Two seasons ago, before Pau Gasol really got acquainted with his new team, the Lakers lost in the finals to the Celtics. Kobe Bryant was getting a lot of attention for a back injury he played through in the conference semis against the Jazz, a series the Lakers won in six games. I called Kobe out for making a big deal of the injury, saying that he was the only one of a group of hurt star players to complain about and publicize his malady. This year Kobe has been lauded for playing through a finger injury sustained three weeks ago against Minnesota. His injury has been termed a broken finger by many but apparently it’s not as bad as it sounds. Check out this video Shoals posted at The Baseline for more info on Bryant’s finger injury — it might make you think twice:
LeBron James may have been using the basketball court as his personal disco lately but he actually had an opportunity to groove as much as he wanted on Wednesday night. Why? Because it was LeBron’s 25th birthday! It’s crazy to think that LeBron James is only 25-years-old since it feels like he’s been making headlines for an entire decade but yep, he’s only 25. He got the party started with a 48-point effort against the Hawks and then he celebrated at a club afterward. Here’s a video of LeBron James’ birthday party and keep your eye out for the Coby Karl cameo at around the 1:50 mark:
LeBron’s lucky Mike Leach wasn’t in attendance otherwise he would have stuffed LBJ in the closet for wearing those sunglasses indoors. In case you missed the game on Wednesday, there was a key moment down the stretch where Bill Belichick was serving as Cleveland’s clock operator. The shot clock never reset following a Cavs possession and it resulted in a poor shot for Atlanta on the other end. Two close games in a row for both teams, two wins for the Cavs. They’re rolling.
The Washington Wizards are easily one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA this year. With a loaded payroll and team full of talent, they were expected to contend for one of the middle playoff spots in the Eastern Conference like they had with the Arenas, Jamison, and Butler trio in the past. Unfortunately things have not panned out as planned and the Wizards are a putrid 10-20. Sick of watching his team invent new ways to lose, Flip Saunders has finally pinpointed the team’s problem: pathetic defense. The team’s head coach made some strong comments following Washington’s blowout loss at home to the Thunder, a game in which they allowed Oklahoma City to shoot 54% from the field:
“Guys want to come out of the zone and play man-to-man, but they can’t guard anybody. I can go out there on that floor and take anybody on our team on one-on-one at 52 years old and drive right around them,” Saunders said. “We’ve got to wake up. As I told them: Don’t think it can’t get any worse, because it can. There’s no question it can. We’ve got to have a sense of urgency.”
Even though the team is 10 games under .500, I’m not ready to give up on them just yet. They have far too much talent to be that bad, especially in such a crappy conference. Earlier in the month they could not close out a game and wound up losing six straight games by a combined margin of 14 points. Getting some tougher defense inside is a pipe dream, but closing out games better is a necessity. This team is much better than they’ve shown. I understand the point, Flip, but don’t get too carried away with your abilities.
Here at LBS, we’re generally some of the biggest Agent Zero fans on the web. We’re only lukewarm on Gilbert Arenas, but we love Agent Zero. The problem is that following three knee surgeries and nearly two years off, Arenas has changed his demeanor and mannerisms. Gil started off by shutting down his ever popular blog, announcing a boycott of the media, and he changed his aggressive, scoring style to a pass-first distribution game. I don’t like that Gilbert very much, and neither do the Wizards considering that attitude has resulted in a highly disappointing 8-16 start. But on Friday afternoon, in an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Gil admitted the world misses and needs some Agent Zero, and most importantly, so do the Wizards:
“My mind is not in killer mode,” Arenas told Yahoo! Sports. “I haven’t thought killer in two years. It’s like I’ve been laid off. It’s like getting an assassin, putting him in a box and making him watch TV. He can’t go back to straight killing. Now he has a conscience. Before, I didn’t.
“I just got to play. Play, play, play and get frustrated on the court.”
That’s part of Gil’s new attitude towards distributing the ball and playing like a pass-first point guard. It’s even resulted in heavy criticism from coach Flip Saunders who says you can’t just decide you’re going to get more assists, you have to take what comes. I think it’s the concerted effort to gain assists that has resulted in so many turnovers and far less points from Gil. It seems like Zero took his own advice prior to Friday night’s game against the Advil of NBA defenses — the Warriors. Arenas attempted 25 shots (3rd highest for him on the year) and he attacked the basket, getting to the line a season-high 16 times. Sure, it was against Golden State’s (loosely-termed) defense, but it’s nevertheless one of the best signs for Washington all season. I hope Gilbert has learned his lesson; more Agent Zero, less Gilbert Arenas.
The Mavericks saw their five-game winning streak come to an end at home on Friday night. Even though they were playing a tough team in the Rockets, you figure they still should have won the game. That is until you realize they played most of the contest without star Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk left the game in the second quarter after colliding with Carl Landry on a drive to the hoop. The injuries were a lot worse than how bad the play actually looked. Landry had three teeth knocked out of his mouth, a few of which wound up embedded in Dirk’s skin.
Dirk wound up going to the locker room for X-rays and to have his elbow stitched up. Landry was taken to the hospital ostensibly to have some dental work done. Let’s just hope this collision doesn’t derail either player considering Landry was having a career year and Nowitzki was having one of his best years as well.
One of the strangest, most bizarre streaks I’ve seen continued on Thursday night when they Suns lost to the Trail Blazers in Portland. The loss ran Phoenix’s losing streak in games televised on TNT to 17. To make the loss look even worse, the Suns were up by 11 entering the fourth quarter, and up 83-70 after Jared Dudley made a shot to open up the final quarter. When Dudley hit a long jumper midway through the fourth to put them up by six, I thought to myself that this was the game Phoenix would end the streak. So much for that. Portland immediately went on a 10-0 run and wound up winning 105-102. How can this bizarre losing streak possibly be explained? Let’s ask Suns GM Steve Kerr:
“It’s bizarre,” Kerr said. “What are the chances of losing 16 in a row? I know the competition’s tougher but it’s not like we don’t beat good teams on ESPN. There’s no explanation. “Let’s pin it on Charles. He brings that negative vibe all the time.”
Without being able to see Kerr’s expression, I’m guessing he was being sarcastic. Part of the losing streak is attributed to playing weak competition; Phoenix wouldn’t be losing 17 in a row if they were playing the likes of Memphis and Oklahoma City on TNT. But even against good competition, they still should win a few games. Another note is that the team has been on the road for 11 of the 17 games which makes winning more difficult. Lastly, the team tanked once they acquired Shaq and altered the team’s gameplan. The streak began shortly after he was acquired. Then again, it’s continued this year even since he was traded. I don’t know what the reason is for this phenomenon but the Thursday night losers need to start winning in primetime.
While most sports fans were busy focusing on week 14 of the NFL season, there were a few NBA games going on. In one, the Cavs beat the Thunder in Oklahoma City and LeBron James went into the stands to grab a french fry from a fan. In the earliest game on the schedule, the Raptors spanked the Rockets in Toronto. The game was pretty much a blowout from the start and Trevor Ariza’s putrid shooting performances didn’t help matters. Ariza went 0-9 from the field and 1-2 at the line, giving him one point in the game midway through the third. At that point, Ariza’s frustration got the best of him. Check out his reaction as he throws an elbow at DeMar DeRozan:
Let me see if I can add things up here: you’re frustrated that you’re having a cold shooting game, and then a rookie pokes the ball away from you and steals it so your natural reaction is to throw an elbow? Why is that, is it DeMar DeRozan’s fault that Trevor Ariza and the Rockets were stinking? Ariza should know better than to behave like this. Maybe a one game suspension will remind him of the type of sportsmanship the NBA expects of its players.