Monday Bullets

  • Caltech Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger writes about how vicarious experiences can improve confidence: "Many have commented on Kobe's striking way of looking like Mike on the court, in the air, even in the press room. But this day, he was him -- from the look in his eyes to the MJ patented fade-away to the intense smirk as it he was thinking, 'You can't guard me.' What really got me was the arm extension to complete a teammates' slap of a 'five' as he strutted to the free throw line. The fluid movement that Michael made cool was eerily transplanted into Kobe's frame. My gosh, is that the old G-O-D in basketball shoes that Larry Bird reflected on after 1986's 63-point explosion, only reincarnated on the west coast? It was as if Kobe prepared for the game by watching the famous Spike Lee 'Double Nickel' staging at MSG or, better yet, threw in a DVD of one of Jordan's breathtaking takedowns of the Jazz in the late 90's. Was Bryant's mind ticking with images of a Mike-licking as he dribbled and sliced and soared and rebounded? Did he recall the long days of dutiful workouts and dreams of greatness as he zoned in on his uncontestable attack? It surely appeared that way, like he was re-creating moves from his mentor's days more than a decade ago. And with each point and masterful display of fundamentals -- yes, fundys combined with his athleticism are what allowed him to look so darn good, as in the ability to create space off a screen or refusal, to ball swing through in his triple-threat, to change direction with perfect footwork off the bounce -- he gained more efficacy, which, in turn, translated to global confidence and Lakerworld domination."

  • Dikembe Mutombo, Hall of Famer? Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference: "Mutombo is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the finest defensive players of his generation and, while never being a high volume scorer, was also a very efficient offensive player."

  • I was one of a zillion people who questioned the Heat's trade for Jermaine O'Neal. But as Mike Moreau points out in an ESPN Scouts Inc. breakdown, O'Neal has been a difference maker: "When Hawks forward Marvin Williams sat out Game 3, the O'Neal-Udonis Haslem combo inside presented too tough a matchup for Atlanta. ... On offense, O'Neal has played inside in the past two games, and this move has helped the Heat firmly establish their offense. After the Game 1 disaster, O'Neal expressed a desire to be more involved on offense. ... Post scoring in the NBA is like the running game in the NFL: Once you can establish it, you open up everything else in the offense. The Hawks have not been able to contend with O'Neal and expect them to make a concentrated effort to deny him the ball in Game 4. ... Miami is confident in O'Neal's ability to defend Horford in the post, so the Heat don't have to double and can stay home on shooters and jam cutters when Horford looks to pass. This also keeps them in good rebounding position."

  • Chauncey Billups misses some shots. Yes, that's news.

  • Chris Lofton, 17 of 22 from downtown in a Turkish League game. Think about that. The former Tennessee player has also survived cancer. There's a story in there, for sure. (Thanks, Fatih.)

  • Liz Mullen and Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal describe a bizarre situation where Shaquille O'Neal has sued his agent, Perry Rogers, in part as fallout from the agent's parting ways with Andre Agassi. One interesting tidbit from the papers, however, is a clear picture of how at least one NBA player pays his closest advisers: "Under terms of O'Neal's contract with Rogers/PRISM, he pays them 2 percent of his $20 million annual salary, and they receive 10 percent of his endorsement deals, according to the basketball player's lawsuit. O'Neal is also represented by Michael Parris, a longtime family friend and adviser, who did not return a phone call for this story. Parris also receives 2 percent of O'Neal's salary but 5 percent of his endorsement income, according to the lawsuit."

  • Joakim Noah is providing an essential service to the Chicago Bulls: Providing personality. (Tiny bit PG-13.) Brendan Jackson of CelticsHub with more on that topic: "It's almost a guarantee that when the whistle blows on a time out or a foul away from the ball, the player with the ball will take a free shot at the basket while the refs sort out the foul or the players retreat to their benches. It's also a well known fact that Boston, due to Kevin Garnett's philosophy and intensity, don't let their opponents shoot or at least see that ball go through the basket. In the first quarter of today's game, Doc called a timeout when Rondo had the ball in his hands. Like clockwork, Rondo attempted to get that free shot, when, out of nowhere, Joakim Noah came over and blocked the shoot back into his face. It seemed symbolic for two reasons: 1) It showed the the Bulls were not going to go quietly or be pushed around, Nope. No repeats of game three. 2) It seemed like the Bulls were taking a play out of the Celtics philosophy book."

  • Brian from Knickerblogger revisits the idea that the Cavaliers may have lost to Philadelphia late in the season to increase the likelihood of a Chicago vs. Boston matchup -- which sure has the potential to remove "knock off defending champions" from the Cavaliers' to do list.

  • A blogger sick of bloggers blaming losses on the referees.

  • Obvious top overall draft picks are tougher to come by than they used to be.

  • Dan Feldman of PistonPowered with some hard realities for Piston fans: "Tayshaun Prince scored 15 points on 7-of-27 shooting in the series. Rasheed Wallace scored 13 points in the final three games, including none yesterday. And he didn't shoot a free throw all series. Detroit's highest-paid player, Allen Iverson, didn't play because everyone agreed he was better off staying away from the team."

  • Shaquille O'Neal raves about Steve Kerr.

  • Jayson Williams has reportedly been hospitalized, and in that report there are several signs that his mental state has been distressingly bad.

  • Remember Allonzo Trier, the sixth grade phenom? Here he is in some &quo
    t;behind-the-scenes" footage
    (in which he just happens to have a Powerade towel draped over his shoulder, while drinking Powerade, and saying how great Powerade is) with Carmelo Anthony.

  • Do you realize how edgy things are for the Jazz? Perhaps almost never has a good team been so insecure. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune shines a light on the fact that most of the roster could be departing, which can't help general stability: "It's a little surreal to be flying to Los Angeles for what very well could be the final game of the Jazz's season. It's April 26. Nobody expected it to be over this early. The next trip after this one is to London for a preseason game against the Bulls in October. There's as many as nine players who could be free agents after this season, so here are some final wishes of mine if Monday's game is in fact their last with the Jazz."