Thursday Bullets

  • M. Haubs of the Painted Area makes a case for Sam Presti as this season's MVP: "With each passing game, the Oklahoma City Thunder look more and more like a legitimate threat to win the 2010-11 NBA championship. This isn't supposed to be happening. Their two best players are both 22 years old, and their likely next-best two players (James Harden and Serge Ibaka) are both 21. This isn't supposed to be happening. In fact, if Oklahoma City manages to end up as the NBA champions, I'd argue that it would possibly rank as the best team-building job ever done by a general manager."

  • DeJuan Blair didn't play in Game 5 for San Antonio, while Tiago Splitter was a major part of the Spurs' attack. Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell on what a big deal that is: "DeJuan Blair played in 81 games this season (missing one due to injury). Blair was a starter in 65 of those 81 games. He wasn’t a marginal contributor to the Spurs’ regular season success. Blair was a rotation staple. On the other hand, Tiago Splitter did not see the court very often. He played in 60 games, but that number doesn’t really account for his many appearences at the end of blowouts. Filter out the garbage time and his minutes were far more modest. Splitter was at the end of the bench."

  • Looking hard at Gary Neal's 3, a play that likely would have failed from the other side of the court. A huge risk of that play, and for that matter Arron Afflalo's buzzer-beating miss for the Nuggets -- in both cases teams down three put the ball on the floor in the final seconds of a close game. A dribbling player can be fouled in a way that safely promises two, and not three, free throws. Some coaches prefer to catch and fire for this reason, although neither the Grizzlies nor the Thunder seemed to want to foul.

  • Deron Williams puts on a hard hat, wanders the new Nets arena construction site in Brooklyn, says it has the same feel as Madison Square Garden. And Brooklynites don't seem worried about having players around, but they are worried about "Players" the night club.

  • David Thorpe (Insider) is talking about Kyrie Irving, but making a point about the whole NBA: "The top MVP candidates for the season who are below 6-foot-10 all have one thing in common: They are in a very elite category as athletes. Outside of Chris Paul, every guy is super quick, explosive and fast. I don't project Irving to be at their levels at any point in his career, and as for Paul, well, it's hard to imagine having two guys with that kind of special talent in the league at the same time. Being that kind of elite-level athlete gives those guys an advantage against almost any defender or any strategy designed to corral them, compared to everyone else. The game has changed even in the few years since Steve Nash won two MVP awards, and athleticism is more valuable than ever for guards. Irving is a very good athlete, but not a special one."

  • Players Association vice president Mo Evans tells the Washington Post's Michael Lee "a hard cap is definitely not going to happen." On all other points, he sounds very conciliatory.

  • David Stern says he's all for letting players touch the ball on the rim. I like that a lot. Takes a really tough judgment call for referees -- rife with replay delays -- and makes it instead 100 percent an issue for players to solve with skill and effort. Kelly Dwyer is beyond cranky about the whole thing, saying it'll destroy field goal percentages. I get the theory, but am unconvinced it'll be a problem. For one thing, offensive players can cram that puppy home, too. Right now, when a ball is on the rim, we have, oddly: The best athletes in the world on the ground, watching. Jumping first is bad tactics. So they wait for the ball to make up its mind. What we'd be adding is, instead of waiting, those same players would engage in competitive athleticism. Also, where this rule is in effect, in international play and this season the D-League, this rule has earned raves.

  • The theory was that Nicolas Batum would cause matchup problems for the Mavericks, but the reality has been that when he has been on the floor, the Mavericks have had little trouble.

  • All that rest Boston has been getting ... will it help?

  • Lou Williams, swears Andre Iguodala, can really rap.

  • Who are the keepers as the Raptors rebuild? Votes for Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan and ... that's about it.

  • Grant Hill joins a long list of athletes saying team medical personnel encouraged them to play injured. His complaint goes back to the Detroit days.

  • Knick fans are fairly evenly divided in an online poll about whether or not the Knicks should keep Mike D'Antoni.

  • The teams that once had the rights to the draft picks that became players like Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Joakim Noah, Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.

  • A coach who believes in the hot hand (Doug Collins) vs. a defender who does not (LeBron James).

  • John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog on J.J. Hickson: "There’s a chance that Hickson will hit his ceiling and become one of the best power forwards in the league. As of now, however, he’s an undersized center offensively, a lackluster power forward defensively, and probably best suited for a bench role on a good team."

  • LeBron James vs. Paul Pierce has always been intense. Paul Flannery of WEEI: "Pierce played well against the Knicks -- Anthony’s 42-point Game 2 outburst notwithstanding. He averaged 22 points and four rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor and from 3-point range. Anthony went for 26 and 10 in the series, but Pierce made him work for it holding him below 40 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range. The Celtics will take that kind of trade-off with James all series long, if Pierce can do it. In last season’s playoff matchup with the Cavaliers, James outplayed Pierce in five of the six games and often decisively. James outscored him 161-81 and beat him on the boards, 56-29. Pierce fared slightly better during the regular season but James still averaged 29 points and almost seven rebounds per game, while Pierce was held to 17 and five."

  • Kings fans feeling good for the moment.