Some teams have no decent point guards and are in desperate need of a holiday shopping spree. Others have an embarrassment of riches. Put the Orlando Magic in the latter category, as we explain in the Weekly Post-Ups, Cyber Monday edition:
• The Magic lost Jameer Nelson last season and traded for Rafer Alston. Voila – a perfectly capable point guard who steered Orlando all the way to the NBA Finals. This season, when Nelson went down again with torn meniscus in his left knee, there was no need for GM Otis Smith to scan the waiver wire, scour the D-League, or make a desperation play for Allen Iverson. That’s because he did his homework during the summer, signing veteran Jason Williams out of retirement. All Williams has done is lead Orlando to a 6-1 record as the starting point guard while leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. His backup, Anthony Johnson, has been capable, too. Make no mistake, the Magic need a healthy Nelson to get back to the Finals. But Orlando once again will be able to get through a significant portion of the regular season without him.
• Speaking of the Magic: When is getting Rashard Lewis back in the lineup a bad thing? When your name is Brandon Bass. With Lewis starting to gather his legs and find his shooting stroke after missing the first 10 games due to suspension – and with Ryan Anderson playing well as a stretch power forward – there are no more minutes for Bass, who was thought to have been a key offseason acquisition. In the eight games Lewis has played, Bass has seen only 31 minutes of floor time, including four DNP-CDs and a two-minute stint against the Knicks Sunday night. Bass could still be useful when Orlando plays teams with size, but he also could wind up being a valuable trade chip. He’s only 24, has a reasonable contract, and there are plenty of teams looking for size.
• Keith Smart is only 1-2 as coach of the Warriors as he fills in for Don Nelson, who is recovering from pneumonia. But Golden State showed signs of a turnaround during a six-game stretch against elite teams – including a surprising win against Dallas in which Smart had only eight healthy bodies and played six. Smart, who is fiercely loyal to Nelson, dedicated that victory to “our man in charge.” It’s true that Monta Ellis’ resurgence – he’s averaging 28.7 points on .476 shooting in the last six games – began before his nemesis, Nelson, fell ill. But if you think Ellis’ long-term prognosis is the same with Nelson at the helm as with Smart, you don’t know the difference between the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate. One person familiar with the mood in the locker room described the fortitude displayed against Dallas as an unmistakable message to Nellie. But before the Warriors can be viewed as ready to seriously revisit the possibility of Nelson stepping into a consulting role and Smart taking over permanently, you have to remember who’s in charge: Nelson and his self-appointed yes man, Larry Riley.
• Sixers chairman Ed Snider reportedly will let his basketball people determine whether to orchestrate an Iverson comeback, which is an encouraging sign if true. From the standpoint of ticket and merchandise sales, an A.I. reunion would be a no-brainer. From a basketball standpoint, there are serious reservations on the coaching staff. Consider that among the members of the coaching staff is Randy Ayers, for whom Iverson once lobbied strongly to be his head coach before quickly turning on him and getting him fired.
UPDATE: Sixers president Ed Stefanski and coach Eddie Jordan met with Iverson for two hours Monday in Dallas, hours before Philadelphia was to play the Mavericks. There was no resolution, according to a source, who said, "Both signs remain noncommittal."
• Courtesy of the irreverent Basketbawful: With Carmelo Anthony’s 50-point game against the Knicks, two of the last three 50-point games in the league have come against the Knicks – and four of the last 10, dating to the back-to-back 50s by Kobe and LeBron last season.
• That said, the Knicks aren’t even the worst defensive team in the league. That honor goes to the Raptors, who are 29th in points allowed (109.1 per game) and 30th in points allowed per 100 possessions (116.9).
• That’s not all that’s wrong with the Raptors, one of the biggest disappointments in the league thus far. Prospective free agent Chris Bosh has been carrying the Raps of late, with nothing to show for it. Toronto has lost three straight and seven of nine, with Bosh posting a double-double in all but one of those games – and all but three the entire season. Adding insult to groin injury, Bosh was furious that none of his teammates displayed any anger or fight after Boston’s Paul Pierce dunked on Bosh and simultaneously kicked him in the groin, leaving the superstar sprawled on the court.
• Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman tries to get to the bottom of the often-used NBA phrase, Basketball IQ.
• Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post digests the delicious irony of Jason Kidd returning to New Jersey Wednesday night with a chance to escort the Nets to an 0-18 start, the NBA record for season-opening futility.
• Ron Artest, a career 72 percent free-throw shooter, is only 24-for-46 (.522) this season. What’s even more telling is how infrequently Artest is getting to the line, evidence that he has settled into a passive, jump-shooting role in the Lakers’ triangle offense. Only once this season has Artest attempted more than six foul shots in a game.
• Surprisingly positive starts by the Hawks and Bucks haven’t stemmed the West’s early dominance of the East. John Schuhmann of NBA.com points out that the West is 50-31 against the East so far, including 16-2 over the last seven days.