Chris Webber says he's doing what he can to keep the Kings in Sacramento, in no small part so he doesn't become, like Gary Payton, a guy who has no arena where his jersey can hang in retirement. Meanwhile, the Kings coverage today could hardly be any more sad, as fans are planning for this to be the last NBA game ever in their town.
There's some talk today about an NBA player who may or may not have used a gay slur on the court. I imagine a lot of NBA people giggling at the media kerfuffle -- sit courtside, or ask just about any player, and you'll be assured this kind of thing is not rare at all. (John Krolik on NBCSports.com: "I don’t think [his] choice of words revealed that he has a deep-seeded hatred of gay people. I do think they revealed that athletes are still comfortable tossing around a word that, like a few other very hurtful and powerful words, should not be tossed around.") I also don't have to imagine why it is that nobody has ever come out of the closet while on an NBA roster. The last bastions of open homophobia -- including hip-hop (a little PG-13) and the U.S. military -- are wrestling with modernizing on this issue as we speak. Be a shame for the NBA to be left behind.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss on HoopSpeak: "Some stat-steeped writers just plain prefer Dwight Howard as an MVP. The oft-cited reason is 'defense,' and Howard is great at it. Orlando is a top defensive unit, despite carrying some doughy sieves (I call them 'funnel cakes') on the roster. Dwight’s defense is laudable, though I ask: Is there really a way for us to know if he’s defensively better than LeBron? While center is probably a more important position on that end, James can play multiple positions. LeBron’s defensive plus-minus exceeds Dwight’s which could mean a whole lot and could mean absolutely nothing. And, how much of Orlando’s stingy success is attributable to Stan Van Gundy’s team principles? Scott Skiles seems to always turn lackluster rosters into rabid rim shrinkers. Coaching could trump talent when it comes to cohesive basket prevention. Choosing Howard on the basis of his defensive superiority is fraught with subjective judgments, even if the goal is to better appreciate winning basketball."
Derrick Rose says his most treasured possession is a framed picture of all his nieces and nephews. Note to the Bulls' first-round opponents, the Pacers: He also says his greatest fear in life is killer clowns. Is there a rule against slathering Tyler Hansbrough in face paint?
Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns: "Now stop and think about that for a second. The Spurs began the season on an historic run. The best start in their franchise’s history. They ran out so far ahead of the back nobody was supposed to be able to catch them. Meanwhile, the Bulls lost Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah for a combined 60 games and were supposed to finish behind the Celtics, Heat and Magic in the East. Maybe even the Hawks. Heck, some people picked Milwaukee to win the Central Division. Yet the Bulls might finish the season with the league’s best record. Unbelievable."
NBA Playbook already has its playoff game face on, with a killer X and O preview of the Celtics vs. Knicks.
There have been reports that the NBA has canceled its summer leagues. The NBA denies any decision has yet been made. Assuming that day is coming soon, I wouldn't read anything into it. As an event scheduled to start about the same time as the real deal collective bargaining talks, it was always doomed.
On CBS, Matt Moore sees a thrilling MVP race and makes a plea to keep this league rolling next season: "To the representatives of the NBPA and NBA owners' group, consider how much potential the sport has right now, how much has gone right for it. There are points to each side's position in the labor talks, and business will always come first. But to lose out on the unbelievable potential the sport has right now is to squander one of the best opportunities the league will ever have to reach heights it has never seen. A prolonged lockout would squash all that momentum. Each side has reasons for their positions. And that's understandable. But get in a room. Talk. And keep talking until a resolution is reached to save the season. You've got so much going right for yourselves. But the best thing you have is a fanbase that's truly excited to follow and be involved in your sport. And that's what's most valuable."
A reasonable suggestion that the criteria for NBA MVP should be made clearer. That has long been my view too, but to me, this is the year that disproves the theory. If nothing else, to bond with fans, I think it's probably just good for David Stern and the NBA to hand that trophy to Derrick Rose. But if the criteria were clearly established, there'd be no way to give the people what they want, and Stern would be adding a new line to his Darth Vader résumé by keeping the likable little guy down while handing it instead to some behemoth like Dwight Howard or LeBron James. To me who wins the NBA title really must be clear and fair. But who wins this award? I'm OK with it being a little bit of a popularity contest.
The suggestion that several Lakers have never had chicken pox, which Steve Blake now has. It used to be just about everybody got that disease -- and near-perfect lifetime immunity -- in childhood when the disease wasn't so dangerous. In the modern era, there are all kinds of adults running around who have never had it. And getting it as an adult can be terrible. This doesn't feel like progress.
Norm McDonald posing as Blake Griffin is very funny, and more than a little reminiscent (best makeup in the business!) of Eddie Murphy's classic "White Like Me" Saturday Night Live skit.
The planet's love/hate relationship with LeBron James has a new confounding metric: LeBron James leads the NBA in jersey sales. Even more interesting ... Rajon Rondo is third, ahead of Derrick Rose even. (Kobe Bryant is second.) Only two big men, Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard, in the top ten.
The Grizzlies could have had the sixth seed by beating Portland last night, but instead rested Zach Randolph and Tony Allen. John Hollinger explores the tactic, pointing out that falling to eighth -- which they can do by losing tonight -- would keep the Grizzlies out of the Lakers' bracket, should they make it to the second round. But Hollinger points out that if Andrew Bynum's injury is serious, the math could all change, and Memphis may want to win tonight. Hollinger writes: "The Grizzlies have a 'sudden health' scenario because the Hornets play before they do. If New Orleans loses and the reports on Bynum come back pessimistic, Memphis has a strong incentive to play Allen, Randolph and the others to get a matchup against either Dallas (if the Lakers lose to Sacramento in a game that will be played simultaneously) or a wounded Lakers team (if L.A. beats the Kings)."
Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated: "You could go insane thinking about all the events that led to the Grizzlies’ move Tuesday. For instance, what if Tyreke Evans hadn’t hit a half-court buzzer-beater to stun Memphis in late December?"
SLAM's Zach Burgess: "Someone should go to Springfield and chisel into the steps leading up to the Hall of Fame the names of the great players whose bodies failed them at the very moment they seemed assured of a spot inside. Penny Hardaway, Bernard King, Ralph Sampson, Grant Hill, Antonio McDyess, Tracy McGrady, Andrew Toney and Yao Ming are players who come to mind. Given that it is classified as a disease, should alcoholism be considered as devastating an injury as the ones that afflicted those players? Should Vin Baker be accorded the same sympathy and concern?"
In Milwaukee, blaming Brandon Jennings is not the answer.