Washington Wizards

Around the Rim: All that glitters is not gold

1. Double trouble
We’ve heard of unlucky No. 13, but unlucky No. 30 is something new to us. The Celtics (30-6), on the other hand, are learning all about the doomed three-zero. At 29-3, Boston was rolling right along, but then it took them a pair of contests before reaching their 30th victory and now Washington’s will gives the Cs their third loss in four games. After slapping down the Celtics on Saturday, the Wiz traveled to Boston for the back side of the home-and-home and escaped with an 88-83 win. Caron Butler led the way for Washington with 21 points, followed up by Antawn Jamison’s 20 and 10 rebounds. Like usual, the big three showed up for Boston (57 points), but that was about it as Beantown felt their second consecutive defeat for the first time this year.

2. Charlotte surprise

Carmelo Anthony (35 pts) and Allen Iverson (23 pts) combined for over 50 and Marcus Camby went bonkers with 20 points and 23 rebounds, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the Bobcats in Charlotte. Gerald Wallace scored 40 for the Cats who improved to 14-23 with the 119-116 victory. The road doesn’t get any easier for Charlotte who has contests against Orlando, New Orleans, San Antonio and Dallas on the horizon. The loss doesn’t spell disaster for Denver, but coupled with Portland’s beatdown of New Jersey, the Nuggets fell a half game behind the Blazers in the division standings.

3. Kobe is super against the Sonics
The Lakers got some bad news on Monday when they found out Andrew Bynum would be out of action for the next eight weeks with a left kneecap injury. Later on in the day, Kobe Bryant grieved the only way he knows how: by jacking up a ridiculous amount of shots. Bryant went 21-of-44 from the field for 48 points in the Lakers 123-121 overtime victory in Seattle. In addition to the offensive outburst from Bryant, L.A. cleaned the glass better than a homeless guy on the corner as Lamar Odom (14 reb), Luke Walton (10 reb) and Kwame Brown (10 reb) all finished with double-digit boards in Bynum’s absence. The Sonics were able to hang around thanks to seven double-figure scorers, led by Nick Collision’s 24 points to go with 18 rebounds. Kevin Durant couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean, hitting just six of his 26 shot attempts.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Milwaukee 37 min, 33 pts (FG: 8-14, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 16-20), 5 reb, 10 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Toronto (20-17) @ Detroit (28-10)
The Raptors are beginning to prove they have all the pieces to become a great team in the NBA. They’re young, hungry, talented and they are building the core chemistry that takes teams deep into the playoffs. Nobody is currently considering them as a possible Eastern Conference representative in this year’s Finals, but they could defiantly take a step in the right direction with a road win against the Pistons. Problem is the Bad Boys are ready to unleash their fury on someone after dropping three of their previous five games, including a humiliating blowout loss to the Knicks on Sunday when they could only muster a measly 65 points.

Buzzer Beater: Even with four championship rings, two regular season MVPs and a trio of Finals MVP awards in your back pocket, it can be tough to get a little respect.

During a tight fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers, Tim Duncan twice told San Antonio Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili to pass the ball.

One couldn’t blame Duncan for his advice as Ginobili had gone 0-of-6 from the field through the first three quarters of the game.

Ginobili didn’t listen to the Spurs’ star center.

The Spurs’ super sub hit four 3-pointers in the period, his only field goals of the entire game, to lead the Spurs to an 89-82 victory over the 76ers Monday night.

“I think I was talking in the middle of his shots … two of his shots, telling him to swing the ball,” Duncan said. “And he’s firing away anyway, and they go down for him. So he felt it. And he gets one to go down, he gets two to go down. All of a sudden he’s on a hot streak and you want him taking those shots.”

Ginobili scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, highlighted by the two pairs of consecutive 3s.

“I heard him,” Ginobili said of Duncan’s counsel. “But I told him that I was feeling good and I was going to take them.”

“He never listens to me,” Duncan joked.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: Flying high in the fourth

1. “It’s your fault.”
Scoring 39 points for LeBron James isn’t really that big of a deal. Nowadays, we pretty much expect the King to get at least 30 on a nightly basis. But 39 points takes on a whole new meaning when LBJ scores 24 of `em in the fourth quarter. James scored two-thirds of the Cavs points in the final period, helping Cleveland break even on the season (17-17) with a 93-90 win in Toronto. James also finished with 11 rebounds and eight assists, citing some front-row hecklers for his late outburst. The Raptors got 23 points out of Chris Bosh and 16 points and 11 assists out of Jose Calderon, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the opposition’s one-man heroics as Toronto lost their second consecutive game, falling to third in the Atlantic Division.

2. San Antonio’s revolving door

The Spurs rollercoaster ride of a season went for another `up and down’ on Sunday when Manu Ginobili returned to the defending champs’ lineup following a five-game absence, putting in 23 points in 29 minutes off the bench. But in the final minutes of the Spurs 88-82 road victory, the stomachs of San Antonio fans quickly relocated to their throats as Tim Duncan and Corey Maggette banged knees, sending Duncan to floor where he clutched his leg. Luckily for Gregg Popovich’s crew, Duncan seems to have escaped without a major or even minor injury and isn’t expected to miss any time after finishing with 17 points and 17 rebounds against the Clippers. Then again, Pop is known to be conservative in these types of situations, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Tim sit a game or two.

3. Remember me?
The 76ers took a cross country trip to see their old running mate, but Allen Iverson didn’t exactly play the role of gracious host. A.I. lit up his former squad for 38 points and eight assists, giving Denver its third consecutive win and control of the Northwest Division. This was just Iverson’s second game against the Sixers since being traded in 2006 with both contests being played in Denver. On March 19, the Answer will make his first trip back to Philly and even Iverson doesn’t know what to expect.

You don’t know what the environment’s going to be like,” Iverson said. “I know it’s going to be strange because I played there so many years and I fell in love with the fans there. I was a part of them, they were a part of me. It’s obviously going to be different.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Toronto 46 min, 39 pts (FG: 14-29, 3FG: 4-8, FT: 7-12), 11 reb, 8 ast

Monday’s Game to Watch: Denver (21-12) @ Phoenix (23-10)
It’s not too often that one can say the second best team in the Western Conference is in desperate need of a win, but the Suns are in desperate need of a win. Phoenix is just 6-4 in their previous 10 games with the loses coming to quality teams and the wins coming against a bunch of scrubs, minus a win in San Antonio and one against the Raptors. The result is that the Lakers are now knocking on the division door [1 ½ games separate the two], ready to cross the threshold into first place. Winning a home shootout against the Nuggets would be a big confidence booster for the Suns, but the highest-scoring duo in the league will have something to say about that. Allen Iverson (26.9 ppg) and Carmelo Anthony (25.3 ppg) look to take Denver to their fourth consecutive win, but yet another injury to Kenyon Martin could prove costly on defense as Amare Stoudemire is torching opponents with regularity this season.

Buzzer Beater: Don’t pencil in Stoudemire’s 22 points and nine rebounds per game just yet because there is a small chance the All-Star center/forward could miss tonight’s game against the Nuggets. Turns out Stoudemire missed the Suns’ Sunday practice for “personal reasons.” General manager Steve Kerr will discuss the issue with Stoudemire sometime today and depending on the outcome of the meeting, there could be possible disciplinary actions handed out in the form of a fine or suspension.

San Antonio Spurs

"Being a Spur ain’t easy"

The Spurs might be four-time NBA champions, just don’t expect them to act like four-time NBA champions. In today’s fast paced, `Johnny come lately’ world we live in, athletes never know when the endorsement deals are going to simply shrivel up and blow away. So when they’re there you gotta grab `em; even if it means dressing up like a cowboy and pushing milk to the masses.

Hey, it was either do the cowboy thing or don the beatnik outfits again. Good choice guys.


[The Big Lead]: Two Videos, One Post

Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Pass happy

1. Phoenix sharpshooter -passer
Everybody knows that Steve Nash is a passing machine, but this is getting to be plain silly. In his last four games, all wins, Nashty dished out a whopping 64 assists! The pass fest began on Nov. 30 when he had 14 assists at home against the Magic. Then the Suns began their current five-game, east coast road trip and the two-time MVP went off for 15 on the Knicks, followed by a 17-assist display against Indiana and culminating with Wednesday’s season-high 18 dimes against the Raptors. Of course, Sebastian Telfair could probably pick up 18 assists if he had scorers like Grant Hill (15.7 ppg), Shawn Marion (16.3), Amare Stoudemire (21.1), Raja Bell (11.7), Boris Diaw (7.4) and Leandro Barbosoa (17.7) running the floor with him. Okay, so maybe Se-Bass couldn’t do it, but a good point guard could.

2. Old friends?

Wednesday’s game between the Bull and the Bobcats served as a reunion of sorts for a pair of former teammates. Not on the floor, but on the sidelines. Chicago coach Scott Skiles and Charlotte big cheese Sam Vincent played ball together in college at Michigan State and then again in the pros when they both landed in the Orlando. Skiles’ Bulls took the game in Charlotte and afterwards the two reminisced on their initial memories of one another.

Skiles said he didn’t think Vincent would end up a coach when he was leading the Spartans in scoring. “I thought he was going to end up being an actor,” Skiles said.

“I thought he was a little [expletive] who couldn’t play basketball,” Vincent joked.

3. Guard-ian angles
Despite playing at home, the Spurs were facing an uphill battle against Dallas as Tim Duncan sat on the sidelines with an injury. But what probably should have been a loss turned into a welcomed W, 97-95, thanks to some outstanding backcourt play by the silver and black. Manu Ginobili was unstoppable as he found himself in the starting lineup for the first time this year, scoring a season-high 37 points (50% FG) to go with four rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. Tony Parker chipped in 23, but struggled offensively, while Michael Finley came off the bench to score 14 on his former squad. All together, the trio of Spurs guards scored 74 of San Antonio’s 97 points. The Mavericks shot the ball very well, out rebounded the Spurs and scored 23 points off turnovers, but Dirk Nowitzki’s last-second trey from the corner didn’t connect and Dallas went down for the second time in three games.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson vs. Los Angeles Lakers 48 min, 51 pts (FG: 18-27, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 15-18), 2 reb, 8 ast, 1 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Denver (11-8) @ Dallas (12-7)
Both of these teams are coming off Wednesday losses in which some significant truths were revealed. The Nuggets were fortunate to learn that Allen Iverson has still got it. The Answer blew up against the Lakers for a mile-high game-high 51 points, the most he’s scored as a Nugget and the most by any Denver player since Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf scored an identical amount in 1995. Unfortunately for the Mavs, their revelation is a lot more depressing. Dirk Nowitzki must reinvent himself if he is ever going to lead his team to a championship. His skills are incredible, but his style of play is incredibly soft. The seven-foot jump-shooter has a phobia of the lane and continues to be shut down by smaller players, as he was by Bruce Bowen on Wednesday. Granted, Bowen is a tremendous defender, but he is also giving up five inches and 45 pounds to the German MVP. Nowitzki shot four-of-11 for 15 points in the loss while Tim Duncan’s absence left a huge hole in the lane.

Buzzer Beater: Believe it or not, but Tracy McGrady only had two career triple-doubles before hitting Memphis up for 17 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists on Wednesday. The last time he accomplished the feat was nearly five ago when he had 46, 13 and 10 against the Nets on Feb. 23, 2003. Last night was certainly a good time to give an all around effort because his normally reliable shooting motion was out of order. T-Mac opened the game by going three-of-15 from the field before finishing with a less than respectable seven-of-22 performance.

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Now Mark Cuban has something to dance about

1. 4-1 in their last five against SA; too bad it’s not a playoff series
The Spurs came into Dallas as a sizzling hot team, but it didn’t take long for the Mavericks to toss a bucket of ice water all over San Antonio’s flames. Behind runs of 17-1 and 11-0, the Mavs hit the court running and never bothered to check their rearview mirrors, toasting the Spurs, 105-92. Tim Duncan (24 pts) and Manu Ginobili (25 pts, 9 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl) showed up to play for SA, but they were about the only ones. Mr. Longoria was 1-of-11 for seven points and Michael Finely went 0-of-6. Outside of four rebounds, Finely put up zeros across the stat sheet in 25 minutes against his former club. Meanwhile, Dallas was scoring at will with four players finishing the game with at least 17 points. Josh Howard had a team-high 23 and Dirk Nowitzki was solid with 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

2. Bulls get bullied, again

Chicago did what they could, but that wasn’t good enough to knock off the Suns. Grant Hill had a game-high tying 24 points to pace Phoenix as six of the eight Suns to record minutes finished with double-digits in the 112-102 win. What’s amazing about this team is that they continue to roll with just a seven man rotation. The only question surrounding Phoenix at the moment is if they have enough depth for when the playoffs roll around. But there’s plenty of time for that to develop, it’s Chicago that is running out of time. The Bulls are 1-6 now after having four full days to prepare for this game. They’ve got the Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets coming up on the schedule, so, like the old Flintstones Vitamins commercials, the Pistons division lead is at 4 ½ games…and growing.

3. Houston can exhale now
Good news for Rockets fans. After taking a shot to the right elbow, Tracy McGrady couldn’t even shoot a pair of free throws with the arm during Houston’s loss to the Lakers. Turns out that that there’s no damage to the elbow and it’s just a sprain. He’ll probably miss a week or so and then he’ll be putting up 40 on fools like nothing ever happened. Bad news for Rockets fans. Houston heads to San Antonio tonight for their second contest of the season against the Spurs. But it is not the end of the world. Back on the 6th, the Rockets survived a 4-for-14 shooting performance by T-Mac to beat their instate rivals 89-81. In fact, the Rockets might get through this without too much damage. Considering the Spurs got roughed up by Dirk & Co. last night, with a big effort, they might steal one on the road. They have to turn right around and host the Suns on Saturday, but after that they’re off until next Wednesday. Meaning McGrady could be ready to go just in time for a huge game against the Mavs.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Manu Ginobili @ Dallas 31 min, 25 pts (FG: 7-15, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 10-13), 9 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Miami (1-7) @ Boston (7-0)
It’s not too often that you’ll see a team as bad as the Heat make our Game to Watch, but today’s a little different. Pat Riley is on the edge of insanity after enduring the most embarrassing start of his career. Following getting drummed by the Sonics, he threatened to make “a massive shakeup” in his lineup. Well, “massive” really only describes one man on the Heat. So, don’t be surprised when Shaquille O’Neal isn’t jumping for the opening tip against the Celtics. And if Riley follows through, don’t expect Shaq’s absence to be the only new wrinkle in the starting five. So, will his tinkering pay off? Eh, probably not. We all know that Boston is on top of their game and the NBA at the moment. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are about as nasty a trio as the league has ever seen. All we know is that if this trick doesn’t smack some life into the Heat then Riley is probably going to be curled up in the corner of the visitors’ showers, mumbling and sucking his thumb after the game.

Buzzer Beater: Leave it to ESP-freakin’-N to go totally overboard with the Celtics quick start out of the gate. Now, we know that Boston has looked pretty darn good over their first seven games, but are we really doing this already?

NBA Best Teams Ever Comparison

2007-08 Celtics vs. 1995-96 Bulls

Twelve years ago, the Chicago Bulls set a standard of success that many think will never be matched: 72-10 in the regular season. Almost a perfect season.

Well, now we have another fast-starting team, and so far they are running with the Bulls. The Boston Celtics are on pace to surpass the Bulls’ 72 wins and become the second team to win 70 in a season.

Imagine that, they’re on pace to “become the second team to win 70 in a season.” Actually, right now, they’re on pace to win 82 games this season. This is so stupid; can’t we at least wait 10, 20, 30, dare we say, 40 games before we start clearing the pedestal for the new greatest team ever. These guys aren’t even the best Celtic team ever!

Cleveland Cavaliers

Around the Rim: It was downright scary in Cleveland on Halloween

1. Trick or, errr, Trick!
It didn’t take long for a team to get blown out of the water, but nobody expected it to be the Cavs whose battleship got sunk. The Mavericks torched Cleveland to the tune of 92-74 last night. 18 points might not sound like much, at least not by blowout standards, but the Cavaliers looked rustier then your grandpa’s clunked out ’58 Chevrolet Apache. LeBron James finished with just 10 points after getting nada during the first half. Behind Jason Terry’s 24 points, Jerry Stackhouse’s 17 and Dirk Nowitzki’s 15, the Mavs never allowed Cleveland to take the lead. Perhaps the most amazing stat out side of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ gaudy double-double (17 pts, 18 reb) was the incredible shooting accuracy displayed by Big D (FG: 33-69, 3FG: 9-18, FT: 17-20). If this is all Cleveland’s got then it shouldn’t take long for Boston to grab hold of the Eastern Conference reigns.

2. “I’m out!”

Scratch Dallas off the possible future destinations for the most coveted trade bate in the league. According to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Dallas isn’t looking to make a trade for Kobe Bryant and, contrary to rumors, there was never a deal in the works. “We haven’t talked to them,” Cuban told ESPN’s Lisa Salters during a sideline interview. “It’s not going to happen. We’ve got a great squad. We like it.” And thank goodness for that, talk about the rich getting richer. But it sure could have been fun to watch Cuban squirm as he tried to divide his man-love down the middle.

3. Joey Crawford is back behind a whistle
Referee Joey Crawford returned to the court for the first time since he threw Tim Duncan out of a game because he giggled and supposedly challenged Timmy to a fight. Well, no punches were thrown and no questionable ejections occurred as Crawford officiated Indiana’s 119-110 overtime win against the Wizards. We love how David Stern is trying to `clean up’ the league, but yet he continues to employ the same dirt bag refs. If Stern wants people to take his initiative seriously then he needs to just clean out all the current officials’ lockers and start from scratch. Sure, it’s kinda harsh and a bit drastic, but other than missing out on Bavetta vs. Barkley II, do you really care?

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Manu Ginobili @ Memphis 31 min, 30 pts (FG: 6-14, 3FG: 5-9, FT: 13-14), 5 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (0-0) @ Seattle (0-1)

The Suns are quite possibly the most exciting team in the NBA and the crew is looking for revenge after they feel they were screwed out of the playoffs. And after the flaming bag of referee/gambling scandal was splattered across the league’s front doorstep for the world to see, the San Antonio Screw Job could be a reality. But Phoenix can’t worry about the past when the future is here and now. First there is the future of the league in Kevin Durant. The Sonics dropped their opener to Denver on Wednesday as KD finished with 18 points on a horrible shooting performance. Still he showed plenty of promise and the potential for major mismatches. One of the guys responsible for guarding Durant will be Shawn Marion, the same Shawn Marion that over the summer said he wants out of Phoenix. With Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire locked down, the Suns might think Marion is an on-court expenditure but, that’s quite possibly the most ridiculous mistake the NBA.

Buzzer Beater: Lamar Odom is missing the opening portion of the season after having shoulder surgery in the off-season, but it wasn’t his shoulder that was hurting him on Tuesday. It turns out that Odom was involved in a car accident that morning and sustained a minor concussion. Just like in real life, any drive that ends with contact is probably going to send Odom to the pine. But, hey, at least Lamar showed up to the game, unlike some people. Lakers owner Jerry Buss missed the season opener as well after David Stern suspended him for two games and fined him $25,000 for his drunk driving arrest in May. Life in LA just keeps getting better for the Lakers.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Sorry Detroit; "No soup for you!"

She’s no Jessica Alba, but it’s not
bad for Cleveland.

1. Now it’s a best of three
After falling down 0-2 to the experienced Pistons, the Cavs looked like they wouldn’t be in this conference finals series for long, but there’s a good reason that people say a series doesn’t truly start until the home team loses. Now, that same Cavs team has evened up the best of seven at two apiece and LeBron James is looking like a true leader on the court after Cleveland won Game 4 91-87 on Tuesday. Larry Hughes wasn’t even expected to play but he ended up starting the game; however, it would be his replacement that grabbed the spotlight. An aggressive Daniel Gibson put together another great performance as he finished with 21 points by getting to the foul line 12 times, converting on all 12. But it doesn’t matter if the Cavaliers win all of their home games because they can’t advance to the finals without grabbing a victory in Detroit and there is no better time than Thursday night for Cleveland to do just that.

2. Buss-ted!

So what do you do when you’re old, rich and have a lot of free time on your hands? Well, if you are Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss you stay up way past your bedtime, get wasted and drive your gold station wagon the wrong way down the street. Buss blew at least a 0.08 when pulled over by the cops around 1 a.m. on Tuesday morning and was arrested on suspicion of DUI. The old geezer apologized for his actions but we gotta give him props cause when the 74-year-old Buss was pulled over he had some 23-year-old piece of ass in his Mercedes-Benz. Now, we don’t know what the relationship between these two was, but we’re guessing that she wasn’t his granddaughter which makes it a little suspicious. Its amazing how billions of dollars can make that creepy 51 year age difference just disappear.

3. Hey! I’ll trade ya’!
The rivalry between Kevin Durant and Greg Oden has been limited to their on-court skill so far, but now that they are about to become professionals it’s time for their head to head competitions to extend off the court. Because there is more to being an All-Star baller than just points, rebounds and blocks; there’s also basketball cards and shoe deals. On Tuesday Oden signed a three-year deal worth at least $3 million with Topps while his soon to be division foe recently inked a deal with Upper Deck. Both guys will be great spokesmen for their companies but Oden is already getting some serious hype and in his new campaign the youngster is going to be featured with Hall of Famer Bill Russell. Not a bad way to start off your career if you ask us.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Detroit 44 min, 25 pts (FG: 8-19, 3FG: 1-5, FT: 8-9), 7 reb, 11 ast, 3 stl

Buzzer Beater: The games are coming fast and furious in the Western Conference finals with the Spurs and Jazz making a quick one day turnaround after San Antonio took a 3-1 lead on Monday. SA would love to get this series over with so they can rest up for whoever ends up making it out of the East and it’s going to be pretty tough for the Jazz to stop `em considering that the last time Utah won in San Antonio Karl Malone and John Stockton were wearing notoriously short shorts. OK, so it wasn’t that long ago but 1999 was still quite a while back. The wildcard in the series continues to be Manu Ginobili as his play off the bench is overwhelming whoever Utah decides to throw at him. And the Spurs also have another pair of players who know how to put the final nails in playoff coffins. Since Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili became a trio in 2003, San Antonio is 12-4 in series clinching games.

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.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Another ESPN Instant Classic was just born

And this was the scene before the game.

1. Phoenix gets burned in the Valley of the Sun
Game 5 between the Spurs and the Suns was a tale of two halves. The first half saw Shawn Marion light up the jumbotron with 20 points and 11 rebounds en route to an 11 point lead at the break as San Antonio was a nonexistent 0-of-7 from behind the arc. Fast forward past the Frisbee catching dog or whatever ridiculous half time gimmick the Suns front office pulled out of the hat for this game and in the second half, the Spurs were a very existent 8-of-16 from three land as Marion could only score four points and grab six boards over the final 12 minutes. Algebra 101 taught us that if you add those two halves together you get an 88-85 San Antonio victory, which is equal to one whole win for the guys in black; giving the Spurs a grand total of a 3-2 lead in the series. And you thought we slept our way through high school. The Suns fought a heck of a fight without their All-NBA first teamer Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw but Manu Ginobili played terrific down the stretch, minus a few unforgivable turnovers, while Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley hit several ginormous shots. Throw in the usual 20 point, 10 rebound, 3 block (21, 12 and 5 to be exact) game from Tim Duncan and the incredibly unyielding NBA rulebook and it all simply added up to odds that Phoenix just couldn’t overcome.

2. Like nats, the Nets just won’t go away

There must be something in the water over in the Eastern Conference because the Nets, like the Bulls, keep finding a way to avoid elimination and keep their postseason hopes alive. Perhaps they’re using the Vitamin Water that failed to get Tracy McGrady out of the first round but allowed him to perform one of the sweetest sheep tosses ever caught on camera. Now, Game 5 between the Nets and Cavs was nowhere near being as interesting as the Highland Games, but how could it when the final score was 83-72 and the Nets won despite scoring just six points in the final quarter on 1-of-15 shooting. Still, what the game lacked in excitement, it certainly made up for in importance as the Nets are now within one game, 3-2, of Cleveland with the series headed back to Jersey for Game 6. Whatever the mystery substance might be that New Jersey is chuggin’, they certainly didn’t share any of it with LeBron James. His royal highness finished the game with just 20 points as he missed nine of his 14 field goal attempts. Thank goodness for free throws.

3. Whoa No Nellie!
He’s only been back behind the clipboard for a year now, but Don Nelson could be done with the Golden State franchise that he rapidly resurrected into the feel-good story of the year. Well, at least until they got eliminated by the Jazz they were. And forget about all their poor sportsmanship that resulted in tons o’ techs and flagrant fouls. But, other than that, totally a feel-good story. Still, Nellie might not be ready to write another chapter in this book because, as he says, he’s “not so sure it’s important that I stay on.” C’mon, Nelson, stop being modest. This team would be on the fast track to a Jailblazers-esque reputation without the Don around to keep this fast paced squad in check, both on and off the court. Talk about a fork in the road! Golden State could grow into a Western Conference contender with Nelson at the helm or they can take their old position alongside the Clippers, Hawks and Bobcats of the league with some other ham-fisted, poor excuse of a coach. Fans of The City better hope Nellie feels like his body can take another yearlong beatdown or they can forget about using those yellow “We Believe” shirts for anything other than wearing to the gym.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Shawn Marion vs. San Antonio 46 min, 24 pts (FG: 9-16, 3FG: 2-4, FT: 4-4), 17 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk

Buzzer Beater: Mark Cuban is one of the most annoying, childish and arrogant human beings to ever walk the face of the earth. Oh, and he cries like a baby too! Having said that, he also makes some pretty solid points from time to time. After all, he didn’t become a billionaire by being an idiot. So, as much as it pains us to agree with this jackass, here’s an excerpt of what Cubes had to say about the Spurs/Suns suspensions in his blog.

First, let me go on the record as saying that in the event that a vote comes up to change the rules about suspensions for players leaving the bench, I will vote against changing it.

Why ? Because its incredibly simple to educate players about the rule. Its a rule they fully understand and they understand the consequences of violating the rule. That makes the NBA stronger because it removes uncertainty. Can it result in a game(s) being impacted , yes. However, that impact results from an action a player knew violated the rules and was a mistake. There is no uncertainty about it. All they had to do was not leave the bench.