A few notes about Houston's loss last night: First of all, the Houston fans seemed to lose faith in their team a little early. Empty seats here and there throughout the game. That's a shame. On my TV, that sure was a foul on Luis Scola (who will win the hair championship this year, but not the NBA championship) and I credit Andrei Kirilenko with forcing the issue by closing out hard on Tracy McGrady. Scola's "handsy" type of manuever is common in Europe, but I don't think you should get away with that in the NBA. Kirilenko also played a key role in springing Mehmet Okur for that three before half-time. Those two plays together are a six-point swing, in a six-point game. Good for you, AK.
Stick Marv Albert's head on some video of someone doing a Soulja Boy dance, and you have two things: proof that dance has "jumped the shark," and something that's just downright funny. (Via Awful Announcing)
Two fast runners, Rip Hamilton and trainer Arnie Kander, pledge to race each other over a one-mile course this summer. Each claims to run a mile in around 4:50. I picture it being something like this.
Trick shot master. Seriously. Here's one of this guy Tim Nolan's shots: Off the back wall, the balcony, a trampoline, the wall, the top of the backboard, and then in. No idea hom much video he burned making this highlight reel, but there are certainly a lot of very tough shots. Incidentally, he's also a juggler, and David Thorpe points out that juggling helps your handle in hoops.
D.J. Augustin's name is on a list of players who haven't yet decided if they'll be in the draft.
In NBA games, there is often more time on the shot clock than on the game clock. Think about that. What? Why? Really? I have seen it myself. Mark Cuban explains.
Why blogs matter -- by Dave from BlazersEdge who runs a great one.
Michael Jordan's "Maybe" commercial draws a pleasing connection between his game and reality.
D-League Finals! Yes, that gets an exclamation point.
Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Wasn't an NBA team supposed to make us feel better about ourselves? Wasn't it supposed to fill us with pride, put a spring in our steps? Wasn't it supposed to help us get over our civic inferiority complex? So how come I don't feel better after watching Pau Gasol go for 36 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists Sunday in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets? How come I don't feel better after hearing Kobe Bryant's explanation for the performance? 'This just ain't Memphis,' said Bryant. Oooof. That hurt. And, for the record, I don't feel even a little bit better now. Memphis is an NBA laughingstock. Memphis is an NBA punch line." Does this shaky Marc Gasol video make you feel any better, Geoff?
Remember Pierre Pierce? I have twice interviewed the former University of Iowa star who was famously convicted of sexually assaulting his girlfriend. He has served time, and I first met him as he was on Golden State's summer league team nearly a year ago. More recently, he has served 30 more days -- for parole violations that allegedly occured during summer league in Las Vegas. The three infractions cited by the Associated Press are using the internet without permission, going to a nightclub, and spending time without a chaperone. I sure hope he didn't get in trouble for reading TrueHoop.
Ironically, that Pierce news comes on the same day as an article about how the Warriors might play a role in reducing crime in Oakland.
The Nets have a fun series of playoff-related fan events going on. Only problem: they didn't make the playoffs.
Have you seen FireIsiah.com lately?
The NBA's newest blogger -- Rasheed Wallace is busy on Yardbarker: "I'm an avid football and boxing fan but pretty much watch all sports. Grew up in the city of brotherly love "Philly," and love all pro teams there except for the Eagles (long story share another time). Went to North Carolina @ Chapel Hill and after 2 years decided to go to "The League." Now I'm ballin with the Pistons and lovin it. We're in the midst of snatchin another title. I'm live and in full effect and I will be talkin to you good people later."
Suns vs. Spurs
"Duncan face" documented, and defined.
TrueHoop reader Tim: "The Suns-Spurs game tonight will feature Dick Bavetta, Ken Mauer, and Leon Wood. Translation: lots of whistles. Good for the Spurs in that it could mean foul trouble for Phoenix, good for the Suns because they are better at the stripe. But if it means foul trouble for Duncan, this series goes to Phoenix knotted up at one."
Now that anti-flopper Shaquille O'Neal is a Sun, some in Phoenix think flopping is the worst thing ever. (If that means Raja Bell is going to be available this summer, I'll take him on my Blazers.) Here's what I would do if I were Shaquille O'Neal: give $100,000 or so to some blogger internet nerd types and start a killer website documenting each and every terrible flop with video. Then identify the referees involved and call them out. Write little feature articles which referees give floppers the most calls, and which players flop most egregiously. The mainstream media will fawn all over that site, and I can't promise flopping will stop, but I can promise it will go way down.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "With t
wo days to prepare, there's no telling what coach Gregg Popovich has cooked up for Game 2 of the Spurs' first-round Western Conference series tonight against Phoenix -- only what he hasn't. It's a safe bet Popovich did not spend the off days crafting ways to get Tim Duncan another open 3-pointer. 'I don't believe there's going to be a whole lot of 3-point shooting from me,' Duncan said Monday, chuckling."
Scott Bordow of East Valley Tribune: "You're here, at Fort Sam Houston, for a history lesson. This is where Shaquille O'Neal spent his junior and senior years of high school, playing basketball at Robert G. Cole High School. O'Neal was a military kid, following his stepfather, Phillip Harrison, from New Jersey to Georgia to Germany and, in 1987, to San Antonio. You tell O'Neal the day before you're going to see his old school and talk to his former coach. You wonder what he was like as a 16-year-old. He smiles and his eyes widen. 'The same way I am now,' he says. 'A juvenile delinquent.'"
Raptors vs. Magic
Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "What the heck happened to the old T.J. Ford-Chris Bosh Texas-twosome chemistry? It has appeared thin for a while now. And witness the final 45-some seconds of Game 1's first half, wherein the Raptors, down 13 points, had a chance for two possessions to Orlando's one, a chance to cut their deficit to single digits for the break. This was hardly a moment the game turned on. But it was telling that Ford failed to feed Bosh who, after hard slogging, eventually had Rashard Lewis on his hip and real estate baseline."
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Signed by the Magic this summer to one of the NBA's biggest contracts ever, Rashard Lewis now has gone from being known as a pre-eminent free-agent shopper ... to a key defensive stopper. He helped hold Bosh to four field goals in Orlando's Game 1 victory, and even Bosh said he was 'surprised' that 'Sweet Lew' was this rough and tough."
Ken Hornack of the Daytona Beach News-Journal: "The name of Brian Hill had gone largely unspoken all season long until Van Gundy went out of his way last week to compliment the former Magic coach. 'Brian Hill's role in this whole thing has sort of been overlooked,' he said, crediting Hill and his assistant coaches -- none of whom were retained by Van Gundy -- for the work ethic shown by largely the same collection of players who went 40-42 last season and were swept in the first round by the Detroit Pistons. 'It gives me satisfaction to watch a great group of guys who work their butts off have success,' Van Gundy said. 'But personally, I've had very little to do with it.'"
Lakers vs. Nuggets
Gregg Patton of The Press-Enterprise: "The best player in the NBA laughed, talked about his happiest season as a Laker and even offered high praise for the general manager he torched last summer. 'I'd give him an A-plus,' said Kobe Bryant of Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, adding with a hint of mischievousness to let you know he hasn't completely forgotten the rocky road they traveled to get to this place. 'He goes from an F to an A-plus.' One day after the Lakers handled Denver in the opener of their most promising postseason in four years, Bryant smiled often through a post-practice chat with reporters Monday, clearly relaxed, clearly optimistic and clearly removed from the trauma of last summer."
Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "With two days off before Game 2, Coach George Karl took his team back to Denver, a wise move. Even if his merry band of revelers are overrated as gangstas, they could get in trouble on a religious retreat. Now Karl just has the Lakers to worry about, which is quite enough. Plan A was their Game 1 defense, loading up on Bryant and turning Pau Gasol into Wilt Chamberlain. Got Plan B?"
Thoughts about Ron Artest as a Nugget.
Celtics vs. Hawks
Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "Seven years ago, NBA veteran Mike Bibby began mentoring and working out a gangly kid from Kentucky he thought had the potential to play in the league. The Hawks point guard definitely has an eye for talent, as that kid, Rajon Rondo, not only made the NBA, he made his playoff debut against Bibby and Atlanta Sunday night for the Celtics. 'You never know what the league is looking for and what the league wants,' Bibby said. 'But looking at him, I figured he could make it. It's not up to me, but I knew he could be here.'"
Leon Powe and Rajon Rondo both played extremely well in their first playoff games.
Sixers vs. Pistons
Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Now comes the story of the Detroit fan next to the Sixers' bench with the magical spectacles. Magical spectacles? 'He had his glasses on,' Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks was saying after practice yesterday at the Palace of Auburn Hills. 'And every time he had his glasses on, Detroit would score. So I kept taking his glasses off. And I promise you, every time I took his glasses off, we went on a little run.' This didn't happen once. Or twice. It happened throughout Sunday's game, especially during timeouts, in full view of Cheeks' bemused players. The coach removed the glasses at least 10 times, figured Michael Preston, the Sixers' public relations director. 'He didn't see half the game,' Preston said of the fan. Cheeks loved telling the story yesterday, knowing full well how it would play in the newspapers and over the air."
Why does Reggie Evans play so hard? He remembers being a Nugget in the playoffs and not playing at all. He's making sure that won't happen again.
Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press: "Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace wanted to take the blame for the loss Sunday after he missed an eight-footer in the final minute. Coach Flip Saunders came to Wallace's defense Monday. After all, Wallace scored 24 points with a franchise playoff-high seven blocks in Game 1. 'I talked to him today,' Saunders said, 'and I told him I thought he was great last night. I think the thing about Rasheed, which I said prior to our season, was he's the leader and is going to lead the team. We win as a team and we lose as a team.' The nationa
l analysts weren't as kind. On 'Inside the NBA,' Magic Johnson blasted Wallace for joking with the Sixers and joining their huddle before he missed his shot."
Hornets vs. Mavericks
Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson didn't name names Monday, but he made it clear that Dirk Nowitzki should have had backup after New Orleans Hornets forward David West tapped him on the cheek during a staredown late in Game 1. Both players were assessed technical fouls. 'More than anything we need players to not back down from anybody, that's what the playoffs are all about,' Johnson said. 'More than Dirk doing something about it, I would have liked for somebody else on the team, preferably in the center position, to do something about it. Was that clear enough?'"
Ron Hitley of Hornets247: "The story of Game 1 was Dallas' inability to stop Chris Paul, who went off for 35 points and 10 assists in his Playoff debut, repeatedly blowing by Jason Kidd and escaping the Mavs' half-assed traps. Priority number one for Dallas will be to ensure that doesn't happen again. I'd be surprised if Avery Johnson opts to have Kidd guard Paul as much in Game 2. Methinks Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and possibly even Eddie Jones are all more capable of slowing CP, so they may take turns defending the point. It will need to be a team effort by the Mavs though, so expect them to trap Chris more frequently and much more aggressively. They'll likely send two guys at him in the backcourt and hedge hard on pick and rolls. And if all that fails, expect to see the Mavs throw a zone at us."
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "There are certain players who at certain times should not be allowed to keep the basketball in their hands. Kobe Bryant, when he's motivated, feeling it and getting to the free throw line. Sam Cassell at the end of a close game. LeBron James when he's going one-on-one. And Chris Paul Tuesday night. The Mavericks will throw everything they have at the young New Orleans point guard in Game 2. And they understand it might not do the job."
Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "When the Mavericks traded for Jason Kidd, Nowitzki went to Avery Johnson before Kidd's first home game and suggested a change in the way the starting lineup was announced. Kidd was returning to Dallas after being traded in 1996 and Nowitzki thought it would be great for Kidd to be the last player introduced. As often happens with Nowitzki, however, that gesture was misread. Kidd came to Dallas with a reputation as one of the great leaders of his basketball generation. And here was Nowitzki, some thought, already turning over the keys to the franchise, symbolically saying: 'It's your team.' Perhaps Nowitzki's greatest achievement as a player, however, is that some perceived weaknesses are actually strengths. The fact that he went out of his way to welcome Kidd was not because he was abdicating his role as the team leader, it was precisely because of it."