Posted Dec 3 2009 11:52AM
• How's this for a latest twist in the ever-twisting Allen Iverson saga: He goes from basically being unwanted in the summer to the regrettable three-game stint in Memphis to basically being unwanted again in November to signing a non-guaranteed deal this week with Philadelphia to ... the All-Star Game! Strange as it seems, it's possible because fans pick the starters and Iverson remains very popular, so popular that he easily made the 2009 Eastern Conference opening lineup with the second-most votes at guard in a season during which he would finish at 17.5 points a game and 41.7 percent from the field. Imagine now that some are viewing him as a sympathetic figure who deserves better than to be passed over by every contender.
• Carlos Boozer at 20.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 55.7 percent shooting is Carlos Boozer backing up preseason statements that he would be focused on the Jazz rather than mapping an escape route. It was a fair concern after the way he made eyes at other teams during the summer, the Heat in particular, combined with the potential for anyone in a contract year to want to build stats just before becoming a free agent. Instead, Boozer is taking fewer shots than either of his two previous healthy seasons in Utah, including the All-Star campaign of 2007-08, while on early pace for the second-best shooting percentage of his career.
• Nets players couldn't have actually meant it when they said Lawrence Frank getting fired was "a bit of shock and surprise" and that "everybody was focused on trying to do whatever it took to get a win." While injuries are the overriding reason for the 0-18 start, the roster that remained did its part to finalize what everyone else saw coming by giving a poor effort in the first half against the Kings in what became Frank's final game as coach. The best chance to end the miserable streak, after playing the Trail Blazers and Nuggets and before facing the Lakers and Mavericks, and New Jersey came out with no sense of urgency in Sacramento. Inexcusable in general, but especially with the chance to get a win.
• So much for Pau Gasol easing into the lineup. Whatever transition period the Lakers, and everyone else, had a right to expect after he missed the final six games of the exhibition schedule and the first 11 of the regular season because of a strained hamstring never happened, with Gasol going from the inactive list to 17.7 points and 10.3 rebounds his first six outings of 2009-10. "I don't see any conditioning problems at all," coach Phil Jackson said. "I think his reflexes and his reactions are great ... He's rebounding the ball and his activity level is really good, helping defensively on the screens with the guards. I don't see any hold up on him right now." The Lakers won all six games by double digits.
• There is no such thing as a huge test in December and January for a team aiming for June, but this is at least the arrival of the biggest scheduled moment of the regular season the Cavaliers, a stretch in which they play 16 of 23 on the road beginning Sunday. That makes it a big six weeks for the Eastern Conference standings as well. Cleveland, now 6-3 away from Quicken Loans Arena, has a three-game trip, a four-game trip that includes Dallas, Phoenix and Christmas against the Lakers, and a five-game trip that includes Denver, Portland and Utah in a quick return to the West Coast. The Cavs of mid-January will either be weary or in very good shape heading into the second half with a home-heavy schedule.
• One more debate topic for Hall of Fame voters, though not at the level of Dennis Rodman and Mark Jackson: Rudy Tomjanovich. He won back-to-back titles coach of the Rockets, a gold medal as coach of the 2000 Olympic team, a bronze in the 1998 world championships and was 527-416 (.559) in parts of 13 seasons with Houston and the Lakers before being forced from the bench by health issues. Rudy T is still just 61, younger than five current coaches, and surely would have continued working and been past 700 wins, at least, if not for the unscheduled retirement.
• Still no sign of Hasheem Thabeet as the season approaches the quarter pole. The No. 2 pick is averaging 9.5 minutes and yet to play more than 18 in a night. Part is the continued upward arc of Marc Gasol as Grizzlies center (15.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 62 percent from the field), and suffering a broken jaw didn't help, but mostly it's just the long-term investment Memphis envisioned when it took Thabeet in hopes he would develop into a game-changing defensive presence. "He's probably made the most improvement out of anybody in the first round," coach Lionel Hollins said. "He had the furthest to go. When we brought him in for his press conference after the draft and he stayed in town and worked for four days, he was not even a good minor-league basketball player. He's come a long ways."
• The passing of Melvin Simon should have been included last week among the recent losses within the ownership ranks. He and brother Herbert bought the Pacers in 1983, helped ensure the team would stay in a basketball-rich region and later became a key figure in the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse, one of the jewel arenas of the NBA. Mel Simon died Sept. 16, 2009, at 82.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here.
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