Saturday, January 29, 2011

2011 NBA All-Stars Roster

It's the mid-season, which only means that the ALL-STARS is near! Here's the roster of the five starters of the East and the West conferences:

2011 Eastern Conference All-Stars

LeBron James [Miami Heat]

Amar'e Stoudemire [New York Knicks]

Dwayne Wade [Miami Heat]

Derrick Rose [Chicago Bulls]
Dwight Howard [Orlando Magic]
Head Coach: TBD

2011 Western Conference All-Stars

Kevin Durant [Oklahoma City Thunder]
Carmelo Anthony [Denver Nuggets]

Kobe Bryant [LA Lakers]

Chris Paul [New Orleans Hornets]
Yao Ming [Houston Rockets]
Gregg Popovich [Head Coach]

And oh, no questions asked, I'm going for the WEST!

My Technorati

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kobe on Laker's Defense

Kobe Bryant wasn’t about to disparage Jerry West for saying the Los Angeles Lakers are “getting long in the tooth.” He just begged to differ.

West, a Hall of Fame player and former Lakers general manager, suggested last week at a speech in Orange County that there’s a connection between the Lakers’ age and their consistency on defense.

Ten of the Lakers are 30 or older, including starters Bryant (32), Derek Fisher (36), Ron Artest (31) and Pau Gasol (30).

“If there’s a loose ball now, how often do they get to it? The reason you can’t play defense is because you can’t,” West was quoted as saying by the Orange County Register.

Asked about West’s comments after the Lakers routed Utah 120-91 on Tuesday night, Bryant said, “We’ve been pretty good on defense all year. The numbers don’t lie.”

The Lakers have given up 100 points or fewer in 15 of their last 18 games.

Coach Phil Jackson resorted to sarcasm, saying, “I went out and bought Omega 3s right away. I knew I needed something youthful.”

The Lakers certainly clamped down on the Jazz, who have lost a season-high five straight games. They held Utah to 42 percent shooting.

“They didn’t look old, they didn’t look tired and they didn’t look like they couldn’t play defense to me,” Utah guard Deron Williams said.

West predicted the age of the two-time defending NBA champions will catch up to them.

“I don’t think the Lakers will be good for much longer. You can keep a car running for a long time by changing the tires, etc. But you can’t change a player’s tires,” he said.


Game Preview: Spurs-Jazz

The Utah Jazz are likely excited about returning home following a winless five-game road trip.

They’re probably not too thrilled, however, to see who’s waiting for them.

The NBA-best San Antonio Spurs, who expect to have Tim Duncan in their lineup, look to hand the scuffling Jazz a sixth straight defeat Wednesday night.

After winning five of its first seven games of January, Utah (27-18) set off on a week-long trip featuring several favorable matchups. The Jazz failed to pick up a single victory, however, losing to last-place teams Washington and New Jersey, as well as Boston, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The loss to the Lakers on Tuesday was especially embarrassing. Utah fell behind by 17 points in the first quarter, 28 in the second and ended up losing 120-91.

“We’ve lacked chemistry and continuity on offense and on defense and we’re not trusting each other,” Deron Williams said. “We couldn’t execute and we couldn’t get stops against teams with the worst records in the NBA, and coming in to play one of the better teams in the league, it got ugly.”

A sluggish offense has been the biggest reason for Utah’s longest skid since dropping six straight Dec. 4-14, 2007.

The Jazz are averaging 91.6 points in the last five games after averaging 118.3 in winning their previous three. Getting their offense on track could be difficult against a Spurs team that has held nine of its last 10 opponents to 97 points or fewer.

While Utah, 12-4 at home since Nov. 22, has dropped each of its last five games, San Antonio has just five losses in its last 30 contests.

Part of the reason the Spurs (38-7) have been so successful is they’ve managed to avoid injury, playing with the same starting five in every game this season. It looked like that streak could be in jeopardy, though, when Duncan left Monday’s 113-102 win over Golden State with a left knee injury.

Duncan was setting a pick in the second quarter when he turned to roll to the basket and his knee buckled slightly. The 12-time All-Star fell to the floor and had to be helped up before eventually walking to the locker room under his own power.

The injury doesn’t seem as serious as it originally appeared, as Duncan returned to start the third quarter. Diagnosed with a hyperflexed left knee, Duncan played his usual minutes, finished with 16 points and seven rebounds and showed no signs of being hobbled.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Gregg Popovich said. “He just kind of hyperextended it, but he said it felt good, worked it out and said it was good. He’s his own best judge.”

With Monday’s victory, the Spurs clinched the Western Conference’s best record through Feb. 6, meaning Popovich will coach the West in the All-Star game.

The All-Star game’s starting lineups will be announced Thursday, and there’s a chance Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker could be named to the West’s roster.

Ginobili, who averages a team-high 18.6 points, had 20 points and seven assists against the Warriors, with Parker adding 18 points and 11 assists.

Parker had 24 points and seven assists to lead the Spurs to a 94-82 win in Utah on Nov. 19, while Duncan had 19 points and 14 rebounds, as San Antonio snapped a four-game losing streak in the series.

Williams, fourth in the NBA with an average of 9.4 assists, had 23 points for the Jazz in the first meeting but matched a season low with five assists. Utah is 1-9 when Williams has six or fewer assists.


Mid-Season Report Card: San Antonio Spurs

Just this previous weekend, I was lucky enough to have watched the Mid-Season report card of the San Antonio Spurs and all other teams in the Western Conference. The three guests were Sekou, 3-D, and Mr Scott [I should've taken note of their full names] and they gave their grades on the San Antonio Spurs.

It was three straight As, which was GREAT news for me. However, I know the Spurs are good offensively this season. The Big Three are sure in their best shapes. But I also know that the Spurs are GREAT defensively. I just hope that that end won't let them lose games come playoffs time.

I so love the Spurs and I want to see them in The Finals. They simply have to bring their A-game on  the defensive end because - defense wins.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Popovich Named West Coach for All-Star game

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will coach the West team in the All-Star game after leading San Antonio to the NBA’s best record.

Popovich has guided the Spurs to a 38-7 start, the best in franchise history. The Spurs have been rejuvenated behind Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili staying healthy for the first time in three seasons.

Popovich also coached the West All-Stars in 2005.

The All-Star game is Feb. 20 in Los Angeles. The coach for the Eastern Conference has not yet been announced.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

James Missing Two Straight Games

LeBron James was out of the Miami Heat’s lineup against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, missing his second straight game because of a sprained left ankle.

James went to the court at the United Center, did some shooting and even tried a couple of dunks before the game, then was declared inactive.

James, who is averaging 25.4 points in his first season with Miami, was hurt late in the Heat’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night and sat out their 130-102 loss at Denver on Thursday.

James Jones was in the starting lineup in James’ spot.

The Heat are 1-2 this season when one of their top three players—James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh — is not in the lineup.

The Bulls were one of the teams that courted James and Wade during last summer’s free agent bonanza.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Forever Rivals, Shaq, Duncan Chase 5th Title

The words about Shaquille O’Neal sounded strange tumbling out of Tim Duncan’s mouth, something between marvel and melancholy. Once, this would’ve been a night about them, the two best teams in basketball centered upon the Russell and Chamberlain of a generation.

“We’re the two godfathers now,” Duncan said on Wednesday night. “We’re the old players of the league. A lot of history together.”

His words trailed away. “…So much history together, so many battles,” he finally said.

Out of the gloom of back-to-back losses, the bungling of a final possession in a 105-103 loss at the Garden, something of a smile creased Duncan’s face. They’ve never been buddies, but they’re forever bonded, forever linked.

Shaq was Duncan’s alter ego, the bigger-than-life cartoon character with peerless power and charisma. He was the comedian and chameleon, a force of nature and humanity. Duncan was the proud, private star full of fundamentals and free of flash.

What made O’Neal and Duncan so compelling, such an epic clash, were the ways they flourished in complete contrast.

“I imagine it was a little like what made Wilt and Russell such a great matchup,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said.

Together, they won eight championships and three MVP trophies and owned the NBA for more than a decade. Yes, it was all about them and now the clock’s ticking down and Duncan sighs, “We both realize there’s a lot of years behind us, and we don’t have a lot of years in front of us. We’re enjoying this time left, these situations we have here.”

Chances to be champions, again.

They find themselves in circumstances that career and life choices left them: Duncan is 34 years old, his knees going and these remade and recast Spurs trying to win one more title in the twilight of his greatness. Shaq is 38 and a pure mercenary-for-hire now. From Phoenix to Cleveland to Boston, he’s chasing a fifth ring to surpass Duncan. They’re the most fascinating contrast of a generation, two superstars who traveled such parallel professional and personal paths. They crossed once more on Wednesday, and together they would be the backdrop of an NBA Finals the league office wouldn’t want again.

Television wants the Lakers-Heat, but the Spurs have the West’s best record and the Celtics still have the East’s deepest, most complete team. Shaq can still be a factor for the Celtics, but he’s an afterthought within a system blessed with so many stars. For the Spurs, how Duncan fits is a far more complex issue. This franchise is centered upon his stature, but everything no longer goes through him. Over a decade ago, Duncan would come into David Robinson’s life and start to phase him out. This time, there’s no star, young 7-footer, but a bold change of direction out of coach Gregg Popovich to play fast with so much speed and athleticism. In a lot of ways, the Spurs are leaving Duncan in the dust.

“Occasionally, Tim will give that look like, ‘Throw me the ball,’ but I don’t think Pop has spent 15 minutes trying to convince him of the different direction,” Buford said. “I don’t think Pop has spent much, if any, energy trying to convince Tim to play a different way.”

As much as anything, that’s a product of Duncan’s DNA and character. Deep down, Duncan understands his declining knees and need for reduced minutes make it necessary for Popovich to turn the ball over to Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the rest of these go-go Spurs. Nevertheless, Duncan is a product of the Spurs and he’s able to call upon the professionalism and grace of Robinson’s twilight.

“It happened with David, and Tim saw how David handled it,” said Malik Rose, an old Spurs teammate. “Of course it bothered David, and it probably bothers [Tim] too. But he’s going to find a way to do what he does in whatever role he’s given.”

O’Neal, a military child, spent most of his childhood in San Antonio. He insisted Robinson had dismissed him as a young kid once, but few ever completely believed the veracity of that story. Nevertheless, Shaq turned it into a device to disparage Robinson in the pros. O’Neal manufactured disdain for so many opponents – and still does – but never could muster it for Duncan. “He had too much respect for Tim,” Rose said.

In a lot of ways, Duncan had a discipline and staying power that Shaq never did. In so many ways, Duncan and the Spurs were the perfect foils for the early 2000s Lakers dynasty. Duncan stayed with the Spurs to chase that fifth title, and now Shaq comes to the Celtics near the end of his career. Once LeBron James bailed on the Cavaliers in the playoff series against Boston a year ago, Shaq privately believed coach Mike Brown should’ve gone through him. He still commands a double team, still imposes a presence, but he couldn’t have carried that team – never mind this one now.

“The ego that makes them great makes it hard for them to ever buy into anything but that they’re still the most dominant player going,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “You don’t want to dash that in a player. But I think it’s an easier sell [with Shaq] coming out of the Cleveland and Phoenix seasons. The thing is now, though: He really wants to win.”

O’Neal has been terrific with the Celtics, and they’ll need him for a title run. For the Spurs, they’ll need Duncan even more. For everything that’s changed for San Antonio, for all the nights now that Duncan isn’t much of a factor, it’s all designed to leave him fresher for the playoff grind. Perhaps these younger Spurs will race San Antonio into the playoffs, but they’ll still lean on Duncan to get themselves to the finish line.

“He’s not going to do all the things he’s done in past years … [but] we know what he can do on the floor based on the situation, the score, who’s guarding him and what we need,” Popovich said. “He always makes pretty damn good decisions.”

The best he ever made was never leaving the Spurs, never turning into a vagabond chasing that final title like Shaq. Maybe this time, they won’t be fighting to get out of the West. Maybe this time, they’ll fight for a championship. Maybe that’s the curtain call, the final bow. Tim Duncan had to laugh on Wednesday night.

“All the playoff battles, all the All-Star games, we’ve been through a lot together,” he said. “The two of us, we’re as old as time.”

And just maybe, come this spring in the winter of these forever careers, it’ll be the two of them in the Finals for old times’ sake.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

2010-11 NBA Season: Ginobili leads Spurs past Pacers

The San Antonio Spurs’ typically potent offense struggled at times against the Indiana Pacers. Their defense made up for it, though.

The Spurs held the Pacers to 1-for-15 shooting in the fourth quarter to win 90-87 and snap a two-game skid. Roy Hibbert had a chance to give the Pacers the lead in the closing seconds, but his hook shot fell short.

“We got the win,” San Antonio guard George Hill, an Indianapolis native, said. “Our veterans stepped up when we needed to, and that’s all that matters.”

According to STATS Inc., Indiana’s one field goal in the fourth quarter was the fewest the Pacers have made in a quarter in at least 19 years. STATS’ records go back to the 1991-92 season.

“It’s never just great defense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “They missed some shots also. Sometimes you don’t make shots. That was part of it. I thought our intensity level, our physicality, got better. I thought we had a good mix on the court that reacted well.”

Manu Ginobili scored 25 points, Tim Duncan had 15 points and 15 rebounds and Hill scored 16 points for the Spurs, who overcame a 15-point deficit to become the first team in the league to win 30 games.

The Spurs were unhappy with the way they played late in a 105-103 loss to Boston on Wednesday and were determined to play better against the Pacers.

“We lost the other night in Boston at the end of the third quarter and the end of the fourth quarter when we didn’t close,” Popovich said. “We turned it over, we imploded defensively, didn’t execute on offense.”

Tyler Hansbrough had career highs of 23 points and 12 rebounds in his first start of the season for the Pacers.

“He almost took the game away from us,” Popovich said. “We couldn’t find anybody to guard him. He ripped us up tonight.”

The Pacers have lost five of six.

“I’m very disappointed for our guys,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We played a solid defensive game. For them to come back and beat us, it’s painful. They took their defense to a whole different level in the fourth quarter.”

Indiana led 87-83 in the fourth quarter when Hill scored and was fouled. He made the free throw to cut Indiana’s lead to 87-86 with 1:07 to play.

San Antonio rebounded a miss by Mike Dunleavy and took a timeout with 23.1 seconds remaining. Ginobili drove to the basket and was fouled by Jeff Foster with 15.7 seconds to play. He made both free throws to give the Spurs their first lead of the quarter.

After Hibbert’s miss, the Pacers were forced to foul. Tony Parker made two free throws with 0.8 seconds left to make it 90-87. Indiana’s James Posey missed a 3-pointer from the left corner in his only action of the game as time expired.

“We had them down and led them up,” Indiana point guard Darren Collison said. “We just can’t seem to find a way to close a game out. We have to keep working at that until we get it right.”

The Pacers led for most of the first half, but Ginobili scored eight straight points to turn a 44-40 deficit into a 48-44 lead for the Spurs. Granger made a 3-pointer as time expired in the first half to trim San Antonio’s lead to 48-47 at the break.

Hansbrough hit back-to-back shots, then Granger drained a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 60-55 lead.

Indiana extended the lead through the rest of the quarter and began to play to the crowd. Dunleavy faked a behind-the-back pass, kept the ball and laid it in to give Indiana a 75-60 lead. Hansbrough had 12 points and six rebounds in the third quarter to help the Pacers take a 75-64 lead at the end of the period.

Gary Neal’s 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter cut Indiana’s lead to 75-69 and caused the Pacers to call timeout. Indiana didn’t make a field goal in the quarter until Dunleavy made a floater with 6:41 left, and the Pacers didn’t make another field goal the rest of the game.

“They just kept playing the game,” Popovich said of his Spurs. “That’s a great sign. We’ve done that several times this year. That’s what a team really needs to sustain in this league. We’re fortunate to get that win tonight.”

by Cliff Brunt

Friday, January 07, 2011

2011 NBA All-Stars: 2 Heat, 2 Celtics on Pace to Earn All-Star starts

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Heat and Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo of the Celtics are on pace to be voted as starters for the NBA All-Star game.

Garnett and Rondo remained in second place at their positions behind the Heat duo in the third voting returns announced Thursday. Orlando center Dwight Howard is the other leader among Eastern Conference players and has the most votes of any player in the conference.

The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant is the top overall vote-getter for the game in his home Staples Center on Feb. 20. The Hornets’ Chris Paul at the other guard and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Denver’s Carmelo Anthony at forward are the other West leaders, while Houston’s Yao Ming has a sizable lead at center despite being out for the season with a foot injury.

Boosted by the huge online vote total he receives from fans in his native China, Yao was voted as a starter the first seven years of his career, from 2003-09. He was not on the ballot last season, when he was out for the year with an injury.

If an injured player is voted to start, Commissioner David Stern chooses an injury replacement for the roster and the conference’s coach tabs a reserve to start.

Starters will be announced Jan. 27.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010-11 NBA Season: Lakers and Suns Preview

Kobe Bryant knows how to motivate the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers, but coach Phil Jackson still wants to see further improvement.

A visit to the struggling Phoenix Suns could help.

The Lakers look to build on one of their best performances in nearly three weeks when they face the Suns on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles (24-11) is trying to turn around a sluggish 3-4 stretch that has seen its losses come by an average of 17.3 points, including a stunning 104-85 home loss to Memphis on Sunday.

The Lakers bounced back in impressive fashion Tuesday, beating Detroit 108-83 after Bryant gave his teammates some advice in dealing with the growing criticisms of the two-time reigning NBA champions.

“I told the guys, ‘Listen to how everyone is talking about you. You have to use it as fuel for motivation,’” Bryant said. “It’s early, we just continue to play, take our time. The playoffs aren’t tomorrow.”

Jackson feels there’s still more work to do for Los Angeles to turn things around. However, the Lakers’ struggles haven’t done much damage to their lead atop the Pacific Division - 8 1/2 games ahead of second-place Phoenix (14-18).

“We have to really turn it around,” Jackson said. “One game is not the end of this situation.”

Continued success in the defensive end could go a long way in spurring Los Angeles. The team held the Pistons to 3 for 13 shooting from 3-point range while forcing 19 turnovers that led to 25 points - 17 more than Sunday.

Bryant is getting closer to another milestone after his 17 points Tuesday moved him past Dominique Wilkins into 10th on the NBA’s career scoring list with 26,671. The 12-time All-Star is 39 points shy of Oscar Robertson in ninth place.

Bryant has reached 40 points once this season, getting 41 in a loss to Indiana on Nov. 28. He topped that plateau eight times last season, including seven by this stage.

Bryant is averaging 29.9 points in his last seven meetings with Phoenix, and the Lakers have won 10 of the last 14 matchups.

They won 114-106 in their last visit to US Airways Center on Oct. 29 behind 25 points from Bryant.

The Suns have dropped nine of 12 while giving up an average of 105.2 points over that span. That’s actually an improvement from the 108.4 points per game they’re surrendering on the season.

Phoenix has been much better defensively over the last two games, allowing 40.6 percent shooting - 28.1 from 3-point range. However, the Suns have just one win to show for that improvement as they followed Friday’s 92-75 win over Detroit with a 94-89 loss at Sacramento on Sunday.

That defeat came despite a perfect shooting performance from Steve Nash, who was 8 of 8 from the field - including a pair of 3s. He also hit both free throws to finish with 20 points and 12 assists against the Kings.

Nash wasn’t close to being that productive in the most recent home meeting with the Lakers, making 3 of 9 shots for eight points while dishing out nine assists. He was much better at Los Angeles in a 121-116 win on Nov. 14, scoring 21 points with 13 assists.

Vince Carter is averaging 18.0 points over three games since being acquired from Orlando as part of a six-player deal last month. The swingman scored 25 points for the Magic in a win over the Lakers on March 7.

by Nicolino Dibenedetto