NBA Buckets

Durant’s defense helps Thunder top Lakers in Game 3

April 22, 2010

Kevin Durant became the youngest player to win an NBA scoring title this year. Thursday, his all-around play propelled the Thunder to a 101-96 win over the Lakers in front of a frenzied crowd in Oklahoma City.

Durant put the clamps on Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter and hit a number of key baskets. He finished with 29 points, 19 rebounds, as four assists.

Meanwhile, Kobe didn’t have much lift on his jumper. That didn’t stop him for launching–he took 29 shots, including 11 3-pointers. He failed to shoot a single free throw in the game, spending most of his time on the perimeter despite OKC’s soft interior defense.

The Thunder trailed early, but rallied slowly and finally took the lead for good in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers continued to struggle to contain Russell Westbrook, who scored 27 points, mostly coming on drives to the basket. Derek Fisher has no chance of guarding Westbrook, and both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmer have played him poorly as well.

It will be interesting to see how the Lakers adjust in Game 4. Kobe doesn’t look like he is healthy, but Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom should be able to carry the load if L.A. pounds the ball inside.

Game 4 should be fun to watch.

Rose takes step towards superstardom, leads Bulls over Cavs in Game 3

April 22, 2010

D Rose took his game to new heights in Chicago's 108-106 win over Cleveland Thursday. (Pic viasportige.com)

Derrick Rose has an eerily strong sense of calm around him. He rarely expresses emotion of any kind, from happiness to anger. He plays with intensity and athleticism while barely breaking a sweat. Nothing seems to get under his skin.

So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he stepped up late in Game 3, with the Bulls appearing on the verge of a historic collapse.

When it mattered, D-Rose delivered. Just hours after losing his uncle, Rose found himself facing aggressive traps and being defended 1-on-1 by an angry LeBron James, who threw his game into overdrive while single-handedly leading the Cavs’ comeback.

At first, Rose looked surprised LeBron was playing him. He took two difficult shots against James before his calm demeanor took over. He hit a pull-up jumper, drove through the entire Cavs team and hit a floater, and found Kirk Hinrich open on the wing for a big 3. The Cavs kept coming, but Rose was ready. He handled the ball with poise and controlled the tempo.

When Game 3 finally came to an end, it was Rose, not LeBron, who was left standing as the best player on the floor.

Rose’s line; 31 points, seven assists, and zero turnovers–fell short of LeBron’s 39-10-8. Yet Rose showed courage to take the big shots, handle the ball, and make plays in crunch time, courage he began exhibiting late in the regular season with the Bulls’ desperately fighting for a playoff spot.

Rose has a good head on his broad shoulders. He has shown tremendous improvement since coming into the NBA, working on his jumper and learning how to control a game. He will probably never be the smartest, most charismatic, well-spoken, or polarizing superstar in the NBA, but he will certainly be among the best.

You can bet the NBA free agent class of 2010 is taking notes–including LeBron.

Shaq’s skills eroding at alarming rate

April 22, 2010

A missed dunk isn’t usually that big of a deal. But Shaq’s missed dunk in the first half of Game 3 against the Bulls highlighted just how far the big man has fallen.

The Big Aristotle played fairly well in Game 1 against the tiny Bulls frontline, but was a non-factor in Game 2 and downright awful in Game 3. The Cavs play much better when he is off the court, using a small lineup with Anderson Varejao at center. Mike Brown could turn to J.J. Hickson to provide more athleticism in Game 4 against the likes of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

Shaq’s Game 3 numbers–six points and four rebounds in 19 minutes–were indicative of his declining skills. He has a huge size advantage against the Bulls, but seems to have lost what little quickness he had left. His moves are slow and tentative. His touch around the basket is gone. His lift is gone. On the defensive end, Shaq’s feet appear to be stuck in concrete–Joakim Noah drives around him with ease. Pick n’ roll defense, never one of Shaq’s strong suits, has been a glaring problem against the Bulls, with Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich getting numerous open looks in each game of the series.

Just about everybody has praised Shaq’s work ethic this year in Cleveland. He supposedly has dropped around 20 pounds while recovering from his thumb injury, although he still looks overweight. He is vastly out of shape, unable to get up and down the court without breathing hard.

No matter how hard he works, the prideful Shaq won’t be able to make his body perform forever. At this point, he is sputtering towards the finish line.

Dwight Howard couldn’t be happier.

Joakim Noah keeps hatin’ on Cleveland

April 20, 2010

Joakim Noah’s passionate dislike of the city of Cleveland is downright hilarious. When asked to clarify his comments before Game 2 Monday, he explained that he is never leaving his hotel room because “it’s all factories, man.” He refused to back down following the Bulls’ Game 2 loss, when he had this to say when asked if he regretted his comments:

I don’t think anybody expected that type of a response. There was some snickering in the background, but for the most part it was completely silent. There is nothing better than professional athletes messing with reporters.

Cavs take Game 1 from Bulls despite puzzling offensive drought

April 17, 2010

The following video pretty much puts Game 1 of the Cavs Bulls series in perspective. LeBron scored 24 points, many coming on finishes at the rim, but was again guilty of stopping the ball–causing his teammates to stand still. On this particular play, he held the ball for 10 seconds, making tiny jab steps at Hakim Warrick–before raising up and missing the jumper. As they did all afternoon, the Bulls forgot to rebound, freeing up LeBron for the alley-oop finish.

As an NBA fan, nothing is more frustrating than watching a guy hold the ball for an entire possession while his teammates stand still. Isolation is part of the NBA game, but this Cavaliers team has no excuse to resort to such tactics.

I was very critical of the Cleveland’s strategy against Orlando last year in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs routinely bolted to quick leads with crisp ball and player movement, but by the end of the game a panicked Mike Brown gave the ball to LeBron in a 1-4 set. No, not just in the closing seconds-for the entire final five minutes of regulation.

I thought the strategy was ridiculous at the time, but given Mo Williams’ struggles and the Cavs lack of a third option offensively, it sort of made sense.

Fast-forward to today’s game 1 against a bad Bulls team. The Cavs bolted to a huge lead, thanks in part to a nervous group of Bulls, but primarily to an energetic offense playing with a great tempo. The Cavs moved without the ball, found the open man, and set good screens to open a huge lead.

And then it happened. The maddening lull, which figures to be the only obstacle between the Cavs and the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Midway through the third quarter, the Cavs stopped moving. Mo Williams went to the corner. Antawn Jamison, one of the best players at moving without the ball in the NBA, stood at the elbow. And everybody watched LeBron, who stood still, or dribbled in one spot, and ran out the clock.

It wasn’t the Bulls defense or, as LeBron said after the game, the Cavs missing some shorts they would normally make. It was simply stupid-ass basketball.

LeBron’s passing ability separates him from his peers. In previous years, he had few weapons around him. Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, Eric Snow (gasp) weren’t exactly enticing options, so the 1-4 set meant LeBron had to look to score. Now, surrounding with a plethora of capable scorers and shooters, he needs to continue to make plays for others.

He needs to make a move of some sort to the basket, or give the ball up and get in better position. His teammates need to keep moving, not simply stand and listen to the increasingly annoying music interludes while play continues.

Mike Brown will be a coaching failure if the Cavs don’t win it all. His inability to coach the offensive side of the ball has been obvious for years. But the offensive lulls are on LeBron.

Don’t just stand there son, do something!

2010 NBA Playoffs: Where excitement and intrigue happens

April 17, 2010

The NCAA Tournament is known as the Mecca of postseason tournaments. The 2010 Big Dance featured an amazing first week of action, but things quickly went downhill. Sloppy games, bad execution, and the tendency of teams not advance by playing slightly less crappy than their opponent made the final rounds of the tournament a disappointment. The Final Four lacked intrigue—no matter how the National Media tried to spin it.

Under normal circumstances, the NBA playoffs would never be able to match the entertainment value of the NCAA Tournament. The 2010 NBA playoffs could be a different story.

There is no shortage of compelling storylines heading into the postseason. In the Eastern Conference, LeBron meets Chicago—a team that should make a strong push to acquire his services this summer—in the first round. The Bobcats, a team with a stunning collection of knuckleheads, including Stephen Jackson, look to pull a huge upset on Orlando. They have the talent and the swagger to pull it off, much like when Captain Jack’s Warriors shocked the top-seeded Mavs in 2003. Atlanta gets little love, but should be a factor in the East with Jamal Crawford and Josh Smith as the catalysts.

The Western Conference features eight teams with 50 wins in what is perhaps the deepest postseason field in NBA history. An abundance of interesting matchups highlight the parity—and uncertainty—of the West. Kevin Durant leads the upstart Thunder against the slumping Lakers. Phil Jackson has already started to play mind games against Durant, a sign that he is worried. The Lakers signed Ron Artest as a designated defender against the best wing players in the NBA. After an inconsistent season, Ron-Ron faces a huge challenge. Durant seems poised to take the next step to superstardom; he could author an upset if Kobe isn’t 100%.

Utah and Denver collide in what should be a high-scoring, thrilling series. Portland faces Phoenix without Brandon Roy. Nobody has played better than the Suns in recent weeks, but the Blazers are feisty and experienced. A First Round win could produce a Willis Reed moment, with Roy attempting to return just weeks after knee surgery. Finally, Dallas and San Antonio meet in what looks like mismatch on paper. The Spurs played the regular season to get to the postseason, now is when they will turn up the heat. The Mavs could make a run at the NBA Title—or they could lose in the First Round.

The Playoffs figure to feature upsets, close games, and plenty of drama. And unlike this year’s NCAA Tournament, the quality of play should be consistently high.

Things could get ugly this summer, but for right now at least, basketball fans will be treated to one of the most entertaining NBA Playoffs in a long, long time.

2009-2010 ToTheTin NBA Awards

April 16, 2010

LBJ had another fantastic season. (Pic via pictureshere.com)

The 2009-2010 NBA regular season has come to a close, meaning it’s time for the second annual ToTheTin NBA Awards Presentation, sponsored in part by the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library. Someday, these awards will symbolize the highest level of recognition of NBA players, coaches, and management from an established sports website—someday.

Most Valuable Player—Kevin Durant

Durant became the youngest player to ever lead the NBA in scoring while leading the Thunder to a 50-32 record and a playoff berth. No player made more of a difference for his team in 2009-2010. Runner-Up: LeBron James

Most Outstanding Player—LeBron James

It’s hard to argue with 29.7, 7.3, and 8.6 while leading the Cavs to the best record in the NBA. LeBron is clearly the best player on the planet
Runner-Up: Kevin Durant

Defensive Player of the Year—Dwight Howard

Superman version 2.0 led the NBA in rebounds and blocks while propelling the Magic to another solid regular season. Changes the game as a defender even though he is still learning to play hard consistently.
Runner-Up: Marcus Camby

Rookie of the Year—Tyreke Evans

The steady Evans averaged 20 points, five boards, and five assists during his rookie season. He will be an All-Star for many years, especially if he improves his jumper. Stephen Curry has been getting more love lately, but plays in a ridiculous clown system that produces inflated numbers.
Runner-Up: Steph Curry

Sixth Man Award—Jamal Crawford

The shoot-first Crawford played under control while leading the NBA in fourth quarter scoring. He provides a explosive scoring option that could push the Hawks deep into the playoffs.
Runner-Up: J.R. Smith

Coach of the Year—Scott Skiles

Skiles has a knack for rubbing people the wrong way. He also has knack for getting the most out of limited talent. The Bucks finished 46-36 with a bizarre cast of characters, including flashy rookie Brandon Jennings, 67 year-old Jerry Stackhouse, and journeymen John Salmons and Luke Ridnour.
Runner-Up: Scott Brooks, Nate McMillan (tie)

Most Improved Player—Aaron Brooks

Brooks improved his scoring average by over eight points this season and averaged five assists in his first full season as a starter. The Rockets had a surprisingly decent season, thanks in large part to the clutch play of the jitterbug guard.
Runner-Up: Russell Westbrook

Executive of the Year—Danny Ferry

Ferry managed to give LeBron a good deal of help in the offseason, adding Shaq along with solid role players Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon. The Antawn Jamison trade could prove to be the difference in the postseason. Ferry is a lock for this award next year if he manages to hang on to LeBron.
Runner-Up: Kevin Pritchard

Knucklehead of the Year—Andray Blatche

Lost in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas gun scandal, the Wizards suspended Blatche for insubordination/being a selfish jerk three times this season. Blatche clinched this award when he attempted to secure his first career triple-double by racing downcourt, intentionally missing a shot, and trying to grab the rebound in the closing seconds of an easy win over the Nets. Imitating Ricky Davis is never a good idea.
Runner-Up: Nate Robinson

The Isiah Thomas Award—Joe Dumars

This award, given to the NBA’s worst GM, goes to Thomas’ former backcourt mate, Joe Dumars. Joe D stockpiled shooting guards and overpaid for selfish volume-shooters Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. The Pistons had a brutal season and are a complete mess.

The Tim Floyd Award—Mike D’Antoni

This award, given to the worst NBA coach, goes to the overrated Knicks headman. A team filled with idiots made his job very difficult, but unlike most NBA coaches, D’Antoni has some clout—meaning he won’t get fired if he stands up to his players. Al Harrington and Nate Robinson are lost causes, but Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler can still be saved. As always, defense is optional with D’Antoni in charge.
Runner-Up: Eddie Jordan

Smith's neon yellow sneaks are beyond gaudy. (AP Photo/Pic via sneakernews.com)

The Janet Jackson Award—J.R. Smith

This award, given the NBA player with the worst wardrobe, was hotly contested but goes to J.R. Smith. It’s hard to miss those neon yellow shoes—and mysterious red dots tattooed on his neck, which kept multiplying as the season went on. Young Money.
Runner-Up: Ron Artest’s short shorts

The James Posey Award—Manu Ginobili

Manu wins for his eradication of a bat on Halloween night—an impressive display of physical dominance against a helpless creature—not unlike tripping Kirk Hinrich.
Runner-Up: Dahntay Jones

The Larry Bird Award—David Lee

This award, presented to the NBA’s best American-born white player, goes to David Lee, a double-double machine. Lee has claimed this award for the last three seasons, an impressive run of dominance to say the least.
Runner-Up: Chris Kaman

The John Stockton Award—Anderson Varejao

This award, given to the NBA’s most annoying player, goes to the charge-drawing machine, Anderson Varejao. Nobody is better at taking a dive than Varejao.
Runner-Up: Tyrus Thomas

The ‘Sheed—Kendrick Perkins

This award, given to the angriest dude in the NBA, goes to young Kendrick Perkins. Nobody looks quite as angry as Perkins, who furrows his brow constantly during games, pushes players needlessly after fouls are called, and yells at officials when he doesn’t get calls. He is learning from the master.
Runner-Up: Kevin Garnett

Lakers’ Vujacic out indefinitely, Bobcats’ Chandler expected to play against Magic

Sasha will have plenty of time on his hands to hang with skeezs like Paris while recovering from his ankle injury. (Pic via lakerstopbuzz.com)

Sasha Vujacic’s disastrous season most likely has come to a close. Vujacic suffered an severely sprained ankle during Wednesday’s loss to the Clippers and is expected to miss significant time, according to an LA Times report.

Vujacic had played sparingly until late in the season. He averaged just 2.8 points while shooting just 40 percent this season, including a paltry 30 percent from 3-point range. His injury shouldn’t impact the Lakers’ playoff chances, but could open the door for Adam Morrison to make the Lakers postseason roster. Hooray!

Tyson Chandler expected to play against Magic

Oft-injured Tyson Chandler suffered what appeared to be a bad injury Wednesday night when he fell awkwardly after trying to block a shot against the Bulls. It turns out things aren’t too bad after all.

Chandler is expected to be available against Orlando, according to a Raleigh News & Observer report. He has been diagnosed with a bursa sac injury but should have full range-of-motion in his elbow.

The Bobcats will most likely resort to a slap-a-Superman philosophy against Dwight Howard and the Magic, placing a premium on Chandler’s services.

Kevin Durant truly the NBA’s Most Valuable Player

April 15, 2010

Durant might not be the best player in the NBA, but he is certainly the most valuable. (Pic via dailythunder.com)

While LeBron James and Kobe Bryant rested in the final days of the season, Kevin Durant kept right on doin’ work. The 21 year-old scored 31 points in Oklahoma City’s final game of the season to capture the NBA scoring title and help the Thunder win its 50th game, solidifying his candidacy for MVP.

Nobody expects Durant be named MVP—this year at least. The popular opinion has LeBron dominating the vote. The only question at this point seems to be if Durant can overtake Bryant in the race for second place.

LeBron led his team to the best record in the NBA while putting up his usually spectacular all-around numbers. But no player was more directly responsible for the success of his team than Kevin Durant.

The offensive numbers are simply astounding. Durant averaged 30.1 points this season, scoring at least 25 points in 29 straight games, the longest such streak since Michael Jordan’s 40 in 1986-1987. Durant scored at least 25 points in 73 of the 82 games overall this season. He led the NBA in free throws made by a wide margin, hitting 756 total while shooting 90 percent from the line. He canned 128 3-pointers, shooting over 35 percent from downtown.

Durant also expanded his all-around game in his third NBA season. He averaged a career-best 7.6 rebounds and posting career highs in every major statistical category, including blocks and steals.

At 21, Durant became the youngest player to every capture an NBA scoring title. It’s possible that his record will be broken someday, but probably not for a long, long time.

LeBron’s numbers—29.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game—are absolutely amazing. There is no question he is the best player in the NBA. The most outstanding yes, but not the most valuable.

At 50-32, the Thunder posted a remarkable 27 game improvement from last seasons disappointing 23-win campaign. Durant was the catalyst. Russell Westbrook has emerged as one of the best point guards in the NBA and Jeff Green has shown steady improvement, but ultimately no team did more with less than the Thunder. Their success came without a decent big man and a bench anchored by two rookies and a host of veteran cast-offs.

Winning 50 games in the West with Thabo Sefolosha as the starting shooting guard? Talk about amazing.

Durant put up impressive yet irrelevant numbers during his first two seasons. Only truly special players can put up great numbers while helping their team reach great heights. Durant elevated his game to new heights this season, helping the Thunder compile one of the best seasons in one of the strongest conferences in NBA history with one of the youngest and thinnest teams in the entire league.

That’s the very definition of valuable.

Fight Club: Bulls must act, fire John Paxson immediately

April 14, 2010

Paxson reportedly attacked Del Negro following a game in late March. (Pic via Chicago Tribune/ChicagoBreakingSportsNews.com)

A night of troubling revelations overshadowed what under normal circumstances would have been one of the biggest wins of the seasons for the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night.

Derrick Rose scored a career high 39 points and got a hug from supermodel Marissa Miller. Kirk Hinrich turned back the clock and dropped a cool 30. But all anybody wanted to talk about, and rightly so, was the confrontation between coach Vinny Del Negro and Bulls VP John Paxson.

A Yahoo report broke the news Tuesday afternoon, a couple hours before TNT’s broadcast of Bulls-Celtics. According to the report, Paxson stormed into Del Negro’s office after the Bulls fell to the Suns in late March. Angry that Del Negro had played Joakim Noah more minutes than the team had allotted—Noah has been dealing with plantar faciitis for much of the season—Paxson reportedly grabbed Del Negro’s tie and hit the coach in the chest twice before being restrained. Perhaps stunned by what was unfolding and worried of being fired for real this time, Del Negro just stood there and took it.

The broadcast team discussed the recent shenanigans during the Bulls Double OT loss to the Nets, when Del Negro sent 86 year-old reserve guard Lindsey Hunter to ask Paxson if the minutes restrictions on Noah could be lifted.

At halftime, TNT became aware of the story sweeping the internet. Craig Sager reported that Del Negro did not deny that there was an argument, but refused to go into further detail. Adding more intrigue to the story, Sager reported Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson had known about the incident but didn’t report it for some bizarre reason.

What began as a rumor just became the truth. Now the question is, what will the Bulls do about it?

For now, the Bulls have simply dispatched a team of lawyers to investigate the incident. An investigation could take weeks, provide constant distraction, and reveal information that could be obtained in about as much time as it will take to write this story.

The Bulls need to act, and act quickly.

Heading into the free agent summer in the history of the NBA, the Bulls figure to be one of the most attractive destinations for players like LeBron, D Wade, Chris Bosh…the list goes on and on. A budding superstar point guard and three other solid NBA starters (Kirk Hinrich will most likely be moved in the offseason) coupled with sizeable cap space puts Chicago in the drivers seat.

There is only one problem: An astounding lack of institutional control that has tarnished the Bulls’ image throughout the league.

Thanks in large part to Jerry Reinsdorf’s bumbling ways, John Paxson still has a job. Paxson, the man who traded LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas on draft day, refused to trade Luol Deng for Pau Gasol, rewarded Deng’s average numbers and limited upside with a $70-plus million dollar long-term deal, and lastly hired Vinny Del Negro. Reinsdorf pulled the plug on Paxson’s GM duties last year, promoting Gar Forman in an oddly secretive move. Forman has done some good things while running the show.

But Paxson has continued to ruin the Bulls franchise, and in the process, the reputation of what should be one of the most glorified teams in the entire NBA.

Paxson fired Del Negro in late December, something Del Negro learned while watching television. Unable to find a replacement, Paxson reversed his decision and allowed Del Negro to remain on the bench.

Talk about a ridiculously unprofessional move.

So as this summer creeps ever closer, the Bulls organization will be dragged through the mud in the public, but more importantly, behind the scenes. Luring a coach like Nate McMillan or a player like LeBron James just got a lot more difficult.

The Bulls need to restore stability. It starts with sending John Paxson away—forever.

Not Again: Latest injury could cripple Blazers’ playoff chances

April 12, 2010

Roy is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after suffering a right knee Sunday against the Lakers (Getty Images/Pic via thebleacherreport.com)

The Portland Trail Blazers are on the cusp of a 50-win season despite suffering a unbelievable number of injuries of all kinds to almost all of its roster. Even coach Nate McMillan missed time after rupturing his achilles earlier this year.

Although the Blazers have managed to whether the bizarre run of bad luck to this point, the latest injury could serve as the death knell to one of the NBA’s most well-rounded squads.

An MRI Tuesday revealed that Brandon Roy suffered a torn right meniscus in Sunday’s win over the Lakers. Roy has said he would like to postpone surgery as long as no additional damage can be done, however it seems unlikely the team will allow him to make that decision. The timetable for such an injury is typically 4-6 weeks.

Portland’s chances in what figures to be a wild West this postseason just took a serious hit.

Roy is the Blazers leading scorer, best player, and a go-to guy with the ability to create his shot. It’s almost impossible to win in the playoffs without a top-level NBA player. Roy’s absence leaves the Blazers without a top-level player.

Portland’s veteran presence won’t go down without a fight. Andre Miller, a guy who has been one of the most productive point guards in the NBA during his career despite having a game similar to that annoying dude you play at the Y every week, becomes the go-to guy on the perimeter.

Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge are versatile and long, but not enough to carry the Blazers to a series win.

The Blazers will have to do something they have become accustomed to–overachieve.

J.R. Smith: License to shoot

April 8, 2010

J.R. Smith keeps it real with a sucker in his mouth. (Pic via kilosandgrams.com)

As I watched the Nuggets-Lakers game Thursday night, I got a chance to witness history. Nuggets designated shooter J.R. Smith was on the verge of setting a franchise record for 3-point makes. This meant even more crazy shots than usual. Smith built up the drama by launching nearly every time he got the ball in the first half. His fourth 3-pointer of the half broke the Nuggets all-time mark held by Michael Adams, touching off a one-man celebration which featured a skipping Smith yelling at the sky.

Smith is well-known for taking any shot at any time. He ruins possessions by launching long 3’s. When he gets locked in, it’s magical to watch. When he can’t find the range, it becomes comical–or infuriating if you happen to be his teammate.

The NBA has a handful of guys who don’t want to pass the ball–most of them have recent or current ties with the New York Knicks. Larry Hughes, Nate Robinson, Al Harrington, Jamal Crawford (getting better), Nick Young, and Ben Gordon are the biggest culprits.

The difference between that list and Smith–pure talent.

Not many NBA players can match Smith’s combination of range and athleticism. He has size, strength, handle, ability to play defense when he wants to (he rarely wants to) and the ability to make impossible shots. That sounds like a superstar in the making.

Here’s the problem: J.R. has a bad case of basketball A.D.D.

In the 72 games he has played this season, Smith is averaging 13.7 field goal attempts in 27 minutes per game. Nearly half of those attempts are from 3-point land; Smith takes a whopping six 3’s per game despite being only a 33 percent shooter from downtown.

He is shooting just a shade over 41 percent this season overall.

The main reason for his low percentage, besides the fact that he isn’t a great shooter, is his horrendous shot selection. He takes some of the longest 3-pointers you will ever see–sometimes from two or three feet beyond the line. When he decides to put the ball on the deck, he rarely uses his jaw-dropping athleticism to get to the rim, preferring to settle for fade-away jumpers.

Almost every time I watch the man in the bright neon yellow Nike’s play, I see flashes. He can concentrate and apply himself for short stretches, but he will inevitably revert to his bad habits.

George Karl has learned to tolerate it, occasionally bench Smith when he goes overboard. Adrian Dantley seems to be in over his head. Under his direction, the shots will fly and the ball-movement will stop.

So by the end of the first half Thursday, Smith had already attempted nine 3-pointers. He was going to get the record–nothing was going to get in his way.

Keep shooting J.R.

The game must go on: Carmelo collapses on the court, both teams keep playing

April 8, 2010

I’ve long maintained that the NBA referees are by far the worst officials in professional sports. Wednesday night in OKC, the refs pulled a unbelievably stupid stunt. Both teams just played right along.

Late in the third quarter, Carmelo drove the lane, slipped and appeared to make contact with Kevin Durant’s arm before falling to the floor. No foul was called and the Nuggets ended up scoring a basket. But then, as Anthony continued to lay on the court, the refs allowed the Thunder to inbound the ball. A long pass down court was broken up, and the ball ended up in J.R. Smith’s hands. You know what happened next–a stupid situation got even stupider.

Of course, Smith went 1-on-4, driving very near Carmelo, who continued to lay on the floor. He got a shot up but was called for traveling–only then was play stopped.

I have no explanation for this nonsense. Unlike the college and high school game, when officials are directed to stop play no matter where the ball is when a player is injured, the NBA dictates that play continue until the ball is dead–like after a made basket. Why the refs didn’t stop play is beyond me.

And then of course there is good ole J.R. Smith. There is no way he didn’t notice his teammate laying motionless on the court, but he didn’t care. Adrian Dantley could have called timeout, the Nuggets or even the Thunder could have fouled to stop play. No dice.

I’m surprised he didn’t go to his patented step-back jumper, stepping over Melo to create some space from the defense.

The end result of this bizarre scene: Anthony was taken to the locker room and given tests for a possible concussion. He returned to the game early in the fourth quarter and helped the Nuggs hold off the Thunder. Smith’s travel was nullified by the refs, who awarded the ball to the Nuggets in a strange ruling, perhaps purely out of sympathy.

I hope we never see this type of traveshamockery in an NBA game again.

Highlights of Jazz-Thunder thriller

April 7, 2010

Deron Williams scored 42 points, including the game-winning 20-footer in overtime to lead the Jazz to a 140-139 win over the Thunder. Kevin Durant took over the lead in the NBA scoring race with a ridiculous 45-point performance, but didn’t get a call as time expired. C.J. Miles clearly fouled Durant on a 3-point attempt, hitting his wrist after he released the ball. Here are the highlights, courtesy of NBA TV.

Hue Hollins would totally have called that foul. Just ask Scottie Pippen.

Angry Eggs: Cavs-Celtics Easter highlights

April 5, 2010

Ray Allen’s 33 points prevented the Celtics from another collapse, as the Cavaliers rallied from a 22-point second half deficit before falling 117-113 in Boston Sunday. Here are highlights of a testy game, which featured five technicals and an ejection, as well as plenty of jaw-jacking.

LeBron had one of the worst shooting performances of his career, finishing 0-of-9 from 3-point range, including a missed 3 in the closing second that would have given the Cavs the lead. He also missed eight free throws.

The Celtics performance on the court and mad-at-the-world attitude is very reminiscent of the Detroit Pistons several years ago in the twilight of their Eastern Conference dominance.

The end is near.

This is Andrew Bogut’s gruesome elbow injury

April 4, 2010

The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the NBA’s most surprising teams this season, thanks largely to the play of Andrew Bogut. Finally healthy after a career plagued by injuries, Bogut was having the best season of his career. In a matter of seconds, his season and the Bucks playoff chances came crashing down:

Bogut suffered a broken right hand, sprained wrist, and dislocated elbow after his devastating fall. Amare Stoudemire was called for a flagrant foul on the play, although he clearly had no intentions of injuring Bogut.

The Bucks have weathered adversity throughout the season, but Bogut’s injury will most likely be too difficult to overcome. There is no immediate timetable for his return.

Lakers make Kobe even richer

April 3, 2010

Bryant's extension will keep him la-la land through the 2013-2014 season.

Kobe Bryant ended the speculation of whether or not he would finish his career in L.A. before it started, agreeing to a three-year extension Friday that will keep him under contract until age 35.

The deal appears to be a good move for both Kobe, who got more money from L.A. than he would have received by going elsewhere.

Kobe, who is earning $23 million this season, had the option of opting-out of his contract at the end of the year. He will make around $24 million next season before his new extension kick in.

Then comes crazy money. Kobe is slated to make over $27 in 2011-2012, $30 million the following season, and a whopping $32 million in his final season under contract, 2013-2014.

Kobe’s body of work suggests he will still be going strong at 35, but durability could become an issue.

There isn’t a strong blueprint for a player who started so young playing into his mid-30’s. Kevin Garnett is the the only concrete example of a player who began his career in his teens and continues to play into his mid-30’s. KG’s knee went a year ago and will probably never allow him to return to the player he once was. It will be interesting to see how Kobe’s game evolves as he gets older and puts on more miles.

For now at least, things are all sunshine and rainbows in L.A.

Birdman injures ankle, nearly chokes on some magic gold

April 2, 2010

Chris Andersen and his blonde porn ‘stache suffered an ankle injury Thursday night, but it could have been much, much worse. While being attended to by the Nuggets training staff, Birdman nearly swallowed a gold object. TNT’s Kevin Harlan astutely pointed that the object was simply a ring, although it initially appeared that gold was mysteriously falling from the sky.

It’s a good thing Birdman had the presence of mind to spit the ring out, after yelling “oh shit!”

Creepy.

Odom backs off “monkey” comments aimed at Matt Barnes

March 9, 2010

Lamar Odom is retracting his characterization of Matt Barnes as a “monkey”–sort of.

Odom told the OC Register that the comment was merely a reference to the rivalry between alleged rapper Rick Ross and horrendous rapper-slash-actor 50 Cent, in which Ross calls 50 a monkey.

Go figure.

Barnes certainly got under the Lakers’ skin Sunday, creating the potential for a interesting rematch with Kobe & friends.

Sadly, the meeting might have to wait until next year; an NBA Finals rematch isn’t out the question, but appears to be wishful thinking given the Lakers lack of toughness this season and Vince Carter’s tendency to wilt when it really matters.

Report: Iverson “Drinking himself into oblivion, gambling his life away”

March 8, 2010

Iverson's career is likely over, but his off-court problems are reportedly continuing to get worse.

Allen Iverson’s career and marriage appear to be over thanks primarily to serious problems with alcohol and gambling, the yappy Stephen A. Smith reported Monday in the Philadelphia Enquirer.

Smith’s column reads like a bizarre cry for help, but his connections throughout the NBA suggest that the column is 100 percent accurate. Finally there appears to be an explanation to AI’s strange demise in recent years.

According to Smith, Iverson has been banned from casinos in Detroit in Atlantic City. Long known for playing as hard as anyone in the NBA, his dispassionate and shockingly bad play in the last two years raised eyebrows around the league. Either Iverson had aged rapidly or something else was going on–it looks like the latter based on today’s news.

Like his career, Iverson’s marriage has experienced some tough times and is coming to an end. Iverson’s wife Tawanna has been separated from the father of her five children and filed for divorce last week in Atlanta, saying the marriage has been “irretrievably broken.” Tawanna had stuck with AI through thick and thin, including the 2002 incident where he allegedly threatened to kill her and forced her out of their house while she was completely naked. They had been married for roughly 8 1/2 years and together since high school.

Iverson’s vices have clearly led to his downfall. His legacy has already been tarnished and will continue to be tainted as more details emerge regarding his downward spiral.

Meanwhile, David Stern is hoping AI’s gambling issues quietly go away.

Artest, Jennings make Dennis Rodman proud with new hairstyles

March 7, 2010

Vince Carter obviously couldn't read the characters in Ron Artest's new 'do, which say "defense" in three languages. (Pic via LATimes.com)

Phil Jackson wanted increased focused on the defensive end from his Laker team, and he got it–until the game started at least. Ron Artest’s latest hair style features the word “defense” inscribed in purple characters within a Laker-gold dome. The inscriptions are in three different languages: Hindi, Hebrew, and Japanese. The early returns on the Rodman-esque masterpiece are not good–Vince Carter dropped 25 noisy points on Ron-Ron Sunday to lead the Magic over the Lakers.

Jennings debuted his "red stripe" fade in Saturday's win over the LeBron-less Cavaliers. (Pic via jsonline.com/AP)

Brandon Jennings has worn some crazy-ass fades since he burst onto the scene in high school a few years back. He topped it all Saturday when he took the floor in Milwaukee with a look that would make the Steve Urkel and skunks across the world proud. His new ‘do features his customary high-top fade with a red stripe down the middle. Jennings hit five 3’s en route to scoring 25 points to help the Bucks win for the ninth time in 10 games.

I wonder what Scott Skiles thinks of Jennings’ new look?

Knicks set another dubious record while losing to Nets

March 6, 2010

Just when it appears the New York Knicks can’t get any worse, the unthinkable happens: they descend even lower into basketball hell.

The Knicks lost to the Nets Saturday in Madison Square Garden, improving New Jersey’s record to 7-55 on the season and making history along the way.

The Knicks finished the game 0-18 from 3-point range, setting a new record for most attempts without a make.

Al Harrington was the primary culprit, missing all five attempts from long distance. Tracy McGrady missed both of his 3-point attempts and finished with just two points in 23 minutes.

Meanwhile, the Nets ran all over the Knicks in the second half, shot 50 percent from the field for the game, and connected on 14 3-pointers. The Garden crowd was almost too disinterested to even bother booing.

Don’t think the NBA’s marquee free agents are lining up for the opportunity to play with the likes of Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. It will take much more than LeBron to lift the Knicks above mediocrity.

The worst could be yet to come in NYC.

Report: Iverson done in Philly

March 2, 2010

Allen Iverson’s NBA career appears poised for one final bizarre twist. The Sixers are set to part ways with Iverson for a second time, likely sending him into retirement.

Citing a source close to the situation, the Philadelphia Enquirer’s Kate Hagan reported late Monday that the Sixers are preparing to announce Iverson’s departure within the next couple days.

Iverson has been away from the Sixers since Feb. 20 and also missed two weeks prior to the All-Star game while tending to his ailing daughter.

With the Sixers going nowhere fast, Iverson was pursued primarily in an effort to boost sinking attendance. His role figures to diminish if he does decide to return to the team unexpectedly.

Stay tuned for more on this story.

Recapping latest NBA Trades: Jamison to Cavs, Salmons to Bucks, don’t forget about Darko

The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, with only, let’s see, 15 hours remaining. As the rumors continue to fly, here’s a look at the deals that went down Wednesday evening.

Cavs strike it rich with Jamison, Wizards get Big Z, Drew Gooden traded (again!!!) to Clippers

Details: Cleveland pulled off the big trade it failed to execute at this time a year ago, and it could provide the spark needed to propel the Cavaliers to an NBA Title. Antawn Jamison heads to Cleveland, headlining a six-player, three team deal. The Wizards received Big Z, the draft rights to Emir Preldzic, and a first round pick from the Cavaliers. The Wizards sent newly-acquired Drew Gooden to the Clippers in exchange for Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair–yes, the young, immature gun-toting NBA bust. Don’t worry Wizards fans, Telfair won’t be staying–he will join Jamison in Cleveland.

Analysis: A superb deal for the Cavs and Wizards and a decent deal for the Clippers. Jamison will be a perfect fit in Cleveland for several reasons: He moves well without the ball, something few NBA stars today even bother attempting, and is able to put up very productive numbers without being a ball-stopper. He can score without having plays run for him–sort of like a younger Shawn Marion with a much better jump shot. Jamison is adequate defensively and can play inside and outside. He is the perfect player to defend against Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, who gave the Cavs fits last year during the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic once again appear to be the primary obstacle between Cleveland and the NBA Finals.

The Wizards are going nowhere and management knows it. Josh Howard won’t be a Wizard for long, and unloading Jamison and Gooden opens the door for Andray Blatche and Nick Young to get minutes they might not deserve but need in order to develop. Who knows about Preldzic and the first round pick probably will yield a decent player but not much more. Al Thornton (another guy who should have been in the dunk contest instead of the crappy selections) is young and has shown tremendous potential. He had fallen out of favor with the Clip Joint, but that’s likely the result of being coached by the idiotic Mike Dunleavy. The Clippers might have given up on Thornton too soon, and add another weird dude to play alongside the NBA’s weirdest dude Baron Davis. Gooden has played for nine teams during his eight years in the NBA–that should probably tell you something. The Clips won’t keep Gooden for long and will most likely turn the small forward spot over to newly-acquired Travis Outlaw.

Salmons to Bucks for next to nothing

Details: The Bulls are probably not done yet. The team freed up cap space this season and next by sending John Salmons to the Bucks for Francisco Elson and/or Kurt Thomas.

Analysis: Salmons provided the Bulls with something they hadn’t had since before I start college long, long, long ago–a shooting guard taller than 6’2″. His poor shooting led to losing his starting spot earlier this season, but he has played better since mid-January. The Bulls will miss his scoring ability and size, but in reality his nothing more than a decent NBA player. Salmons should help the Bucks dramatically this season and maybe next–his player option for the 2010-2011 season was the primary reason the Bulls wanted to move him. Thomas and Elson would provide exciting 2-on-2 matchups with Lindsey Hunter and Jerome James during Bulls’ practices.

Darko to Wolves for…Brian Cardinal!!!

Details/Analysis: In terms of salaries, this was actually a fairly significant deal. In terms of basketball value, it is basically worthless. We forget that Darko is still only 24 and might, possibly…not totally suck if he gets minutes and takes the game seriously. I’m not sure if both of these things will happen, but you never know. Darko will most likely return to Europe once his contract expires following this season. Brian Cardinal got arguably the worst contract in NBA history from Jerry West and is still making tons of money for doing nothing. He offers no value whatsoever. None.

Stay tuned for the latest updates and rumors, including the possibility of T-Mac going to the Kings…

An apologetic Barkley returns to TNT

Charles Barkley returned to TNT’s award-winning studio show Thursday night for the first time since his arrest for DUI charges in Arizona.

Studio host Ernie Johnson addressed the issue during TNT’s NBA Tip-Off, welcoming Charles back and then letting him speak on the issue.

Barkley began by apologizing and saying that his action was “stupid” and also said that there is no excuse for his behavior. He added that the mistake he made will never happen again.

Kenny Smith asked Barkley what he learned from the incident. This drew an emotional response from Sir Charles, who said that he learned how many people truly cared about him, saying that he got calls from “hundreds” of friends, including Larry Bird, Reggie Miller, and Doug Collins.

I appreciate TNT’s candor regarding the Barkley suspension. While some sports networks (Okay, mainly ESPN) would have swept the issue under the rug, TNT chose to address it and give Barkley a chance to apologize.

I don’t consider Barkley to be a great basketball analyst or a great human being, but I enjoy watching the TNT broadcast and I am glad he took responsibility for his actions.

Some may say he didn’t have a choice, which is true. But it certainly took a great deal of courage for Barkley to face the camera and say that he had been a damn fool.

Hopefully Barkley keeps himself under control in the future. No more throwing dudes through plate-glass windows, Charles.

The Return – Your Feb. 18 Wake-Up Call

pic via babble.com

pic via babble.com

Because the NBA is a sweaty, masculine place, let’s inject some estrogen into the equation. This is Naomi Watts – who recently had some full-on nude photos taken of her (they can be found on WWTDD.com).

While you stare at Naomi’s ears, eat your Corn Pops and ponder the questions of the world – This morning’s quagmire: How overrated is Dale Earnhardt Jr.? – enjoy the following links…

– If I didn’t have so much to do today, I would write more about this. But it looks like financially struggling Magic are going to borrow millions.

– LeBron James talks about switching numbers.

– The Nets, Rockets and Blazers are talking a big, mind-bending trade.

– Obama gets a huge Shaq-size shoe.

– Ben Wallace suffers a bizarre injury.

– Sam Smith writes about Chris Kaman to the Bulls.

– Jason Richardson gets suspended for reckless driving.

– Shawn Marion excited to run again with the Raptors. Marion could of, you know, dried it up in Phoenix and not requested a trade and all of that.

– Tony Allen will have thumb surgery and be out at least until the playoffs.

– Antonio McDyess is back in the starting lineup.

– One day after his 46th birthday, here is Jordan’s Six Rings shoe. Here are 10 highlights.

– Finally, Jose Calderon is a pig farmer.

T-Mac to undergo season-ending surgery on “injured” knee

tmacThe Houston Rockets got some unexpected news on Tuesday from Tracy McGrady, who told the team that he plans to have microfracture surgery on his left knee and does not expect to return this season.

McGrady’s decision could mark a puzzling end to his career with the Rockets.

Although he has missed 19 games this season while dealing with pain in his left knee, the Rockets have insisted that T-Mac has no structural damage and should be able to play through the pain.

There is no word on what prompted the decision to have surgery, although McGrady has been seeking medical opinions regarding the cause of the lingering pain.

The Rockets are in the running to acquire Vince Carter from the Nets, possibly in exchange for his former teammate and former friend McGrady. Following today’s development, the Nets will likely pursue Ron Artest instead of McGrady.

The severity of the injury is unknown. McGrady is rumored to want out of Houston, and some say he is no longer motivated to play basketball. Yao Ming has reportedly demanded that the Rockets attempt to move his disgruntled teammate.

The Rockets have yet to comment publicly on McGrady’s announcement.

Von Wafer and Shane Battier will continue to see minutes and shooting guard for the remainder of the season. Aaron Brooks will also get some run alongside point guard Rafer Alston.

Stay tuned.

NBA All-Star Saturday Night: LeBron’s announcement overshadows Nate Robinson’s Sprite Slam-Dunk Contest win

The hype of NBA All-Star Saturday night had me excited to watch the Dunk Contest, 3-point shootout, and Skills Challenge. Unfortunately, the high-point of the Saturday All-Star viewing experience ended up being the afternoon’s H-O-R-S-E (G-E-I-C-O) match.

Nate Robinson won the dunk contest for the second time in three years by soaring over Dwight Howard while sporting a green jersey, green shoes, and using a green ball in the final round. Howard’s final attempt was impressive but not good enough, as he completed his dunk by jumping from just inside the free throw line.

Howard dunked easily on a 12-foot hoop with his final dunk prior to the final round. He made the amazing feat look easy, and probably should have used the high-hoop again during the final round.

Howard failed to match last year's performance in the Dunk Contest

Howard failed to match last year's performance in the Dunk Contest

Howard’s dunk prompted LeBron James to signal to TNT analyst Kenny Smith that he could dunk a 13 foot hoop and more importantly, that he, LeBron James, will be a “preliminary candidate” for the 2010 Slam Dunk Contest next year in Dallas.

Wow.

After watching tonight’s debacle, NBA Commissioner David Stern couldn’t be happier.

I have more admirations for the dunkers than most people I know. Nate Robinson is a freak and Dwight Howard has wonderful body-control and makes the spectacular look easy.

But they didn’t have much competition tonight. Rudy Fernandez was a disaster and J.R. Smith was unoriginal.

Derrick Rose had one of the best dunks of the night – in the Playstation Skills Challenge.

LeBron’s return to the contest would restore some of the shiny luster to the once-captivating event.

It isn’t exactly clear how dunkers are nominated and selected, but Al Thornton, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, and Golden State rookie Anthony Randolph would be better-suited to challenge LeBron than Fernandez and Smith.

Stern and the NBA need to pick the right players for the competition before All-Star weekend turns into the Pro Bowl.

Who knows if LeBron will actually participate next year, but his announcement tonight at least provides NBA fans with a glimmer of hope that the worst is finally over.

Durant wins H-O-R-S-E (G-E-I-C-O)-TNT and the NBA brought back this event from the dead, and I hope they do it again next year in Dallas. Kevin Durant made shots from all over the court, O.J. Mayo made a shot from the stands, and Joe Johnson didn’t do anything impressive. Durant ended up winning with Mayo finishing second.

There weren’t too many trick shots used, and the court lacked a great deal of props to allow the players to make things interesting. But it provided a change for fans to see the players up close (without playing 1,000 dollars) and proved more compelling that the Shooting Stars competition.

Shooting Stars Competition-Detroit won behind Bill Laimbeer, Aaron Afflolo, and a WNBA player named (I think) Katie Smith. This event is stupid and needs to go away, although it is always funny to see the aging Laimbeer in a ill-fitting jersey. Hopefully this stirring victory by Team Detroit spurs economic growth in Motown following a 600 percent increase in Laimbeer throw-back jersey sales.

Bill Laimbeer in the 2007 Shooting Stars competition; There is nothing better than old white flab. (Pic via Need4Sheed.com)

Bill Laimbeer in the 2007 Shooting Stars competition: There is nothing better than old, white, flab. (Pic via Need4Sheed.com)

Playstation Skills Challenge-Rookie Derrick Rose made EVD and I proud, coasting through the event to defeat Devin Harris. Mo Williams finished third and Tony Parker finished last while being booed loudly by the Phoenix fans.

3-point Shootout-De’Quan Cook of the Miami Heat defeated reigning two-time champ and giant meat-head Jason Kapono. I would have liked to have seen Eddie House, Anthony Morrow, or even Vlady Radmanovic in this event.

I always enjoy the 3-point contest, but Cook and Kapono were the only two pure shooters in tonight’s competition. I can’t figure out how Rashard Lewis shoots, or makes any shots. His form is weird and ugly, but he still leads the NBA in 3-point makes, so he was an obvious selection.

NBA All-Star Weekend: Durant steals the show in T-Mobile Rookie Challenge

Kevin Durant scored a game-record 46 points to lead the sophomores to a 122-116 victory over the NBA rookies in a competitive and entertaining game, a rarity during the All-Star weekend showcase.

Durant, sporting bright orange Nike’s, connected on 16 of 27 shots, and made three straight 3-pointers during a third quarter run that rallied the sophomores past the rookies.

Both teams played relatively hard and the game was unusually competitive, with Durant and Michael Beasley leading the way.

Portland’s Greg Oden, selected ahead of Durant in the 2007 NBA draft, didn’t play in the game. He apparently suffered a bruised knee last night against Golden State, although the injury seems very mysterious. It is more likely that the Blazers simply wanted Oden to get some rest.

LeBron James joined TNT’s Kevin Harlan and Kenny the Jet Smith to help broadcast the first half. James looked like a fool with his fake glasses, but proved to be a capable color analyst. He talked about why he doesn’t participate in the dunk contest and complimented this year’s rookie class.

Pau Gasol joined Harlan and Smith briefly at the outset of the second half. He talked about the evolution of the foreign player in the NBA as he watched his brother Marc and countryman Rudy Fernandez play.

Although LeBron looked goofy, Dwayne Wade took it “stylish” to a whole different level. Sporting a canary yellow ensemble that would have made Fonzworth Bentley proud, Flash coached the rookie team to defeat.

Dwight Howard was the victorious “coach” and actually looked to be engrossed in the game, while Wade seemed indifferent.

We’ll post a picture of Dwayne as soon as possible, since many of you have lives and thus probably didn’t watch tonight’s game.

Stay tuned.

Elgin Baylor Compares Clipper Front Office to Plantation

Elgin Baylor served the Clippers for 22 years before he was shown the door last year.

Now, Baylor is firing back at the Clippers’ management with an employment discrimination lawsuit against the NBA, owner Donald Sterling and club president Andy Roeser. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, compares the Clippers’ front office to a plantation.

TMZ has the details…

Baylor claims the team has “egregious salary disparities” based on race. Baylor claims he was told to “induce African American players to join the Clippers, despite the Clippers’ reputation of being unwilling to fairly treat and compensate African American players.” Baylor says the owner, Donald Sterling, has a “pervasive and ongoing racist attitude.”

Baylor cites the case of NBA player Danny Manning, where Sterling allegedly said, “I’m offering a lot of money for a poor Black kid.” The suit claims Sterling repeatedly referred to the team as “poor Black kids” and “he wanted a White coach directing the Clippers.” Baylor says he personally got stiffed, only being paid $350,000 a year since 2003, when a “Caucasian head coach was given a 4 year, 22 million dollar contract.”

Here’s the best part. The suit says, “At all relevant times mentioned here, Mr. Baylor was an African American male over the age of 40.”

The Clippers fired back with the expected: “Baylor was treated fairly during his time here” type of stuff.

Who’s right? Who knows. But hopefully, for the sake of race relations in the United States, it’s the Clippers.

I have a pretty strong feeling, though, that’s not the case.

Barkley returning to TNT following All-Star break

TNT announced earlier today that Charles Barkley will rejoin the award-winning Inside the NBA following the All-Star break.

Barkley was arrested for DUI on Dec. 31, 2008 in Scottsdale Arizona. He took a leave of absence from TNT shortly after the incident and has kept a low profile in recent weeks.

Mike Fratello, Chris Webber, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton filled Barkley’s large chair in the studio during his absence.

A little kissss...

A little kissss...

As an avid viewer of Inside the NBA, I look forward to the return of Sir Charles on February 19th. With the exception of the annoying and supremely idiotic Gary Payton, Barkley’s replacements were adequate and gave the studio show an improved focus.

But Barkley’s personality was sorely missed. He is stubborn, opinionated, and not overly intelligent.

The same qualities that make him oddly endearing in the studio have hindered him throughout his life, both on the court and after he retired from the NBA.

I hope that Barkley learned his lesson this time. I look forward to hearing what, if anything, he has to say about his latest mistake when he returns to TNT next Thursday.

Stay tuned.

Get ready for Kobe vs. LeBron today on ABC

LeBron and the Cavs welcome Kobe and the Lakers to tropical Cleveland today at 2:30 CST in the second and final meeting of the regular-season between the NBA’s best.

Both teams are playing well and this should be an absolutely terrific game. The Lakers won in Boston on Thursday despite playing without Andrew Bynum. The Cavs have won four straight and have a remarkable 23-0 home record.

LeBron and Kobe should do their thing, so the key to the game will be role players, mainly Lamar Odom and Mo Williams.

Odom is starting now that Bynum is out, and has really been rebounding well. He is a difficult matchup for the Cavs, who will likely use Ben Wallace to defend him at the outset.

Williams has had a great season but has been snubbed from the All-Star team – twice. He is too quick for Derek Fisher, so expect Jordan Farmar to get big minutes off the Laker bench today.

The Lakers won the first meeting behind a big game from Bynum and Pau Gasol. Kobe scored 22 points and dished out 12 assists despite dislocating the ring finger on his right hand. LeBron struggled with his shot, finishing with 23 points on 9-25 shooting.

I expect both players to be very aggressive this afternoon. James will be eager to redeem himself after struggling in the first game, and Kobe is Kobe – the essence of a competitor.

It will be interesting to see how often the two superstars defend each other today. LeBron played Kobe for much of the game in L.A., and may do so again today. Trevor Ariza did a great job on James in the first game and will get big minutes, which means that Kobe probably won’t guard LeBron until the fourth quarter.

This game is too close to call. The Cavs will remain undefeated at home if Mo Williams and Big Z play well. A strong game by the Laker bench could key a victory for the visitors.

Goodbye Vlady, Hello Crustache

By now most of you have heard about yesterday’s trade between the Bobcats and the Lakers. Charlotte acquired Vlady Radmonovic from the Lakers in exchange for G/F Shannon Brown and former #3 pick and current NBA bottom-feeder Adam Morrison. Phil Jackson seems like he might connect to Morrison, but don’t expect him to get many minutes with the Lakers. Radmonovic will most likely piss Larry Brown off, but he could be a valuable player for the Bobcats – if he maintains his focus and effort.

Do you want more? LeBron and the Cavs battle the Knicks

Knicks fans could witness another spectacular performance by a visiting player tonight at Madison Square Garden courtesy of LeBron James.

One night after becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 12,000-point plateau, LeBron figures to go off against the defensively challenged Knicks.lebronnyyankeeshat

Jared Jeffries, Quentin Richardson, and Wilson Chandler don’t figure to offer much resistance to LeBron. Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t like to double-team, so a 50-point night isn’t out of the question.

LeBron is a showman. He loves being in the spotlight of the Big Apple, and is no doubt excited to jaw-jack with court side spectators Spike Lee and Jay-Z.

The Knicks have played well over the last month and could win even if LeBron goes crazy. The Cavs have Big Z back in the lineup but could be without G Sasha Pavlovic, who is battling the flu.

Mo Williams and David Lee provide an interesting subplot in tonight’s contest.

Both players have a great chance to be named to the All-Star team to replace the injured Jameer Nelson. Williams and Ray Allen are probably the leading candidates, but it is really hard to argue with Lee’s numbers.

A strong game tonight by Williams or Lee would certainly get David Stern’s attention.

Al Harrington and Nate Robinson have been playing well and should keep the Knicks in the game, but I look for the Cavs to win behind 40+ from King James.

After showering Kobe Bryant with chants of “M-V-P” during his amazing 61-point performance Monday night, there is no telling what Knicks fans will do tonight to show LeBron love.

Summer 2010 is just around the corner.

Feb. 6 Link Dump

MIDGE IN THE HOUSE!!!

MIDGE IN THE HOUSE!!!

Because the NBA is a sweaty, masculine place, let’s inject some estrogen into the equation. This is Paris Hilton and Fergie with their wee friend. Even his drink is miniature.

(By the way, what is wrong with Fergie’s ass? Does she have diapers on to make sure this doesn’t happen again?)

While you stare at Paris’s stoned expression, eat your Frosted Flakes and ponder the questions of the world – This morning’s quagmire: If I don’t wash my hair, will it smell? More importantly, will it look cooler?- enjoy the following links…

How about LaMarcus Aldridge for Amare Stoudemire? Sounds terrible to me (the Bulls should get STAT).

– Ball Don’t Lie 2-on-2 tourny. I’m down.

– Ok. Here’s what everyone who knows Elliott needs to do. Call him right now (as you read this), and ask him “Where the F*CK is your Big-10 round-up, asshat?” Do it. Please?

– Yeah, yeah. No Elton Brand is good for Philly. Whatever. This subject is tired. Let’s let Elton rest for a little while.

– Ray Allen gets the All-Star nod in place of Jameer Nelson.

– Apparently we’re not supposed to compare Rodney Stuckey to Dwyane Wade. Who started those comparisons? Oh wait, it was draftexpress.com.

– Baron Davis hangs out with Jon Lovitz.

– Chris Bosh is going to be out Friday night. Me too.

– “Tony and Eva Eat Out A Lot

– Cool synergy between a Celtics and Lakers blog. Which reminds me: Yardbird. If you’re reading, we need to hook up on something. Leave a comment and we’ll get down to business.

– I agree. What’s going on with the Chicago Bulls?

– Bonzi Wells is out of China, but with his (excessive) weight and China’s air pollution, it’s clear his lungs will never recover.

Expect another round-up later today.

Rumor: Rockets, Lakers, Bucks 3-Way Deal; Josh Howard to Toronto

If you believe half of the NBA trade rumors, then there seems to be multiple trades close to being completed.

Larry Hughes is about to be traded to both the Wizards and Nets. The Cavs are about to get Mike Conley Jr. And much, much more.

Oh, and Allen Iverson could be traded (Tayshaun for Capt. Jack too). There’s no one with half a brain who believes this, but people need page views, so they make things up.

Two trade rumors have caught my eye, though.

The first is a three-way deal involving the Rockets, Lakers and Bucks. There are many variations of the deal, but the basics are this, via Hoopsworld

Luther Head and Carl Landry from Houston, Chris Mihm heads out of LA and Tyronn Lue and Charlie Villanueva depart Milwaukee. There are several versions of this out there, with multiple papers now reporting it on their websites.

But here’s the thing: The Rockets aren’t going to move Landry, because he’s a solid player who provides Houston with insurance for Yao, Luis Scola, Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady. The Lakers don’t want Tyronn Lue to steal minutes from Jordan Farmar when he returns. And the Bucks would be insane to trade Villanueva, because he’s been so good of late.

This trade simply won’t happen.

Another more interesting trade is reportedly brewing between the Raptors and Mavericks

A deal being discussed would send troubled forward Josh Howard to the Raptors in a deal that would land Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker in Dallas, with a combination that could involve DeSagana Diop or Antoine Wright heading back to Toronto.

It’s obvious that the Raptors need a small forward, and the Mavs could use a bigger PF/C type to launch threes in their offense. But Bargnani has, like Villanueva, been so good of late, that the Raptors can’t possibly trade him away for an older player like Howard.

This deal, even though it seems like it would be an interesting thing for NBA site like this to discuss for a few days, isn’t going to happen. The Raptors won’t part with their #1 pick’s potential, and Howard is damaged goods at this point.

So, with all of these rumors, it appears like the only one that will happen is Larry Hughes to, well, somewhere.

I’m sorry.

Somebody Please Put a Glove Over Gary Payton’s Mouth

Gary Payton is giving Skip Bayless a run for his money. Sports commentary reached a new low last night on TNT’s NBA tip-off as GP bristled over the 2009 NBA All-Star starting lineup.

Payton stated that both Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett did not deserve to start the All-Star game and were selected merely because of their global popularity.

Payton’s comments personified the senseless idiocy that the sports fan has come to expect from Skip Bayless, who still claims that LeBron James is overrated and that Tom Brady is more dominant than Tiger Woods.

Put a glove on it Gary

Put a glove over it Gary

Let’s look at the numbers. Garnett is averaging a modest 16 points and nine rebounds, but he continues to dominate on the defensive end of the court. KG is the unquestioned leader of the 36-9 Celtics.

GP suggested that Chris Bosh deserved a starting spot. Bosh is averaging 23 and nine but his Raptors are perhaps the most disappointing team in the NBA this season.

Tim Duncan is putting up better numbers than Garnett and the Spurs are winning. Timmy is averaging 20 points per game to go along with 10 rebounds and four assists, and kept the Spurs afloat while Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were sidelined with injuries.

Payton presented Al Jefferson of the Timberwolves as an alternative to Duncan. Jefferson is averaging 22 and 10 for the Wolves, who have played better lately but are still just 13-27 and going nowhere.

The Glove stated that Bosh and Jefferson are having better seasons that Garnett and Duncan and were not selected because the All-Star voting is a mainly popularity contest.

I think GP picked the the wrong players to make his argument. Allen Iverson is having a bad season and the Pistons are floundering, yet he got the starting nod. Amar’e Stoudemire is starting for the Western Conference despite playing soft for much of the season.

I would have respected Gary’s point a bit more had he made a case for Joe Johnson, who is averaging 22 ppg and six apg for the 25-16 Hawks. Payton failed to mention Johnson or Pacers F Danny Granger, who is averaging 26 ppg this season.

I have heard sports commentators make dumb arguments before, but Payton delivered his comments with a stubborn insistence and disconnected ramblings – at one point complaining about being passed over by fans for All-Stardom in favor of John Stockton.

Payton’s arrogance makes him difficult to watch and difficult to work with. TNT studio host Ernie Johnson and fellow commentator Kenny Smith seem to dislike the Glove, creating a strange tension that is very apparent to viewers.

And then there is his language. Yes, Kenny Smith uses words at the wrong times and pronounces big words incorrectly and Charles Barkley still has that silky-southern drawl. I am not calling for clean-cut midwesterners, but it would be nice if Payton could deliver a complete sentence once in awhile.

I have watched Payton extensively on NBA TV and seen no improvement whatsoever. Unlike his colleague Chris Webber, he has seemingly made no effort to improve in the studio.

TNT should be embarrassed by Payton’s incoherent yet brash delivery because he single-handedly ruined what is normally a very enjoyable broadcast.

Call it poetic idiocy.

TTT presents a live blog of the NBA All-Star Selection Show

TTT is about to lose it’s live-blog virginity. I will give a summary of the fun on TNT’s award-winning pregame show, where the All-Star Starters will be announced. Hopefully, ESPN won’t steal the spotlight and break the story first. We will add more stuff later to enhance your reading experience, but let’s get started…

EASTERN CONFERENCE starters announced:

Dwayne Wade-Bounce-back year for Flash

Allen Iverson-Averaging a career-low 18 ppg this season and has helped ruin the Pistons

Dwight Howard-Got over 3 million votes

LeBron James-Was there any doubt?

Kevin Garnett-Has made 12 straight All-Star games.

Chris Webber begins the analysis; C-Web blames the fans for not voting for him when he was a younger and then says that the fans got four of five starters right.

Kenny Smith-Fans got four out of five starters correct; AI shouldn’t start

Gary Payton- (Talking out of the side of his mouth) says that KG and AI should not be starters. Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith rip GP, who says that Chris Bosh should have been the starter.

INTERVIEW with Dwayne Wade-He joins the bunch from Miami to talk about his All-Star selection. He rambles for a bit and says how great it is to be healthy and prove everyone wrong.

Kenny Smith has a question for D-Wade. Get out your dictionaries and thesauruses out for this. After making from of Steve Francis for being a superstar who fell of the face of the earth, he asks if Dwayne plays better with a chip on his shoulder-Flash says “yes.”

Gary Payton asks D-Wade something after a very awkward silence…He begins his question by saying “What up boy.”

Chris Webber asks Wade about learning how to be a leader. A good question actually; D-Wade answers that Shaq really helped him out by leading by example.

Ernie Johnson asks D-Wade to analyze Payton’s comments about KG not deserving a starting spot. He says that he emails GP every time that he says something stupid – this being one of those instances.

EJ continues to attack GP about his statement; GP stubbornly defends his position by saying that Bosh is less famous than Garnett but is having a better season.

Still no mention of Danny Granger, Joe Johnson, or Paul Pierce.

Ernie Johnson is trying to talk, but it isn’t working.

BACK FROM BREAK: Here are the WESTERN CONFERENCE starters

Kobe Bryant-MVP

Chris Paul-There is justice in the world!

Yao Ming-Chinese vote carried him, but he is carrying the Rockets so it seems fair.

Tim Duncan-11 straight trips to the All-Star game

Amar’e Stoudemire-EVD said this was coming. STAT barely finished ahead of Bruce Bowen.

C-Webb-Says Shaq should have made it. I sort of agree.

Kenny-The Jet wants Carmelo

Gary Payton-Oh boy. GP says that Tim Duncan shouldn’t be starting. Laughter ensues once again. Kenny Smith tries to talk some sense into him, and Chris Webber breaks in with a rant about how Tom Gugliotta made the All-Star game instead of him.

Interview-Yao!!!!!!!!!! I like Yao, he says he is nervous that Shaq is backing him up in the All-Star game. Kenny asks a question. I wonder if Yao will be able to understand Gary Payton…not likely.

Yao can speaks good English now, I don’t think he could speak any English when he first came to the NBA. He says nothing of note.

Still no mention of Dirk getting snubbed and Amar’e being a starter. Remember when Brain Scalabrine outscored Amar’e Monday? Talk about not deserving to start.

BACK FROM BREAK: Hey, Alonzo Mourning retired today. I thought he had already retired. I bet he cried during the press conference.

Aside: It is becoming really clear that Ernie Johnson hates Gary Payton. So do I.

More talk about ‘Zo. I am not sure why, he should not be the focus of the pregame show. All of the analysts love ‘Zo, the humanitarian.

Kenny Smith just said “philanthropy”. Holy shit.

Condolences go out to Bill Russell’s wife. I didn’t know that he ever coached in the NBA; apparently he was Kenny Smith’s coach in Sacramento.

BACK FROM BREAK: A shot into the Magic locker room reveals mustached-man Stan Van Gundy instructing his team prior to the tonight’s game against the Celtics. I see J.J. Redick!

Talk about the All-Star Reserves begins…Oh great. Eastern Conference All-Stars; Kenny Smith wants Kendrick Perkins at center. Gary Payton and Chris Webber didn’t pick a center. As Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith point out, that is against the rules. Payton yells out “Change”. I bet Obama would follow the rules Gary.

Western Conference; Not bad choices by the panel, although C Webb wants Durant. The argument continues and Gary Payton makes fun of Kenny Smith for being bad at basketball.

Time for a much-needed commercial; Most of the segment was spent making pointless arguments and “proving points.” I really hope Charles Barkley is getting his life in order so that C Webb and GP will go away.

BACK FROM BREAK: Mercifully, the All-Star game talk seems to be over. My head hurts, I need a drink.

Shaq Wants the Nets in Newark

The Nets have been talking about moving to Brooklyn, as most NBA fans know. But Shaq is asking why?

The Diesel’s solution is to move the Nets to Newark, NJ – where he’s from – to boost the city’s economy. Via NJ.com

“Why,” he wants to know, “aren’t the Nets playing in Newark?”

On this topic, like everyone else, Shaq is stumped. The Nets should be playing in Newark, and not just for a few lousy preseason games as the team is proposing. And the 7-footer could be a major force in making them — to borrow his favorite Scrabble word — a Shaqtastic success.

Imagine the Nets finally giving up their Brooklyn fantasy and moving to the Rock with one of the all-time greats in uniform. Imagine Shaq, after he decides to retire, staying with the franchise as a part owner, his smiling face on billboards and his hulking frame sitting in courtside seats.

The thought has certainly occurred to O’Neal, who already is heavily involved in real estate ventures in the city and has a strong interest in getting involved in the business side of the sport.

“Yes. Yes. Yes,” O’Neal said in a phone interview when asked if he wanted to get into ownership when he retired.

And if that team could be the Nets …

“It’d be nice — real nice,” he said. “I know the area, I know the people, it’s close to New York. Every organization needs two things: a great place to play and a couple of marquee players. You have that, and it’s a no brainer.”

So the player who can rescue the Nets for New Jersey is not LeBron James, the free agent everyone wants in 2010. As long as this team stays on this side of the Hudson River — and few outside the organization believe they’re getting to Brooklyn any more — James is not signing here, no matter how chummy he is with part owner Jay-Z.

No, the savior already has a Superman tattoo on his chest. Shaq, whose Phoenix Suns will play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight, also is a free agent in 2010. He might be nearing the end of his playing days, but his stature in the sport will never fade.

Pretty much the whole article is fantastic, as is the idea. I personally think the Nets will move to Newark once they leave their current stadium. Jay-Z and his ownership group are smart, and the addition of Shaq in that area – where he knows so many people, and inspires so many – would be a great move.

Stay tuned.

Time to End the Injustice of Fan Voting

Yesterday the NBA announced that Portland G Rudy Fernandez will be the fourth and final competitor in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star weekend. The rookie won the online fan voting, presumably garnering the majority of his votes from his native Spain.

Fan involvement is never a bad thing, but at some point the NBA needs to make changes to fix the All-Star selection process.

NBA coaches and players should have a voice. Letting a 12 year-old from Barcelona determine that Rudy Fernandez can throw down with the best of them is just not fair.

Joe Alexander and Russell Westbrook were clearly better candidates than Rudy, but this is a popularity contest. Westbrook has some wicked in-game dunks on his resume, and there is no debating Alexander’s athletic ability.

I assume that Rudy was nominated in an effort to give the Slam Dunk Contest a much-needed marketing and ratings boost. Although last year was terrific, the dunk contest will not truly be a main event unless LeBron joins fellow superstar Dwight Howard in the competition. Since that is unlikely, the NBA decided to go the easy route and nominate a popular foreign player.

Rudy Fernandez is a big, athletic guard but he is mainly a shooter. He would best suited to participate in the 3-point contest during All-Star weekend.

A YouTube search for “Rudy Fernandez Dunks” will not yield much. This dunk is by far the best one that I could find:

I predicted Rudy’s fan voting victory and now I am going to make another prediction: He will finish last in the dunk contest.

There will be more injustice when the All-Star starters are announced Thursday. At last check, Tracy McGrady had more votes than Chris Paul. T-Mac will lose some Chinese votes after Yao made it known that he wants Sleepy traded, so there is still hope that justice will prevail. But don’t count on it.

TNT Moves On Without Sir Charles

TNT executed a flawless broadcast last night despite being without the loud-mouthed large-stomached Charles Barkley, who missed his first telecast after taking an indefinite leave of absence following his recent DUI arrest.

Ernie Johnson opened the show by acknowledging Barkley’s absence. He explained his feelings on the issue, “We all love Charles, but sometimes you just want to give him a kick in the pants.”barkley_300_080228

Kenny Smith agreed with EJ, and went on to make one of his famous analogies that make little sense and feature several made-up words.

As an avid sports viewer, I appreciate TNT’s decision to address the Barkley situation instead of sweeping it under the rug a la ESPN.

Turner Sports has managed to assemble the perfect mix of personality and professionalism. This mantra will continue providing that Barkley is able to gain control of his life.

Mike Fratello replaced Barkley in the studio and worked well with EJ, Smith, and Chris Webber.

TNT opened the Bulls-Cavs game coverage with a wide shot showing a large space between game commentators Marv Albert and Reggie Miller. Marvelous pointed out the void left by Fratello and joked that it was nice to have so much room at the broadcast table.

I have always loved the TNT studio show and I enjoy the broadcast teams of Albert, Miller, and Fratello and Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins.

Barkley will probably return to the studio prior to the start of the NBA Playoffs in April.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how TNT continues to handle his absence. Chris Webber has improved greatly during his extensive studio work with NBA TV. C Webb may lack Barkley’s charisma, but he has a wealth of basketball knowledge that gives the broadcast an increased focus.

As I look forward to Barkley’s return, I just hope that TNT keeps the side-talking Gary Payton out of the studio.

Say It Ain’t Joe

By now most of you have probably seen the footage of Bucks F Joe Alexander hitting his head on the rim in an effort to drum up support for his dunk contest candidacy.

Instead of applauding the 6’8″ Alexander for this athletic achievement, I encourage you to call him a dumbass.

Joe’s antics prove that he has a good vertical jump, like most NBA players. But it takes more than that to win the dunk contest; a competitor must display creativity, coordination, and showmanship.

Hitting your head on the rim is just plumb dumb. The Bucks are in talks with the Grizzlies about trading Alexander, probably because Bucks coach Scott Skiles heard about the silliness of his rookie forward.

Just imagine Skiles walking into the Bucks practice facility and seeing Alexander jumping towards the rim – without a ball. That site might be enough to drive a man like Skiles to sniff some white stuff.

The polls closed at 11:59 EST last night, but I hope that NBA fans united to vote for Russell Westbrook. Anything to avoid another Caucasian dunk contest disaster, a la Chris Anderson. The final results will be announced on Jan. 19th.

I leave you with this – perhaps the greatest dunk in NBA history. Mitch Richmond will talk you through it and Tom Chambers will do the rest.

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