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George Karl Rips Pau Gasol Trade

To refresh your memory, first it was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich who bashed the Pau Gasol trade, saying there should be a trade committee that must approve deals. Pretty much anyone who’s seen the Lakers play since Pau (long as you’re not a Lakers fan) has to be upset with Memphis for giving up Pau for nearly nothing. Count Nuggets coach George Karl as one still in disbelief over the trade, as he mentioned to ESPN in an interviewed aired during the Nuggets/Spurs game Friday night:

“I’m with Pop on the Gasol trade. [The Nuggets media relations director] told me about the trade, I said ‘the league can’t let that happen. There’s no way.’ That’s not going to happen. I swear, I said ‘there’s no way that’s happening.’ It was like a gift — Christmas come early. It was a surprise package underneath the tree.”

We’ve broke down some of the recent one-sided deals in the NBA back when Popovich made his comments, but at least some of those teams were getting back at least one useful player, as opposed to Memphis which really got nothing. So, the question must then be asked: is David Stern really using his power to pull these strings? Something tells me the answer is yes.

Eva Longoria and Mario Lopez Getting Cozy, Where’s Tony Parker?

Probably not the type of distraction T. Parker can use while his Spurs are on their rodeo, but looks like his wife Eva Longoria has been out getting cozy with Mario Lopez lately. It’s not much of a surprise that Longoria and Lopez are hanging together — their friendship is well-documented — but they’ve been known to have dated in the past. In other words, that can’t be a good sign for Tony and his relationship. Getting to it, Longoria and Lopez were spotted dining together in LA, and Mario was lavishing Eva with quite the gift:

Now I don’t know if Marcellus Wallace would consider this a foot rub, but where I come from, this isn’t exactly appropriate conduct for a married woman. It’s not much of a surprise on Mario’s end — rumors say that’s why Ali Landry divorced him — so this is just poor company for Eva, it would appear. Not exactly what Tony needs right in the heat of the playoff race if you ask me.

Pat Riley Wants to Reimburse Heat Fans

I’ve already chronicled the mess going on in Miami this season, so this news shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Pat Riley is so embarrassed and disgusted by his team’s play that he made some hyperbolic comments following the loss to Toronto at the Triple A Wednesday night:

“Just a lack of effort and a horrible attitude, the attitude they showed, I should write a check to each season-ticket holder. I should write the check and not even them, because I can’t get them to play hard.”

“The season’s over for them, that’s how they’re playing, some of them,” he said, stopping short of naming names. “There’s just an apathetic approach of ours. It’s so unprofessional, it’s ridiculous.”

Well, that tends to happen when you’re losing. Too bad he didn’t name names — that would’ve been pretty spectacular. This marks the second time recently where Riles gave us a great nugget after a game. Last time it was following a win. This time his reaction was following a loss. A bad one at that. Suffice it to say that the season can’t end quick enough for the Heat. I would be quite surprised to see Riley back after the year and let the team ruin his legacy and ego — this season has become a royal mess for them. Don’t they still have that Dwyane Wade fella?

Jason Kidd Lashes Out Against Nets

Man, this dude just seems to be such a whiner these days. Once you’ve gotten your wish and moved on, I’d say it’s probably a good idea to just keep to yourself and not answer the questions about a previous team, or wait it out. Not the case for Kidd who decided to go on the record and virtually bash the Nets in an effort to defend himself. As for the suggestion he quit on the Nets and called in sick to work, his response:

“I didn’t quit on the team, the ride was over. At the end of the day, I gave everything that I could give to the Nets. There were no more rabbits that I could pull out of the hat. There were no more rabbits that Rod (Thorn) could pull out of a hat. That is as far as they could go. I took them as high as I could.”

“Those people should share in the responsibility of taking some blame, too. I don’t mind taking the blame, but don’t just throw everything on my shoulders. We win as a team and lose as a team.”

Everything New Jersey did seemed to revolve around accommodating Kidd. They fired Byron Scott, they signed Jason to a massive deal, they brought in Zo, and now, they finally let him go and dealt him to a contender. I love Kidd’s play on the court, but dude seems to be such a head case off of it. You would he think he’d have felt more committed to helping the Nets compete based on the contract they signed him to, but I guess that’s not the case.

Winning Isn’t Everything to Larry Hughes

And it’s not the only thing. Vince Lombardi would be ashamed. The Cavs were playing the Bulls Sunday, the first meeting between the teams since they exchanged parts prior to the trade deadline. Now with a worse team, Larry Hughes says he’s actually happier in Chicago than he was in Cleveland. Matter of fact, he says being himself is more important than winning:

“I play to enjoy myself, some people take this the wrong way, but winning a championship is not what I base everything on. I was given an opportunity to play basketball, travel around and have fun doing it and that’s what I want to do. I wouldn’t take being unhappy and not being myself and winning. I would rather enjoy myself with 18,000-20,000 people watching the game and the people sending fan mail and those things and be happy…I didn’t come here to play the point guard, that’s just it. I came here to run the wing, just like he was running the other wing. I was asked to sacrifice for the team to win and for everybody, I guess, get paid. That is what was told to me and I wasn’t happy with that.”

We’ve recently heard that Shawn Marion wasn’t happy being on the Suns who have challenged for the Western Conference title the past couple years. Instead, he was happier being traded to the Heat, owners of the worst record in the league. What’s going on here? I like that these guys are speaking their minds. Maybe they understand that only one team a year wins a title, and only 12 players get the ring. Maybe they figure the rest of the time they should at least be happy the rest of the season. Or maybe these are self-centered playground guys who just want to have the back of their basketball card look pretty at the end of the year. Do dudes like Hughes and Marion have their priorities out of whack, or is there something to what Larry is saying? If you’re Derek Fisher and away from your ill daughter and winning, I could understand being unhappy. But if you’re just unhappy because you’re not the star, not getting the love, then I think you’re in the wrong business.

Shaq Trade Officially a Bust for Suns

That’s it, I was critical of the trade when it first went down, and now I officially declare the Shaq trade a bust. The bludgeoning in Phoenix administered by the Pistons last weekend got me started thinking something was wrong. The ass-kicking in New Orleans was another light bulb. And now the home loss to the Sixers was the bright neon sign officially announcing that the Shaq trade isn’t working for the Suns. I know Shaq keeps insisting that we need to wait because he’s a new player playing with a new team but I’ve heard enough of his song. He can keep signing the tune and tell us we need to be patient and wait for them to get in sync. You know what I say to that, Shaq? Tell us to keep waiting and before we know it, the Suns will be out of the playoffs.

Honestly, at this point, I don’t even think the Suns will manage to make the playoffs. Sure, they’ve played four difficult teams since Shaq started playing minutes and gone 1-3, but they’ve also played two poor ones and gone 1-1. Yes, the Suns are only 2-4 with Shaq in the lineup. They keep this type of performance up, they’re not going anywhere. They lost at home to the Sixers Saturday night! That is absolutely inexcusable. I don’t know how Shaq can even talk his way out of that one. With Marion, they would have played the Hornets close. With Shaq, they got smacked by 17. If there is a silver lining to this debacle of a trade for Phoenix, it is that Steve Kerr sacked up, threw his balls on the line, and took a shot. He decided his team wasn’t good enough as it was and made a move. Looks like he missed, but at least the dude has some guts (I guess).

NBA Is Absolutely Thriving

This is the most exciting and competitive season I can remember in years. I really couldn’t understand why the last issue of ESPN the Magazine was bringing up the “image problem” of the NBA. What’s the problem? The way I see it, the NBA is thriving right now. What we witnessed over the last month in terms of trades, signing, and roster movement, was most likely unprecedented. It’s like every team is fighting, clawing, and scratching their way to try and come out on top in what’s become a lion’s den lately. And I’m only talking about the Western Conference. As it stands, all eight teams that would make the playoffs in the West have winning percentages over .600. The Nuggets wouldn’t even make the playoffs despite being more than 10 games over .500. This is the same team that also set the season high mark for points scored in a game last night. That’s absolutely insane.

In the Eastern Conference, the teams are much weaker top-to-bottom, but the top teams are fighting to improve. The Cavs shook up their roster adding Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Delonte West, and Wally Szczerbiak. The Celtics just signed veteran P.J. Brown for depth. The Pistons keep rolling along, while the Magic did their damage in the off-season signing Rashard Lewis. The Western Conference saw the Lakers acquire Pau Gasol for nearly nothing, setting off a chain reaction. First the Suns took a risk getting Shaq, then the Spurs got Kurt Thomas, and then the Mavs responded by getting Jason Kidd, and the Hornets even got Mike James and Bonzi Wells. That’s not to mention the Jazz acquisition of Kyle Korver. Nobody is content letting their team stand as is; they all are hyper-competitive trying to win.

Oddsmakers have installed the Lakers as 2:1 favorites to win the title, but truthfully it’s completely up for grabs. It’s wide open, and best part is there are so many teams out there who not only want to win, but are fully capable of winning. Honestly, there are 10 different teams I could easily picture being handed the trophy by David Stern at the end of the season. There’s not going to be one easy matchup in the playoffs — the eight seed will be nearly as tough as the top seed in the West come the post-season. I don’t know about you, but I’m loving what I’m seeing right now, and I credit all the active GMs and owners for making this the most exciting season in memory. It’s like watching a fantasy basketball season unfold between a bunch of drunk fraternity boys, only this is real life!