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Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Catching up on all things hoops

By Adena Andrews

The confetti has fallen, the championship parade is over and the Gatorade has dried up from Super Bowl XLVI. That can mean only one thing: Time for the NBA!

For all you pigskin fans just joining the hardwood party, here are a few things to catch you up on the NBA season. Mention these stories at the water cooler, and folks will think you have been watching all season.

Lob City

The trade of Chris Paul from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Clippers not only changed the dynamics of the Western Conference, it also changed the geography of the United States. There's a new city in Southern California -- Lob Angeles. On a nightly basis, reigning slam-dunk champion Blake Griffin soars through the air to catch skillful lob passes from Paul, the Clippers' floor general. Kendrick Perkins of the Oklahoma City Thunder is the most recent victim in Lob Angeles. Griffin put Perkins on a poster with a dunk that some rank as the best of all time. It even caused LeBron James to cede his crown for best dunk of the season.

Can Knicks win with Lin?

After gaining two All-Stars in Carmelo Anthony and Amare' Stoudemire last season, the Knicks added Tyson Chandler to create what may be the best frontcourt in the league. Still, the Knicks are 10-15 and in 10th place in the East. Jeremy Lin, an undrafted guard and D-League call-up from Harvard, is the newest hope for Knicks fans. In his past two games, Lin has scored 53 points. He had 76 points in 29 games with the Golden State Warriors last season. But the question remains: Can Lin live up to New York's high expectations?

MVP race

It's standing room only on the MVP list. With dominant performances each night, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are trading places at the top. Derrick Rose also made a case for himself to repeat as MVP by making a triumphant return from a toe injury and leading the Bulls while utilityman Luol Deng was out. Right now, the MVP race is just too close to call.

Coming or going

All-Star center Dwight Howard has expressed his discontent with the Orlando Magic, but says that as long as he is on the roster he will play hard. General manager Otis Smith has given Howard's agent permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a potential trade. If the right team makes the right offer, Howard could be out of Orlando as soon as the NBA trade deadline on March 15.

Whether Howard goes or stays could affect the future of Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets. If Howard comes to the Nets, who are begging for star power to finance their move to Brooklyn, Williams might consider staying with the Nets. However, Williams' body language and rumors around the league say he is not satisfied with the Nets' losing ways and may be ready to leave, possibly for his hometown Dallas Mavericks.

Returning from China

During the NBA lockout, China became the new frontier for some players. However, due to strict Chinese regulations, that also meant they couldn't return to the NBA when the lockout ended. Last week, Kenyon Martin bought out his contract with Xinjiang of the Chinese Basketball Association to join the Los Angeles Clippers, making them even more lethal. Look for Wilson Chandler, J.R. Smith and Aaron Brooks, who also signed contracts with Chinese teams, to make their way back stateside in early March.

Battle of L.A.

Don't call the Clippers the Los Angeles junior varsity team. The Clippers are on a path to finish with a better record than the Lakers for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

Miami Heat 2.0

Last season, the Heat's Big Three were just feeling each other out and they made it to the NBA Finals. With a little more familiarity, Miami 2.0 is speeding along during the shortened season and is in second place in the East with a record of 18-6. Chris Bosh found his game when Dwyane Wade sat out with an ankle injury. Bosh had his best month as a member of the Heat in January, averaging 21.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. Things don't look to be slowing down any time soon for the three kings of South Beach.

Rookie watch

The No.1 draft pick, Kyrie Irving, is starting for the Cleveland Cavaliers and has become the go-to guy on their starless squad. Another rookie who stays in the daily highlight reel is point guard Ricky Rubio, the Spanish sensation the Timberwolves waited two seasons to get. Rubio is dishing out 8.9 assists a game. Other rookies to look out for are Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Bobcats, who are providing a spark for their struggling teams.

All-Star Game

The league's annual three-day party will be held in Orlando Feb 24-26. Los Angeles is heavily represented on the West starters: Paul, Griffin, Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Durant. East starters include familiar faces: Howard, Rose, James, Wade and Anthony. All-Star reserves, selected by coaches, will be announced Thursday.

The league is switching up the rookie-sophomore game, with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal picking squads. Teams will no longer be separated into rookies and sophomores. This means we can have Irving throwing lobs to Griffin or John Wall running the break with Ivan Johnson.

Lastly, dunk contest participants haven't been announced but can anyone top Blake Griffin's car dunk from last season?

Kobe passes Shaq

With 28 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, Bryant passed O'Neal for fifth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. The two legends are not friends, but O'Neal took to Twitter to congratulate Bryant for the accomplishment. "Congrats to Kobe for being the greatest laker ever," O'Neal tweeted. "Thanks for making us the greatest laker one two punch ever and congrats on passin me up 2."

Yes, he has more points, but has Kobe really been a more dominant Laker than Shaq? The debate continues.