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Ray appreciation day

Posted Dec 11 2009 12:07PM

Celtics guard Ray Allen is just 14 points away from joining one of the NBA's most prestigious clubs.

Fourteen points and Kobe Bryant will show him the secret handshake. Allen Iverson can show him around the clubhouse, Kevin Garnett will hand him is letterman's jacket and Shaquille O'Neal can give him the breakdown on how to hang with the cool kids.

If Allen just reaches his season average (15.5 points) against the Wizards (8 p.m. ET on TNT), he'll be in the club before you go to bed.

O'Neal, Iverson, Bryant and Garnett are the only active players in the 20,000-point club. So Allen's entry would certainly bolster their ranks (he'll be just the 33rd player in league history to make it).

It's an honor that will round out Allen's impressive list of accomplishments during a storybook basketball career that has seen Walter Ray Allen win a high school state title in South Carolina, All-AMerica honors at UConn, an Olympic gold medal and the NBA title in 2008 with the Celtics.

"I just think he's a credit to the league," said Hawks general manager Rick Sund, who traded for Allen while working in the same role in Seattle. "Ray's an ambassador to the game of basketball. I was so happy that he got on his championship. I think that more than anything ensures him the Hall of Fame.

"What I really think is interesting is that everywhere he's been, he's brought hat team to major success. In Milwaukee they played in the Eastern Conference finals. In Seattle, within three years we won the division title and 52 games.

"In Boston, everybody talks so much about Kevin Garnett and the impact he made on the franchise. But don't diminish Ray's input. [Paul] Pierce got the MVP of the Finals, but it could have very well gone to Ray. He's accomplished just about everything in the game of basketball and he's given a lot back."

Often celebrated for his good works off the floor, Allen's friends and former teammates are eager to see him reach the milestone.

"You and I can talk until we're blue in the face about what Ray Allen has done, we could do it all day long," said NBA TV analyst Brent Barry, a teammate of Allen's in Seattle. "The best part about Ray Allen is he would talk about all the things basketball has afforded him. That's what makes him the class act that he is."

-- Posted Dec. 10, 2009, 2:59 p.m. E-Mail Sekou

Lunch dunks

Not sure if you're going the fast food route for lunch or if you brought something from home. Me, I'm going with a few leftovers from last night.

A few leftover dunks for lunch is always a good way to get through Thursday.

I've already made my campaign statement for Shannon Brown of the Lakers. He gets an assist from the Finals MVP (and a pretty decent dunker in his own right) on this one.

If you like like good ol' fashioned Southern fried dunks for lunch, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith of the Hawks have you covered here.

Not to be outdone, Trevor Ariza offers up Houston's version of the reverse dunk by sticking this one on the first try.

Richard Jefferson can turn down the feed from Tony Parker, not when the Spurs point guard serves it up like this.

I'm watching my figure these days, so I won't go overboard with any more. Well, maybe just one more. Josh Boone to Courtney Lee looks like something the Nets can bank on for the rest of the season.

I figured these would suffice for a light lunch.

-- Posted Dec. 10, 2009, 12:56 p.m. E-Mail Sekou

Doing the ugly math

Check the basic math on the Bulls these days and it's not pretty.

Nine losses in 10 games. They've been smoked by double digits in six those losses, absolute stinkers where the Bulls have been blown off the floor. And there's even a loss to the Nets thrown in there for good measure.

What happened to the playoff darlings from last season, the crew that pushed the Celtics to the limit in a first round series that became an instant classic?

"This is the toughest part," Bulls veteran Lindsey Hunter said. "You don't lose on game night. It's your preparation that makes the difference. That's where you win in this league."

The Bulls were obviously ill-prepared for the what they faced Wednesday night against the Hawks, who pummeled their guests by 35 points without breaking a huge sweat.

This string of dismal, uneven performances has cranked up the chorus of those calling for the head of Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.

This rough start has also left the Bulls searching for answers as to how things could get sideways like this just a little over a month into what was supposed to be a huge season.

"No idea," Bulls center Joakim Noah said afterwards. "The way we started the season, I thought that there was definitely some optimism and some things to look up to. But I think we're definitely going through it right now as a team. We just have to find a way to snap out of it because we're not doing the things we need to do to win games.

"Just competing in general. I think certain guys are doing it in spurts. But as a team, you can't just blame anybody because it's nobody's fault, because as a team we're not competing together for 48 minutes. We're not competing together at all. We really need to stick together through this adversity."

It's more than fair to wonder just how low these Bulls will go before something changes.

"I don't really know what to do," said second-year Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. "It's all mental. Either you want it or your don't. It doesn't matter what plays you run or nothing. It's about hustle. It's all mental now."

When asked if he felt like the guys in his locker room really "want it," Rose seemed unsure of his answer.

"I guess so," he murmured with a crowd of reporters surrounding him in the middle of the locker room after the game. "It [the results] speaks for itself. We're just not playing hard, rebounding the ball as a team and just not playing our game."

Even worse is the sting of losing after there were such high expectations, internally and externally, after that playoff splash the Bulls made against the Celtics.

"It hurts very badly when you're not used to losing," Rose said, "especially when you're getting blown out in half of the games of a season. Almost every game has been a blowout. Man, it hurts."

A little more of what went on while you were sleeping:

The Laker' math looks much better than the Bulls

Ten for 10 looks good in Hollywood even on a rough day for Kobe Bryant, per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Ten victories in a row. Ten reasons why the Lakers (17-3) have the NBA's best record. "We'll lose," said [coach Phil] Jackson, ever the realist. "We have a loss coming somewhere down the line. We're just enjoying it while it happens."

The day started off in a bad way for Bryant, who skipped the shoot-around to be with his family after an armed robbery took place in his Newport Coast neighborhood. "Last text I read, he said, 'I'm planning on playing,'" Jackson said before the game. "Back to normal, hopefully." Bryant played, which was bad news for the Jazz. He made 10 of 19 shots and also had eight assists and six rebounds."

Sixers perfect, too (11-for-11)

Neither A.I. can stop the bleeding for the 76ers, who have dropped 11 straight, writes Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "On Monday night in Iverson's emotional return to the Sixers, 20,664 people packed the Wachovia Center. Last night, that number dropped to 12,136. Along with the attendance, so too dropped Iverson's effectiveness. He played 33 minutes, scoring 11 points on 3-for-10 shooting with three assists, six turnovers and no rebounds.

Last night's game should have been the streak's end: The Sixers were at home, playing an injury-wracked opponent, a team with double-digit losses. Plus, some lingering Iverson effect was expected: a little boost, that je ne sais quoi he brings. But last night, the tangible energy expected to fill the Wachovia Center - only one game after Iverson's return - disappeared. Unfortunately for the Sixers, the losing streak did not."

Are the Rockets for real?

Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice thinks so after watching the Rockets knock off the Cavaliers: "At some point, we may have to stop thinking of these Rockets as lovable overachievers. Out with warm and fuzzy. In with expectations. The Rockets are good. There, I said it. For 10 weeks, I couldn't bring myself to admit what I was seeing was the real deal. I wanted to make it all about teamwork and energy, toughness and smarts. I wanted a Disney movie. Instead, the Rockets have given us something much, much better. They're not just a team; they're a good team."

Underdog Blazers have some fight left

Jason Quick of the Oregonian chronicled the Trail Blazers' triumphant return to Greg Oden's hometown without the big man in uniform, of course: "For a night at least, it was like old times for the Trail Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge early. Brandon Roy late. Victory at the end. Sure, the old times were only a year ago. But after all that has happened to this Blazers team in this short season, it seemed like oh-so-long ago that the team had such flow and control in a game as it did during Wednesday's 102-91 victory at Indiana.

Roy had 29 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Aldridge had 20 points and eight rebounds as the Blazers (14-9) ended a four-game road losing streak. "They showed tonight they are our go-to guys," said center Joel Przybilla, who had his own offensive outburst with 12 points. "I don't like going back to last year, but that's how we won last year -- them putting us on their shoulders."

Hornets' Paul works just fine in the cold

Chris Paul's last second heroics save the Hornets, asJimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune details here: "The Hornets executed one of the simplest plays in basketball  a backdoor cut off a screen after an inbounds pass. David West provided the screen and assist off Paul's inbounds pass as Paul streaked to the basket uncontested and trailed by Minnesota rookie Jonny Flynn.

"Coach (Jeff Bower with the aid of lead assistant Tim Floyd) drew the play up during the timeout, and I think our team showed great poise in going out and executing it to perfection," said Paul, who finished with 15 points and 14 assists. "It was just a handoff with me and D-West. I just read it. If he (Flynn) would have backed up, I probably would have come over the top, take high and go low."

Jennings, bench crew help Bucks snap streak

The Raptors provide the perfect tonic for the Bucks, per Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinel: "Offensively, the Bucks were very good. They had seven players score in double figures - led by Brandon Jennings' 22 points - and shot 52.5%. [Bucks coach Scott] Skiles, saying he hadn't been pleased with the off-the-bench energy, gave backup point guard Roko Ukic 25 minutes and he responded with 17 points. Ersan Ilyasova also scored 17 and Luke Ridnour, playing with a dislocated left elbow, scored 15. "There's an awful lot of guys in the NBA (in Ridnour's condition) who wouldn't have played in tonight's game," said Skiles. Carlos Delfino (14 points), Bogut (12 points) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (16 points) also contributed to the Bucks' balanced attack."

Popovich would quit if refs weren't honest

Tim Donaghy allegations were true, writes Mike Monroe of the Express-News: "If Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thought there was any truth to disgraced referee Tim Donaghy's allegations that NBA whistle-tooters routinely let personal bias rule their on-court judgment, he would walk away from the game. "A lot of people have worked very hard over the years to bring this sport to where it is right now," Popovich said. "For anybody to think that it is not on the up and up really is offensive. If I thought it wasn't on the up and up and I didn't have any control over outcomes, I wouldn't be doing it. It would be kind of a waste of time."

Warriors get more from Moore

With Monta Ellis having an off night, by his standards, the Warriors lean on Mikki Moore to top the Nets, according to Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: "Warriors guard Monta Ellis drove the lane, drew New Jersey center Brook Lopez to him and dumped a pass to center Mikki Moore. Moore finished the play with a two-hand dunk. It was his eighth basket of the night, all coming in the paint. Moore helped the Warriors score 60 points in the paint and post a 105-89 victory Wednesday over the New Jersey Nets.

"The difference is I didn't drop any of (Ellis') passes tonight," Moore said after scoring a season-high 16 points against one of his former teams. "We learned that if we swing the ball to the weak side, and then attack the (opponent's big men), there's no help for the drop-off pass."

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