NBA General

Stakes go up to $50,000 in Bavetta vs Barkley race

Update: Barkley vs Bavetta will take place at 8PM ET on Saturday on TNT. Bodog has Bavetta as the favorite at -340 and Barkley at +220. This is going to be good.

It’s not listed on the 2007 NBA All-Star Weekend schedule yet but the must see event will be the footrace between Dick Bavetta and Charles Barkley. Originally a $10,000 bet with proceeds going to charity, TNT has upped the stakes and $50,000 will go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas.

The race will be 2 1/2 times the length of the court (235 feet). The smart money is on Dick Bavetta by about 20 feet. The degenerate gamblers that we are, we actually looked for a place to bet on this.

Remember the last time the Chuckster opened his big mouth and said he could hold his breath longer than David Blaine?

[]: Bet on Bavetta

Chicago Cubs

Odds and Ends: Kerry Wood’s evil hot tub

Kerry Wood makes an early bid for the upcoming “Dumbest Non-Playing Injury” list we’ve been meaning to do on Sportscolumn blog. Wood is out for a few days after slipping and landing on his stomach and chest getting out of a hot tub. It’s gonna be that type of season, Cubbies fans.

In other news…

[Flash Warner]: Why Isn’t Hardaway In Rehab Yet?

[Can’t Stop the Bleeding]: Kenny Smith on John Amaechi

[WBRS Sports Blog]: Handicapping The Entire All-Star Weekend

[James Mirtle]: Analysis of Forsberg to Nashville

[Jeff Little]: Looking at past McDonald’s All Americans (1991-1995)

[DC Sports Blog]: Yeah… this isn’t representative of Sixers fans

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.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Boston’s Marathon is Over

We goin’ Sizzler!

1. Reason for Celebration
After a franchise-record 18 consecutive losses, the Boston Celtics can finally experience the thrill of victory again. You have to give Boston some credit for winning in convincing fashion, but there’s no reason that the finger pointing can’s be directed at Milwaukee. It’s already bad enough that the Bucks have become the answer to a trivia question on Sports Jeopardy by breaking the Celtics streak of futility; however, to get blown out by 20 points in the process should be unacceptable. But it’s tough for a team lacking talent to mount a successful comeback after falling down by 13 in the first quarter. Just ask the Celtics.

2. I Got a Golden Ticket!
After Jason Kidd withdrew from competing in the All-Star game this Sunday, David Stern was forced to, once again, assign another player to the squad. Joe Johnson was the lucky recipient of an All-Star credential for the Vegas weekend. Johnson’s 25.1 points per game ranks as the tenth best in the league and last night Johnson lead his Hawks to victory over the Clippers by scoring a team-high 27 points. With four other players being replaced in the game, this year equals the 1996-97 game where Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal all missed the midseason contest.

3. Bull Headed
It’s looking more and more like Pau Gasol will be shipped to Chicago. The only holdup seems to be John Paxson’s unwillingness to send Luol Deng or Ben Gordon to Memphis in exchange. But if the Bulls want to have the size and strength to bang with the big bodies from Miami and Detroit in the postseason, then Paxson will have to overcome his reluctance. The pairing of Gasol and Ben Wallace could be what elevates Chicago into the elite level, where everyone thought they would be before the season began. Paxson should try to hold on to Gordon if at all possible, but if the only way to gain Gasol is through the loss of Gordon then he is going to have to suck it up and pull the trigger.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Cleveland 43 min, 33 pts (FG: 14-23, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 4-8), 6 reb, 12 ast, 2 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (43-9) @ Houston (33-18) Something has to give in this game as both teams enter with excellent situational records. Dallas is an impressive 19-6 on the road, while Houston has done a good job of winning on their home floor (19-6) this year. The Rockets could really use a win over their division rivals as they are currently sitting 10 games behind the league’s best record. Tracy McGrady has led the Rockets to victories in eight of their last 10 games while the team continues to wait on the return of Yao Ming. Dallas once again holds the league’s longest active win streak by taking their past eight games.

Buzzer Beater: Derek Fisher has been in the league for 11 years and during that time he has been trusted by his teammates to take numerous big shots. Hopefully, players feel comfortable with Fisher’s ability to handle responsibility because he will take over as president of the NBA Players Union this weekend. Fisher is the current vice president of the union and will succeed Antonio Davis. This year has been turning out pretty decent for Fisher so far. In addition to the promotion, he is also an important contributor to the league’s third best team as Utah has gone 35-17 this season.

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: Chicks Dig the Long Ball

Dirk prepares for 3pt contest

1. He’s Got An Outside Shot
The All-Star festivities are now complete as the NBA has announced the participants of the league’s 3-point shootout. At the top of the list are a couple of the best players in the game as Gilbert Arenas and Dirk Nowitzki agree to work double duty by participating in the long bomb competition and the actual All-Star game. In addition to the All-Star duo, Jason Terry, Jason Kapono, Mike Miller and Damon Jones will participate. While Dirk is having a great campaign so far, he might be getting a bit of preferential treatment when it comes to his outside proficiency. Good thing he’s the defending champion because, although his percentage is spectacular, he has only connected on a total of 46 treys. That’s 39 fewer than Jones’ 85, which is the fewest amongst the other five competitors. Oh well, get ready for more Larry Bird comparisons than you can shake a stick at.

2. Seamless Transition
The integration between Chris Webber and the Detroit Pistons is reaching completion. C-Webb has become a vital contributor with an all around effort that has helped Detroit climb to the top of the Eastern Conference. The Pistons are on a five game winning streak after knocking off the Lakers last night as Webber put up one of his most complete efforts as a modern day Bad Boy. During the team’s hot streak, Webb has averaged a solid 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists to compliment Detroit’s other high profile stars. Since being inserted into the starting five, the Pistons have gone 9-2 as Webber’s presence opens passing lanes, giving his teammates open shots. But the assist has to go to Philly for letting go of Detroit’s newest role player.

3. Disappearing Act
The Wizards have been struggling since Antawn Jamison went down with an injury. In fact, Washington has only been able to win one game out of four after sitting atop the Eastern Conference during most of December and January. In the three losses, the average margin of defeat is 17.7 points. Apparently, Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler shouldn’t have been receiving all of the glory during the team’s hot streak. Jamison was playing some of his best ball before the injury, averaging 19 points and eight rebounds. Right now, the Wizards are just looking to pick up some wins before Jamison returns, which is scheduled to be by the end of the month.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Ruben Patterson @ New Orleans 49 min, 28 pts (FG: 10-23, FT: 8-10), 16 reb, 3 ast, 5 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Houston (31-17) @ Dallas (40-9) The Mavericks are running away from their home state competition and Houston is currently sitting at third in the Southwest Division, nine games behind Dallas. Houston has won six of their last seven games thanks to a rejuvenated Tracy McGrady who has been carrying the Rockets during the absence of Yao Ming. The Mavs have an impressive 23-3 record at home, while racking up a remarkable 26 wins in their last 28 games. Dirk Nowitzki is an early MVP candidate after leading the Mavericks to the league’s best record.

Buzzer Beater: Chris Paul is good, he’s really good. The Hornets have gone 4-2 since Paul returned to the team after sitting out with injury for the past month. New Orleans is even winning some close games since Paul came back. After pulling out a two point victory over Denver in overtime on Wednesday, the Hornets took down the Bucks in a double overtime affair last night. And even though Paul struggled from the field (3-17), he dished out 10 assists that contributed to six other players scoring in double digits. Amazingly, the Hornets are only 1 ½ games away from moving into the playoff picture. The Clippers and Nuggets had better watch their backs.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Jordan Judges and Kobe Critiques

1. Dunking Royalty
Finally, the league has brought together the best of the best for the slam dunk competition. Too bad they’re only there to repeatedly hold up placards with the number 10 on them. Michael Jordan, Jul ius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter make up the list of superstar judges who will grade an all new group of mediocre dunkers. But this year, the league has decided to spice things up by throwing in a couple of big fellas into the competition as Dwight Howard and Tyrus Thomas join Nate Robinson and Gerald Green. And thanks to Robinson’s time consuming performance last year that lulled the audience to sleep after 14 attempts, there is a two minute time limit placed on each player.

2. Money Hungry
Most players will tell you they simply love playing the game, it’s their childhood passion and it’s a privilege to make a career out of a game. Then there are the players that will tell you the truth, like Chicago’s Tyrus Thomas. When asked how it felt to be a part of the All-Star experience, Thomas replied, “I’m just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day.” He was then asked if it’s beneficial for a rookie to take part in such an event. “I’m just into the free money,” said Thomas. At least he’s honest.

3. All-Star Performance?
Carmelo Anthony did something last night that most people would assume he had done numerous times before. While everyone is aware of Melo’s scoring abilities, last night was the first time he ever displayed his complete array of talents by racking up his first triple-double. Could this performance help convince David Stern to put Melo on the All-Star team?

Melo’s triple dip marks the 17th time someone has gotten a triple-double this season. Only Jason Kidd with eight and Andre Igoudala (two) have pulled off the feat more than once. The other players on this season’s list include LeBron James, Boris Diaw, Ryan Gomes, Andre Miller, Chris Paul and John Salmons.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carmelo Anthony vs. Phoenix 40 min, 31 pts (FG: 12-27, 3FG: 0-2, FT: 7-8), 10 reb, 10 ast

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (38-10) @ Portland (20-29) Phoenix is always just one win away from ripping off another massive win streak, and chances are tonight will be one of those wins. The Suns won their last game against Denver, so a win tonight would officially begin another streak. Amare Stoudemire has an interesting matchup with Zach Randolph who is looking to sneak onto the Western Conference All-Star team. A big performance against one of the league’s best teams could go a long way in helping David Stern come to a conclusion.

Buzzer Beater: Caron Butler did a lot to quiet his critics last night when he dropped a career-high 38 points on the Sonics. The young journeyman is en route to his first All-Star Game, where he will join up with the Wizard’s main man, Gilbert Arenas. And while he is having a solid season, if you want to get picky about it, he’s the most questionable Eastern Conference All-Star. But when the coaches are forced to choose between Joe Johnson on a pathetic Atlanta squad or Butler who plays for one of the conference’s best squads; unfortunately, they’re gonna automatically take the winner every time.

Overtime Buzzer Beater: Read yesterday’s Buzzer Beater and simply replace the words “three” with “four,” “Sunday’s” with “Monday’s” and “Hawks” with “76ers” in the next to last sentence.

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.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Rude Ref

Making a move

1. Blow Your Whistle, Then Blow Your Top
What’s the deal? Everyone in Portland has to be a tough guy, and it’s not even limited to Trailblazer players anymore. Last Sunday, nine-year veteran referee Rodney Mott was observed flipping the bird to a fan in the stands and using inappropriate language after a Blazer home loss to the Heat. Sure, it’s a lame offense by Portland’s standards, but it should still earn him a little street cred in “The City of Roses.” And I’m sure Zach Randolph feels that the greatest form of flattery is imitation. But shouldn’t refs be held to higher standards during the leagues attempt at rebuilding their image? A three game suspension without pay seems a bit weak on David Stern’s part.

2. Election Day
Allen Iverson was a shoe in for a starting guard position in the East at this year’s All-Star Game in Las Vegas before he was traded to Denver. In the West, however, Iverson ranks third in votes behind Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. But the votes for The Answer have been rolling in and the gap between Iverson and McGrady has been shrinking. At last check, A.I. was only 31,263 votes behind T-Mac. So, for all the Iverson fans out there, get out to a game today and stuff those ballot boxes because no paper votes will be accepted after the 15th. However, should you prefer, you can also sit on your couch in your underwear and vote drunk on the web through January 21. The starters for the game will be announced on January 25.

3. Here We Go Again
Dallas is obviously a great team and they deserve plenty of recognition, but is anyone else getting sick of this same old story? The Mavericks are rolling yet again as they have won four in a row after having their 13 game winning streak broken by the Lakers. The Mavs haven’t lost consecutive games since they opened the season by losing their first four games. And don’t adjust your eyes; since the first week of the season ended, they are an incredible 31-4. If you take the first four losses away, Dallas would be on pace to break the 1995-96 Bulls’ record 72 win season by one win. This current streak could easily grow into another double digit run as 30 points and 10 rebounds has become simply average for Dirk Nowitzki of late.

In related news, Phoenix can pick up their second ten game win streak of the season with a win in Memphis tonight.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Dirk Nowitzki @ Toronto 45 min, 38 pts (FG: 14-30, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 7-9), 11 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 3 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Utah (24-13) @ Washington (20-16) The Jazz have lost three games in a row and four of their last five. But Utah is not as bad as their recent skid would indicate however, they are also not as good as their 12-1 start had people believing. The Jazz are somewhere in between and they will have their hands full with a Wizards team that has won 11 of their last 16. Washington is 14-3 at home this season and Gilbert Arenas is beginning to get some serious MVP consideration thanks in part to his 29.7 point scoring average. Caron Butler has established himself as an excellent sidekick to Arenas and will exploit any team who decides to put their best perimeter defender on Agent 0.

Buzzer Beater: It was six years ago that the Knicks and Spurs literally gave the league a black eye on MLK day when N.Y. center Marcus Camby attempted to decapitate the Spurs’ Danny Ferry with a blindsided sucker punch. At the last moment, Ferry ducked the punch and Camby clocked his coach, Jeff Van Gundy, opening a cut above his left eye that needed over 12 stitches to close. Interestingly, none of the major players from the fight are involved in action on this Martin Luther King holiday. (Ferry is now Cleveland’s GM, Van Gundy coaches the Rockets and Camby plays in Denver.)

NBA General

Around the Rim: Starter Watch ’07

Rock the Vote

1.  All-Stars  
The first batch of returns from the All-Star balloting are in and the fans have spoken.  In the East, it’s Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Shaquille O’Neal.  The West leaders are Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming.  Oddly enough, if Iverson gets traded to a Western Conference team he won’t make the starting five.  A.I. is sitting pretty in the East as the number one guard with 595,200 votes, about 8,500 votes ahead of Wade.  However, in the West he would be well behind both Bryant and McGrady.  In fact, Iverson would be almost 73,000 votes behind McGrady.  There’s no doubt that Iverson would make the team in the West, but it would be the first time in a long time that he didn’t start in the game.  But don’t worry A.I. fans; you still have until January 21 to stuff the ballot box full of votes for The Answer.

2.  Big Bullies
Since the news of Allen Iverson demanding a trade broke, the story has dominated the headlines.  During the entire hubbub, it seems that the Ben Wallace vs. Scott Skiles feud has cooled a bit.  Big Ben has stepped up his play and proven that he’s more than just a headband.  In the Bulls last game, Wallace had 15 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks.  That sounds more like the Ben we all know and love.  The Bulls are rallying around their high-dollar, off-season acquisition and have won nine out of their last ten games; pulling to within two games of division leaders Detroit and Cleveland.  With Wallace focused on defense and Ben Gordon providing some serious firepower off the bench, Chicago is finally beginning to look like the team that many projected to win their division and possibly their conference.

3.  Deflated Balls
Having trouble handling that slick ball?  Are you hand’s bleeding from cuts received while dribbling?  Well, you’ve probably been using the microfiber ball that the league is currently using.  Now that the league has decided to return to the old, leather ball, you can too.  That’s because Spalding, the maker of the composite ball, is giving refunds for returns of the ball.  You can get $115 for sending back the ball that NBA players love to hate.  So, if you wasted your money, like David Stern did, here’s you chance for redemption.  And in the future, don’t forget, leather is better.

Thursday’s Player of the Day:  Yao Ming @ Golden State 41 min, 38 pts (FG: 15-32, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 8-8), 18 reb, 3 ast, 2 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch:  Houston (14-8) @ Los Angeles Lakers (15-7) Houston lost to the Lakers on Tuesday after making an incredible comeback to make things interesting, but it wasn’t enough as L.A. won, 102-94, in Houston.  Now, the teams get to do it again in Los Angeles.  The Lakers are 12-3 at home this year, but will be missing a key piece as Lamar Odom sits for a month.  That means Kobe Bryant has to pick up the scoring load, and that is always fun to watch.  Tracy McGrady is questionable for the game but if he manages to play, this game could be become a shootout between the two stars.

Buzzer Beater:  Baron Davis has been stepping up in a big way for Golden State all season long.  Last night against Houston was no different as Davis went off for 34 points and eight assists.  He also drained the winning three-pointer in Shane Battier’s face with one second left in the game. Despite having one of his best seasons as a pro, Davis is currently tenth in All-Star voting for Western Conference guards.  NBA fans, you should be ashamed of yourselves.