LA Lakers

Around the Rim: It’s good to be MVP

1. Fo-fo-fo-fo?
They’ve got a stellar cast of players, including the league’s newest MVP. They’ve got a proven coach who knows how to win and win and win some more. And they’ve got a perfect record through six games in this year’s playoffs. Life is good for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant’s Wednesday night started with commissioner David Stern handing over the MVP trophy and ended 34 points later when Los Angeles increased their series lead to two games with a 120-110 victory. Derek Fisher posted 22 points, Pau Gasol finished with 20 and Lamar Odom had another outstanding game with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 16 rebounds. There’s no doubt that the Lakers are starting to look scary-good, but the series now shifts to Utah where the Jazz owned the best homecourt record during the regular season. Carlos Boozer was in foul trouble early and often, making defense difficult for the Jazz all night long. Deron Williams led Utah offensively, scoring 25 points to go with 10 assists. Boozer had just 10 points in 24 minutes of action. The Jazz must now treat Game 3 like a Game 7 because the Lakers are simply playing too good to surrender a 3-0 lead.

2. Working their Magic

The Pistons lost more than Game 3 on Wednesday night, they might have lost their leader. Chauncey Billups left the game early in the first quarter after straining his hamstring and did not return and his status for the next game is up in the air. Detroit defiantly missed Mr. Big Shot against the Magic who routed the Bad Boys 111-86 behind a career playoff-high 33 points from Rashard Lewis. The forward connected on 11 of his 15 attempts, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc, scoring 12 of the team’s final 14 points of the first half. Dwight Howard looked Supermanesque once again with a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double and Hedo Turkoglu nailed three treys for half of his 18 points. Rodney Stuckey played in place of Billups, finishing with 19 points, and could be asked to fill in once again in Game 4. Richard Hamilton (24 pts) and Tayshaun Prince (22 pts) were about the only players to hit shots with any consistency which could lead to a tied series if the pattern repeats itself next time out.

3. Richard Jefferson needs his space
The Nets are going downhill fast. After losing Jason Kidd to the Mavericks, the franchise falls on the shoulders of Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. Actually, let’s just make that Carter seeing as how Jefferson is having a hard time keeping his nose clean according to a report. The former Wildcat was charged with assault on Wednesday following an incident in a Minneapolis club when Jefferson allegedly grabbed a man by his throat. Jefferson denies that he did anything wrong and went on “The Mike and Murray Show” to try and clear his name.

It was actually Vince Carter’s birthday,” he said. “A party. We were actually, you know, all hanging out as a team. I was in our hotel. Actually, I was in the hotel bar. I wasn’t at a strip club, you know, three hours away. I wasn’t, like, in a casino. I wasn’t doing anything. I was literally in our hotel bar and I had an individual come up to me who was very rude and very disrespectful and, you know, an altercation broke out.”

Jefferson downplayed the severity of the incident.

“There were no punches thrown,” he said on the radio show. “They were saying there was choking. It was more of a getting your space. This individual doesn’t have a scratch on him. There was no mark. There was no blood. There was no anything. Obviously, [athletes] have a target on our back and it is unfortunate that these people would even do this. This incident happened four months ago. I wasn’t drunk.”

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Rashard Lewis vs. Detroit 43 min, 33 pts (FG: 11-15, 3FG: 5-6, FT: 6-8), 6 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: San Antonio is in a must-win situation tonight against the Hornets. Trailing 0-2 in the series, the Spurs have looked old, slow and basically unmotivated during the first games, getting popped in the mouth twice. Now the Spurs will have a home crowd on their side as they try to slowly climb out of the hole they are currently being buried alive in. If New Orleans wins tonight the Spurs are dead in the water and it will just be a matter of time, but if San Antonio can pull out a victory then you’d better buckle-up for Game 4 on Sunday because it will be an all-out war!

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: A tale of two kings

1. The new king of the league
He’s got the rings and now he’s got the trophy. For the first time in his career, Kobe Bryant can officially be called the MVP. It took 12 seasons of patiently waiting for his turn in the spotlight, but Bryant ran away with the award on Tuesday, taking 82 first-place votes for a total of 1,105 points compared to Chris Paul who finished second with 28 first-place votes and 889 total points. Kevin Garnett finished in third while LeBron James came in fourth place. Bryant will receive his trophy tonight before the Lakers host the Jazz in Game 2 of their second round series. There’s no doubting Bryant deserved the award with his 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals per game during the regular season, but we’re figuring it was the wins that earned him the trophy. After all, besides winning more games, his numbers are virtually identical to his production over the previous five to eight seasons. If you ask us, there is a distinct bias against young players amongst the MVP voters. It the same bias that kept the award out of Bryant’s hands in the past and kept Paul from winning his first MVP despite posting better numbers than Steve Nash did in either of his two MVP reigns.

2. Knocked off his throne

It wasn’t pretty for King James or his court in Game 1 against the Celtics. LeBron James finished with just 12 points on 2-of-18 shooting as Cleveland lost 76-72 in an ugly, ugly offensive game. Despite grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out nine assists, the game was one of James’ worst ever considering he racked up 10 of the team’s 17 turnovers. LBJ became just the third scoring champion to have two or fewer field goals in a playoff game the same year they won the scoring title. It was that bad. While the grass was greener on the Celtics’ side of the fence, it still wasn’t all that great. Ray Allen went scoreless for the first time since his rookie season and Paul Pierce missed 12 of his 14 attempts, finishing with just four points. Luckily, Kevin Garnett’s 28 points proved to be enough in a tremendously disappointing game for both teams and the fans alike.

3. Mike D’Antoni weighs his options
Chicago might have finally found its next Mike. While Michael Jordan won’t be walking through the arena’s doors anytime soon, Mike D’Antoni very well could be. The current Suns coach appears to be off to the Windy City where he will become the latest person to attempt to make the baby Bulls grow up. Chicago GM John Paxson sounded impressed after a pair of interviews with D’Antoni, but New York is still a possible landing spot. Personally, we think it’s a good move if the Bulls want to put together a European-style, run-n-gun offense, but the defense will never be a priority under D’Antoni. Rick Carlisle would be a much better candidate for turning Chicago around, but it’s sounding more and more like he’ll be heading to Dallas.

Tuesday’s Player of the Day: Kevin Garnett vs. Cleveland 40 min, 28 pts (FG: 13-22, FT: 2-2), 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: From the “Too little, too late” file:

The NBA admitted Chauncey Billups’ 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter of Monday’s Detroit-Orlando playoff game should not have counted, but said referees weren’t allowed to review instant replay to determine that.

League president Joel Litvin also said the disputed shot, which gave Detroit a 78-76 lead in its 100-93 victory, could not have been replayed after the clock malfunction was discovered.

“After reviewing the video of last night’s Pistons-Magic game, we determined that the play that concluded with Chauncey Billups’ 3-point field goal at the end of the third quarter took approximately 5.7 seconds,” Litvin said in a statement. “Because there were only 5.1 seconds remaining in the quarter when the play began, the shot would not have counted had the clock continued to run.”

NBA General

Around the Rim: Spurs and Suns get even more physical

Nash is mad as hell and he’s not
gonna take it anymore!

1. Wait; who won that game?
If you decided to turn in early last night and skip out on the end of Game 4 between San Antonio and Phoenix then shame on you. The Spurs were in control for almost the entire game, but almost was just enough space that the Suns needed and they put together a late surge that closed an 11 point gap and gave Phoenix a 104-98 victory that tied up the series at two games apiece. It was a stunning turn of events in SA as it looked like the Spurs were ready to take a commanding 3-1 advantage but it quickly fell apart as Tim Duncan got nailed to the bench with his fifth foul. As the game was coming to an end tempers began to flare as Robert Horry delivered a hard forearm shot that sent Steve Nash flying into the scorers’ table. A brief melee broke out with Horry, Nash and Raja Bell but the situation was quickly diffused as Horry was ejected from the game. However, what could prove to be quite costly was Amare Stoudemire‘s and possibly Boris Diaw‘s decisions to leave the bench area when the scuffle broke out. If David Stern decides to go by the book then their actions are worthy of an automatic one game suspension.

2. Cavs advance; well, almost

The Nets stuck around until the final buzzer but when the horn sounded it was Cleveland who had grabbed a 3-1 lead in the series and put themselves in an excellent position to finish this thing off at home on Wednesday. LeBron James is just one little victory away from etching his name into Cavaliers history by taking the team to their third conference finals ever. It has been 17 long, long, long years since the Cavs last made an appearance in Eastern Conference’s big show. And New Jersey made it a lot easier than it should have been as the Nets’ big three just couldn’t get anything going offensively because they combined for a pathetic 11-of-48 from the field. Sorry, Jay-Z, but that’s just not gonna cut it when King James is exploding for 30 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Cleveland fans finally have some positive postseason memories to hold on to; hopefully Michael Jordan’s runner over Craig Ehlo hasn’t been too damaging over the years.

3. Could Larry Brown and Greg Oden be a package deal?
It looks like Larry Brow is the top candidate for the open head coaching gig with the Grizzlies, but in typical Larry Brown fashion he’s not making any decisions until he’s sure he’s going to get exactly what he wants. And apparently what Brown wants is the same thing that every coach is desires, Greg Oden. The draft lottery will be held on May 22 which means that we should know exactly where the ol’ ball coach stands by the time the last logo gets pulled from its oversized envelope. Memphis has a great chance of grabbing the top pick which would give the Grizz a solid core for the Yoda-like guru to mentor into young Jedi masters. But the journeyman doesn’t have the patience these days to groom some stick figure into the defensive stopper that his systems so desperately require. It’s an all or nothing situation for Memphis in this year’s lottery. But, then again, we can’t imagine the Grizzlies being too disappointed if Kevin Durant falls into their laps.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Steve Nash @ San Antonio 41 min, 24 pts (FG: 8-12, 3FG: 2-3, FT: 6-8), 2 reb, 15 ast

Buzzer Beater: After two long years of singing the praises of Steve Nash, today we finally usher in a new era of elite as Dirk Nowitzki dons the MVP crown and reduces Nash from “reigning” to “former” MVP. Dirk will probably be so stoked during his press conference that he starts doing his best impersonation of German sensation David Hasselhoff during his acceptance speech. Not! But if Dirk started mumbling while picking at a plate of food with his shirt off, you’d have to admit that it would make for some entertaining television. Hell, we couldn’t really blame the guy if he did show up to the ceremony in a drunken stooper just like his childhood hero. It’s gotta be rough when your best friend and the previous MVP is still ballin while you’re having to pretend to be happy and smile for the cameras when all Dirk really wants to do is hide under a rock until training camp begins.

Dallas Mavericks

Dirk is the regular season MVP; key words "regular season"

An MVP has never felt so sad.

According to reports, Dirk Nowitzki will be named the NBA’s MVP sometime next week and despite his team going down in flames to the Warriors in the first round it was the right choice. After all, this is the regular season MVP, isn’t it?

Sure, Nowitzki choked like no MVP should ever gag in a must win Game 6 against eighth seeded Golden State by producing just eight points on 2-of-13 shooting, but that’s the postseason. And there is already an award designated for the best player in the playoffs, it’s called the Finals MVP. During the 82 games leading up to Dallas’ monumental collapse, Nowitzki was undoubtedly the top dog in the league. He averaged 24.6 points, 8.9 boards and 3.4 assists to go along with shooting percentages that were out of this world (FG-50%, 3FG-42%, FT-90%). And he did all this while leading his team to a league best 67-15 record.

Plenty of people out there will argue that Steve Nash should be considered for the award now that the Mavericks have been sent packing but it would be nothing less than a farce for Nash to get his third consecutive trophy based on Dallas’ loss. Anyways, Nash isn’t even the best player on his own team and the guy already has more MVPs (2) than some of the greatest players to ever step on the hardwood (Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, David Robinson, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, John Stockton and Patrick Ewing to name a few), which is a shame in itself.

But Nash isn’t to blame for his achievements, the media is. The voters almost always give this award to the best player on the best team that year, which is why we knew long ago that Kobe Bryant wouldn’t even sniff the MVP. This year, however, the formula happened to be correct with Nowitzki. There’s no real argument that he wasn’t the regular season MVP, but that’s not going to make the press conference any less awkward for Dirk, and the MVP isn’t going to clear his name as a postseason gag artist.

I understand the business by now. If you play well and you win, you’re the greatest,” said Nowitzki. “And if you lose, you’re the worst player in the league.

And now Nowitzki can join Moses Malone and Wes Unseld as the “worst players” to ever win the MVP and get bumped in the first round, but, hey, he can take comfort in the fact that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won the award in 1976 and didn’t even make the playoffs. But at least none of those guys were humiliated at the hands a team that hadn’t made the playoffs for 13 years!

From being up 2-0 in the Finals, only to get swept in the next four; to having the best record in the league; to becoming the victims of the biggest upset in postseason history; to winning the MVP. Dirk Nowitzki is now the official poster boy of the term “bittersweet.”


[]: Dirk Nowitzki’s the MVP and You’re Not.
[]: Mavs’ Nowitzki will be named NBA MVP next week

NBA General

Around the Rim: It’s a Ring Thing

1. Lord of the Rings to Be?
Now that the trade deadline has passed, the only interesting move left for teams to make involves the veteran champion, Scottie Pippen. Looks like the two leading candidates in the Pip sweepstakes are the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. Pippen would be an excellent addition to either team, but he could probably adapt to Phil Jackson’s system a little bit quicker since he has some past experience with the Zen Master. San Antonio would offer a better opportunity for Pippen to get his seventh ring. He’d be joining a veteran team and most likely assume a role similar to the one Robert Horry has filled for the past few years. Pippen can’t be the player he once was, but any team would be happy to acquire a guy who has big game experience as the season is reaching its end.

2. The Nowitzki Experience
The Mavericks franchise tried to give their superstar a push for MVP last night by passing out about 20,000 T-shirts to the crowd. But Dirk didn’t really need any help as he scored 31 to go with 11 rebounds, six rebounds and two blocks. There’s lots and lots of big-time talent in the league this year, but Dirk has outshined them all. The Mavs have been riding on the back of Dirk all year en route to the league’s best record on three separate 10+ game win streaks. With one of the sweetest strokes in the game today, Nowitzki has been shooting the lights out all year long as he is averaging 25 points per game. And considering that the award usually is simply handed to the best player on the league’s best team; Nowitzki is definitely in the driver’s seat for the NBA’s most prestigious individual award.

3. Headbandless Hero
Remember at the beginning of the season when everybody thought that something was wrong with Ben Wallace? Well, that doesn’t seem to a topic of conversation anymore. Big Ben might have had the greatest game of his career last night against the Cavaliers when he had 14 points, 19 rebound, five assists, two steals and seven blocks. After a slow start to the year, Wallace has methodically increased his rebounding average back to double digits (10.5). But the Bulls are still sitting five games behind the Central Division leading Pistons. Chicago could have probably benefited from a trade, but Luol Deng and Ben Gordon just have too much potential for the Bulls to let them go.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Gilbert Arenas vs. Sacramento 45 min, 43 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 3-8, FT: 16-17), 7 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl

Friday’s Game to Watch: Utah (35-18) @ Denver (26-26) Every game involving the Nuggets is interesting as everybody is waiting to see Carmelo

Anthony and Allen Iverson finally gel. So far, it hasn’t happened. In fact, the two have still yet to even play in a significant number of games together. Overall, the Nuggets are 9-4 over their last 13 games with the latest loss coming while the dynamic duo was intact. Utah hasn’t been the team they were when the season started, but they are still a very dangerous club. The Jazz have won six of their last seven as Mehmet Okur and Deron Williams continue to pick up the slack while forward Carlos Boozer continues to watch from the bench.

Buzzer Beater: As usual, we approached the trade deadline with lots of talk about superstars changing teams. But, as usual, the deadline came and went and nobody of significance was involved in a swap. Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Pau Gasol, Mike Bibby and Ray Allen were just a few of the names dropped in the weeks leading up to yesterday. And what about Corey Maggette? Trade rumors have been swirling around him for months now as his relationship with Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy seemed to deteriorate daily. Apparently, they are going to have to tolerate each other for a few more months. In the end, only lower tier players got new addresses; Anthony Johnson to Dallas, Fred Jones went to Portland in a deal for Juan Dixon who got sent to Toronto and the Jazz picked up Alan Henderson.

MLB General

The Full Count: sneaky Giants in postseason chase

1. A Giant comeback: The San Francisco Giants have sat toward the back of the NL West division throughout most of this season. However, via a recent winning streak they’ve snuck up on the class of the division, the Padres and Dodgers. After beating the Rockies 10-6 yesterday for their 7th win in 10 games, the Giants are just 3 games back of the leading Dodgers and 1.5 games out from the Wild Card-leading Padres. Yesterday Pedro Feliz drove in three RBIs in the win, giving him a team-leading 91. Despite being a quiet team throughout most of the year, the Giants have a serious shot at the postseason.

2. The Greatest Show on Grass: The St. Louis Cardinals appear to have the division title wrapped up once again. They’ve won two straight games and lead the pretending Reds by just five games, but they are the vastly superior team. Their record is 77-67 after winning last night, while the Reds are stuck at 72-72. The Cards slipped away with a late win due to the usual suspect: Albert Pujols. He hit a two-run double in the ninth that provided the difference in their 6-5 win over the Astros. Pujols, who has 45 homers and 120 RBIs, has a good shot at his second straight MVP award. However, our vote would still go to Ryan Howard of the Phillies, who was rained out again yesterday but leads Pujols in most categories.

3. West vs. Central: The “Big Three” AL Central teams are currently in battle with the three top teams from the AL West. The Tigers are taking on the Rangers, the Twins are playing the A’s, and the White Sox are facing the Angels. Yesterday, the Tigers, Twins, and Angels won among those three series. Detroit snapped a losing streak with a 3-2 win, with each of their runs coming off a solo homer. Kenny Rogers earned the win in that one. Meanwhile, the Twins beat the A’s 7-5 to win their fifth straight. Justin Morneau improved his average to .324 while hitting two RBIs (120). The Sox lost, however, by a 4-3 margin to LA. Chone Figgins drove in a run off Bobby Jenks in the 11th to win that one.

4. Over after the first: The Yankees displayed all their offensive power as early as the first inning in yesterday’s home game against the Devil Rays. They scored 9 runs in the first, including a remarkable 6 driven in by Bobby Abreu. Abreu hit a three-run homer his first time up and followed that up with a three-run double. His 6 RBIs in one inning tied him for the second-most in the last 30 years. Only Fernando Tatis, who hit two grand slams in one inning on April 23, 1999, has ever had more. Abreu is hitting .346 with 31 RBIs as a Yankee and has a .298 overall average. Mike Mussina pitched well for the Yanks and improved to 14-6 on the year. New York rolled 12-4 and has reopened their double digit lead over the Red Sox.

5. 14 and done: This has been a forgone conclusion for a while now, but at least now it’s official. The Braves are out of the running in the NL East, and they won’t win their 15th straight division title. Yesterday the Mets edged the Marlins, and even though the Braves were off that sealed the deal for Atlanta. The Mets, who are 89-55 and so much better than the Braves in every way, have done what they haven’t been able to do for 15 years. They even made the World Series in 2000, but they’ve hadn’t beaten the Braves since the Internet Age began. Now they have. They lead Atlanta by 19.5, and the Braves’ Wild Card hopes are all but over as they are 5 out with six teams ahead of them. RIP, Braves dynasty.

LA Lakers

Kobe demands a recount

You think perhaps the writers who voted for Steve Nash over Kobe simply because they don’t like Kobe want their ballots back? And you think maybe the Arizona Republic cost the Suns a playoff series by breaking the story and pissing Kobe off?

Not only did Kobe come up huge yesterday with a game-tying and a game-winning shot, he did it at the same time that Steve Nash came up very small in the 4th quarter and overtime. Of course, the fact that the refs swallowed their whistles didn’t help Nash.

From the Arizona Republic website comes this segment of live blogging: (Is there anything better than live blogging? It might be a top 10 blog invention.)


:00: Bryant hits a last second shot for the win. Heartbreak hotel for the Suns. Tim Thomas looks stunned as Kobe spends time chest thumping. A sickening loss for the Suns.

Luke Walton fouled Nash when they got the jump ball call. Bad officiating in the playoffs is inexcusable.

:06: Nash was mauled in the double team and its a jump ball. Nash was attempting to call a time out.

:15: Lakers ball after a messy Bell attempt. Why was Kobe on the bench? He will be undoubtedly in for the final seconds of this first OT.

:45: MVP Steve Nash hits a three. Ice water.

Fanboy probably wants that last statement back.

[You Tube]: Very nice video of highlights from the Lakers-Suns playoff series. (Not recommended for Suns fans)
[]: Flea’s Lakers blog. Either he thinks the world is all poetry or he can’t figure out his blogging software.
[MSNBC]: Kobe plays like MVP, lifts Lakers to tie
[Fox Sports]: Nash over Kobe for MVP? What a joke

Phoenix Suns

Hating on Steve Nash

2nd MVP? I’m shocked!

When Steve Nash won the MVP last year, a lot of people cried foul and said Shaq should have won it. Hell, some even said he was the worst MVP of all time. Well, people got even more apoplectic this year when it was announced he would win his second straight MVP, beating out Kobe, LeBron and Chauncey Billups.

From around the web comes these reactions:

[Dime Magazine]: “Kobe perfectly fits the two criteria that voters traditionally use when deciding on an MVP: he’s the best player in the League and he’s invaluable to his team. Kobe Bryant is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. It’s not even close.”

[The Gambler]: “Every night, against the superior competition of the West, Kobe carries the Lakers. If he doesn’t have a great game, they don’t win. He is easily leading the league in scoring (35.3 points per game) in the context of winning basketball games…

People say that Kobe doesn’t make his teammates better. But that’s bull. He averages 4.5 assists per game and he frequently passes up shots at the beginning of games in order to let his teammates find their groove. He turns it on when he needs to. And all the attention he draws creates tons of open shots for them.”

[Sweet Emotion Iverson]: “I can’t remember a worse MVP in all of professional sports winning once, much less twice. While the sportswriters may be trying to make a point of where they want the NBA to go, they are emphatically neglecting the best player in the league, which can be an argument about Kobe and Lebron.”

[Pety Cash]: “Is steve Nash the best player in the NBA? no. Did Steve Nash have a better season then every other player in the NBA? no. Then why does he have 2 straight mvp trophies putting him in elite company with magic johnson? He has solid numbers and also has a solid supporting cast. This year Nash averaged 18 pts. and 10.5 assists per game. These numbers do beat out Chauncey Billups, despite being on the NBA’s best team (18.5 pts 8.6 assists p/g).”