1. Wheeling and dealing
LeBron James has been begging for some help for quite a while now and on Thursday, he finally got it; just not on offense. The Cavs were part of a three-team, 11-player trade right before the deadline, acquiring Ben Wallace, Joe Smith and a 2nd-round draft pick from the Bulls, along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West from the Sonics. The move definitely helps Cleveland in the front court where Zydrunas Illgauskas and Wallace now roam on defense. Szczerbiak isn’t exactly the point guard LBJ was wanting, but his perimeter shooting will come in handy in the playoffs. Of course, the Cavs had to give up some players as well, sending Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons and Shannon Brown to the Bulls and dealing Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall to the Sonics. Seattle also received Adrian Griffin from the Chicago. The bad news for Cleveland fans is they won’t get to see their complete new-look team anytime soon because Daniel Gibson is out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury.
2. Manu Ginobili pours in the points
San Antonio and Minnesota put on a show last night, going down to the wire before Manu Ginobili stole the show. Ginobili finished with 44 points, including the game winner to knock off the ever-improving T-Wolves 100-99. Manu was on fire in the contest, connecting on 13-of-18 shots, including 7-of-9 from behind the arc. But that wasn’t the best news of the night for the defending champs because Tony Parker finally returned to the lineup after missing a nice chunk of time with a foot/heel injury. Mr. Longoria had a decent showing in 18 minutes off the bench, scoring eight points while Tim Duncan was a stat sheet stuffer, recording 24 points, 14 boards, seven assists, three steals and four blocks. Al Jefferson continues to impress, even in defeat, scoring 28 points in his matchup versus one of the league’s best defenders.
3. Red hot Rockets
Shawn Marion is still looking for his first win in a Miami uniform after Houston denied the Matrix for the fourth time since the trade. However, the Heat had a shot late, but couldn’t pull it out, losing 112-110 in Houston. Yao Ming (21 pts) and Tracy McGrady (23 pts) lifted the Rockets to their 10th consecutive victory while dropping the Heat to their 10th consecutive loss. Looking at the bigger picture, Houston has won 14 of their last 15 games which is good enough for seventh in a loaded Western Conference. But the two-point victory wasn’t the only noise Houston made on Thursday. The Rockets were involved in a trade that sent Mike James and Bonzi Wells to New Orleans for Bobby Jackson and Adam Haluska while simultaneously receiving Gerald Green from Minnesota for Kirk Snyder.
Thursday’s Player of the Day: Manu Ginobili @ Minnesota 38 min, 44 pts (FG: 13-18, 3FG: 7-9, FT: 11-12), 3 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl
Friday’s Game to Watch: Boston (41-11) @ Phoenix (37-17)
Nobody could have predicted at this time last year that Kevin Garnett would be sporting Celtic green or that Shaquille O’Neal would be calling himself the “Big Cactus.” But here we are and both are a reality. Better yet, this could be a preview of the NBA Finals. Boston has been rolling all year long, especially against the West where they just received their first two losses against the conference this year in back-to-back games. Three in a row is a defiantly possibility as the new look Suns try to get Shaq his first win in the desert. Of course, the real matchup we want to see is Garnett versus Amare Stoudemire. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see each of them score 30 and grab 15 boards. Star power is not an issue at all in this game as it will look last weekend in New Orleans when they tip tonight. The only difference is Shaq and Garnett will be on the court.
Buzzer Beater: Greg Oden must be getting really, really bored sitting on the sidelines this season. In fact, he’s resorted to self mutilation to kill the free time. Last night when Seattle and Portland hooked up in the Rose Garden, Oden was spotted on the bench sporting a brand new Mohawk haircut