Archive for May, 2011

The AP reports:

dirk nowitzki

Trailing by 15 points with only 5 minutes to play in one of the NBA’s rowdiest arenas, the Dallas Mavericks were just wishing and hoping for the best.

Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd delivered, and the Mavs suddenly find themselves only one win away from the NBA finals.

Nowitzki scored 40 points, Kidd hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in overtime and the Mavericks staged an improbable rally to stun the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-105 on Monday night and take a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference finals…

Dallas didn’t lead until Nowitzki hit two free throws 16 seconds into overtime, needing to rally from a 99-84 deficit in the final 5 minutes of regulation. The Mavericks never let the Thunder—who were one win shy of tying an NBA record with eight OT wins in the regular season—go ahead in the extra period…

Kevin Durant finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 10 boards for Oklahoma City. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists…

Durant had nine of the Thunder’s 26 turnovers, including the one that led to the big shot by the 38-year-old Kidd…

Kidd scored 17 to go with seven assists, five rebounds and four steals…

Oklahoma City came roaring out of the gates after trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter of Game 3. The Thunder hit their first nine shots and took an 18-8 lead after Durant caught a deflected inbounds pass and zoomed in for a right-handed jam.

Live fan discussion of the game took place in this forum topic.

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.

Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah has been fined $50,000 for using a derogatory and offensive term from the bench during the first quarter of the Bulls’ 96-85 loss to the Miami Heat last night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Recently, Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for saying almost the same thing, though in Bryant’s case it was directed at an NBA referee, while Noah was engaged in heated discussion with a fan sitting near Chicago’s bench.

Fan reaction and discussion of the entire issue is in this forum topic.

Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

The Atlanta Spirit ownership group is on the verge of selling the Thrashers, but it will be holding on to the Hawks at least for a while.

The Spirit and outgoing San Diego Padres owner John Moores agreed Friday to terminate Moores’ exclusive negotiating period on a possible purchase of the Hawks, Spirit partner Michael Gearon Jr. confirmed.

“We no longer have an exclusivity,” Gearon told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It was ended by mutual agreement after preliminary discussions.”

It is not clear how long Moores’ exclusive period had been in effect. The parties agreed to end the arrangement after the period produced little momentum toward a deal. Ending the exclusivity doesn’t preclude the possibility of subsequent negotiations with Moores about the Hawks, but it reopens the process to other potential bidders.

Trail Blazers part ways with GM Rich Cho

The Portland Trail Blazers announced today that they have parted ways with Rich Cho, the team’s general manager of basketball operations.

“The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn’t right,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “This was a tough move because I respect Rich and he’s a good person with many strong skills. But it simply wasn’t a good match.”

Trail Blazers Director of College Scouting Chad Buchanan will serve as acting general manager. Buchanan has been with the team for four years. Buchanan and Head Coach Nate McMillan will report to Miller until a permanent replacement is hired.

Trail Blazers Owner Paul G. Allen said the move is part of the franchise’s commitment to building a championship contending team. “This decision, as difficult as it was to make, reflects our willingness to admit and recognize that things haven’t worked out,” Allen said. “We’re going to be tough on ourselves in assessing what we could have done better, and then go out and find the executive who is the best fit with the needs of our franchise. That chemistry and connection is critically important.”

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

The Miami Heat lead the Chicago Bulls 2-1 in their Eastern Conference Finals series. And as Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago reports:

Chicago Bulls center Omer Asik is day to day with a muscle strain in his left leg. He suffered the injury in the third quarter of Game 3 Sunday night and did not return. “We’re hopeful,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after his team’s Monday afternoon film session. “I talked to [athletic trainer] Fred [Tedsechi] earlier and he said he’s day to day. He’ll get treatment [Tuesday]. Fred will take him onto the court to see if he’s having any problems and hopefully he’ll be ready to go.”

Asik is averaging 14.3 minutes per game for the Bulls in the Conference Finals. He mostly acts as a big body, taking up space, defending and boxing out.

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, NBA.com, 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.

Joel Anthony makes Game 3 a block party

Miami Heat center Joel Anthony has emerged over time from a player lucky to be on a roster to a nice defender clearly worthy of at least coming off the bench and being in a squad’s rotation. And he was a defensive force early in Sunday’s Game 3, which the Heat won as they took a 2-1 series lead over the Chicago Bulls.

David J. Neal of the Miami Herald reports:

joel anthony

Joel Anthony’s four first-quarter blocks accounted for 36.6 percent of Chicago’s 11 first-quarter misses, helped keep Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer scoreless and the Bulls with a meager 15 points on 25 percent shooting while the Heat overcame their own offensive troubles. And even as Boozer got going in the second quarter with nine points, the Bulls began changing angles mid-shot, in anticipation of Anthony.

All of Anthony’s five blocked shots came in the first half, during which the Bulls shot 16 of 40 and shot only nine free throws. That’s five blocks in one half after 20 in the Heat’s first 12 playoff games.

There’s no official category for Shots Turned Bricks Off Of Intimidation, of which Anthony had several in his 29:03 of playing time, all of which were in the first three quarters.

Anthony is a limited player, but he’s still been the best of Miami’s crop of centers.

The AP reports:

chris bosh

Chris Bosh made 13 of his final 15 shots on the way to a 34-point night, LeBron James finished with 22 points and 10 assists, and the Heat remained unbeaten at home in the postseason by beating the Chicago Bulls 96-85 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday…

Dwyane Wade added 17 points and nine rebounds for Miami, which is 7-0 at home in the playoffs and handed the team that finished with the NBA’s best record its first losing streak since Feb. 5-7. Udonis Haslem sealed it with a jumper with 1:29 left, putting Miami up 93-84.

Game 4 is Tuesday in Miami.

Carlos Boozer finished with 26 points and 17 rebounds for Chicago, which had won the first four meetings of the season with Miami. Derrick Rose finished with 20 points, but struggled from the field again, making only 8 of his 19 shots.

The Bulls held James and Wade to a combined 12-of-30 showing from the floor. Against Bosh, they had no answer…

Boozer made a pair of free throws with 6:39 left to get Chicago within 78-74, the outcome clearly hanging in the balance. Minutes later, that was no longer the case—not after Miami scored nine straight to build more than enough of a cushion…

Rose finished the first half with no assists, just the 11th time in his career that’s happened. He did have 11 points by intermission, when Miami led 43-40—meaning it held Chicago to 69 points in a 48-minute span dating to the midpoint of Game 2.

Live fan discussion of the game took place 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.

The AP reports:

dirk nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki shrugged off a rough start and made a few key jumpers in the fourth quarter, helping the Mavericks hold off the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 93-87 victory Saturday night and a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference finals.

The big German had missed 10 of his first 14 shots, but Dallas kept going to him with the Thunder trying to become the second team to rally from a 23-point deficit to beat the Mavericks in these playoffs…

The Mavericks didn’t care that Nowitzki couldn’t seem to make a shot most of the game. They still gave him the ball on 10 of 11 possessions at one point, and he scored three times—enough to keep Oklahoma City at bay.

Nowitzki finished with 18 points on 7 for 21 shooting…

NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant also struggled from the field, hitting just 7 of 22 shots to finish with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook responded to a fourth-quarter benching with 30 points, helping the Thunder make it interesting in the final minutes.

Dallas had already blown a 23-point lead in the final 13 minutes in the first round at Portland, and led by 22 with 17 minutes to go this time…

Shawn Marion also scored 18, and Kidd and Terry each chipped in 13. Tyson Chandler had 15 rebounds, including six on the offensive end…

The Thunder missed 15 of their first 19 shots and committed eight turnovers while Dallas rushed out to a commanding 35-12 lead, finishing the impressive start by scoring the first eight points of the second quarter.

The AP reports:

james harden

James Harden, Eric Maynor, Nick Collison and Daequan Cook did something Kobe Bryant and the Lakers couldn’t do—make big plays down the stretch to hold off Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks.

The four Oklahoma City reserves teamed with Kevin Durant to turn a slim lead into a big one in the fourth quarter, riding it to a 106-100 victory Thursday night that knotted the Western Conference finals at one game each…

The Thunder got going in the closing seconds of the third quarter, when Harden made a four-point play that put Oklahoma City up by one. Coach Scott Brooks then sent out four backups and his superstar for the final period, asking them to protect that lead.

They built on it from the start, never letting Dallas go back ahead. After a few tight minutes, the Thunder broke the game open with a 14-5 spurt capped by Harden hitting a tough jumper near the foul line. It put Oklahoma City up by 10 with 3:15 left, prompting a big scream from the bearded guard and a timeout from the Mavericks…

Harden scored 23 points. Maynor finished with 13, Cook eight and Collison six. Maynor handled the point guard duties that usually belong to Russell Westbrook. The All-Star had a poor opener, but actually was pretty good through three quarters; it’s just that the bench was rolling.

“It was tremendous,” said Harden, who made 4 of 5 shots, including two 3-pointers, for 10 points in the fourth quarter…

Durant still led the Thunder with 24 points. DeShawn Stevenson and Jason Kidd made things a lot tougher for him than in the opener, when he scored 40, but he was still spectacular at times. He had a first-quarter dunk that’s worth going to YouTube to see again and again, and a behind-the-back dribble to clear space for another key basket in the third quarter.

Westbrook scored 18 points, making 7 of 15 shots…

Tyson Chandler had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jason Kidd added 14 points and seven assists for Dallas. In the slowed output from the bench, J.J. Barea scored 11 points, and Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic both had eight.

Live fan discussion of the game took place 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.”

Really?

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.

LeBron leads Heat past Bulls for 1-1 tie

The AP reports:

LeBron leads Heat past Bulls for 1-1 tie

LeBron James came up big down the stretch and scored 29 points, Dwyane Wade added 24 and the Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls 85-75 Wednesday night to tie the Eastern Conference finals at one game apiece.

The Heat can breathe a little easier after escaping with a win and stealing home-court advantage. Coming off a lopsided loss in Game 1, they recovered down the stretch after blowing an 11-point lead to pull even in the series.

James shook off a brutal opener and scored nine points over the final 4:27, starting with a 3-pointer that put Miami ahead for good, 76-73. He also had 10 rebounds, and Miami outrebounded the Bulls 45-41 after getting pounded 45-33 on the glass in the opener…

Wade also looked more like a superstar after scoring 18 on Sunday. Udonis Haslem provided a spark off the bench with 13 points, and the Heat beat the Bulls for the first time this season even though Chris Bosh scored just 10 after pouring in 30 in the opener.

Derrick Rose led Chicago with 21 points but scored just two in the fourth quarter. Deng, the only other Bulls player in double figures, added 13 but had just four after the opening period.

Joakim Noah had nine points but only eight rebounds. Taj Gibson provided a spark in the fourth quarter, scoring all of his eight points. Carlos Boozer, however, was a non-factor with seven points and eight rebounds.

The Bulls missed countless layups and got outshot 47.1 percent to 34.1 percent. They were just 3 of 20 on 3-pointers and 16 of 26 at the foul line while getting beat on the glass…

The Heat got 17 points from Wade in the first half, 14 from James and hit 17 of 33 shots. Even so, they were only up 48-46.

One reason: turnovers. They committed nine in the half, leading to 11 points for the Bulls.

Live fan discussion of the game took place in this forum topic.

LeBron happy for Cavs landing No.1 pick

It makes perfect sense to ask LeBron James what his reaction was to the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery. And as Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:

lebron

Tuesday, while waiting for Wednesday’s Game 2 of these Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls, James watched as the Cavaliers again exited the 2011 lottery with the top overall selection.

“I’m happy for the franchise, I’m happy for the fans,” he said. “I think it is a good step for them.

“But I’ve got a lot more things to worry about now than the lottery.”

While the Cavaliers’ top pick isn’t expected to arrive as the next Chosen One, James appreciates there will be considerable expectations.

I doubt LeBron is thinking much about it right now, either. He’s a bit busy trying to help his Heat come alive against the Bulls after a very disappointing Game 1.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports:

LeBron James dealing with cold entering Game 2

LeBron James did not sound like himself after Wednesday morning’s shootaround at the United Center.

The Miami Heat forward still sounded confident going into Wednesday night’s Game 2 of these best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals against the Chicago Bulls, he just spoke with noticeable congestion in his voice.

With temperatures in the 50s, unseasonable even for Chicago, since the Heat’s arrival, James said he has been dealing with a cold even prior to Sunday’s 103-82 Game 1 loss. He shot an uncharacteristic 5 of 15 in that game, for 15 points,

“I’m taking everything you can get from 7-Eleven,” he told reporters Wednesday morning. “I’ve been sick since we got here.”

Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas reports:

Carlisle cited several specifics that he wasn’t happy about with the Mavs’ team defense. Oklahoma City got “eight or nine dunks” in the final 14 minutes, he said. Penetration came too easy against the Mavs’ defense. He didn’t like allowing the Thunder to grab 11 offensive rebounds. And he was displeased with the fact that Oklahoma City came up with 13 of the 20 loose balls, as counted by the Mavs coaches.

“They may be a quicker team and those kind of things,” Carlisle said, “but we’ve got to be physically and mentally ready to react to those situations.”

Carlisle didn’t just complain to the media, of course. Dallas’ practice Wednesday was a defense-intensive session. The Mavs got the message.

Michael Jordan bids Oprah farewell

The AP reports:

Michael Jordan surprised Oprah Winfrey at her farewell show at Chicago’s United Center, where his statue sits outside.

Jordan was one of many celebrities who attended Tuesday night’s “Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular.”

Actor Will Smith introduced Jordan, describing the United Center as the “house that Michael Jordan built.”

Jordan came on stage and hugged Winfrey to loud cheers. Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships during the 1990s.

The AP reports:

Nowitzki scores 48 as Mavs top Thunder in Game 1

When the Western Conference finals opened Tuesday night, Dirk Nowitzki acted as if the Oklahoma City Thunder and the 20,911 fans in the arena were merely there to watch another of his late-night workouts.

Inside, outside and from the foul line, Nowitzki put up a total of 39 shots and missed just three. He scored 48 points, leading the Mavericks to a 121-112 victory and answering any question about whether the long layoff might’ve left his club rusty.

“I really looked for my shot early and was able to get a good rhythm,” said Nowitzki, who also had six rebounds, four assists and four blocks…

It didn’t matter whether Nowitzki was being covered by someone big or small, one guy or two. He simply made 10 of his first 11 field goals, and 12 of 15 overall. He was perfect on 24 free throws, setting an NBA postseason record for most foul shots made without a miss…

“We fought back and made it a game,” Thunder star Kevin Durant said. “We’ve just got to keep pushing and stay positive and get ready for Game 2.”

Durant scored 40 points, one shy of his most ever in a playoff game, but it wasn’t the same as Nowitzki’s big night…

Oklahoma City could’ve used a more efficient performance from Russell Westbrook. He scored 20 points, but 14 came on free throws. He missed 10 of his first 11 shots, and 12 of 15—the exact opposite of what Nowitzki made…

Jason Terry scored 24 points and J.J. Barea added 21 as the Mavericks picked up where they left off in a sweep of the Lakers nine days before. They broke open a tight game with a 13-0 run late in the second quarter and never trailed again.

The Toronto Raptors announced Tuesday the club has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with president and general manager Bryan Colangelo. Per team policy, financial details were not disclosed.

Colangelo was named to his current position February 28, 2006. He joined the franchise following 15 years in the Phoenix Suns organization, where he served 11 seasons as the club’s general manager including the last seven as team president.

“Over the past few months Bryan has worked on a winning plan for the Raptors,” said Richard Peddie, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. “Today I’m happy to report that he has everyone’s 100 per cent support of his plan and we look forward to seeing its success on the court.”

“I’m very pleased to get this resolved and I look forward to following through on the next critical phase of rebuilding our basketball team,” said Colangelo. “I am deeply committed to the organization and our fans and I’m even more proud to call Toronto home.

Colangelo’s arrival in Toronto was marked by a series of trades and free agent acquisitions that resulted in nine new players on the roster at the start of 2006-07 training camp. In his first full season at the helm of the Raptors, the team improved an NBA-best 20 wins over the 2005-06 season to tie a franchise high with 47 victories. Toronto went on to win the 2006-07 Atlantic Division championship, securing home court in its return to the playoffs after missing the postseason the previous five seasons.

For his efforts in leading the Raptors’ dramatic change of fortune, Colangelo was named 2006-07 Sporting News NBA Executive of the Year. It was his second such honour, having received the award in 2005 after guiding the Suns to the third-greatest turnaround in NBA history en route to winning the Pacific Division Championship. He is one of only three executives to win the award with two different franchises (Bob Bass, Jerry West).

During Colangelo’s career as a general manager, his teams have appeared in the NBA Playoffs 11 of 16 seasons, captured four division championships and posted an overall record of 665-612 (.521).

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