Posted on: December 12, 2008 11:01 pm

Vince Carter's 0-for-13 night

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are plenty of reasons not to venture out to a Nets game on a Friday night. Traffic, for one. A half-empty basketball arena, for another.

You could be as unlucky as the passengers on the Toronto Raptors' second bus from their Jersey City hotel and get into a minor scrape with another vehicle. This is what happened to the bus carrying Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal, and several members of the Raptors' coaching and front office staff. Trying to navigate the narrow city streets, the driver of the aforementioned bus learned that buses don't fit on the narrow streets of Jersey City, especially when they are attempting to turn a corner. After one such unsuccessful maneuver, the bus crashed into a car behind it while backing up to make room. This resulted in Bosh and O'Neal arriving about an hour before tipoff.

This was nothing compared to the night Vince Carter had. While Bosh and O'Neal spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench enjoying what amounted to a 101-79 victory, Carter sat and stewed about the worst shooting performance of his 11-year career.

Carter was 0-for-13 from the field Friday night, scoring his only three points at the foul line. It was the first time he'd played at least 10 minutes without a field goal. He had two 0-for-3 shooting games while with the Raptors in 2001 and '02, but left those games in the first quarter with injuries.

"He's a scorer," Bosh said. "When you do something like that, that's a credit to the defense. He's very talented, and he's hard to stop. We tried to limit his points in the paint. We tried to put a body on him at all times. We tried to make him get through different layers of defense instead of just getting past one guy and then laying it up. We didn't want to do that. We wanted to make him beat one guy and then meet somebody else, and then probably somebody else after that."

Carter met three such people midway through the third, but they were seated in the stands behind the basket. Lunging for a loose ball, Carter landed awkwardly on two people in the first row. He had fallen, and he couldn't get up. A guy in the second row jumped up and helped him to his feet. "Thanks, baby," Carter said as he ran back on defense.

That was all the help he got on this night, and all he had to say, too. Carter, who typically answers postgame questions in the interview room, left the building before stopping by to chat.

Wasn't much to talk about.

The Raptors, now 2-3 under interim coach Jay Triano, put forth their best defensive effort of the season in holding the Nets to 31 percent shooting from the field. They got outrebounded 50-37, but are beginning to show signs of defending the basket and pushing the ball in transition, two critical areas Sam Mitchell wasn't able to extract from his underachieving team.

Next time in New Jersey, though, the Raptors will want to find a new hotel. Not to mention a new bus driver.


Posted on: December 12, 2008 12:33 pm

Kobe to debut new shoe vs. Celtics

Sports Business Daily has a nice roundup of opinions on Kobe Bryant's new low-cut Nike shoe, which he'll debut against the Cetics in a nationally televised Christmas Day game.

Kobe had a hand in designing the Nike Zoom Kobe IV, telling Nike to create "the lowest, lightest basketball shoe ever." Some are calling it a gamble, although Gilbert Arenas and Steve Nash have long been proponents of low-tops.

"It's always good to come with something that's not caught up in the sea of sameness, something that brings a little bit more change, a little bit more energy to the game," Kobe said. "So from the business side of it, I feel like it can't come at a better time."

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 12, 2008 10:56 am
Edited on: December 12, 2008 12:02 pm

Friday Shootaround: Celts likely to pass on Steph

The Celtics are 21-2, best record in franchise history -- and that's a pretty decent franchise. Everything seems to be clicking, and with the exception of some occasional complacency that creeps in, this Celtics team is on a mission.

So why, then, does Boston get mentioned every time speculation arises as to which team Stephon Marbury will sign with once he's bought out by the Knicks? Why would a 21-2 defending champion want to infect itself with the Starbury virus?

Chances are overwhelming that they don't, and won't pursue Marbury once he's released. Here's why: Despite the widespread assumption that Sam Cassell has a non-guaranteed contract, and thus could be released without additional expense, it's not true. Cassell's contract is guaranteed, according to a well-placed source. So Marbury's clearest route to a contending NBA roster -- taking the place of someone who's not playing and who's been a fan and defender of is -- isn't as clear as everybody thought.

A person with close ties to Marbury told me the exiled Knick has MIami and Boston at the top of his short list. Both would be good situations for him, and both would afford him the added pleasure of sticking it to the Knicks by signing with a conference rival. I'm told that Celtics GM Danny Ainge would investigate the Marbury situation once he's released by the Knicks, but that it would likely be a short investigation and the answer would be, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Ainge, according to a person familiar with his thinking, is concerned about where Marbury is after missing the last two months of 2007-08 following foot surgery and then riding the pine -- and now his couch -- for the first month of this season. Mind you, Ainge is believed to be sympathetic toward Marbury's banishment and doesn't think he did anything wrong. It is puzzling to outsiders who don't know chapter and verse of Marbury's recent history in New York, and we don't need to get into it here.

But the Celtics' due diligence would end once Ainge went to his coaches and players and asked them if they believe Marbury could help them. In a perfect world, he could. Who wouldn't want a career 20-point, 8-assist guard who's in his best shape in years and is looking for a fresh start -- and maybe one more lucrative contract after this season? But the Celtics have one of the most insular, tight-knit locker rooms in the NBA. Given how they're playing, they don't need the trouble. Two prominent players in that locker room, Kevin Garnett and Eddie House, aren't fond of Marbury. Garnett, who played with Steph in Minnesota, hasn't been in close contact with him in years. The one area the Celtics need to improve -- 3-point shooting and defending the 3-pointer -- are areas where Marbury wouldn't help them enough to make it worth taking the plunge.

So for all of the above reasons and more, the chances are overwhelming that the Celtics' interest in Marbury will be brief.

Here's the rest of your Morning Shoot (with UPDATED links):

* More bad news for the Nets' Brooklyn ambitions. Their parent company, Forest City Ratner, has aburuptly halted preliminary construction of the site being cleared for the arena. Official groundbreaking already had been delayed until an eminent domain lawsuit is settled next year. Now, the crumbling economy has further clouded the future of the project.

* The Knix Fix says Donnie Walsh is investigating whether Carlos Delfino or Jannero Pargo can opt out of their contracts with a Russian team to join the Knicks in Cuttino Mobley's vacated roster spot. The Knicks are exploring whether the league will allow them to use a disabled player exception to sign someone, but the rules are pretty clear. With rare exceptions, teams are not permitted to trade for a disabled player and receive salary cap relief to sign a replacement. Read the guidelines in this CBA FAQ from Larry Coon, via TrueHoop.

* Pretty amazing that Allen Iverson would join Dwyane Wade in the Eastern Conference backcourt if All-Star voting ended today. A.I. doesn't deserve a starting spot based on his play, but the evolution of his popularity around the league is staggering, considering how reviled he was when he came into the league. When I saw Iverson recently, I reminded him of the boos he heard after he was named MVP of the rookie game at All-Star weekend in Cleveland back in '97. Now everywhere he goes, he's cheered. "It’s a good feeling," he told me. "One of the surprising things in the league to enable me to come to another arena and be cheered."

* Ever wonder what happened to the guy with the best name in the history of the NBA? HoopsAddict tells you what became of God Shammgod.

* If he gets a steal in each of the Hornets' next three road games -- at Boston, Toronto, and Memphis -- Chris Paul will tie Alvin Robertson's record of consecutive games with a steal (105).


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 11, 2008 11:49 am

LeBron takes more shots at Barkley

PHILADELPHIA -- LeBron James said recently that Charles Barkley was "stupid" for saying LeBron was doing a disservice to his team by entertaining all the 2010 speculation. Given that James was playing in Barkley's old stomping ground Wednesday night, the topic was bound to come up. And it did.

"I'm not angry," James said before the Cavs beat the Sixers 101-93 for their 10th straight victory. "He said what he had to say. But before you make comments, you should read between the lines of what someone says before you decide to make a comment. But that’s how he takes his approach.

"I'm not annoyed by Charles," James continued. "But when you tell somebody to just shut the ___ up or something else like that, you know, I've got kids at home. And if they hear that on TV, they're wondering why someone would say that to their father. That’s why I had really no response to it, because I'm not going to stoop down to the level of that."


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 11, 2008 11:20 am
Edited on: December 11, 2008 1:55 pm

Thursday Shootaround (UPDATE)

* Wow, Carmelo Anthony goes off for 33 points in the third quarter, tying George Gervin's record for most points in a quarter. These highlights are lame, but at least you get the idea. Something disturbs me about this, and one of you out there must have been at the game, so please clear this up: The photo accompanying this story shows A LOT of empty seats in the upper bowl. Please tell me it's during pre-game warmups -- Melo looks like he's doing a layup drill. I hope a lot of Nuggets fans didn't miss this because they decided to skip the Timberwolves.

* Cuttino Mobley will announce his retirement from the NBA this afternoon, and I say, thank God. Cat's been one of the respected guys in the league, and more importantly, he's a father. I don't even want to think about the chance for unspeakable tragedy if Mobley hadn't been traded to the Knicks, and thus hadn't undergone all those physicals ...

* Of course Knicks fans care about all of the above. But they also care about what happens to the roster spot. The Knix Fix breaks it down pretty throughly.

* Via TrueHoop, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News points out that the Warriors are 4-2 without Corey Maggette and 3-13 with him. Then Kawakami says what I would say: Hmmmm.

* I read recentlly (can't find the link at the moment) that D.J. Augustin's stats were comparable to Derrick Rose's on a per-minute basis. I'm not sure what that means, except for the fact that Auigustin will get to extrapolate those stats over more minutes after the Bobcats traded Jason Richardson to Phoenix. Augustin had 28 points and seven assists Wednesday night in a 105-89 loss to New Orleans.

* FYI, Steve Nash -- already disappointed in the direction of the Suns' offense -- didn't sound too thrilled about the Richardson trade.

* Acknowledging the obvious, Dwyane Wade said he's playing at an MVP level, but believes Miami has to be among the top 5 teams in the league for him to get the award. Thoughts?


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 10, 2008 7:53 pm

Breaking down the Suns-Bobcats trade

Despite some signs of life lately, the Suns had to do something to spark what has been an underwhelming -- and frustrating -- first 22 games of the Terry Porter era. Desperation might be too strong  word at 13-9, but Steve Kerr once again showed that he's not afraid to take a chance with the acquisition Wednesday of Jason Richardson from the Bobcats.

The Suns parted with Boris Diaw and Raja Bell, two mainstays from what was left of the Mike D'Antoni regime, for Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a 2010 second-round pick. Charlotte also got forward Sean Singletary.

In Richardson, the Suns get a dependable, consistent scorer -- but that's it. You had to know a one-dimensional player like Richardson wasn't going to last long playing for Larry Brown, who has loved Bell since he coached him with the 76ers and has long been intrigued by Diaw's versatility. No coach falls in and out of love with players more than Brown, and once he spends some time with Diaw, a rival executive proposed Wednesday, he'll become more familiar with Diaw's limitations. Namely these: He can't shoot and he's not tough enough. Even D'Antoni, who continues to rave about Diaw in his current job as coach of the Knicks, was down on him for those reasons at the end of his tenure in Phoenix, the executive said.

The Bobcats got out from under the $40 million Richardson is owed over the next three seasons, but had to take back Diaw's $36 million over the next four -- including a player option in 2010-11 -- to do it.

In addition to sparking his dysfunctional offense, Kerr saved his owner, Robert Sarver, a cool $2 million; the $1 million difference in salaries counts double due to the luxury tax. When your team is struggling, it's not a bad time to save your owner a couple million Bucks.



Category: NBA
Posted on: December 10, 2008 1:29 pm

Wiz get James, Crittenton in three-team trade

The Wizards have acquired Mike James from New Orleans and Javaris Crittenton from Memphis in a three-team deal that sends Antonio Daniels from Washington to New Orleans.

Washington returns a conditional first-round pick it acquired from Memphis (in the 2007 trade for the draft rights to Juan Carlos Navarro). The Hornets also receive a conditional second-rounnd pick from the Grizzlies. The Wizards waived guard Dee Brown to clear a roster spot.

Memphis had been trying to ease its backcourt logjam and was reported to have been in talks with Washington on a straight-up swap of Crittenton for the draft pick. The Wizards get some guard help with Gilbert Arenas, the $111 million man, on the shelf until well into January after surgery on his troublesome left knee.


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 10, 2008 10:41 am
Edited on: December 10, 2008 2:18 pm

Wednesday Shootaround (UPDATE)

Let's get to this before Stephon Marbury gets abducted by aliens:

* I can't figure out whether the Cavs' record ninth straight victory by 12 or more points is a sign of how good they are or how bad the rest of the league is. Either way, pity the 76ers Wednesday night when LeBron & Co. visit Philadelphia.

UPDATE: Oops, spoke too soon. The Berger jinx strikes again. Now comes word that Daniel Gibson, a three-point threat off the bench, will miss about two weeks with a toe injury.

* What a finish in Dallas Tuesday night: Tim Duncan outdueling Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd coming back to life with a season-high 24 points, 12 assists, and 8 rebounds, six lead changes and three ties in the two overtimes alone -- and a late 3-pointer from Bruce Bowen to put San Antonio ahead for good in a 133-126 double-OT victory over the Mavs. The Spurs are starting to look like the Spurs again with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili healthy and playing big minutes. Rick Carlisle has the Mavs on the right track with J.J. Barea (21 points, 5 assists) playing the point and Kidd sliding to shooting guard. Here's something you don't see often: Jason Terry logging 46 minutes off the bench.

* Hedo Turkoglu did it again, banking in a 25-foot 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left as the Magic edged the Blazers 109-108. Turkoglu hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer back in January to knock off the Celtics 96-93. I was up in Boston Tuesday reporting on the Celtics' historic 20-2 start, and Ray Allen called that shot by Turkoglu one of the most clutch he's seen in his career.

* The Kings took a step toward saving Reggie Theus' job, snapping an eight-game skid with a 113-101 victory over the Lakers Tuesday night in Sactown. It was the Lakers' first loss to a Western Conference team this season (11-1).

* The Timberwolves squandered a lead and lost Kevin McHale's coaching debut 99-96 to the Jazz. MInnesota looked like some semblance of a basketball team for once, but remember: Utah was again without injured power forward Carlos Boozer. Jerry Sloan celebrated his 20th anniverary coaching the same team with -- what else? -- a hard-fought victory.

* The Pistons' new lineup -- Rodney Stuckey starting at point guard, Allen Iverson at shooting guard, and Kwame Brown on the bench -- produced a rare fast start. Detroit was up 17 in the second quarter, but squandered the lead in a 107-94 loss to the Wizards. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "And the Pistons' defensive play was the culprit. Detroit allowed the Wizards 42 points in the paint as the Pistons seemed to stop even trying on the defensive end after the first quarter. Tempers flared as the Wizards took control when Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton received technicals to show a loss of composure."

* A Shaq sighting Tuesday night in Arizona. The Big Aristotle had a season-high 35 points in the Suns' 125-110 victory over the Bucks. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic attributes the breakout to Shaq's, um, buttocks. P.S. There will be no Shaq-Kobe reunion Wednesday night in L.A. as O'Neal left the team to be with his family in North Carolina after the death of his 92-year-old great-grandmother.



Category: NBA
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