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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?

Video: Zach Randolph Ejected for Punching Ponytailed Player on Suns

Alternate title to the post: frustrations of surrendering 81 points in the first half are manifested through Zach Randolph’s fist. Yes, the Clippers got destroyed on Tuesday night by the new-look Suns who shot 62% from the field in their first game without the recently fired Terry Porter. The ejection for Randolph actually came in the 1st quarter when he threw a left hook at that Phoenix Mercury player who wears his hair in a bun, aka Louis Amundson. Just taking one look at Amundson is enough reason to deck him, so I totally understand Randolph’s position here. I’m guessing the league won’t.

I didn’t even have to see it to realize how severe the punch was; I was listening to the game in my car and Clippers’ radio announcer Brian Sieman was all over the thing, quick to proclaim that Randolph would for sure be out of the lineup their next game after that act. I have no doubt that will be the case.

About Time Terry Porter Got Fired

The amount of coaches facing the firing squad this year in the NBA has been pretty stunning. For the most part, I’ve sided with the coaches, expressing support of Reggie Theus and Marc Iavaroni after they got canned. In both cases, the coaches didn’t have much talent on their roster, and in the case of Theus, injuries cost him his best player most of the year. Now Terry Porter on the other hand, I firmly believe needed to be fired. The demise of the Suns probably dates back to the forearm shiver by Robert Horry that cost them the playoff series against the Spurs, setting off a chain reaction of Shawn Marion getting traded for Shaq and Mike D’Antoni leaving for the Big Apple. Things were going to be different this year with D’Antoni gone and Shaq around to slow down the offensive style, but I never expected the team to be as disappointing as they’ve been.

Phoenix wasn’t too bad to start the season, getting wins against good teams like Portland, Dallas, Denver, and Orlando. Lately however, the Suns have totally sucked. It could be due to the tribulations of a long road trip, but this team hasn’t had a quality win in a month. And to cap things off, Phoenix got completely run off the floor the last two games before the All-Star break. The road losses to the Knicks and Bobcats last month really alarmed me, and then seeing them lose easily at home to the Bulls a few weeks — a team that has no inside presence — really sealed the deal for me. You can tell that Porter hasn’t found the right mix and can’t decide what style they need to be playing. Furthermore, he hasn’t helped this team a lick defensively; opponents throw in over 100 against them with ease.

And last week, when the team got wiped by Philly, they were down 14 after three quarters, a margin not impossible to overcome in the NBA. Porter pulled his stars and really lost them after that, from what I hear. Things were not going to turn around under Porter so it’s about time he got canned. It’s Phoenix’s only hope to become a semi-threat in the playoffs; before, they weren’t even a factor.

All Grownz Up? Allen Iverson Cuts His Braids/Corn Rows

This must just be the year of change, because first it was Carmelo Anthony cutting his corn rows, and now Allen Iverson came out with the ultimate shocker at All-Star weekend — he cut his trademark braids. I almost saw this coming a year ago when Iverson played in Philly as a Denver Nugget for the first time and talked about how much he had matured. I totally bought it. He’s grown up, he’s older, he has kids, he’s no longer a bad boy. And he even cut his hair to prove it. I’m not saying that having braids makes you a delinquent, but clearly Iverson’s actions show that he wanted to change his image (or a new hairstyle). The reaction from Iverson’s fellow All-Stars in Phoenix was pretty humorous as you might expect — they certainly chided him for it:

Now if only A.I. could go back to the way he balled 10 years ago then he’d be OK. If his basketball skills haven’t already shown you that he’s changed, then the haircut certainly has. There won’t be too many teams pounding on his door when he becomes a free agent this offseason, and that’s putting aside the summer of 2010. Iverson with braids since ’93? My goodness that’s a long time.

(via Ballhype)