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Merry Shaqmas!

Posted Dec 14 2009 5:07PM

Shaq's got a nickname for every day of the week.

It doesn't matter where he is or what he's doing, the big fella will come up with the appropriate moniker for the situation.

Without further ado, say hello to Shaq-Boo!

Tell me you're not going to miss this cat when he's gone?

-- Posted Dec. 14, 2009, 4:49 Question or comment? E-Mail Sekou

Haywood's early retirement from the 'game'

Brendan Haywood is done.

The Wizards' big man is retiring from his gig as a blogger after just two entries (Jason Alexander's post Sienfield run lasted longer than this).

But in his latest and final installment, Big Brendan bids us all a farewell: "Even sadder than these 4 straight losses is the fact that your boy B-Wood is OFFICIALLY RETIRING from the blogging game.

I've had a great time blogging, interacting with the fans and letting yal know my points of view on different dicey topics but with the way this season has gone --at this point, I don't want anything written about me that's not basketball related. When you're winning and you're on top, you can really speak your mind and put your thoughts out there. When you're losing and trying to stay afloat, you've got to know when it's time to be seen and not heard.

I know some of my blog topics have been controversial but I just felt like writing a boring blog about how I went to the gym and got a certain amount of shots up just wouldn't cut it. I tried to keep yal on the cutting edge and really let yal know what's going on in my mind and it was hard to do at times. It was hard because a lot of times when you make comments, people really blow them out of proportion and interpret them in a lot of different ways than you originally meant them."

Not even a stern warnin from Wizards teammate Gilbert Arenas could keep Haywood from dipping his gigantic toes in the blogwaters.

Sometimes you have to learn the hard way big fella.

-- Posted Dec. 14, 2009, 4:17 p.m. Question or comment? E-Mail Sekou

Tea time reading (twitter style)

It's never too early to start the campaign to sack your new coach. College football already has the drill down. We're working on it in the NBA.

Bucks center Andrew Bogut is looking for the few, the proud, the NBA "hooligan" willing to crank it up in the Bradley Center.

Big Ray from the Hawks Fan Nest blog is handing out first quarter grades for the Hawks. It's the best report card they've gotten in years.

You didn't think a little needle to the knee was going to stop A.I. from suiting up tonight, did you?

John Schumann has a new team in that No. 1 spot in the power rankings. We're all seeing green.

Unemployment line? Byron Scott knows nothing about it. The former Hornets coach is back to work for the WWL.

A slow down is in the works for Tim Duncan. The order is coming straight from the top.

Rockets swingman Trevor Ariza is the winner of a one-game vacation courtesy of the home office. Keep your elbows to yourself Trevor.

My man Jonathan Abrams keeps you up to speed on all things basketball related, including the triangle.

When you rank 26th out of 30 in just about anything there is legitimate cause for concern.

Get in line LeBron. The Cavaliers are going global first, according the Sports Biz wiz Darren Rovell.

Not everyone in Miami is interested in the reality TV craze that's on its way to a plasma screen near you.

-- Posted Dec. 14, 2009, 3:18 p.m. Question or comment? E-Mail Sekou

Dunk of the year?

I'm not ready to hand out any hardware just yet.

But Corey Brewer has certainly made his way onto the early nominees list for Hang Time Dunk of the Year with this posterization of Derek Fisher.

It wasn't just the vicious nature of the dunk itself, it's the way he gave Fisher that extra backside bump at the end that really distinguishes this effort.

It's also nice to hear from Brewer, who has had a challening start to his NBA career due to injuries. The Timberwolves don't get much hype these days, but Brewer as a possiblity in the dunk contest could help generate a little buzz.

-- Posted Dec. 14, 2009, 1:24 p.m. Question or comment? E-Mail Sekou

Call it a comeback

Give Knicks boss Donnie Walsh this much; the man is not afraid of his own imagination.

In case you missed it, Walsh signed former lottery pick Jonathan Bender out of retirement to help bolster the roster.

Bender played in just 28 games over his final three NBA seasons, retiring in 2006 after a series knee injuries cut down the 7-footer in what should have been the prime of his physical career.

Now, three years later, Bender is doing what L.L. said it wasn't. And Bender's comeback will come under the glare of the league's most intense media spotlight.

Walsh was the general manager in Indiana when the Pacers acquired Bender from Toronto after a draft night trade a decade ago.

So maybe there is some cosmic symmetry to this move. Maybe not.

But you have to admit this is some story for a team that didn't want Allen Iverson, whose retirement was considerably shorter than Bender's three-year hiatus.

When asked why he would try this experiment again after witnessing all seven of Bender's injury-plagued seasons with the Pacers, Walsh explained the move to Dan Tomasino of the New York Post like this, "Because I had him before, I know what talent level he was at," Walsh said following yesterday's practice, which was Bender's first with the Knicks. "And so I thought it was worth the risk to bring him in, because if it works, well, he's got a lot of talent, more than most guys who are floating around out there."

As purely a spectator event, this is reality TV worth watching.

Because if Bender can find a way to resurrect his career with the Knicks, I'll be willing to believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny and just about anything else you throw at me.

I've known Bender since he was a sophomore at Picayune High School on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, so I'm not questioning his talent. It's always been otherworldly.

But a comeback at 28 after all the trials and tribulations he's dealt with ... I just have a hard time seeing a happy ending to this story.

-- Posted Dec. 14, 2009, 12:03 a.m. Question or comment? E-Mail Sekou

Griz rising in the West

Nobody loves an underdog like we do here at Hang Time.

And if the Grizzlies are anything, they're an underdog.

They play in an immaculate arena that not nearly enough people in and around Memphis have seen from the inside. They play an exciting brand of basketball this season that few people outside of the die-hard ball watchers even recognize.

As of late they're slaying teams that in ways that anyone can appreciate. I warned my cohorts on The Jump last week that they'd be wise not to underestimate the Grizzlies before they faced LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Fan Night and of course, the Grizzlies pulled off the upset.

Their latest victim was the reeling Miami Heat, a crew that's given up 100-plus points to each of its last six opponents.

Rudy Gay put on a show in the win, finishing with a career-high 41 points and his own personal highlight reel of dunks, blocks and jumpers that you surely don't want to miss.

We're putting it out there this morning; the game you don't want to miss this week is the Hawks and Grizzlies Wednesday night. Call it the present versus the future of upstarts (the Hawks generated this same kind of buzz three years ago and have since become a legitimate Eastern Conference power broker).

As fate would have it, the Grizzlies face the same Celtics (tonight in Memphis) that helped introduce these Hawks to the basketball public a couple years back in the playoffs.

Heed the Hang Time word, though. The Grizzlies are rising in the Western Conference. And trust me when I tell you, few things are more fun to watch than a young team coming into its own.

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

Cavs win with long toss

LeBron James won Sunday's battle of the stars with Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. But it was the long toss from Mo Williams that really helped the cause, Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer: "Nearly every day at the end of practice or game-day morning shootarounds, the silliness commences. Lobs from behind the backboard. One-handed tosses from 70 feet. An unending series of half-court shooting contests, often with friendly wagers attached. And even attempts while sitting on the bench. Not sure how that last one would apply to game action, but working on the rest of those heaves, as Sunday night verified, can turn out to be time well-spent.

On a night when LeBron James set a season high with 44 points, including one of his semi-seasonal 3-point barrages, guard Mo Williams ended up stealing the show with just such an action. First he chased down a loose ball after the Cavaliers appeared to have been stymied by some excellent half-court defense in a tight game. Then the Oklahoma City Thunder and its fans could only curse when Williams splashed a desperation heave from beyond half-court.

In a game full of offensive wizardry, it was the defining play in the Cavaliers' 102-89 victory over the Thunder at the Ford Center. Officially, it was a 48-foot 3-point jumper and that's all technically true. In real life it was a momentum-sucking, crowd-silencing bomb that hinted the Cavs (17-7) had built up some karma during their time in the heartland. "It's a tribute to me being our half-court shooting coach," said Cavs coach Mike Brown, who canceled a practice last week after some players won a bet by making half-court shots. That can really break a team's back, especially when it's a close game."

Hawks snack on bottom feeders

The Hawks are acting like a league big dog these days, smashing inferior competition on the regular. I had hte misfortune of watching this struggling Nets team in person, a seat away form Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who says the Hawks are still eating Thanksgiving leftovers on game nights: "The Hawks have feasted on a light stretch of the schedule. Woebegone New Jersey was preceded by Eastern Conference underlings Chicago and Toronto, and the Hawks beat all three by more than 20 points. They've won four in a row and are now 17-6. Only twice in the team's 42-year history in Atlanta have the Hawks had a better record after 23 games. "It's a blessing, honestly," guard Joe Johnson said. "The first year I got here, we started off, like, 2-21, something like that. [It was 2-16.] I'm not going to lie, there were a lot of nights I didn't get any sleep. To go from that to now, it's been lovely."

After absorbing an initial surge from the Nets, the Hawks took control in the second quarter. A 15-2 run lifted the Hawks from a 45-43 deficit to a 58-47 lead that was never challenged. With Mike Bibby, Jamal Crawford, Al Horford, Josh Smith and Johnson on the floor for most of the run, the Hawks shut down the Nets.

In that run, Smith intercepted a pass by Nets guard Devin Harris that led to an alley-oop dunk on the other end and grabbed four rebounds. Johnson literally took the ball out of center Brook Lopez's hands to set up another score. The Nets scored one time in eight trips down the floor and by the time they scored again, the game was over. Next stop, 2-22. "They have nothing to lose," Crawford said of losing teams such as the Nets. "They can come out and try to create anything to get energy. You have to withstand that and once you get that, you settle into what you do, and that's when we kind of took off."

Are the Suns for real?

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic says they are. And since he has statistical data to back it up, we'll go with that diagnosis: "If we had paid more attention in that statistics class back in the day, we could probably tell you it has something to do with a sampling distribution. And we vaguely remember something about bell curves and a 68-95-99 rule. Or maybe that was a beer-drinking game. At any rate, the Suns have played 24 games. They're 16-8 and fourth in the Western Conference. It's enough for us to feel secure in saying they have proven they're better than most expected, and while they might not be among the NBA's elite teams, they're at least in the next tier.

Here's what the sample has shown us so far: The measure of a good team is always how it plays on the road. And the Suns are a good road team, with one great win at Boston and one really bad loss at New York. They're 8-8 away from US Airways Center despite playing a boat load of road games - following a crazy preseason schedule that took them from Mexico to Canada to an outdoor court in Palm Springs, Calif. They also have lost twice on the road to the Lakers, playing both games as the second of a back-to-back set."

Ariza has reached boiling point

Trevor Ariza's frustrations aren't made up. They are rooted in some very real struggles that Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle suggests prompted his swing and miss at Raptors rookie DeMar DeRozan: "Ariza was unavailable for comment after Sunday's game, but the cause of his frustration was clear. He had missed all nine of his shots, with the turnover that precipitated his swing at DeRozan his fourth in his 26 minutes.

"I think he got frustrated after I got a steal," DeRozan said. "I really didn't know what happened after the fact." Jarrett Jack confronted Ariza, saying: "Why do that? He didn't do anything to you." They were separated, and there was no other altercation.

Ariza has struggled with his shot for weeks. Other than his outstanding night against the Cavaliers, when he hit 11 of 19 shots (including four of six 3-pointers) to score 26 points, Ariza has made 23 of 69 shots (33.3 percent) and five of 22 3-pointers (22.7 percent) in his past five games. Ariza's 38.3 percent shooting is the worst on the Rockets."

Cousin Doug explains all

Doug Smith of the Star (yes, we have a Canadian side of the Smith family) is a hard man to impress. But even he had to give it up to the oft-criticized Raptors for their showing in the win over the Rockets: "Not sure how many noticed a very slight change in what the Raptors do offensively but as Chris Bosh was going nuts from the field (11-19 on a rather economical day), you can be sure the Rockets did. The subtle shift in a new Toronto offensive set, which Jay mentioned in his post-game dissertation, moved Bosh to the elbow rather than on the low post or midway up the lane and it worked wonders.

The set, which they just put in, works two-fold. The option of Jack delivering the ball to Bosh at the elbow, heading to the corner while Bosh made a dibble-handoff move with Turk worked wonders. It got Turk around the corner and in paint, where he made little fades or hit an open Jack in the corner. But, just as importantly, it didn't give the Rockets a chance to double Bosh, who was too far from the basket to make a double-team effective. It takes a lot longer for a second defender to come and double at the elbow in that time, Bosh would get the ball moving on the perimeter and someone would have got an open look.

It's amazing that moving a guy two steps can have such an impact but it does. And it did. And it's a pretty good coaching move, if you ask me."

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