NBA Playoffs begin Saturday on ESPN, 12:30 p.m. ET
TrueHoop: Donnie Nelson
- Player agent Arn Tellem has a column at the Huffington Post regarding the battle brewing between ownership and players over the collective bargaining agreement. Tellem issues a strong challenge to the players: "Given the NBA's hard-line stance, the players must decide whether they have the skills and the resolve to defend their basket. Will young marquee players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant form a united front? If they don't, the owners will score at will. Which begs the question: Has the union jumped the shark? If so, why even have one?"
- Intellectual property issues can be sticky in our 21st century global village. Shaquille O'Neal hasn't taken kindly to his "Superman" nickname being handed down to Dwight Howard without authorization, as Brian Windhorst explains.
- One of the interesting early subplots of last night's Cleveland-Orlando game was Stan Van Gundy's decision to sandwich O'Neal with Howard and Rashard Lewis. Van Gundy gambled that J.J. Hickson -- Lewis' primary matchup -- wouldn't hurt the Magic. Unfortunately for Van Gundy, it didn't play out that way.
- According to Nazr Mohammed, the NBA's real All-Star destination this weekend is the Bahamas: "Everywhere I look another player."
- DeMar DeRozan tells TMZ he plans to pay tribute to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in the Dunk-off.
- 24 years ago, Dallas native Spud Webb won the slam dunk contest at Reunion Arena. Tim McMahon checks in on Webb, who is now working with Donnie Nelson on building Frisco into a model D-League franchise.
- Celtics bloggers gather in an unmarked warehouse in East Boston to discuss the precarious state of their team.
- Steve Nash, surrealist.
- Anthony Macri of Basketball Prospectus on the Nets' defense: "The defensive problems New Jersey has are apparent to even a casual observer. There is almost no ball pressure, the help-side rotations are slow if they happen at all and transition defense is largely about making sure players retreat. To put it bluntly, the Nets play like a bad high school JV team on the defensive end."
- The Nuggets looked flat last night and their offense was uncharacteristically stagnant for long stretches of the game. Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "While Melo forced a good number of bad shots that lead to his 6-17 performance we once again have to go through the chicken and the egg discourse questioning if Melo did not pass because no one would cut or if no one cut because Melo would not pass."
- Andrew A. McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell described the dynamic at the Pepsi Center: "Thursday night’s contest between the Spurs and Nuggets, the last game on the NBA’s slate before All-Star Weekend, had the feeling of a Friday afternoon class leading into Christmas vacation. The Nuggets simply wanted the time to fly by so they could get started on celebrating the occasion. The fourth quarter dragged on like the last 15 minutes of that class, with the Nuggets left wondering if the teacher was going to let everyone out early. And the Spurs were the annoying kid who kept asking questions."
- Basketball Free for All looks at the NBA's best pure shooters.
- How deserving of a Western Conference All-Star roster spot is Jason Kidd?
Rob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "While the Mavs won't be confused with the SSoL Suns, it's still easy to see [Shawn] Marion fulfilling his same duties as a one-man fast break. But more than anything, the Mavs are somewhat reliant on the notion that putting more weapons around Marion will boost his effectiveness and his efficiency on offense. Marion was a second offensive option on his last two stops, but with the Mavs he moves a bit further down the totem pole. The Mavs have an elite scoring talent in Dirk [Nowitzki], but also boast shot-creators in Jason Terry and Josh Howard. The attention that those three draw should definitely relieve some of the pressure from Marion, but the question is: Will it be enough? ... It's hard to say exactly where the Mavs' moves thus far put them in the context of the Western Conference ... For every little flaw I've picked at in this post, this is still Shawn fricking Marion. Even Shawn's harshest critics would have to concede that Dallas improved as a result of this deal. For every minor issue Marion brings to the forefront, he solves a handful of others. While he may not fit like a glove, the acquisition of Marion is far from forcing a square peg into a round hole. Donnie Nelson and Mark Cuban showed some creativity in getting Marion to Dallas, and now it's up to Rick Carlisle to show some creativity in getting him to excel here."
Graydon Gordian of 48 Minutes of Hell: "By signing [Antonio] McDyess to the full Mid-Level Exception and [Marcus] Haislip to the full Bi-Annual Exception (most likely), the Spurs are now a solid $10 million over the line ... Peter Holt took a serious financial hit yesterday and he did so for the good of the franchise you love. It's hard to feel sympathy for a man whose net worth is counted not just in millions but in tens of millions, but compare Holt's situation to Mark Cuban's, whose net worth is presumed to be north of $2 billion, and you begin to recognize the commitment Holt is making to the franchise. When the Mavericks head into the luxury tax, Cuban hardly feels the prick of a pin. Holt and the rest of the Spurs ownership group commit a significant fraction of the franchise's net worth to the team's success. Mr. Holt's financial commitment to the team is significant to no one more than the 3 individuals we adore most: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. Whether by only requesting reasonable contracts or restructuring their contracts to allow the team to acquire the necessary supporting cast, over the last several years the big three have done their part to ensure the Spurs are in a position to compete for championships. By allowing the front office to take the steps they took today, Holt has kept up his end of the bargain."
Anup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "The wan, dreary days that have been the two weeks since the draft finally parted the clouds for a glimmer of hope today. The Rockets were granted an exception for Yao, and now Daryl Morey can make the moves to at least give the Rockets a chance next season. And with the money they got from the exception, the Rockets officially inked [Trevor] Ariza for $5.7 million and still have $5.7 million more to spend on someone else. The hype won't match that of a year ago, but it certainly allows the Rockets to be more proactive -- to, as much as I hate to say it, start thinking past the TMac-Yao era. Then there was this video I watched more than once today. You hear [Ron] Artest say how he 'always wanted to be a Laker' and that this decision was a 'no-brainer.' To Rockets fans, pull the knives out of your back and patch up that cut. If you watch this video, every time Artest shoots the ball, you'll see a teammate calling for the ball back. And you remember the bad that came with the good. The 4-for-21 nights. The nights Artest was NOT the facilitator of the offense. I don't know what the future holds for the Rockets this year, but it'll be something new, and fans have come to trust Daryl Morey's judgment."
THE FINAL WORD
3 Shades of Blue: A blogger-owner dialogue with Michael Heisley.
Knickerblogger: Smart breakdown of salary cap arcana.
Bucksketball: Free agent signings -- not all they're cracked up to be.
(Photos by Streeter Lecka, Noah Graham, Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)