21 February 2013

NBA: On the Eve of the Trade Deadline

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

NBA. On the eve of the trade deadline not a creature was stirring. Aside from a couple of minor trades by Houston, everything was quiet. The only chatter out of Los Angeles was not on Dwight Howard but on eulogizing Jerry Buss. Meanwhile, all eyes were on Josh Smith. Where will Atlanta deal him?

- The Knicks were mentioned in a few trade rumors. Will they keep Iman Shumpert? Or deal him? The Knicks squashed trade rumors to the Suns, but a new rumor sprouted when Sacramento was interested in shipping Tyreke Evans in a three-team trade with Shumpert and an unknown third team. Or will the Knicks bring in Jermaine O'Neal to shore up their bench with injuries to Marcus "Paper Mache" Camby and Rasheed Wallace. The Knicks limped into the break after to a sizzling start. They have a clear path to a #2 seed, but they have do the things that #2 seeds do like win road games against quality opponents. They came out flat against Indiana and the Pacers got off to a quick lead and never looked back. They were up 20 midway through the 2Q. The Knicks do not play well against physical teams. They get rattled. JR Smith regressed to playground trash talk and lost his mental edge en route to an ejection. The Pacers extended the lead to 30 in the 3Q and almost led by 40 in the 4Q. The entire second half was garbage time.

- The Charlotte Bobkittens once again proved why they deserve to be in the NBA's cellar. They dropped a home game to the Detroit Pistons. The only highlight was a monster dunk by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. At least Bobkittens fans have something to cheer about.

MKG pwning Greg Monroe

- The Heat are the team to beat in the East. Sure, they phone it in every once in a while and their defense is just ordinary (compared to extraordinary the last two seasons), but their offensive output is impressive, especially the uber-efficiency of LeBron James. The Heat were on the road in Atlanta, but it was almost like a game on neutral court because of the fair-weatherness of Hawks fans and the proximity to Florida, which meant a lot of LBJ jerseys in the crowd. The Hawks held their own for three quarters and the Heat found themselves in a hole down by 10 at the start of the 4Q. What did Atlanta do at home? They choked and lost by double digits. Embarrassing 4Q effort. Hawks shooters went cold and LBJ was dishing the rock. Great stat: LBJ had more assists in the 4Q (8) than Hawks had baskets (7).

- Memphis flew up to the Great White North to take on Toronto. Rudy Gay got a chance to let his former team think twice about his trade. Gay has been struggling to score all season. He hasn't been shy at taking shots, but he struggled to convert. Memphis held the lead most of the game and thwarted a late 4Q run by the Raptors. ZeBo hit several big FTs in crunch time to seal the deal. Memphis is part of the second-tier of playoff teams in the West and fighting for a #4 seed with Denver. They have a no-so favorable schedule with a slew of road games in the second half. If they can weather the storm, they will be a tough team come playoff time.

- The game of the night: Oklahoma City vs. Houston. James Harden had the "Fuck you punk-ass bitches!" glint in his eye from the tip off against his old team. He had the game of his life and dropped 46 including a half-court buzzer beater to end the 3Q. Even a triple double from Kevin Durant could not hold off a furious run by the Rockets in the 4Q. The Thunder went cold down the stretch and blew a 12-point lead, while Linsanity and Harden stole the show. Lin's 29-point effort got overlooked by Harden's remarkable performance. Here's the half-court shot...

- The Lakers played their first game after Jerry Buss died. You knew they were going to win, but would they cover the -7 spread? Fading the Lakers was a profitable venture in the first half of the season, especially in the first quarter when the public had yet to figure out that the Lakers blew chunks. I live in the City of Angels and the entire town is bummed about Buss' passing. Everyone loved the guy. I mean, everyone. The Lakers organization gave a fitting tribute, despite the cheesy Green Day song used over the montage on the Lakers' jumbotron. Kobe Bryant held back tears as he asked the crowd for a moment of silent and a single spotlight highlighted Buss' empty chair in the owners' suite. Even Magic Johnson was brought to incoherent tears during ESPN's pre-game studio show. It was an emotional night for a struggling team stuck in the doldrums of being on the playoff bubble, but the Lakers rose to the occasion and honored their beloved owner with a victory over his least favorite opponent (the Boston Celtics). Despite constant reassurances by GM Mitch Kupchak that the Lakers will not deal Dwight Howard, it makes you wonder if he's secretly shopping him. At any rate, Lakers' fans got a glimpse of the Dwight Howard they hoped to get with a strong performance against the lackadaisical Celtics. The Lakers held on for the win and covered. Can the Lakers rally around Buss' death and put together a playoff run? If Buss' death doesn't inspire them to come together as a team... nothing will.

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