Posted Nov 19 2009 5:42PM
Do you know what you're wearing to Mardi Gras?
The New Orleans Hornets know exactly what they'll be wearing on game night four times in February.
And now that they've unveiled their alternate uniforms commemorating the special event, there might be more than a few folks rocking these multi-colored game jerseys in the Crescent City in the coming months.
Since I've never been schooled on the finer points of the uniform code, I'll bow down to the wisdom of others like ESPN Page 2 uniform guru Paul Lukas.
Personally, I can't imagine an instance where I'd be inclined to pair green and purple with gold. But I haven't been to Mardi Gras in years either.
But if it works for the experts and it works for the good folks of New Orleans, then it works for me (on the Hornets).
Julian Wright (left) and rookie Darren Collison are in much better shape right now, so they can work it without sleeves. I might need a long sleeve hoodie or something underneath to do these uniforms justice.
I'd love to be in the Big Easy to celebrate Mardi Gras in style. Really, I'd love to attend. But only if I can pick my own wardrobe.
LeBron James plays with the reckless abandon that thrills fans and leaves observers in awe of his unreal physical abilities. But even the King has his limits. On this dunk (below) from the fourth quarter of Wednesday's loss to the Wizards James aggravated a left wrist injury that Plain Dealer Cavaliers beat writer Brian Windhorst called the "low light" of his game recap.
Windhorst also details some of the lessons the Cavaliers need to learn from their loss to the Wizards, including this gem: "I'm a little shaken up at the moment, I must say. I just taped a segment for SportsCenter over the phone with Scott Van Pelt out in the arena bowl here at the Verizon Center. We had to record it twice. Why? Because in the middle of the first take, a rat the size of a rabbit went zooming past my feet. I wish I was kidding. Seriously."
He actually had more constructive advice for the Cavaliers, including this valuable insight:
"Regardless of what the Wizards say about preferring to face Zydrunas Ilgauskas instead of Shaq, not having him had a huge affect on the game. Just compare the box scores of the two times the Cavs have played the Wizards. People say that Shaq clogs the lane but that is too narrow of a viewpoint.
When Shaq is in the game he cannot be left or it is a dunk. In most cases, Shaq actually opens the lane for this reason. And for evidence of that, consult the Orlando and Miami game films.
Dwight Howard couldn't leave Shaq to contest shots. Brendan Haywood was a non-factor the last time these two teams met, tonight he had three blocks and six offensive rebounds. The key is for the Cavs to learn to operate both ways, to play small and move the ball with him out and to use him and take advantage of him in the game."
For all the good times Al Harrington enjoyed during his six-plus seasons with the Pacers, the Knicks forward has enjoyed just as many since then against his former team.
In fact, he hasn't shown his former team much love since moving on after the 2003-04 season - though he did resurface with the Pacers for 36 games during the 2006-07 season. His 26 points Wednesday helped the Knicks snap the Pacers' five-game win streak.
In addition, Harrington's average of 22.9 points against the Pacers in his career, easily his best against any team. Harrington has also logged more 20-point games against Indiana (12 in 15 games) than he has against any other opponent, per Elias Sports.
Harrington insists that it has never and never will be anything personal.
"We needed a win," he said via text message Thursday afternoon. "That's all to it."
Oddly enough, Harrington stopped that five-game Pacers' streak five years nearly to the day of the anniversary of one of the darkest times in the franchise's proud history. Today marks the five-year anniversary of "The Brawl," which prompted this extensive look back and forward from Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star. It's a thorough examination of not only what went on but also the aftermath and the influence its had on the organization to this day.
There's too much important and insightful information here for it to be ignored.
For five years we've watched Josh Smith take flight like few other men on the planet can. And every time, the folks in attendance at whatever arena the Hawks' high riser is playing in that night rise to their feet in unison, as if they've never seen it before.
It would be strange if I hadn't been there, court side, for most of these airborne stunts he's pulled. Maybe it'll get old when Smith (who is all of 23 until next month) gets old and can't dunk anymore, or not.
After so many years of seeing him play at such a high level, it's easy to overlook the fact that Dirk Nowitzki is arguably as unique a player as the NBA has ever seen.
When you consider his mind-boggling mix of size and outside and mid-range skill, it's hard to find a comparable talent on just pure dimensions and pure ability.
Dirk has aged better than many of his contemporaries; guys like Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter come to mind. He's avoided serious injury throughout his career and his most dangerous quality -- he can find the bottom of the rim from anywhere on the court -- is one skill that never fades.
He's been around for so long and played so well for so long that it seems we've begun to take for granted just how rare a player he is (it seems like just yesterday when the Mavericks were busy fleecing the Bucks on draft night, swapping Dirk for the rights to Robert "Tractor" Traylor in one of the all-time great draft heists in all of sports).
I'll admit to being a non-believer a few years ago. I was there in Dallas and Miami the year the Mavericks made it to the NBA Finals and it seemed like Dirk wilted under the immense pressure of the moment.
It was Jason Terry, and not Dirk, that emerged as the dominant figure for the Mavericks during that series. But since then, as the Mavericks have gone through coaches and supporting cast members, Nowitzki has been the one constant.
He's been the one thing that hasn't changed a bit. Outside of Kobe Bryant, there may not be a tougher late-game match up for a single defender in all of basketball, something the Spurs were reminded of Wednesday night (Dirk scored scored 32 of his season-high 41 points after halftime to lead the Mavericks to their second straight overtime win).
And as Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News points out, this is undeniably Dirk's team now and until further notice.
The VIP section of the Eastern Conference has been a three-team party the past two years with only Orlando, Boston and Cleveland allowed admittance inside the velvet rope.
But someone else is trying to get in.
The Atlanta Hawks have won six straight games, including a 105-90 demolition of Miami Wednesday, and doing their very best to crash the party.
"If somebody said Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia were the top three teams in the league coming into this season it still wouldn't have mattered," Hawks sixth-man Jamal Crawford said. "We still have to go out there and play. And as long as I've been in this league, actions speak louder than words."
Said Hawks' captain and All-Star Joe Johnson: "We've never listened to the naysayers about our team. We could care less what's written on paper or what somebody had to say about who is supposed to go where. We've tried to do our talking on the floor."
That includes wins in Boston and Portland, and six straight home wins to push their record to 10-2, tied with Phoenix for the top overall mark in the league.
Still, there's been a prevailing theory that the Eastern Conference consisted of the Big Three and everyone else, a theory not shared by "everyone else."
"I think everybody feels like the ball is in the air and it's a matter of who is going to go get it," said Heat center Jermaine O'Neal, whose team is 7-4 after back-to-back losses to Oklahoma City and the Hawks. "Right now everybody has issues. Do we feel like those three teams are better than us? No we don't, not at all.
"Cleveland, they're a good team. But we don't feel like they're better than us. Orlando just had a huge blow with Jameer Nelson's injury. Boston isn't playing to the level they expected. So I think teams like Atlanta and us, we're absolutely in the mix with those other three teams."
Time will tell. But so far this season, it's safe to assume that the VIP section is going to need a few extra chairs, at least for the time being.
"We know we're a good team," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "We're not a cocky bunch of guys but we're confident in ourselves. And we know that we have the depth that we need this year. And we're treating each game more precious than the last because we know we have something good going here."
Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post sees some encouraging signs now that the Wizards have snapped that pesky losing streak: "The Washington Wizards, on the other hand, had lost six straight and seven of nine to start the season. They were shooting the ball miserably. Gilbert Arenas looked, well, awkward in this new role of more traditional point guard. The new offense appeared a little discombobulated. The Wizards, frankly, reminded more than a few of us of the Redskins. Not good. So what happened in Game 10 of the Wizards' season? They blew out the Cavaliers, 108-91. They came from 17 down to lead by 20 in the fourth quarter, a 37-point swing that overwhelmed LeBron James and featured probably the Wizards' best stretch of basketball so far."
Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe points out Doc Rivers' new stance on 3-pointers and how that helped the Celtics recover from their two-game skid: "I got on him, and I rarely do, about the threes,'' Rivers said of Rasheed Wallace. "Because even though he was wide open, it's really tough. I mean, he was wide open and he took two, but we had just taken two quick ones. But he's got an incredibly high basketball IQ. He's been phenomenal in the locker room. So, I'm just happy to have him."
Steve Adamek of the Bergen Record highlights Eddy Curry's return and revival for the Knicks: "Playing his first significant minutes since March 7, 2008 after three cameos during a tumultuous 2008-09 season on and off the court, Curry demonstrated the force he can be in just 11:44. He scored 10 points, driving the lane with reckless abandon at times and looking like his old self on the blocks, with D'Antoni calling plays for him to get him going. "You forget what a presence he is under the basket and you forget what it's like to have that presence," D'Antoni said. "It just gives us another dimension to the offense."
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel details Stan Van Gundy's desire for Vince Carter to play like ... well, Vince Carter: "If anything, the coach has said, Carter has played too unselfishly. Instead, Van Gundy says he simply wants Carter "to be Vince." Carter responded Wednesday night with arguably the most aggressive game of his brief Magic tenure. He scored a team-high 18 points and collected six rebounds to lead Orlando to 108-94 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first game without Nelson. "That's probably the reason why he wanted me to just be more in attack mode," Carter said. "He expects Jameer and I to do it together. So, with him out, he expects me to kind of carry the load in that aspect of it. That's fine. I've been there before. That's my game. I just wanted to assert myself tonight."
Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic shines the spotlight on the Suns' new hero: "The Suns signed Jarron Collins and he has played 59 minutes, a mix of spot rotation duty and mop-up minutes. But even if he has not been what the Suns billed they were adding, he has been exactly what they needed."
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes that Pau Gasol is set to make his season debut for the Lakers tonight against Chicago on TNT: "The right hamstring that kept Gasol out of the Lakers' first 11 regular-season games, the injury that hampered him for just over five weeks, healed enough to where he feels comfortable enough to play in a game. "I think that I'll be able to go tomorrow," Gasol said after practice Wednesday. "It felt great today and I don't plan on any reason why it wouldn't feel the same way tomorrow."
Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune identifies yet another rookie point guard that's playing a huge role for his team: "Just when the jittery Utah Jazz looked perfectly capable of squandering another big lead, they got a needed dose of poised leadership from an unexpected source Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena. Rookie Eric Maynor scored 11 of his 15 points during a seven-minute stretch of the fourth quarter and the Jazz escaped with a 104-91 victory over Toronto."
Ken Berger of CBS Sports captures the mood of the Hawks' dramatic turnaround from 13-win disaster to true player: "The world is upside down, as though the entire NBA is suddenly adhering to the marketing philosophy of a local Atlanta burger joint called Flip Burger. There, the gimmick --- besides delicious burgers -- is upside-down chairs anchored to the ceiling. "If we stay healthy and keep doing what we're doing, I don't think anybody could sweep us," said Josh Smith, on his way to an All-Star season after terrorizing Miami in all phases Wednesday night in Atlanta's 105-90 victory over the Heat. "We'll make a series out of any team."
Arash Markazi of Sports Illustrated has found a Magic supporter of LeBron's Jordan plan: "I thought it was just fabulous that he would think about everybody retiring the No. 23 that Michael wore," Magic Johnson said Wednesday. "Me and Larry, we don't really get into that. We care about the game, and if everybody votes that nobody should wear 23, we're going to be the first ones to say that it should happen. We all know how the game was and who's made a difference, and Michael definitely made a big difference. Larry and I started it off after Dr. J and those guys passed it on to us, and then we passed it to Michael and he took the game to a whole new level. We're all in favor of that if that's what everybody wants."
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