Denver Nuggets

Around the Rim: Back to where it all began

1. A.I. got his sundae, but no cherry on top
Allen Iverson was welcomed back to Philadelphia with open arms on Wednesday night. The Answer returned for the first time since being traded to Denver back in December of 2006 and it was almost like he never left. Iverson scored a game-high 32 points, dished out eight assists and had the ball in his hands for the game’s most dramatic shot. But that’s where the warm and fuzzy feelings ended. Iverson’s jumper didn’t connect and neither did Marcus Camby’s put-back, giving the 76ers a 115-113 victory. Still, A.I. had the time of his life coming back to where he used to practice. Yup, we’re still talking about practice.

I dreamed it up a certain way, and it was better than that,” Iverson said. “Everything was perfect but one thing, and that was not winning the game.”

“I almost had a perfect trip at my home away from home,” Iverson said.

2. Ice cold Heat

In the same week the Denver Nuggets dropped 168 points on the sorry Sonics, the Heat and the Raptors combined for a pathetic 150 points last night. Luckily for Toronto, they posted 96 of them, pounding Miami by a franchise best 42 points, 96-54. At this point, nothing is shocking with the Heat anymore, but this is a startling occurrence nevertheless. Miami’s 54 points fell just five points shy of tying the worst performance of the shot clock era set by Chicago in 1998-99 versus the Heat. It was the franchise’s worst performance for points in a game and a half (26) while also setting a new low by connecting on 20-of-78 shots (.256). Just keep thinking Michael Beasley fellas.

3. Failure to launch
After winning 22 consecutive games, there is nowhere to go but down and the Rockets are currently plummeting back to earth. After getting creamed by Boston on Tuesday, Houston traveled to New Orleans and got flattened once again as the Hornets cruised to a 90-69 victory. Tracy McGrady is no longer playing like a superstar and his team is suffering because of it. T-Mac followed up his embarrassing eight-point outing against the Celtics by netting just 15 on Nawlins while his Rockets struggled to post 10 points for the entire fourth quarter. Chris Paul continues to light up opponents, finishing with 21 points, 10 assists while taking another leap towards a possible MVP trophy.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Vince Carter vs. Atlanta 43 min, 39 pts (FG: 17-26, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-4), 10 reb, 8 ast, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Boston (54-13) @ Dallas (44-24)
The Celtics have already rallied from 22 points down to win in San Antonio and snapped the second-longest win streak in league history in Houston. Now, they’ll look to do something very few teams have accomplished over the past few years: successfully navigate their way through the Texas triangle. Boston could be without Ray Allen once again when they head into Dallas, but that hasn’t slowed them down yet. The Mavericks would love for a little bit of that Irish luck to rub off on them considering they are 0-6 against teams with records above .500 since Jason Kidd’s arrival.

Buzzer Beater: Tiger Woods and LeBron James had never met prior to this week. Word??

Earlier this week in Orlando, James and fellow megastar Tiger Woods met for the first time. They share more than a Dec. 30 birthday. “Every time he goes out he expects to win,” James said when asked what he admires about Woods, “He’s an unbelievable talent. I’ve always looked at Michael Jordan as being one of the greatest athletes of my lifetime, and Tiger is right there now.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Now that was some smooth Jazz styling

Carlos Boozer is at the edge of his
first conference finals appearance.

1. The City is becoming a ghost town
After the Warriors eliminated the Mavericks from the playoffs, the Golden State faithful celebrated to a point that even Joakim Noah thought was a bit over the top. Well, after the Warriors lost Game 4 to fall down 3-1 against the Jazz, the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in the state of California (20,679 to be exact) reacted as if they had just seen their precious Warriors for the last time this season. And they were right. Golden State is a completely different team at home than they are on the road and in Game 5 the supportive sea of yellow that cheers insistently for the Warriors’ excessively ridiculous 3-point attempts will now become a baby blue lagoon of venom and hate for any and all outsiders. Especially Jason Richardson after he delivered a hard, flagrant foul to Mehmet Okur in the late moments of the game that got him sent to the showers a bit early. But it didn’t really matter at that point; Utah already had the game well in hand and J-Rich was having a horrendous shooting game (3-12 FG) anyways. And after mesmerizing the nation with a dunk of John Starks over Michael Jordan or Kevin Johnson over Hakeem Olajuwon proportions, Baron Davis also struggled (6-16 FG) when it came time to draw the series even. Guess the motivation of having Jessica Alba in the crowd has to wear off at some point.

2. No mo’ “fo’ fo’ fo'”

Remember the Luol Deng that exploded onto the postseason scene during Chicago’s first round sweep of the defending champion Heat? Well, after virtually disappearing in the first two games of the Pistons/Bulls series, it seems safe to say that Deng is back on track and Chicago can finally remember how it feels to win because of it. After putting up 21 points and 14 rebounds in Game 3, Deng had another outstanding performance with a game-high 25 points to go along with a baker’s dozen off the glass. That’s 13 for all you non-pastry chefs out there. But Detroit still has a 3-1 advantage in the series and it is doubtful that starters Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Chris Webber and Richard Hamilton have a repeat of their pitiful shooting performance (13-of-45 FG) when Game 5 takes this rivalry back to the hardwood at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

3. Spurs/Suns saddle-up for Game 4
After Game 1, Steve Nash had a gash on his nose and Tony Parker had a bump on his noggin. After Game 2, Amare Stoudemire called Bruce Bowen “dirty” because he says that Bowen tried to purposely injure him. That’s about as physical as it can get, right? Wrong, because in Game 3 Manu Ginobili got a nice sized mouse under his left eye thanks to an inadvertent Shawn Marion poke and Nash took a knee right to the jewels when he tried to guard Bowen a bit too tight. But in the end it was San Antonio who grabbed a 108-101 victory in the game and a 2-1 advantage in the series. Phoenix is now facing, for all intensive purposes, a must-win situation for Monday’s Game 4 in SA because the Suns do not want to be looking at a scenario in which they must win three straight against a team as good as the Spurs. Put your mouthpieces in because this series is turning out to be the championship caliber slugfest that we never got to see between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer @ Golden State 44 min, 34 pts (FG: 13-19, FT: 8-11), 12 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: The Cleveland Cavaliers had been quietly and effortlessly making their way through the playoffs until New Jersey finally knocked them off their high horse and handed the Cavs their first loss of the postseason. In a statistical abnormality, the Nets were led in scoring by not one, not two, but three players who finished the game with 23 points apiece. Oddly enough, Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson and Jason Kidd weren’t the only players to finish with 23 points as Larry Hughes racked up the night’s magic number as well. LeBron James finished the contest with just 18 points even though he’s got the number 23 on his jersey. Oh, well, it’s not like it would have mattered; the Cavs would have still lost by six points even if James had reached the 23 point plateau.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Heeee’s Baaaack

1. Waiting on Wade no more
Dwyane Wade is back on the Miami Heat’s active roster and the playoff bound Eastern Conference teams have got to be sweating bullets. Flash took the court yesterday for the first time in a month and a half and scored 12 points in 27 minutes, but the Heat were unable to welcome their superstar back in proper fashion as they fell to the Bobcats by eight points, 111-103. Wade struggled from the field (3-9 FG) but still managed to dish out eight assists in the loss. But the Heat are still in good shape as they prepare for the post season. They are currently sitting in the fourth spot in the East and appear to have the Southeast Division wrapped up after Washington’s injury problems have basically taken them out of contention. However, the loss pretty much took away any chance Miami had to gain home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

2. Suns burn LA

Kobe Bryant scored 34 points and handed out seven assists but it wasn’t enough to knock of the Suns. In what could be a first round playoff preview, Phoenix beat the Lakers 115-107 in the star studded Staples Center in Los Angeles. Steve Nash continued his trek for a third consecutive MVP award as he led the Suns in scoring (25) and assists (11). Phoenix has now beaten LA in nine of the last 11 regular season contests between the two clubs and what’s worse for the Lakers is that the loss moves them into the seventh seed in the West, just three games ahead of the teams who are on the outside of the playoff picture. The Lakers must now win all of their five remaining games if they are going to prevent Phil Jackson from setting a new personal low for wins in a season.

3. Double triple-doubles
On Saturday, Vince Carter racked up big, fat triple-double with 46 points, 16 rebounds and ten assists. But he wasn’t the only Net to scoop up a triple dip. Mr. Triple-Double, Jason Kidd, amassed the 86 triple-double of his career and his 11th of the season as he went off for 10 points, 16 rebounds and 18 assists. The Nets superstars became the first teammates to accomplish the lofty feat since another well known duo pulled it off in 1989. That was when Michael Jordan (41 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) and Scottie Pippen (15 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) blasted the Clippers for a pair of TD’s. Now Kidd and Carter just need to win six championships and they’ll really be like Mike and Pip.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Tracy McGrady @ Sacramento 40 min, 40 pts (FG: 14-28, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 9-12), 8 reb, 10 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Utah (48-28) @ Golden State (37-40) The Warriors are coming off a tough loss to the Spurs on Saturday but they have still won four of their last five games as they continue to keep their playoff hopes alive. But if Golden State wants to close the one game gap between them and the Clippers, Baron Davis is going to have to lead his team past a playoff quality team in the Jazz. Utah has already wrapped up their division crown but they are still in a must win situation because they are currently in a battle with Houston for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Even though the Jazz have locked up the fourth seed in the West, the Rockets can steal the right to hold the majority of the series in Clutch City if they finish the season with a better record.

Buzzer Beater: Normally a rally from 17 points down to grab a five point victory would be considered a pretty sweet comeback. But Philly fans have got to be cringing as they watched their Sixers fight all the way back to beat the Hawks by five, 109-104, in overtime. The win gets them one step closer to nowhere and one step away from the possibility of grabbing Kevin Durant or Greg Oden in the draft this summer. Thanks to a late hot streak in which the 76ers have won 13 of 20, Philadelphia now joins four other teams in a tie for the fifth fewest wins in the league. Can you say Joakim Noah?

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Suns Run

1. On the Verge of History
The Suns are 4-0 since Steve Nash returned to the lineup and nobody is happier about it than Amare Stoudemire. Last night, Nash had 14 points and 13 assists with a bunch of those passes going toward helping Stoudemire score a season-high 43. Phoenix pulled out a 115-106 victory over the Hawks in Atlanta to improve to 13-0 against the Eastern Conference on the road. The Suns are now only two wins away from sweeping the East in their gyms with back to back games at Indiana and Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday. While Phoenix has already obtained some lofty accomplishments this season, should they win their next pair of games they would become the first team to sweep its interconference road schedule.

2. Nets Bets Payoff
For a majority of the season, rumors surrounded the possible trades of Vince Carter and Jason Kidd from New Jersey. Well, the Nets are probably breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t pull the trigger on any deals leading up to last Thursday’s trade deadline. New Jersey is 2-0 since the deadline passed thanks to big games from their resident superstars. Against Sacramento on Friday the duo combined for 48 points, 24 rebounds and 15 assists. Last night against the Knicks, they went off for 51 points, 13 boards and 22 assists. The good news for the Nets is that with the win they moved two games ahead of New York in the Atlantic Division. The bad news is that they are still five games behind division leader Toronto.

3. Go Go Kapono
There was no continuation of the friendly rivalry between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in yesterday’s game between the Cavs and Heat but Miami didn’t need the services of Wade as they outplayed Cleveland in the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game. The hideous orange uniforms probably didn’t help the Cavaliers any either. The future is up in the air for Miami while Wade is seeking a second opinion before having surgery on his injured shoulder. But Shaq is beginning to round back into form for Miami after going off for 19 points and 11 rebounds in the club’s latest victory. Sounds good, but it’s gotta be a brutal blow to the Daddy’s ego that the team’s best perimeter shooter, Jason Kapono, is matching his stats by scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 boards of his own. .

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Amare Stoudemire @ Atlanta 45 min, 43 pts (FG: 14-25, FT: 15-17), 16 reb, 6 ast, 3 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (32-25) @ Utah (37-18) The rotating door in Salt Lake City continues to revolve as Carlos Boozer finally returns to the lineup but the Jazz immediately lose Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur to injuries. Both players are questionable for the game against LA, but even if they don’t make it into the game Utah will still have a decided home court advantage (22-6). The Lakers have no chance to catch Phoenix over the final stretch of the regular season as they are already sitting 11 ½ games behind their division’s leader. But the Lakers can improve on their current sixth seed position. Kobe Bryant’s All-Star MVP performance has spilled over into his current run as he has now lead his team in scoring for 12 straight games. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they are 5-7 over that span that included the worst losing streak of Phil Jackson’s career (6 games). Still, it’s hard to feel bad for a guy that has nine rings on his fingers.

Buzzer Beater: Even though the trade deadline has passed, the rumors are still running wild. Kevin Garnett can opt out of his contract after next season and there is already speculation that he will join the Lakers after doing so. If KG can remain patient for another season then his dreams of a NBA championship could be finally fulfilled. Sure, there’s lots of time and anything can happen but if Garnett and Kobe Bryant are able to join forces and have quality role-players surrounding them, it could become a pretty dominant team. But, at this point, the talk is nothing more than guesswork and guesswork isn’t going to get The Big Ticket past the first round of the playoffs.

General Sports

Odds and Ends: More on the SI Swimsuit Issue

We thought SI was trying too hard and making a mistake by putting Beyonce on the cover. Now we see they are trying to even harder with this new Swimsuit photos in 3-D business. By layering pictures, they are creating a 3-D effect. Hot models in 3-D? Sign us up! But the technology is really poorly done. All that happens is the reader just ends up with a moving blurring photograph that sucks. Stick to the basics, SI, that’s what got you $35M in ad revenue for the swimsuit issue in the first place. Check out Slate’s Intellectual History of the Swimsuit Issue. (Oh by the way, nice ipod.)

In other news…

[]: Bobby Petrino gives Michael Vick more rope to hang himself responsibility

[Toronto Star]: Grey Cup naming rights to be sold

[The Big Lead]: Sacramento State Girls Know How to Party (Well, the Soccer Team Does)

[Can’t Stop the Bleeding]: Toronto still loves Vince Carter

[]: All Star “Snubs” – An Exercise in Intellectual Laziness

And finally, we have two wrestling stories. First is a good one about a wrestler with no legs who is kicking ass in Missouri. The second… well, just watch the clip below. (We don’t know what the hell is up with the audio.)

NBA General

Around the Rim: Latrell Sprewell is in good form

1. Grocery Budget
Latrell Sprewell is back on the court; no wait, sorry. Latrell Sprewell is back in court as his babies’ momma is filing a $200 million lawsuit accusing Spree of breaking a long-term cohabitation deal and then roughing her up last month in their home. Allegedly, Sprewell slapped a phone out of Candace Cabbil’s hands as she attempted to dial 911 and then he dragged her down a flight of stairs by her feet. Spree has not played in the NBA since leaving Minnesota in 2004-05 after turning down a three-year extension because he was insulted by the paltry pay. Apparently, Latrell’s right; $21 million isn’t enough to feed his family. It’s more like $200 million.

2. Suns Set
It took a monumental effort from Kevin Garnett to overcome the monumental effort from Steve Nash, but the Phoenix Suns have finally fallen. After 17 consecutive wins that spanned a period of one lossless month, the Timberwolves were able to capitalize on a rare poor shooting fourth quarter by the Suns; 44 points, including 15 in the final period, from The Big Ticket didn’t hurt either. With a win, Phoenix could have tied the 1969 Knicks, 1982 Celtics and the 1996 Bulls with the fourth longest win streak in league history. Instead, the Suns will begin from scratch as they attempt to build up a third streak of 15+ consecutive wins.

3. Time to Move On
Despite having one of the best seasons of his career, it appears that New Jersey is determined to shop Vince Carter before the trade deadline passes. Carter’s name has been floated around all over the league but it seems that the main contenders in the Vinsanity sweepstakes are Memphis, Utah and Seattle. Pau Gasol, Andrei Kirilenko and Ray Allen are the main possibilities to replace Carter in Jersey. The Nets just can’t seem to move ahead in the depleted Atlantic Division; it would be irresponsible of the front office to be content with a sub .500 record and it’s become painfully obvious their talent pool is not going to gel. Gasol could become an excellent compliment to Jason Kidd if he can remain healthy.

4. Skills Showdown
The NBA might have a hard time getting the big name superstars to compete in the slam dunk competition, but the league’s elite appear to be lining up to get a crack at the skills challenge. Dwyane Wade, the winner of last year’s event, will return to defend his crown against some of the best ball handlers in the game. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and LeBron James will be dribbling, passing and shooting it out with Wade on All-Star Saturday. Nash is the only other player with experience in the event, after he won the challenge in 2005. In addition to being the only participant without a ring or MVP award, King James will be the only non-guard competing in the event.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett vs. Phoenix 39 min, 44 pts (FG: 18-29, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 8-10), 11 reb, 2 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (25-17) @ Washington (26-17) Washington has only lost four games at home this year behind Gilbert Arenas’ MVP level of play. The Wizards currently have the best record in the Eastern Conference and before being blown out by Phoenix last week, the last time the Wizards had dropped a home game was back on December 9. Detroit, on the other hand, has done a majority of their damage on the road. The Pistons are only half a game behind Washington as they continue to work Chris Webber into the game plan. This will already be the fourth time these two teams have hooked up with Detroit winning two of the previous games, including one win in Washington.

Buzzer Beater: When looking at the NBA spectrum, you have two polar opposites serving as the bookends for the league. On the winning side of things, there’s Phoenix who has won 17 of their last 18. And then you have the Celtics, losers of 11 in a row and 18 of their last 20. Clearly, Boston is one of the more pathetic franchises in recent history and with Paul Pierce out for at least another week; it’s not going to get any prettier for Bean Town. At this point, the only thing that can save the Celtics’ season would be a number one pick in the upcoming draft.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Top Ten

1. Same Ol’ Faces
The fans have spoken and what they said really wasn’t all that surprising. After all, the typical NBA consumer bases their vote on popularity instead of looking at legitimate value over the first half of the season. In the East it’s going to be Shaq, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Gilbert Arenas. The West will be made up of Yao Ming, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. The lineups could be tweaked, but that will happen about seven minutes into the game. At least the fans didn’t overlook Bosh as he remains isolated in the Bizarro World. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter who gets the starting nod. The coaches are going to give everyone some minutes and then play their hottest five during the fourth quarter.

2. Late Rally
Leave it to Gilbert Arenas to provide some last minute dramatics and be on the winning side of one of the closest voting margins to ever determine a starting spot on an All-Star team. Two weeks ago, Arenas was 214,460 votes behind New Jersey’s Vince Carter for one of the Eastern Conference’s guard spots. But in a matter of 14 days, Agent 0 closed the gap and just barely surpassed Carter by only 3,010 votes. This isn’t the first time that Vinsanity has lost his starting spot to a Wizard. In 2003, Carter gave up his role as a starter to fellow North Carolina alumni, Michael Jordan. The fact that Arenas has been talking smack about dropping “84 or 85” on Duke has to make the demotion a little easier to take for Carter.

3. 3rd Times Not a Charm
Three games, three points, three losses. The Nets have got to be getting sick of these last second defeats after dropping their third consecutive loss by a single point. New Jersey is in the middle of a five game, west coast road trip that has started with losses to the Kings, Warriors and Clippers. The first dagger was put in the Nets by Mike Bibby, followed by one of the best plays of the year when Baron Davis grabbed a board, pushed it up the floor and dished it to Monta Ellis who nailed the game winning 17 footer. Then, after making a big comeback, the Nets had their hearts ripped out once again on a Cuttino Mobley 3-pointer with under a second remaining. Jersey still has Denver and Utah left on the trip and they’ve lost Richard Jefferson to right ankle injury.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Ben Gordon vs. Dallas 44 min, 30 pts (FG: 12-23, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 6-6), 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Denver (22-17) @ Utah (28-15) Denver has been rolling lately, especially since Carmelo Anthony made his return. The Nuggets have won five games in a row and Utah will now get their chance to defend the newly formed superstar combo of Melo and A.I. The Jazz had won four in a row before losing to the Grizzlies in overtime on Wednesday, but Utah had some impressive individual performances in the loss. All of the Jazz frontcourt players ended with double-doubles, paced by Carlos Boozer who finished with 39 points and 15 rebounds. Not to be outdone by the big men, point guard Deron Williams dished out a career-high 21 assists.

Buzzer Beater: For a player and team to be so disgruntled with one another, the Clippers sure are turning down a lot of offers for Corey Maggette. The latest team to be snubbed by L.A. was the Heat as they attempted to piece together a three team deal that would land Maggette in Miami. But as it was with the Spurs, Warriors and Kings, the deal fell through. After all the drama that has occurred in the past few weeks, the latest rumor has the Clippers forgoing any trade opportunities and holding on to Maggette. That wouldn’t be bad for Los Angeles as Maggette is a valuable swing man but if he can’t get along with coach Mike Dunleavy then the Clips need to just pull the trigger before it’s too late.