Wednesday Bullets

  • The man behind the myth: meet the dude who makes the face masks for Rip Hamilton.

  • An interesting tale about one of the new owners of the Seattle Storm and her strong working relationship with Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer. A lot of people hope Ballmer might buy the Sonics to keep them in town. Also, Mark Woods explains the Sonic situation to his British Guardian audience: "Money talks. Profit rules. But business or not, there should come a point where the ties that bind are respected rather than savagely cut in two. Except, in the Land of the Free, such bonds come with a price tag."

  • Pistons teamwork on display in warmups over the weekend. I'm quite certain I have never seen an NBA team execute a better rehearsed group dance number.

  • Quick, name the three top-earning players for Portland this season. Then to the cost/benefit analysis on Raef LaFrentz, Steve Francis, and Darius Miles. Makes you realize how effective those other guys are.

  • Brian of Knickerblogger: "By the by, has anyone else noticed that the Knicks aren't even being DISCUSSED really anymore? They're simply used as a punchline. For other bad teams, columnists make suggestions and stuff like that - for the Knicks, it is basically, 'Yeah, they're just totally screwed.'"

  • Ten great players your mom knows nothing about.

  • Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal reports that LeBron James, all of 23, mentors many NBA players: "'He's been like a big brother to me,' Kevin Durant said. 'I'm very fortunate to have a relationship with probably the best player in the world, and I'm going to take advantage of it.' James is embracing the role. Not only has he grown into the captain of the Cavs, but he's also built a core of friends around the league who come to him for advice, even though he just celebrated his 23rd birthday last week. 'It's kind of funny because sometimes I'll be a mentor to guys who are older than me,' James said. 'But I was in the league before them, so I kind of know the ins and outs. It's kind of cool.'" I'm thinking that an unspoken person in this picture is LeBron's mentor -- who is tight with the likes of Kevin Durant -- William Wesley.

  • ESPN's David Thorpe is back with another rookie report. Some highlights: "There are many great qualities about Mike Conley's game that I'll be notating as the season progresses, but the first thing that jumps out at me when I watch him (besides his overwhelming quickness) is his ability to break down his defender and finish with either hand in either direction. There is no place to force him on the floor where he is uncomfortable, in terms of direction. ... Joakim Noah's offensive game has often been criticized. But ask Gerald Wallace, Emeka Okafor and the Charlotte Bobcats how Noah plays on offense, and I think you'll get a surprising response. He scored 17 points in 18 minutes a week ago, posting up and overpowering Wallace on one play for a bucket; exploding and dunking over Okafor on another; and sprinting and jumping his way to transition layups and offensive tip-ins, too. He scored 11 points and had four assists in the fourth quarter alone. The Bulls are better when he gets offensive touches. And he still leads all rookies in player efficiency rating."

  • Bob Finnan of the News-Herald writes that despite what many in Cleveland think, Anderson Varejao's agent Dan Fegan doesn't have horns coming out of his head: "Upon walking to the Cavaliers coach Mike Brown's post-game press conference on Tuesday, I ran into agent Dan Fegan. While I wondered aloud why Fegan was on hand, one smart aleck said, 'To renegotiate.' Guffaws ensued. ... Just so you know, he didn't have horns coming out of the top of his head. He was quite friendly and very well spoken. He probably is a great guy, too, until you sit across from him on the negotiating table."

  • Brent Hunsberger of The Oregonian reports that Nike's new Air Jordan XX3 is environmentally friendly: "Nike's 23rd version of its venerable Air Jordan basketball shoe comes in Michael Jordan's staple black, red and white uniform colors but with a new, underlying hue: green. Nike says the Air Jordan XX3 is its first premium product designed according to the company's sustainable standards. The world's largest athletic-wear maker, based near Beaverton, says it changed how the shoe was designed and manufactured to reduce waste, use more environmentally friendly materials and eliminate solvent-based glues. Industry insiders and designers lauded Nike for elevating sustainability goals to its most famous product. But they note that many of Nike's efforts to limit the shoe's impact on the environment are more baby steps than soaring, Jordanesque innovations."

  • In today's edition of the Orange County Register, Kevin Ding writes about the impact Kobe Bryant is having with the Make-A-Wish Foundation: "This isn't a story about saving grace or everything working out. What the sadness does lead to is Bryant holding his daughters for an extra deep breath at bedtime, and perhaps we can all resolve to appreciate what we have a little more. About all else there is on the bright side is that the Make-A-Wish Foundation keeps helping, Bryant keeps meeting kids, and those kids do keep smiling."

  • The Timberwolves should have an excellent second-round pick this year. Too bad they owe it to Detroit in the hangover of a long-ago trade for Ronald Dupree, who Minnesota and Detroit have both cut in the interim. (UPDATE: Minnesota can defer that pick to 2009.) A good GM is worth a lot.

  • Basketbawful: Dear Suns, please stop sucking.

  • Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel on the Heat's loss to the Timberwolves: "How bad was it? A kid threw up behind the Heat broadcaster table, scoring a direct hit on television analyst Tony Fiorentino."

  • The Washington Post's Michael Lee: "It sort of slid under the radar but Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo played his final game in Washington yesterday. The magnitude of the event wasn't lost on Mutombo, who talked afterward about how this is the place 'where the legend was born.'" Mutombo is such an old Washington hand
    at this point that it's nothing for him to swan over the the State Department, or to meet with Condoleeza Rice. What a guy.