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Shaq, Mr. Classy Once Again

Alright, so I like the fun, lovable Shaq as much as the next guy, but as a follow-up to the Van Gundy flopping story, I have to add a few things. First off, I never mentioned Shaq’s rant on Van Gundy where he ripped Stan a new one, calling the Magic coach a quitter who’s never been anywhere or won anything. Just because you’ve won four rings doesn’t mean you need to go out there and attack someone verbally in such an assaulting fashion the way Shaq did. In addition to that, there’s the Kobe rap, the Rupaul comments about Chris Bosh, and the way Shaq puts down Dwight Howard that makes me lose respect for The Big Fella. Last but not least, this got past me somehow last week, but it’s so compelling I felt it was necessary to post. Witness:

Like I said, Shaq: classy as always. I understand the spirit of competition but this seems to go slightly farther than that in my eyes. If that’s not his ego showing through, I don’t know what it is.

Minnesota Timberwolves Know How to Help the Fans, Dropping Ticket Prices

In these harsh economic times, not only should cuts be reflected in the amount of money players are being paid and the revenue a club generates, but first and foremost, ticket prices. Apparently the Minnesota Timberwolves have the right idea, and for that, they should be patted on the back. Check out this great announcement by the T-Wolves, a pattern I recommend most teams follow:

The average price for season tickets will decline 18.2 percent — 11.4 percent in the lower deck and 44.3 percent in the upper deck. More than 75 percent of all season tickets will be priced at $35 per game or less, with prices ranging from $5 per game in the upper deck to $1,550 per game for seats next to the bench in the Lexus Courtside Club.

The Timberwolves also introduced a new nine-month, zero-interest payment plan for all season ticket purchases, and a “No-Risk Pledge” that guarantees season ticket holders a full refund for their unused tickets if they lose their jobs in 2009.

Those specials are for people who sign up for season tickets by July 1st, so of course there is some caveat. The team knows it’s putting a product on the floor that isn’t too competitive, so the least they could do is cater to the fans. Seriously, 75% of season tickets at $35 or less? Now that’s a very fair range right there. And I also love the “no-risk pledge” thing, just as long as there isn’t small print involved. Now that’s the way to handle your customers and reward your fans! I hope other teams take notice and follow suit.

Stan Van Gundy Calls Out Shaq for Flopping Against Dwight Howard

It was a true pleasure to watch the Suns and Magic battle on Tuesday night and see Orlando’s original Superman go up against the Magic’s new Superman. Even at this age, Shaq can still out-muscle anyone in the paint just because of his sheer size and bulk. That’s not to say that Dwight Howard didn’t have his way on offense, either. The two were pretty even in terms of what they had done against each other until Shaq pulled off an AK47 flop after Dwight backed him down for a dunk in the 3rd quarter. That really got Magic coach Stan Van Gundy (Jeremy?) pretty steamed:

“I was shocked, seriously, shocked,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of O’Neal’s flopping. “And very disappointed, ’cause he knows what it’s like. Let’s stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight.”

After Shaq got called for a tech, the Magic pulled away late in the 4th, getting a pair of big three-pointers by Rashard Lewis. It was a good game with the two sides pretty even throughout most of the contest. It’s just too bad that for all the funny and cool things Shaq does and says, he can be as equally jerky. The guy doesn’t like sharing the spotlight with anyone (unless it’s Kobe at the All-Star game and Shaq’s campaigning for a return to the Lakers), and he doesn’t like anyone encroaching on his legacy. For that reason, Shaq hasn’t been particularly nice to Dwight Howard, who clearly has taken the torch as the best big man in the game. Maybe Shaq will have a new perspective once he’s retired but I doubt it; he’s just that type of guy. Oh, and here’s the video of the flop in case you missed it:

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Pistons Finally Got the Picture, Started Rip Hamilton

Man, a lot happened in just like two days. Michael Curry finally announced (about effing time!) that Allen Iverson would be coming off the bench and that Rip Hamilton would finally be back in the starting lineup (after Hamilton initiated the movement). I guess all it took was an eight-game losing streak for them to figure things out. I’m surprised it didn’t take them dropping out of the playoffs first. Whatev. Finally someone got the picture, made the change, and now everything is right in the world.

The Pistons beat the Magic in Orlando and the Celtics in Boston their last two games. Both with A.I. out with back stiffness and Rip back in the starting lineup. Coincidence much? I think not. The Pistons are clearly better without Iverson anywhere near the court, as weird as that sounds. Oddly enough, it’s not even that shocking — my boy Matt Watson who runs detroitbadboys.com said as much to me a few weeks ago before the Pistons completely went into the tank. As Watson pointed out, Iverson may have faked the injury to get away from the team for a few days so he wouldn’t have to answer questions about his demotion.

Even though we anoint stars on a regular basis, sometimes teams are better-served devoid of big names. Aside from Detroit, the Rockets went on a six-game winning streak as soon as T-Mac announced he was shutting it down for the season. The Bucks continue to fight hard and win now that Charlie Villanueva and Richard Jefferson are the focal point of their offense instead of Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. Shaq’s picked it up with Amare Stoudemire out. Ditto with Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. Funny the way things work. Even the Celtics will tell you how much better the Pistons were without Iverson — a former MVP. They’re better off without him near the starting lineup without a doubt.

Reason 4,080 to Love Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard has rapidly become one of the more likable stars in the NBA. He’s super-strong and has become probably the most dominant big man in the game, leading Orlando to one of the top records in the league this year, and a strong record last season. Howard raised his profile in the dunk contest last year with the Superman act, and then showed what a good sport he was (and how insignificant his ego is) when he let Nate Robinson dunk over him to win the Slam Dunk Competition. And yet once again, Howard’s likability rating when through the roof when he answered this question about his pre-game ritual for the Chicago-specific sports site, Mouthpiece Sports. Believe me, you’re going to love it.

If that’s all it takes to be successful in the league, I’d be the second coming of Wilt effing Chamberlain. Seriously though, Howard may have taken the spot in the league vacated by the now “disappeared” Gilbert Arenas. Howard clowns around, is unafraid to speak his mind, has a million-dollar smile and he’s extremely skilled. Let’s just hope a knee injury (or three) doesn’t ruin his career while he’s on top.

If the Sixers Miss the Playoffs by a Game

We’ll know exactly who to blame. Devin Harris will now be known to basketball fans for something other than getting schooled on the playground by a guy wearing a v-neck sweater.

All I have to say is wow. This really shouldn’t be too surprising anymore considering how good players are getting at half-court shots, but doing it in shoot-around is so much different from connecting in the last second of a game. Wow. Oh yeah, and Philly doesn’t exactly have a strangle-hold on a playoff birth right now, either.

(via Ballhype)

Tracy McGrady Done for the Season, Vince Carter Is Not the Answer

Just as the Rockets were tiring of T-Mac’s injury shenanigans, the oft-injured scorer decided to shut it down and get microfracture knee surgery. I feel bad that T-Mac’s having the prime of his career robbed by injuries, not unlike Grant Hill. But I don’t feel bad about calling out the media members that hyped up this Houston squad like it was the favorite in the Western Conference before the season began, just because they had acquired Ron Artest. Seriously, how could you look at this roster knowing its top stars are two of the most injury-prone dudes around — T-Mac and Yao — and call them the favorite to win anything other than most time spent in the training room.

Now what might be the worst part of this injury is the repurcussion. Sean Deveney at Sporting News wrote last week that Vince Carter was on the block, with the Spurs and Rockets battling for his services. Chad Ford now says the Nets are talking with the Blazers as well. I’m still trying to figure out what teams want to do with a guy owed $33 million over the next two years, considering he no longer poses the same scoring threat that he used to. I’m not sure how McGrady’s knee injury would impact a potential trade, but I do know that despite his ankle injuries, trading Artest for Carter won’t help the team. VC is slower and not as dynamic as he used to be. In the Nets games I’ve watched this year, he’s never hit an outside shot on a consistent basis. I just can’t see a team acquiring him and really improving. Last year I was wrong saying that Jason Kidd was the trade-deadline answer for a desperate team. I won’t make that same mistake this year with Carter. As for Houston, how could you not see this coming?