NBA General

Around the Rim: It could be a while before b-ball returns to Utah

1. SA is headed home with a big lead
After getting pounded in the second half of Game 3, San Antonio dropped their first game of the West finals and it was beginning to look like Utah had decided to make a series out of it. But after a fourth quarter surge in Game 4 the Spurs are once again in complete control (3-1) of the conference finals thanks to a 91-79 victory in Salt Lake City. Some questionable calls reared their ugly heads once again around the Spurs during the closing moments of a very physical contest as Derek Fisher picked up a pair of techs to get tossed and joined coach Jerry Sloan in the locker room early. Manu Ginobili had 22 points and three steals, to go along with several key flops in the Spurs first ever playoff win in Utah. Deron Williams (27 points, 10 assists) continues to shine as Mehmet Okur (7 points) continues to struggle offensively with a trip to the finals on the line. The Jazz definitely let a golden opportunity slip through their hands because they are now forced to win Game 5 on Wednesday in a city where they have gone winless since 1999 (0-18).

2. Show me the money!

Rashard Lewis has officially opted out of the final two years of his contract in Seattle, which makes him one of the biggest catches available on the free-agency market when the bidding wars begin on July 1. Lewis will make some team very happy with his long body and excellent scoring capabilities and there should be a long line of GMs lining up outside his door. In fact, Seattle would probably be thrilled to resign the small forward but their recent good fortune in the lottery will most likely land them Kevin Durant in the draft which would definitely make Lewis expendable. There is no telling where this kid is going to end up but we do know that teams could be paying as much as $15 million per season for Lewis.

3. Kobe wants to stay in LA
There were some rumors floating around that Kobe Bryant made a demand for a trade recently. But Bryant put those rumors to rest after he stated that “I want to retire a Laker. I want to fix this thing, or at least help any way I can.” Sadly, Bryant will never be helping himself to another championship as long as he remains in Los Angeles. You just have to look at the basic math of the situation to realize to Kobe has virtually no shot at playoff glory without a serious overhaul in LA or a trade. There are only eight playoff spots available each year. San Antonio, Phoenix, Dallas, Utah and Houston aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. That leaves just three spots for 10 other teams to fight it out over. Besides the Lakers, there are up and coming teams like Golden State, the Clippers, Denver and New Orleans wanting to get in on the action. Oh, and Denver and Seattle are probably going to be getting a little better after they make their first selections in this year’s draft. Face it Kobe, it’s time to get out of Hollywood and head out East.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. San Antonio 38 min, 27 pts (FG: 11-21, 3FG: 0-3, FT: 5-7), 3 reb, 10 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: After seeing a pair of 79-76 Detroit victories to open the Eastern Conference finals, we final were witness to a different score in Game 3 (88-82) and a different winner (Cleveland). Looks like LeBron James might not be that bad of a player after all. The King had been receiving serious heat for his late game decisions and the supposed lack of a killer instinct. Well, in Game 3, James had 32 points, nine rebounds and nine assists to go along with some legacy building buckets for good measure. Don’t believe us? Just ask Rasheed Wallace. The veteran Pistons aren’t going to be shaken that easily though because they know that they still have a healthy lead, 2-1, over an inexperienced Cavs club. However, Cleveland could create some Eastern Conference shock waves if they can grab another home court victory in Game 4 on Tuesday. Unfortunately, Larry Hughes is unlikely to play for Cleveland in the game which is a big blow for the Cavaliers. We’ll see if Daniel Gibson can continue to produce on the big stage.