Wednesday Bullets

  • The American government advises American's not to travel to Serbia. Four of the Americans playing for the Turkish Club Efes Pilsen (remember Loren Woods?) choose to follow that advice, which keeps them from a scheduled game in Belgrade. And now there are reports they may have lost their jobs.

  • You see this thing about Phil Jackson teeing off on the refs and not getting fined? The Akron Beacon-Journal's Brian Windhorst says the same ref crew had a rough outing at Cavaliers vs. Bucks last night, too.

  • TrueHoop reader Michael emails from Seattle: "I'm about halfway through reading that book 'Pistol' about the life of Pete Maravich, and then it suddenly struck me. Kevin Durant is strangely similar to Pistol Pete. Very big impact on the college scene. Known to be a big time scorer without much care for defense. Has difficulty being productive without the ball in his hands. Tough transition into the league Very inconsistent scoring results in games. More than a few bad shooting games. Fans have mixed feelings about his value on a team. Heralded as the savior of a franchise, but has underachieved in his rookie season. Amazing flashes of brilliance and talent, mixed with head-scratchingly bad decisions."

  • Every leap year since 1980 either the Lakers or a Phil Jackson-coached team has made it to the NBA Finals. If your betting strategy, by the way, is going to be based on this kind of statistical anlaysis, can you please just do us all a favor and give the money straight to charity?

  • Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 previewing what should be an excellent Suns at Hornets game tonight: "Maybe [Steve] Nash will be able to keep his turnovers down this game, and only lose it to [Chris] Paul eight times."

  • The old adage holds true: don't mess with Dikembe Mutombo. Deke is credited with not letting the Rockets sulk last night. (He's finger-wagging again. Didn't they ban that for a while?) Jason Friedman of the Houston Press: "Setting the tone from the outset was the venerable Dikembe Mutombo, who turned the game's first few minutes into his own personal finger-wagging fiesta. Deke didn't just turn back the clock, he seemingly turned aside every Wizards foray to the hoop in the opening frame. And though his trademark finger wag was directed at the opposition, it clearly sent a message to his teammates as well: There would be no excuses or pity parties on this night. 'Let me just say that I am privileged to be one of Mutombo's teammates,' said Chuck Hayes. 'That guy, he came out and set the tone. There was a big question mark as to how we would respond, and he hadn't played practically the whole season. For him to come and still dominate the paint like the way he did ... I am privileged to know him and even more grateful to be his teammate.'" Highlights.

  • Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News on Chris Webber: "He can't play against Phoenix. Can't play against Seattle. Can't play against Atlanta. [Austin] Croshere gave better minutes in a single quarter than Webber has given in 7 games combined. [Brandan] Wright was better. Everybody's better. Umm, once again, tell me why Webber should ever play for a playoff-caliber team like the Warriors again?"

  • Antoine Walker is reportedly not playing because he is hoping to be bought out so he can join a contender. Contenders? Anyone biting here? That link via Basketbawful, which will also tell you why Pat Riley feels like "a mosquito in a nudist colony."

  • Sounds like it might be a while before the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Sekou Smith drinks the Kool-Aid of the Atlanta Hawks again: "Any win (like the one over Golden State) sprinkled in with all this losing is the equivalent of spraying Lysol on pile of trash. The vapors improve for a second or two and then it all starts to stink again. If that sounds harsh, it should because that's how it was intended to sound. Hopefully it's as brutal as the inconsistent mess folks have seen from this team these past three and a half years, and counting."

  • Now arriving: the Pistons' Amir Johnson.

  • This Gerald Wallace concussion story is worrisome. From the Associated Press: "It was Wallace's fourth concussion in four years, an all-too-familiar statistic for football players, but almost unheard of in basketball. Wallace is out indefinitely, and there are concerns about his long-term health and questions about what can be done to protect him when he returns. 'I'm not saying we're behind the ball because this is very new to basketball,' trainer Joe Sharpe said. 'How many players in basketball are disqualified from concussions? Most of the literature out there right now is on football players.'"

  • A bunch of medical talk to make you worry a lot at the thought of Yao Ming playing in the Olympics. On a related note, the Chinese media quotes various basketball officials embracing the reality that it is possible Yao Ming will not be able to play this summer.

  • Britt Robson of the Rake praises Randy Wittman's coaching in a Timberwolves win over the mighty Jazz: "With ten minutes to go in the game and the Wolves clinging to a one point lead, Randy Wittman opted out of his big lineup, subbing in Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith for Ratliff and Jefferson, with Foye, McCants and Snyder filling out the rotation. For those breaking out the slide rules at home, that's no player above 6-7 (if you believe Craig Smith is 6-7). As a stalwart big lineup guy, I sharpened the poison pen. But Wittman had noticed Utah coach Jerry Sloan sitting his best players, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, limiting the Jazz's options on offense. And he knew a front line of Okur (6-11), Harping (6-7) and Millsap (6-8), might have trouble defending a quicker team in the 4th quarter. Boom. Foye nailed a trey off a feed from Gomes. Harping tried a jump-hook over Smith on the baseline that didn't go. Foye missed another trey attempt but Gomes got the board. His shot was blocked by Millsap but Smith got the board. His shot was blocked by Harpring, but Smith got it back, and laid it in. Millsap missed a jumper from the side of the key and Foye rebounded,
    leading to a neat layup by Gomes on an assist from Snyder. Sloan hurriedly called timeout and got Boozer and D-Will back in the game, but, in just 1:54, the smallball Wolves had bumped a single digit up to 8, permanently changing the complexion of the game."

  • Laker fans turn in their early reviews of Pau Gasol. Obviously, he's great. But I watched that whole game last night, and I'll tell you one thing: it's no mystery which defender opponents will be going at night in and night out. For a little while there, he was making LaMarcus Aldridge look like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

  • Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley says that he his not focused on trying to sell the team, hasn't contracted with one of those companies to help him sell the team etc. However, if you would like to make an offer ...

  • ESPN's David Thorpe with more rookie rankings: "The more I watch Mike Conley, the more I think Tony Parker. He is terrific at getting to the rim, and is a far better finisher than one would think."

  • Seething in Sacramento, after a whopper of a loss to Miami.