Phoenix Suns

Around the Rim: Finally time to smile

1. Suns start climbing out of their hole
It took four games and over a week of playoff basketball, but the Suns finally grabbed their first victory of the postseason. After getting pummeled in Game 3, Phoenix returned the favor on Sunday, spanking San Antonio by 19 points, 105-86, leading the entire contest. Raja Bell scored a game-high 27 points and Boris Diaw was a pair of assists shy of recording a triple-double, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in place of Grant Hill who didn’t play. Amare Stoudemire was off target all game, connecting on only 3-of-11 shots for seven points and Steve Nash recorded a mere four assists, but the Suns were still able to build leads that reached 32 points. Tony Parker was the Spurs biggest scorer, tallying 18 points after posting a playoff career-high of 41 points in Game 3. San Antonio must now wait until Tuesday for another chance to close out the series at home.

2. Last second heartbreak in Washington

The Wizards hung tough for 47 minutes and 44 seconds, but then Delonte West delivered the dagger. With 5.4 seconds left in a tie game, West gave LeBron James a break and hit the game-winning 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 100-97 victory and a 3-1 lead in the series. James was on fire once again, posting 34 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to go with a blow to the head from DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson smacked LBJ toward the end of the opening half and it looked like fists would fly between the two momentarily, but cooler heads prevailed. However, Stevenson could be in for some repercussions after the league reviews the flagrant foul. It’s been a physical series thus far and Wednesday’s Game 4 should be no different even if Stevenson can’t suit up.

3. Up and down, up and down
After dropping Game 1 at home and Game 3 in Philly, the Pistons tied up their series against the 76ers by taking a 93-84 win on the road. Tayshaun Prince led Detroit with 23 points, backed by Rasheed Wallace’s 20-point, 10-assist double-double while Richard Hamilton and Chauncey Billups posted 18 points and seven assists apiece. The Pistons struggled against their seventh-seeded opponents again in the first half, but they bounced back after the break, outscoring Philly 34-16 in the third quarter to go from 10 down to eight up. The Sixers finished with six players in double-figures on offense; unfortunately, Thaddeus Young led the squad with a measly 15 points. Andre Iguodala raised his series average to 10.5 points per game by posting 12 on Sunday in yet another pathetic playoff performance.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Washington 44 min, 34 pts (FG: 11-25, 3FG: 3-8, FT: 9-14), 12 reb, 7 ast, 2 stl

Buzzer Beater: Dallas desperately needed to win Game 4 against New Orleans to gain some momentum to climb out of a 0-2 hole. No such luck. David West led Nawlins with 24 points and nine rebounds while Peja Stojakovic scored 19 and Chris Paul appeared to actually be human with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the 97-84 win. The Hornets now have a strangle hold on the series, leading 3-1 with Game 4 coming on Tuesday evening in the Hive. Dallas is spiraling out of control as a franchise quickly. The first home loss to New Orleans since January of 1998 is only the tip of the Mavericks problems. Josh Howard went 3-of-16 from the field after calling half the league potheads and admitting to getting stoned in the offseason. American Airlines Arena was devoid of virtually all fans for over half of the final period. The city is beginning to call for the head of Avery Johnson and the team has quite possibly literally lost their testicles since planning a parade when they went up 2-0 on Miami in the Finals two years ago. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted Big D because at this rate people will be wearing grocery sacks over their heads to the games once again. Ah, the good ol’ days.

Dallas Mavericks

Around the Rim: Jason Kidd is getting in the groove

1. Second verse, better than the first
The second round of the Jason Kidd experiment in Dallas got off to a rough start as their new acquisition managed five assists and six turnovers in his debut. In two games since then, Kidd has been well worth the wait, producing 32 dimes in a pair of victories. On Sunday, Kidd kicked out a season-high tying 17 assists to go with 12 points and seven rebounds in a 99-83 Mavericks win in Minnesota. Dirk Nowitzki was on the receiving end of several passes from his new best friend as he racked up 29 points and eight rebounds. The T-Wolves played a fairly decent game, shooting 49.4 percent, but they got absolutely blasted at the charity stripe. Minnesota shot just 5-of-9 from the free throw line while Dallas took 27 trips to the line, connecting on 22 attempts. Al Jefferson scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the defeat.

2. Blazers postseason chances take a huge hit

Portland gave Boston a good run for its money on Sunday night, but Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were too much for the Blazers to handle, nailing four 3-pointers apiece in a 112-102 victory. Last game out, the Celtics fell to Shaquille O’Neal and the Suns with Pierce producing a paltry eight points. In Portland, Pierce was on fire, connecting on 12-of-14 shots for 30 points while Allen went 7-for-8 en route to 19 points. The duo was so pinpoint they didn’t even need the third third of the Big Three; Kevin Garnett finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. The loss was bad for Portland who is trying to claw its way back into the playoff picture, but it wasn’t even close to being the worst part of the night. Brandon Roy suffered a right ankle sprain in the third quarter and although he had yet to undergo an MRI, he speculated that he could be out of action for up to two weeks.

3. The Big Disappointment
Just one day after knocking off the best team in the entire NBA, the Suns were absolutely obliterated by the Pistons, losing by 30 points in their own gym. Detroit jumped all over Phoenix early and never let up as they rolled to a 116-86 victory with Rasheed Wallace’s 22 points pacing six Pistons in double-digits. Amare Stoudemire led the Suns in scoring, finishing with 31 points, but Phoenix is now 1-2 during the Shaquille O’Neal era. The Big Cactus crashed the boards, grabbing 11, but only put up seven points on offense while reminding the world he still can’t hit free throws (1-8 FT). The big question now is does this loss say more about Phoenix’s new look or does it help signify Detroit as truly the best team in the East?

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James vs. Memphis 39 min, 25 pts (FG: 10-17, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 4-5), 7 reb, 11 ast, 3 stl, 1 blk

Sunday’s Game to Watch: Detroit (41-15) @ Denver (33-22)
Detroit has to be feeling pretty good after humiliating the Suns in Phoenix and snapping its 11-game win streak versus Eastern Conference teams, but winning in Denver is no easy task. The Nuggets are 22-6 on their home floor and unlike Detroit, if they extend their current two-game losing streak then they could easily fall out of the playoff race in the West which should provide ample motivation for not only Denver, but every team in the conference. It’s going to be like the All-Star game all over again tonight with five participants from that contest playing in this contest – Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Rasheed Wallace, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.

Buzzer Beater: There was no real reason why Kobe Bryant needed to stick around, so with about four minutes left in the third quarter and the Lakers enjoying a 31-point lead over Seattle, he decided to take the rest of the evening off. Actually, referee Brian Forte made the decision for him, slapping Bryant with a pair of technicals after the league’s second-leading scorer started popping off at the mouth. Bryant had 21 points and 10 assists when he was tossed, but it didn’t matter in the end as the Lakers cruised to a 111-91 win.

LA Lakers

Around the Rim: Kobe + Pau = Kapow!

1. Gasol watches as Bryant shows off
Just because the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol doesn’t mean they need him; at least, not against the Wizards. Kobe Bryant exploded upon tipoff, scoring 19 points in the first quarter and leading Los Angeles to a 30-15 lead after 12 minutes. By the end of the game, Bryant scored 30 points and the Lakers left D.C. with a 103-91 victory. Gasol was picked up on Friday, but Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn’t rushing the former All-Star into the lineup, choosing instead to let Gasol get some practice team with the team first while simultaneously healing a nagging injury. Antawn Jamison finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds while Caron Butler scored 15 in defeat.

2. Bad Boy beatdown

The Mavericks are trying to catch up with the Hornets in the Southwest Division, but Detroit didn’t do Dallas any favors on Sunday, whooping them by 23 points, 90-67. The Mavericks were pathetic on offense, scoring just 29 points in the entire second half. Perhaps the Pistons defense played a role in Dallas’ defeat. Detroit held the Mavs to 23-of-76 from the field (2-14 3FG) while stealing five balls and blocking eight shots. Rasheed Wallace recorded four blocks to go with 21 points and nine rebounds. Dirk Nowitzki shot three-of-18 from the field, including missing all five of his three-point attempts and he didn’t do much better on defense. In fact, Sheed let the entire Dallas bench know exactly what he thought of Dirk’s Irk’s defense, yelling “He can’t guard me!” after dropping a bucket on Nowitzki’s head.

3. Somebody’s gonna have one heck of a 4th of July this year
There were plenty of fireworks on the court for the Pistons on Sunday, but it didn’t matter how badly Detroit spanked Dallas, the team would still be looking for more.

Officials say a trailer has been stolen that was carrying pyrotechnics to be set off before the Detroit Pistons game against the Dallas Mavericks at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The theft was discovered Sunday morning by employees of Windsor, Ontario-based Band-Ayd Systems International Inc. at a company facility in Warren.

Band-Ayd President Nino De Benedetti says the trailer contains about $75,000 worth of pyrotechnics and gear, and the trailer itself is worth $8,000. The trailer held liquid propane and noisemaking devices.

The company is offering a $5,000 reward for the return of the equipment, no questions asked.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace vs. Dallas 34 min, 21 pts (FG: 9-18, 3FG: 3-4), 9 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 4 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: New Orleans (32-14) @ Utah (30-18)
Utah was slipping down a slippery slope a month or so ago, but that was before they signed Kyle Korver. Since Korver and his deadeye from behind the arc joined the Jazz, they have won 14 of their last 16 games, including their current eight game winning streak. The Hornets know all about winning streaks, but recently they’ve been getting an education of losing spells. After winning 17-of-19 games and earning the best record in the Western Conference, the Hornets lost their last two games, allowing Phoenix to slide into the top spot. New Orleans has been stewing over their pair of defeats since Friday and should be ready to make a statement against the hottest team in the NBA.

Buzzer Beater: To Americans, when the Rockets and the Bucks get together it serves as a perfect opportunity to clear a few hours of American Idol off their DVRs. But to China, it is must see TV. An estimated 200 million people tuned in on Saturday evening to watch the Rockets escape Milwaukee with a 91-83 victory. The main attractions were rather mundane as Yao Ming finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while Yi Jianlian went one-of-10 from the field for six points and seven rebounds.

Detroit Pistons

Around the Rim: Rasheed indeed

1. Pistons’ slide ends at two
The Pistons desperately needed a win after dropping their previous two games, so when they traveled to San Antonio on Thursday, they didn’t bother asking; they simply took it. One quarter into the game, Detroit had already doubled-up the Spurs, 30-15, and they hardly gave an inch from there, winning 90-80. Rasheed Wallace was huge for the Bad Boys, scoring 23 to go with 15 boards, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocks. While the Spurs’ All-Star trio was healthy for the contest, they certainly weren’t firing on all cylinders as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 21 points and six assists in the defeat.

2. Injuries were music to the Jazz’s ears

The Suns are good, but they’re not that good. With Shawn Marion, Steve Nash and Grant Hill all out of the lineup against Utah on Thursday, Amare Stoudemire was expected to pick up the slack. He did what he could, scoring 21 and grabbing 14 rebounds, but the Jazz finally showed a little pride and took the undermanned Suns behind the woodshed for an old fashioned beat down, 108-86. The knockout punch came in the third quarter when Phoenix could only produce five field goals and 12 points. Five players finished in double-digits for the Jazz, including Carlos Boozer (22 pts, 17 reb) and Deron Williams (17 pts, 11 ast) who both grabbed double-doubles in the contest.

3. Kings of the court, at least against the Grizz
Memphis and Sacramento played a nail-bitter in California and points were plentiful for almost everyone who stepped foot on the floor. Nine players scored ten or more points in the game, led by Rudy Gay’s 31. In the end, the Kings eked out a 116-113 victory with four starters hitting for at least 22 points. The Grizzlies have now lost 18 consecutive games in Sactown, going back to when they called Vancouver home.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace @ San Antonio 40 min, 23 pts (FG: 9-15, 3FG: 1-4, FT: 4-4), 15 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl, 2 blk

Friday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (23-14) @ Denver (21-13)
The Magic already have 22 road games in the book this season and, surprisingly, they are dominating. With a 16-6 record outside of Orlando, Dwight Howard & Co. are far better on the road then they are at home (7-8). Denver is basically the opposite, owning a 14-5 record at home with a subpar 7-8 showing on the road. If O-Town wants to win, they’ll have to pay special attention to Allen Iverson tonight. A.I. scored his career-high 60 points against the Magic when he was still in Philly and in his last three games against Orlando he has topped 30. And if that’s not bad enough for the Magic, Iverson has scored a combined 103 points in his last three contests.

Buzzer Beater: Utah is desperate to get their players into the All-Star game. How desperate? Apparently, they’re desperate enough to bribe fans for votes.

First there was Chris Bosh, with his home-made “vote-for-me” video on YouTube. Now the Utah Jazz are weighing in as the season for NBA all-star voting nears conclusion, offering free hot dogs to fans in exchange for home-team votes.

The Deseret News reports that the Jazz offered fans free hot dogs in exchange for 10 ballots filled out at their home game last night against the Phoenix Suns – stuff your face, stuff the box.

Detroit Pistons

Don’t turn your back on Sheed, not even for an interview

Rasheed Wallace is a crazy guy, but we don’t need to tell you that. However, with all temper tantrums, technicals, taunting and trash talk, you might not know that he’s is actually a pretty funny fella. Just ask Jason Maxiell what a funny guy Sheed is.

Nothing like a little bout of pregame dodge ball to loosen up the nerves.


[Awful Announcing]: It’s Dangerous Being A Sideline Reporter Around Rasheed Wallace

Detroit Pistons

Around the Rim: Wrestling with the truth

1. Welcome back, Rasheed
The NBA season is rolling, but something just doesn’t feel right. Something is missing. Ah, of course! Rasheed Wallace hasn’t done anything stupid yet. Wait; looks like we can check that off our list. Here’s what Sheed had to say about the Pistons being eliminated from the playoffs by Cleveland in six games last year.

“There’s a lot of people out here who think they really beat us,” Wallace sniffed, apparently ignoring the fact that five close games were followed by a 16-point Cavs blowout in Game 6. “It was ourselves. We beat ourselves. We fell victim to the little, personal NBA thing where they’re trying to make it a world game and get ratings and all that.

“They wanted to put their darling (LeBron James) in there, and they did put him in there. Look what ended up happening.”

“So this game, this ain’t basketball no more, it’s entertainment. It’s like WWF. Ain’t no more real (than) wrestling. All the days of Ric Flair and Rick Rude and Jake the Snake. … It’s so fake.”

That’s more like it, we feel much better now.

2. Seeing green

So far, so good for the green clovers. Sure, they’re just two games into their season, but the Boston Celtics tremendous trio is looking pretty intimidating at the moment. After spanking Washing by 20 points on Friday, the Celtics returned to action on Sunday against Washington and when it came time for someone to step up for the game winning shot, Ray Allen made a 3-pointer to give Boston a 98-95 victory over Toronto in overtime. Allen led the way with 33 points, including seven treys, and Kevin Garnett followed up his double-double debut with 23 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Celtics senior Paul Pierce dished in 13 points, five rebounds six assists and a pair of steals. So far, the green’s big three have Boston fans feeling like kings of the sports universe with the Celtics joining the Red Sox, Patriots and Eagles atop their respective sports.

3. No Stoudemire, no sweat
Despite missing their star big man Amare Stoudemire, Phoenix rolled over Cleveland in the second half and sent the Cavaliers on to Golden State with a 103-92 defeat. The defending Eastern Conference champs are now 1-2 on the young season, getting handled by the pair of western big boys they’ve faced. LeBron James had a great game, leading the team in every major stat except for rebounds, and the Cavs out-rebounded Phoenix by 11 (51-40), but the team’s 18 turnovers proved too much to overcome. Steve Nash played like Steve Nash (30 pts, 10 ast), Shawn Marion did his thing (23 pts, 12 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk) and before you know it, BAM, the Suns have 103 points off an eight man rotation, seven if you exclude Marcus Banks’ five minutes of play.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: LeBron James @ Phoenix 43 min, 27 pts (FG: 11-26, 3FG: 3-5, FT: 2-2), 5 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Houston (3-0) @ Dallas (2-1)
It’s easy to call this our “Game to Watch” because it’s the only contest on the calendar. But even if they weren’t flying solo on Monday night, they’d still have a legitimate claim for the NBA’s top billing. Dallas bounced back from an embarrassing loss to Atlanta on Friday to pop a hapless Sacramento team in the mouth on Saturday. The Mavericks looked good in their 123-102 spanking of the Kings, but Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia and Brad Miller really don’t compare to in-state rival Houston’s lineup of Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier and Yao Ming. The Rockets are finally starting to look like the team everybody expected to see when McGrady first joined the crew in 2004. Luis Scola is shaping up to be a steal from the Spurs based on his effort alone. It should be another 1,2,3 finish for the three Texas teams in the Southwest division, but this year could be the year Houston escapes the bronze medal.

Buzzer Beater: It was discovered over the weekend that a pair of NBA notables recently turned up their noses to a pair of different offers. First, Phil Jackson said that Grant Hill wouldn’t return his phone call over the summer while he was deciding on his future as a free agent. “I figured he didn’t entertain the idea very much if he didn’t return that call,” said Jackson. We can understand that considering that Hill actually wants to win a title and not just be Kobe’s shadow in the midst of a storm of uncertainty. Then comes the bad news for Philly fanatics. It appears that Andre Iguodala has declined the team’s final offer of a contract extension. Apparently, $57 million just isn’t enough to keep him settled in Philadelphia for the next five years. Again, we can’t blame him; have you seen the freaks that live in that dump? Not to mention he’d still be on the Sixers.

Overtime Buzzer Beater: Dirk Nowitzki loves him some NASCAR-Nextel Cup. Herren, fangen Sie Ihre Motoren an!

Detroit Pistons

Rasheed Wallace was once in bed at 1:00 in the morning? Our Sheed?

You know that NBA teams are back in training camp, right? You did remember that the NBA season is right around the corner, didn’t you? Yea, we know; the NBA doesn’t start until MLB, NFL and NCAA football wrap up. But that doesn’t mean that rookies aren’t still getting hazed.

It’s a fact of life: cold showers, being taped to the goalpost, getting beaten with bars of soaps inside of a sock in your sleep, the shocker. These are some of the most infamous `team building’ exercises out there. Luckily, Rasheed Wallace didn’t have to worry about the last two; at least not to our knowledge.

Nothing really embarrassing, just tedious tasks,” Wallace said, recalling what veterans like Chris Webber made him do as a rookie on the Washington Wizards. “One night Webber was downtown and it was about 1, 1:30 in the morning. He called me up talking about how he needs a ride.”

Wallace, worried that Webber was drunk and couldn’t get home, climbed out of bed and got in his car.

“When I got downtown, come to find out, he didn’t need a ride,” Wallace said. “I was upset. But there wasn’t nothing I could do — I was the rook. But I didn’t do nothing really heavy like these guys are going to do.”

Wallace has already struck once, writing the word “Rook” on his teammates’ headbands for the team’s open practice last week. That’s only the beginning, he said.

“It’s coming; it’s coming,” Wallace said. “They’re going to take us out to dinner and everything. Doughnuts, coffee, all that. It’s coming.”

Wallace said they should feel happy that they have one another. He was his team’s only rookie; this way, “they can combine their money together.

Making the young guys pick up the bill and bring the doughnuts is all well and good, but Webber’s outlook on hazing it totally more our style. But what we can’t believe is that a young Sheed was actually able to keep his cool when C-Webb dragged him outta bed. This is the same Rasheed we’re thinking about, right? `Both teams played hard‘ Rasheed, right?


[]: Pistons rookies ready for hazing; `Sheed recalls what Webber did to him

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Magic Kingdom is getting kinda depressing

1. Doesn’t anyone wanna coach Dwight Howard?
The poor Orlando Magic just can’t seem to find anyone to roam the sidelines for the club. Of course, Billy Donovan left them standing at the alter and made a total fool of himself in the process and now it looks like they might get another shaft from their second selection. Stan Van Gundy has reportedly been offered the head coaching gig but due to contractual obligations with the Heat as a consultant, he might not be able to accept the offer. The Magic might be forced to give up draft picks to Miami as compensation should the Heat release SVG. But even if Van Gundy gets released there is no guarantee he wants to go to the Magic Kingdom; he’s already been on two interviews with the Kings. It’s all gonna come down to the dolla’ dolla’ bills ya’ll but if the ball was in our court, there would be no way we could pass up that boatload of talent down in sunny Florida like Billy the Kid did.

2. Hottest tickets in town

Fans in Cleveland are going absolutely bonkers over their Cavaliers right now, and with good reason; after all, LeBron James has been playing like a man possessed by legends of NBA past as he delivered his squad to the promised land for the first time in franchise history. So, you can understand why fans are willing to do and pay anything for tickets to Game 3 against the Spurs. Some tickets to the game/big ass party are going for a whopping $14,999! Now that’s some serious team spirit. We can’t wait to see how the local radio stations decide to completely humiliate the faithful followers with whacky promotional contests for a pair of seasts but it should be pretty hilarious. We’ll keep you posted. But don’t think for a second that the emotion of making their fourth finals appearance doesn’t have San Antonio in a tizzy. The Spurs front office has spirit and to show it they’ll be giving away 18,797 white “Go Spurs Go” T-shirts to fans at Game 1. Not bad, huh?

3. Rasheed Wallace would eat New York alive
With the Pistons eliminated from the postseason, the rumor mill is working overtime in Detroit and most of the speculation is focused on a specific hot headed power forward sporting a stylish gray spot. And most of that speculation has Rasheed Wallace landing in New York by the time the season tips-off anew in November. Could be a good fit for New York, they have certainly seen their share of bad boys coming rolling through the Garden, but does Isiah Thomas really want that kind of a headache? This is a guy who can self destruct at the drop of a hat and proved it by flying off the handle in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals and not only getting himself ejected from the game but suspended for any possible Game 7 when he threw a typical Sheed tantrum. And he’s probably had more significant structure surrounding him there than he ever has in his career. What Knick is gonna be able to keep Wallace in check? This could take us all the way back to 50-techs-a-season Sheed from his Jailblazer days.

Buzzer Beater: If you’re not quite in finals mode yet then maybe a little trash talking can get you revved up. Bruce Bowen was recently asked about the next big thing, a.k.a. LBJ, and he really didn’t seem too impressed with the challenge. “The No. 1 assignment in the league?” Bowen repeated back when asked about guarding James. “That’s your opinion, that’s your opinion. … There’s a lot of other scorers in this league, too.” And when he was asked about the sensation Game 5 performance against the Pistons, Bowen again hinted that James might not be all he’s cracked up to be. “I think Michael Jordan‘s 60-something points in Boston was incredible. Now do I think it got this much media coverage? No. Did it deserve it? You could say it did,” Bowen said. “Magic Johnson, his rookie year in the NBA, the show he put on in Philly. That is huge. But it goes to show you that if you’re not playing anymore, it’s, ‘OK, well, we’re looking for the next best thing.'” We know that Bruce is probably just playing head games with the kid but we’re guessing that he’ll be singing a completely different tune after this series is over; win or lose.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Another rough night for the young King

A 2-0 hole would make anyone a
little nervous.

1. Second half meltdown
Cleveland had a commanding halftime lead (50-38) in Game 2 but somehow managed to bumble it away and slip into a 2-0 hole by scoring a pathetic 26 points in the final 24 minutes and losing 79-76. The Cavs had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds but LeBron James missed a contested spinning shot in the lane that he will undoubtedly be criticized for because he didn’t dish the rock off. But this would be Rasheed Wallace‘s night as he came on strong in the fourth when he put in 10 of his 16 points, including the go-ahead bucket with 24 ticks left on the clock. If this feels familiar, it should; last year the Pistons took a 2-0 lead over Cleveland in a second round series that eventually saw a Game 7. We can only hope that the James Gang has enough heart to force another game of ultimate elimination. The Cavs will find out on Sunday night if Dorothy was right.

2. The Magic make their coach disappear

The coaching carousel continues to turn in the NBA and the latest hard, plastic pony to become available is in Orlando where the Magic decided to part ways with Brian Hill after he spent two seasons with the team. Apparently a 40-42 record along with a first round sweep out of the playoffs just wasn’t gonna cut it in the Magic Kingdom. Where Hill goes from here is unpredictable, but he will have several options available to him over the off-season. However, the Magic are now forced to find a veteran coach who can take this talented team to a level that Hill wasn’t able to. While Stan Van Gundy isn’t exactly a grizzled vet, he does have head coaching experience with a winning club filled with marquee superstars, which is a lot better resume than most cheap, available assistant’s can offer. And with Rick Adelman out of the picture there aren’t a whole lot of proven winners available out there. Whoever the Magic decide to bring in is going to have to work fast because the Orlando bigwigs are certainly unwilling to wait for results; with a budding Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson on the squad, the Magic are ready to start blossoming right now.

3. Former baller behind bars
The NBA family took a punch to the gut this week as former player Henry Charles James was sentenced to five years in the pokey for dealing drugs. James spent the 90’s bouncing from team to team but now he’s simply going to be bouncing from cell to cell in the prison system. Last summer, James was busted by an undercover police officer after making two separate deals with the officer for a total of $750 worth of crack cocaine. Police arrested him on September 7th after James brought several children along with him to the spot where the deal was to go down.

Thursday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace vs. Cleveland 33 min, 16 pts (FG: 7-10, 3FG: 1-3, FT: 1-2), 11 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk

Buzzer Beater: Historically San Antonio has struggled in Salt Lake City during the post season and this year the Jazz are undefeated at home in the playoffs, so it would seem that Game 3 would be the perfect opportunity for Utah to grab their first W in the Western Conference finals. But looks can be deceiving because, to this point, the Jazz have given very little reason to believe that they can turn this series around. Sure, they’ve had some fourth quarter surges behind the great play of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams but San Antonio has simply imposed their will on the Jazz for two games now; in fact, Utah never led once during Game 2. The Jazz are going to have to get someone to step up as a third option if they are going to start chipping away at San Antonio’s 2-0 lead. However, the time for Utah is now and if they can’t win Game 3 then the Spurs will be playing for their fourth title since 1999.

NBA General

Around the Rim: King James just got crowned by the Bad Boys

It’s even annoying when unspoken.

1. Detroit rocks Cleveland
Everyone knew that the Pistons were going to be focused on LeBron James every time that he had the ball in his hands. Everyone just didn’t know that they would be so successful doing it. King James finished the game with a career playoff-low 10 points after going stone cold from the field (5-15 FGs), but that didn’t keep him from putting his fingerprints all over the game with nine assists and 10 rebounds. The Cavs were a 3-pointer away from possibly winning the game as time was running out but Donyell Marshall choked on an open shot from behind the arc and Chauncey Billups sealed up the 79-76 Game 1 victory for the Pistons with a rebound off the miss. Rasheed Wallace was huge in the win as Tayshaun Prince finally decided to take a night off and finished with less than 10 points (8 points on 1-of-11 shooting) for the first time this post season. Game 2 rolls around on Thursday and you can expect that the Prince and the King will both avoid repeats of their poor performances

2. Forrest Gump’s favorite time of year
So, tonight is the big night; it’s the night that will change the future of two very lucky franchises forever. Hopes and dreams have run wild for months and months about just who would end up with the pair of freshmen phenoms Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Barring any major league wheeling and dealing, tonight we will at least find out the two future homes of these kids, even if we don’t know who’s gonna go where. Here’s a look at all the teams participating in the lottery and their odds of getting the first or second pick:

Team 1st Pick 2nd Pick
Memphis 25.0% 21.5%
Boston 19.9% 18.8%
Milwaukee 15.6% 15.7%
Phoenix (from ATL) 11.9% 12.6%
Seattle 8.8% 9.7%
Portland 5.3% 6.0%
Minnesota 5.3% 6.0%
Charlotte 1.9% 2.2%
Chicago (from NY) 1.9% 2.2%
Sacramento 1.8% 2.1%
Atlanta (from IND) 0.8% 0.9%
Philadelphia 0.7% 0.8%
New Orleans 0.6% 0.7%
LA Clippers 0.5% 0.6%

And just too clarify; no, Phoenix doesn’t get to keep either of the top picks should they end up with them. Instead, they will have to return the pick to Atlanta if they land one of the top three picks. The Pacers will get the Hawks pick if Atlanta ends up with one of the top 10 picks.

And to further clarity; only the top three picks will be determined via the ping-pong ball bouncing lottery, while the fourth through fourteenth selections will be arranged according to the inverse order of their regular season record.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Rasheed Wallace @ Detroit 40 min, 15 pts (FG: 7-13, 3FG: 1-2), 12 reb, 2 ast, 7 blk

Buzzer Beater: The Jazz might have looked outclassed at times during Game 1 of the West finals on Sunday but nobody can point fingers toward the second year point guard who racked up 18 points in the fourth. Deron Williams carried Utah to a near comeback as he finished with game-highs in field goals and attempts (13-23), assists (9) and points (34); about all he didn’t do was hand out Gatorade to his teammates during timeouts. But the playoffs are all about adjustments and we guarantee you that both of these veteran coaches have been working the X’s and O’s with their teams since the final buzzer buzzed Sunday afternoon. Utah really needs to escape Texas with a split in the series but they definitely won’t have history on their side, 0-17 in their last 17 trips to San Antonio, as they head into the game. Then again, the Spurs have never beaten the Jazz in the postseason so, either way you cut it, somebody is going to make history by the end of this series.