NBA General

Around the Rim: Let’s get it on!

1. He said, he said
The Spurs and Mavericks got together in Dallas on Sunday and as usual, they tore the house down with an extremely competitive game that we can only hope to see duplicated in the Western Conference Finals. The Mavs limited San Antonio to just 10 points in the fourth quarter to win 91-86, but the turning point of the game came in the third quarter when Joey Crawford decided to flex his officiating muscle by slapping Tim Duncan with his second technical as he sat on the bench laughing. Duncan claims that Crawford came into the game with a personal vendetta against him and the old man even challenged Timmy to a fight. “He looked at me and said, `Do you want to fight? Do you want to fight?”‘ Duncan said. “If he wants to fight, we can fight. I don’t have any problem with him, but we can do it if he wants to. I have no reason why in the middle of a game he would yell at me, `Do you want to fight?”‘ Meanwhile, Crawford said that Duncan called him a piece of $#*! as he walked off the court. Wow; forget about Barkley vs. Bavetta 2, we wanna see Duncan vs. Crawford in a boxing match during next year’s All-Star weekend.

2. The Oden Ordeal

So, what’s the deal with Greg Oden? We already know that Kevin Durant is bolting from the Longhorns and into the pros, but conflicting reports over the weekend are leaving people scratching their heads about Oden’s intentions. First Oden’s old man told The Indianapolis Star that his boy was leaving Ohio State because “They had an exciting season, but why take the chance on him getting hurt?” But then Mike Conley Sr., father of Oden’s teammate Mike Conley Jr., basically told the press that Greg Oden Sr. was completely out of the loop. “The process for Greg Oden is, he’s going to talk to his mom today, he’s going to talk to me tomorrow, and he’s going to talk to Thad Matta on Monday,” Conley Sr. said. “And after that, he’s going to decide what he’s going to do and when he’s going to report it.” Conley Sr. can claim whatever importance in the equation that he wants to, but we’re going to believe Oden’s pops on this one.

3. The Magic’s Magic Man
The Orlando Magic guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs on Sunday when they narrowly defeated the Celtics, 88-86. Thanks to the victory, the Magic are back in the post season for the first time in four years and nobody is happier about it than Dwight Howard. Not only did he hit the final point of the game on a free throw with 4.6 seconds remaining, but he is also having some monster games as his team prepares for a playoff run. On Saturday night against the 76ers, Howard scored a career-high 35 points on 14-of-15 shooting and despite a poor offensive performance against Boston (3-8 FG, 4-12 FT), Howard still managed to pull down 14 rebounds. Howard now just needs to grab 18 rebounds while keeping his field goal percentage high over the final two games of the regular season to become only the second player in NBA history to shoot 60 percent and grab 1,000 boards in the same year. Not too bad for a 21 year old.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Kobe Bryant vs. Seattle 42 min, 50 pts (FG: 18-25, 3FG: 3-6, FT: 11-13), 8 reb, 3 ast, 2 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (61-19) @ Houston (51-29) With the playoffs beginning in less than a week, it’s match-ups like these that really get you excited about the post season. The Suns and Rockets are currently the two hottest teams in the West as they enter the games with five and four game winning streaks, respectively. Houston has looked like a completely different team since Yao Ming returned to form and is providing the perfect compliment to Tracy McGrady‘s stat sheet stuffing ability. But the two superstars are going to have to be at their best when the All-Star adorned Suns come to town. Phoenix really has nothing to play for considering they have already locked up the second seed in the playoffs, but this will be a great chance to get a feel for their possible second round opponent.

Buzzer Beater: The Lakers have been in a free fall for the past three weeks, but in their next to last game of the regular season they finally locked up a playoff spot by beating Seattle 109-98. In the process Kobe Bryant became the most prolific scorer in league history not named Wilt Chamberlain by racking up his 10th game with at least 50 points as he racked up an even fity against the Sonics. Los Angeles has a tough road ahead of them with a first round match-up against Phoenix or Dallas but, hey, at least Phil Jackson’s streak continues as his teams have never missed the playoffs in his 17 years as a coach.

NBA General

Around the Rim: The Big Ticket punches out early

1. Could KG be moving on?
Kevin Garnett’s season is probably over after injuring his right quadriceps. The former MVP could be done with his Timberwolves club for good if Minnesota can parlay this move into few extra loses and a possible shot at a high draft pick. With only five games left on the schedule for Minnesota, the move probably won’t make a big difference in final standings but when Kevin Durant, and possibly Greg Oden, is available, it’s worth a shot. And even if the T-Wolves don’t pull out a No. 1 or No. 2 pick, they could always package Garnett with a top five draft pick and get a whole bunch of talent in return. The one thing that is clear is that KG’s body simply can’t carry the weight of an entire franchise anymore.

2. Celtics’ hide the Truth

But KG wasn’t the only superstar to have a late season injury bring about an early vacation. However, unlike Garnett, Paul Pierce will definitely not return to the Celtics lineup this year. After a sore left elbow had bounced Pierce back and forth between the active roster and the DNP designation in the box score, Boston management has decided to put an end to the on-again, off-again relationship and throw Pierce onto the shelf. Sure, Pierce could probably use the extra rest but don’t think Danny Ainge isn’t thinking about the extra ping-pong balls that could be coming his way. After all, Ainge was the one caught buddying up with Durant’s mom a while back.

3. Best draft ever?
David Stern came out and said that this upcoming class of college newcomers could make up the greatest draft class in history. Actually he said that “this may be the No. 1 or 2 draft of all time.” That’s a pretty lofty statement by the commish; which got us thinking if he could be right. Only time will tell if this year’s kids pan out, but it’s going to be awfully hard to top the classes of 1984 or 1996. Here are some of the ballers from those talent rich crops and their overall selections.

1984 – Hakeem Olajuwon (1), Michael Jordan (3), Sam Perkins (4), Charles Barkley (5), Alvin Robertson (7), Otis Thorpe (9), Kevin Willis (11), Michael Cage (14), John Stockton (16)

1996 – Allen Iverson (1), Marcus Camby (2), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Stephon Marbury (4), Ray Allen (5), Antoine Walker (6), Kobe Bryant (13), Steve Nash (15), Jermaine O’Neal (17), and it should also be noted that Ben Wallace was available but went undrafted

Wednesday’s Player of the Day: Tim Duncan vs. Sacramento 35 min, 26 pts (FG: 11-14, FT: 4-9), 13 reb, 4 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk

Thursday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Clippers (37-40) @ Los Angeles Lakers (40-38) The Lakers and the Clippers both have a lot to prove in their gym. Of course, there’s the whole battle of Los Angeles thing and the bragging rights that come along with the victory, but more importantly there’s a possible playoff spot on the line. Currently the Lakers have it, but not by much as they have spent the last few weeks slip-sliding down the rankings and now sit just 2 ½ games ahead of the Clippers who are sitting just outside (½ game) of the playoff picture. Unfortunately the Clippers have been struggling just as much as their LA counterparts. But somebody has to win this game and when they do they will be standing on much firmer post season ground.

Buzzer Beater: This is the time of the season when the good teams get rolling and the crappy teams start folding. While we wouldn’t exactly call the Utah Jazz a crappy team, they are certainly folding like a house of cards down the stretch. The Jazz have now lost five games in a row and six of their last ten and they have basically handed the Rockets home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. But you can’t blame the point guard/power forward combo for the team’s latest loss. Carlos Boozer (19 points, 14 rebounds, 8 assists) and Deron Williams (18 points, 6 rebounds, 14 assists) both flirted with triple-doubles last night but couldn’t overcome a 54 point outburst by Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson as the Nuggets showed the Jazz the proper way to get into playoff form. Denver has now won seven straight games to make up for dropping three in a row.

NBA General

Around the Rim: Suns block? SA’s building steam

1. Spurred On
Tim Duncan was named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week yesterday after he led the Spurs to a 3-0 record last week by scoring 21 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while dishing out five assists and blocking three shots per contest. But it was the French phenom Tony Parker who guided SA to their fourth consecutive victory by racking up 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting in a dismantling of the Trailblazers. The Spurs are getting hot at the right time but they are still sitting two games behind Phoenix for the second seed in the playoffs. However, you shouldn’t be surprised if San Antonio catches the Suns before the end of the season because they have a much easier schedule as the year draws to a close.

2. Warriors, come out and plaaay

Golden State made a serious statement last night as they destroyed the Utah Jazz by 24 points, 126-102. And thanks to a Clippers loss to Denver, the Warriors have slid into the eighth and final playoff spot in the West; for now. Home-court advantage for the entire playoffs was also determined by in the Clippers loss as Dallas won their 64th game of the season and guaranteed that they would be spending the majority of every playoff series in their gym. And at the moment, their first round opponent would be the same giant killing Warriors that ripped apart Utah last night. So, is Golden State ready for the Mavericks? Probably not, but it would more entertaining than throwing the sacrificial Clippers to Mark Cuban’s hungry lions.

3. Kobe goes cold
Like most of the great scorers in league history, most nights Kobe Bryant has got it but some nights he doesn’t. And last night was definitely one night that the league’s top scorer wouldn’t mind forgetting. Bryant was 9-of-30 from the floor in a 115-111 loss to the Nuggets that put the Lakers perilously close to sliding completely off the playoff map. Only two little games separate LA from missing the post season and regardless of what happens over the remainder of the regular season, this will be the most losses for any Phil Jackson coached team with the Lakers currently sitting at 40-38. The Mamba just couldn’t get it going as Denver’s dynamic duo torched LA for 57 points and the team’s sixth straight victory. Nobody wants to get caught playing against that level of firepower in the first round of the post season, and then you throw in a Defensive Player of the Year candidate patrolling the middle in Marcus Camby and you have a serious dark-horse just waiting to grab an early playoff upset.

Monday’s Player of the Day: Ricky Davis vs. Toronto 39 min, 28 pts (FG: 9-17, 3FG: 4-8, FT: 6-6), 3 reb, 8 ast

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Los Angeles Clippers (37-39) @ New Orleans (36-41) With the playoffs just about two weeks away, the final three spots are still technically up for grabs but it’s really the final two that are in the most unstable condition. That’s where the Clippers and the Hornets come in. Both teams are on the outside looking in right now as they try to scratch and claw their way into the post season picture and knock the Lakers and/or Warriors out. It’s great to see this kind of late season head-to-head contests where the winner can take control of their own destiny and watch the battle of wills square off. Without getting too Bill Walton about the matter, let’s just say that it should be a good game.

Buzzer Beater: In a story that goes to show you that NBA ballers are still regular folk too, Michael Doleac’s brother ‘s Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Baghdad as he piloted the aircraft. Everyone ended up being all right but that has got to put game of basketball into perspective for Army 2nd Lt. Kenneth Doleac’s older brother.

“From what I’ve heard from him, it was he and another helicopter flying,” Doleac said. “They got hit, it was just small arms fire, and they ended up going down. He was able to put it down. A couple of his guys got hit, but no one was injured seriously. He was able to put the helicopter down. The other Black Hawk that was with him wound up coming back in a couple of minutes and picking them all up.”

“It wakes you up. You take for granted every day he’s over there flying. To hear that he got shot down was just nuts. Every time you hear a helicopter go down, it’s something bad.”