Updated: Jan. 30, 2006, 11:28 AM ET

Ahead of the game

As we look ahead to the new week, we can see how much it is shaped by the momentous events of the last seven days -- the busiest week of the 2005-06 campaign.

After Kobe's historic 81, the season's first three trades went down, with the biggie being the on-again, off-again, long-rumored swap of Ron Artest for Peja Stojakovic, and the most populous one being the seven-player, three-draft pick deal between Boston and Minnesota, with Ricky Davis and Wally Szczerbiak the headliners.

In more serious news, Isiah Thomas was sued for harassment by a former Knicks colleague, and Chris Andersen was banned from the NBA for drug use.

This week we'll track the fallout from the latter two stories. First, let's highlight some of the action we're anticipating most eagerly:

Wally's back! The Celtics make a Minny stop just four days after the trade that sent Szczerbiak, Michael Olowokandi and Dwayne Jones east for Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks and Justin Reed. It will be fun to see Wally and Ricky challenge each other so soon after the deal -- and even more fun if Davis and ex-teammate Paul Pierce face off. Speaking of ex-teammates, don't forget this trade is for bragging rights among Larry Bird's former supporting castmates, Wolves VP Kevin McHale and Celtics boss Danny Ainge.

Speaking of back in town, Nate McMillan, known in the Northwest as "Mr. Sonic," brings his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers, to Seattle to face his old team. See our interview with McMillan.

Last week, his agent said in no uncertain terms that Ron Artest did not want to play in Sacramento. We'll see if the Sactown faithful can forgive and forget so quickly, as Artest makes his home debut in his new home. We know we'll hear cowbells, but will boos be mixed in for the new King? The Denver Nuggets, early competitors in the Artest sweepstakes, will be the first Sacto opponents to find out.

Also: For those of you who think that places like Sacramento, Denver and Indianapolis are best seen from the sky, the Lakers make their lone visit to New York this season to try to show the Knicks how a dysfunctional team can win. It's Kobe vs. The World, Phil vs. Larry, Round Next.

Next junction on the Lakers' Dysfunction Confunction Kobepalooza 81-of-a-Kind tour is Indiana, where, oh by the way, Peja will wear home whites for the first time. With Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley out, we're not sure if Stojakovic will be a savior or a martyr, but we're intrigued to see if he finds his old Reggie Miller shooting touch after the trade.

Also: Phoenix is in Boston to show the Celtics what a gun-running operation is supposed to look like, and Flip Saunders sees his old team, the Timberwolves, for the second time in eight days. And the Hawks and the Bobcats play, and somebody's gotta not lose that game.

The battle for second-best in the East is in Miami, as Cleveland comes to town. It's also the head-to-head for supremacy of the 2003 draft, with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade showing their stuff, or stuffs, as the case may be.

The spiciest matchup happens to be on ESPN, with the Pistons in Philly. Will Detroit be going for 40-5? The late ESPN game has a decent subplot, with Minnesota coach Dwane Casey facing off against former boss and now Portland coach Nate McMillan, two of the beneficiaries of the Sonics' superb 2004-05 season.

We'd like to say that Detroit at Indiana will be an intense matchup, but we don't have any reason to believe that right now. So we nominate three others to watch: Miami at Jersey, a.k.a. the Rob Babcock Bowl, as former Raptor Vince Carter plays against former Raptor (for a moment) Alonzo Mourning in a game with enough star power to light up the Air Canada Centre for a decade; Philly at Cleveland, with two of the league's top three scorers; and Chicago at Phoenix, where Scott Skiles faces his old team and the Suns get a fresh look at Luol Deng, who would be another option for Steve Nash had the team not handed him to Chicago after drafting him two years ago.

The ABC game (Rockets-Knicks) is noteworthy largely for sad-sack coaches Jeff Van Gundy (back in MSG) and Larry Brown, whose teams are a combined 29-56 right now. But don't bet against a T-Mac show -- he's been unstoppable lately, and the Knicks don't seem disposed to stop anyone during their current slide.

Power Rankings, more info on Chris Andersen, an interview with Nate McMillan, a fresh look at why Chris Paul fell to fourth in the draft, a roundup of trade rumors, coach approval ratings, Paul Shirley's journal, Chad Ford's draft updates, Marc Stein's notebook editions of the Daily Dime and much more.

Talk back to The Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: January 20 | 21-22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28-29

Private Eyes

Does Juwan Howard know he's messing with a cop? Shaq, the recently deputized center who is a 46 percent free throw shooter this season, sank 12 of 18 as the Heat beat the Rockets 101-95.

Largest Decrease in Points Consecutive Games, Single Season
Points Player Dates
51 Kobe Bryant Jan. 22, 2006 (81)/Jan. 27, 2005 (30)
48 Rick Barry March 26, 1974 (64)/March 27, 1974 (16)
47 Vernon Maxwell Jan. 26, 1991 (51)/Jan. 29, 1991 (4)
46 Pete Maravich Feb. 10, 1976 (49)/Feb. 11, 1976 (3)
45 Jack Twyman Jan. 15, 1960 (59)/Jan. 16, 1960 (14)

-- ESPN Research

News and Notes

Yao Ready To Play
Yao was so confident he will not be risking damage to his toe by coming back early, he pointed to the red plastic shield on his new basketball shoes protecting his sore left big toe and offered a challenge. "You want to try it?" he said. "Step on it. It's pretty hard. Go ahead. I won't feel it." Finding no takers, he put his right foot on the front of his left and mashed on it. -- Houston Chronicle

Traded Players Get A Chance To Shine
Paul Pierce called tonight's matchup against Minnesota at the Target Center just ''another game." Really? Can he be so nonchalant, so business-like, before playing against former teammates Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, and Justin Reed less than a week after they were traded? Maybe. But for other members of the Celtics, it will be a night of mixed emotions. Pierce recognized as much. ''I look at it as another game, but I'm sure Ricky Davis, Mark Blount and the other guys are going to look at it as something different," said Pierce. -- Boston Globe

Read the entire Intelligence Report on ESPN Insider Insider

Motion: Driven To Victory
The Cavs trailed the Suns by 17 midway through the third quarter. Then LeBron James turned the keys to the ol' Blue Bird. Suns taken to school. Cavs win.

LeBron LeBrilliant

Turn It Up To Eleven

Chauncey Billups keeps an eye on Kobe Bryant, who had a relatively quiet 39 points. The Detroit Five (plus four) posted its 11th straight win. Next: the Nets on Tuesday.

Extreme Behavior

Sunday's Best
LeBron James, Cavs forward: No hand-wringing, dishin'-to-role-players here. Came up big with 44 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in a 113-106 win over the Suns.


Sunday's Worst
Lamar Odom, Lakers forward: Eight turnovers? That shouldn't be a stat line, it's the answer to a question: "What did you have for Sunday breakfast?" "Ate turnovers -- apple and blueberry." Lakers lose to Pistons, 102-93.

Quote of the Day

"We feel as though we have five superstars. If we want one guy to go out there and average 30, we can do that. But we know what we want at the end, a championship, and we know one guy can't guard five guys."
-- Pistons guard Richard Hamilton, whose team is now 37-5 and chasing history. Rip leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage (.517).

See how all 105 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres

Green Daze

The Celtics acquired Michael Olowokandi in the seven-player trade with the T'Wolves. Since Robert Parish played his last game for the Celtics in 1994, no player has started as many as 200 games at center for Boston. The leaders among the Celtics' 25 different starting centers since then: Mark Blount, 195 (2001-2006); Tony Battie, 175 (1999-2003); Eric Montross, 134 (1994-1996); Vitaly Potapenko, 120 (1999-2002); Andrew DeClercq, 50 (1997-1999).

-- Elias Sports Bureau

Elias Says

Shaquille O'Neal played his 100th game with the Heat on Sunday. O'Neal has averaged 21.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game for Miami, after recording averages of 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds for the Magic and 27.0 points and 11.8 rebounds for the Lakers.

Only four other players in NBA history played at least 100 games and averaged 20 points or more per game with at least three different teams: Bernard King (Nets, Warriors, Knicks, Bullets), World B. Free (Clippers, Warriors, Cavaliers), Moses Malone (Rockets, 76ers, Bullets) and Stephon Marbury (Nets, Suns, and Knicks). Of those four, only Malone also averaged double figures in rebounds.

• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider

Dime Mailbag: The 81 Man

Kobe's 81 shows me how amazing David Thompson's 73 was. No 3-pointer in his era. The NBA is really pushing this style of play. It grabs headlines and stirs debate. The real story to me is the Pistons and their team style. I have been hooping all my life and I know how special it is when a group comes together like this.
-- Joe Spinder

Why is Kobe such a lightning rod for criticism on the court? Iif he scores 62 and sits out the fourth or goes for it and scores 81, he catches heat either way. Why are there so many Kobe haters out there? I've been following the NBA for over 20 years and he's the closest thing I've seen to Jordan. And Jordan wasn't always the nicest guy or best teammate but his desire and sheer will to win were second to none. I see the exact same traits in Kobe.
-- James, Chicago

Do you guys really think Kobe scoring 81 points is good for the game of BASKETBALL? There has been so much talk about a lack of fundamentals in the game nowadays and you have a guy hoisting shots from the moon and worrying about statistics on a team that's barely playoff worthy. You have the Pistons at 37-5, the epitome of a team, one of the league leaders in assists as a team and every article is Kobe and 81. Is this what our kids growing up learning the game should see and learn about from the game of basketball? Really?
-- Rico, Detroit



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