 2006-07 campaign. Regardless of their struggles, you can’t count out the Mavs just yet. After all, this is a team that lost eight consecutive games between the Finals of ’06 through the opening of ’07 before winning 67 of their next 78 games.

2. That’s Amare

When Amare Stoudemire gets going, it’s basically impossible to stop him; just ask the Clippers. The man-child went off for 30 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks against the other L.A. team as the Suns built up a 36-point lead at one point, en route to a 108-88 victory in Los Angeles. Heck, the big man had a double-double by the half (20 pts, 11 reb). Making a good thing even better for Phoenix is the fact that they host the same squad tonight in an Arizona arena after spending their last two games in L.A. playing the Lakers and Clippers. Well, playing the Clippers might be an overstatement. The Suns were up by 19 at the half and 30 after three quarters. And that Chris Kaman guy who is deservedly getting serious All-Star consideration was invisible on Thursday, finishing with nine rebounds and nine points on four-of-17 shooting.

3. Boston’s U turn
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, what a difference a year makes. The Celtics managed to win just 24 games all of last season. One year and two superstars later, Boston has 24 wins in only 27 games! Their latest victory was an easy one as the Cs ran over the Sonics in Seattle 104-96. Ray Allen finished with just 10 points in his return to Seattle, but Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce combined for 60 points and 20 rebounds in the victory. The other Kevin in the other shade of green shot 10-of-23 for 25 points as his team fell to 8-21 in his rookie campaign. Boston’s west coast road trip continues on Saturday when they take on the Jazz, followed by a trip to Tinseltown for a contest against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire @ Los Angeles Clippers 27 min, 40 pts (FG: 11-14, FT: 8-10), 15 reb, 1 ast, 4 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Denver (17-11) @ Golden State (17-12)
The only teams that score more points per game than the Nuggets are the Warriors and the Suns, so if you like watching teams put the ball in the basket then this is the game for you. Golden State is always worth watching with their small-ball, run-n-fun style. And when you throw in the added benefit of possibly catching a glimpse of a pregnant Jessica Alba sitting courtside then it becomes a `definitely must watch’ contest. Of course, if you prefer the game itself then we guess you could watch Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony do their thing. That might be entertaining as well.

Buzzer Beater: Gilbert Arenas isn’t like most NBAers. He doesn’t need a car or a house or more bling-bling to make him happy at Christmas. Nope, Agent 0 is perfectly satisfied with the lil’ things in life.

Then, I woke up the other day and saw a package at my door. The package was Lil’ Penny in a box, something I’ve wanted since I was little. I was just so happy about it.

It’s Lil’ Penny man!

Whew, for a second there we thought we heard you say it was something else in a box.

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: The showdown repeated beatdown in Tinseltown

1. The purple and gold is getting old for GS
The Lakers and Warriors came into Sunday’s game tied for second place in the Pacific Division, but Kobe Bryant exploded in the second half to ensure the tie would break in LA’s favor. Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 28 points in the final two quarters and the Lakers won their third consecutive game, 123-113. Kobe also dished out a season-high eight assists as six other Lakers finished with double-digit points. Andrew Bynum tied his career-high, scoring 20 points to go along with 11 boards and five blocked shots as Los Angeles defeated the Warriors for the ninth consecutive time and the 14th time out of 15 tries. After the game, a disappointed Baron Davis hit the nail on the head.

They’re a big team, and we just got outhustled.

“Somebody for them is always having a career game against us.

Look on the bright side though, B. You guys sure can beat up on the Mavericks.

2. World’s Greatest Bosh

Chris Bosh missed five games with a strained groin and the Raptors proceeded to lose three of those games. Unfortunately for Houston, they had to face a healthy Bosh and ended up dropping their third game in five tries. Bosh was solid in his return, scoring 21 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots. Equally important to the 93-80 home victory for Toronto was their bench production, totaling 45 points and 23 rebounds. For Houston, Tracy McGrady led his squad offensively with 23 points while Carl Landry, playing in just his second career game, led the team in rebounds with seven. We don’t know how on earth a 6-foot-7 rookie outrebounds Yao Ming (six rebounds) in just 10 minutes of action, but it happened. Of course, Landry also picked up five fouls in those 10 minutes while Yao had just one in 38 minutes. But, c’mon, six boards?! He does know he’s 7-foot-6 and weighs over 300 pounds, right?

3. Even slumpbusters need slumpbusters sometimes
There’s no doubt that when a team hits a slump, they start scanning for the Clippers on their schedule. Usually, that’s an easy win. However, when you’re the Miami Heat, there is no such thing as an easy win. It took 35 points and 10 assists from Dwyane Wade, but the Heat escaped Los Angeles with a 100-94 victory, the 1,200th of Pat Riley’s career. But with a 5-15 record, there was probably no champagne corks popping in the locker room celebrating the occasion. After demanding he receive the ball more, Shaquille O’Neal finished with eight points on eight attempts and was thoroughly outplayed by the Clippers’ Chris Kaman (14 pts, 12 reb). Miami hasn’t won consecutive games yet this year and don’t expect this win to trigger a streak either because the Heat will likely get burnt by the Suns tonight.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Brandon Roy vs. Milwaukee 45 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-13, FT: 4-4), 8 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Atlanta (9-10) @ Orlando (16-5)
A few years ago you would have been committed for saying that Orlando and Atlanta were the top two teams in the Southeast Division and playoff bound. Nowadays you can get away with it because Dwight Howard is manning the middle in the Magic Kingdom and the hatchling Hawks are beginning to spread their wings. In addition to having four double-digit scorers, led by Joe Johnson’s 20.5 points per game, Atlanta also possesses the league’s top shot blocker in Josh Smith who is getting over three swats a contest (3.56 bpg). Orlando has slowed down a bit after jumping out to a 9-2 start, but Howard seems to be just heating up. At just 22 years old, the man child has upped his scoring average from 17.6 last year to 23.5 this year and currently ranks first in the league in rebounds (15.0 rpg), second in field goal percentage (61.43%) and fourth in blocks (2.90 bpg).

Buzzer Beater: In case you missed it on Saturday, the Timberwolves upset the Suns. Yes, the Timberwolves. Al Jefferson had a huge coming out party, racking up 32 points and 20 rebounds. Needless to say, the T-Wolves were pretty stoked.

Definitely this season, it’s the biggest of all three of our victories,” Marko Jaric said.

Unfortunately for Marko and the Wolves, he could be saying the same exact thing at the end of the season.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Guess who’s back

1. The Warriors found the golden ticket!
Thanks to an impressive victory over the Trailblazers last night, Golden State snapped the league’s longest current playoff drought as they will make their first post season appearance since 1994. And for all their hard work, the Warriors land a series with the NBA’s best team in Dallas. But if anybody knows how to beat the Mavericks, it’s their old coach Don Nelson. The Warriors have had Dallas’ number over the past couple of seasons but it’s going to be tough for them to pull out four wins against Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and the rest of Mark Cuban‘s boys. Lots of people, espically fans of Utah or Houston, would love to see Dallas go down, but Nelson is known for winning games; winning championships is a whole other story.

2. Professional leap frog

Before last night, Cleveland was set on a course in which they would collide head-on with the Miami Heat in the first round. And with a healthy Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade in the lineup, no team wants to draw them right now; thanks to a 109-96 victory over the Bucks on Wednesday, now the Cavs won’t have to and the Bulls will. With the victory, Cleveland leaped three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and secured the No. 2 seed and a first round series against a Washington team that is missing their two most powerful Wizards. LeBron James wasn’t messing around as he went off for 24 points and nine assists, which made him just the second person in league history to average 27 points, six rebounds and six assists for three straight years.

3. More Crawford aftermath
Tim Duncan came out and said yesterday that he hopes that his team can “get a fair shake” from the referees after Duncan and the Spurs were at the epicenter of the Joey Crawford suspension. The officials aren’t too thrilled about David Stern‘s decision to give Crawford the boot, but hopefully for the Spurs sake the refs will be able to separate Stern from the Spurs. After all, the remaining referees can’t really argue that Duncan deserved to get T’d up and ejected while he sat on the bench; can they? Well, if they don’t want to end up with the same fate as their fellow zebra then they’ll be forced to call the games as usual, regardless of their personal feelings.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Pau Gasol @ Minnesota 36 min, 25 pts (FG: 9-15, FT: 7-9), 16 reb, 6 ast, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: The Clippers were oh so close to grabbing the last playoff spot, but last night against the Hornets the Clippers pulled out their old tricks and dropped the must win game. It’s not surprising to see LA miss the post season, after all they are the Clippers, but it startling to see them fall so far in just one season. Last year at this time most were under the impression that Los Angeles finally had two professional basketball teams and some even believed that Clippers were on the verge of surpassing the Lakers for the domination of Hollywood. But you can scratch that idea now; and all those celebrities that were finally showing their faces at Clippers games will soon start donning the purple and gold once again.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Houston, we have lift off

1. Rockets booster
There were lots of questions about Tracy McGrady’s health during the season and there were even more questions about Yao Ming’s health after he broke his leg, but now all the questions have been answered and the results are not good for the rest of the West. The Suns certainly took notice after Houston pulled out an impressive 120-117 victory behind 39 points from McGrady and 34 from Yao. As if 39 points isn’t enough, McGrady chipped in 11 rebounds and nine assists as well. With the win, Houston gained home-court advantage in their first round series against Utah despite being the fifth seed in the playoffs, and considering that Houston is currently the hottest team in the West, the slumping Jazz are suddenly looking like the underdogs in this much anticipated series.

2. Reappearing act

When Caron Butler first got diagnosed with a broken hand two weeks ago, the outlook was bleak. But now things are starting to look a little more promising for the All-Star forward who says that he is still hopeful he will make a full recovery before the playoffs are over. The only question that remains is if the Wizards will still be playing when he does. Butler was originally supposed to be out of action for six weeks but on Monday he took part in practice with the team. This is great news for the Wizards as they need all the help they can get since Gilbert Arenas had to cut his season short with an injury. Butler’s return probably won’t be enough to get Washington past Toronto or Chicago but it definitely gives them a better chance than having Jarvis Hayes in the starting five.

3. One spot left; who wants it?
With only one day left in the regular season, oddly enough there is still one playoff spot up for grabs and it is for the very undesirable final seed in the West which yields a first round match-up against the Mavericks. The only teams that are in left in contention for the post season are the Warriors and the Clippers. Neither team has an easy opponent but luckily for them their games involve teams that have nothing to play for. The Clips are in the worst position possible as they need to not only defeat the Suns, but they also need the Warriors to lose to Dallas. On the other hand, Golden State has their destiny in their own hands as they simply need to win and they’re in.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Tracy McGrady vs. Phoenix 41 min, 39 pts (FG: 14-31, 3FG: 3-7, FT: 8-11), 11 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (47-33) @ Detroit (51-29) The Raptors will get an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the post season waters as they travel to Detroit for an early battle against the Eastern Conference’s best team. Both teams will probably take it kind of easy during the game in order to avoid any unnecessary injuries before the playoffs but it could still prove to be a great game of chess between the two coaches. This could be a preview of a second round series between these two in a couple of weeks but Chris Bosh and TJ Ford will have to survive a series in the unfamiliar post season before they can start hoping of knocking off the former champs.

Buzzer Beater: One day after the Spurs’ Tim Duncan got teched up, thrown out and supposedly called out, Gregg Popovich decided that he wasn’t going to take any chances with his stars’ futures before the post season. So, last night as the Spurs took on the Grizzlies, Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all enjoyed the entire game from the comfort of the bench. Well, enjoyed might not be the most accurate term considering that Memphis grabbed a 10 point victory, 101-91. But what can realistically be expected when 55 points per game plus a bunch of rebounds, assists, steals and blocks are riding the pine? Hopefully James “Flight” White enjoyed what will most likely be his only chance to ever lead the Spurs in scoring after he tied Michael Finley with 17 points on Monday.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Mamba goes cold as the Clippers explode

1. Hollywood comeback story
The Clippers looked like a team that was ready to start the off season early as fell down to the Lakers by 17 points before ripping off a huge fourth quarter to give the Clips an unbelievable 118-110 victory that breathed life back into their season. Kobe Bryant put up another 50-point performance but he was ice cold in the final quarter to give the Lakers their third consecutive loss. Bryant has now put together nine separate 50-point games this year which matches Wilt Chamberlain’s nine 50’s in the 1964-65 season. But Corey Maggette’s career-high 39 proved to be more important in the contest, and with the win, the Clippers jumped over Golden State to grab the eighth and final spot in the West.

2. Mrs. Ham tried to bring home the bacon illegally

It’s not uncommon for an athlete to smile and wave into the lens of a camera when someone puts it in front of their face. And the two most common words that accompany such an opportunity of national exposure are most certainly “Hi Mom.” Well, former NBAer Darvin Ham might be reduced to buying courtside tickets and dropping the camera guy a 20 dollar bill in order to get a little face time if he wants to converse with his momma after she was charged with arson and insurance fraud. Apparently, instead of trading in her 1986 Mercedes-Benz to the dealership, she decided to torch the car and make a false insurance claim. If that’s not bad enough Darvin’s mom, Wilmer Jones Ham, is the former mayor of Saginaw, Michigan. Hopefully she has a couple of friends who are lenient judges.

3. Cleveland rocks Jersey
The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, but thanks to a 94-76 victory over the Nets last night, the Cavs locked up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Oh, yea, and they have a pretty good player on their squad in LeBron James which lifts Cleveland’s fan’s spirits even higher. LBJ put together a 35 point performance that included a 15 point outburst in the third quarter of the Cavs blowout. The Cavaliers might have been to the post season last year but that doesn’t mean they are familiar with the territory. This will only be the team’s second playoff appearance since 1998.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Corey Maggette @ Los Angeles Lakers 43 min, 39 pts (FG: 10-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 17-24), 8 reb, 9 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (51-27) @ Toronto (45-33) It’s a battle between two of the top clubs in the Eastern Conference and a possible second round preview with a great power forward match-up thrown in as well. The Pistons have won three straight and captured the top seed in the East, giving them home-court advantage all the way through the East finals. Chris Bosh has led the Raptors on a four game winning streak but he will have to contend with the pesky defense of Rasheed Wallace before claiming a fifth straight victory. Toronto is hungry, like Detroit a few years back, but completely inexperienced in playoff situations. Hopefully they can use this big game, late season atmosphere to mentally prepare for what’s to come. Otherwise, this might be a serious make up call to the Raptors that they still have a lot more to prove than simply winning a division crown.

Buzzer Beater: It’s going to be a bittersweet goodbye for the New Orleans Hornets tonight as they host the Denver Nuggets in the final game to be played by the franchise in Oklahoma City. There’s still a slight chance that the Hornets could fill the arena in the postseason but the odds are not with them. So, in all reality, this will be the final game played in a city that took in a team that had no where else to turn. Nobody would have ever considered that Oklahoma could handle a professional sports franchise, but if any good has come out of the relocation of the team it is that it became crystal clear that Oklahoma City loves them some B-ball. And now they are getting mentioned with Las Vegas and St. Louis as possible future franchise destinations. Geez, who woulda thunk it?

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Big Ticket punches out early

1. Could KG be moving on?
Kevin Garnett’s season is probably over after injuring his right quadriceps. The former MVP could be done with his Timberwolves club for good if Minnesota can parlay this move into few extra loses and a possible shot at a high draft pick. With only five games left on the schedule for Minnesota, the move probably won’t make a big difference in final standings but when Kevin Durant, and possibly Greg Oden, is available, it’s worth a shot. And even if the T-Wolves don’t pull out a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, they could always package Garnett with a top five draft pick and get a whole bunch of talent in return. The one thing that is clear is that KG’s body simply can’t carry the weight of an entire franchise anymore.

2. Celtics’ hide the Truth

But KG wasn’t the only superstar to have a late season injury bring about an early vacation. However, unlike Garnett, Paul Pierce will definitely not return to the Celtics lineup this year. After a sore left elbow had bounced Pierce back and forth between the active roster and the DNP designation in the box score, Boston management has decided to put an end to the on-again, off-again relationship and throw Pierce onto the shelf. Sure, Pierce could probably use the extra rest but don’t think Danny Ainge isn’t thinking about the extra ping-pong balls that could be coming his way. After all, Ainge was the one caught buddying up with Durant’s mom a while back.

3. Best draft ever?
David Stern came out and said that this upcoming class of college newcomers could make up the greatest draft class in history. Actually he said that “this may be the No. 1 or 2 draft of all time.” That’s a pretty lofty statement by the commish; which got us thinking if he could be right. Only time will tell if this year’s kids pan out, but it’s going to be awfully hard to top the classes of 1984 or 1996. Here are some of the ballers from those talent rich crops and their overall selections.

1984 – Hakeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Sam Perkins (4), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), Michael Cage (14), John Stockton (16)

1996 – Allen Iverson (1), Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Steve Nash (15), Jermaine O’Neal (17), and it should also be noted that Ben Wallace was available but went undrafted

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Tim Duncan vs. Sacramento 35 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-14, FT: 4-9), 13 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Clippers (37-40) @ Los Angeles Lakers (40-38) The Lakers and the Clippers both have a lot to prove in their gym. Of course, there’s the whole battle of Los Angeles thing and the bragging rights that come along with the victory, but more importantly there’s a possible playoff spot on the line. Currently the Lakers have it, but not by much as they have spent the last few weeks slip-sliding down the rankings and now sit just 2 ½ games ahead of the Clippers who are sitting just outside (½ game) of the playoff picture. Unfortunately the Clippers have been struggling just as much as their LA counterparts. But somebody has to win this game and when they do they will be standing on much firmer post season ground.

Buzzer Beater: This is the time of the season when the good teams get rolling and the crappy teams start folding. While we wouldn’t exactly call the Utah Jazz a crappy team, they are certainly folding like a house of cards down the stretch. The Jazz have now lost five games in a row and six of their last ten and they have basically handed the Rockets home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But you can’t blame the point guard/power forward combo for the team’s latest loss. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists) and Deron Williams (18 points, 6 rebounds, 14 assists) both flirted with triple-doubles last night but couldn’t overcome a 54 point outburst by Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the Nuggets showed the Jazz the proper way to get into playoff form. Denver has now won seven straight games to make up for dropping three in a row.