New, grizzly beard. New game. New reputation, too. Whether or not Pau Gasol was trying to make himself look tougher, his undeniable improvement -- stepping up in all areas to become the first All-Star in Grizzlies history -- erased any doubt. -- M.S.
42. Feelin' Felton
Last year, Emeka Okafor won Rookie of the Year. This year, no one is paying attention to Charlotte's top draft pick. But guess which Bobcat looks to be on track for a better career? With his averages at 16.7 points and 7.1 assists in the last three calendar months, everybody better love Raymond. -- ESPN.com
43. Supporting castoffs
Don't overlook LeBron's new sidekick(s). During the Cavs' late-season surge, Seattle discard Flip Murray shot 55 percent from the field. Turns out Flip's scripted the kind of role Damon Jones was supposed to play -- and now Damon's red-hot too. -- ESPN.com
44. Where to find Diddy
The house is almost never full at the Meadowlands, where the New Jersey Nets have sold out only four games all season. But the celebrity sightings have increased considerably as Manhattan's biggest moguls have increasingly made the 8-mile trek to the swamp. -- C.S.
45. Speaking of empty seats
Remember when the argument against trading Allen Iverson included the truism that he sells tickets. Well, it ain't true anymore. The 76ers are 21st in the NBA in attendance with just three home sellouts. -- C.S.
46. The price ain't right
Latrell Sprewell had a half-dozen teams who would've given him what they could to put him in their uniform, but because it wasn't the amount he wanted -- $5 million or above -- he sat out the entire season. Some guys love to play, and some guys love to get paid. No need to ask which group Spree is in. -- R.B.
47. Parlez vous basketball?
The land that gave us the Statue of Liberty, The Coneheads and Gerard Depardieu provided another gift in 2005-06: The league's two most improved players. Frenchmen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw both raised their games to new levels to help the Spurs and Suns to division titles and a possible showdown in the Western Conference finals. -- J.H.
48. Can you define "best"?
This is one fact the Knicks won't be bringing up to other teams in their forthcoming attempts to trade Stephon Marbury: With two games to go in the season, New York is 39-94 since Steph proclaimed himself to be the league's best point guard. -- M.S.
49. Drugs make you stupid
As if we didn't know already. But when Hornets forward Chris Andersen failed an NBA drug test, he flushed almost all of his $14 million contract down the toilet. Andersen's banned from the NBA and from playing pro ball in the 212 FIBA countries for another two years. That's really stupid. -- ESPN.com
50. Reverse Migration
You don't see many people pulling up stakes and moving from Arizona to Canada, especially in the dead of winter. But on Feb. 28, Phoenix GM Bryan Colangelo traded in his job in the sun to run the Raptors. How's that exchange rate working out, Bryan? -- ESPN.com
51. Amen to that
Props to Milwaukee Bucks sharpshooter Michael Redd. With part of the money he earned from a new long-term contract, Redd bought his father, Pastor James Redd, a church in Columbus, Ohio. -- ESPN.com
52. Don't bury those Leastern Conference jokes just yet
Remember back in October when you heard all those references to the "new" Eastern Conference, with its three legit title contenders -- Detroit, Miami and Indiana -- and improving middle class? It didn't quite pan out that way, did it? The East is instead threatening to present us with four playoff teams with losing records, which has never happened before. -- M.S.
53. Impossible to predict
In the NBA, the biggest losers are winners and the biggest winners are losers. This season the lowly Knicks beat the mighty Pistons, Suns, Mavs and Cavs (twice). On the other hand, the reigning NBA champion Spurs lost to the horrible Hawks, Hornets, Sonics and Sixers. -- ESPN.com
54. 81 is better than 100
After Kobe exploded against the Raptors, some pundits said his 81-point game was better than Wilt's 100-point game. Next time you get a $100 dinner bill, try settling up by giving the waiter $81. See if he thinks 81 is better than 100. -- ESPN.com
55. Sometimes it's OK to fall short
The Hornets, in the midst of uncertainty and crisis, should've been the worst team in the NBA this season. And everyone would've understood. Instead, they were a playoff contender for much of the season and are the feel-good story of the year. Even though they missed the playoffs in the end. -- ESPN.com
56. Small fracture, big problem
The San Antonio Spurs had no answer for Amare Stoudemire in last spring's Western Conference finals, but sadly now we know that Amare can be stopped. Two knee surgeries in a span of six months did it to the 23-year-old, starting with the most dreaded medical procedure in the NBA: microfracture surgery on Amare's left knee during training camp. -- M.S.
57. Reinventing training wheels
It took the Celtics 51 days to register their first two-game winning streak, and they never did win three in a row. Boston's grand total of five two-game winning streaks might be one reason Danny Ainge criticized coach Doc Rivers for his ever-changing rotations and philosophies. -- ESPN.com
58. Coming up short
Like Moses, Chris Webber has had a very good look at the promised land -- a lot of looks, actually -- but he never quite gets there. Another season, another disappointment. Despite standing just six boards short of averaging 20 and 10 for the seventh time, C-Webb's (and AI's) Sixers somehow managed to slide out of the playoffs. -- ESPN.com
59. Charlie rose
To many analysts, Charlie Villanueva looked like another Rafael Araujo -- in other words, a wasted lottery pick for the Raptors. But the best rookie not called CP3 has teamed with CB4 to give Toronto its frontcourt of the future. Just call him CV, 'cause he's building a résumé. -- ESPN.com
Swagger, swagger, swagger. Suddenly we heard about swagger everywhere. Suddenly it was more important to strut than to shoot. But here's all you need to know about the value of swagger -- Baron Davis does it, and Ricky Davis does, too and the Spurs don't. -- ESPN.com
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