Archive for December, 2008

Krstic joins Thunder, Steven Hill waived

Oklahoma City Thunder Executive Vice President and General Manager Sam Presti announced today that the team’s acquisition of center Nenad Krstic has been finalized. The Thunder originally signed Krstic to an offer sheet on Dec. 22nd. The transaction was finalized today when the New Jersey Nets declined to match the Thunder offer.

“We are pleased to be able to add Nenad to our organization,” said Presti. “He is someone that we feel helps this team both in the short and long term. We are excited that he will be a part of the Thunder as we continue to build our team here in Oklahoma City.”

Krstic (7-0, 213), the 24th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft by the Nets, played four seasons in New Jersey appearing in 226 games. During that time he averaged 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 27 minutes per contest.

The Serbian national had his best year in 2005-06 when he started 80 games for the Nets as a second year player. He averaged 13.5 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Krstic had his 2006-07 season cut short by a torn ACL in his left knee. Prior to the injury he was averaging 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists per contest.

Krstic signed a contract with Triumph Lyubertsy of Russia’s Superleague A on July 29, 2008. In seven Superleague A games with Triumph he averaged 10.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.0 block in 21 minutes per contest.

Prior to his move to the NBA, Krstic played four seasons for Partizan in Yugoslavian League where he averaged 10.6 points and 5.2 rebounds.

Krstic will wear uniform #12.

At the same time the team announced that it has waived center Steven Hill. Hill appeared in one game for the Thunder scoring two points and grabbing thee rebounds in two minutes.

Mavericks hot but defense lacking

The Dallas Morning News (Eddie Sefko) reports:  The Mavericks are 16-5 since the first 17 days of the season. But that crummy start still mars their overall record. At 18-12, they are on pace to win 49 games – not too shabby, given the 2-7 start.  They have shown they are a good road team, with 10 wins already. They have embraced coach Rick Carlisle’s everybody-plays style, and the offense has gotten more fluid as the season has progressed. But if there’s one stamp on the Mavericks that is a sure-fire measure of success, it’s their defense. Yes, their defense.

No back-to-backs for McGrady

The Houston Chronicle (Jonathan Feigen) reports: Rockets guard Tracy McGrady returned to the court Monday after missing Saturday’s game, but said he and the team have agreed he will not play both games when the Rockets play two games in as many nights. After struggling in New Orleans on Friday, McGrady sat out Saturday’s game against the Utah Jazz. “Me and coach talked about it, and I think when we do have back-to-backs, we’ll really have communication to decide which game I should play and which game I should sit out.

Rashard Lewis the ironman for Orlando

The Orlando Sentinel (Brian Schmitz) reports:  Rashard Lewis continues to be the Magic’s Ironman. Lewis remained the only member of this season’s original starting lineup to play every game. He was on the floor on Monday night against the Pistons despite sitting out the morning shootaround because of a bone bruise on his left ankle. Lewis said he was injured after being kicked during the Magic’s game Saturday night in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I’m going to play if I have to drag my leg out there,” laughed Lewis before the game.

The AP reports: Marco Belinelli, C.J. Watson and the Golden State Warriors returned home just long enough to pick up a change of clothes, a victory over Toronto and two new nicknames. Stephen Jackson scored 30 points, Belinelli added 23 and the Warriors held off the road-weary Raptors on Monday night. Their 117-111 victory wasn’t safe until the whisper-thin Watson floated into the lane and hit a clutch jumper over Chris Bosh, the 6-foot-10 All-Star, in the final minute… Kelenna Azubuike added 18 points for the Warriors, who won for just the third time in 11 games… Bosh had 30 points and 14 rebounds for Toronto, hitting a 3-pointer with 3:29 left to pull the Raptors within two points. Jose Calderon added 21 points and 16 assists, but the Raptors missed several open 3-pointers in the final minutes, perhaps finally running out of energy after 12 days on the road.

The AP reports: Deron Williams got out of bed Monday feeling his best and made sure the reeling Philadelphia 76ers knew it. He scored 27 points to help the short-handed Jazz beat Philadelphia 112-95… With two of Utah’s top three scorers out with injuries and Mehmet Okur limited with a sore back, the normally unselfish Williams made 11 of 18 shots, including four 3-pointers. He has battled ankle and calf injuries since the preseason… Andrei Kirilenko, filling in for injured power forwards Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap, had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and changed a number of shots in the lane. Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young each scored 17 points for Philadelphia, which dropped its fourth straight and is winless on its six-game road trip with three more remaining.

The AP reports: Caron Butler was out, Antawn Jamison was hurting and the lowly Washington Wizards were still able to beat the Houston Rockets on Monday night. Jamison scored a season-high 30 points, Andray Blatche added 16 points and eight rebounds and the Wizards snapped a five-game road losing streak with an 89-87 victory… Nick Young added 14 points as the Wizards ended a seven-game losing streak to the Rockets and won in Houston for the first time since 2001… Ron Artest scored 20 points, but also had six turnovers for the Rockets, who had a seven-game home winning streak snapped by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

The AP reports: When his two-time MVP left the game with back spasms, Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter ran his offense through another former MVP nearly twice the point guard’s size: Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal moved into ninth place on the NBA’s career scoring list with 28 points and 12 rebounds, and the Suns overcame the loss of Steve Nash to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 110-102 on Monday night…. Jason Richardson scored 20 points and reserve Matt Barnes had 19 for Phoenix, which snapped a four-game road losing streak. Phoenix held Oklahoma City scoreless for the first 5 minutes of the fourth quarter and forced eight of the Thunder’s 15 turnovers in the final period to put away the game… Rookie Russell Westbrook scored a career-high 31 and Jeff Green 22 to lead Oklahoma City, which fizzled after a hot start.

The AP reports: With all eyes on O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love, it was Al Jefferson who stole the show. Jefferson scored a season-high 38 points, including nine in overtime, and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 108-98 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night… Mayo had 23 points and Kyle Lowry finished with a career-high 12 assists, but Memphis lost its second consecutive overtime game and sixth in its last seven overall… Minnesota started the game 10-for-11 from the field, but missed 19 of its next 22 shots and entered halftime trailing by seven. The Wolves managed only one field goal in the second quarter, a franchise low. Their eight second-quarter points and 32 first-half points were both season lows.

The AP reports: Allen Iverson grinned as he looked at the boxscore after the Detroit Pistons’ 88-82 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday night. “I’m not used to seeing myself with 15 points and knowing that I had a good game,” he said. “Before, even if I only had 20 points, I didn’t think I was doing my job.” Iverson was Detroit’s fourth-leading scorer on a night when no Pistons player reached 20… Detroit has now won four in a row, the last two without Richard Hamilton (groin)… Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 19 points, while Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace each added 16. Antonio McDyess came off the bench with 11 points and eight rebounds despite a fourth-quarter rib injury… Rashard Lewis led the Magic with 23 points while Dwight Howard added 18 points and 18 rebounds.

The AP reports: Derrick Rose doesn’t remember what he was doing on April 17, 2001. “I was in grammar school, probably in the sixth grade,” Rose said after leading the Chicago Bulls to their first victory in New Jersey since that date, 100-87 over the Nets on Monday night. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft had 21 points and a season-high 13 assists, while Ben Gordon scored 24 points… The Nets continued their poor play at home, falling to 5-12, the second-worst mark in the Eastern Conference. The Nets (15-16) are 10-4 on the road… Andres Nocioni and Larry Hughes each added 17 points for the Bulls (14-17), who won for only the fourth time in 18 road games this season. It was Chicago’s first win in New Jersey since 2001, snapping a 13-game losing streak. Carter scored 31 points and Devin Harris added 26, 18 in the second half.

The AP reports: Joe Johnson scored 25 points and the Hawks beat the Denver Nuggets 109-91 on Monday night to close out the homestand with a long-awaited milestone. The Hawks (20-10) reached 20 wins before New Year’s Day for the first time since the 1987-88 season, when second-year center Al Horford was 1… The Hawks, bolstered by their strong start, are shooting for their first 50-win season since 1997-98… The Hawks made 12 of 23 3-point attempts, including 5-of-6 by Mike Bibby, who had 20 points and nine assists… Carmelo Anthony, who scored 32 points in the Nuggets’ 117-110 victory at the New York Knicks on Sunday, had only half that total with 16 points on 4-for-17 shooting from the field.

Soulja Boy: Her Booty Got Swag

Soulja Boy “Her Booty Got Swag” is a song that I assume is new, and I started laughing in appreciation of it just 15 or 20 seconds into the track. It’s hard to explain the amusement I get from this. It’s like enjoying a TV show that you know is total garbage, yet something about it hits you in just the right spot that gets you to keep watching. Hit the play (triangle) button below.

Steve Nash has back spasms

The AP reports: Former MVP Steve Nash left the Phoenix Suns’ game against Oklahoma City in the first quarter Monday night with back spasms and was not expected to return.

InsideHoops.com editor says: I’m still annoyed I didn’t go earlier to Nash’s soccer game in an NYC park last year. I saw some of it, but from a lousy angle. Now, what does that have to do with Nash having back spasms? Absolutely nothing. Hope those clear up.

Players of Week: LeBron, Kobe

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant today were named the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Dec. 22, through Sunday, Dec. 28.

James guided the Cavaliers to a 3-0 mark, with home wins over the Rockets, Wizards and Heat, improving Cleveland’s mark at Quicken Loans Arena to 16-0, tops in the NBA. He averaged 26.0 points on 53 percent shooting, while adding 6.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists, as Cleveland improved to 26-4, the best start in franchise history. He finished with 27 points, including 19 in the second half, as Cleveland rallied to defeat Houston. He tallied 11 fourth-quarter points and finished with 33 points and nine assists in a comeback win over Miami.

Bryant led the Lakers to a 4-0 week, averaging 30.0 points on 54 percent shooting, to go with 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists. He tallied a game-high 27 points, nine rebounds and five assists, as the Lakers defeated Boston on Christmas Day, 92-83, snapping the Celtics’ 19-game winning streak. He capped off the week going 10-for-10 from the free throw line en route to scoring 31 points in a 130-113 victory over Golden State.

Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Orlando’s Rashard Lewis, Cleveland’s Mo Williams, Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace, Atlanta’s Joe Johnson, Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, Houston’s Yao Ming, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, San Antonio’s Tony Parker and Toronto’s Jermaine O’Neal.

Hornets struggling

The New Orleans Times-Picayune (John DeShazier) reports (via blog) on the current state of the Hornets: Getting steamrolled by the better teams isn’t earning the team any brownie points on the national scene. It’s not doing much for their image locally, either, because the folks in New Orleans are the ones who bought the season tickets with the expectation that their team would be among the elite and would challenge the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy. Their record says they are. Only the Lakers, at 25-5, have fewer losses in the West and for that, the Hornets are to be commended. The schedule is about to get particularly difficult, with consecutive road games against Portland, Denver, the Lakers and Utah following Tuesday’s game against Washington in New Orleans Arena. Those four games will be two back to backs, with the Portland-Denver and Lakers-Utah games separated by a two-day break. But the Hornets, with a 2-2 split on the trip, still could walk out of that blender in relatively decent shape.

Nets assign Sean Williams to D-League

New Jersey Nets forward Sean Williams was assigned to the Colorado 14ers, the Nets’ NBA Development League affiliate, it was announced today.  Williams is the 15th NBA player to be assigned to his NBA D-League affiliate this season and joins Sonny Weems and Cheikh Samb, both currently on assignment from the Denver Nuggets, on the 14ers roster.

Drafted by the Nets with the 17th overall selection in the 2007 NBA Draft, Williams has appeared in 16 games for New Jersey this season, averaging 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds in 11.1 minutes.   Williams appeared in 73 games for the Nets last season, 29 as a starter, and averaged 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds.

Williams, 6-10, was a three-year contributor at Boston College where he averaged 5.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 69 career games.  During his senior season, Williams averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.0 blocks in 15 games.

Williams is expected to join the 14ers tomorrow and be available when the team hosts the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at the Broomfield Event Center.  Tip off is set for 9 p.m. ET.

Ricky Davis suspended 5 games

The NBA announced today that Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Ricky Davis has been suspended without pay for five games for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program.  Davis’ suspension will begin with tomorrow night’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Sacramento Kings.

Davis is playing 21.3 minutes per game this season, but doing very little: shooting 27.2% from the field for 4.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.

Monday rumors here

Hello. Our server is being updated, so for this morning the InsideHoops.com rumors for Monday are here, below.

Later today things will be back on our regular page as usual:

The Knicks and Nuggets were engaged in talks involving a Linas Kleiza-for- David Lee swap earlier this month, and a person with knowledge of the situation said things got close enough just before the West Coast trip for Lee to get word that something might go down. Coach George Karl, however, persuaded Nuggets management to hang on to Kleiza because of his versatility. Kleiza and Lee will be restricted free agents this summer. NY Newsday

The rumor began with a simple question posed to Thunder forward Joe Smith last week about whether he’d be open to playing for Cleveland again. When Smith expressed a general interest in rejoining the Cavs, the following day’s internet headlines boldly declared Smith wanted out of Oklahoma City and hoped to be dealt or have his contract bought out so that he could return to the Cavs. Oklahoman

Joe Smith’s wife, Yolanda, immediately contacted her husband via e-mail after a friend informed her of the report. She asked Joe if he did indeed say he desired to be traded. “She knows I never talk like that,” Smith said. “She knows I’m not ever going to put myself in a position where I can be judged negatively. So that’s what she didn’t appreciate, and that’s what I didn’t appreciate. “That’s what people have to realize, it doesn’t just affect us as players, it affects our families as well when we hear whatever’s said or whatever’s written.” Oklahoman

More than half of the Thunder’s roster is likely to hear their names mentioned in trade winds from now until February. Denver, Toronto, Miami and Orlando are also reportedly interested in Smith, whose veteran savvy and skills, along with his expiring contract, have made him a hot commodity. Oklahoman

According to the latest league-wide gossip, the Raptors are said to be interested in trading for veteran forward Joe Smith. The much-travelled Smith is a coveted player because of his versatility. He never has lived up to his billing as the first overall pick, but Smith brings a toughness and rebounding presence teams such as Toronto need. Toronto Sun

Miami and Orlando also are said to be keen on trading for Smith, whose days in Oklahoma City appear numbered. The speculation comes as the Raptors prepare to play the host Golden State Warriors tonight, the team that took the Maryland product first overall back in 1995. Toronto Sun

The Warriors came to Hollywood a day before Sunday’s game, so you can probably imagine how swingman Stephen Jackson spent his Saturday. That’s right, hanging with former teammate Baron Davis, one of Jackson’s best friends. What you might not imagine is what Jackson talked to the Los Angeles Clippers point guard about: Davis coming back to the Warriors. “That’s all we talked about,” Jackson said. “I went to his house, spent some time with his mom and his grandmother. He wants to come back. And if he wants to come back, I want him back.” Contra Costa Times

After talks about a contract extension with the Warriors stalled, Davis opted out of the final year of his contract in July and signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Clippers. Davis has said he never wanted to leave the Warriors but chose the more secure option. Things haven’t gone so well with the Clippers. After losing to Dallas at the Staples Center hours before the Warriors took to the court, the Clippers are 8-21. Contra Costa Times

Stephen Jackson said he’s going to be the president of the “Bring B.D. Back” campaign. It is feasible that the Warriors and Clippers could pull off such a deal. It would have to involve swingman Corey Maggette (for salary cap reasons) and/or guard Jamal Crawford (to make room in the backcourt). Contra Costa Times

BD left the Warriors when Bobby Rowell over-ruled Chris Mullin’s tentative agreement (and I repeat: I agreed with Rowell’s decision on the length of the deal, but NOT with him over-ruling his GM; if Mullin wanted it, the team president should let him do it). San Jose Mercury News Blog

Plus plus, Clipper owner Donald Sterling loves Corey Maggette–you could see a BD-Maggette swap as a central part of a Clipper-Warriors deal. However… There are major problems: Rowell would never go for it, mostly because it’d be a victory for Mullin, and we know Rowell will have none of that. San Jose Mercury News Blog

Twenty-four hours after arriving in Chicago as one of the main pieces in the three-team, 11-player Ben Wallace dump, er, trade, last February, Larry Hughes made clear his desired role. “I plan to start,” he said Feb. 22. “I can play 35 or 40 minutes. I’ve been comfortable in that role for some time now.” Hughes’ words barely created a ripple then and sound fairly similar to what he’s saying this season, albeit now in more of a rock-the-boat fashion: More minutes please. Chicago Tribune

If Hughes is trying to force his way out of town, he’s going about it the wrong way and is probably just forcing himself out of the rotation. Just wait until Kirk Hinrich comes back in February from thumb surgery. The difficult part of all this is while statistics back up Hughes’ claim — that he’s more effective when he plays more — this season is more about discovering who fits with Rose moving forward than anything else. And, with an expiring $13.65 million contract next season, Hughes equals either trade bait or salary-cap relief at that point, not Rose’s backcourt mate. Chicago Tribune

With the Nuggets having talked to Oklahoma City about possibly acquiring one of its big men, Thunder forward Chris Wilcox doesn’t rule out his team making some sort of move if New Jersey doesn’t match Oklahoma City’s offer sheet on Nenad Krstic. “Right now, we’ve got nine big men. . . . Something has got to happen,” Wilcox said. If the Thunder doesn’t deal forward Joe Smith by the Feb. 19 trade deadline, some believe his contract could be bought out. Rocky Mountain News

“Whatever happens, happens,” said Smith, a former Denver player who said he hasn’t thought about whether he has interest in returning. Coach George Karl said the Nuggets could use another big man if they were to get a certain playoff matchup, but he doesn’t have to “predict it (until) the trade deadline.” Rocky Mountain News

Yet the only phone calls that will make a difference at this point are the ones that lead to a trade. While it continues to look as if nothing is heating up on that front, losses like these may very well change the team’s outlook on doing a deal. Even if it’s not the Brad Miller move that is expected to be atop the priority list, it could be something smaller in an attempt to change the mix. The thing about Miller is that - based on conversations with executives, coaches and agents around the league - the interest in him continues to be lukewarm. For all the time I spent looking at the possibilities with Chicago, I left out the part about the Bulls having almost no interest at this moment. Sacramento Bee Blog

Because the Kings wouldn’t mind getting cap room earlier than expected, teams with potential young pieces to offer along with attractive expiring contracts like Cleveland (Wally Szczerbiak, $13 million), Miami (Shawn Marion $17 million), and maybe even New York (Stephon Marbury, $20.8 million) would fit their needs. Except that I’ve been told there have been no talks with the Cavs (who announced their lack of desire to make moves just days ago because they’re rolling), Miami is in playoff position and isn’t believed to be eager to do a deal, and the Knicks appear more motivated to buy Marbury out than to ship him out. Sacramento Bee Blog

Since I haven’t spent any time talking about the NYC scenario, the thinking on the Kings’ side would be that it’s a whole lot of money you get back this summer and - all things considered - Marbury could actually help this bunch. On the other side, a deal involving Miller and Kenny Thomas gets the Knicks two players who could contribute and whose money comes off before the pivotal summer of 2010 in NYC. Throw Brooklyn native Quincy Douby in, and he probably becomes yet another shooter to flourish under Mike D’Antoni. Sacramento Bee Blog

Asked about a report out of Milwaukee that an offer is on the table to send him to the Bucks for point guard Tyronn Lue, Mihm said it was the first he’d heard of it and he hoped it wasn’t true. “Hopefully, it’s just a rumor like most of that is,” Mihm said. “I’m happy knowing that we’re trying for something special here. I know there’s other places where I could play more, but I understand my role here. My role is to come with it every day in practice, keep myself in shape and be ready when I’m called upon in practice.” Press Enterprise

“I’m nine years in. I want to win a title,” Mihm said. “That’s my focus right now. I’ve been through a lot in the past 2 ½ years. This team has come a long way in the past five years since I’ve been here, and this is something I’ve worked for my whole career. I’m fine with whatever role I have to play.” Press Enterprise

Chris Mihm said he has no interest in playing more minutes for a losing team. He wants to stick with the Lakers and have a chance to win the NBA title that eluded him and his teammates in last June’s bitter loss to the Boston Celtics. He said he heard of the report out of Milwaukee that he could be traded for Bucks guard Tyronn Lue. LA Daily News Blog

“I’m happy here,” Mihm said before the Lakers played host to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night. LA Daily News Blog

The Lakers need a guard. Earl Boykins very likely will need a place to play. It seems like the ideal situation for both parties. With Jordan Farmar out for at least eight weeks while recovering from knee surgery, the Lakers have a need for an experienced guard. Boykins is a proven scorer, a terrific ball handler and an excellent free-throw shooter. From 2003-2007, he averaged 12.4 points per game, off the bench, with the Denver Nuggets and the Milwaukee Bucks. Orange County Register Blog

Boykins, who inexplicably did not receive any attractive offers this past summer as an unrestricted free agent, signed to play for Virtus Bolongna of the Italian Professional League. In 12 games, Boykins is the team’s leading scorer at 16.3 points per game. He also leads the team in average minutes played, free-throw percentage, steals and assists. Orange County Register Blog

The Lakers have a void at point guard because of an injury. In Sasha Vujacic’s eyes, he is capable of filling that role. The Lakers have a need for a backup point guard because Jordan Farmar had surgery on his left knee for torn cartilage and will be out for eight weeks. Vujacic pointed out he came into the NBA as a point guard. LA Times

Ball-handling duties aside, Vujacic hadn’t been shooting that well this season, making only 37.7% of his three-point attempts before Sunday, a reality that led to a moment of humor from a former teammate. “Do you guys still call him ‘the Machine?’ The Machine’s a little broken right now, I guess,” said Ronny Turiaf, who played against the Lakers on Sunday with Golden State. LA Times

Ronny Turiaf was a restricted free agent when he signed an offer sheet with Golden State, giving the Lakers a week to match it. The Lakers decided against it, figuring Turiaf would have had trouble finding minutes in a frontcourt with Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Odom. “As a human being, you hurt because you feel like ‘Oh, they weren’t willing to give me that [contract]’ ” said Turiaf, who didn’t score and had one rebound in 20 minutes. “But as a businessman, you understand that they had to make a choice. They had to look at the energy guy that’s trying to do whatever he can to help the team, or they were trying to keep Sasha to help spread the floor.” LA Times

Forward Kendrick Perkins lived up to his promise of needing just one game off when he returned to action last night, scoring 7 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 27 minutes of the Celtics’ 108-63 blowout of the Kings. Perkins missed Friday’s game at Golden State with a strained left shoulder. While the Celtics listed the 6-foot-10-inch, 280-pounder as day to day, he said before the Golden State game he planned on returning last night against Sacramento and didn’t think the injury was a major concern. Perkins not only returned, but before the contest he said the short rest helped his shoulder feel “great now.” Boston Globe

Team president Danny Ainge will be in Utah soon to scout college games and to watch rookies J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker with the Development League’s Utah Flash at the upcoming league showcase. With no timetable for their return, Giddens and Walker are making the best of their time with the Flash and hope to impress Ainge during his first visit this season. Boston Globe

In D-League: Bill Walker was averaging 17.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1 steal and a .529 field goal percentage through Dec. 26. The 47th pick in the second round said he has been concentrating on defense. “I’ve been developing at a good pace,” Walker said. “I’m learning about the defensive three-second rule. I’m learning more how to guard over screens and in pick and rolls.” Boston Globe

President Larry Bird is going to start traveling with the team on the road so that he can get more of a first-hand look at things. It’ll also allow him to talk face-to-face with other league officials. The league’s trade deadline is Feb. 19. Bird doesn’t normally like to travel because of a back issue he has and the constant attention he gets from fans at games. Indianapolis Star

Swingman Mike Dunleavy, who is up to 20 minutes of practice a day, is the latest Pacer to come down with the viral infection that is making its way around the locker room. Dunleavy wasn’t at the game, but that didn’t stop his teammates from cracking few jokes. One player asked me if I had talked to him before the game. I looked toward his locker and there was a mop turned upside down with a shirt over top of it as if that was Dunleavy. Indianapolis Star

Is Al Harrington playing differently for the Knicks than he was a few weeks ago? Coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t sure. “That’s up to you guys,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t know that.” Unfortunately for Harrington, though it’s the holiday season, his numbers are hardly merry, and his two-week slump continued yesterday in the Knicks’ 117-110 loss to the Nuggets at the Garden. NY Post

Al Harrington, who said he didn’t care about not starting against Denver, admitted teams have been defending him differently. “A lot of the guys aren’t leaving me, so I’m not getting as many open shots and as many opportunities,” he said, “but that’s where I’ve got to be more active and start cutting more, stuff like that.” NY Post

In six games since his 33-point performance in Sacramento on Dec. 13, Harrington is shooting 34.6 percent. “I still have to figure out exactly what Coach wants,” Harrington said. “Not only what the system calls for, but what he wants.” NY Newsday

Dirk Nowitzki didn’t skate after all. After a 35-hour investigation, Stu Jackson, NBA executive vice president of basketball operations, informed the Dallas Mavericks just four hours before Sunday’s tip-off against the Clippers that Nowitzki would serve a one-game suspension. Nowitzki struck Jazz forward Matt Harpring in the face with a backhanded punch in the fourth quarter of Friday’s game, a by-the-book Flagrant-2 foul and automatic ejection. The league’s closed-fist rule dictates a suspension. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Some Mavs officials thought the NBA’s silence on Saturday would mean good news for Nowitzki. Coach Rick Carlisle, however, said he anticipated the 11th-hour ruling. “I’ve been through this a lot,” Carlisle said. “If you have a back-to-back, it will accelerate their investigation. Otherwise, they go through a process. This didn’t surprise me at all.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“We had contingency plans based on whether or not there was a suspension,” Carlisle said. “It wasn’t like it ruined our preparation. We had a feeling this could happen.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Today is D-Day for the Nets and center Nenad Krstic. The likelihood is nil they will reach a last-minute deal because chances are the Nets will not match the three-year, $15.6 million offer sheet from the Thunder. NY Post

The Nets have until Monday to match the offer sheet Nenad Krstic signed with Oklahoma City. By all accounts, they are likely to recant and let the Serbian center play with the Thunder. Newark Star-Ledger

The only thing that could change is attendance and crowd engagement. Better yet, the folks who run the Nets’ widely-applauded game presentation could use their imagination: Perhaps they should start to pipe in boos and jeers, since that always seems to work in other venues. It creates an us-against-the-world mentality, their captain suggests, and so far that’s good enough to make the Nets — by one measure, anyway — the third-best team in the entire NBA. Newark Star-Ledger

Veteran guard Steve Francis is expected to make his Memphis Grizzlies debut on Tuesday against the Phoenix Suns after passing a physical. The Grizzlies acquired Francis from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday for a 2009 second-round draft pick and cash. Memphis sent the Rockets a 2011 second-round pick that is protected through the 55th choice. AP/USA Today

After years of focusing on the pirating of highlight clips and photos on the Web, the major professional sports leagues are finding that pirated feeds of live games are now common and becoming a menace to their businesses, especially at a time when leagues are trying to build their own businesses offering live games on the Internet for a subscription fee. “We never felt that the jewel in our crown, the live games, would be vulnerable,” said Ayala Deutsch, senior vice president and chief intellectual property counsel at the National Basketball Association. NY Times

The tangible effect on the leagues’ business today is small but the stakes are large: each sells the rights to its live games to broadcasters for billions of dollars. More important, each is trying to expand its revenue base by selling rights for games on mobile phones and the Web. Ms. Deutsch, the lawyer at the N.B.A., hosted a gathering recently of executives from other sports leagues — not just in the United States but around the world — at the N.B.A.’s offices in New York City to discuss ways of combating live-game piracy. “We view it as an international issue,” she said. NY Times

A recent unpublished report for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, the first major study of the issue, concluded, “This poses a major issue for the leagues and organizations who own and control sports as the sale of broadcast rights represents a major source of revenue, enabling the sports leagues to thrive and continue, from grassroots level to professional league.” The organization helps developed nations tackle mutual economic problems. NY Times

The AP reports: Kobe Bryant explained why the Celtics had a letdown and the Lakers didn’t following the rivals’ intense game several days earlier. “They had won 19 straight games, so they were due for a couple of bad ones,” Bryant said Sunday night after scoring 31 points in Los Angeles’ 130-113 romp over the Golden State Warriors… Derek Fisher added 19 points in the win and Sasha Vujacic had 17. Pau Gasol had 13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Andrew Bynum chipped in with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Jamal Crawford returned to the Warriors’ lineup after missing two games with a groin strain and scored 22 points. Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright had 14 points apiece, and Andris Biedrins had eight points and 17 rebounds.

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