NBA General

Around the Rim: Artest gets arraigned

1. What did the five fingers say to the face?
It’s all fun and games for Ron Artest while he’s slapping his wife but now Ron Ron is facing the potential punishment for his lack of anger management. Artest will be arraigned today on charges of battery and corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime. That sucks for Artest because each charge carries a maximum sentence of one year in the slammer. Artest should shoot a text over to Stephen Jackson and get some tips on how he’s managed to avoid jail time after his strip club incident. But the NBA’s bad boy has had plenty of time to prepare for this day considering that sheriff’s have made the trip to Artest’s home five times since last August, and two of those responses involved some type of domestic disturbance. In fact, the Tru Warier has been involved with the law so frequently that he will be eligible for a limited edition Pacman Jones bobble-head with just three more arrests!

2. Kids in men’s clothing

Last night was another great battle between two of the league’s most promising big men in Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard but Toronto got more help when it counted and the Raptors ended up on top, 92-85. But back to the individual battle; while Howard had a respectable night with 17 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three assists it just wasn’t enough to outdo his fellow Eastern Conference All-Star who racked up 34 points, 16 rebounds and a pair of swats. And TJ Ford didn’t help Orlando out any as he put up 16 points and 12 assists. This Toronto/Orlando rivalry is becoming must watch TV thanks to the new breed superstars. The last time these teams hooked up on Feb. 7, Bosh had a career-high 41 points while Howard had a career-high night of his own with 32 points on 13-for-14 shooting.

3. Three down, 13 to go
With an easy victory over the slumping Pacers last night, the Spurs became the third team to lock up a playoff spot. The 90-72 win couldn’t have come at a better time for San Antonio who went on a two-game losing skid after winning a season-high 13 consecutive games prior to that. Tim Duncan beginning to look very spry with the post season approaching as he torched Indiana for 27 points on 11-of-16 shooting. He even hit five of his eight free throws and for Timmy, that’s pretty darn good. The Spurs have now joined Phoenix and Dallas in the post season with Utah and Houston set to guarantee their slot any day now. It’s really only a matter of which teams grab the final three spots and secure their series with one of the major players in the West.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas @ Seattle 38 min, 42 pts (FG: 13-24, 3FG: 6-12, FT: 10-12), 4 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl, 1 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Lakers (35-32) @ Memphis (17-51) It’s really hard not to put Detroit at Houston as the game of the day but with the way Kobe Bryant has been stroking it lately you have got to tune in to see what he does next. And c’mon, it’s the Grizz; Bryant could be looking at a “double nickel” by the end of the third quarter if he’s feeling good. Should Kobe top 50 points he would become the first Laker to accomplish that feat since Elgin Baylor did it in December of 1962. That would be pretty freakin’ amazing considering that Kareem, Magic and Shaq have all worn the purple and gold. The Mamba has a two-game total of 115 points which is good for the third highest in the last 40 seasons. Only Michael Jordan and, well, Kobe Bryant have a higher total in two games after each managed to rack up 118 points. In other words, he’s hot.

Buzzer Beater: As pathetic as it sounds, the United States basketball team will have to qualify for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. If the red, white and blue is going to be involved in the Olympic experience they will have to start off by beating Venezuela in the Americas Tournament which will be held in Las Vegas from August 22 to September 2. Also in the same group as the US are Brazil, Canada and the US Virgin Islands. At least Greece isn’t in this tourney, because it was the Greeks that knocked Team USA out of contention for the championship round at the 2006 World Championship. And it was that loss that is now forcing the States to qualify before they can even get invited to the Olympics. As Charles Barkley would say, “Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson must be rollin’ over in their graves.”

NBA General

Around the Rim: Child Support Payments are a Bitch!

1. One Last Reign?
First it was Scottie Pippen who was on the comeback trail, now Shawn Kemp is considering making a return to the NBA. But while Pippen could be back in uniform within the next few weeks, Kemp will probably not be helping any team make a postseason push until next season. When Kemp was last seen on a court he looked nothing like the young Reign Man who is considered by many to be one of the most explosive players of all time. At 36 years old, Kemp will most likely have to wait until he can get an invite from a team during training camp. Of course, he’ll have to resist the buffet line over the next six or seven months if he wants to be taken seriously by any coaching staff.

2. European Vacation
The NBA will be sending four teams to Europe in October to participate in training camps and exhibition games. It’s too bad for the fans across the pond that the teams making the trip are Memphis, Boston, Toronto and Minnesota. As of now, the Celtics and Grizzlies are the two worst teams in the entire league and Minnesota is barely clinging to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Surprisingly, the Raptors own the fourth best record in the East. But while the overall teams are not that impressive, the individual talent should have the fans lining up for tickets. Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh will provide the primary star power this fall, with Paul Pierce and, possibly, Pau Gasol acting as supporting actors.

3. Mr. MVP Returns

Steve Nash has missed the last four games and in that time, the once white-hot Suns have lost three in a row. But Nash is looking to get back on to the court tonight when Phoenix travels to Los Angeles for a game against the Clippers. And it’s not a moment to soon for his All-Star teammates, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, who were running all over the court for the West on Sunday as they combined to score 47 points. While the Suns are anxious to get back into the win column, their division lead remains intact as the Lakers are sitting a full 10 games behind. The main concern for Phoenix right now is to chip away at the 4 ½ game lead that Dallas has over the Suns for the best record in the league.

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Denver (26-25) @ San Antonio (35-18) Playtime is over and now teams are getting serious about improving their place in the playoff seeding. The Nuggets are hoping to finally have their dynamic duo together for the road game against the Spurs after Allen Iverson received some additional rest by pulling himself from the All-Star game over the weekend. Carmelo Anthony had a great outing against the other superstars as he scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 25 minutes. San Antonio will be looking to take advantage of their home crowd after struggling on their annual rodeo road trip. As the oldest team in the league, the Spurs were grateful for the break which allowed some of the veterans to rest their elderly bones. Even Tony Parker and Tim Duncan got to take it easy during the All-Star game as they combined for only 39 minutes in the contest.

Buzzer Beater: Baron Davis is rumored to be eyeing the 27th as the date when he will return to the court after undergoing knee surgery just last Tuesday. That would be great news for the Warriors considering that they have lost four of their last seven games. But the good news doesn’t stop there for Golden State. Jason Richardson could return by Wednesday when the Warriors host the Grizzlies. J-Rich has missed the last 22 games. Currently, Golden State is only one game away from being in the playoff picture, which would be a remarkable feat considering their string of injuries and lack of big bodies while playing in a stacked Western Conference.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Boston’s Marathon is Over

We goin’ Sizzler!

1. Reason for Celebration
After a franchise-record 18 consecutive losses, the Boston Celtics can finally experience the thrill of victory again. You have to give Boston some credit for winning in convincing fashion, but there’s no reason that the finger pointing can’s be directed at Milwaukee. It’s already bad enough that the Bucks have become the answer to a trivia question on Sports Jeopardy by breaking the Celtics streak of futility; however, to get blown out by 20 points in the process should be unacceptable. But it’s tough for a team lacking talent to mount a successful comeback after falling down by 13 in the first quarter. Just ask the Celtics.

2. I Got a Golden Ticket!
After Jason Kidd withdrew from competing in the All-Star game this Sunday, David Stern was forced to, once again, assign another player to the squad. Joe Johnson was the lucky recipient of an All-Star credential for the Vegas weekend. Johnson’s 25.1 points per game ranks as the tenth best in the league and last night Johnson lead his Hawks to victory over the Clippers by scoring a team-high 27 points. With four other players being replaced in the game, this year equals the 1996-97 game where Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal all missed the midseason contest.

3. Bull Headed
It’s looking more and more like Pau Gasol will be shipped to Chicago. The only holdup seems to be John Paxson’s unwillingness to send Luol Deng or Ben Gordon to Memphis in exchange. But if the Bulls want to have the size and strength to bang with the big bodies from Miami and Detroit in the postseason, then Paxson will have to overcome his reluctance. The pairing of Gasol and Ben Wallace could be what elevates Chicago into the elite level, where everyone thought they would be before the season began. Paxson should try to hold on to Gordon if at all possible, but if the only way to gain Gasol is through the loss of Gordon then he is going to have to suck it up and pull the trigger.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Deron Williams vs. Cleveland 43 min, 33 pts (FG: 14-23, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 4-8), 6 reb, 12 ast, 2 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (43-9) @ Houston (33-18) Something has to give in this game as both teams enter with excellent situational records. Dallas is an impressive 19-6 on the road, while Houston has done a good job of winning on their home floor (19-6) this year. The Rockets could really use a win over their division rivals as they are currently sitting 10 games behind the league’s best record. Tracy McGrady has led the Rockets to victories in eight of their last 10 games while the team continues to wait on the return of Yao Ming. Dallas once again holds the league’s longest active win streak by taking their past eight games.

Buzzer Beater: Derek Fisher has been in the league for 11 years and during that time he has been trusted by his teammates to take numerous big shots. Hopefully, players feel comfortable with Fisher’s ability to handle responsibility because he will take over as president of the NBA Players Union this weekend. Fisher is the current vice president of the union and will succeed Antonio Davis. This year has been turning out pretty decent for Fisher so far. In addition to the promotion, he is also an important contributor to the league’s third best team as Utah has gone 35-17 this season.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Overlooked

1. Forgotten Nugget
With Yao Ming on the sideline with an injured knee, it’s unsure if he can make a return in time to suit up for the All-Star game in mid-February. Maybe the NBA should consider inserting Denver center Marcus Camby as a replacement. Camby is currently averaging 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks and he is coming off an impressive game against Milwaukee that saw him score 19 points, grab 15 rebounds and swat seven shots. And that was with a broken finger. Unfortunately for Camby, if he’s going to receive a ticket to the game it will have to come via a coach’s decision because despite his solid season, he’s still sitting in the fifth spot for Western Conference centers behind Yao, Amare Stoudemire, Erick Dampier and Mehmet Okur. As always, the fans don’t have the tightest grip on reality, but hopefully the coaches’ vote will more accurately portray reality and not popularity.

2. New Face in S.A.?
San Antonio broke out of a three game losing slump on Sunday when they easily defeated the Grizzlies without guard Tony Parker, who missed the game with a strained hip. When asked about the team’s improvement in the absence of the soon to be Mr. Longoria, Tim Duncan responded, “We need to trade (Parker) or get rid of him or something.” Obviously Duncan was being sarcastic with his comment, but the Spurs are serious about making a trade, but not for Tony. S.A. would love to add the athleticism of Corey Maggette to their lineup and an aging Brent Barry along with Beno Udrih is a small price to pay for the ability to run with the West’s progressively up-tempo style. But at this point, what team isn’t on Maggette’s radar as a possible new destination. Toronto’s Morris Peterson is also drawing some attention from Gregg Popovich as a possible compliment to the team’s guard/forward rotations.

3. Redd Alert
It’s going to be tough for any team to replace 27.7 points per game, but for the Milwaukee Bucks it’s going to be impossible. The injury to Michael Redd will keep him sidelined for anywhere from four to six weeks and by the time he returns, the Bucks ship might be sunk. Milwaukee is currently clinging to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and they can directly attribute that to the offensive outbursts by Redd. Look at how the Sixers have handled losing their star scorer; and Philly actually got something in return when they lost 30 points from the lineup! Their upcoming schedule is not exactly terrifying, but nobody on the calendar can be taken lightly when your only 16-18. And with the mediocrity that saturates the East, there are far too many teams with losing records who are dying to back into the playoffs for Milwaukee to think they can survive without their shooting star.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Ruben Patterson @ Denver 38 min, 29 pts (FG: 13-21, FT: 3-6), 12 reb, 7 ast, 4 stl

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Dallas (27-8) @ Utah (24-10) The Jazz have been sporadic of late but they remain strong at home where they are 14-2. Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams continue to provide a modern day version of Utah Hall of Famers Karl Malone and John Stockton. But the Stockton/Malone pick-n-roll might not be enough to slow down the white hot Mavs. Even though Dallas lost to the Lakers and had their impressive streak ended, nobody has been better than the Mavericks this season. Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard can already make their reservations for Las Vegas in February. However, Dallas’ weakness has been in their blue uniforms as they’ve dropped five games away from home.

Buzzer Beater: You’ve got to love a guy like Melvin Ely who can ask for a trade with a smile on his face. The Bobcats’ forward realizes that he is going to be stuck on the bench behind youngsters like Emeka Okafor and Sean May but instead of making waves, Ely has demanded for a trade in a professional manner that can only improve his appeal to other teams. Too often trades involve negative feelings between players and management, but its guys like Ely who understand they make an extremely profitable livelihood by playing a child’s game, and despite the unfavorable circumstance, there is no losing situation.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Houston, We Have A… Nevermind

1. No Yao, No Problem
There’s no doubt that the Rockets miss their big man in the middle, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their record. Since Yao broke a bone in his leg the Rockets have won four of five games, including their current four game winning streak. Whatever was holding down Tracy McGrady earlier in the season is no longer a problem as he has scored over 30 points in four of the games since Yao got injured. But the rest of January could prove to be detrimental as their schedule becomes tougher with teams that rely more on their inside presence. While nobody is happy with the loss of Yao, T-Mac has got to be enjoying having free reign to create on the floor and, once again, be able to score at will.

2. Scoring at Will
If you had to guess two teams in the league that would combine to score 279 points in a game, it probably wouldn’t have been Memphis and Golden State. But that’s exactly what happened. In an offensive explosion, each team scored at least 30 points per quarter as Memphis held on to win, 144-135. The Warriors’ Matt Barnes had a game-high 36 points and Mike Miller lead his team with 33. 13 out of 19 players that logged time in the game scored double digit points. It was only the fourth win since the beginning of December but it was their second win in four games as Pau Gasol returns to his old form. Tony Barone Sr. seems to be filling in quite nicely since the team fired Mike Fratello.

3. The Hurt Heat
There were not too many people who believed that Miami would win the championship last year, but now it’s getting hard to believe that Miami will even make the playoffs. Injuries have plagued this team throughout the year and nothing appears like it will change anytime soon. Currently, the team is missing Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Antoine Walker, James Posey, Wayne Simien and coach Pat Riley. And last night against the Clippers it showed. Miami lost 110-95 and fell to 13-18 on the season, dropping them to five games behind first place in the Southeast Division. At this point, the defending champs would miss the playoffs altogether. But even with a healthy cast it will take a spectacular comeback over the second half of the season for the Heat to have a chance to defend their title in the post-season.

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas vs. Milwaukee 44 min, 32 pts (FG: 12-25, 3FG: 4-9, FT: 4-5), 11 reb, 8 ast, 4 stl

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Indiana (17-15) @ Dallas (25-7) After a surprising end to last season and an even more surprising start to this season, the Mavericks have been one of the most impressive teams in the league. Dallas strung together a 15 game win streak earlier this season and also have a current 11 game streak. Despite a loss to Charlotte on Saturday, the Pacers have been playing good ball lately in winning six of their last nine. Jermaine O’Neal has stepped up his play and currently averages a double-double but Dirk Nowitzki will be a tough opponent to defend as he continues to push his name into the ring for MVP.

Buzzer Beater: When you make your living as a professional athlete, is it too much to ask that you be in shape? Apparently, some Miami players think it is. And that’s why Antoine Walker and James Posey could be facing suspensions for their poor health. The two were already deactivated for their game against the Clippers and forced to remain in Miami where they will workout with the team’s strength and conditioning coach. Looks like it’s time to leave the lunch line and start running lines for these Heat heffers.

NBA General

Around The Rim: The Telestrator is Calling

1. The Czar
When you’re the worst team in the NBA and can only amass six wins in 30 games, something has to change. So, Memphis management decided that coach Mike Fratello was the logical choice to be replaced. Bad decision. The Grizzlies have been without their best player for a majority of the season which could be devastating for any team. Management should have given Fratello more time with Pau Gasol before delivering the final blow to the coach. This season was lost when Gasol went down during the summer, so why not allow Fratello to ride out the year? After all, he did win at least 40 games in both of his previous years and took Memphis to the playoffs both seasons as well. Not too bad in a stacked Western Conference.

2. Bizarro World
Before the season began, who would have guessed that Toronto and Washington would be winning their divisions at this point in the season? Probably nobody, except for Raptors and Wizards fans, but that is exactly what has happened. Both teams are on pace to have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. That’s something that doesn’t happen often in these cities, especially for the league’s lone Canadian team. But don’t get too arrogant if you live in these cities. Despite their status among division mates, neither of these teams will even come close to sniffing a championship. Overall, Washington is the 11th best team in the league and Toronto is the 19th best team. So, enjoy your reign at the top while you can.

3. X-Factor
While nobody knows how things will shake out once Carmelo Anthony returns from his 15 game suspension, it seems that Denver is pretty happy with their latest acquisition. Allen Iverson has been nothing less than impressive since joining the Nuggets where he has been given new life along with championship hopes. Iverson has put up a double-double in all three of his games as a Nugget and he has won two games in a row for the first time since Philadelphia won their first three to begin the season. Iverson is not only dominating games but he is now making his teammates better. With all eyes on A.I., other players like Earl Boykins, Reggie Evans and Eduardo Najera are inspired to play larger roles for the team. Just imagine how players like Anthony, Marcus Camby and J.R. Smith will benefit from the presence of Iverson.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Allen Iverson vs. Seattle 43 min, 44 pts (FG: 17-29, 3FG: 1-2, FT: 9-12), 3 reb, 10 ast, 2 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: New York (13-18) @ Phoenix (19-8) It’s not too often that New York is considered to be a must watch team, but it’s also not too often that New York wins four out of five. The Knicks will be taking a 5-8 road record, along with a new sense of worth, to Phoenix where the Suns are 11-3 on the year. But Phoenix has also been on quite a tear of late, winning 18 of their last 21 games. The Suns will be hoping to end this game in regulation as New York is a perfect 4-0 in overtime games.

Buzzer Beater: What happened to the Magic? Since starting the year off 14-5, Orlando has performed a disappearing act as they have only won three games since. The team is now struggling to simply reclaim first place in their division. The Magic are 17-13 but with a win tonight over Washington, Orlando can climb back to the top of the Southeast Division.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Hot Seat

1. A Czar, Zeke, Doc and Cheeks
If a coach is judged by wins and loses, then four coaches are clearly in line to be the first to get whacked this season. Doc Rivers, Mike Fratello, Maurice Cheeks and Bernie Bickerstaff all reside in futility with less than six wins each. Each coach has their own reasons for why they should be fired, but if one deserves to go first, who should it be? Bickerstaff is doing all he can with a team of kids. Fratello has to be given the benefit of the doubt considering that he has started the season in a ship without a sail after Pau Gasol broke his foot over the summer. Doc Rivers coaches a team of one, with Paul Pierce as the sole star in Boston. So, the pink slip goes to Cheeks. He is accomplishing the least with a team that is experienced, talented and athletic. Two AI’s, Chris Webber and Samuel Dalembert have to add up to more than five wins.

2. Marion, Out
Last night during a dominating win over Sacramento, the Suns Shawn Marion hit a 14 foot jumper at the buzzer. He proceeded to run off the court and into the locker room to the sweet sounds of an arena filled with cheers. One problem, it was only the end of the first quarter. Once Marion realized that he was the only player to have left the court, he returned to a bench full of laughing and pointing teammates. Some of the Suns were laughing so hard, they were literally holding their sides. There’s nothing like a little humor to keep a winning streak alive.

3. M.V.Three?
Steve Nash has won two consecutive MVP awards, and if the formula used by voters over the last two seasons holds true, then Nash is well on his way to a third. Nashty is currently averaging career highs in points (19.9) and minutes (36.5) while leading the league in assists per game with 11.4. If he can slightly increase his scoring, he will be the first player to average 20 points and ten assists since Tim Hardaway in 1992-93. While his trademark long locks are gone this season, his annoying habit of licking his fingers remains. But whatever he’s been doing, its working and the Suns have won nine out of ten, including a current seven game win streak. Last night against Sacramento, Nash put on a passing clinic as he dished out 20 assists.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Elton Brand vs. Miami 42 min, 33 pts (FG: 13-18, FT: 7-8), 17 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk

Wednesday’s Game to Watch: Houston (12-5) @ Minnesota (7-9) The Rockets have won six of their last seven games and Tracy McGrady has become much more active on the offensive side of the ball lately. Kevin Garnett continues to do everything for Minnesota as he leads the team in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. Lots of talent and All-Star appearances will be on the court between The Big Ticket, T-Mac and Yao Ming.

Buzzer Beater: David Stern finally admitted to not taking player’s opinions into consideration before forcing a new ball on the league. It’s about time, players have only been complaining about the new rock since training camp. Guess that the backlash from his stars finally became too much to handle for the commissioner. Stern made a decision that affected the entire league and thought that the initial revolt would simply go away, but it hasn’t. Swallowing your pride is tough, but continuing to lose face over an unnecessary change in procedure is just stupid. Bring back the leather ball already!

NBA General

Gentlemen, you’re next up on the tee

Memphis Grizzlies: The poor Grizzlies. They have a superstar that’s not really marketable. They are survivors from a terrible situation in Vancouver. And they still haven’t won a playoff game in 12 tries. This is the third straight sweep. This time at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. Just think, if they’d have lost that (now meaningful) last game against the Clippers, they would’ve gotten the Nuggets who were soft as can be.

Denver Nuggets: Speaking of the Nuggets, they didn’t put up any resistence in the elimination game last night. After averaging slightly over 100 points in the regular season, the Nugs averaged only 87 points against the Clippers. Meanwhile, Carmello Anthony’s scoring average dropped 5.5 points from the regular season to the playoffs. Way to step it up in crunch time, Melo. Oh, and don’t even mention Kenyon Martin.

Congratulations to the Clippers, who ended a 30 year playoff drought to advance to the second round.

Detroit Red Wings: Finally, we have the Red Wings. The #1 seed in the Western Conference. (That’s NHL if you aren’t paying attention.) So how did they lose to the Edmonton Oilers, a team that they beat in the standings by 29 points! The Red Wings gave up 4 goals and blew 2 leads in the third period. This Detroit fan is pretty calm considering what happened to his team. While this guy takes it in stride because they wouldn’t have beaten Calgary or New Jersey anyway. Interesting way to look at it. But it doesn’t take away the shame of losing to an 8 seed.

Congratulations to the Oilers and their fans. It was a surreal sight at the Rexall Center last night and we always pull for the underdogs.