By Royce Webb
A night of playing homage
It was Reincarnation Night in L.A. on Sunday.Michael Jordan ... Magic Johnson ... back in business for one night. Or for one scintillating half, plus an overtime, at least. The New Jersey Nets pulled out a tough 102-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, but the result was almost academic compared to the spectacle put on by Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd. It's nothing new to note that Bryant is the closest thing we have to Jordan. And in case we had somehow missed the comparison, or doubted it, Nets color man Mark Jackson brought it home late in the fourth quarter, when Bryant hit yet another tough 3 to close what had been an 18-point deficit to one point. Jackson said former Chicago Bulls guard Craig Hodges, now a Lakers coach, had called Bryant "Michael Jordan reincarnated." As Jackson noted, Bryant had somehow learned to imitate Jordan, right down to "the facial expressions, the game, the bounce, the swagger and the results." Don't buy it? Well, it sure rang true Sunday night, as the Lakers followed the formula that has given them several of their five wins this season -- futz around for the first half, then give the ball to Kobe and let him start firing away. The result of all that gunning was stunning, as Bryant, against a Nets team that knew exactly what was coming, scored 38 points in the second half (then only one point in overtime, as he seemed to tire) -- though just as stunning was the fact that Bryant trusted a teammate enough to dish the ball for the final shot, only to have Lamar Odom miss a game-winning 3 badly enough that the ball caromed to Brian Cook, whose soft touch on a 10-foot putback at the buzzer sent the game into an unlikely OT. There is one reason Bryant's 46 points (best in the NBA this season) didn't produce a W -- Jason Kidd reminded us who the best point guard in basketball was before his former understudy, Steve Nash, borrowed the honor last season. But he didn't remind us of only his own heyday. He also brought Showtime back to the Lakers floor, bringing Mark Jackson practically out of his sideline seat with a series of dishes that echoed the artistry of the original M.J., Magic Johnson. In fact, Jackson described Kidd's most subtle pass, a lefty no-looker to Jeff McInnis on a fast break, as "Magic Johnson reincarnated ... absolutely phenomenal ... mind-boggling." (Jackson, remember, knows a thing or two about passing fancy. Not only did this M.J. likewise specialize in the look-away pass, but he is second all time in assists -- just ahead of the Magic man.) Kidd's jersey number is 5, in tribute to Magic's 32.
Yes, for this Cal Kidd, 3 + 2 = 5.And his final numbers were just as magical: 35 points on just 21 field goal attempts, with 12 assists and eight boards. Plus one win, which is usually what Magic had when the curtain closed on Showtime for the evening.
AP Photo/Gregory Smith
Hawks guard Josh Childress runs into Blazers forward Travis Outlaw, left. Atlanta, coming off wins over Boston and Indiana after dropping its first nine games, fell to Portland, 77-75.
[Larry] Brown, by the way, is going back to Auburn Hills on Friday night for the first time since departing the Pistons for the Knicks, and the big question in my mind is how the fans will greet him after owner Bill Davidson implied Brown was "not a good person."
Can't believe I'm soliciting e-mail from Pistons fans (who already e-mail me more incessantly than any other team's fans, and by a wide margin), but I'd like to hear opinions from folks around Detroit on whether LB should be booed or cheered. A colleague in Detroit has predicted a mixed reaction, justifying his soothsaying by noting how fans in Detroit still boo Barry Sanders, who also left a local team under less than ideal circumstances.
Blount In The Dark About Benching
"There's no question Odom can score, but the problem is he goes through long stretches without even looking for his shot. In addition, the change to Jackson's triangle offense and the move from forward to guard to forward over the last year has created problems in defining the ideal times to get Odom the ball. Is he a slasher off the dribble? A post-up player? A jump shooter? At times he's everything. But too often, he isn't any. 'Tonight I just missed,' he said." --- Los Angeles Daily News Granger Spends Time In Hospital
"Danny Granger was at an Indianapolis-area hospital until 5 a.m. Saturday after passing out in his car at his house following Friday night's game.'(The doctors) didn't know what it was at first,' said Granger, who was a passenger in the car. 'I had a concussion and I had lost so much blood. It was a combination of the two. They did a scan on my brain. Everything is fine now.' Granger left the game twice to get stitches. The first time, Marvin Williams hit him in the mouth, which required four stitches. In the second half Al Harrington hit Granger above his left eye, requiring four more stitches. "It's ridiculous," Granger said about the incidents." --- Indianapolis Star Yao A Victim Of Rule Changes
"There have been players so dominant they turned around previously horrible teams. But since rule changes that began with the 2003-2004 season, Kevin Garnett could not prevent a Minnesota slide to the lottery, Kobe Bryant could not keep the Lakers out of the lottery, and Tracy McGrady could not stop the Magic's fall to 21-61. 'With the rule changes and the ability to completely take a guy out of the game like they've been doing, it's simple,' McGrady said." --- Houston Chronicle • Read the entire Intelligence Report on ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Gregory Smith
Ron Artest now has the words "Tru Warier" shaved in his head. But only a true worrier among the Indy faithful would find fault in the Pacers' 97-92 win over the Clippers.
Quote of the Weekend
-- Andrew Ayres
Hold your horses, Greg Anthony. The Shaqless Heat, now 7-6, 6-4 when you wrote your column, are a disappointment? C'mon man, Phoenix is without their big man and they have a worse record [now 7-6]. How about Seattle? They surely need some hints on how to play defense with a league-leading 105.2 points allowed. Now there's two teams that we should definitely be disappointed in before we look down on the Heat . . .
No love for the Sixers in your biggest surprises of the year? They've had a pretty fast start with Webber, Iverson, and Iguodala all clicking, while everyone had them as a playoff bubble team at best this year.
Alonzo Mourning had 21 rebounds for Miami on Saturday, his first game with 20-plus rebounds since he had 21 on March 24, 1999, at Milwaukee. That span of 6 years and 247 days between 20-rebound games is the second-longest for any NBA player since 1970. Greg Ostertag had a gap of six years and 353 days (Nov. 15, 1996 to Nov. 3, 2003).
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Maurice Ager looks like a legit prospect for the NBA Draft's first round.
No one's stock took a bigger jump than Ager's. He was considered a marginal NBA prospect after just a so-so junior year at Michigan State, but he really shined here in Maui.
Scouts wish he were an inch or two taller, but if he keeps playing like he did in Maui, he'll be a mid-to-late first round pick this year.
Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff is frustrated by speculation in New York that the Knicks are interested in acquiring Charlotte point guard Brevin Knight. Coach Larry Brown had praised Knight following the Bobcats' 108-95 victory over the Knicks on Wednesday.
"If I don't know anything about it, they haven't approached me," Bickerstaff said before Saturday's game. "But I know the Knicks are very good at putting things out there. I think it's kind of inappropriate that Brevin has to be the guy that everybody approaches about this, something that has not transpired and didn't have any conversations about it. I think it has something to do with his focus."
-- The Associated Press