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Thank you cards for AI

Posted Nov 20 2009 4:59PM

No one is sure where they need to be sent just yet, but there are a stack of "Thank You" cards for Allen Iverson that need to be mailed.

While the basketball public waits for the next tweet regarding where the Answer's next stop may be, several teams are scrambling to figure out what's wrong with them.

You'd know this if the main focus of most league observers wasn't on Iverson and his ongoing saga (the Knicks just said no to Iverson Friday afternoon).

Luckily for teams like the Spurs (4-6), Raptors (5-7), Pistons (5-7) and Wizards (3-7), teams that either spent big or made major moves over the summer, the spotlight is elsewhere.

The Spurs are off to the worst start of the Tim Duncan-era and losers of three straight games heading into Saturday's tilt against the Wizards. Manu Ginobili's hurting and it's clear that folding seven new faces into the fabric of the team is no cakewalk, not even for one of the league's finest organizations.

It helps that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich refuses to let something like a rough first 10 games dampen his spirits. His wit is as sharp as ever. When informed earlier in the week that Ginobili's wife was pregnant with twins, Popovich was asked if he would hang around long as coach to mentor the young Ginobili's.

"I hope I'm smart enough not to even try to do something like that," Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the Express News. "I think they might play for Jerry Sloan, though."

Sloan's Jazz beat the Spurs in San Antonio for the firt time in a decade Thursday. But when your jewelry case if filled with as many diamonds as the Spurs' is, you're allowed to laugh off a rough start. And they know that better than anyone.

McDonald wisely pointed out that the Spurs began the lockout-shortened 1999 season 6-8 before a whirlwind 31-5 finish to the regular season led to the first of four NBA titles.

So it's probably not the right time to push the panic button in San Antonio or anywhere else. But AI could use some good news, and soon. Someone might want to get those cards in the mail.

-- Posted, Nov. 20, 2009, 4:50 p.m. Question or comment? E-mail Sekou

Hayes weighs in on NFL debate

LeBron James isn't the only former All-State wide receiver collecting NBA paychecks these days.

Rockets forward Chuck Hayes spent some time lighting up the gridiron in high school as well, as a jumbo receiver at Modesto Christian in California.

But while James has made headlines recently by suggesting that he could have starred as a wide receiver or tight end in the NFL, Hayes isn't nearly as anxious to make those sorts of claims.

"If I'd have stuck with football through school and straight on to college I might have done well," Hayes said Friday afternoon. "But the transformation from college football to the NFL, that has to be huge. I think if LeBron had stuck with it he would have done well. And we all like to toot our own horn.

NBAE via Getty Images

"But the demands of the game, the Xs and Os, the blocking schemes and ... there's just so much to it, so much to it. Again, the physical demands of that game are so tough. I think you'd have to have a real passion for that to stick to it."

Hayes said he simply did not have that passion. After earning All-State honors he gave up football after his junior year of his school.

"I played because all my homeboys played," Hayes said. "But I hated going across the middle. I made my slant route look like a post route. And by the time my senior year rolled around I had more top notch colleges looking at me for basketball than I did for football. I made my decision right there."

Interest from the likes of Notre Dame and UCLA couldn't sway him to football. Not with Kansas and Kentucky, where he starred in college, calling.

These days Hayes is happy in his role starting for the Rockets, 7-5 heading into tonight's game against the Hawks. He'll leave all the football talk for James and other dual sport alums like Nate Robinson (who starred as a cornerback in college at Washington before deciding to stick with basketball) and Allen Iverson.

"You can't imagine the physical pounding they must take," Hayes said of NFL players. "I give those guys the utmost respect. In that game, every inch counts. They hit hard and they're so strong. The speed of the game is probably faster than I think, and I don't mind giving them credit on that.

"You have defensive lineman running around out there with 4.6 speed. That means he's catching me. It's such a pounding on your knees and your body. You always see those [NFL] guys at the end of a season having this surgery and that surgery. It's just not for me. Again, I give those guys the utmost respect because they obviously do their jobs very well."

-- Posted, Nov. 20, 2009, 12:43 a.m. Question or comment? E-mail Sekou

All-Decade: Best of the best

Technically speaking, the end of decade is closing in fast.

With that in mind, we're going to take you on a magical ride back through the recent history of the NBA to determine the best of the best, by the numbers, in every category you can imagine.


It kicks off with six contenders for the best playoff performance of the decade. Ernie, Kenny and Charles gave a great take on it during their Thursday night broadcast on TNT.

Me, I'm going back, way back to Game 2 of the 2001 NBA Finals to cast my vote.

Shaquille O'Neal went off, piling up a near quadruple double with 28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists and eight blocks as the Lakers bounced back from a Game 1 defeat to even the series against the Allen-Iverson led 76ers.

The other performances were spectacular in their own right, but who else but (younger) Shaq could have put up a stat line like that?

Don't forget to cast your vote for the best playoff performer of the decade. We'll keep voting through All-Star Weekend in February at

-- Posted, Nov. 20, 2009, 10:45 a.m. Question or comment? E-mail Sekou

All Iverson all the time

Allen Iverson to the Knicks remains the hottest topic around the NBA now that the former MVP and scoring champion has cleared waivers.

When the deal actually gets done remains a mystery. Because multiple outlets are reporting that the Knicks are in the process of sorting out the details for a potential deal, the final decision might not come before the end of the weekend.

TNT analyst David Aldridge reports that the Knicks' pursuit of Iverson has gone from "a long shot to even money in 48 hours."

Now that the 34-year-old Iverson has cleared waivers, it's open season for teams with interest. I thought there might be a few more interested parties. After all, Iverson remains one of the league's most interesting box office draws. But as of right now the only team that seems to have any genuine interest is the Knicks. And even they aren't racing to the finish line to get something done.

York Daily News Knicks writer Frank Isola even writes that the hold up is coming from high atop the food chain in New York: "According to a high-ranking Knicks official, MSG chairman James Dolan has reservations about the club signing Iverson, the multi-talented yet controversial guard who became a free agent Thursday night after clearing waivers. Dolan's concerns about Iverson won't necessarily be deal-breakers. In fact, Dolan was not in favor of team president Donnie Walsh re-signing Nate Robinson over the summer and yet, not only did Robinson return, he also received a $2million raise. If nothing else, Dolan wants Walsh to do his due diligence, which could delay a potential signing for several days."

That absolutely makes sense. With all the mishaps the Knicks have had in recent years, why rush into a relationship with Iverson.

One thing we can all be certain of, those three regular season games with the Grizzlies will not serve as Iverson's final bow in the league. He'll get a chance to choose his own ending this time, most likely in a Knicks uniform. And what's not to like about that? Iverson certainly doesn't make the Knicks a playoff contender. What he does is help bridge the gap between this current mash of players and whatever the Knicks morph into after the summer, which has to be of some relief to their fans.

Other happenings in the world of basketball that don't include Iverson:

Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke wonders if anyone truly appreciates what Gasol brings to the party: "The World's Tallest Actor With Bed Hair And Braces returned to his day job Thursday, back to the Lakers and the season's most pressing question. What is it going to take for people to finally appreciate Pau Gasol? Making his season's first appearance after sitting out the first 11 games because of a hamstring injury, Gasol took the Staples Center floor against the Chicago Bulls to an ovation that was less than standing. Folks cheered, but only slightly louder than if he'd been here all along."


Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald insists the Celtics have a new trick in store for tonight's matchup against the Magic and it starts with a K and a G: "Doc Rivers didn't want to get into a debate with hypothetical history. After finishing his chat with the media at large, he was asked directly if the Celtics would have won last year's second-round playoff series against Orlando with Kevin Garnett in the lineup. "I don't even go down that road," the coach said. "I don't." Paul Pierce, on the other hand, had no qualms with making the trip. "I believe it," he said. "I believe if we just had Leon (Powe) we would have. That's just my belief."


The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler waxes about the Jazz finally ending their decade of futility in San Antonio: "Jazz coach Jerry Sloan couldn't help but crack one joke as his team's 20-game, decade-long losing streak in San Antonio came to an end Thursday: At least his epitaph won't have to mention never having won a game at AT&T Center. "Well, it was nice from my standpoint to get a win in this building before I die," Sloan said after the Jazz's 90-83 triumph. "That's about the most rewarding thing. But our guys, I thought, hung in there pretty well and had to play pretty decent to win."


The New York Times' Jonathan Abrams gives a detailed shout out to the pick-and-roll, the oldest and most reliable play in basketball: "No other play in the N.B.A. creates such havoc; no other play is used as often. The basic pick-and-roll is the bread and butter of the N.B.A., with two teammates working in conjunction on offense, with one player dribbling the ball and the other standing still and trying to block the path of the ball handler's defender. "When it comes down to it, that's what we're going to be in when the game's on the line," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said of basketball's most reliable play. "I say it all the time: I don't care how good you are, you can't take away everything."


Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bob Cooney reminds us all that not every rookie point guard is Brandon Jennings: "Just like any job, it's a learning experience, and one Holiday is learning how to cope with. "It's been different," he said after a recent practice. "My teammates have been great. I really don't have anyone to hang out with here, but it's been great. I'm living my dream." Certainly, the dream would include a little bit more playing time. Holiday has played in only six of the team's 11 games for a total of 47 minutes. He had a career-high eight points in a home loss against the Phoenix Suns. He has only seven other points on the season. He has demonstrated very good court sense, has been a tough one-on-one defender, and shown the ability to score from inside and out."


Arizona Republic columnist Dan Bickley isn't worried with a loss to New Orleans, not when Suns coach Alvin Gentry is winning games and hearts the way he has this season: "Alvin Gentry is a great guy with a great motto. He is proud of the bridges he's never burned. "It's harder work being a jerk than it is just to be a nice person," he said. Gentry is humble, friendly, well-raised, and bringing good karma back to the sideline. Entering Thursday's game against the Hornets, the journeyman coach has won 28 of 43 games since taking over the Suns last season, crafting this year's team into one of the surprise stories of the NBA."


The New Orleans Times Picayune's John Reid believes Peja Stojakovic is adjusting to his new coach's system just fine: Behind the Hornets' quick ball movement and good spacing, Stojakovic struck for a game-high 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Hornets to a 110-103 upset victory against the Suns at New Orleans Arena. It was his first double-double since last January. Stojakovic made seven of 11 shots from 3-point range. And with his help on the boards, New Orleans outrebounded the Suns 56-38, including 25 offensive rebounds to the Suns' 14."


Sports Ilustrated's Jack McCallum elbows Oprah out of the way and offers a few suggestions for his basketball book club: "Three have caught my eye and, fortunately, the eyes of much of America: Bill Simmons' The Book of Basketball, Jackie MacMullan's autobiography/biography (I don't know how else to describe it) of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird called When the Game Was Ours and Chris Ballard's The Art of a Beautiful Game. The most fortunate thing about this intersection of three terrific books at one time is that they are so different. Taken collectively, they cover the NBA waterfront. MacMullan wrote a legends' story. Ballard wrote an art-of-the-game story. Simmons wrote a fan's story, albeit a fan who has been inhaling NBA games, movies, TV shows and, evidently, caffeine at the same rate that the Kardashians inhale public scrutiny."

-- Posted, Nov. 20, 2009, 8:58 a.m. Question or comment? E-mail Sekou

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