Miami Heat

Around the Rim: The Heat burn the Suns

1. Suns drop it like its hot
Perhaps we misheard, but we could have sworn that the Phoenix Suns were going to use their embarrassing loss to the Timberwolves as motivation for the remainder of the season. Well, between Saturday and Monday, that plan flew out the window because in their very next game, the Suns got beat at home…by the Heat! We know that any team can beat any other team on any given night in the Association, but the Suns, who many consider to be the best in the West, just lost consecutive games to teams that are now a combined 9-30 on the season. Does the 117-113 loss spell the end of all hope for Phoenix fans? Of course not, but they are allowing the Lakers to creep back into the division race and the Suns’ schedule isn’t (and virtually can’t) get any easier. Here’s what’s on tap for Phoenix: vs. Utah, @ New Orleans, @ San Antonio, @ Dallas, vs. Toronto, @ Lakers.

2. The sleeping giant finally awakes

You might not know it by looking at the stoic, solemn expressions that almost never leave his gigantic face, but Yao Ming is a serious competitor. Labeled as a soft stick figure for the first few years of his career in Houston, Yao pretty much dispelled the myth that he’s got no heart on Monday when he called his club “soft” after losing to Philadelphia, their second consecutive defeat.

When you are soft yourself, everything will feel tough,” Yao said. “It’s not because they are so tough. It’s because of how soft we are.

“It’s weird that we changed that quick. I never had that feeling. I feel like they traded me to another team, a new team I’ve never been on before.

Finally! The Rockets have been waiting for over five years for you to step up and take control of this squad. Now Houston is, at last, ready to start winning. At least Yao is and that’s more than we knew before.

3. Another angry giant
We told you how Shaquille O’Neal is more than a little pissed about not touching the ball enough. Shaq is averaging career-lows across the board, but it’s not his age that is getting the best of him. Nope, as always, with Shaq it has to be someone else’s fault.

If I’m taking 20 shots a game and I’m only making two, then you can say my production is going down,” O’Neal told the Miami Herald on Friday.
“But I’m still shooting 60 or 65 percent from the field. So they’ve got to find better ways to get me the ball. It should be simple.”

Shaq was asked whether he had voiced his concerns inside the Heat organization.

“I shouldn’t have to [expletive] communicate that.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Josh Smith @ Orlando 45 min, 25 pts (FG: 7-20, 3FG: 2-4, FT: 9-13), 16 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl, 4 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (17-3) @ Golden State (11-9)
Since Tim Duncan came to the Spurs, San Antonio is 42-5 against the Warriors, undefeated through 19 games at home and sporting a 33-5 mark in Oakland. Luckily for Golden State, the Spurs could be playing for the third consecutive game without the former two-time MVP who is still nursing a sprained knee and ankle. The bad news for the Warriors is that, even without their man in the middle, San Antonio has beaten Dallas and Utah to extend their current winning streak to five games. Golden State has slowed down a bit in the win column after going on a tear when Stephen Jackson returned to the lineup, but they are still racking up the points and have the ability to run anyone right out of the gym. This should be a great matchup regardless of Duncan’s availability.

Buzzer Beater: Heeee’s baaaack! LeBron James was cleared for the Cavaliers game against the Pacers on Tuesday and the move couldn’t have come at a better time. The Cavs have lost every contest that James missed – five consecutive – and now sit 5 ½ games behind the division leading Pistons. Before the injury, LeBron owned the entire NBA, racking up four triple-doubles while leading the league in scoring with 30.7 points per game. At least James got to show off his impressive wardrobe during the sick leave.

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: The showdown repeated beatdown in Tinseltown

1. The purple and gold is getting old for GS
The Lakers and Warriors came into Sunday’s game tied for second place in the Pacific Division, but Kobe Bryant exploded in the second half to ensure the tie would break in LA’s favor. Bryant scored 20 of his game-high 28 points in the final two quarters and the Lakers won their third consecutive game, 123-113. Kobe also dished out a season-high eight assists as six other Lakers finished with double-digit points. Andrew Bynum tied his career-high, scoring 20 points to go along with 11 boards and five blocked shots as Los Angeles defeated the Warriors for the ninth consecutive time and the 14th time out of 15 tries. After the game, a disappointed Baron Davis hit the nail on the head.

They’re a big team, and we just got outhustled.

“Somebody for them is always having a career game against us.

Look on the bright side though, B. You guys sure can beat up on the Mavericks.

2. World’s Greatest Bosh

Chris Bosh missed five games with a strained groin and the Raptors proceeded to lose three of those games. Unfortunately for Houston, they had to face a healthy Bosh and ended up dropping their third game in five tries. Bosh was solid in his return, scoring 21 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots. Equally important to the 93-80 home victory for Toronto was their bench production, totaling 45 points and 23 rebounds. For Houston, Tracy McGrady led his squad offensively with 23 points while Carl Landry, playing in just his second career game, led the team in rebounds with seven. We don’t know how on earth a 6-foot-7 rookie outrebounds Yao Ming (six rebounds) in just 10 minutes of action, but it happened. Of course, Landry also picked up five fouls in those 10 minutes while Yao had just one in 38 minutes. But, c’mon, six boards?! He does know he’s 7-foot-6 and weighs over 300 pounds, right?

3. Even slumpbusters need slumpbusters sometimes
There’s no doubt that when a team hits a slump, they start scanning for the Clippers on their schedule. Usually, that’s an easy win. However, when you’re the Miami Heat, there is no such thing as an easy win. It took 35 points and 10 assists from Dwyane Wade, but the Heat escaped Los Angeles with a 100-94 victory, the 1,200th of Pat Riley’s career. But with a 5-15 record, there was probably no champagne corks popping in the locker room celebrating the occasion. After demanding he receive the ball more, Shaquille O’Neal finished with eight points on eight attempts and was thoroughly outplayed by the Clippers’ Chris Kaman (14 pts, 12 reb). Miami hasn’t won consecutive games yet this year and don’t expect this win to trigger a streak either because the Heat will likely get burnt by the Suns tonight.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Brandon Roy vs. Milwaukee 45 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-13, FT: 4-4), 8 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Atlanta (9-10) @ Orlando (16-5)
A few years ago you would have been committed for saying that Orlando and Atlanta were the top two teams in the Southeast Division and playoff bound. Nowadays you can get away with it because Dwight Howard is manning the middle in the Magic Kingdom and the hatchling Hawks are beginning to spread their wings. In addition to having four double-digit scorers, led by Joe Johnson’s 20.5 points per game, Atlanta also possesses the league’s top shot blocker in Josh Smith who is getting over three swats a contest (3.56 bpg). Orlando has slowed down a bit after jumping out to a 9-2 start, but Howard seems to be just heating up. At just 22 years old, the man child has upped his scoring average from 17.6 last year to 23.5 this year and currently ranks first in the league in rebounds (15.0 rpg), second in field goal percentage (61.43%) and fourth in blocks (2.90 bpg).

Buzzer Beater: In case you missed it on Saturday, the Timberwolves upset the Suns. Yes, the Timberwolves. Al Jefferson had a huge coming out party, racking up 32 points and 20 rebounds. Needless to say, the T-Wolves were pretty stoked.

Definitely this season, it’s the biggest of all three of our victories,” Marko Jaric said.

Unfortunately for Marko and the Wolves, he could be saying the same exact thing at the end of the season.

College Football

Fans? Hawaii don’t need no stinkin’ fans

The Hawaii football team busted its asses all year long to go undefeated and earn a BCS bowl bid, but now that they’ve done the unthinkable, the school has gone out and done the unthinkable.

The university decided not to take their full allotment of tickets for the Sugar Bowl on New Years Day, thus turning the valuable tickets and seats over to an elated group of Bulldog faithful. Georgia gained 4,000 extras tickets in the exchange, bringing their total to 21,500 while dropping Hawaii down to 13,500 tickets. Needless to say, Warriors fans were not happy. And that was before Vili the Warrior even made the announcement on the late local newscast.

With Hawaii quickly selling out its reduced allotment of 13,500 tickets by Tuesday, many angry Warriors’ fans and season-ticket holders were left scrambling to find tickets to the school’s first bowl game outside the Aloha State since the 1992 Holiday Bowl.

Tickets, ranging from $125 to $145, were first made available to the Warriors’ 23,000 season-ticket holders and sold out quickly. Tickets were supposed go on sale to the general public Wednesday, but that never happened.

The university has created a waiting list and is offering to buy back tickets if purchasers were unable to make travel arrangements.

Guess June Jones isn’t the only islander who acts irrationally and then later comes to regret it.

Turns out that Hawaii is trying to get the Sugar Bowl to take some responsibility for this gaffe by saying that they didn’t think they could sell all the tickets and that the move was “at the suggestion of the Sugar Bowl, who was trying to accommodate the SEC team with more tickets to satisfy their demand.”

Sugar Bowl officials say it was Hawaii’s decision.

“They chose not to take their full allotment. That was Hawaii’s decision,” Sugar Bowl spokesman Duane Lewis said. “We definitely didn’t tell them not to take it, it was their choice.

We know that traveling from Hawaii to the mainland is a bitch, but this isn’t the 1992 Holiday Bowl, their last bowl appearance in the continental states. This is a coveted BCS bowl and you’re a measly WAC school, those things should be flying like hotcakes. At least give your fans the opportunity to buy the tickets before you give the other team an even greater `home field feel’ advantage. No wonder nobody wanted you guys to crack the top 12 in the BCS, you treat your own fans and team worse than you treat the opposition.

What’s next, are you going to conduct a raffle amongst the Gainesville population for your share of seats in the Swamp at next season’s opener?


[]: Hawaii angers fans by giving tickets to Georgia

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.


San Antonio Spurs

Around the Rim: San Antoni-oh no!

1. San Antonio plays the waiting game
The Spurs grabbed their 15th victory of the season, but the win was meaningless as the organization waits patiently for the results of an MRI on Tim Duncan’s right leg on Monday. Duncan was injured in the second quarter when he tried to spin around Portland’s James Jones and then suddenly fell to the floor, clutching his knee. The immediate diagnosis was a bruised right knee and sprained right ankle and the Spurs said their star would defiantly miss some time. The injury couldn’t have occurred at a worse time as the Spurs are looking a stretch that includes six games in 13 days against some of the West’s best, including Dallas, Utah, Golden State, the Lakers, Denver and Phoenix. Ouch!

As for the game itself, SA was winning 34-28 when Duncan departed, but Portland was unable to capitalize, falling down by 13 points at halftime and 20 after three quarters. Tony Parker finished with 27 points and eight assists to lead the Spurs.

2. Boston exacts revenge, kinda

Last Tuesday, LeBron James torched the Celtics for 38 points while handing out 13 assists to give Boston its second loss of the season in an overtime instant classic. On Sunday, the two teams met for a rematch and the Celtics rolled the defending Eastern Conference champs, 80-70. Oh, did we mention LBJ missed the game, his second consecutive, with an injured finger? Cleveland hung tough with the Celtics in the first half, trailing by four at the break, but they displayed serious offensive ineptitude down the stretch without the league’s top scorer. The Cavs could only muster 11 points in the third before scoring 20 in the fourth, 12 coming in garbage time when the game was well in hand. With the King out of the lineup, two of the Leprechauns `Big Three’ basically got to take the afternoon off. Kevin Garnett finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes while Paul Pierce had seven points. Ray Allen finished with a game-high 20 points to lead the unusually, unexplosive Celtics.

3. 21 and done
November 1999: That was the last time that New Orleans defeated Dallas; until Saturday. It took overtime, a last-second trey from Peja Stojakovic in regulation and another big-time performance from Chris Paul, but the result was well worth the effort as the Hornets snapped a 21-game losing streak to the Mavs. Thanks to Paul’s near triple-double (33 pts, 9 reb, 12 ast), NOLA is now sitting in second place in the Southwest Division – ahead of Dallas and Houston. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a one-man show: Stojakovic is killing opponents from behind the arc while David West and Tyson Chandler are providing some seriously underrated post presence. Oh, and the Spurs are the only team in the West that holds opponents to fewer than Nawlins’ 93.3 points per game. Next up for the Hornets is a game against the Pistons in the `Hive,’ followed by contests at home against Memphis and Seattle.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Chris Kaman vs. Indiana 40 min, 22 pts (FG: 7-14, FT: 8-10), 22 reb, 1 ast, 5 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (15-4) @ Golden State (9-7)
Nobody in the NBA is hotter than the Magic or the Warriors after both picked up victories last night over the Lakers and Sonics, respectively. There were some early season questions surrounding the slow-starting Warriors, but everything fell into place when Stephen Jackson returned from his suspension and Golden State is back to their run-and-run-and-run-and-gun style offense, averaging 108.6 points per game (1st). Of course, those points at the rim won’t be easy to come by with Dwight Howard patrolling the paint. Howard is off to a `Defensive Player of the Year’ start to the season, leading the league in rebounds (15.0 rpg) and ranking third in blocks (2.67 bpg).

Buzzer Beater: Stephon Marbury is known for making outlandish statements, so it was no surprise that he was at it again before the Knicks played the Suns on Sunday.

After all the hoopla, we’ve won three of the last four,” Marbury said. “Normally when that happens, you’re getting praised.

“At the end of the season, we’ll be where we want to be.

Wait, do you guys want to be in the lottery because 5-11 teams that get decimated by 45 points don’t usually make the playoffs. We’re just saying.

New York Knicks

Around the Rim: Somebody must pay with their head!

One of these people just doesn’t
belong here.

1. 45-point blowout!?
Does the NBA need to start investigating players for being involved with fixing games? Sounds stupid, but how else do you explain a 45-point victory? Well, coach? Explain your team’s performance.

I don’t know where this game came from. I thought we played extremely selfish tonight … Definitely didn’t see this type of game coming after the last two games we played. This was just not a good night.

Not a good night? Try the third-worst beating in the storied franchise’s history and the second-lowest offensive production since the shot-clock went into effect! Oh, and if Nate Robinson didn’t get lucky and nail a half court, desperation heave at the end of regulation to make the score 104-59 then it would have been the lowest output EVER. That a getting-caned kinda night, Zeke.

2. 45-point swing

The Lakers fell down by 17 points early to the Denver Nuggets, but by the time the final buzzer sounded, Kobe Bryant was chillin’ on the bench and the Lakers had a 28-point victory, 127-99. Bryant had 24 points and Andrew Bynum had a nice double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Even Sasha Vujacic got into the act and scored 22 off the bench. But the real news out of Los Angeles has to do with the Zen Master signing on for another two years of drama, which begs the question: Does this move effect whether Kobe is in or out of L.A.? $24 million says Phil Jackson really doesn’t care.

3. Back to their old Mavericks-beating form
After starting the season off by dropping their first six games, the Warriors coasted to an 8-7 record by beating the Rockets 113-94. Since Stephen Jackson returned from his suspension, Golden State is 7-1. And while some of those wins are coming against creampuffs, they have quality Ws over Toronto, Phoenix and now Houston. Al Harrington deserves an expensive steak dinner from his coach after manning up big time against Yao Ming on Thursday. Harrington (6-9, 245) limited Ming (7-6, 310) to 4-of-12 shooting for 10 points and seven rebounds while scoring 18 points on the offensive end.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Baron Davis vs. Houston 40 min, 27 pts (FG: 9-14, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 8-11), 5 reb, 8 ast, 5 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (14-3) @ Phoenix (11-4)
Remember the good old days when you anticipated big-man match-ups like Charles Barkley vs. Karl Malone or Hakeem Olajuwon vs. David Robinson? Well, in 10 or 20 years, you might be reminiscing in the same way about Amare Stoudemire vs. Dwight Howard. These are two of the most blinding young stars working the post today and both of their teams are continually improving. Unfortunately, since these two studs are running in different conferences, this individual battle doesn’t come along all that often. In fact, the only way this becomes a truly intense 1-on-1 rivalry is for the Suns and Magic to square off in the Finals. Fortunately, that’s not an impossibility.

Buzzer Beater: Nicknames are some of the coolest things in the world. The great ones just naturally fit with the person and no explanation is needed, like “Magic.” Then you’ve got nicknames that just seem uncreative and forced, like “Youngrich.”

Nuggets guard J.R. Smith is nicknamed “Youngrich.” It’s even written on his shoes. So why the nickname? “Because I’m young and I’m rich,” the New Jersey native said.

What? Was “Denvernugget” taken by a teammate already?

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Dirk & Co. throw away a golden opportunity

1. Dallas downer
The on-again-off-again Mavericks are back and currently the switch is off. With Gilbert Arenas riding the pine for the next three months, Dallas couldn’t capitalize and allowed the Wizards to come into Big D and post a 110-98 victory inside American Airlines Center. The Mavs have now lost three in a row after winning five consecutive, but Dallas got some help from the Kings who knocked off the Spurs in Sacramento. Still, a half game here and there won’t make a lick of difference in the postseason if Dallas shoots as poorly as they did on Monday. Dirk Nowitzki went 10-of-18 for 31 points and the rest of his crew was a miserable 23-for-66, including a 3-of-21 display from downtown while Caron Butler had a game-high 35 points and Antawn Jamison finished with 27. The Dallas roster can expect more “verbal abuse” to come spewing out of Avery Johnson after this loss.

2. Warriors came out to play

The Warriors’ comeback from a simply despicable start isn’t complete just yet, but it took a gigantic leap forward last night. It only counts as one game, but to Golden State, their 129-114 shootout victory over Phoenix must feel like they just upset a No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Okay, well not that good, but three players finishing with 28 or more points has to be pretty euphoric for the club that basically threw away the first two weeks of the season. Stephen Jackson had 32 points, Monta Ellis finished with 31 and Baron Davis put in 28 to overcome a pair of double-doubles from Shawn Marion and Steve Nash. If the Warriors can defeat Sacramento on Wednesday then they will finally join the .500 club and hopefully we’ll start seeing a whole lot more of Jessica Alba.

3. Orlando. Oregon. It makes no difference to the Magic
We should have seen two of the brightest stars in the league go head to head, but instead we saw Orlando coast to a 85-74 victory over Portland and become the first team to reach the lucky 13th win (nope, Boston is sitting at 11-1). The Trail Blazers could have used Greg Oden’s massive frame in the middle because it didn’t take a whole lot for the Magic to get the job done. Dwight Howard only mustered up nine points of offense, but he grabbed 14 rebounds while Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combined for 41 points. Teams better enjoy beating up on Portland right now because Oden’s injury is only making this club stronger. LaMarcus Aldridge is becoming the weapon he was drafted to become and despite his rough outing against Orlando, Brandon Roy (4-18, 12 pts) is shaping up to be all that and then some. If the top pick of this year’s rookie class pans out upon his return, there’s going to be a Western Conference red and black attack for years to come.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Chris Paul vs. Minnesota 43 min, 31 pts (FG: 10-19, 3FG: 3-4, FT: 8-8), 1 reb, 11 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Boston (11-1) @ Cleveland (8-6)
It is arguably the best player on the planet versus arguably the best trio on the planet, but that doesn’t mean this is a clear cut victory for the men in green. The Celtics have looked incredible over their opening frame of the schedule, but everyone saw how LeBron James torched the Pistons last year; he could do it again. LBJ is riding back-to-back triple doubles and his team has now won four of their last five games. Boston has also won four of their last five, of course, they’ve also won 11 of their last 12, but who’s counting? The Cs have been kicking their feet up since narrowing escaping Charlotte with a win on Saturday, but they should get prepared to see a lot of No. 23 flying to the rim because Boston and Cleveland hook up twice in the next six days.

Buzzer Beater: Kobe Bryant might be the only scorer in the league more explosive than Tracy McGrady. T-Mac blew up for 19 of his 36 points during the fourth as the Rockets ran away from LaLa Land (Clippers, not Lakers) with an 88-71 victory. We’ve seen it time and again, but it never ceases to amaze. McGrady’s 13-of-26 performance from the floor followed a 13-for-23 shooting spree against Denver that netted him 35 points. Guess that elbow is feeling a little better.

General Sports

Job swap day is the most awkward day of the year

Let’s see; how do we put this? Not everyone has the necessary heart and desire to be Vili the Warrior; especially Stephanie Lum. Likewise, not everyone should be informing the public on the day’s newsworthy events; especially Vili the Warrior.


[The Wizard of Odds]: There’s Only One Vili the Warrior

Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: Celtics streak snapped

1. Orlando really is “The Most Magical Place On Earth”
It must be an early Christmas miracle because we were certain the Celtics had 82-0 all wrapped up. Guess they’re looking at 81-1 now because the Magic just ripped the bow off that idea. Sorry ESPN.

Boston made a valiant effort to keep their pursuit of perfection intact but Paul Pierce’s miss at the end of regulation left the Cs two points short of forcing overtime. Pierce had 28 in the game, Ray Allen put up 19 and KG went for 14 and nine rebounds. The Magic were anemic in the fourth, going four minutes without a basket as the Celtics made their run to come back from 20 down. Still, all five Orlando starters finished with double-digit points, led by Dwight Howard’s 24 and Rashard Lewis’ 22. But the Magic failed to crash the boards in this game, getting outrebounded by 13, 41-28. Howard inexplicably finished with six despite ranking second in the league with 14.2 per game.

2. S-Jack is back

Golden State finally got off the schneid on Friday when they picked up their first win of the season by thumping the Clippers 122-105. On Sunday, Stephen Jackson returned to the floor after serving a seven-game suspension and helped his boyz grab their second consecutive victory. Jackson led the team in scoring with 17 points and collected a couple of blocks in the 106-100 win over the Raptors. The return of the team’s bad boy couldn’t have come at a better time. The Warriors start an east coast road trip on Tuesday, playing games at New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia before hosting Phoenix next Monday.

3. Stars struck
The All-Star 2008 ballots are out and thanks to some realignment of positions, Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire are getting screwed. Arguably the West’s two most dominant power forwards got plopped into the “Centers” classification on the ballot. So, obviously we can remove their names from the West’s starting five for the February 17 superstar showdown because the Chinese population will ensure Yao Ming gets the nod. We know that they will both find their way onto the team barring any major injuries, but it is a shame that they won’t get the honor of being voted in because the league is unfairly categorizing them. Sure, both play some center, but we all know they are 4s at heart. And the league listed them as such in years past. This is like throwing Kevin Garnett into the “Guards” because he brings the ball up the court a handful of times each game.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: TJ Ford vs. Golden State 33 min, 29 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 5-5), 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (9-2) @ New Orleans (9-2)
The Magic are coming off the biggest win of their young season after taking out the Celtics in Orlando. Now the Magic must take their unblemished road record (6-0) into N’awlins against the cream of the Southwest Division. Chris Paul leads the Hornets’ attack, averaging 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 10.8 assists per game while Tyson Chandler is pulling down a double-double of his own every night with 11.4 points and 11.5 boards. But you can’t mention the phrase “double-double” without bringing up Orlando’s Dwight Howard. The 21-year-old accomplished the feat in nine of 11 games this year. Howard is really starting to develop some chemistry with point guard Jameer Nelson and the off-season addition of Rashard Lewis has paid dividends immediately.

Buzzer Beater: The NBA is truly losing one its legends with the imminent retirement of Gary Payton. The Glove had a great career and even though Michael Jordan kept him from putting on an ornate, diamond-clad band in the 90s, D-Wade gave him the title of champion that he earned over his 17 years in the Association. Payton’s all-time rankings are as follows: 21st in points, 8th in game played, 6th in assists and 3rd in steals. Needless to say, we all have our favorite memories of the guy. Unfortunately, as much as it pains us to admit this, ours is the same as J.A. Adande’s. Lord help us.

Miami Heat

Around the Rim: South Beach Bums

1. Heat hate
If Pat Riley was considering suiting up for the Heat after they were trounced by the Cats then he’s probably considering pulling Magic, Kareem and Worthy out of retirement following Miami’s loss to the Sonics on Wednesday. Seattle came into the game with a 0-8 record, before leaving South Beach with a 9-point victory, 104-95. What makes things even worse for the 1-7 former champs is that Dwyane Wade was finally back in their lineup and it didn’t really help. It’s obvious that Riley is getting absolutely sick of all the losing and we’re figuring that if this goes on too much longer he’ll probably bail on his boys, again. He’s tried everything he can think of, including attacking their manhood. Last night, he went after their pride.

If you don’t feel like the Heat mean something to you … you have to have a real meeting with yourself about what you care about. I don’t see a team that really feels like they have anything at stake here. They come in, they play, they get beat, they go home, they go out into the night.

Guess Antoine Walker wasn’t your biggest problem after all.

2. Miami isn’t alone

The Golden State Warriors are scratching their heads following their 0-6 start. Don Nelson guided his team to the biggest upset in NBA postseason history last year, but the Warriors can’t even get a W in the win column this year. On Wednesday, GS blew a 22-point lead to the Pistons and lost by seven, 111-104, on their home court. There is no excuse for blowing a huge advantage like they did, but it’s the Pistons we’re talking about, so we’ll cut them a little slack there. Not much, but a little. In all reality, the Warriors have endured a really tough schedule so far: Utah (twice), the Clippers, Cleveland, Dallas and Detroit. Don’t look for things to get any easier though, they’ve got a five-game, east-coast road trip looming. We’re praying Jessica Alba isn’t being subjected to this torture, we just couldn’t stand that.

3. See, Minnesota can win without K.G. Just not very often
The Sonics weren’t the only squad to snap their winless streaks. Minnesota finally emerged from the depths to capture their first victory of the post-Kevin Garnett era with a 108-103 squeaker against Sacramento. Rashad McCants led the way with a game-high 33 points while Al Jefferson chipped in 23. Even the overweight Antoine Walker managed to hoist himself off the bench for 19. It’s a good win for the team, but, c’mon, it was against the Kings. Even with Ron Artest back in the lineup for Sac Town, the team is still a joke. They haven’t won on the road in five tries and both of their victories came against winless teams at the time (Seattle and Minnesota). Mike Bibby is out of the picture and they’ve been outscored by 69 points in eight games. Other than that, the T-Wolves should be thrilled about the outcome.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Orlando 47 min, 39 pts (FG: 15-27, 3FG: 2-4, FT: 7-9), 13 reb, 14 ast, 2 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: San Antonio (7-1) @ Dallas (5-2)
Outside of the Celtics, there’s no team in the NBA that is hotter than the Spurs. They’ve won five consecutive games and they look like they’re already in Finals form. Tony Parker is leading the way, averaging 20 points and six assists while Manu Ginobili is coming off the bench and getting 19.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.4 steals per game. Manu could probably break both of his legs right now and still win the Sixth Man of the Year award. Oh, and some guy named Tim Duncan, maybe you’ve heard of him, is patrolling the paint. But the Mavs are no slouches, they’ve got their own MVP in the starting five and we all saw last season how easy it is for these guys to click and rip off a 15-game win streak. With a win tonight on their home floor, the Mavs can move within ½ game of the Spurs for the Southwest Division lead.

Buzzer Beater: Phil Jackson probably shouldn’t quit his day job anytime soon. Well, actually with all the headaches from Kobe and just plain sucking, he might want to consider it. But that’s not the point, the point is the Zen Master should leave the jokes to Frank Caliendo. Jackson got fined by the NBA after saying this following his team’s loss to San Antonio on Tuesday.

We call this a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ game, because there’s so much penetration and kickouts,” Jackson said.

Actually, that was pretty funny. It was just dumb to say considering whom you are and the position you hold. But he made a sincere, heart-felt apology to anyone he’d offended, so all is forgiven.

If I’ve offended any horses, Texans, cowboys or gays, I apologize,” Jackson said.