TrueHoop: James Posey

Thursday Bullets

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
12:49
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Owning an NBA team might not be as miserable as some make it sound. University of Chicago economist Kevin Murphy, who is consulting the players union, speaks about the glory of equity in an interview with NBA.com's Steve Aschburner: "There are a couple of things that are really attractive. One is, historically, you’ve seen franchises appreciate in value and that appreciation has more than outstripped any cash-flow losses that you’ve had. And if you’re in the right tax position, it’s actually pretty good because you’ve got a tax loss annually on your operating and you’ve got a capital gain at the end that you accumulate untaxed until you sell it and then pay at a lower rate. So you get a deferred tax treatment on the gains and an immediate tax treatment on the losses, that’s not a bad deal."
  • The Milwaukee Bucks never stop working, but they're fundamentally a poor offensive club. If that's going to change, an inefficient Brandon Jennings will need to improve his shot from long-range, learn how to draw some fouls and figure out how to finish.
  • A legal battle between Michael Beasley, his former agent and an AAU power broker grows uglier. Beasley's third-party complaint against Curtis Malone, his old AAU coach, reads: "In summary, Third-Party Defendant, in concert with [Bell Sports, Inc.] corrupted every mechanism of honest guidance Beasley had in his life to assist him to pursue the best NBA agent available, which seriously deprived Beasley, both economically and otherwise." Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports has more.
  • Do you remember whom the Trail Blazers got for Sam Bowie in 1989? He wasn't Michael Jordan, but a very, very nice piece nonetheless.
  • The sale of the Atlanta Hawks to Alex Meruelo might be on the verge of collapsing because Meruelo doesn't have sufficient resources. How was Meruelo going to finance the sale? By borrowing from the sellers. There's mounting evidence that this a lousy template for the sale of a big-league sports franchise. We present the Los Angeles Dodgers as Exhibit A, but there are others.
  • In a piece that cites the $33.5 million in public funds the city of Indianapolis coughed up to the Pacers (termed a "forgivable loan"), but makes no mention of the nearly identical amount the team paid to Mike Dunleavy Jr., T.J. Ford, James Posey and Jeff Foster in 2010-11, Anthony Schoettle of the Indianapolis Business Journal tells Pacers fans to root for the owners in CBA negotiations.
  • Even those who want fewer games on the NBA schedule feel the quality of play suffered during compressed 1998-99 season. Was the frenzied, abbreviated free agency period that followed the settlement also a factor? Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie: "The 1998 free agent class, in terms of sheer numbers, was the largest ever; and instead of 29 teams taking their time as they worked through the hundreds that were available, the league and its players were forced to take fewer than three weeks to figure out where about half its workforce was going to play for the next few years." The free agency and player movement blitz that will be launched by a resolution is going to be a blast for NBA fans. General managers will have to recruit, react, pivot, hedge and react again in a split second. Is that a good thing? When you're staffing an office or choosing where you want to work or go to school, is your process better served with a careful evaluation of the candidates or a close consideration of how you think you'll fit in? Or is everyone better off by rushing into partnership? Which model do we think produces better personnel decisions?
  • No arguments whatsoever with J.J. Redick's food trinity.
  • Evan Turner learns that pet ownership isn't always what it's cracked up to be.
  • This could be a fun artistic exercise for Heat haters and lovers alike.
  • A.C.L tears: not just for pro athletes and aging amateurs anymore.
  • Trey Kerby of TBJ pays a visit to 48 Minutes of Hell to talk about Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner and wedding parties on the 4-Down podcast.
  • Riot police and demonstrators clash outside the Oakland apartment of Ethan Sherwood Strauss of Hoopspeak. His account of Wednesday night's events is full of nuanced imagery and observation -- and also this: "A certain neuroses prevents me from subsuming my personality into any collective emotion. It’s rooted more in an intense fear of getting manipulated than any grand, righteous code."

Thursday Bullets

August, 19, 2010
8/19/10
1:18
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Breaking down the four-team trade

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
3:44
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Every acquisition has a cost, which is one of the bedrock principles of bartering. Unless you're purchasing Manhattan or annexing the Sudetenland, it's virtually impossible to get something for nothing. The NBA's trade market has three primary currencies in circulation: talent, cap relief and flexibility -- with the latter two linked to some extent. On Wednesday, Houston, New Orleans, Indiana and New Jersey cooperated on a blockbuster trade that saw each team forfeit assets in service of a larger goal.

Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesCourtney Lee will pick up some of Trevor Ariza's minutes in Houston.


Houston Rockets

Coming: Courtney Lee
Going: Trevor Ariza


On the surface, the deal for the Rockets appears to be a cost-cutting measure. Houston re-upped Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry this summer, while signing Brad Miller to a free-agent contract. Deep into luxury tax territory, the Rockets unloaded the remaining four years and $28 million on Ariza's deal in exchange for Nets guard Courtney Lee.

The Rockets' front office deeply believes the best value contracts in basketball are max deals granted to transcendent superstars, and rookie scale contracts belonging to productive young players. In Lee, the Rockets get a young wing who will earn only $1.35 million in 2010-11. In addition, the Rockets hold a team option on Lee for $2.23 million in 2011-12. That's real value for a 24-year-old with the talent to start. A $6.3 million trade exception doesn't hurt either.

Lee and Rockets starting shooting guard Kevin Martin train together in the offseason -- the latter regarded as an older brother to the third-year guard. Although Lee might not be the stopper Ariza is, he is capable of covering either guard position and can certainly tread water against some of the league's less dynamic 3-and-D small forwards. Lee will find strong organizational dynamics in Houston, similar to what he encountered during his rookie season in Orlando, where he succeeded. With Ariza's departure, the Rockets will have to figure out who picks up his minutes beyond Lee and whether that means experimenting selectively with Martin at the 3 spot.



New Orleans Hornets

Coming: Trevor Ariza
Going: Darren Collison and James Posey


The wing has been an enduring problem for the Hornets dating back to Desmond Mason, Bostjan Nachbar and J.R. Smith. Ariza might not rank on Chris Paul's list of the top 25 guys he most wants to play with, but the second Ariza puts on the teal, he'll instantly become the most athletic and versatile wing New Orleans has seen in recent years -- but at an enormous cost.

Collison has one of the best value contracts in basketball. He'll earn $1.3 million this season and carries team options for $1.46 million and $2.31 respectively over the subsequent two seasons. As a rookie, Collison played more than 2,000 minutes and compiled an impressive player efficiency rating of 16.55.

There's no guarantee Chris Paul will be sticking around New Orleans after his contract expires in the summer of 2012, and Collison's presence was a healthy -- and cheap -- insurance policy against that departure and any injury. Removing the remaining $13.4 million of James Posey's contract and the addition of Ariza's gifted -- but limited -- game seem to be an expensive bounty for a player with the potential to be very special and who is already contributing on a nightly basis.



Indiana Pacers

Coming: Darren Collison and James Posey
Going: Troy Murphy


"Point guard, Indiana Pacers" has been the NBA equivalent of "Drummer, Spinal Tap." The Pacers haven't been able to buy a break at the top of the floor for several seasons. Jamaal Tinsley, Anthony Johnson, Sarunas Jasikevicius, Jarrett Jack and, most recently, T.J. Ford and Earl Watson have all walked through the revolving door in Indianapolis.

A.J. Price, picked in the second round of the 2009 draft, showed some promise in his rookie campaign. But the acquisition of Collison finally locks down the point for the Pacers for the foreseeable future.

Normally, a salary like Posey's would be an onerous burden, but the Pacers have one of the cleanest spreadsheets in the league going forward -- only $18.8 million committed in 2011-12 before you tack on Posey's deal. The addition of Collison gives the Pacers the freedom to buy out Ford and not overpay for the services of Watson.



New Jersey Nets

Coming: Troy Murphy
Going: Courtney Lee


There's a pleasing symmetry to this deal, and it ends in Newark where Murphy arrives in exchange for the departing Lee. Murphy offers a lot of appeal for the Nets. First, he's in the final year of his contract, which will pay him a hair under $12 million in 2010-11. Second, he gives the Nets a stretch 4 who can crash the defensive glass and deliver smart interior passes, assets the Nets want alongside Brook Lopez's more traditional skill set.

What about No. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors? The power forward out of Georgia Tech turned 19 the week following Orlando summer league. With Yi Jianlian moving down I-95 to Washington, there will be plenty of minutes for Favors in the Nets' frontcourt rotation.

The Nets will presumably fill the void left by Lee with a platoon of Terrence Williams, Anthony Morrow and Quinton Ross -- three players who share absolutely nothing in common. Williams' versatility and range of talents span the board. Meanwhile, Morrow could beat Ross in a shooting contest wearing a blindfold, but few players in the NBA can torment perimeter scorers the way Ross can.
By Marc Stein

Jason Hart was going to be traded Tuesday by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The only question was where: New Orleans or Phoenix.

As a story that appeared briefly on the Timberwolves' Web site earlier in the day confirmed, Minnesota was convinced that it had a deal with the New Orleans Hornets to send Hart to the Hornets in exchange for Devin Brown.

But Brown was able to block that deal from going through, much to the disappointment of the tax-conscious Hornets.

Sources with knowledge of the teams' discussions told ESPN.com that Brown and agent Mark Termini refused to reduce the amount on the 10-percent trade kicker in Brown's $1.1 million contract. Brown was not asked to waive the whole kicker, sources said, but the trade math on a deal with the Hornets would not work unless Brown consented to forfeiting some money.

Brown, though, would have been giving up a starting spot as well as the cash. He's started 23 of his 25 games this season and didn't know what sort of playing-time situation awaited in Minnesota.

The appeal for the Hornets was Hart's non-guaranteed contract. They planned to waive him immediately just as Phoenix is planning to release Hart on Wednesday after the Suns capitalized on the collapse of the Minnesota-New Orleans deal to send Alando Tucker, cash and a conditional second-round pick to the Wolves for Hart.

Meanwhile . . .

The big-picture takeaway from all of Tuesday's drama surrounding a seemingly minor deal is that it's yet another example of the pressure -- some would say desperation -- New Orleans is feeling to get its payroll beneath the $69.9 million luxury-tax threshold.

The wing positions have been major trouble spots for the Hornets all season, but Brown entered Tuesday’s play averaging 10.0 points in just 23.4 minutes per game while shooting a solid 41.1 percent from 3-point range.

Yet the Hornets are currently $3.3 million over the tax line and remain prepared to send away Brown in a deal that brings back no guaranteed money, as seen over the summer when New Orleans felt it had to essentially donate Rasual Butler to the Los Angeles Clippers because of the tax benefits.

There is a belief among some rival executives -- or perhaps it's more accurate to call it a hope -- that the Hornets will not be able to resist moving All-Star forward David West before the Feb. 18 trading deadline to ensure that they get comfortably under the tax threshold.

New Orleans' preference would obviously be moving out player(s) from its list of veterans with contracts that stretch beyond this season. That list presumably includes Emeka Okafor, Peja Stojakovic, James Posey, Mo Peterson, Darius Songaila and Julian Wright.

But a major shakeup with the Hornets would appear highly unlikely without involving West, since we know (as covered in this cyberspace last week) that they're not trading Chris Paul.

The High-Grade Sleepers

August, 17, 2009
8/17/09
10:06
AM ET
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

NBA training camps are still a few weeks away, but rosters around the league are gradually taking shape. Once David Lee, Allen Iverson and Ramon Sessions have jobs, we'll be ready to go.

The favorites in each conference are easy to spot -- they bear a striking resemblance to the teams that were playing on Memorial Day weekend. But which teams are lurking beneath the surface, ready to assume the role of improbable contender?

If they can avoid the injury bug, and the chemistry works just right, here are three teams that could emerge as success stories come spring:

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks


It's easy to forget just how dominant the Dallas Mavericks were when they took the floor against the eighth-seeded Warriors on a Sunday evening in April 2007. This was the last game of the postseason's opening weekend, a perfunctory item of business for the Mavs en route to a conference finals matchup against the Suns or the Spurs.
Dirk Nowitzki & Shawn Marion Can this pair inflict serious damage in a brutal Western Conference? (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

Dallas was one year removed from an NBA Finals appearance, and had just piled up 67 wins in the regular season. Only five teams in NBA history had recorded more Ws in a single season. Dirk Nowitzki was the presumptive MVP (and would go on to win the award).

The Mavs' epic collapse in that first-round series against the Warriors has been well-documented, and over the next two seasons, Dallas would descend from its perch into the Western Conference's upper-middle class.

What's interesting about that falloff is how many of the elements of that Mavs team remain intact today -- to say nothing of the quality pieces that have been added since. 67 wins isn't ancient history; we're talking two seasons ago.

Dirk Nowitzki, at 31, is the same age as Kobe Bryant. While Nowitzki is unlikely to reproduce his 2006-07 exploits, he remains one of the league's best players. Jason Terry has been a model of consistency for Dallas and had arguably the most efficient season of his career as the Mavs' super sub in 2008-09. Josh Howard is only 29. When healthy, he's still one of the more flexible swingmen in the game and a lockdown defender. In 2006-07, J.J. Barea logged fewer than 200 minutes, but he's become a spark plug for the Mavs' quality second unit ever since.

With Jason Kidd settling nicely into the role of veteran facilitator (and surprisingly efficient shooter), the franchise doubled down on the bet that its solid core could maximize what's left of Nowitzki's prime. The Mavs landed Shawn Marion.

Like Howard, Marion is versatile, freakish, and mercurial. Defensively, he can stay in front of speedy point guards, bother face-up power forwards, chase spot-up shooters, and clean up on the boards. Offensively, Marion's downward trajectory the past season and a half began the moment he left Phoenix. Coincidence -- or evidence that his talents demand the care of a veteran, pass-first point guard?

When you consider those assets, then throw in sensible additions like Drew Gooden and Kris Humphries to bolster Erick Dampier on the block, defensive stopper Quinton Ross, and a pair of intriguing rookies, and the Mavs appear ... stacked.

There is no shortage of nightmarish scenarios by which Dallas' gamble can implode. Nowitzki, Kidd, Marion, Terry, and Dampier are all on the wrong side of 30. Howard is accustomed to missing about 15 games a year, and being less than 100 percent for long stretches. The Mavs' best offensive lineup (Kidd-Terry-Howard-Marion-Nowitzki) won't give them much interior defense, and the loss of Brandon Bass makes them a less energetic bunch.

But with Kidd at the point, and a roster of flexible guys who can each serve multiple functions on the floor, Dallas has the potential to develop into a grizzled, selfless squad with the kind of mental edge that just might have been the missing ingredient 28 months ago.


Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls


How much should we read into Chicago's classic seven-game series against Boston? Was the Bulls' gutsy performance a harbinger of things to come, or was it lightning in a bottle? Did they graduate into a team that knows how to scramble defenses with a legitimate pick-and-roll game, or were they just lucky to encounter a crippled Celtics team ill-suited to deal with their quickness and athleticism?

Those aren't the only imperative questions for Chicago. Even if we conclude that they came of age in April, is it fair to expect them to continue their progress without their top scorer, Ben Gordon, whom they lost to Detroit?

Short answer: Yes.

Although there will be nights when Gordon's fearlessness as a sniper will be missed, the Bulls might be better served long-term by the three-guard rotation of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, and John Salmons. With Gordon out of the picture, Rose can assert himself both as distributor and scorer. He's a transcendent young point guard, and one that should flourish now that his running mates in the backcourt are a little more pliable.
Derrick Rose Derrick Rose: Season Two
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Both Rose and Hinrich are expert ballhandlers -- and Hinrich is very comfortable off the ball as well. Salmons, along with Hinrich, is capable of defending all three perimeter positions, can score on pin-downs, slash to the rack, and fire from 3-point range (41.7 percent).

There are good reasons sleepers are sleepers, and the caveats for Chicago reside in its frontcourt. Start at small forward, where Luol Deng will be returning from a stress fracture in his right leg. He last played in a game on February 28. When 100 percent, Deng is a rangy, athletic force in transition and in the halfcourt, where his height and handle give him a big advantage over most defenders at the small forward. When Deng is on his game, he's also the correct answer to the question, "Who's going to make up for Ben Gordon's 20.7 points per game?"

There's a reason why any time a marquee big man comes on the market, he's rumored to be headed to Chicago. But desperate as the Bulls are for help on a threat on the block, we saw something interesting down the stretch last season. Rather than resign themselves to their lack of post scoring, the Bulls began to use Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas in pick and roll schemes, where their agility allowed them to beat their defenders to the rim. So long as Thomas resisted launching jump shots, it worked.

Noah doesn't have the jumper to be a high-post center (like backup Brad Miller), but his passing and mobility around the hoop might be enough in Chicago's offense. Thomas, of course, is the wild card. A composite of his finest moments last season would show him as a defensive ace, capable of creating opportunities for himself off the dribble, hitting a face-up jumper, and blocking any shot in medium proximity.

If that highlight reel can become a reality, if Deng can bounce back, and if Rose can continue his co
urse as one of the game's best young playmakers, the Bulls might turn their novelty act from last spring into a long-run production in 2010.


New Orleans Hornets

New Orleans Hornets


Here's one you can play by the pool:

Name the best starting power forward/center tandems in the NBA.

You could begin with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. After the Lakers' duo, there's only one other pair of starters who each recorded a player efficiency rating greater than 18:

David West and Emeka Okafor.
Chris Paul & Emeka Okafor For Emeka Okafor, playing alongside Chris Paul will be more pleasant than playing against him. (Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)

After playing in relative obscurity with Charlotte over the past five seasons, Okafor moves to New Orleans, where he'll fill Tyson Chandler's spot at center for the Hornets. Chandler was a sentimental favorite in New Orleans -- both of the fan base in the Crescent City and his teammates. The Chris Paul to Tyson Chandler alley-oop was one of the NBA's signature highlight reel snippets.

Okafor may not be an elite center, but he's a very, very good big man and a more complete player than Chandler. For an extensive look at New Orleans' upgrade, take a look at John Hollinger's must-read comparison of Okafor and Chandler.

One of the most productive frontcourt tandems in the league and arguably the best point guard on the planet: That's a pretty nice place to start a season, don't you think?

Paul, West, and Okafor might not warrant a "Big Three" designation, but we can agree that they qualify as some sort of troika -- particularly in a scheme that's as dependent on the pick-and-roll as the Hornets offense.

Unfortunately for New Orleans, the NBA game demands that its best teams field a couple of guys on the wing who can create and/or defend -- preferably both -- and this is where the Hornets have depth problems.

As a catch-and-shoot artist, Peja Stojakovic is about as good as we've seen over the past decade, but he's coming off his worst season since the Clinton administration and is increasingly having trouble staying healthy. The Hornets signed James Posey a season ago to play the same role in New Orleans that he did in the Celtics' 2008 championship run -- defensive and 3-point specialist. Posey is good for 25 minutes per night in that capacity, but not dynamic enough to play much more. Morris Peterson was once thought to be a solution on the wing, but injury and age have slowed him. Those three guys -- each born in 1977 -- won't get them the 96 minutes per night they need from the off-guard and small forward.

The Hornets don't need All-Stars at the wings, but they must get solid production. Enter enigmatic, third-year forward Julian Wright.

Whereas the Hornets' aforementioned veterans have trouble doing much more offensively than spot up and shoot, Wright -- on his better nights -- can do everything but shoot. Though he was a menace defensively for the Hornets -- the team was about five points stingier with him on the court -- Wright took a step back last season offensively. The gifts are apparent, but there's still a lot of refinement needed, both mechanically and mentally.

The elasticity of the Hornets' win total isn't all on Wright and the health of the vets. If Summer League is any indication (that's a much longer conversation, isn't it?), New Orleans scored with its selection of guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton in the draft. And forward Ike Diogu was a savvy pickup on the cheap, as well.

One summer ago, the Hornets were being sized up as contenders after a spirited playoff run. This summer, much of the discussion surrounding the team has included the phrase "luxury tax threshold." While general manager Jeff Bower was attending to the spreadsheet, it's possible he constructed a team poised to surprise next season.

Wednesday Bullets

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
1:19
PM ET

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

In today's Shootaround, we sort through the weekend's events, and distinguish the meaningless wins from the heartening losses, and the moral victories from the crushing defeats:

LeBron JamesJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "This game pretty much showed the difference between being on the winning side and the losing side of a rivalry ... Boston's not the team who has something to prove ... They have their spot locked in ... And they could care less about bragging rights or posturing. They're wearing the rings, and they're the champs until someone beats them in a series.

For us, it's different. Not only are we still fighting for home-court advantage ... but Boston is much more than a game to us at this point. Everyone came out hungry. We want to send a message. We didn't want to beat them; beating the Celtics without KG on our home-court is what was expected. We wanted to leave no doubt. We wanted to beat them so badly that it went beyond any possible hedging factors. We wanted it to be too much to brush off. I can't say what type of impact this is going to have -- I don't really think it affects how a series shakes out one way or another. If/when these two teams go at it, they're both going to be confident, prepared, and on top of their games. A regular-season blowout isn't going to change that dynamic."

Chris PaulRob Mahoney of Two Man Game: "The numbers didn't turn up in the Mavs' favor, but the game definitely acted as an extension of the new Mavs rather than a reversion to the old ways. When you win, you don't always demonstrate progress, and when you progress, you don't always win. The Mavs were within three points with a minute and a half to play, but James Posey made a smart pass on an out of control drive to set up Peja Stojakovic in the corner for a three (he was 1-7 on threes prior to the shot). It turned out well for New Orleans, kept the Mavs at arm's length, and essentially sealed the game. I'm disappointed that the ball didn't bounce the other way, but that doesn't mean I'm at all displeased with the Mavs' effort or overall performance."

Grant HillBrandon Haraway of Valley of the Suns: "Grant Hill wants to be a Phoenix Sun next year, and you know what, every single Suns fan should be pulling for him to be back. Let's see if Steve Kerr and Robert Sarver finally get it right and bring back the man who doesn't seem to realize the Suns' season is over, the man who has played with heart all year and the man who is about to play in all 82 games. This was never more evident than Saturday night in Phoenix's 110-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. On a night when Hill logged the most minutes of all the starters (23), he showed the next generation of Suns the way it should be done. He scored 19 points in those 23 minutes, missing just one shot and getting four steals."

THE FINAL WORD
The Painted Area: A dispatch from the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland.
Celtics Hub: Don't worry so much.
By the Horns: Derrick Rose -- Mid-range assassin.

(Photos by David Liam Kyle, Layne Murdoch, Doug Pensinger/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Hornets prevail in a must-win game over the Spurs, in which Bruce Bowen records a DNP-CD. Stephon Marbury is starting to figure out his role with the Celtics, while Iverson will have to adjust to his in Detroit. Read all about "Sixth Men: Past, Present, and Future" at the TrueHoop Network: 

Chris PaulRyan Schwan of Hornets247: "Simply put, Chris Paul came out at half time and proved he was the best player on the floor.  I could fill up an entire observations section just with all the incredible plays he pulled out in that game.  It's such a joy to watch him play. As what usually happens in good wins with the Hornets, [David] West carried the team in the first half, scoring 14 and serving as the focal point for the offense.  In the second, Paul shifted from fourth gear to Warp 9 and carried the team to victory ... That was a big game, and it went into the 'Do Not Delete' section of my TIVO, so when I am without a game to watch in the off-season, I can fire that one up.  Winning without Peja, Tyson and Posey was pretty big."

Bruce BowenTimothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "As Coach Popovich creeps closer to setting a rotation, it appears that Ime Udoka will get minutes behind Michael Finley. I'll stop short of making bigger pronouncements. It was only one game. Popovich is certain to use [Bruce] Bowen as a spot defender between now and the time he retires.  But I have to say, Pop is taking a gamble. Udoka is a tough-nosed defender, but even at his best moments he is not a versatile, game changing defender like Bruce Bowen. Bowen is a special player in that way. Or, reading into Pop's decision, Bowen was a special player in that way.  But Udoka does do some things better than Bowen. His offense is more varied (and erratic), he can handle the ball, and his rebound rate is 10.6, making him one of the better rebounding small forwards in the league. Defensively, Udoka does a better job against balky players like Ron Artest. But unlike Bowen, Pop won't call his number against Chris Paul -- he'll put George Hill into the game. If Sunday's rotation more or less sticks for the postseason, Popovich's gutsy decision to favor Udoka over Bowen will play a prominent role in determining San Antonio's championship aspirations, for good or ill."

Stephon MarburyBrian Robb of Celtics Hub: "Starbury only scored 2 points on 1/4 shooting but he did have 7 assists compared to just 1 turnover in 22 minutes to go with a +12 on the floor. There have been some growing pains in the past 10 plus games for the point guard but he is finally starting to look comfortable with the bench unit by distributing the ball to his teammates in the right spots ... a lot of these assists came off of some nice penetration, allowing him to draw multiple defenders to create dunks and open jumpers for his teammates. Great news to see him putting it together at the right time."

THE FINAL WORD
Piston Powered: Allen Iverson, Sixth Man -- A History.
Daily Thunder: Are OKC's best players named Sefolosha and Weaver
Raptors Republic: Toronto is putting all the pieces together ... in late March.  

(Photos by Layne Murdoch, D. Lippitt/Einstein, Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Hornets' sharpshooter might be better off in the second unit. The Cavs' sharpshooter couldn't connect all night...until it mattered. Ron Artest thinks he's a sharpshooter. The TrueHoop Network shoots from the hip. 

Peja StojakovicRyan Schwan of Hornets247: "Other than Dallas, the Hornets have the worst bench among the current 8 seeds in the West...That means that when the Hornets hit the playoffs, we can expect the second-quarter meltdowns to become even more pronounced.  It's pathetic, because the Hornets' starting five is the seventh best in the league, despite all the nagging injury issues they've had.  If the Hornets' bench could provide even a little boost, or just play the other team more evenly, it would make the team infinitely stronger and get the starters more rest.

So is there a way to fix the bench?  I'm a bit of a pessimist, but here is an idea that several people have already proposed in our comments, and that I agree with: Turning Stojakovic into a sixth man.

During the series of games where Paul, Chandler, and West were all out of commission, the Hornets turned to Peja to be their primary offensive option, and he did a pretty solid job in that role.  The past three games with Julian in the starting lineup, the Hornets' starters have produced a slightly worse offensive efficiency of 108.0 and a much nastier defensive efficiency of 84.0 ... The Hornets could start Julian, sub him out for Peja around the 6:00 minute mark of the first quarter and let Peja warm up.  At the start of the second quarter, they can start running the offense through him.

Making this change will entail curtailing Posey's minutes some -- but I really think he'd be better served as a 20-22 minute man anyways, not the 29 minute man he's been all season."

Mo Williams

John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "Mo Williams. What do I say? For 47:54, he had absolutely as bad a game as you can have. He's kind of an Anti-LeBron in that he's a guy who's primarily a straight-up scorer whose offense comes from the perimeter, so when he's not in a flow things can get very bad very fast. (Fortunately, he's ridiculously consistent.)

Tonight, he wasn't hitting his shots off the dribble. He wasn't hitting open threes. He wasn't doing well defensively. He had one assist against four turnovers.

And yet, for the third game in a row, Mo Williams was the difference between victory and defeat. And if I had to pick one game to show how valuable Mo is to this team, it might be this one. No matter what he's done before in the game, he's the guy who's there when we need him. Tonight, he was the difference between a great win and the worst loss of the year.

Delonte got off the hook, too-he was an absolute non-factor all game long, which is the one thing he generally never is.

Again, I'm going to point out just how good Joe Smith and Andy were at rolling to the basket all game long and getting layups, and how unbelievable LeBron was at finding them with amazing passes. I do not think it is a coincidence that this came against Zach Randolph."

Dirk NowitzkiMichael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "We'll never know if things would be different with Amare (I think they would be), but as J-Rich said, the Suns just can't think that way.

As it is, Phoenix struggles to match up defensively against most teams with their small ball lineup, and it makes me a bit queasy that Dirk has said the toughest defender he faces in the NBA is Shawn Marion.

Yeah, he might be a little helpful right about now.

To add insult to injury, the Mavs won this game without Josh Howard to snap a nine-game road losing streak to Western Conference foes, winning their first West game away from Dallas this calendar year. And yes, it is March 10.

For the Suns, it feels like that 'season-changing' win over the Lakers on March 1 was in a whole different calendar year."

THE FINAL WORD
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(Photos by Glenn James, Noah Graham, Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

You know the play I'm talking about. In the waning moments of Game 4 against the mighty Celtics last night, you were surprised to find yourself wondering ... wait, is this nailbiter becoming a blowout?

It was a contest that was all about defense, except for one play.

Joe Smith set a pick for LeBron James. And James, for the first time in a long time, showed that he has apparently been listening to ESPN's Mike Moreau and David Thorpe, who have been imploring him to explode past the screen, instead of softly drifting by.LeBron James dunks over Kevin Garnett

This James did, but it was hardly layup time after that. As much as Paul Pierce may have been a step behind, LeBron was headed into the teeth of the Celtics' vaunted defense.

Between James and the hoop were two of the league's best defenders: James Posey and Kevin Garnett.

Dealing with Posey at high speed is not a great proposition for most players who are 250+ pounds. 250+ with speed really tends to mean moving in straight lines. But watch that video. Watch the little two-step James throws at Posey. He doesn't even lose an ounce of speed, sends Posey leaning in the wrong direction, and manages to stay on track for the rim. That's a small-man move.

Leaving Garnett. But like a little player, James can jump quickly, and was already launching by the time the Defensive Player of the Year could even touch him. Garnett the rim protector came out, and he quickly resolved to lay down a playoff foul. Two solid forearms into an airborne James ought to do it, right?

So wrong. All of a sudden James -- who had just gotten around Posey like a point guard, looked like a power forward. Two Garnett forearms into a lot of airborne players would make them unairborne. But James is 250+ pounds, and barely even seemed to notice. The referees (wonder no more why players exaggerate, or flop, when they are lightly fouled) didn't even bother calling the foul.

But it didn't matter. A player had gone from small to big on one play, and so had a lead. Cavaliers' ballgame.

(Photo: David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images) 

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