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Getting to Know You
Posted by Rob Peterson

Paul Pierce and the Celtics have been looming in the back of Kobe Bryant's and the Lakers' minds since last June.
-- Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

One of the more striking things about today's matchup between the defending champion Boston Celtics and the team they defeated in June, the Los Angeles Lakers, is how little the players on the two teams personally connected.

Of the 29 players combined on both rosters, only four players have any ties to each other. When they were in Seattle the Celtics' Ray Allen played for nearly four years with Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic. In 2003-04, current Finals MVP Paul Pierce and Lakers center Chris Mihm played together in Boston.

That's it. In an age of free agency and with the Celtics having the well-traveled Sam Cassell, who is on his eighth NBA team, you may have thought there may have been more. But there isn't much camaraderie between the two teams.

It's true, they both have cultures of excellence. The Celtics have won 17 NBA titles (nine of which have come at the Lakers' expense) and the Lakers have 14 NBA titles and have made the postseason 55 of their 61 seasons.

The distance between the two teams is more than just opposite coasts, 3,000 miles of fruited plains and purple mountains majesty. The Celtics won last year's title with a 39-point thumping of the Lakers in Game 6. If Red Auerbach were still alive, he may not have approved of Pierce dumping Gatorade over Doc Rivers in that game's waning moments, but he would have loved to have made the Lakers fly all the way across the country to set a Finals record for largest deficit.

The Lakers, still stung by Game 6, have obsessed about the Celtics since. It probably didn't lessen the sting when at the ESPY's in LA in July, Ray Allen made a crack about getting another win in Los Angeles when the Celtics won the Team of the Year award.

How deep is the wound left by that Finals gouging? It's been reported that Sasha Vujacic gets angry with anyone who wears green. With green everywhere at this time of year, he must really depressed. Then again, he may realize he's green with envy for the Celtics have what the Lakers want: the Larry O'Brien trophy.

But the Lakers regain their focus and get to unleash six months of frustrations today at 5 p.m. ET on ABC. The Celtics meanwhile, can't be pleased, as defending champs, they're headed West for the holidays. For a team that's started 27-2 and is looking for anything at motivation, leaving family and friends behind on Dec. 24-25 must feel as if they've gotten a whole lotta coal in their stocking.

So, as you sit down to watch the NBA's two most successful franchises renew old acquaintances, note that absences have not made either teams' heart grow fonder. Expect a Finals-like atmosphere for a regular-season game. Expect intensity, passion and maybe even a flare-up or two.

Why? Because they're not close ... in any sense of the word.

As Good As It Gets
Posted by Rob Peterson

"Let's give these people what they voted for: a high-quality athletic entertainment experience! Whoop! Whoop!"
-- Noah Graham

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Nearly a 150 years ago, showman P.T. Barnum got right to the point when it came to the gullibility of the American consumer: "There's a sucker born every minute."

After a thousand Brooklyn Bridges, hundreds of thousands of pet rocks and millions of Creed albums later, ol' P.T. may have been on to something. But Tuesday night, the fans -- the consumers -- got it right and got their money's worth.

Man, what a game between the Knicks and the Lakers on Fan Night on NBA TV. That certainly wasn't for suckers. The two teams of this nation's two largest cities represented their millions of fans well. In the first half, the Knicks treated everyone to hoop, Mike D'Antoni style -- spread the floor, pick-and-rolls, let the threes fly -- racking up a stunning 65 points. But in the second half, the Lakers battled back from a 15-point deficit and eked out a slim 116-114 win over a gritty and gassed Knicks squad.

The Lakers didn't have Pau Gasol, who was sent home because of strep throat. The Knicks didn't have the benefit of a day's rest after losing an emotional game the night before in Phoenix 111-103 in D'Antoni's return to the Valley of the Sun. The Lakers and their MVP candidate Kobe Bryant made the plays at the end. The Knicks were a few plays short of shocking the shorts off a much better team.

Here in the greater New York area, we got the MSG feed featuring the always excellent Mike Breen and the loquacious Walt "Clyde" Frazier. Like the game, Frazier and Breen were on point. Early in the first quarter, when the Knicks were "slicing and dicing" L.A.'s defense, Clyde criticized the Lakers' defense "Swiss cheese" and "porous." Late in the fourth quarter when the Lakers inched ahead of the New York, Clyde broke out character, fortitude and ascertained in the span of 10 words to describe how these tight late game situations would test the Knicks.

This game had a little bit of everything: the spirit of giving (the Knicks and Lakers made a combined 83 field goals and they combined to assist on 58 of them), drama (four ties and two lead changes in the last five minutes), and late-game strategy (to foul or not to foul while leading by three, the Lakers Derek Fisher did; and to miss or not to miss the second free throw, the Knicks Nate Robinson didn't).

Robinson was as sharp as those knives they advertise late at night on NBA TV. He led everyone with 33 and added five assists, but negated those dimes with five turnovers. Still, when he drained a three in Kobe's grille to give the 112-111 lead with 1:18 left in the contest, even the most cynical New York fan could see the Knicks pulling off this heist. But the Lakers had too much firepower, too much size and too much Kobe (28-7-6) for their opponents on Monday.

Even Jack Nicholson had to stand and cheer. For fans, the back-and-forth in this game was as good as it gets. And in his unique way, Nicholson had an interesting method of applauding the fine play late in the game as he held his left hand perpendicular to the floor and lightly brushed a piece of paper back and forth against his palm. Who knows what was on the paper: someone's phone number, a parking validation stub? I couldn't tell. I don't have an HDTV yet.

As the time ticked away a desperation shot from Knicks guard Chris Duhon, which he took from almost the same spot on the floor Lakers great Jerry West made his in Game 3 of the 1970 Finals against the Knicks, fell short.

The Staples Center crowd and Lakers fans could breathe a sigh of relief. Their team won. So did anyone who watched the game. Excellent selection this week, fans, excellent.

Now, don't be suckers. Pick us another Fan Night winner next week.

The Value of Shawn Marion

Posted by: John Schuhmann

Marion's defensive excellence often gets overlooked.
Victor Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
One of the more interesting aspects of the great season that the Cavs are having so far is that they have Wally Szczerbiak's expiring contract that they could possibly use to bring another star to Cleveland. It's fair to say that the Cavs are a half-level below the Celtics right now (even though point-differential analysis gives the edge to Cleveland) and marquee shooting guard or power forward could put them over the top.

With that in mind, I read the rumor today that the Cavs could send Wally and Anderson Varejao to Miami for Shawn Marion.

Now, what do we make of Marion, who's averaging fewer points and rebounds than he has since his rookie season? Has his value dropped in the last 10 months?

Well, I say that points and rebounds don't tell the whole story. Granted, Marion is not as comfortable in Miami's offense as he was running alongside Steve Nash. That's clear.

But I maintain that the Suns miss Marion more than he misses the Suns.

I'll quote myself now:

"Last year, the Suns' defensive rating before the trade was 107.9 (points allowed per 100 possessions), ranking them in the top half of the league. After the trade, it was a Milwaukee-like 113.0."

Of course, Marion was reportedly unhappy in Phoenix and not always fun to be around. But even when he's grumpy, Marion is long, athletic and willing to play defense.

This year (going into Monday's action), the Suns rank 26th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.8. This is why I don't think the Jason Richardson trade helps them much.

Meanwhile, according to, the Heat's defensive rating is 105.2 when Marion is on the floor and 113.7 when he's off it. Clearly, he helps their defense. And according to our own +/- stats, Marion is a +.052 per minute, second only to Dwyane Wade on the Heat.

Back to the points and rebounds. Let's adjust for pace (because last year's Suns played much faster than this year's Heat). Just doing some quick math here...

Marion averaged 21.8 points and 13.6 rebounds per 100 possessions in his 47 games with Phoenix last season.

In his 21 games with the Heat this season, he's averaging 17.9 points and 12.9 boards per 100 possessions. So, it's not as big of a dropoff as it may seem if you just look at per-game numbers.

If I'm Cleveland, I would do the deal (if of course, the report that it's being discussed is true). Varejao is also a good defender, but the Cavs aren't remarkably better or worse defensively when he's on the floor vs. when he's not.

East vs. West -- Breaking it Down

Posted by: John Schuhmann

Teams like the Thunder have helped pad the East's numbers.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Dec. 3, 2008 -- One of the more surprising trends in the league so far is the Eastern Conference's superiority.

Last season, the West was 258-192 (.573) against the East, but this season, the East has turned the tables and is 51-35 (.593) against the West.

But it's early, right? Maybe it's just a case of the bad West teams playing the good East teams. After all, the one team that has played the most inter-conference games is Golden State (1-9 against the East), and Oklahoma City (0-8) has played a bunch too.

Not quite.

There are currently nine West teams who are above .500 within the conference. They've played a total of 52 (5.8 average) games against the East and are 30-22.

There are six West teams who are .500 or below within the conference. They've played a total of 34 (5.7 average) games against the East and are 5-29.

This includes the Thunder (0-8), Kings (0-5) and Warriors (1-9), who are a combined 1-22 against the East.

In fact, only six of the 15 Western Conference teams are below .500 against the East. The other nine are .500 or better.

Two East teams (Miami and Chicago) have played nine games against the West and are a combined 9-9. The best teams in the East, Boston (4-1), Cleveland (5-1) and Orlando (3-3) are a combined 12-5, but Toronto (1-2) is the only team in the East with a losing record against the West.

So, it doesn't really look like a case of the bad West teams playing the good East teams. It's just a case of the bad West teams being really, really bad, and the East being much more balanced.

Magic-Sixers Notes from Philly
Posted by: John Schuhmann

Here are some running game notes from the Magic's 96-94 win over the Sixers at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Both coaches made mistakes in the final minutes of this game, but one of them got bailed out by one of his players. Read on...


The Magic are without Jameer Nelson and Keith Bogans. Anthony Johnson gets the start at point, and he's the one and only point the Magic have tonight.

Mo Cheeks: "I think we need to run our offense a little bit better. We need to be more patient in running our offense and swinging the basketball more from side to side."

Stan Van Gundy: "We're winning games defensively and on the boards right now."

The Sixers served a traditional Thanksgiving meal in the media room: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, mac-n-cheese, with pie for desert.

The Philly media room must have the slowest ice machine in the NBA.

Dwight goes to work.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Slow start for the Sixers, hitting just two of their first 11 shots from the field.

Two thunderous dunks from Dwight Howard in the early minutes. On the first, he posted Samuel Dalembert on the right block, took him into the lane and threw it down lefty while drawing the foul. The second was an alley-oop from Hedo Turkoglu.

Philly went six straight possessions without a score and the Magic built a 16-5 lead.

I've got the Orlando Spanish language radio announcer two seats to my left, so excuse me if at some point in this blog I start escribiendo como esto.

The Sixers' offense got going a little bit at the end of the period, but Lou Williams missed a chance to cut the Orlando lead down to five when he missed a jumper after breaking Courtney Lee's ankles with a crossover.

Orlando shot 10-for-17 (3-for-6 from downtown) in the first. Philly shot 7-for-22, but hit both of their attempts from behind the arc. Hedo Turkoglu and Andre Iguodala are the leading scorers with eight points apiece.

End of First Quarter: Magic 26, Sixers 19

The second quarter was a little prettier than the first.

Lou Williams, who has struggled this season, helped the Sixers cut the lead down to two early in the period and the score was 34-32 before the Magic scored on six straight possessions to make it a 10-point lead again.

The Magic are getting nice production off the bench from Tony Battie and J.J. Redick. Battie has 16 points on a perfect 7-of-7 from the field. He's hit a few jumpers and tipped in a few misses.

Redick is finding spots to get his shot off. He's got seven points on 2-of-2 from the field and 3-of-3 from the line.

Courtney Lee, the only other bench player that Stan Van Gundy has called on, has looked a little lost out there. As a result, Turkoglu had to run the point some when Anthony Johnson rested.

Iguodala leads the Sixers with 12 points, but Andre Miller, Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert have combined for just six. The Magic are doubling Brand quite a bit and he's unable to take advantage of a size mismatch with Rashard Lewis.

The Magic have been shooting well. But at times, the ball doesn't move that quickly around the perimeter. It can stick in one guy's hands for a split second too long every few possessions. Fortunately, they have the talent to get good looks at the basket anyway.

Halftime: Magic 55, Sixers 45

The Sixers had ice cream in the media room at halftime, earning them a two-spot bump in next week's Power Rankings.

The Sixers really picked up the defensive intensity after halftime. And on the other end of the floor, they were able to get Elton Brand (11 points in the period) going.

The Sixers mascot, Hip Hop, tried challenging Dwight Howard to a little dance contest during a timeout, but Dwight wasn't having it.

The Magic went six straight possessions without a score midway through the third and Philly closed to within two. They finally tied it a few possessions later on a great play by Iguodala. Brand was trapped on the baseline and whipped a pass under the basket to Iggy, who caught it and immediately found Sammy Dalembert under the basket for a dunk.

Orlando went back ahead, but the Sixers took the lead at the end of the third when Marreese Speights hit a prayer from just inside the midcourt line at the buzzer.

On the possession before that, Anthony Johnson ran a pick-and-roll with Battie, and Mickael Pietrus was wide open on the baseline after making a nice backdoor cut, but AJ turned back and passed it to Lewis up top. Lewis airballed a three.

After scoring on 14 of their 21 possessions in the second quarter, Orlando scored on just seven of their 23 in the third. They shot 6-for-19 in the period and turned the ball over five times. Credit the Philly D.

End of Third Quarter: Sixers 72, Magic 71

Picking up where they left off, the Sixers start the fourth with a 6-1 run to take a six-point lead (their biggest of the game).

A pair of Rashard Lewis threes highlight a 10-4 run for the Magic to tie it at 82 with just over seven minutes to go.

It remains tied for a few possessions before Stan Van Gundy picks up a T (for arguing an out of bounds call, I believe). Andre Miller converts the freebie to put the Sixers up 83-82.

On the next possession for Orlando, Hedo Turkoglu drives and Samuel Dalembert challenges his dunk, which sails out of bounds. Brand hits a J on the other end to put Philly up three.

Miller converts a nice three-point play on the break (drawing a foul on Howard) to make it a four-point game with 4:28 to go.

After AJ goes 1-2 and Dwight goes 2-2 from the line to cut it to one, the Sixers go to their bread and butter: Miller/Brand pick-and-pop. Brand hits the baseline J. 90-87.

Dwight hits 1-of-2 and Brand hits an elbow J, but Anthony Johnson hits a huge corner three to make it a one-point game again with 59 seconds to go.

Andre Miller misses a baseline jumper (which is not the shot I would want if I was the Sixers) and on the rebound, it looks like Thaddeus Young fouls Hedo Turkoglu, but it also looks like the ball goes out off of Hedo. No foul is called, but the Magic get the ball with 39.2 on the clock.

After a 20-second timeout from each team, the Magic run a quick Turkoglu/Howard screen-and-roll (going for the two-for-one) and Brand fouls Turkoglu on the drive. Hedo hits both to put the Magic up 93-92 with 35.3 on the clock.

The Sixers come down and run an Iguodala-Brand screen-and-roll. Iggy takes it hard to the basket, switches hands in mid-air, and misses a lefty scoop. The rebound bounces out to Andre Miller and the Sixers call timeout with 20.0 to go.

The Sixers run another Iguodala-Brand screen-and-roll and Hedo fouls Iggy, but they had one to give. On the next inbounds though, Hedo is trying hard to deny Iggy the ball and ends up tackling him (a foul that Stan Van Gundy would later call "beyond belief") as the ball is inbounded. Iggy converts both to put the Sixers up one with 14.6 on the clock.

Remember that Van Gundy gave the Sixers a point with less than six minutes to go when he picked up a T.

The Magic get Hedo the ball up top and he runs a screen-and-roll with Howard. The Sixers defend it well, but Hedo gets the ball to Lewis in the corner. Lewis strokes a contested three with four seconds to go to put the Magic up 96-94.

The Sixers have no timeouts left and Andre Miller's desperation heave falls short.

Final: Magic 96, Sixers 94

Lewis strokes the game-winner.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

I just realized that Mo Cheeks used an extra timeout with 39 seconds to go. Orlando had called a 20 after Miller missed that baseline jumper. Philly then called a 20 right after, before the ball was put back in play. And after Lewis' game-winner, Philly had no timeouts left. If they hadn't burned that 20, they would have been able to advance the ball with four seconds to go, down two. Whoops.

Tony Battie finished with 20 points on a perfect 9-for-9 from the field.

Dwight Howard was 13-of-18 from the line, finishing with 21 points and 14 boards.

Elton Brand had four points on 2-of-6 shooting in the first half and 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the second half.

Van Gundy: "I don't like the way we're playing in the second half. We had big turnovers. We missed a ton of open shots at one stretch.

"To be where we want to be, we've got to play smarter, but I'm happy with the win."

On his T: "Yeah, I probably would have kicked myself with a one-point loss."

Rashard Lewis not only bailed his coach out, but he bailed out Turkoglu (who committed that crazy foul at the end) too.

Lewis (smiling): "They owe me big time. I saved both of them."

"My man stayed with me for a while, but he kind of collapsed in at the last second, as Turk went to the basket. He kicked it out to me and I got a good look at the basket."

Kids celebrate Turkey Dunk with the Mavs

Jason Kidd goes 1-on-1 with a Turkey Dunk camper at the Mavs' annual Thanksgiving party.
Glenn James/NBAE/Getty Images

Posted by Art Garcia,

DALLAS -- Gavy Mays took the lesson and didn’t just run with it, he dribbled his little heart out. The boy from nearby Van Alstyne had something to show Mavericks forward Devean George.

“I can dribble faster than he can,” Gavy boasted before giving his own demonstration on one knee with his glasses nearly flying off his face.

Gavy was just one of 125 children taking part in the 12th annual Dallas Mavericks Turkey Dunk Thanksgiving Party, which was hosted by the team and local restaurant Nick & Sam’s on Monday at American Airlines Center. The kids, ages 8-18, take part in programs administered by the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services.

DARS works to ensure that Texas is a state where people with disabilities, and children who have developmental delays, enjoy the same opportunities as others to live independent and productive lives. Most of the kids were from the Division for Blind Services and others were also hearing impaired.

All of the Mavs coaches and players took part in a clinic on the practice court, and the tour of the team’s facilities. Dirk Nowitzki, naturally, manned a shooting station. Jason Kidd helped out with dribbling. Jason Terry took the microphone as the master of ceremonies.

The kids dove into every exercise enthusiastically and without hesitation. One boy, perhaps preparing for a future career as an arena announcer, took the mike from Terry and introduced some of the players. He also challenged the Mavs to bring home a championship this season.

“The biggest thing is to see them smile and hear them ask, ‘How did I do?’” Kidd said. “To be able to hear that is the best thing that you can ever hear from a kid in this position.”

Sound beacons were placed on the basket to help some kids with their aim, but the afternoon was hardly about made baskets or the four-course Thanksgiving meal provided by Nick & Sam’s. Sharing a court with their new NBA friends are the memories they’ll take home.

“The best time of my life,” Gavy beamed. “I want to come back here.”

OKC fan gets her wish
Posted by Art Garcia

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Jill Adler was heartbroken when the Hornets moved back home to New Orleans last season. She and many across Oklahoma City adopted the Hornets as their own during the two-year run at the Ford Center that ended in 2007.

“It was pretty painful,” Adler said. “We knew when the Hornets came that the plans were for them to go back. We all knew that we shouldn’t become attached, but it was impossible not to.”

Like most fans in OKC, Adler was keenly interested in what was going in Seattle with the Sonics last season.

“I honestly believed Seattle would end up building an arena,” she said. “There was no way they were going to let that team go.”

So what was it like last year thinking the NBA may never come back to Oklahoma?

“Really without any hope, we thought David Stern would understand what we’ve been through and find us an expansion team or another team might move,” Alder said. “But I thought it would be two years at the least.”

Not quite. The Thunder debut Wednesday night with their home opener against Milwaukee. Read more about the Sonics’ relocation and the pressure thrust on Kevin Durant tomorrow on

Alder can’t wait for tip-off.

“I’m still in the pinch-me-tell-me-I’m-not-dreaming mode,” said Adler, now a Thunder season-ticket holder. “I’m not sure I’ll believe it until tomorrow night.”

Warriors Make Their Move on Ellis
Posted by Rob Peterson

Monta Ellis won't be doing any high flying for 30 games.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

The way I figure it, when the time came to decide what type of smackdown they would put on Monta Ellis for injuring himself this offseason and then fibbing about it, the Warriors had four options:

1) Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion do nothing and move on: "Oh, that Monta. Kids will be kids..."

2) Suspend him, but do it quietly: "Monta, we gotta do this, but let's keep it between us, ya know?"

3) Suspend him, and announce it: "Sorry, Monta...", or

4) Void his recently signed $66-million deal: "We're really sorry..."

As you may have heard over the weekend, the Warriors chose door No. 3 and dropped a 30-game, $3-plus-million hammer on Ellis for injuring himself in a mo-ped accident and then telling the Warriors that he did it playing hoops.

Whoops. (And the Warriors brass was far kinder than Warriors fans in this poll.)

As for the options above, as the San Jose Mercury News's Tim Kawakami notes, you knew Option No. 1 wouldn't happen, because you don't sign a guy for that amount of dough and then let the guy slide when he doesn't tell the truth about almost mo-peeing away his career.

Plus, no one violates paragraph 12 of the Uniform Players Contract and gets away with it. What, pray tell is paragraph 12? In short, it's this: "Don't do anything dangerous or stupid in the offseason." But for those who want the whole thing, here you go:
The Player and the Team acknowledge and agree that the Player's participation in certain other activities may impair or destroy his ability and skill as a basketball player, and the Player's participation in any game or exhibition of basketball other than at the request of the Team may result in injury to him. Accordingly, the Player agrees that he will not, without the written consent of the Team, engage in any activity that a reasonable person would recognize as involving or exposing the participant to a substantial risk of bodily injury including, but not limited to: (i) sky-diving, hang gliding, snow skiing, rock or mountain climbing (as distinguished from hiking), rappelling, and bungee jumping; (ii) any fighting, boxing, or wrestling; (iii) driving or riding on a motorcycle or mo-ped; (iv) riding in or on any motorized vehicle in any kind of race or racing contest; (v) operating an aircraft of any kind; (vi) engaging in any other activity excluded or prohibited by or under any insurance policy which the Team procures against the injury, illness or disability to or of the Player, or death of the Player, for which the Player has received written notice from the Team prior to the execution of this Contract; or (vii) participating in any game or exhibition of basketball, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, or other team sport or competition. If the Player violates this Paragraph 12, he shall be subject to discipline imposed by the Team and/or the Commissioner of the NBA. Nothing contained herein shall be intended to require the Player to obtain the written consent of the Team in order to enable the Player to participate in, as an amateur, the sports of golf, tennis, handball, swimming, hiking, softball, volleyball, and other similar sports that a reasonable person would not recognize as involving or exposing the participant to a substantial risk of bodily injury.
(Except for title, bold emphasis mine)
(Notice, no reference to riding horses... Interesting.)

That paragraph is in every contract, and whether the players know what's verboten or what's not, the agents sure do. It may explain why Ellis may have been less than forthcoming in fessing up to how he screwed up his ankle. Possibly that, and he may have been mortified it was a mo-ped and not a Harley or a sport bike. Really, do they even make mo-peds any longer? (And, no, this is not what Ellis was riding when he was injured but because he was injured...)

The Warriors recognized pretty quickly that Ellis' injury didn't look like a hoops injury. And, alas, it wasn't. So that leads us to options Nos. 2 and 3.

As for option No. 2, the San Francisco Chronicle's always excellent Ray Ratto noted in September the Warriors had to be careful so as to not alienate their young star-in-the-making. You may have guessed Ratto didn't agree with the Warriors' decision to go public.

When it comes to option No. 4, Kawakami reports the Warriors still have that option of voiding Ellis' contract: "if [Ellis] does not regain his old health and form."

But, as Kawakami also notes, if the Warriors cut Ellis loose, someone else could take a flyer on him, which seems to be a much bigger risk than keeping him and seeing if he regains the lightning-quick form that earned Ellis the hefty payday in the first place.

(What's also intriguing, according to Kawakami, is the disagreement on how to handle the situation among the Warriors' brass.)

All of which is why the Warriors brass made the right call -- both in duration and disclosure -- with option No. 3. Instead of keeping the suspension under wraps, the Warriors went public because the fallout of suspending Ellis, keeping it under wraps and then having it leak out would be the equivalent of Ellis saying he injured his ankle playing hoops. It's far better to be upfront, no matter how much it appears to be pouring salt into Ellis' surgically repaired ankle. (I'm also awaiting word as to whether the Warriors had to announce the suspension, per league rules.)

Plus, if you don't suspend him, therefore making him surrender some money, it sets a bad precedent. I wouldn't expect a spate of NBA players to begin hang gliding or scaling K2, but what's to stop someone if there are no fiscal consequences to physical shenanigans?

Not surprisingly, Ellis' agent, Jeff Fried, said he's weighing an option to appeal the suspension. I would expect nothing less. It's an agent's job to fight for his client.

Still, for Ellis' sake, for the Warriors' fans sake and for NBA fans' sake, I wish him a speedy and full recovery. At age 22, he is a star in the making and as close to unguardable as a player can get in the NBA.

Knicks-Sixers Notes -- Positives on Both Sides
Posted by: John Schuhmann

Brand did damage against the Knicks.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images

Oct. 13, 2008 -- The Knicks traveled down the NJ Turnpike for a preseason meeting with the Sixers Friday night. I followed them down there, and I'm filing this report 2 1/2 days later.

I think it turned out to be a productive game for both teams, and that's what preseason is about.

For the Sixers, this game was all about Elton Brand.

Brand had a not-so-impressive debut as a Sixer, shooting just 2-for-6 from the field and turning the ball over four times against the Celtics (in Amherst, Mass.) last Wednesday. It's fair to say that there was some rust. And you could add that Kevin Garnett is not a good matchup for EB.

Friday was a different story.

Brand quickly showed the Philly crowd why Ed Stefanski brought him there, scoring 18 of his 24 points in the first quarter. And he had the full arsenal working. He hit turnarounds in the post. He took David Lee off the dribble. And he was most effective working the pick-and-pop game with Andre Miller. In fact, six of Brand's seven field goals in the first quarter on Friday were assisted by Miller, who picked up an additional three dimes in the period.

"Andre Miller and I, we're there," Brand said in regard to his on-court chemistry with his point guard. Miller and Brand were teammates during the '02-03 season with the Clippers.

Brand admitted that he was motivated to show his new home crowd the kind of player they're going to see this year.

"I definitely wanted to show them who I was," he said.

And he added that, in order to be effective, he needs a solid jumper to complement his low-post game.

"Sometimes, you're a target on the block," he said. "In the post, if they're double-teaming, I don't mind sharing the ball. But I've been working on my mid-range game, ball-handling, just trying to be an overall solid player."

He finished with 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 22 minutes.

"I'm definitely right where I want to be," Brand said of his preseason progress. "I'll be ready for opening night and the rest of the season, absolutely."

Granted, the Knicks weren't doing anything special to stop him. "We don't talk about the other team now," Mike D'Antoni said afterward. "We're just letting them play defensively."

(Whether or not the Knicks' defense would have been able to stop Brand even if they tried is a question for another day.)

And of course, the Sixers still lost the game, because their bench blew it.

Philly lost by six, but four of its five starters were +/- positives. Brand and Miller were both +9, Samuel Dalembert was a +5, and Andre Iguodala was a +15. The Sixers led 38-22 after the first quarter.

And they trailed by nine by halftime. Louis Williams was a -16 in just 17 minutes of action.


Duhon made his mark on Friday.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
That brings us to the positives for the Knicks: basically the final three quarters, which they won by a total of 88-66.

D'Antoni admitted that the Sixers' speed was a little overwhelming at first. "It was like stepping up to the plate and the fastball's a little faster than we thought," he said.

Well, Mardy Collins must have been the pinch-hitter that had no problems with the heater.

Collins didn't play at all in the first quarter, but played the entire second period, which New York won 38-13. So at halftime, Collins was a +25, with six points, three boards, two assists and a steal in 12 minutes.

Of course, it was more than Collins that turned the game around for the Knicks. Chris Duhon played most of that second quarter too, teaming up with both Stephon Marbury and Nate Robinson in the backcourt (making Collins the small forward, I guess).

All three, as well as Jamal Crawford (who didn't play at all in the second period), were effective on this night. The four guards combined for 11 points and just four turnovers after the first quarter.

Duhon was the star though. Along with David Lee, he led the Knicks with 19 points, shooting 7-for-11 from the floor. He got tons of open looks from downtown, and hit five of his nine threes.

"With this offense," he said afterward, "everybody's going to get open looks if we pass the ball and hit the right guy. Tonight just happened to be my night. And it's probably going to be a different guy every night with the way that we're moving the ball."

But so far, Duhon leads the Knicks with 12 attempts from beyond the arc in their first two preseason games (he was 1-for-5 in last Wednesday's loss in Toronto). And you wonder if some of their success will be determined by his ability to shoot the ball. He's a career .356 shooter from downtown, which is solid, and has been pretty consistent in that regard.

For his career, he averages 3.1 threes attempted per game. Last season, he shot just 2.3 per contest.

"This year, when these opportunities happen, I've just got to take advantage of them."


Marbury looked pretty good. He was able to get to the basket and finish pretty easily, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting in 26 minutes.

He's talented. There's no doubting that.


Back to D'Antoni's quip about the Sixers' fastball being faster than the Knicks expected...

If you think about it, the Knicks might have issues within their own division trying to play at a faster pace this season, because both the Sixers and Raptors, in addition to being better teams in general, are well equipped to get up and down the floor. And of course, the Celtics are about 30 games better than the Knicks no matter what pace they're playing at.


It should be noted that Williams was a game-high +17 in Sunday's win over the Raptors (even though he turned the ball over five times in 23 minutes), perhaps making up for that -16 on Friday. Or perhaps Toronto's bench was just really bad yesterday.


This may have been the first game that I've ever been at where the crowd was much bigger in the second half than the first. The Phillies and Dodgers were playing Game 2 of the NLCS across the street, which ended around halftime. The Sixers allowed anyone with a ticket stub from the baseball game into the arena for free.


Brand said after Friday's game that he wasn't surprised by the news that Elgin Baylor was out as the Clippers' Vice President of Basketball Operations, and indicated that he had known about it for a long time.


John Schuhmann's Court Reporters archive

Indian Wells Outdoor Game Live Blog
Indian Wells, Calif., Oct. 11, 2008 -- In less than and hour the NBA will tip off its first outdoor game in more than 35 years when the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets go at it at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden just outside of Palm Springs, Calif.

I made the two and a half hour drive this afternoon from the sunny beaches of Los Angeles to the windy desert that is Indian Wells. The ride was flat the whole way and virtually traffic free which was a welcome change from the bumper to bumper and hilly life I’ve been living in L.A.

The highlight was passing the exit to Joshua Tree National Park about 35 minutes before I got to the arena which would have only reminded me of a bar on the Eastside of New York City that shows ‘80s music videos had it not been for last week’s episode of Entourage when Drama suggests that Vince and the gang traverse to Joshua Tree to do some career soul searching.

As I drove closer to the tennis center, “Caution: High Winds” signs started popping up on the side of the road every few miles and before I knew it, I was driving through a farm of windmills all around me. Seriously, it looked like a fleet of airplanes were flying under invisibility cloaks, only there wasn’t enough cloak to cover the propellers so all you see for hundreds of yards are 30-feet tall, white, hypnotizing, three-blade windmills.

Which got me thinking, “This whole wind thing could pose a problem, considering there’s going to be 10 players trying to toss a ball from 20 feet away into a hoop suspended 10 feet in the air …”

The Atmosphere

Once I checked in I immediately made my way down to the court to see what I could see:

  • They took down the tennis nets and the judges chairs here at the garden and placed the wood court over the green tennis surface for the game. The court mirrors the Suns’ U.S. Airways Arena home floor, only the Phoenix logo at center court has been replaced with the “ Open” insignia and emblazoned at the timeline on both sides of the court is the phrase, “NBA Outdoors!”

    Flanking the court on every side are plush leather fold up seats with Suns insignia embroidered on them.

  • The Suns’ Grant Hill and Alando Tucker were the first players to come out and get shots up and as they made their way around spots on the three-point line, all they could talk about was the wind.

    When Tucker hit more shots from the corner than Hill did, the veteran complained, “The wind stopped right now, that’s the only reason you beat me.”

    A member of the Phoenix staff yelled at Hill from across the court, “You need those goal post ribbons to gauge what direction it’s coming from!”

    Grant responded, “There’s going to be no outside shots tonight. Straight to the hole, baby.”

  • While they were testing the scoreboard the final tally read Denver 100, Phoenix 96. Premonition? Who knows. I’d definitely take that over the 71-60 final score in last night’s Pistons-Wizards preseason game.

  • Even though this is an outdoor game, sun won't be a problem. Shadows are already covering the whole court and the sky is getting darker by the minute.

    The Charles Barkley Show

  • TNT personalities Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller came out on the court in their chinos and wingtips to see how the wind would affect their shooting. After Miller knocked down six or seven threes in a row, Hill walked by and said, “Stop showing off, Reggie!”

    Reggie quipped back, “Some things will never leave me,” as he showed off his shooting form. “Just like this will never leave him,” Miller added as he patted Barkley on his round stomach.

    Barkley actually claims to have slimmed down in the summer thanks to golf. He says he’s been playing eight hours a day with Hank Haney, Tiger Woods’ swing coach. Barkley said he’s been hitting 1,000 balls a day while he shoots a new television show that will air on The Golf Channel in February.

    Barkley’s shots might have been falling, but in typical Chuckster fashion he still held court with reporters.

    Always good for a quote, Barkley was rolling on Saturday:

    - “The All-Star game is an exhibition game. To do it outside, I think would be fantastic.” Barkley added that Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, would be a great place to have a basketball game because you could pack 50,000 fans in the seats and it has a retractable roof should any weather problems occur. “It would be awesome.”
    - “I don’t know what kind of fan base they’re going to have here.” Sir Charles was concerned about the stands filling up because he played in a Bob Hope golf tournament in the past and, “everybody in Palm Spring was 85-years old.”
    - “The ball’s not going to be in the air 10 seconds, it’s only going to be in the air a couple seconds.” Barkley didn’t think that wind was going to be a major factor.
    - “I don’t look at preseason as any other way other than it’s a good way to break a sweat.”

    Injury Update

  • Amar'e (yes, it's "Amar'e" not and not Amaré or Amare - he changes his name more often than Sean Combs, apparently) Stoudemire is out with a torn iris on his right eye and Allen Iverson didn't make the trip because of a left knee contusion.

    First Quarter Notes: Phoenix 20, Denver 18
    - Shaq looked active early. Even though he was picking up fouls while trying to contain Nene and didn’t even come close on two missed free throw attempts, seeing him move around is encouraging.
    - Speaking of Nene, seeing him put in seven points and three rebounds in the first quarter was a welcome sight after he made it through that cancer scare last season.
    - Dahntay Jones, who has bounced around the league like a bad check, has a chance to work himself into Denver’s rotation. While he’s maintained in training camp that his goal is to provide the Nuggets with a solid perimeter defender, he made the play of the first quarter on offense by crossing over his man at the three-point line and traipsing into the lane for a two-handed slam.
    - The feeling in the pressbox (or, should I say in the “press stands”, because we’re outdoors too) is that Suns’ second-round pick Goran Dragic isn’t quite ready to be Steve Nash’s backup point guard, but he’s going to have to be anyway because Phoenix is so thin at the position.
    - The two teams combined to take only five three-point attempts in the first 12 minutes, which leads me to believe Terry Porter and George Karl were stressing taking shots in the paint because of the wind.

    Halftime Notes: Phoenix 41, Denver 37
    - Last year the knock on Boris Diaw when preseason began was that the Frenchman had one too many pastries in the offseason. Now you can tease him for taking one too many naps on the beach and making one too few trips to the barber. The guy is real tan and has an unruly Lenny Kravitz-like ‘fro that he’s sporting.
    - I like what I’ve seen from Robin Lopez, even though I can’t be sure if I’ve noticed him more than any other player while I’ve been looking down at my keyboard because his springy locks were waving all over the place. The rookie center out of Stanford has been looking to take his patented jump hook when he gets the ball on the block and hasn’t been shy about banging with Kenyon Martin in the paint.
    - How about those shooting percentages? Denver is shooting .298 from the field, .143 from three and .421 from the line, while the Suns are putting up the paltry percentages of .385 from the field, .125 from deep and .588 from the charity stripe.

    Third Quarter Notes: Denver 60, Phoenix 54
    - The cold weather hasn’t stopped J.R. Smith from heating up. The swingman, entering his fifth season, scored eight points in the quarter as the Nuggets outscored the Suns 23-13 to take a six-point lead.
    - The abhorrent shooting continues as Denver’s percentages are at .369 from the field, .111 from three and .407 from the line, while Phoenix rests at .305, .100 and .708, respectively.

    Final Notes: Denver 77, Phoenix 72
    - You know how the phrase "barn burner" brings to mind heat and excitement? Think of the exact opposite of barn burner, and you have the perfect term to describe tonight's game. Through all the missed shots and funny rotations, you have to give it to the fans for staying to the end and keeping the atmosphere positive all night long.
    - Good night from Indian Wells. Look for my game story later on.

  • Read
    Williams for Jones Makes Sense
    Posted by Art Garcia

    The Shawne Williams-Eddie Jones swap won’t make much of a ripple outside of Dallas or Indy and that’s understandable. The former is a former first-rounder with issues teetering on “bust” status, while the latter has just about used up his NBA eligibility.

    The deal, announced Friday afternoon and first reported by the Indianapolis Star, won’t change the fortunes of either the Mavericks or Pacers. Across the league, it merits a collective yawn. It’s likely you’ve read more about Williams’ off-court issues – he was suspended by his own team last season – than read his box scores. Jones’ better days were three teams ago.

    But the deal makes sense on both fronts. Let’s start with the Pacers. Indiana sheds itself of another image problem – the PR angle of the move can’t be ignored – and adds two second-round picks. It may not seem like much, but the franchise was ready to cut ties, so receiving anything in return is bonus. Much of the same is going on with Jamaal Tinsley.

    It’s the classic low-risk, high-reward transaction for the Mavs. Williams showed enough potential in one year at Memphis to be the 17th pick in 2006. Guess who he played for his rookie year? Rick Carlisle. The trade doesn’t get done without the stamp of the new sheriff in Big D.

    Carlisle took an active role in the talks, which began several weeks ago. As coach of the Pacers, Carlisle worked out Williams personally leading up the ’06 Draft. What he projected then was a versatile 6-9, 225-pound forward who could shoot the NBA 3 and handle his own on the block. That opinion hasn’t changed.

    Dallas’ brain trust also did its homework beyond Carlisle. The team interviewed several people close to Williams. The hope is Williams has learned from his mistakes and is ready to take advantage of a new start.

    The Mavs envision the Memphis native adding depth to the frontcourt. Brandon Bass and Jerry Stackhouse should get the bulk of the minutes behind Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, with Williams fitting into the group that includes Devean George and James Singleton.

    Bringing in Williams for Jones became a no-brainer. The Mavs were considering cutting EJ, and his expiring contract, before the start of the season if a trade wasn’t struck. Retirement was also an option for Jones. Second-round picks are valuable in this league, but they can also be had for the right price.

    It should also be noted that Williams fits in with the youth movement going on in Dallas. He’s only 22, the same age as free-agent signee Gerald Green. In a way, the Mavs are treating both as first-round picks. Both have plenty to prove. Green has a one-year contract, while Dallas owns an option on Williams after the season.

    Putting fresh faces around Nowitzki and Jason Kidd is crucial if Dallas hopes to reopen its window. The last home-grown first rounder on the roster is Howard, and he was snapped up back in 2003. What the Mavs have done the last several years is add first-round-like talent in Gana Diop, Bass, Antoine Wright, Green and now Williams.

    Some ripples turn into waves.

    BLINKs Goes to the Dogs for Oct. 10-12
    Posted by Rob Peterson

    What up, dog?
    Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

    HOBOKEN, NJ, Oct. 10 -- Today, Skeets at Ball Don't Lie named this his Photo of the Day. True. But I'll take it one step further.

    In my seven years at, I don't think I've seen a better picture on the site. (Points for the caption noting that Carmelo Anthony and Fletch were getting ready for practice.)

    We've had a lot of great photos on over the years, but something about the casual vibe -- Anthony pulling up his neoprene leg sleeves, the dog looking up at Melo, who has a bemused look on his face -- the composition and the sheer absurdity of a puppy in a disheveled NBA locker room reminds me of those great photos from LIFE magazine or the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of a police officer talking to a two-year-old.

    But who is Fletch? The three-month-old bulldog belongs to Josh Kroenke, son of Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke. Eric Sebastian, director of Nuggets PR, mentioned that Fletch makes the occasional appearance at the Denver practice facility and that most of the Nuggets, including Melo, don't mind Fletch's locker room cameos as most of the Nuggets themselves own dogs. Woof!

    And two paws up to NBAE photographer Garrett Ellwood for capturing this moment. Like most great photo journalism, it captured something unexpected, new and real -- no matter how silly it seems.

    Let's look at what we've got goin' on in the L this weekend:

    We'll see London...
    -- Miami Herald

    We've seen France... (Bon appétit, Heat.)
    -- Newark Star Ledger

    We may see Shawne Williams get another chance.
    -- Dallas Morning News

    (Sorry, couldn't find any NBA story that included underpants.)

    We'll see the Suns and Nuggets take to the floor, which will be outdoors at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden (not to be confused with Madison Square or the dear, departed Boston Gardens). The Suns have done this outdoor thing before.'s Dave McMenamin will be present in his tennis whites to take note of the action, which you can catch on TNT.

    Tonight, CSKA Moscow and Trajan Langdon get a chance to visit the Magic kingdom in Orlando.
    -- Orlando Sentinel

    Meanwhile, throughout the rest of the league...

    With a dime from's own Dave McMenamin, Agent Zero is better than Jordan! Ha, made you click.
    -- Toronto Globe and Mail

    Byron Scott urges his young grasshoppers to exercise patience. Now is not the time for retribution.

    This is the second story about the Pistons adjusting to Michael Curry's new offense. Wonder if this'll be broached again if the Pistons falter at any time this season? I can guarantee it.
    -- Detroit News

    Um, do I know you?
    -- Bruno's Blog

    Ivan goes to Europe, viral.
    -- Washington Post

    Tony Parker: The Movie.
    -- Project Spurs's Bryan admits he needs to get out more.

    Z-Bo and D-Lee: two posts + two-gether = forever?
    -- New York Post

    Our best to the Thunder's D.J. White.


    Indy Cornrows caught Mike Dunleavy fils wearing some kind of awesome '70s leisure suit. I'll give him this: the man knows how to accessorize. Matching the white shades and white boots. Classy.
    -- Indy Cornrows via every NBA blog today

    Max-Plus BLINKs for Thursday, Oct. 9
    Posted by Rob Peterson

    HOBOKEN, NJ, Oct. 9 -- Just a quick whip around last night's action:

    Mike D'Antoni's debut as Knicks coach ... spoiled.
    -- NY Post

    Elton Brand's debut as Sixers power forward ... not bad.
    -- Philly Daily News

    Larry Brown's debut with the Bobcats ... ugly. (Rob, can you quantify ugly?) How about 40-9 after the first quarter ugly? (You win. That's gruesome.)

    Milwaukee ... struggling.
    -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    JaVale McGee ... keeper. A big, long, quick, athletic keeper.
    -- Washington Post

    Minnesota, amid the flies and dust of Rimrock (I think Fred Flintstone once played there) Auto Arena in Billings, Mont. ... undefeated.
    -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Atlanta ... so far, so good.
    -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

    Portland's Rose-y Garden optimism ... tempered.
    -- The Oregonian


    In case you missed it, here's Bill Simmons' love letter to Elgin Baylor. One of Bill's best.

    There are max contracts, and then there are, supposedly, max-plus contracts. Who knew? Not many, not even Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler, who, in five-(max)-plus years of covering the NBA hadn't heard of such a thing. Also, if you think Chris Paul's max-plus deal is sweet, click through and check LeBron's max-plus-plus deal or Kobe's super-duper-max-plus-plus deal.
    -- Salt Lake Tribune

    (Bonus BLINK: When I hear max-plus contract, I think of this: "These go to 11")

    Speaking of Kobe, Shaq said he's sorry and thought you two were the best one-two punch ever..
    -- LA Daily News

    Knickerblogger (please!) finds enough to like in the Knicks loss.

    Another Wizards injury hit and a description that has everyone looking at a copy of Gray's Anatomy.
    -- Washington Post

    Phoenix's one game Q&A.

    Ziller feels bad for Spencer Hawes.
    -- Sactown Royalty

    Brian Schmitz goes through the Magic roster and see there ain't much power in any of the forwards.
    -- Orlando Sentinel

    Meanwhile, Miami has centers. Lots and lots of centers.
    -- Miami Herald

    Dave D:funny, as usual.
    -- Newark Star Ledger

    Quick, someone fix I need to link to something.


    True Blue Jazz puts out a list of five stupid things fans say. Only five? You're being kind. You forgot...

    Asinine trade combinations: "How about Nick Collison, Mahmoud Sene, Earl Watson and Damien Wilkins for LeBron James?"

    Thinking you've sealed the deal on an argument by saying: "[blank] RULZ!" (Exceptions can be made, of course: Peterson RULZ!)

    Calling anyone who disagrees with you "a hater." I hate that. Plus, I much prefer to hurl contempt and scorn.

    Thinking that when you when you reply to a post, you're a "blogger". Blog flash, junior: you're not blogger, you're a responder. But thank you for taking the time. :)

    Confusing opinion(s) with fact(s). And then compounding your silliness by loudly proclaiming your opinion to be fact.

    Claiming you have inside information ... but all you're doing is regurgitating something you've heard somewhere else.

    Rebounding and/or scoring the basketball. Really? It's basketball. What else are you going to rebound and score? (Whoops, sorry, those aren't fans, those are TV analysts and coaches.)

    That's just a few. Reply (not blog) below and let us know others. And if you have complaints about reporters/bloggers, go for it. This is a two-way street.
    Thursday Notes from the Atlantic
    Posted by: John Schuhmann

    In the span of about 20 hours, I'll be taking a look at all five teams in the Atlantic Division via my Sony (with a planned trip to the Wachovia Center Friday night to check out the Sixers and Knicks live). The Nets open their preseason this afternoon from Paris (2 p.m. ET, ESPN 2), and last night, I watched portions of both the Celtics and Sixers and Knicks and Raptors.

    Some thoughts...


    76ers 98, Celtics 92

    The starting lineup for your NBA champion Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and ...

    Patrick O'Bryant?

    Elton Brand started out a little rusty. His first three touches were a missed baseline jumper, a turnover on a pass out of the post and an attempt at a putback that was blocked by Patty O.

    I've seen them play against each other before, but for some reason, it hit me last night that KG is soooo much longer than EB. When they were matched up, it looked like KG could just swallow EB whole.

    Brand is a great player, but it's tough for him to get a good look at the basket with KG guarding him. So, while I think that the Sixers will be one of the best teams in the East this year, I also think that Boston is going to be a very tough matchup for them.

    Brand finished with 11 points and four boards in 22 minutes, a good enough performance for one writer.

    Almost four months after Game 6, Ray Allen is still draining threes from the corner. In fact, in the first four minutes of their first preseason game, the entire Celtics starting lineup was in postseason form. They were up 16-4 with 8:00 to go in the first.

    Darius Miles caught a pass from Eddie House on the break for an alley-oop dunk and, as he was running back down the floor, did that double-fist to the head thing he does. Good to see it back in action.

    It's hard to tell at this point if Miles has a role on this team, and if the Blazers will be losing money and cap space because of it. But Miles feels good and is glad to be playing again.

    Bill Walker caught the ball on the baseline late in the second quarter and threw down a monster dunk on Theo Ratliff's head, setting off a KG-led mosh pit on the Celtics bench. It wasn't quite the mosh pit I encountered in the Celtics' locker room after they won the title, but it was certainly enthusiastic.

    A couple of weeks ago, Ed Stefanski told me that Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young were X-factors for his team this season. Well, if last night is any indication, the Sixers are gonna be alright. Young played 36 minutes and finished with 21 points, five boards and five steals. Williams led all scorers with 27 points in 26 minutes, adding five boards, four assists and three steals.

    CelticsBlog overreacts to Game 1.


    Raptors 113, Knicks 111

    Superman II.
    Ron Turenne/NBAE/Getty Images
    The first note I wrote down last night regarding the Knicks was "Quick shots." These guys were like kids in a candy store, feeling like they had the freedom to take any shot they liked in their new offense.

    The second note I wrote was "This could work."

    I mean, the Knicks do have a lot of talented offensive players who can knock down shots. And I'm not talking about finishing over .500 here. I just think that they have the ability to make a marked improvement this season.

    Even David Lee, who isn't really thought of as an offensive player, can flourish in this system. When I saw him running the floor last night, the first thing I thought of was the Rookie Challenge two years ago. He was a monster in that game, and playing for D'Antoni is probably the closest you'll get to that kind of style in the regular season.

    Of course, all of the above thoughts were going through my head in the first quarter, when the Knicks turned the ball over just two times. They had 18 turnovers after that.

    Nate Robinson, probably the Knicks best player last night, had a rare in-game dunk, a one-handed throwdown. But what struck me most about the play was that Zach Randolph was really about to shoot a three before Nate's man ran at him, leaving Nate all alone on the baseline.

    Note to defenses: If Zach is pulling up for a three, let him shoot it.

    By the way, that video is the first thing you get when you search for "Zach Randolph" on YouTube.

    Not a good debut for Chris Duhon, who turned the ball over seven times in 31 minutes. Alan Hahn has more on the NY point guards in his fine blog this morning.

    Chris Bosh looked sharp last night. He loves that elbow jumper and he was knocking 'em down to the tune of 20 points on 9-of-16. He also brought that Team USA defense with him back to Toronto, picking up three steals.

    I didn't catch Quentin Richardson doing the double-fist thing to his head, but I missed parts of the game.


    Maybe my favorite quote of the preseason so far...

    "Top to bottom, everyone's got to be in line, a straight line — like a Riverdance. You've seen Riverdance — somebody's out of line, it messes everything up."
    -- Kenyon Martin, via the Denver Post


    John Schuhmann's Court Reporters archive

    The Best 1-2-3 Yet?
    Posted by: Dave McMenamin

    Are these three No. 1?
    NBAE/Getty Images
    I picked up the November SLAM Magazine the other day and last night I got a chance to sit down and read Ryan Jones’ cover story on Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo.

    Jones followed the trio around during the Rookie Photo Shoot and laced in some anecdotes and analysis of their games.

    It was a nice enough read and I particularly enjoyed the part about Mayo where Jones noted how his persona has morphed from happy go lucky to staunch business man when dealing with the media. The illustration of Beasley’s desire to succeed and the breakdown of Rose’s game (according to Jones he’s more of a sane Stephon Marbury than a Jason Kidd Part II) also make the story worth reading, so you might want to pick up the mag.

    The second to last paragraph got me though.

    (***Spoiler Alert***)

    Jones writes:

    Predicting specific outcomes is rarely a good idea in this business, but a safe (if vague) bit of fortunetelling seems in order: The top three picks in the 2008 NBA Draft are as well positioned as any trio in Draft history to be transcendent NBA players.
    While Jones doesn't quite have the Sam Cassells to go right out and say that Rose, Beasley and Mayo are going to be the best top three from any Draft, he intimates it's possible.

    Here's a look at the top three picks since the Lottery era began in 1984 (Update: The Lotto Epoch actually started in 85, but we'd be silly not to include MJ in this exercise) :

    Year No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
    2007 Greg Oden Kevin Durant Al Horford
    2006 Andrea Bargnani LaMarcus Aldridge Adam Morrison
    2005 Andrew Bogut Marvin Williams Deron Williams
    2004 Dwight Howard Emeka Okafor Ben Gordon
    2003 LeBron James Darko Milicic Carmelo Anthony
    2002 Yao Ming Jay Williams Mike Dunleavy
    2001 Kwame Brown Tyson Chandler Pau Gasol
    2000 Kenyon Martin Stromile Swift Darius Miles
    1999 Elton Brand Steve Francis Baron Davis
    1998 Michael Olowokandi Mike Bibby Raef LaFrentz
    1997 Tim Duncan Keith Van Horn Chauncey Billups
    1996 Allen Iverson Marcus Camby Shareef Abdur-Rahim
    1995 Joe Smith Antonio McDyess Jerry Stackhouse
    1994 Glenn Robinson Jason Kidd Grant Hill
    1993 Chris Webber Shawn Bradley Anfernee Hardaway
    1992 Shaquille O'Neal Alonzo Mourning Christian Laettner
    1991 Larry Johnson Kenny Anderson Billy Owens
    1990 Derrick Coleman Gary Payton Chris Jackson
    1989 Pervis Ellison Danny Ferry Sean Elliott
    1988 Danny Manning Rik Smits Charles Smith
    1987 David Robinson Armon Gilliam Dennis Hopson
    1986 Brad Daugherty Len Bias Chris Washburn
    1985 Patrick Ewing Wayman Tisdale Benoit Benjamin
    1984 Hakeem Olajuwon Sam Bowie Michael Jordan

    Without seeing Rose, Beasley and Mayo play a regular season game, it wouldn't be a stretch to put them above 2006, '05*, '02*, '00, '98, '89, '88, '87*, '86 and '85* as having a better all-around trio right off the bat.

    I gave '05, '02, '87 and '85 asterisks because even though those groups of three weren't too impressive, each of those drafts featured a player who could go down as a top-100 all-time NBA player when it's all said and done (Deron Williams, Yao Ming, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, respectively).

    Assuming none of the '08 trio are busts (and I don't assume that for a moment, I think tend to think that Beasley will be a collossal flop, yeah, I know, call me a hater), then that vaults this class above '06 (might be early but Andrea Bargnani and Adam Morrison are already flirting with the B word), '03* (Darko Milicic), '00 (Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and some would argue Kenyon Martin too), '98 (Michael Olowokandi, Raef LaFrentz), '93 (Shawn Bradley), '89 (Pervis Ellison, Danny Ferry), '88 (Charles Smith), '87* (Dennis Hopson), '86 (Len Bias, Chris Washburn) and '84* (Sam Bowie).

    Again, asterisks were in order because there is no way that any top three that includes the talent of the likes of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony ('03); Robinson ('87) or Hakeem Olajuwon and Michael Jordan can be considered a disappointment.

    With that said, here's where I'd place Rose, Beasley and Mayo in my Draft Top Three Picks Top 10:

    1. 1984 - Even Sam Bowie couldn't tarnish the gleam of The Dream and His Airness coming in the same bundle.
    2. 1992 - Christian Laettner never duplicated his Duke heroics in the league, but he was an All-Star and Shaq and Zo were two of the best centers of their time.
    3. 2003 - It's not hyperbole to suggest the LeBron could end up as the greatest player to ever play the game. Even if Melo's off the court antics lead to a rocky career and Darko never amounts to anything close to the "young Wilt Chamberlain" label that was bestowed on him before Detroit picked him, The King still carries this triple.
    4. 1997 - Tim Duncan and Chauncey Billups have both won Finals MVPs and KVH made a lot of money for hitting midrange jumpers and wearing tall socks.
    5. 1996 - It might be the best class ever and the top three includes a guy who was a four-time scoring champ and league MVP as well another guy who was the Defensive Player of the Year, plus, Shareef Abdur-Rahim was a solid pro.
    6. 1994 - No rings for these three, but Kidd and Hill got it done well into their 30s and Big Dog had a solid run as a 20-points per game guy. (Update: Robinson averaged 0.7 points per game in the 2005 Finals and got a ring. My bad.)
    7. 2004 - Dwight Howard 's potential puts them here. Okafor and Ben Gordon are solid role players who have picked up some NBA hardware along the way.
    8. 1999 - Brand, Baron and Francis won't make the Hall of Fame, but they all had productive careers.
    9. 2007 - As much as I don't like Beasley, I like Kevin Durant. Plus, Horford has a chance to have a Horace Grant-like career and if Greg Oden is as good as people think he can be, this trio can one day jump up to the top three.
    10. 2008 - This seems like a safe starting point.

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