Archive for the ‘ NBA All-Star blog ’ Category

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo
A quick little character.

Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo has been named by NBA  Commissioner  David  Stern  to replace injured East All-Star guard Joe Johnson  (injured  left knee) of the Atlanta Hawks in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando. This is Rondo’s third All-Star Game selection.

Replacing  Johnson  in the Three-Point Contest is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant, a 2012 NBA All-Star.

A lot of people thought Hawks forward Josh Smith would be named a replacement. Not just because he’s Johnson’s teammate. Smith is this season is averaging 16.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.13 blocks per game. Many people thought he was more worthy an All-Star than Johnson in the first place.

As for Rondo, for the season he’s putting up 14.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 9.5 assists and 1.64 steals per game, while shooting a terrific 48.5% from the field. Fantastic stats. Rondo has missed games due to both injury and suspension. But he is playing on an All-Star level.

Durant is a great addition to the three-point shootout. It’s a more interesting contest when stars are involved.

The  2012  NBA  All-Star  Game, which will air live at 7 p.m. ET on TNT and ESPN  Radio  in  the  U.S.,  and  reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories  in  more  than 40 languages, will be played at Amway Center in Orlando on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012.

Jeremy Evans
Jeremy Evans
Has crazy hops

The 2012 NBA Slam Dunk contest just got shaken up a bit, with one of the bright young stars unable to throw down for the weekend.

The NBA announced today that Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans has been added to this year’s dunk contest that will be held on Feb. 25 at Amway Center in Orlando (TNT, 6 p.m. MT).  Evans joins a group of three other players in the Slam Dunk that features a series of firsts, including four first-time participants, a new single-round format in which the winner will be chosen solely by fan vote, and the introduction of fan voting via Twitter.

A 2010 second-round draft pick (55th overall) out of Western Kentucky, 61 of Evans’ 88 made shots over his first two years have been dunks, 30 of those on alley-oops.  His dunk percentage of 69.3 percent is the highest in the NBA over the last two seasons.  The 6-9, 194-pound high-riser owns career averages of 3.2 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.

Evans becomes the sixth player in Jazz history selected to participate in the event, joining Darrell Griffith (1984, 1985), Blue Edwards (1990, 1991), David Benoit (1993), Jamie Watson (1995) and DeShawn Stevenson (2001).

In addition to Evans, the three other players who will vie for the Sprite Slam Dunk championship include the Houston Rockets’ Chase Budinger, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Derrick Williams.

A new format will be implemented for the 2012 competition. The contest will consist of only one round and each competitor will execute three dunks. Fan voting will open after all four players have completed their first dunk. Previously, the Sprite Slam Dunk contest consisted of two rounds, with the first round scored by a panel of judges which determined two finalists.

Full coverage of the weekend is on

Read NBA fan opinion and share your views in this basketball forum topic.

joe johnson

Hawks guard Joe Johnson underwent an MRI yesterday in Atlanta, and he was diagnosed with left knee tendinitis. As previously announced, he’ll miss the Hawks’ next two games (tonight in New York, tomorrow vs. Orlando).

In addition, Johnson won’t participate in this weekend’s All-Star game and activities in Orlando. He’ll be re-evaluated prior to Atlanta’s first game after the All-Star break (Wednesday the 29th vs. Golden State). speculates that if the league wants to pick the most deserving East All-Star replacement regardless of position, it just might be Johnson’s teammate on the Hawks, forward Josh Smith. There are also some worthy guards, including Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics — though he’s missed games this season due to both injury and suspension.

Derrick Favors

The NBA announced today that Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors has been added to the 2012 NBA Rising Stars Challenge that will take place on Friday, February 24 in Orlando, during NBA All-Star 2012. Favors will join teammate Gordon Hayward, who was previously selected to the game, on TEAM CHUCK. The two will be Utah’s first participants in the event since Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap played for the sophomore team during the 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans.

A 2010 first-round draft pick (third overall) out of Georgia Tech, Favors is currently averaging 8.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game this season. The 6-10, 246-pound forward has scored in double figures nine times this season, grabbed 10+ rebounds four times, and registered a double-double on three occasions. On December 30, Favors notched a new career-high scoring 20 points while pulling down 11 rebounds vs. Philadelphia.

Favors and Hayward will be the sixth and seventh players in Jazz history to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge (formerly the Rookie Challenge), joining Bryon Russell (1994), Andrei Kirilenko (2002, 2003), Deron Williams (2006, 2007), Paul Millsap (2007, 2008) and Ronnie Brewer (2008).

This year, a new format is being implemented to a game that has historically featured NBA rookies facing off against sophomores. For the first time, rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal are serving as the general managers of the two opposing teams - TEAM CHUCK and TEAM SHAQ – having held a draft on Feb. 16.

Scott Brooks
scott brooks
Should buy Durant and Westbrook a dinner

Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks and his coaching staff will guide the Western Conference All-Stars on February 26th at Amway Center in Orlando, it was announced by the NBA.

With Oklahoma City’s 101-87 win over the Utah Jazz Friday, the Thunder (21-6, .778) have clinched the best record in the conference through games played February 15.

This season, Brooks and the Oklahoma City staff have guided the Thunder to multiple winning streaks including an NBA season-high tying seven games, five games and four games. He earned Western Conference Coach of the Month honors for games played in December/January. The Thunder has won a conference best 12 games on the road this season.

In his 4th season as head coach, Brooks has a career mark of 148-112 (.569). In his first full season as head coach, Brooks was named 2009-10 NBA Coach of the year after guiding the Thunder to a 50-32 (.610) and the franchise’s first playoff appearance in Oklahoma City.

The coach of the East All-Stars will be determined by the team with the best record in the conference through games played February 15. The Boston Celtics Doc Rivers, who coached last year’s East squad, is not eligible to coach this year’s All-Star Game.

The 2012 NBA All-Star Game, which will air live at 8 p.m. ET on TNT and ESPN Radio in the U.S., and reach fans in more than 200 countries and territories in more than 40 languages.

Read NBA fan opinion and share your views in this basketball forum topic.

Josh Smith
Josh Smith
Can dunk on your entire family

Hawks forward Josh Smith looks at the reserves voted to the Eastern Conference All-Star team and figures there must be behind-the-scenes forces that explain why some of the players made the team ahead of him.

“You’ve got to factor in there is a lot of politics involved in the All-Star selection,” Smith said Friday. “Once you get that it’s really about politics, then nothing really surprises you. I call it ‘Nothing But Associates,’ NBA. It’s all who you know.”

Coaches vote for the All-Star reserves, so there is the potential for lobbying by fellow coaches, other team personnel, and player agents. For example, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle reportedly lobbied coaches to vote for forward Dirk Nowitzki, who was selected for the team even after he had said he didn’t deserve it.

Smith said “I guess I don’t know the right people” and didn’t have people lobbying on his behalf.

– Reported by Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kevin Love
Kevin Love
Wants to do it all

Western Conference coaches on Thursday invited Timberwolves forward Kevin Love to his second NBA All-Star Game, one year after Commissioner David Stern named him as an injury replacement for his first.

“It definitely feels different,” Love said on Thursday evening.

It feels different because his team has won more times in 24 games during this lockout-shortened season than it did in the first 48 games a year ago.

It feels different because he had an “inkling” coaches would select him and because he was invited Thursday morning to appear on TNT’s announcement show hours later that night.

He’ll also soon accept an offer to participate in All-Star weekend’s three-point shooting contest.

– Reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin
Every day is like a dunk contest

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin was voted as a starter to the NBA All-Star Game on Thursday but said he doesn’t plan on defending his slam dunk contest title during All-Star weekend.

“As of right now I don’t plan on being in it,” Griffin said Thursday night. “Those dunk contests aren’t my thing, I said that last year. There’s a lot of guys that can put on a great show and do some good stuff.”

Last year Griffin won the slam dunk contest, played in the Rookie Challenge and played in the All-Star Game during a whirlwind All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

– Reported by Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles

Read NBA fan opinion and share your views in this basketball forum topic.

Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports (via blog):

If past NBA lockout history is any guidepost to the present, the city of Orlando should know around mid-December whether the 2012 all-star game will be played at Amway Center — or cancelled.

In the last lockout, the league cancelled the Feb. 14 1999 all-star game scheduled in Philadelphia on Dec. 9, 1998.

This year’s game is set a little later — Feb. 26 at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando.

So it could be that if this lockout continues, eating up regular-season games, the league likely will cancel Orlando’s game around Dec. 15.

The NBA salvaged a 50-game season in 1998-99, with games beginning in early February.

The 2012 NBA All-Star game, assuming it gets played, will be in Orlando. The 2013 game, according to just about every Houston media outlet in existence, will be in Houston. It should be around a full year before the 2014 weekend gets a home, but the New York Knicks hope to land the honor.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports:

With Houston reportedly getting the 2013 All-Star Game, the new Garden figures to be the top candidate for the 2014 event when the three-year transformation is finally complete. The Knicks have applied to host the game. The Nets and Brooklyn’s Barclay Center also could be considered.

I assume the Knicks or Nets are favorites to be named host in 2014 (and maybe also 2015), because by then the Nets will have been in Brooklyn for two years. That’s two fresh arenas, ready to pack fans in.

Read NBA fan opinion or discuss your views in this basketball forum topic.

By Jeff Lenchiner

It was a surprise today learning that the Houston Rockets, after hosting NBA All-Star weekend in 2006, get to do it again in 2013. Many teams would love to host the big event, and there’s no particular reason for Houston to land the honor quite so soon.

So, using Twitter, I reached out to the over 55,800 people currently following InsideHoops and asked them to to chime in with guesses as to why Houston is again playing All-Star host while so many other cities continue to wait. Here are some of my favorite responses (some of which I may agree with, others not so much):

MarkEomurian: Houston wants to draw attention to the smog problem?

Pharoah2012: Cuz…”We Da Best Host City”! :)

Joco967: Brian scalabrine once dreamt about Houston. The rest is self-explanatory.

SupaSIGMA4: Cuz the Chi is too dangerous and they’ve been everywhere else significant.

Crawf33: They’ve gotta have SOMETHING to pep them up after Yao called it a day.

MySkizzle: With Yao gone and the lockout looming, Stern will probably do something around Yao that night to keep Chinese market.

djgray1: Because it’s always hot here. No worries about bad weather.

HoopsU: It’s warm.

dboy03: Losing Yao Ming. NBA feels sorry for them.

MemphisSportFan: The NBA will do anything to keep the all-star game out of Memphis. So they put it in Houston again.

ImmaSavedSinner: Cause all the hoes here in the H.

glazeduck: capitalizing on Asian market before the Yao effect wears off.

MeteAktas76: A consolation for Yao Ming’s early retirement maybe?


Many others also mentioned the Yao Ming factor. I’d say there’s something to that Perhaps Yao will be brought over and there will be a massive tribute to him, as a way to keep fans in China tuned in.

Also, a big part of NBA All-Star weekend is the hotel situation. There needs to be plenty of rooms available, right nearby. And there are also various hotel partnerships that may come into play, somehow.

Houston is also warmer in the winter than most places. It has an airport, with functional planes and everything! That’s probably the bulk of it.

So, here’s to a great weekend in Houston in 2013! But first, in February of 2012 we’ll head to sunny, warm Orlando.

Houston lands 2013 NBA All-Star Game

Mark Berman of My Fox Houston reports:

NBA sources told FOX 26 Sports the Houston Rockets and the City of Houston landed the NBA All-Star Game in 2013. The game will be played at Toyota Center on Feb. 17, 2013. NBA All-Star week will be Feb. 15-17. The Rockets and Toyota Center also hosted the game in 2006.

Click2Houston reports:

The entire NBA All-Star Weekend will be in the Bayou City from February 15-17, 2013. Hilton Americas Marketing Director Janice O’Neill-Cox spoke with Local 2 Sports Wednesday afternoon, saying, “We played a key role in working with the league to make sure availability was in place. It’s a big boost for our city to land the game, and we’re excited about it.” editor says: I don’t get why Houston is getting the game again. They just had it in 2006. Meanwhile, other teams haven’t hosted it in a long time. Also, Madison Square Garden renovations will be mostly complete in time. And the new Brooklyn Nets arena will exist by mid 2012. Unusual call to send the big weekend back to Houston so soon.

Shaq announces retirement

The AP reports:

shaq retiring

Shaquille O’Neal, who struggled to get on the court for the Boston Celtics because of leg injuries, said on Twitter on Wednesday that he is going to retire after a 19-year career in which he won four NBA titles and the 2000 league Most Valuable Player award.

O’Neal sent a tweet shortly before 2:45 p.m. saying, “im retiring.” It included a link to a 16-second video in which he says, “We did it; 19 years, baby. Thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first: I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”

An inveterate prankster who gave himself a new nickname — or several — in each of his six NBA cities, the 15-time all-star did not notify his latest team of his plans. He played just 37 games this year, the first of a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum salary, making just three brief appearances after Feb. 1.

“To my knowledge, he has not informed any of us that he’s retiring,” Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said.

If he goes, O’Neal retires fifth all-time with 28,596 points, 12th with 13,099 rebounds and second only to Artis Gilmore among players with more than 2,000 baskets with a .582 field goal percentage.

Read fan reaction and share your own opinion in this forum topic.

The 2010-11 NBA regular season was fantastic, and the ongoing playoffs have been even better. But off basketball courts and in the legal realm, the league owners and players union continue to disagree. An eventual lockout continues to appear likely.

Chris Sheridan of ESPN reports:

The union for NBA players filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board Tuesday, seeking an injunction that would prevent owners from imposing a lockout when the current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30.

The players’ union, less than a month after receiving the latest formal proposal from the owners, is accusing the owners of negotiating in bad faith.

The complaint, in part, alleges the NBA is “making harsh, inflexible, and grossly regressive ‘takeaway’ demands that the NBA knows are not acceptable to the Union.”

The complaint further alleges the NBA is engaging in “classic ‘take it or leave it’ and surface bargaining” with the intent of running out the clock on the CBA, “until the NBA locks out the represented employees in order to coerce them into accepting the NBA’s harsh and regressive demands.”

The NBA issued a statement in response to the complaint.

“There is no merit to the charge filed today by the Players Association with the National Labor Relations Board, as we have complied — and will continue to comply — with all of our obligations under the federal labor laws. It will not distract us from our efforts to negotiate in good faith a new collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association,” the league said in a statement.

I really hope this somehow gets resolved over the next month, though it isn’t looking likely.

A look ahead to Thunder-Mavs Game 4

By Scott Spangler

It’s funny how perception tends to change drastically after each contest of a seven-game series. Thursday Oklahoma City took Game 2 in Dallas and the series took a turn as the Thunder seized homecourt advantage.

Then in Game 3, it was the Mavericks winning one on the Road at the Ford Center, reclaiming homecourt. So naturally, the talk today in Dallas centered on putting the WCF to bed in five games.

And should OKC respond with a win this evening, we have a best-of-three and all the pressure is on the Mavs again. That’s the nature of playoff basketball. Not quite as dramatic as hockey, but you get the idea.

As for the adjustments coaches are required to make during the course of these series, those, too, can vary greatly from game to game. Despite slow starts in each of the first three games against Dallas, Thunder head coach Scott Brooks has vowed not to alter his starting lineup

That means keeping Kendrick Perkins on the floor, which has been an issue in matching up against Maverick center Tyson Chandler. Perkins is still not at 100 percent (knee) and running with Chandler has been a problem.

To this point against the Mavericks, OKC is minus-32 with Perkins on the floor and plus-23 with him on the bench. He has not been much of a defensive presence vs. Dallas, and his lack of offensive game doesn’t help on the other end.

Saturday night, Dallas was running an extra defender at OKC wing scorers, allowing screeners to go free most of the night. The Mavericks obviously do not respect the ability of Perkins to make them pay for doubling the ball.

There is the notion Oklahoma City should go with a smaller lineup, but Brooks has been reluctant to do so in the past, usually as a last resort. It might come down to that tonight.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) today announced new multiyear agreements with Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) and Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), extending the league’s longstanding relationship with each company to continue to develop, publish, and distribute NBA video games.

The new agreements will provide fans with a diverse offering of NBA video games, including 5-on-5 simulation and arcade style games that will be available on video game consoles, online, and through mobile devices.

“We have had successful and longstanding relationships with both 2K Sports and EA SPORTS,” said Sal LaRocca, Executive Vice President of NBA Global Merchandising.  “Extending our agreements with the top sports video game developers continues to maximize our presence in this category, while ensuring our fans the best selection of NBA video games.”

Take-Two and EA will each have the rights to use NBA teams and players in their NBA video game titles.  Throughout the agreements, the league will work closely with Take-Two and EA to promote the basketball video games through global marketing, promotional programs, and multiple assets including NBA TV,, and grassroots events.

Take-Two, an NBA licensee since 1999 and with the new agreement, an official marketing partner of the NBA, will continue to publish the NBA 2K franchise through its 2K Sports publishing label.  NBA 2K, a 5-on-5 simulation which originally debuted in 1999, will be released on a yearly basis on all leading video game platforms.

This year, NBA 2K 11 which features Michael Jordan on the cover, has sold more than five million units to date, a record for the NBA 2K franchise.

“We’re pleased to extend our successful relationship with the NBA, that will allow 2K Sports to continue to innovate the basketball video game category with our critically acclaimed NBA 2K franchise,” said Jason Argent, vice president of marketing for 2K Sports.  “Our partnership ensures that we can continue to marry innovative gameplay with the authenticity of the NBA that today’s sports fans demand.”

Along with the acclaimed NBA 2K franchise, 2K Sports will have the opportunity to explore and develop new NBA licensed gaming opportunities, including online on social media platforms.

EA, an NBA licensee since 1991, will debut a new 5-on-5 NBA simulation title in fall 2012.  The game is being developed at EA Tiburon in Orlando.  EA SPORTS originally unveiled their simulation game, NBA LIVE in 1995.

Along with a new simulation game, EA will continue to publish their arcade-style video game franchise EA SPORTS NBA JAM.  The latest edition, NBA JAM: On Fire Edition is being developed for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, and it will be available on PlayStation® Network and Xbox LIVE® Arcade this fall.   EA SPORTS revived NBA JAM, the popular arcade game from the early 1990’s, in October 2010.

“We’re pleased to continue our longstanding partnership with the NBA,” said Jordan Edelstein, Vice President of Marketing, EA SPORTS.  “With our all-new digital download of NBA JAM coming this fall and a new simulation title in development for release next year, we have a strong lineup of innovative NBA titles coming soon from EA SPORTS.”

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

By Scott Spangler

russell westbrook

Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks may have won on some levels after Thunder-Mavericks Game 2 with the decision to stick with guard Eric Maynor, but something may have been lost with his starting point guard Russell Westbrook, despite what is being said publicly. There may in fact be a problem.

How do we know?

Despite a horrid offensive showing in the first half of Game 3, Brooks stuck with Westbrook the entire second half. And while Westbrook’s final offensive numbers were respectable, a lot of that came while matched up against the diminutive and defensively-challenged J.J. Barea.

Westbrook did produce 30 points, and yes, he was getting to the foul line, but it took 20 shots and all of that came at the expense of offensive flow (4 assists to 7 turnovers). The Thunder only had 11 assists as a team on 27 made field goals. That tells us there was a lot of pounding the ball and very little ball movement.

That makes life so much easier on a defense.

Credit Dallas for remaining committed to what looked to be a deliberate defensive game-plan. From the outset, the Mavs were using Tyson Chandler to blitz the ball in pick and roll situations. On just about every high screen, the Mavericks left the screener uncovered because they were concentrating on keeping two defenders in front of Westbrook. And what exactly is there to fear by cutting loose Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka?

The result of this strategy was a stagnant offensive performance by the Thunder. OKC did not break the 30-percent shooting mark until late in the third quarter.

Getting back to the Brooks/Westbrook issue, it doesn’t take a Mensan to conclude there is a rift there. Clearly, there was frustration on the part of the player throughout Game 2 in Dallas. After being ripped clean by defensive mastermind Peja Stojakovic and then losing the ball to Jason Kidd in successive possessions, Brooks made the move to Maynor.

We all saw Westbrook boiling over on the bench. We all saw him play the good teammate in timeouts and in huddles. We also read his postgame response. “When we’re winning, I’m good.”

So, Scott Brooks makes the switch to Maynor Thursday night in a game his starting PG and offense were performing rather well, and then sticks with his backup. Conversely, he decides to hang with Westbrook in Game 3 despite suffering through a dreadful first-half performance.

Nothing about that makes sense.

One could certainly understand the Game 2 decision. Brooks’ bench was performing splendidly in Game 2, and the Thunder had seized momentum. Brooks simply stuck with what was working. But when nothing is going well Saturday night and OKC’s guard play had much to do with that, it’s tough to rationalize Westbrook 42 minutes, Maynor six.

Not so tough when considering the likelihood of a coach appeasing the star point guard, doing what he can to not lose the player.

This is not to suggest a move to Maynor would have saved the day, and certainly not to lay all the blame at the feet of Westbrook. It’s just that, the sudden shift in Brooks’ approach leaves many of us scratching our heads.

Read fan reaction and share your own opinion in this forum topic.

Column: A New Dirk Nowitzki? Not So Much.

By Scott Spangler

michael redd

This just in: Dirk Nowitzki is now and has been a phenomenal postseason performer – for years.

The lion’s share of NBA “analysts” are hopping aboard the Charles Barkley bandwagon, lauding Dirk’s newfound mindset.

“This is a different Dirk Nowitzki.”


One of four players to post career playoff averages of 25 points and 10 rebounds and the guy is just now stepping it up?

There is no denying what we saw Tuesday night in Dallas is the stuff of legend. Dirk gave the Thunder 48 points on just 15 shots. That will not happen again. However, Maverick fans have become quite accustomed to brilliance from their star power forward.

In a word, Nowitzki is efficient. There are a few players out there who can put up 29 points per game in a playoff run; not many, but a few. But how many of those are doing that putting up just 18 shots?

And that’s a step above the incredibly efficient regular season numbers he put up this year. In his 12th NBA season, Dirk averaged 23 points on 52 percent shooting, right under 40 percent from deep, and 89 from the foul line.

I recall Chris Webber sitting on the TNT set in late March, doing postgame for Mavs/Lakers. This was a blowout win for L.A., complete with a near-brawl emanating from a Jason Terry shove of Steve Blake. C-Webb launches into his “soft” spiel, which is funny on a number of levels, primarily because it’s Webber himself offering up that particular label.

Webber, who never wanted anything to do with the rock in a tight game and wanted no part of anything inside 18 feet when play got rough, calls out Nowitzki specifically and declares Dallas as a first-round out because their best player fails to plant Kobe Bryant on a fast break.

Just wondering what Gregg Popovich might say about that. Five different playoff series Pop has coached against Nowitzki and the Mavericks. The first one, a 23-year-old German star-to-be gets his front teeth knocked out, only to respond with 42 points and 18 boards.

“Soft,” he says.

Then we get word out of L.A. about Pau Gasol’s personal issues, the girlfriend, fiancée, whatever, and how that may have affected his play in the series vs. Dallas. This would be the Gasol many argued was the top Euro in the league not too long ago.

This reminds me of a series two years ago between the Mavs and Nuggets. Nowitzki had just been hit with a sledge hammer. The Crystal Taylor imbroglio would have buried most guys.

Taylor was a con-artist marking Nowitzki from the outset. He proposes marriage, and Taylor gets a $250,000 rock for her trouble. After being arrested on warrants, it comes out this woman has a number of aliases. Dirk was played. And all of this coming down during that Denver series.

How does said superstar respond? Averages 34 points, 11 rebounds, shoots 53 percent. If only Jason Terry or Josh Howard could focus like this. It might have been a series. I’m guessing George Karl would also smirk at the soft label.

The critics will, more often than not, point to two series when attempting to discredit Nowitzki’s postseason body of work – Miami in 2006, and Golden State in 2007. Admittedly, that catastrophe against the Warriors was bad on so many fronts, and Dirk shared in it.

If anyone could effectively gameplan for Nowitzki, it was Don Nelson. Using guards to play underneath and running a second defender at him once the ball was floored, Golden State frustrated Dirk and dared anyone else in a Maverick uniform to beat them. Didn’t happen.

That said, if we are putting any player not named Michael Jordan under a microscope, some pretty shoddy moments are going to be revealed.

Again, try 25.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per playoff contest on for size. Four men in NBA history have done as much in the postseason. Soft doesn’t apply here.

We all know the deal. Dallas has to go the distance for Dirk and the Mavericks to shed some rather unflattering tags. Because Jason Terry is shooting the ball well, and because Tyson Chandler finally represents a real presence inside, Charles Barkley has decided to be a front man for the Dirk parade. And now he’s not so soft. Amazing how that works.

Kevin Garnett gets roasted for years by Nowitzki – regular season, playoffs, you name it – absolutely taken apart. Somehow, a trade to Boston lands him beside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, and KG is a champion. Never called soft or weak? Garnett… you know… the guy who screams at air and rarely looks an opponent in the eye.

But he was traded to a team with other future Hall of Famers and now he’s never to be questioned.

News flash: Garnett is much the same dude he was in Minnesota, just a bit older and the act has worn thin.

The guy in Dallas is much the same, too. He is doing what he’s always done. It’s about time we get the story straight with Dirk Nowitzki.

Read fan reaction and discuss your own opinion in this forum topic.

By Scott Spangler

It looked like the Los Angeles Lakers, who on Sunday were swept 4-0 in their second round playoff series by the Dallas Mavericks, lost Games 3 and 4 in the last five minutes Friday night. It is obviously easy to say this now, but it was my feeling at the time.

Dirk Nowitzki

The Mavs were down eight midway through the fourth quarter in Game 3, and responded with a 20-7 run to close. When Dirk Nowitzki hit a lefty hook to give the Mavericks the lead for good, there was no mistaking the Lakers’ body language.

Only moments earlier, a must-win, yet could-win situation for the Lakers was in play. As they left the court of American Airlines Center, eyes cast down and shoulders slumped. The final minute of Game 3 robbed L.A. of any ambition that might have remained.

The Lakers played defense at a high level most of Game 3 - championship caliber defense, in fact. On Sunday during Game 4, it was gone. Maverick guards got in and out of the paint at will. Jason Terry was the beneficiary of a lot of it, as he nailed several open threes, but J.J Barea made his way in the painted area with ease. Even 38 year-old Jason Kidd got inside for kickout passes to open teammates.

Sunday was just the day Dallas shooters were really knocking them down. Of course, that will happen when the opponent isn’t giving much in the way of resistance.

jason terry

And once threes started falling for Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic, L.A. packed it in. Andrew Bynum started short-arming everything, except J.J. Barea. Lamar Odom was thinking about a beach. Phil Jackson pondered life after coaching, but certainly not peyote.

Might the Mavericks have left the door open once shots stopped falling? Tough to say. Since shots kept going down, we will never know for sure. Dallas has been guilty of easing off the pedal before, and not just in Miami five years ago.

This is the club that led Portland 3-0 in 2003, only to see the series go seven games. And the Lakers are the one franchise that would seem capable of making that type of history. Until now, Dallas would seem the perfect victim.

But again, shots kept falling for the Mavs. The defense continued to smother Kobe Bryant and dared others to convert. No one stepped up and the Los Angeles Lakers went quietly, without much of a fight.

All due respect to the two-time defending world champions. This is a trophy kill for the little Mavericks, a team that many believed wouldn’t survive Portland. There’s much to be proud of for Mark Cuban and Dallas fans everywhere.

Still, the effort Sunday wasn’t what one would expect from a champion. Perhaps all Laker will had been sapped through three games. And maybe, Dallas just took it.

What’s your reaction? Discuss opinions with other fans in this forum topic.

Dwyane Wade hurt in All-Star Game

Michael Wallace of ESPN reports:

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade injured his right ankle in the third quarter of Sunday’s All-Star Game and did not return.

Wade sustained the injury midway through the quarter when he landed awkwardly on guard Deron Williams’ foot. Wade, a starting guard for the Eastern Conference team, had scored 14 points in the game before he limped off the court after East coach Doc Rivers called a timeout with 5:04 left in the quarter. He also had four rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes of the East’s 148-143 loss to the West.

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