Posted Nov 26 2009 11:21AM
Before you slide out to do that last minute Thanksgiving supply shopping, sneak a peak at some great stuff to get you ready for tonight's 12-game slate of Thanksgiving Eve games.
• Jeff Rabjohns of the Indianapolis Star pegs Clippers guard Eric Gordon as a future All-Star.
• The Magic Basketballblog gets a little help bringing Dwight Howard to life.
• Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News has witnessed the new hotness in the Motor City.
• Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic on Steve Nash: the older the better?
• ESPN.com's John Hollinger has found change he can believe in: the Atlanta Hawks (registration required).
• Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune says David Kahn is in pain but not ready to panic.
• Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee makes my day by mentioning Truck Robinson and Isaac Hayes in the same paragraph. Nuff said!
• Frank Dell'Apa of the Boston Globe says the Celtics are wary of the underdog 76ers.
• Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News is ready to be "scalded by Warriors homers."
• The Oregonian's Joe Freeman presents yet another rookie that's making noise this season.
Chase Budinger wasn't supposed to be there as late as he was on draft night
The first round passed and he was still on the board, stunned and surprised as anyone that he'd lasted that long.
"Heck if know," Budinger said when asked how in the world he lasted until the 44th pick, by Detroit in the second round? "I was expected go in the first round. I thought I was going to go in the first round. It was a shock to me."
Not nearly as shocking as Houston trading for him later.
"I had no idea Houston was interested," Budinger said. "I had an interview with them and it seemed like the wanted no part of me. That's just how I felt after the interview. I walked out of there thinking, 'man, they must hate me.' It was just me in a room with everybody, with the coaches and the general manager, and it just seemed like they didn't want me at all. I was really surprised when they traded for me."
In a rookie class where the point guards have garnered most of the early attention, and rightfully so, Budinger sticks out not only because of his rise from that draft night drama but also because of his steady contribution for a Rockets team that has been on the surprises of the league.
Budinger ranks 12th among all rookies in scoring (8.7 points) while shooting a healthy .354 from behind the 3-point line (hey, I know this is my man Drew Packham's domain but I figured he wouldn't mind me sneaking in with a little rookie info here at Hang Time).
Budinger's been a crucial contributor for Rick Adelman's team as they've battled injuries and other player-related drama throughout the first month of the season -- as DP pointed out: "In the six games the Arizona product has scored in double digits, the Rockets are 6-0. In the seven games in which he has not scored in double digits, the Rockets are 2-5."
"Chase has been a really solid player for us and somewhat of a surprise for a second round pick," Adelman said. "But really, he's been solid for us ever since we got him in summer league. He runs the floor every time, shoots the open shot well, he's a smart player and coming off the bench he gives us energy. Overall, he's been a real plus for us."
Budinger swears this is only the beginning. He's still trying to get comfortable with his role, with the adjustment from major college ball (Arizona) to the NBA and life in a new city.
"I feel it's still a learning process for me," he said. "Ever since training camp I've just been trying to learn as much as I can, especially on the defensive end. The coaches have done everything they can to help me. And so have the veterans like Shane [Battier], Trevor [Ariza], Chuck [Hayes] and [Tracy] McGrady. They've all been helping me to learn little things, just giving me tips out there that might help me. And that's benefited me out there on the court."
It's funny. That draft night snub might eventually turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to Budinger.
"It's really been a blessing for me, an opportunity for me," he said. "I'm just trying to make the most of it. I'm trying to go out there every night and play hard and do whatever I can to help us win."
Bickering in the Wizards' locker room seems a bit childish in the wake of the happenings of the past day.
Longtime Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away Tuesday at 85.
If it seems trivial to use something like the passing of an icon as a reason to bring feuding factions together, then you need to read up on Pollin.
Mike Jones of the Washington Times made it clear that the Wizards used this moment as a tool to bring together not only the team but everyone that's had a hand in the franchise's rise (of a few years ago) and recent (injury-fueled) fall back to the pack: "The mood at Verizon Center turned suddenly somber Tuesday, the death of Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin cause for unity and focus for a team that had been missing both in recent days.
So instead of using the night's game as an opportunity to show up former coach Eddie Jordan and the Philadelphia 76ers, Wizards star guard Gilbert Arenas said he believed the night should serve as a reunion to honor the NBA's longest-tenured owner.
"[Pollin] was loyal to his team. He loved basketball. He was never going to sell the team. And it's just sad it had to happen today," Arenas said. "But the good news is everyone's here. Eddie's back. All the people who started the winning, we're all here together."
In Pollin's case, there was more to the man than you might have known:
From the vault -- George Vescey of the New York Times schooled the world on the Bullets to Wizards transition and why Abe Pollin stood above the fray: "Abe Pollin decided months ago that it was wrong to call his Washington basketball team the Bullets. He pushed up the announcement the other day after flying back from the funeral of a friend, a hero, who had been killed by bullets.
"I stood in the spot when Rabin was killed," Pollin said the other day.
Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel, was assassinated a week ago Saturday in Tel Aviv. His life was no more precious than the lives of children killed by flying bullets as they cower in apartments in the District of Columbia, or teen-agers gunned down in the heat of an argument. Yitzhak Rabin's death reinforced Abe Pollin's belief that something must be done about the nickname.
"I've thought about it for 31 years," Pollin said the other day, after announcing that a new nickname will be chosen by the fall of 1997, when the team moves to a new arena in the national capital. "Bullets connote killing, violence, death," Pollin said. "Our slogan used to be, 'Faster than a speeding bullet.' That is no longer appropriate."
Pollin was more than just an owner, writes Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon. He was a mentor and friend and agent of social and economic progress who "changed the quality of life in the Nation's Capital": "Unseld understood why Wizards team officials were asking him to go to China last May. The trip, essentially a combination of basketball goodwill and reminiscence, was to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Washington Bullets' trip to China. But Unseld, 63, has had two knees and an ankle replaced. A 13-hour flight to China was out of the question.
"I got a call from the front office," Unseld recalled Tuesday night, "and I said, ''No.'."
But Unseld got another call the next day, from Abe Pollin, the owner of the franchise and one of his dearest friends the last 40 years. "He called me the next day," Unseld said, "and I said, 'Okay.' It's not indebtedness; it's just the things you do for a friend."
Nets coach Lawrence Frank is embarrassed after his team's latest loss, the worst of the 14, per Star-Ledger special contributor Lee Raziser: "The Nets have already tied the longest losing streak for the franchise at any point of a season since Jan. 19-Feb. 20, 1990. And it doesn't get any easier this week, as the Nets continue their Western road swing in Portland Wednesday night, then head to Sacramento (Friday) and Los Angeles, against the defending champion Lakers (Sunday).
"I'm very, very disappointed and embarrassed," said coach Lawrence Frank. "I just don't think we put our best foot forward." Frank called this the most frustrating loss of the team's nightmarish streak. "I would say it's unacceptable on all ends," he said. "This group by and large has competed very, very hard. Tonight we didn't do what we're capable of doing."
That nasty LA freeway traffic forced the Knicks to show up late for their date with the Lakers at Staples Center, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Only the A-list stars are supposed to show up fashionably late for Lakers games. The Knicks, though, tweaked that concept Tuesday night by arriving 55 minutes before tip-off due to congestion on the 10 Freeway. "Traffic jam," Mike D'Antoni said.
Really, how New York can these Knicks be if they can't even make it to work on time. The Knicks were headquartered in Santa Monica and most of the team was in the building long before 6 p.m. D'Antoni, though, took the 5p.m. bus along with Eddy Curry, Al Harrington, Larry Hughes, Chris Duhon and Darko Milicic and they didn't arrive until 6:35 p.m. "I think that's the only reason we lost the game," D'Antoni said sarcastically. "They had nothing to with it." Said Hughes, "I didn't think we'd get here until 7:15. I've never been this late."
Clippers owner Donald Sterling talks Kobe and championships with T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "When Bryant declared himself a free agent a few years back, Sterling went after him. At one point, Dunleavy told Sterling he had worked out a deal to sign Bryant. "I drove from my house in Malibu to the Four Seasons in Newport Beach to meet Kobe and Kobe said I didn't need to say anything because he was going to be a Clipper," Sterling says, a day later learning Bryant had been convinced by Buss to remain with the Lakers. Sterling says he remains committed to winning, despite the black cloud that seems to hang over the organization, calling it "sad and embarrassing," the fact his team has enjoyed only two winning seasons in the 25 it has been in L.A. "I can visualize a Clippers parade," he says. "I'm telling you, I will win. I promise you that. I will find the combination."
There will be on point guard controversy in Toronto. I repeat, no point guard controversy in Toronto. Fine, let Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail explain: "They were animated as school kids. Walking off the floor just before halftime, Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon were side by side, comparing notes, giving each other suggestions, giving every indication that the two men charged with directing the Raptors' offence are very much in sync.
Combined, they were nine-of-10 from the floor for 25 points with eight assists and just one turnover through two quarters. They finished with 39 points and 13 assists and just three turnovers for the game. Backcourt play doesn't get much more efficient, and the timing was perfect as Chris Bosh struggled to a rare off night, scoring just 16 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Calderon started, Jack came off the bench, but some of the Raptors' best moments came when they were on the floor together at the end of the first half. They helped push a 15-point lead to a 21-point bulge as Jack hit Calderon for a triple and Calderon fed Jack for a layup not long after. Each helped facilitate the offence as seven Raptors hit for double figures.
"Both guys played extremely well," Raptors head coach Jay Triano said. "I really liked when they were out there together. I thought they were very unselfish and shared the basketball between themselves extremely well. I think it's just everyone getting to know each other a little bit. At one point they probably thought they were competing with one another for a position and now they've realized they can play together on the floor as well as give each other relief."
Ron-Ron tries to explain his garment-free appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "While doing his segment with Kimmel, Artest kept saying he should put his shirt on. But he never did. He did have Kimmel's name shaved into the back of his head. Before Tuesday night's game against the Knicks, Artest was asked to explain his newest episode. "I just thought it would be funny," Artest said. "I'm a genius. I thought it would be fun."
The Jazz had every reason to fear the Thunder, as Tim Buckley of the Deseret News points out here: "They could have been in Oklahoma City, not Salt Lake, for all it seemed like they cared about defending their home court. Watching over the basketball was troubling, too. Combine the two blockades, and it's little wonder the Jazz fell 104-94 to the Thunder on Tuesday night at not-nearly-sold-out EnergySolutions Arena ending their modest three-game win streak.
"We turned the ball over 24 times," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, "in a very important game, one of the biggest games we play all year long, against a team in your division, in your building. With that many turnovers," he added, "it's pretty hard to come away with a win."
The Warriors are thriving playing a different game; six man basketball with no (head) coach. Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle believes a clear message has been sent: "It took Don Nelson's absence Tuesday night to produce a glimpse of the Warriors' future. It wasn't so much the 111-103 victory in Dallas - although the team's stretch-drive play was positively invigorating - but rather the look and feel of a performance achieved with just six players.
The key to the Warriors' future is change, and they won't make a hint of progress until Nelson retires. That's just the simple truth. It sounds particularly cruel now, with the storied coach fighting a case of pneumonia, but that has to be the message of the get-well card: Get some rest, Nellie. You're about to turn 70, for God's sake, so let Joy take good care of you. Forget about the road, the hotel bars, the all-time wins record and your deeply flawed team. Your body is sending you a message. Get well, and stay home."
-- Posted Nov. 25, 2009, 9:04 a.m. Question or comment? E-mail Sekou
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