Hey, Beijing, are you ready for these guys?!

Team USA is still looking for that perfect combination of mad skillz and selflessness from the NBA’s best ballers in attempt to erase years of frustration at the hands of its international competition. When the team travels to Beijing in a little over a month, they might be sporting the best roster they’ve had since the first or second “Dream Team” (although we all know that there is really only ONE Dream Team, the original Dream Team). On Monday, the official announcement was wade and here’s the 12 guy’s expected to resurrect the ghosts of Summer Olympics past.

Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
Carlos Boozer, Utah Jazz
Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
Jason Kidd, Dallas Mavericks
Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons
Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Deron Williams, Utah Jazz

There is no doubt the rest of the world has defiantly caught up with America in the b-ball department, but there isn’t a country on the planet able to hang with this group of guards. And just imagine how motivated Bryant will be. The dream of grabbing a ring without the Diesel is over for now, but he can still lead his squad to a gold medal. Not a bad way to cap off a MVP season.


[]: Team USA roster announced

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: It’s good to be MVP

1. Fo-fo-fo-fo?
They’ve got a stellar cast of players, including the league’s newest MVP. They’ve got a proven coach who knows how to win and win and win some more. And they’ve got a perfect record through six games in this year’s playoffs. Life is good for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant’s Wednesday night started with commissioner David Stern handing over the MVP trophy and ended 34 points later when Los Angeles increased their series lead to two games with a 120-110 victory. Derek Fisher posted 22 points, Pau Gasol finished with 20 and Lamar Odom had another outstanding game with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 16 rebounds. There’s no doubt that the Lakers are starting to look scary-good, but the series now shifts to Utah where the Jazz owned the best homecourt record during the regular season. Carlos Boozer was in foul trouble early and often, making defense difficult for the Jazz all night long. Deron Williams led Utah offensively, scoring 25 points to go with 10 assists. Boozer had just 10 points in 24 minutes of action. The Jazz must now treat Game 3 like a Game 7 because the Lakers are simply playing too good to surrender a 3-0 lead.

2. Working their Magic

The Pistons lost more than Game 3 on Wednesday night, they might have lost their leader. Chauncey Billups left the game early in the first quarter after straining his hamstring and did not return and his status for the next game is up in the air. Detroit defiantly missed Mr. Big Shot against the Magic who routed the Bad Boys 111-86 behind a career playoff-high 33 points from Rashard Lewis. The forward connected on 11 of his 15 attempts, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s final 14 points of the first half. Dwight Howard looked Supermanesque once again with a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double and Hedo Turkoglu nailed three treys for half of his 18 points. Rodney Stuckey played in place of Billups, finishing with 19 points, and could be asked to fill in once again in Game 4. Richard Hamilton (24 pts) and Tayshaun Prince (22 pts) were about the only players to hit shots with any consistency which could lead to a tied series if the pattern repeats itself next time out.

3. Richard Jefferson needs his space
The Nets are going downhill fast. After losing Jason Kidd to the Mavericks, the franchise falls on the shoulders of Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. Actually, let’s just make that Carter seeing as how Jefferson is having a hard time keeping his nose clean according to a report. The former Wildcat was charged with assault on Wednesday following an incident in a Minneapolis club when Jefferson allegedly grabbed a man by his throat. Jefferson denies that he did anything wrong and went on “The Mike and Murray Show” to try and clear his name.

It was actually Vince Carter’s birthday,” he said. “A party. We were actually, you know, all hanging out as a team. I was in our hotel. Actually, I was in the hotel bar. I wasn’t at a strip club, you know, three hours away. I wasn’t, like, in a casino. I wasn’t doing anything. I was literally in our hotel bar and I had an individual come up to me who was very rude and very disrespectful and, you know, an altercation broke out.”

Jefferson downplayed the severity of the incident.

“There were no punches thrown,” he said on the radio show. “They were saying there was choking. It was more of a getting your space. This individual doesn’t have a scratch on him. There was no mark. There was no blood. There was no anything. Obviously, [athletes] have a target on our back and it is unfortunate that these people would even do this. This incident happened four months ago. I wasn’t drunk.”

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Rashard Lewis vs. Detroit 43 min, 33 pts (FG: 11-15, 3FG: 5-6, FT: 6-8), 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: San Antonio is in a must-win situation tonight against the Hornets. Trailing 0-2 in the series, the Spurs have looked old, slow and basically unmotivated during the first games, getting popped in the mouth twice. Now the Spurs will have a home crowd on their side as they try to slowly climb out of the hole they are currently being buried alive in. If New Orleans wins tonight the Spurs are dead in the water and it will just be a matter of time, but if San Antonio can pull out a victory then you’d better buckle-up for Game 4 on Sunday because it will be an all-out war!

Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: It’s no illusion, the Magic are for real

1. Road warriors
It took an extra five minutes to get the job done, but the Magic continued their winning ways by outscoring the league’s highest scoring team in an East vs. West track meet. 240 total points were scored as Orlando downed Golden State 123-117 in Oakland. Dwight Howard almost cost his team the game when he picked up a technical late in the game, but he still gets `Beast of the Game’ honors for collecting 18 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks. Jameer Nelson almost had himself a triple-dip as he finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists. Orlando is still giving Boston a run for their money in conference race. The squads are currently tied for first place, but the Celtics (14-2 – .875) have a better statistical record than the Magic (16-4 – .800)

2. TD’s knee screen is clean

Gregg Popovich felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach when Tim Duncan crumpled to the parquet on Sunday and was subsequently carried off the floor by his teammates. Well, Pop’s heart started beating again on Monday afternoon when doctors discovered no significant damage to the two-time MVP’s right knee or right ankle. There’s still no concrete timetable for when Duncan will return to the lineup for the silver and black, but the team spokesman confirmed that TD would miss the rivalry game against the Mavericks. We’re figuring that the Spurs are going to sit Duncan until he’s absolutely, undoubtedly, 100 percent healthy. Popovich ain’t no fool; he’d much rather take the extra losses than rush his goldmine back on the court too soon and risk further damage.

3. Score one for the Americans
By many accounts, Steve Nash is just about the best thing to happen to basketball since the shot clock went into effect. Other people can’t believe he has more MVPs than guys like Allen Iverson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett or David Robinson, to name a few. Either way you look at it, he’s about all Canada’s got when it comes to international competition. Correction: `he’s about all Canada had.

On playing for the Canadians in the 2008 Olympics, should they qualify:

I would say no, but I can’t really talk about it until the situation arrives and this season’s come to a conclusion,” Nash said. “But in my mind right now, I’m not going to play for Canada anymore. I just can’t do both.

Okay, can someone talk Manu Ginobili out of playing now?

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Miami 40 min, 24 pts (FG: 10-18, FT: 4-6), 15 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (13-4) @ Indiana (9-9)
Phoenix’s three All-Stars have been playing accordingly all year long, but now they’re benefiting from a former All-Star who’s looking a lot like a youngster who use to dazzle in a Detroit uniform. Grant Hill might be 35 years old according to his birth certificate, but 28 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals certainly doesn’t sound like the production of someone who should be using the Clapper and watching The Peoples Court according to young NBA standards. On the other side of the court, the Pacers are sporting a crew of anti-Hills. They’re young and wild and you never know what you’re going to get, good or bad. This has the potential to be a nail-biter or a blowout, just depends on which crew shows up next for coach Jim O’Brien.

Buzzer Beater: We’re seriously starting to worry about Gilbert Arenas. The guy has always been a little loopy, but now that he’s injured and without the mental drain of basketball, there’s a lot of crazy stuff backing up in his cranium. Not only is he pushing a shoe that comes with a dry erase marker so you can write messages on your kicks, but he’s also devoting his time to a project known as GilTV. It’s an interesting endeavor to say the least. Still, those aren’t the oddest tidbits of information that Agent 0 reveals in his blog.

So, Gilbert, why don’t you like to take pain pills?

I didn’t take the pills for two reasons:

1. I’m against pills in general. I think it’s a coward’s way to deal with pain. You take some pills, then the pills get you sleepy.

2. The main reason is though that it blocked my stomach up last time and I couldn’t use the restroom. I couldn’t use the restroom for like five days, and I didn’t want to go through that pain again.


Utah Jazz

Around the Rim: Carlos Boozer continues to improve his Mailman impersonation

1. Big night from the new big two
John Stockton and Karl Malone will always be the most dominant duo in Utah Jazz history, but the gap is closing. Deron Williams scored 21 points and dished out 14 assists while Carlos Boozer grabbed 11 rebounds and connected on 17-of-20 shots for 26 points to lead Utah to a 103-93 victory over the Pistons. We are still years and years away from having “Williams to Boozer” roll off the tongue like “Stockton to Malone” did, but it is pretty safe to say that last year’s trip to the West Finals won’t be this young pair’s last. The Booze is 26-years-old and Williams is just 23 and if the Jazz know what is good for them then they will keep these kidos under lock and key for the next decade at least. In the much more immediate future, Utah’s Northwest Division lead should remain intact with the crew facing creampuffs for basically the next two weeks until they hit a four game stretch with road contests against the Spurs, Mavericks and Suns.

2. Video Game James is back

On Saturday LeBron James picked up his third triple-double of the season by dropping 37 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists on the Raptors in a victory. On Sunday, it was deja vu all over again as the King went for 30 points, 11 boards and 10 dishes, leading the Cavs to a 111-106 road win over the Pacers. Drew Gooden also came through with a double-double of 23 points and 12 rebounds to help squeak out a win and put the Cavaliers right back into the division and conference title race. Pacer point guard Jamaal Tinsley almost had a triple-dip of his own in the game, coming up one board short, as he finished with 24, 9 and 10. And he was just two turnovers away from picking up a very unflattering quadruple-double.

3. Spurs and Sonics hit milestones
A win over Seattle isn’t exactly a big deal nowadays, but the Spurs 116-101 road victory is significant because it lifted the defending champions’ record to 12-2 – the best start in franchise history. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker exploded for 70 of the team’s points and the team was on fire from behind the arc, hitting 11-of-19 3-pointers. Speaking of hot shooting, the Sonics’ rookie sensation Kevin Durant busted free from a slump by scoring 25 points on 11-of-15 attempts. The loss ironically dropped Seattle to their worst start in franchise history as they now sport a sorry 2-12 record. But the Supersonics need to get over this loss super quick because the youngsters are looking a seven-day, four-game stretch right in the face.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Indiana 36 min, 30 pts (FG: 10-21, 3FG: 1-6, FT: 9-15), 11 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (11-2) @ Golden State (5-7)
The Warriors had a bumpy start to the season, dropping their first six contests, but they are rolling now as they’ve almost pulled even by winning five of their last six games. And despite their disappointing start following a unforgettable 2007 postseason, some things never change as Golden State remains one the top scoring clubs in the league; second (107.0)to be exact. The only club hitting more buckets per game is run-n-fun Suns with 108.5 points per game. The Warriors are a horrific 1-4 at home, but all the losses occurred before their impressive six game span. Phoenix currently has a 5 ½ game lead over the Warriors in the Pacific Division standings thanks to an eight game winning streak.

Buzzer Beater: The delusional Isiah Thomas seems to be the only one who can’t see that he’s a horrible coach. If you asked Zeke, he’d probably tell you the Knicks are on pace to win the East.

When you get frustrated, the first thing you think of doing is making changes, but this isn’t the time to make changes. Believe me, when that time comes, I’ll be the first to say it. But this is not the time,” Thomas said, according to the report. “I’ve seen and been through a lot of situations in this NBA. This isn’t the time to abandon ship and make changes. We’ll get through this.

The good news is that the Knicks won a game following Thomas’ comments. The bad news is that it was against the hapless Bulls and it was only New York’s third win of the season.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Another rough night for the young King

A 2-0 hole would make anyone a
little nervous.

1. Second half meltdown
Cleveland had a commanding halftime lead (50-38) in Game 2 but somehow managed to bumble it away and slip into a 2-0 hole by scoring a pathetic 26 points in the final 24 minutes and losing 79-76. The Cavs had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds but LeBron James missed a contested spinning shot in the lane that he will undoubtedly be criticized for because he didn’t dish the rock off. But this would be Rasheed Wallace‘s night as he came on strong in the fourth when he put in 10 of his 16 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 24 ticks left on the clock. If this feels familiar, it should; last year the Pistons took a 2-0 lead over Cleveland in a second round series that eventually saw a Game 7. We can only hope that the James Gang has enough heart to force another game of ultimate elimination. The Cavs will find out on Sunday night if Dorothy was right.

2. The Magic make their coach disappear

The coaching carousel continues to turn in the NBA and the latest hard, plastic pony to become available is in Orlando where the Magic decided to part ways with Brian Hill after he spent two seasons with the team. Apparently a 40-42 record along with a first round sweep out of the playoffs just wasn’t gonna cut it in the Magic Kingdom. Where Hill goes from here is unpredictable, but he will have several options available to him over the off-season. However, the Magic are now forced to find a veteran coach who can take this talented team to a level that Hill wasn’t able to. While Stan Van Gundy isn’t exactly a grizzled vet, he does have head coaching experience with a winning club filled with marquee superstars, which is a lot better resume than most cheap, available assistant’s can offer. And with Rick Adelman out of the picture there aren’t a whole lot of proven winners available out there. Whoever the Magic decide to bring in is going to have to work fast because the Orlando bigwigs are certainly unwilling to wait for results; with a budding Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson on the squad, the Magic are ready to start blossoming right now.

3. Former baller behind bars
The NBA family took a punch to the gut this week as former player Henry Charles James was sentenced to five years in the pokey for dealing drugs. James spent the 90’s bouncing from team to team but now he’s simply going to be bouncing from cell to cell in the prison system. Last summer, James was busted by an undercover police officer after making two separate deals with the officer for a total of $750 worth of crack cocaine. Police arrested him on September 7th after James brought several children along with him to the spot where the deal was to go down.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace vs. Cleveland 33 min, 16 pts (FG: 7-10, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 1-2), 11 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Buzzer Beater: Historically San Antonio has struggled in Salt Lake City during the post season and this year the Jazz are undefeated at home in the playoffs, so it would seem that Game 3 would be the perfect opportunity for Utah to grab their first W in the Western Conference finals. But looks can be deceiving because, to this point, the Jazz have given very little reason to believe that they can turn this series around. Sure, they’ve had some fourth quarter surges behind the great play of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams but San Antonio has simply imposed their will on the Jazz for two games now; in fact, Utah never led once during Game 2. The Jazz are going to have to get someone to step up as a third option if they are going to start chipping away at San Antonio’s 2-0 lead. However, the time for Utah is now and if they can’t win Game 3 then the Spurs will be playing for their fourth title since 1999.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Portland gets a breath of fresh air

The next Jail Trail Blazer?

1. The West just got even better
It was one of the more shocking lotteries in recent history, as neither Memphis nor Boston grabbed either of the top two picks, a.k.a. Greg Oden or Kevin Durant, despite being the worst teams in the league, but instead it was a pair of Northwest Division clubs who changed their fortunes. With just a 5.3 percent chance of winning the whole shebang, the Portland Trail Blazers grabbed the top pick while Seattle ended up with a heck of a consolation prize. The beauty of this is that these two kids will grow as rivals for at least the beginning of their careers as they compete for the same division title every year. Unfortunately they will have some stiff competition for the crown as Utah, Denver and Minnesota all reside in the Northwest. But the real losers in this year’s lottery are those pathetic Grizzlies, Celtics and Bucks who put up some horrid regular season records but still had the statistical advantage slip through their fingers, giving their fans no reason to attend any home games in the next few years. That really sucks for those guys but our “kick to the crotch award” goes to Atlanta who came so freakin’ close to grabbing a franchise cornerstone but instead is going to have to settle for the La Toya Jackson of the draft. (Full lottery results)

2. Spurs dominate again

Like in Game 1, the Jazz put together a late run but they couldn’t escape from San Antonio with a victory as the Spurs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the West finals behind a 105-96 Game 2 win. Tim Duncan continued his run of playoff domination as he finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds while Tony Parker dished out a career playoff-high 14 assists to go with his 17 points. Utah had better hope that their home crowd gives them some added umph because the Spurs are starting to make this look way too easy. Sure, Carlos Boozer (33 pts, 15 reb) and Deron Williams (26 pts, 10 ast) are getting it done on the blue team but at this point it is a two man show against a cohesive unit. Sorry, but without some help from the role players, this is going to be a quick and easy series for the West crown.

3. Another Denver delinquent
Ron Artest might have found a new home after pretty much wearing out his welcome in Sacramento by being involved in several incidents with the law since arriving. So, what whacked out coach would possibly be willing to take a ride in the Artest demolition derby? Why, George Karl of course. Yup, the Denver Nuggets are looking to add rapper extraordinaire “Tru Warier” Artest to their bad boy lineup of Kenyon “Microfracture” Martin, Allen “Practice” Iverson and Carmelo “Sucker Punch” Anthony. We’re guessing that Artest would fit right in with this crew and we’re also guessing that in typical Karl fashion he wouldn’t be able to handle his malcontent cast and end up blaming the Nuggets management for his poor compilation.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Tim Duncan vs. Utah 38 min, 26 pts (FG: 10-15, FT: 6-8), 14 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 5 blk

Buzzer Beater: Well it sure didn’t take the Rockets very long to find a replacement for Jeff Van Gundy after the front office decided to give him the boot on Friday, because Rick Adelman is expected to be introduced as the new coach on Wednesday. It should be a good fit; Houston definitely needs a veteran coach who can properly utilize his tools and Adelman has proven that he can win. Hey, this guy got some great mileage out of Vlade Divac for cryin’ out loud; surely he can turn Yao Ming into a beast. And if you don’t think Adelman desperately wants to win a ring then just remember that he has the highest winning percentage (.610) of any coach who doesn’t have a championship.

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: The Warriors sure could use a beer about now

1. The Jazz step up at home
Derek Fisher took one shot during Game 2 of the Utah/Golden State series but it was a biggie as his 3-pointer during overtime gave the Jazz a 123-117 lead that would eventually grow to the final score of 127-117. Fisher was welcomed to the arena with a thunderous ovation late in the game after he had left his daughter’s side who was in the hospital with a rare form of cancer in order to play. While Fisher steals the glory for this victory, it was a total team effort from the Jazz that deserves the credit. Carlos Boozer (30 points, 13 rebounds), Mehmet Okur (23 points, 18 rebounds), and Deron Williams (17 points, 14 assists) all finished the game with double-doubles while Andrei Kirilenko (20 points, nine rebounds, five assists, six blocks) finally is starting to play like we all knew he could. See what happens when you dry those tears, baby boy. The Warriors had some pretty big games from their stars as well, but when you live by the 3 then a lot of times you’ll end up dying by the 3. And going 15-of-40 from behind the arc is one good way to waste key possessions that are so valuable in the postseason. But just wait until Friday night when the court is surrounded by a golden clad crowd; the Mavericks didn’t seem to adjust very well to that rowdy atmosphere.

2. Pierce says buh-bye to Beijing

Apparently the Boston Celtics don’t have a solid grasp of exactly how the NBA lottery system works because it looks like Paul Pierce will not be participating in the upcoming Olympics due to his injuries. We know that Danny Ainge is desperate to get that hopper loaded full of green and white ping pong balls but someone should tell him that international competition doesn’t count. You know how naïve good ol’ Danny boy can be when it comes to things like this. Remember that time that he just “accidentally” ended up sitting next to Kevin Durant‘s mom during the Big 12 Tournament? Talk about a desperate franchise; after the season they just had, there’s no way that Ainge is going to let his lone All-Star anywhere near harm’s way, even if it is in the name of the U.S.A. And if those ping pong balls bounce Boston’s way then the Celtics could be sporting a pair of superstars when the season starts anew in the fall.

3. T-Mac’s got your back
Jeff Van Gundy might not be sure if he’s going to return for another season as head coach of the Houston Rockets but it sounds like his players definitely want him back. Well, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady both want him back and in Houston those are just about the only opinions that really matter. “As far as I’m concerned, he’s still our coach. Absolutely,” McGrady said. “I’ve said in the past (that) he’s the best coach I’ve played for.” No knock on Van Gundy, but it’s pretty easy to be the best coach in T-Mac’s career; after all, have you seen some of the teams that he’s played on? There’s a reason that McGrady has never made it past the first round of the postseason and it’s not his 28.8 career playoff point per game average.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Mehmet Okur vs. Utah 43 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-15, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 3-7), 18 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Reports on Wednesday said that Jermaine O’Neal isn’t demanding a trade from the Pacers and that Miami is not looking to deal away Shaquille O’Neal. So, if the O’Neal boys are already off the market, then who is gonna be involved in the summer blockbuster trade? We’d like to say Kevin Garnett but there have been so many conflicting stories coming out of Minnesota, we don’t know what the hell Kevin McHale is thinking anymore. But we’re not going to be surprised by anything that happens involving the Timberwolves, because if McHale can be named the best GM in sports then nothing is impossible in Minny. Except getting KG a supporting cast of course.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The great postseason series just keep coming

1. Late night fun in Utah
Well, the excitement has worn off and the Golden State Warriors are now in an unfamiliar position in the postseason; they are losing. Utah got huge nights from almost all of their starters as they squeaked out a late victory in Salt Lake City, 116-111. But the Warriors had a pretty good game from their starting five as well; in fact, four of the five scored at least 20 points in the loss. That’s the first time that has happened in a non-overtime playoff game since the Pacers fell to Celtics, 124-121, back in 1991. Oddly enough, the last time it happened prior to that was in the same series when the Boston lost to Indiana despite four guys racking up 20 or more.

2. Will the real Chicago Bulls please stand up?

It was another game and another spanking on Monday when Detroit handled their business against Chicago with virtually no interruption from the Bulls by beating them, 108-87. The Bulls which looked so ferocious in the first round against Miami are now resorting back to their old baby Bulls tactics of simply running and hiding when the bigger kids come on the court. But what do you expect when their coach is coming out to the public and saying that his team has no chance against the veteran Piston squad. Looks like the ol’ Don Nelson reverse psychology backfired on Scott Skiles.

3. Tweakin’ time
So, what happens when you are the best team in the league with the league’s best player and you immediately get humiliated out of the playoffs? Well, you get desperate and that might be exactly what is happening to the Mavericks after the Warriors sent them on an early vacation. Now there are rumors that Dallas could be looking to go after that interior stopper that could have filled up the lane against guys like Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson. And who’s the biggest guy in the league? Why the disappointed Shaquille O’Neal of course. So, what are the actually odds that Shaq jumps from Miami to Dallas at the age of 36? Probably not too good, but when Mark Cuban’s endless mountains of cash are involved almost anything is possible and desperate times often require desperate measures so don’t be surprised if Dallas starts courting the Diesel.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Golden State 42 min, 17 pts (FG: 6-15, FT: 5-8), 20 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl

Buzzer Beater: Apparently the Madden curse has the reverse affect with the NBA Live series of video games. Normally great players appear on the cover of the latest Madden game and then promptly have their careers ended the next season on the field. Well, in the NBA if you get seriously injured during the season you are then placed on the cover of the game. At least, that’s what happened with Gilbert Arenas after he tore a meniscus earlier in the season. LeBron James was reported to be second in the voting. Hopefully for Arenas he’ll be back to carry the name of the game like several of his coworkers have. Tracy McGrady, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan have all made the cover in the past and they have all had pretty stellar careers. Sorry Madden, no curse here.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Utah gets floored by the Rockets

1. Clutch City is back on track
Carlos Boozer tied a career-high with 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds and six assists but it was his critical turnover with 20 seconds left in the game that will be remembered. Boozer dribbled the ball off his foot and helped Houston secure a 98-90 victory, giving them a 2-0 lead in the series. The Jazz started the season by jumping out to a 12-1 record but ended the year by dropping seven of their last 11 games, and if you throw in their playoff woes, they have lost nine of their last 13 contests. If that’s not bad enough, the Jazz have never won a playoff series after falling behind 0-2. Houston is riding a momentum tidal wave of monumental proportions behind the efforts of their droopy-eyed superstar Tracy McGrady (31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists). If the Rockets can hold on to their lead over the Jazz they’ll be on their way to the second round for the first time since 1997, not to mention it would be T-Mac’s first trip past the opening round in his ten year career. Just keep your mouth shut Tracy; Houstonians don’t want a repeat of your big mouthed fiasco during the 2003 playoffs.

2. The 151st best player in the league

Some observers of the game have been saying that Phoenix has the best starting five in the league, but on Monday the Suns showed that they have a pretty good bench as well. In a landslide, Leandro Barbosa took home the Sixth Man Award (and a nice sized bonus check in the process) to join the likes of Mike Miller, Ben Gordon, Antawn Jamison and others. Barbosa finished with 578 points, including 101 first place votes, to blow away Manu Ginobili (269 points) and Jerry Stackhouse (210 points). This could be the first of many post season awards for Phoenix considering that Mike D’Antoni, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion are all candidates for various awards. The “Brazilian Blur” averaged 18.1 points off the bench to compliment the Suns’ starters; all that’s left for Barbosa to do now is work his way into the starting lineup. And come up with a more creative nickname.

3. The Magic’s disappearing act
The series score is 2-0, but it might as well be 4-0 after Detroit put another hurting on Orlando and held Dwight Howard to just eight points on three-of-nine shooting. Howard has as much potential as any young superstar in the league but his playoff immaturity is definitely shinning through as he has only scored 21 points in the first two games. As it is every night, the rebounding was there on Monday against the Pistons but the Magic won’t even sniff a post season victory until Howard can learn that he must carry the load offensively, as well as defensively. But Howard can’t be held completely accountable for the Magic’s current situation; after all, there aren’t a lot of teams that can compete with the Pistons’ efficiency. Detroit was led by Richard Hamilton’s 22 points but it was a complete effort from the starting five that earned the team a 98-90 victory. In fact, only 10 points came off the bench during the game.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer @ Houston 42 min, 41 pts (FG: 17-30, FT: 7-9), 12 reb, 6 ast

Buzzer Beater: Since Orlando has been visiting Detroit over the past couple of games, it’s needless to say that Darko Milicic has been taking some crap from the fans of his old club. But he’s not letting it get him down; well, at least that’s what he says. “I don’t really care,” said Milicic. “Back home fans used to throw the baseball (bats) and stuff at me – everything. They tried to kill me back home. That’s why I don’t really give a (expletive) about it.” We can see why a little taunting wouldn’t phase you, considering your countrymen attempted to murder you. But we wanna know why the Pistons’ fans are harping on Darko so much in the first place? After all, it was Joe Dumars who blew the pick; all Milicic did was get drafted. Last time we checked it wasn’t Milicic who passed on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.