NBA General

Around the Rim: The Big Ticket punches out early

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

2. Celtics’ hide the Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NBA General

Around the Rim: It’s all in the family

1. That’s my boy
Rumor has it that if Boise State senior Coby Karl isn’t drafted, he could still end up making a roster. And the team that is already showing interest in the mediocre just happens to be coached by his dad, George Karl. Can you say nepotism? Coby isn’t expected to be picked during the two rounds of the draft and ESPN doesn’t even have him ranked in their top 100 suspects but for some reason daddy seems to think his little boy would be exactly what the Nuggets need. “Right now, my feeling is he fits what we need,” George Karl said. “We need kind of a playmaking bigger player.” Um, have you ever seen your kid play coach? Coby is a decent player in the WAC but we wouldn’t exactly consider him a “playmaking bigger player.” Coby has said that it would be difficult to accept an invitation from his old man, but when it comes down to playing in the NBA versus getting a real “nine to five” the choice becomes pretty easy. Geez, it must be nice having daddy there to save your NBA aspirations.

2. King for a week

Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats is the current player of the week. Wow, that’s a sentence I never expected to be writing, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t deserve the honor. The Bobcats were only 2-2 during the week but without Wallace they would have probably gone 0-4. He averaged 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.33 blocks and 1.33 steals over the span and put up a tremendous all around effort in a 108-100 victory over one the Eastern Conference’s best teams in the Cavs. Wallace had four assists, five blocks and 11 rebounds to go along with 27 points. And for Wallace, his great performances couldn’t have come at a better time considering that he’s going to be a free agent when this summer rolls around. Cha-ching!

3. Do you believe in miracles!?
After serving a one game suspension, the Pistons were thrilled to have Rasheed Wallace back in the lineup against the Nuggets last night. Especially after he grabbed a loose ball and nailed a 60 footer to force overtime. During a time out, right before Denver was to inbound the ball with a 98-95 lead and 1.5 seconds remaining on the clock, Flip Saunders predicted that something like that could happen. “I told them that strange things happen,” he said. “We might as well try to get something crazy.” And after Tayshaun Prince tipped the inbounds pass, Wallace made “something crazy” become a reality. Wallace then went on to score several big buckets in OT and led the Pistons to a 113-109 victory. Watch out Chauncey, Sheed is gunning for your moniker of “Mr. Big Shot.” Here’s the video.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Washington 36 min, 41 pts (FG: 15-21, FT: 11-14), 16 reb, 2 ast

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Memphis (17-54) @ Los Angeles Lakers (38-32) Sure, Memphis sucks but Kobe Bryant is definitely worth the price of admission. Bryant has redefined “showtime” of late after he ripped off 268 points in five games. Oh yea, he also dropped 60 points on the Grizz last Thursday and that was in Memphis; tonight’s contest will be held in the friendly confines of the Staples Center. Historically, Bryant has used Memphis as his own personal punching bag. But, then again, who doesn’t post career numbers against the Grizzlies. While the game will probably not be much of a contest, at least you can watch Pau Gasol as he continues return to his former All-Star form. In March, Gasol has averaged over 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks while Memphis has gone a pathetic 2-10.

Buzzer Beater: With 5:43 remaining in the first half of last night’s game between the Heat and the Hawks, Shaquille O’Neal hit a free throw of all things to surpass the retired Reggie Miller and become the 12th most dominant scorer in NBA history. The free throw gave Shaq 25,280 points for his career after entering the game with a 26 point per game average over 15 seasons in the league. Just imagine how many points the Diesel could be sitting on if he could hit his freebies with any consistency. But after the game, Shaq seemed to be more excited about the opportunity to use one of his self-given nicknames than he was about the record. “I’m known as The Big Baryshnikov,” O’Neal said in reference to a particularly hard foul that sent O’Neal tumbling to the ground where he performed an impressive 350 pound backward summersault before bouncing back to his feet.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Third time’s a charm

1. Two down, 14 to go
With a 108-90 victory over the Timberwolves last night, Phoenix won the Pacific Division and has now joined Dallas as the only other team to have secured a playoff spot. Kevin Garnett put up another monster effort for Minnesota but, as usual, he couldn’t get it done by himself and the Suns rolled despite getting only four points and two rebounds out of Amare Stoudemire as he sat on the bench for most of the game with foul trouble. This is the third consecutive division crown for Phoenix but despite their success they can’t seem to get past the Western Conference finals. But perhaps this is the year; the Suns are deeper than they have ever been and unlike last year they should have a healthy Stoudemire to provide the team with an inside presence when it comes time to slow the game down. Unfortunately, the West is as strong as it has ever been with Utah, San Antonio and Dallas all in contention for a Finals appearance.

2. Rocky Mountain roll

It might have taken a while for the dynamic scoring duo of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony but the Nuggets are now the hottest team in the league after ripping off five wins in a row. Melo put up 30 in Denver’s first win in New Jersey since 2000 and the Nuggets got another 20 from the Answer as the team has finally established some breathing room between themselves and the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference. A lot will be determined about this team in the upcoming couple of weeks because the Nuggets have four games left on their current road trip against Chicago, Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland before they return home against a struggling Seattle club. Then they have to end the season with difficult games against Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, Utah and the Lakers.

3. Big Baby wants to play with the big boys
One year after former teammate Tyrus Thomas made the jump to the NBA, LSU big man Glen “Big Baby” Davis has made his decision to finally make the leap. The 6-9, 290 pounder will forgo his senior year after averaging 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds and becoming the only player not named Shaq to amass 1,500 points, 900 rebounds and 100 blocks for the Tigers. Currently there’s no guarantee that Davis will be selected in the first round of the draft but if he wants to get paid some legitimate NBA money then he needs to solidify his first round position by performing well at the league’s predraft camp which is held in Orlando at the end of May. Any player selected in the first-round pick will receive a guaranteed three-year contract while second-round players are not so fortunate. Well, we know at least two players he won’t be picked ahead of.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Golden State 38 min, 25 pts (FG: 11-18, FT: 3-4), 21 reb, 5 ast

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (55-11) @ Cleveland (41-26) Both teams have the disadvantage of playing in games last night, however the Cavs will have the benefit of their home crowd cheering them on as opposed to Dallas who will be coming off short night’s rest at the local Radisson. LeBron James has his boys surging in the East and the Cavaliers now sit just 2 ½ games behind Detroit for the best record in the conference after winning nine of their last 11 games. Dallas is beginning to recover from a two game skid that was capped off with a heart breaker to the Suns in double OT last Wednesday. But the Mavs have bounced back and now have a three game win streak.

Buzzer Beater: How is that every single year Yao Ming is by far the most voted on player when the All-Star game rolls around but he can’t even top the jersey selling charts in his own country? In fact, Yao ranks sixth in jersey sells in China. Even his teammate Tracy McGrady is getting more love than Yao from the Chinese as his jersey was the third most purchased for the 2006-07 season but it is a drop from being the most popular jersey in China last year. So, who is the most popular NBA baller in China right now? Why Kobe Bryant of course, the Chinese just love his in-game Bruce Lee impersonations.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Bryant’s big weekend

Yea, I play a little.

1. The Mamba strikes again, no suspension necessary
With the madness running wild on CBS there is a good chance that you were too preoccupied with brackets on Friday night to think about the NBA. Well, unfortunately, you missed another incredible offensive performance by Kobe Bryant. The man with the uncontrollable elbows put up the second best scoring feat of his career by torching Portland for 65 points on a 23-for-39 shooting performance in a 116-111 overtime victory. Bryant was clutch when the game was in question but refused to let his team fall to the Blazers as he scored 24 points in the fourth quarter and threw in an additional nine points during OT. This was only the third game of Bryant’s career in which he scored at least 60 points; it might sound crazy to use the word “only” in that last statement but that’s a sign of how spectacular Kobe is. The Mamba has been on the verge of 60 numerous times as he has cracked the 50 point plateau 13 other times, including a 50 point performance in a 109-102 victory over Minnesota last night.

2. Luck of the Irish

The last time the Celtics had beaten the Spurs was on Jan. 8, 1997. Then the curse began. It was in the following draft when San Antonio changed the destiny of the NBA and landed the number one pick in the draft instead of Boston who had the statistical advantage to grab the top selection, a.k.a. Tim Duncan. Fast forward ten years and the Celtics finally got a measure of revenge as they defeated Duncan and his Spurs by six points, 91-85, for Boston’s first victory over San Antonio in 19 tries. And it’s no coincidence that the Celtics picked up the historic victory of St. Patrick’s Day; Boston also broke a 17-year drought against the Spurs in San Antonio. If losing his first ever game against the men in green wasn’t bad enough for Duncan, the Spurs became only the third team in NBA history to have a winning percentage of .700 or better and drop consecutive games to teams with win percentages of .360 or worse at least 60 games into the season. It’s a big win for the C’s but they’d still rather have the three trophies.

3. The Sixers are great hosts
Hopefully you weren’t fooled by the 76ers seven game winning streak a while back because the real Philadelphia team has returned and they are an ugly assembly. Since having their run of victories ended the 76ers have lost three of their last four games, including an eye-popping 50 point loss, 124-74, to the Rockets last night in Philly. It was the biggest home loss in club history and ranked as the third most lopsided home loss in NBA history. Only the 1986 Houston Rockets (lost to Seattle by 56) and the 2003 Boston Celtics (lost to Detroit by 52) have suffered bigger losses in their own gyms. On the other hand, the Rockets set a new franchise record for road domination and fell just two points shy of tying the team’s biggest win ever. So don’t give up hope just yet Sixer fans; you still might strike lottery gold after all.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Minnesota 45 min, 50 pts (FG: 17-35, 3FG: 4-9, FT: 12-14), 6 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Boston (20-46) @ New Orleans (29-37) Yea, it’s a crummy game but it’s the best that the NBA has to offer on a light evening that only consists of two games. But let’s be positive about this because it could be worse, it could have been the same teams from a month ago. Now that’s scary. But Boston is finally picking up some victories after going on a franchise-record 18 game losing streak earlier in the year. Paul Pierce is breaking the hearts of millions of Bostonians as his outputs are slowly removing the Celtics from having a possible future with Greg Oden or Kevin Durant as the franchise’s cornerstone. And while New Orleans is sitting behind all three of the Texas teams in the Southwest Division, they are only two games behind Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West despite losing seven of their last eight games. But don’t blame CP3 for the teams struggles because Chris Paul can’t be expected to do too much more than put up his recent five game average of 16.8 points, 9.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds.

Buzzer Beater: Those weren’t Boooo-zer chants you were hearing on Saturday night. No, those were actual boos as turncoat Carlos Boozer returned to Cleveland for the first time since he bolted for Utah almost three years ago. And LeBron James showed his old teammate that the Cavs don’t miss his glass cleaning abilities as he grabbed a season-high 17 rebounds to go along with 24 points, nine assists, two steals and two blocks. But Boozer had an impressive game of his own (19 points and 14 rebounds) despite being unimpressed with the crowd’s imagination. “It wasn’t even that bad,” Boozer said of his Cleveland homecoming. “They had a lot of signs. I saw a couple of them. Chants were OK. They could have been more creative with their chants. It was good though.” What, you don’t think “Boozer is a Loozer” is purely ingenious?