Archive for November, 2014

NBA 2014-15 – Week 3

November 16, 2014

OPENING TIPOFF
Oft-injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose found himself at the center of a media and Internet firestorm with these words about sitting out several games this season to rest his ankles: “I’m good, man. I felt like I’ve been managing myself pretty good. I know a lot of people get mad when they see me sit out or whatever, but I think a lot of people don’t understand that … when I sit out it’s not because of this year. I’m thinking about long term. I’m thinking about after I’m done with basketball. Having graduations to go to, having meetings to go to, I don’t want to be in my meetings all sore or be at my son’s graduation all sore just because of something I did in the past. [I’m] just learning and being smart.”

Here’s why I think so many fans and some in the media are upset with what Rose said: most of the most part, they’ve never played a game for a living and they simply can’t understand why some of those who do, don’t profess an undying love for the game or sport. We’ve been spoiled over the years, particularly in the NBA, by players like Magic, Jordan, Bird, Isiah Thomas, et al who not only vocally expressed their “love of the game,” but played through illness, injuries and pain during the season and more importantly, in the playoffs when it mattered most.

But, in defense of Rose, most players have never come back from the injuries he’s suffered and maybe he’s still in love with basketball, but maybe that love has gone from that of a teenager in love with the idea of love to that of a maturing adult who’s more practical about that love. Like it or not, it may be a game and entertainment to the fans, but to the players, it’s really just their job and how they make a living.

Teams use up and then get rid of players all the time and the media and fans shrug their shoulders and say, “Too bad, that’s just ‘business in the _______.’ He made ________ millions of dollars and should be fine.” But here’s the thing: fans tend to believe that with any kind of a lucky break, that could have been them out there making millions for playing a game and when they don’t think an athlete is giving his (or her) all for the “love of the game,” they project their misguided and lost dreams onto that person. And because millions of dollars are involved, that somehow takes away from that athlete’s being a human being with all the emotions and foibles of one. Also, playing in the same city and for the same team that one Michael Jeffrey Jordan did is not helpful to Rose in this situation either.

Me – I’ve got ZERO problems with what D-Rose said. Z.E.R.O. I just wish more players cared about their futures like he does about his.

48 MINUTES
Column sympathies to Laker Wayne Ellington Jr whose father, Wayne Sr, was shot and killed in Philadelphia last Sunday.

Wizards off to best start in years

Veteran NBA/Bulls.com writer Sam Smith reported on Monday that rumors persist that should the Cavaliers fall short of the Eastern Conference Finals, Kevin Love will exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and look to signing with the Lakers. Yeahhhhh, sign with the Lakers for the last year(s) of Kobe Bryant while hoping Julius Randle makes a full recovery from his rookie-season ending injury and hope for another premier free agent to take big money from Jeanie, Jim and Mitch. BTW, the last premier free agent to sign with the Lakers in his prime: Shaquille O’Neal in 1996.

Speaking of Kobe Bryant, he’s apparently gotten tired of people saying he should have done as Tim Duncan and taken less money Kobe-Bryant-on-the-difference-between-Tim-Duncan’s-contract-and-his—it-s-a-different-market–man and at least one writer believes it’s time to just sit back and relish the Kobe Bryant Show for what it is.

Mavs owner Mark Cuban, formerly known as David Stern’s biggest pain in the ass, continued in that role for new league commissioner Adam Silver this week when he openly wondered why the injury-riddled OKC Thunder don’t just “tank this season” in hopes of getting a high lottery in next June’s draft. Others openly wondered why Cuban spends so much time talking about what other teams should do.

Many fans mocked Kobe Bryant’s passing John Havlicek this week to set a new record for missed shots in a career, but to paraphrase the great Eddie Murphy, one doesn’t have as long and successful career as Bryant’s had without taking a lot of shots. And if you take a lot of shots as Bryant has, you’re going to miss more than you make. By the way, others in the top-six on this list include Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who if memory serves me correctly, had pretty good careers.

The Grizzlies are a really good team and especially tough to beat in the FedEx Forum in Memphis even with .03 on the clock.

3-POINT SHOT ATTEMPT
Adam Silver: Bring sports gambling into the sunlight

FLAGRANT FOUL OF THE WEEK
Ronnie Price’s take-down of the Pelicans’ Austin “Son of Doc” Rivers.

FREE THROWS
TNT studio show remains the gold standard of TV. Meanwhile, ESPN should just stop airing theirs and just go straight to the game announcers.

Bill Simmons is a great writer, but he is painfully awful on ESPN’s Grantland Basketball Hour.

Kobe Bryant is getting closer and closer to erupting and going full-bore “Kobe Bryant” as the Lakers keep losing.

Rajon Rondo is the most non-traded traded player in recent memory.

Name one Laker other than Kobe Bryant; I dare you.

WHAT THEY SAID
“It’s not going to happen…I have a no-trade clause…Jeanie [Buss] and Jimmie [Buss] aren’t sending me anywhere…I’m so loyal to this organization, there’s not a chance [of him leaving]…I’ve been really fortunate to win a lot of games here, a lot of championships here.” – Kobe Bryant after finishing with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists against the Hornets in the Lakers first win of the season last Sunday.

“I keep saying, we just didn’t execute down the stretch. We just didn’t function well down the stretch. That’s one of the things I’m learning about this team.” – Clippers coach Doc Rivers after the team’s collapse late in the fourth quarter at home against the Spurs Monday night.

“I don’t think I’m going anywhere…I mean they love me here. I like the organization, and if it was up to me, I want to finish out with one team like a lot of great players have done, to stay with one organization their whole career and just be loyal to that. You never know. We’ll see what happens next summer, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in a Spurs jersey for my whole life.” – Kawhi Leonard discussing his future in San Antonio after the Spurs win over the Clippers in Los Angeles Monday night.

“Yeah, neither did I…Just in my head.” – Thunder center Kendrick Perkins joking about hearing M-V-P chants from the home crowd during Monday’s game.

“Clearly, they’re still learning the triangle. I still don’t understand it. But they’re learning it. But that’s what the game is all about.” – Commissioner Adam Silver responding to a question about the Knicks’ season so far.

“I wasn’t so humored by the commissioner actually jumping in on top of that, too. He doesn’t need to get in on that. There’s enough focus on [the] triangle. It’s not anything. It’s a system. It’s simple basketball. Just play the game. We’re over the triangle; let’s get to business and play the right way.” – Knicks president Phil Jackson’s response to the Adam Silver comment. Keep in mind that after the commissioner’s remarks, the Knicks lost three games in a row and there is recent history between the two men: Silver fined the Knicks $25,000 for tampering in June, after Jackson publicly made comments about then-Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher, who would go on to become the Knicks’ head coach.

“He’s an athletic Pau Gasol. That’s the best way I can put it. He can be one of the greatest power forwards who has ever played.” – Kobe Bryant on Anthony Davis of the Pelicans. I’m guessing Davis liked Bryant’s comment but, I’m not sure how Pau Gasol feels about that comparison.

“I didn’t feel too good…but I’m used to playing through that…It’s tough…Tonight was one of those nights where it makes me really remember the challenge of being 36 and being 19 years in…And the body just won’t respond…And you’re sick…And you’re used to trying to fight through those things…And it just helps me really remember what I’m facing…It’s tough.” – Kobe Bryant after Friday’s 93-80 home loss to the Spurs in which a flu-weakened Bryant made only one out of 14 shot attempts.

“Going to the Lakers, I don’t know where that came from.” – Cavs forward Kevin Love responding to reports of him opting out of his contract and signing with the Lakers next summer.

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK
Many fans and media really don’t care about the athletes they root for or cover. The overwhelmingly negative reaction to Derrick Rose’s comments about why he’s sitting out certain games now proves that clearly. We’re at the point where making millions of dollars for playing a game diminishes at best and negates at worst an athlete’s humanity. Also, Steve Nash has quickly become the Poster Child for everything that’s wrong with the “Jim Buss Era.”

GAME OF THE WEEK – WEEK 4
San Antonio at Cleveland: Wednesday, 4pm PST on ESPN
One can only hope that Pop brings all of his players to C-Town for this early season potential Finals preview and I’m fairly certain ESPN hopes so too.

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NBA 2014-15 – WEEK 2

November 9, 2014

OPENING TIPOFF
As I’m not the prosperity-themed preacher of a mega-church, I normally don’t take prayer requests. However, because one reader from Memphis, TN wrote me this past week to express her extreme disappointment that I didn’t say more about her beloved Grizzlies in Week One’s edition, I promised to correct that oversight this week.

So, here goes: the Memphis Grizzlies. You’re welcome…But seriously, 6-1 through Saturday night is impressive and once again proves the depth of the West this season. It’s going to be HARD to be a playoff team out West.

48 MINUTES
I may be wrong – I’m probably not – but I can’t remember this level of excitement about the first two weeks of a season in…well, since LeBron James took his “talents to South Beach.”

This was the week when the word patience was taken out of the dictionary as it pertains to the Cleveland LeBrons and the Los Angeles Kobes after 5 games. 5 GAMES into an 82-game season. (For those of you not doing the math at home, that’s approximately 6% of the schedule.) “Are the Cavaliers ever going to learn how to play together?” “Should Kobe and/or the Lakers consider asking the other for permission to explore a trade?”

In the words of the great football and life philosopher Aaron “Double-Check” Rodgers: R.E.L.A.X. Believe it or not, the Heat had not one, but two 4-game losing streaks the first year of “The Big 3” and somehow, they managed to make it to the NBA Finals that season. Granted they lost to the Mavericks, but trust me on this: I’ve been to Cleveland several times and if this team even gets to the Eastern Conference Finals this season, it will be hailed and celebrated. Barring any significant injuries, the Cavs will learn how to play together. Or LeBron will fire everyone.

Kobe Bryant’s only value at this point in his career is to the Lakers and I just don’t see him risking tainting his legacy by demanding a trade to a contender so he can chase that elusive 6th ring. By the way, not only would a 6th ring tie Bryant with Michael Jordan, but with Kareem and Scottie Pippen as well. But get this: he’d still be one behind Robert Horry. As my friend Belma Johnson recently said, “Number of rings is a faulty metric unto itself. Are Robert Horry and Derek Fisher really greater than Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley [no ring]?…I’m from LA, so I love rings, but it’s only one measure.”

As for the ongoing soap opera aka the Lakers, their increasingly delusional fan base is going to have to learn to accept this basic fact about this year’s team: it’s just not very good. Expecting this collection of players to suddenly improve and become a legitimate playoff contender reminds me of a former San Diego Padres pitching coach who after being fired because of the pitching staff’s poor performance said, “let me tell you something: you can train a donkey to run in the Kentucky Derby, but I guarantee you it won’t win the race.” In the other words – this is a bad team and its record is reflective of that.

Really scary question for Lakers fans to ponder: what if, as Melvin Udall once famously said, this is as good as it gets?

3-POINT SHOT ATTEMPT

Now that Adam Silver has removed the racist owner formerly known as Donald T. Sterling, his next test is what to do about San Antonio continuing to leave star players at home for nationally televised games. Thursday night, with the Spurs in Houston to play the Rockets in the early TNT game, head coach Gregg Popovich once again poked his finger in the eyes of the league office, the Rockets and NBA fans everywhere when he left Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobli at home with “mild sprained ankles.” To his credit (and the relief of his wallet), Popovich no longer says that he’s just resting players which has drawn fines from the league in the past. Now, he just makes up – in my opinion – excuses to do whatever he wants. Yeah, yeah, I know he’s won 5 rings, is the league’s “best coach”, runs the “best organization,” yadda, yadda bullshit! The real story is Poppovich doesn’t like playing a road game the night after a home game – the Spurs played the Hawks in San Antonio Wednesday – and this is his (and the Spurs’) childish, passive-aggressive way of protesting (along with his sarcastic league mandated in-game interviews). But here’s the thing that most of his fawning supporters in the media ignore: 1) there’s a responsibility to field your best possible team EVERY game and not just the ones you want to and 2) part of the problems in making the Spurs schedule every year is the fact that due to the annual San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo which this season runs from February 12-Mar 1, 2015, the team has to be on the road for an extended period every year and thus, subject to more back-to-back games than most teams. By the way, the same thing happens to the Bulls and Knicks (Ice Capades and the circus respectively) and the Clippers and Lakers (the infamous “Grammy Trip”) and they don’t even try, let alone get away with what the Spurs do on a consistent basis.

FLAGRANT FOUL
Speaking of the Lakers who are currently in the midst of “The Lost Season,” Steve Nash, who declared himself out for the season BEFORE it even started, posted a photo on Instagram of him playing golf last week. The team, who are paying Nash $9.7 million to NOT play for them or apparently even bother attending their home games, had no public comment. But something tells me there were plenty of curse words attached to Nash’s name around the Lakers offices this week.

FREE THROWS
During Thursday’s TNT studio show, Sir Charles Barkley vowed to stop eating until the Lakers win a game. When his fellow co-host Kenny “The Jet” Smith pointed out that the Lakers don’t play again until Sunday, he quickly amended his pledge to “starting Sunday.” Okay Kobe and the players posing as Lakers this season, Barkley’s waistline is now your responsibility.

The Warriors are very, very good and now we fully understand why Steve Kerr used Phil Jackson and the Knicks to leverage himself into becoming their coach.

The Clippers are finding out that they have to actually play the games AND win them before they can get to the Western Conference Finals as so many have penciled them in for.

Speaking of CLIPPER NATION which had a huge sigh of relief after Saturday’s matinee win at home over the Blazers, new owner Steve “Moneybags” Ballmer continues to distance the organization from the days of former owner Donald T. Sterling with the hiring of Gillian Zucker as the team’s new president of business operations. Zucker, the former president of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, becomes only the second female chief executive or president in major U.S. professional sports – the Lakers’ Jeanie Buss is the other – fills the front office position that has been vacant since former longtime team president Andy Roeser who was forced out by the NBA during last spring’s uproar over Sterling’s racially divisive tirades. The new structure has Ballmer casting league votes at the team’s governor, Zucker in charge of all non-basketball operations and head coach Doc Rivers will run the team’s basketball operations.

BTW, if Sacramento mayor (and native) Kevin Johnson had failed to keep the Kings there a few years ago when a Seattle group backed financially by Steve Ballmer tried to buy the team and move it there, the Western Conference may look a lot different today.

Bulls fans and the NBA media, get used to Derrick Rose missing games here and there. It’s the smart and only way to keep him healthy and ready for the playoffs.

So far, so good with Lance Stephenson and the Charlotte Hornets. Air Jordan’s team may be offensively challenged, but their defense is off-the charts intense. Here’s the rub for Lakers fans: Hornets head coach Steve Clifford was on Mike D’Antoni’s LA staff and that team didn’t play a lick of defense, individual or team. But Clifford takes his defensive philosophy and schemes to Charlotte and voila, they play defense! So, in conclusion, maybe it was D’Antoni’s fault after all?

Did I miss Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden’s retirement announcements?

WHAT THEY SAID
“In the words of the great @AaronRodgers12 ‘RELAX’” – @KingJames responding on Twitter after the Cavs slow start created a minor firestorm on social media and talk radio.

“There’s no bad energy flowing through our team, the organization right now.” – Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony on the different culture with the team compared to last season.

“We were like zombies—just motionless.” – Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw after his team lost to the injury-depleted Thunder who had only eight available players.

“I like what we have now…I think we shouldn’t get mad. I think we should get even. And we will see it on the court. – Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov making it crystal clear that there was no love lost when former Nets coach Jason Kidd left after only one season to take the same position with Milwaukee.

WHAT I LEARNED THIS WEEK
Steve Nash would make a lousy politician. With his defiantly unapologetic response – Google his Facebook page to read it – to the criticism he received from many pissed-off Lakers fans for posting an Instagram photo of him swinging a golf club after declaring himself unable to play this season, Nash cemented his standing as the linchpin of the worst trade in recent team history, if not all-time.

GAME OF THE WEEK – WEEK 3
San Antonio @ Golden State
Tuesday, 7:30pm PT on NBA TV

Get your popcorn ready! Or maybe not. Because this is the second night of a back-to-back for the Spurs – they play the Clippers in LA the night before – this could be another one of those “Pop Specials” where he rests one or more of his aging stars as he did last Thursday against the Rockets in Houston. If that happens and the Warriors win, will it be a fair assessment of where these two teams are, especially the undefeated Warriors who are clicking on all cylinders under new head coach Steve Kerr? Probably not and again, as I said earlier in this post, league commissioner Adam Silver and his management team need to address this sooner than later.

OT

The LA Times’ basketball rankings by Broderick Turner
November 8, 2014 @ 8:18pm PT
Last week’s ranking in parentheses; statistics are through Friday’s games:
1. HOUSTON: Rockets are scoring points (104.3, eighth-best in NBA) and playing defense (89.7, second-best). (9)
2. GOLDEN STATE: Warriors (4-0) are off to their best start since opening 5-0 during the 1994-95 season. (2)
3. MEMPHIS: Grizzlies off to best start in franchise history (6-0) because of league-best scoring defense (86.7). (6)
4. CHICAGO: Though Bulls are winning, fans worry that Derrick Rose is missing games with ankle injuries. (8)
5. TORONTO: Kyle Lowry had a triple-double with 13 points, 10 assists, 11 rebounds Friday against Wizards. (11)
6. SACRAMENTO: Kings (5-1) have won five in a row, their best start since the 1999-2000 season. (20)
7. DALLAS: A nice bounce-back win at Utah after getting blown out at Portland by 21 points. (11)
8. PORTLAND: Trail Blazers had impressive victories at home over Cleveland and Dallas before losing to Clippers. (15)
9. CLEVELAND: Cavaliers fans can relax after their team won its last game — until the next crisis. (7)
10. MIAMI: Chris Bosh is averaging a double-double with 24.2 points, 11 rebounds through five games.
11. CLIPPERS: Here are two problems: Last in rebounding (33.8) and have allowed the sixth-most points (104.2). (3)
12. WASHINGTON: Wizards are 19th in NBA in scoring, averaging 97.7 points, but they’re 11th in defense (97.0). (13)
13. SAN ANTONIO: The defending champions are resting players, shooting 42.7%, averaging 16.3 turnovers a game. (1)
14. CHARLOTTE: The Hornets are strong on defense, giving up 92.4 points a game, fourth-best in NBA. (17)
15. PHOENIX: Lost last two games to a very good Memphis team and a surprisingly good Sacramento team. (5)
16. BROOKLYN: Deron Williams’ ankles must be fine. The veteran guard is averaging 19.8 points, 7.0 assists. (23)
17. NEW ORLEANS: Anthony Davis leads NBA in rebounding (13.3), is second in blocks (4.0), eighth in scoring (23.8). (18)
18. DETROIT: Averaging 91.2 points per game, second-worst in NBA. Holding opponents to 95.6 points, seventh-best. (26)
19. BOSTON: Rajon Rondo out until Wednesday after having a screw removed from his surgically repaired left hand. (14)
20. NEW YORK: Carmelo Anthony joined NBA’s 20,000-point club after scoring 28 against Charlotte. (16)
21. ORLANDO: Back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota, one bad team beating two bad teams. (27)
22. MINNESOTA: No timetable for the return of Ricky Rubio (10.8 points, 11 assists) after he sprained left ankle. (24)
23. UTAH: Signs of a young team: Big, last-second win over Cleveland; a 23-point loss to Dallas two nights later. (29)
24. MILWAUKEE: Bucks have lost two straight and scored more than 100 points only once in first six games. (25)
25. ATLANTA: Hawks lead league in assists per game (26.5), but that’s negated by giving up 104.3 points a game. (22)
26. OKLAHOMA CITY: The Thunder loses another player to an injury. Perry Jones sits out with a bruised right knee. (21)
27. INDIANA: The Pacers lost five in a row, then Roy Hibbert (knee) had to leave Saturday’s game. (19)
28. DENVER: The Nuggets have lost four consecutive games and Darrell Arthur has been suspended for one game. (10)
29. LAKERS: Things we never thought we’d see: The winless Lakers are underdogs at home against Charlotte. (28)
30. PHILADELPHIA: Mark your calendars: The winless 76ers don’t play the Lakers until March 22. (30)

The 2014 Mid-Term Elections

November 5, 2014

“Only children make lousy team players and politics, particularly at the presidential level, is all about team play.”

That’s what a close friend of mine, a long-time Democratic strategist and consultant said to me late Tuesday night after the Republican sweep of the House and Senate. He went on to say that while he is a great campaigner and orator, President Obama, who has a half-sister but for the most part was raised as an only child by his grandparents, simply isn’t suited for the give and take of governing from the Oval Office. “He’s a loner by nature, comfortable only with a small group of people, mainly his ‘Chicago Crew’, and doesn’t like the ceremonial and ass-kissing parts of the job. But here’s the thing: the ceremonies and ass-kissing are a big part of being the President. You’ve got to have good personal relationships with the leaders of your party in both chambers of Congress. And, you just can’t not talk to the Speaker of the House because you don’t like him and vice versa.”

After a few more minutes of listening (mostly) to him rant and rave, we ended the call and I sat down on the couch to watch the Lakers lose again. But what my friend said is what I’ve been hearing and reading about President Obama for a while now: he’s aloof and bad at the “little things” of being president and that results in big problems. You just can’t go out and play golf on your vacation after holding a press conference about the beheading of an American citizen by Muslim extremists. No, there’s nothing he could do about it after the fact, but it just looks bad and callous.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think a large part of the virulent opposition to President Obama is race-based. But, if one is honest and objective, part of it, particularly in Congress, is ideology and policy based. And, despite the country being on much better footing today than it was when he was sworn in on January 20, 2009, for some reason, except for his re-election two years ago, President Obama has not been able to translate his electoral success into similar success for the Democratic Party. And looking ahead to 2016 and what most people believe will be another run by Hillary Clinton, that’s the biggest problem facing the party: how to take what Barack Obama did in ’08 and ’12 and replicate it.

We get what we pay (vote) for. I just hope and pray that reality and sanity comes over the Congress and White House and instead for continuing the scorched earth approach of the last 5 plus years, the people America elected to represent them decide to act like rational, reasonable people and work TOGETHER on behalf of all of us.

NBA 2014-15 – Week One

November 2, 2014

Hello there. Due to popular demand in general and one emailer in particular who made it very damn clear that he may do something “really, really stupid if you don’t start writing about the NBA again,” like King James in Cleveland and the Hornets in Charlotte – I’M BACKKKKKKKKKK!

What We Learned Week One:

This is LeBron James’ league and everyone else is in second place. Love or hate him, the one thing you can’t do is ignore the singularly most important player in the NBA. Yes, the Cavaliers will need time to blend everyone into new head coach Dave Blatt’s system and learn how to play with each other in order to become true title contenders. Adding Pau Gasol – who looks rejuvenated – to the Bulls will pay off in spades if Derrick Rose can stay healthy and be even 85-90% of what he once was and don’t think for a minute that the Heat won’t be there in the playoffs. And the defending champion Spurs are very intent on correcting the one “flaw” on their remarkable record: never going back-to-back. But if you think for even one second that any other player impacts the game more both on and off the court throughout the league, all you needed to see downtown Cleveland on opening night. Unless of course, you believe ESPN, who wasn’t even televising the game, was there to cover Kevin Love’s debut as a Cav.

Injuries are already playing a key role for several teams but none have been more affected than the Lakers and the Thunder. Facing an uphill battle in the triple-stacked Western Conference where 45 wins may not be enough to make the playoffs, the Lakers were dealt an especially cruel blow when talented rookie (the 7th overall pick in this year’s draft) Julius Randle suffered a broken leg in his first NBA game. And already missing Kevin Durant, the Thunder hopes of staying close until his return from a broken right foot, they suffered a stunning loss when Russell Westbrook broke a bone in his right hand and will be out 4-6 weeks. Ironically, KD may be back before Westbrook.

Michael Jordan is finally fully emotionally invested in the Charlotte Hornets and that’s a good thing for both the franchise and the league.

Kobe Bryant, except for shooting 40% through his first three games, is pretty much back. He’s already had a skirmish with former teammate Dwight Howard, jacked up as many shots as possible whether he’s double or even triple-teamed, and snarked his way through several post-game interviews.

The Warriors are all-in on Klay Thompson. $70 million for four years. (He celebrated by dropping a career-high 39 on the visiting Lakers Saturday night as his father, former Laker and current radio analyst, Mychal looked on.

Some things never change; the Knicks are as schizophrenic as ever.

New Clippers owner Steve Ballmer makes Mark Cuban look like a mime. He makes coffee nervous.

No matter who is or isn’t on ESPN’s Countdown studio show, it’s just God-awful. And it doesn’t help them one bit whenever a reporter or blogger does a story on them they get compared to the Emmy-winning laugh-fest that is the TNT show. Jalen Rose made an excellent point in an interview when he said that TNT’s advantage is that “they’re a ‘late-night’ show and get to do things we simply can’t do on our show”, but that in and of itself doesn’t explain why the ESPN show feels so scripted and stilted.

QUOTES FROM AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
“I haven’t seen anything like that [the festival-like atmosphere surrounding the Cavaliers opening night game] before. The city [Cleveland] was on fire. It was great to spoil the excitement. Great for us.” – Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire after New York’s 95-90 victory on Thursday.

“Not ready for showtime, were we, guys?” – Knicks president Phil Jackson to the media after the team’s 104-80 home loss to Chicago Wednesday night.

“He’s got a rod in his leg. Holding that bone together. And it’s gotta heal. Looks good against his dog, and while he’s standing out there in front of you guys it looks pretty good. Other than that, he don’t do nothin’.” – Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird after injured star Paul George was seen in an Internet video playing one-on-one against his dog.

Lots of hype and injuries galore by Ben Bolch

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES NBA RANKINGS BY Broderick Turner
November 1, 2014

Statistics are through Friday’s games:

1. SAN ANTONIO: The Spurs get the top spot because they are the defending NBA champs.

2. GOLDEN STATE: Stephen Curry produces 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, six steals in opener.

3. CLIPPERS: Though unimpressive in their first two wins, the Clippers prefer being 2-0 to 0-2.

4. MIAMI: Chris Bosh has 26 points, 15 rebounds in the season opener.

5. PHOENIX: Isaiah Thomas, Suns’ 5-9 sixth man, in first two games: 46 points in 49 minutes, 19 for 28, five for 10 on threes.

6. MEMPHIS: Not known for their scoring, the Grizzlies average 101 points in first two games.

7. CLEVELAND: LeBron James plays 42 minutes and 43 minutes in back-to-back games to start the season.

8. CHICAGO: Derrick Rose tells fans “Don’t worry” after he sprains his left ankle. If Rose misses games, Bulls fans worry.

9. HOUSTON: The Rockets make 26 of 56 (46.4%) of their three-point shots in the first two games.

10. DENVER: Kenneth Faried could be ready for a breakout season after getting 22 points and 17 rebounds in opener.

11. TORONTO: Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combine to shoot seven for 27 in season opener.

12. DALLAS: Mavericks put up 100 in loss to Spurs, 120 in win over Jazz.

13. WASHINGTON: Point guard John Wall averages 23 points and 11.5 assists through first two games.

14. BOSTON: Rajon Rondo has one of his typical games — 13 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists — in 30 minutes in opener.

15. PORTLAND: The Trail Blazers have five players averaging in double figures.

16. NEW YORK: Nice bounce-back win over Cleveland after getting routed by 24 points in season opener at home.

17. CHARLOTTE: Kemba Walker makes game-winning shot in overtime after sending it to OT with late three-pointer.

18. NEW ORLEANS: Anthony Davis opens the season with 26 points, 17 rebounds, career high-tying nine blocks.

19. INDIANA: Center Roy Hibbert gets 22 points in first game, eight in second.

20. SACRAMENTO: Rudy Gay drops 40 points on Portland, one shy of his career high.

21. OKLAHOMA CITY: Russell Westbrook (broken right hand) joins Kevin Durant (broken right foot) on injured list.

22. ATLANTA: Kyle Korver makes six of seven three-point attempts in Hawks’ first game.

23. BROOKLYN: Guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson shoot a combined 13 for 35 in the first game.

24. MINNESOTA: Rookie Andrew Wiggins scores eight points in his first professional game, six in his second.

25. DETROIT: The Pistons are the lowest-scoring team in the NBA (85 points per game), are making 39.4% of their shots.

26. MILWAUKEE: Rookie Jabari Parker posts the first double-double of his career, getting 11 points and 10 rebounds.

27. ORLANDO: Rookie Elfrid Payton hands out seven assists in each of his first two games.

28. LAKERS: Start the season with three losses by an average of 15 points.

29. UTAH: The Jazz loses its first two games by an average of 14.5 points.

30. PHILADELPHIA: The 76ers average 86 points in first two games, second-lowest in the NBA.