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David Aldridge

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Count Kevin Durant (left) and Brandon Roy among our shoo-ins as West reserves.
Larry W. Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Smart coaches, take heed of these deserving reserves


Posted Jan 26 2010 2:08PM

Now that the votes for the All-Star game starters are in (it's stunning that Steve Nash overtook the idle Tracy McGrady for a starting berth; call me cynical, but the last fan totals for All-Star always have felt, um, what's the word?--Chicagoish?), we have the usual caterwauling and grumbling about who did and didn't get in on the first go-round.

(Just so we're clear, again, it doesn't bother me in the least that Allen Iverson was voted in. It's the fans' game. Now, they do have to have some standards; it would have been ridiculous for Tracy McGrady to start after playing just six games. But as long as the guy's been playing for, say, three-quarters of his team's games, vote for whomever you like.)

No problem here with Iverson, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard in the East, and Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan and Amar'e Stoudemire in the West. But who should join them?

We're here to help.

Sticking with the rule that the coaches -- who pick the reserves -- have to take at least two guards, two forwards and one center as backups, here's who a smart coach would vote for when the backups are announced Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET on TNT, before the Celtics-Magic at 8:

EASTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES

Guards: Joe Johnson, Hawks; Rajon Rondo, Celtics

Forwards: Paul Pierce, Celtics; Gerald Wallace, Bobcats; Chris Bosh, Raptors

Centers: Joakim Noah, Bulls; David Lee, Knicks

NOSES TO THE WINDOW: Derrick Rose, Bulls; Josh Smith, Hawks; Andre Iguodala, 76ers; Antawn Jamison, Wizards

Rondo (first in the NBA in steals, third in assists), is playing the best ball of his career and is an absolute no-brainer, as is Johnson (21.1 points per game), looking for his fourth straight All-Star appearance for the now-for-real Hawks.

Both get the nod over Rose, who's overcome a slow start because of an ankle injury to become the Bulls' leading scorer, the beneficiary of getting off the ball more this season. (Would Gilbert Arenas, averaging 22.6 ppg, have made it if he hadn't been suspended indefinitely? Yeah, he probably would have. Yet another consequence of an amazingly stupid decision.)

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Joakim Noah has All-Star-quality skills.
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Pierce's numbers (18.8 ppg) aren't as high as they could be, but that's a function of Boston's increased depth as much as any dropoff in his skills, and he should be a cinch for his eighth All-Star appearance. You don't see Wallace on national TV very often, but trust me, there's not a forward in the league playing any better than Wallace, who's averaging a double-double (18.5 ppg, 11.1 rpg) for resurgent Charlotte. Bosh (23.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg) has carried Toronto back into the East playoff picture while trying to figure out his own future.

In part because each has helped lift his team into the postseason race, all got the nod over Iguodala and Jamison, a good guy -- a great guy -- who deserves better in Washington. But you can't reward a guy whose team has flamed out so miserably. No argument if you think Smith's all-around excellence this season in Atlanta should be recognized.

Noah is one of the league's most improved players, and Lee is going to be very, very productive next season for somebody else as he is this season in New York. His play this season should be rewarded, as the Knicks (aside from a huge loss Sunday) have picked it up of late.

WESTERN CONFERENCE RESERVES

Guards: Deron Williams, Jazz; Brandon Roy, Blazers; Chris Paul, Hornets

Forwards: Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks; Kevin Durant, Thunder; Carlos Boozer, Jazz

Center: Chris Kaman, Clippers

NOSES TO THE WINDOW: Monta Ellis, Warriors; Rudy Gay, Grizzlies; Carl Landry, Rockets; Zach Randolph, Grizzlies

Carl Landry? Yeah, Carl Landry; he's been sensational this season for Houston. Randolph has been a revelation for Memphis. The Grizz knew Randolph could and would score, could and would rebound, but they never imagined he'd be a leader, a team guy and a non-pain on the daily.

Nowitzki has never been more complete in Dallas, Boozer has bounced back from a tumultuous offseason to mount monster numbers (19.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg) in his walk year. Durant (29.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) is a lock, unless you're a moron or sleep-deprived (as I was late Sunday, when I forgot him initially, until my man Jeff Case caught my boneheaded omission and hipped me to it). We knew KD could score, which he's showing again this year, but Durant also gets props for hitting the glass on the regular and significantly improving his D; Highway 35 is much tougher to navigate this season, and the Thunder is within sniffing distance of the playoffs because of it.

Williams must -- must -- make his first All-Star team this season. Utah has no shot at winning when he's not on the court. Ditto Portland; even though the Blazers have won once or twice without B-Roy when he's been out with a bad hamstring, they wouldn't do it on a regular basis. He's too good and too willing and able to take over games in the fourth quarter. Paul is the one NBA player that we'd love to inject with truth serum, to see what he's really thinking these days. But he's not letting anything bother him on the floor, where he's just as dominant as ever. So while Ellis (26.1 ppg) has been incredible at Golden State this season, he doesn't deserve the nod over anyone in that trio, and Gay's terrific play of late has to take a back seat, too.

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Will Deron Williams finally make an All-Star squad?
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Making the case for Kaman is easy. He averages 20.4 ppg and 9.1 rpg; he shoots 51 percent from the floor and 75 from the line, and no one is playing better in the pivot right now. But even he isn't sure he's going to get rewarded.

"Do I think I'm an All-Star?," he told me last week. "I think I am an All-Star, but I don't know if that's what's going to happen. You just never know. It's tough when you don't win. We're kind of on that cusp of winning a lot of games. You look at some of the games we played this year that we let slip away. We were up three or four games 20 points or more and we let teams come back and beat us ...

"I think my numbers and what I do for my team is an All-Star level, but it's also like a popularity contest sometimes, and I don't try to be popular. It's not what I'm doing. I'm here trying to win games and play basketball. I'm probably not a fan favorite. I can almost guarantee you that."

Why does he believe that?

"I'm different," he says. "I'm just a different person than the average guy. In the summer I'm out shooting guns and hunting, fishing, and just doing this stuff that the average player isn't going to be doing. I don't really do a whole lot of partying -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- I just don't get into that. I try to relax and I'm at home and play video games, or watch a movie, hang out with my friends. It's not like I'm out there partying. I just think I'm a little bit different, and that makes me less popular."

Come on -- you want this guy hanging out with Cuban at Hotel Zaza in Big D next month, don't you?

Dribbles

•Have you ever, I texted Mavs Coach Rick Carlisle late Sunday, won a game at any level -- Biddy Ball, rec league, pickup on the blacktop in western New York state -- by 50 points?

"Not very often," he texted back, "but it has happened."

I'm not going to lie -- I didn't see Dallas' 128-78 evisceration of the Knicks Sunday afternoon at the Garden, so I can't speak to the level of ineptitude the Knicks sunk. Workout, writing and kids, in that order, got in the way. But normally, in blowouts of that magnitude, things tend to snowball and quickly get out of control. The Knicks actually led by one late in the first quarter and only trailed by six midway through the second.

And then, wow.

A 17-7 run to end the first half.

A 38-11 run in the third quarter.

A 16-4 run to start the fourth quarter. (Question: what New York fan was still in the building at this point, with the Jets' kickoff in Indianapolis in the AFC title game less than an hour away?)

With 5:50 left in the fourth, a dead ball forced the mandatory under-six-minutes timeout. The Mavs came to their bench. The score was 113-60. I always wonder what you say to your team then.

"Told them to be professional and play the right way," Carlisle texted, and they did, giving up only three points of their 53-point lead the rest of the way to hold on by two score and 10. It was the largest margin of victory in Dallas' history, and the third-largest of all time. No doubt LeBron looked upon the proceedings and said "yes! I want to be a part of that next season! Where do I sign?"...

•The Suns have come back to earth after their scorching 14-3 start. Not that Steve Nash didn't see it coming.

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Channing Frye's struggles mirror the Suns' woes.
P.A. Molumby/NBAE via Getty Images

"We had a great start in November," Nash said, echoing what he'd told me then, "but we didn't have the talent to expect to keep rolling through the league like that."

Phoenix was executing in the halfcourt the first six weeks of the season, rebounding by committee and looked a couple of steps quicker than almost everyone. Now there's 40 games' worth of wear and tear on those skinnier legs, the Suns aren't making threes in bunches and other than Amare Stoudemire, they don't have much to turn to inside.

Channing Frye made Phoenix almost unguardable the first month or so of the season (and made team president Steve Kerr look awfully smart, signing him for two years and $3.8 million), as a big man who stretched defenses with unbelievable 3-point shooting. Frye shot 46 percent from the floor in October, November and December, making 46 threes in October/November and 38 in December. But in January, Frye's numbers are down, to 37.9 percent from the floor and just 20 threes. That led to Alvin Gentry shuffling his lineup, with Robin Lopez replacing Frye at center and Leandro Barbosa taking over for Jason Richardson at shooting guard. (But Barbosa is now going to be out a month following wrist surgery.)

"With Channing," Gentry said this week, "he played himself into a major part of everyone's scouting report. When he came into the season, he'd made 20 threes his whole career. After five games of making six threes he became important on the scouting report. They don't leave him anymore."

Same with Jared Dudley, who was a terrific sixth man in October, November and December. Like Frye, Dudley shot 46 percent from the floor the first two-plus months of the season, averaging 28 threes per month. And like Frye, Dudley has had a horrible January, shooting just 34 percent from the floor, with just six threes.

"They've seen what some of our guys were doing, and taken that away," Nash said. "To be honest, we've had a lot of open looks. We've got to look ourselves in the mirrior and say how do we get to be better?"

Of course, that's led to the annual start of the Amare Stoudemire Rumor Season, with STAT saying he'll go wherever he thinks he has a chance to win, and almost no one believing that's the Land of the Sun. The problem, at least one source notes, is that Stoudemire is looking for a deal even more lucrative than Pau Gasol's three-year, $57 million extension from the Lakers. An even $20 million per year for three years, to be exact...

•The Pacers' Roy Hibbert has had an interesting three games this season with the east's standard bearer in the middle, Dwight Howard.

Game 1: Dec. 14, at Orlando
Player Points Rebounds Blocks FG FT +/-
Howard 21 23 4 4-10 13-22 +7
Hibbert 8 5 0 4-5 0-0 +11
Magic won, 106-98

That brought us to ...

Game 2: Jan. 5, at Indiana
Player Points Rebounds Blocks FG FT +/-
Howard 11 15 2 2-6 7-12 -3
Hibbert 26* 8 4 10-19 6-9 +12
*=career high
Pacers won, 97-90

How good, I asked Howard a few days later, was Hibbert that night?

"You mean when he busted your (bleep)?," asked the always helpful Matt Barnes, walking alongside us.

"He was on fire," Howard said. "I don't think I've ever seen him hit as many shots as he did. It was a great night. Hopefully he keeps working, and it won't happen to me again."

Game 3: Jan. 20, at Orlando
Player Points Rebounds Blocks FG FT +/-
Howard 32 11 1 8-13 16-24 +15
Hibbert 3 3 2 0-2 3-4 -22
Magic won, 109-98

Okay, it didn't. But Hibbert has gotten Howard's attention.

"I don't think there's anything different," Howard said of Hibbert. "He plays the same way. He's always an aggressive scorer. I've been seeing him since I saw him at the Jordan Classic. He didn't make the Jordan Classic game with the world wide one, but he made the (preliminary) game that was just for the guys from D.C. I saw him then, and just to see his development from them to now, it's amazing to see how hard he's worked. So hopefully he can keep working and never get satisfied with what he's done so far, and I think he has a chance to be a really good player in this league."

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Last week's ranking in brackets)

1) Cleveland [2] (34-11): Key stretch coming without injured Mo Williams, West.

2) L.A. Lakers [1] (33-11): Annual long road trip, annual mid-season slippage.

3) Denver [6] (29-14): Picking it up after some sloppy losses to lesser foes.

4) Atlanta [3] (28-14): Now we'll see for certain: San Antonio, Houston, Boston, Orlando this week.

5) Orlando [10] (29-15): Two blowout wins may have stemmed the tide.

6) Boston [4] (28-13): KG's back -- just in time for Cs to stay with East leaders.

7) Dallas [5] (28-15): Mavs' 16-8 road record is best in west.

8) Portland [8] (27-18): Latest Blazer (Bayless) goes down, Blazers keep winning.

9) Utah [9] (25-18): Jazz looking to ease logjam at shooting guard position?

10) San Antonio [7] (25-17): Spurs need an injection of energy.

11) Phoenix [11] (26-19): Losing steam at the wrong time.

12) Houston [12] (24-19): Rockets not getting it done on D.

13) Memphis [NR] (23-19): Still could use some help on the bench, but starters are thriving.

14) Miami [15] (23-20): Beating Wizards, Kings don't erase concerns.

15) Toronto [14] (23-22): Big win Sunday night over Lakers keeps the ball rolling.

Team of the Week

Nuggets (3-0): Denver is still looking for big man depth for the stretch, but the Nuggets' top eight or nine players at the moment are rolling -- six straight overall -- and trying to put distance between themselves and the rest of the scrappy Northwest Division.

Team of the Weak

Nets (0-4): How can you, in good conscience, give it to anyone else? New Jersey dropped all four of its games on its Western road swing this week -- by an average of 25 per game! Yikes. The Nets are 3-40, on an 11-game losing streak, and halfway to breaking the seemingly unbreakable 9-73 mark of the 1973 Sixers.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Why did we spend so much time last week listening to an attention-seeking buffoon (whose name I will not mention) "promoting" an all-white basketball league that is little more than a sick publicity stunt, when we can rightly celebrate a true benchmark this week -- the 100th anniversary of African-Americans in pro ball?

The great Claude Johnson has spent the past several years chronicaling the lost contributions of African-Americans to professional basketball before the NBA was formed in 1947 with his blog, The Black Fives. "Fives" refers, of course, to the number of players on a team; at the turn of the previous century, basketball teams were often referred to as "Fives." Johnson's blog has made that almost forgotten history come alive, detailing the trials and tribulations of teams from the celebrated New York/Harlem Rens (whose last living player, George Crowe, hasn't been feeling well lately; send him some good vibes and prayers today) to obscure squads like the Los Angeles Red Devils and Washington 12 Streeters.

Through Black Fives, I learned that this Friday will mark the 90th anniversary of the accreditation of the first African-American official, Chris Huiswoud, who was sanctioned by the AAU to work a game on Jan. 29, 1920, and that this coming October will mark the 100-year anniversary of the formation of the first all-black for-pay team, the New York All-Stars. The All-Stars were formed by Major Hart, a former rifleman who served the United States during the Spanish-American war.

For a century, basketball has become the game most synonymous with African-American athletes, coaches, general managers and ownership. (As in the Negro Leagues in baseball, blacks were owners of their own teams decades before Bob Johnson bought his way into the NBA's ownership group.) But while African-American participation in Major League Baseball has fallen dramatically in the last 30 years -- and there are a lot of arguments as to why that's happened -- blacks continue to be dominant in the NBA. The quality of today's game can be debated reasonably, by people who aren't seeking to exploit racial tensions to line their own pockets. But what can't be denied is the contributions made by African-Americans to the game we all love.

At any rate, it would be a much better use of your time to check out BlackFives.com than waste brain cells on some yahoo. It's a great site that provides a public service to anyone who wants to really know the history of the game -- and has some great gear on sale to boot.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

As always, send your comments, questions and snark to daldridgetnt@gmail.com.

The Kobot 2000 finds your human sympathy amusing.

From Fernando Galindo:

I just couldnīt wait to read your column, I have to say it righ(t) now. I just watched the Cleveland - Lakers game, and I was amaze(d) of the quality of the game... As for the Lakers, guys like Gasol and Bynum they just wait the ball to fall in his hands, they donīt look for the rebound, they donīt jump at all to grab the ball. I mean, those stats are deceiving...

Last thing is about Kobe Bryant. I am big fan and I know you are also, but in the last weeks maybe you are one of the few people who has said it, he hasnīt been at his usual level... And we know the reason: he has so many injuries, and a lot of guys of the NBA media, exalts the kind of warrior that he is, but this subject has two sides... A warrior? Yes, but... He is putting himself and his team in great danger. But I feel that the decisition of Kobe is on himself only, where is the coach? Must he allow that? Kobe needs rest. Kobe is stubborn, but is not his decision only.

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Sundiata Gaines' story inspired plenty of others.
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE/Getty Images

Fernando, you make a good point, but there's not a coach on this planet that wouldn't take Kobe even at 80-85 percent every night.

Bringing people together since 2009 From Judy Woods:

Thanks for the full background on [Sundiata] Gaines. I'm a huge Cleveland fan, but thoroughly enjoyed that 3-pointer.

Still makes me smile too, Judy. And thanks to Jinny Giery, the PR director for the Idaho Stampede, where Sundiata played in the NBA D-League before getting the callup to Utah, for your help and for your nice note.

But now, we must agree to disagree. From Tyson Camp:

Thank you for writing such a touching piece on a wonderful moment in the NBA. As a lifelong Jazz fan, I was in delirium the night Gaines hit that buzzer-beater against LeBron and the Cavs. I couldn't be happier for a guy like Gaines who deserves all the accolades and attention that he is getting...

I do disagree with you on one thing though: the Jazz retro green uniforms. How can you not love them? It's so refreshing to see a classic look out there on the floor. In any case, they are immensely better than the dull and uninspired regular uniforms that often reflect the team's play. For me, I'll take the green and gold Jazz note over the navy blue BLAH look any day of the week.

That's not classic. Billy Eckstein singing at the Rainbow Room is classic. A Cadillac Coupe de Ville is classic. That pea soup green uniform is not classic.

MVP Watch

(1/18/10-1/24/10)

LeBron James (34 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 10.7 apg, .484 FG, .761 FT): Will have even more of a burden on him now that Cavs will be without Mo Williams (shoulder) for 4-6 weeks and Delonte West (broken finger) for at least a few days. Cleveland may have to rely a little more on Shaquille O'Neal while the guards heal, and that may not be a bad thing during the NBA's Dog Days. Shaq developed a good rapport with James in December and showing opponents another gear can only help Cleveland down the stretch. But defenses will load up on James even more in the coming days, making Boobie Gibson & Co. beat them.

Kobe Bryant (24 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.5 apg, .479 FG, .800 FT): Playing through two broken bones in his finger, a bad back, probably a couple of other things he's not telling us about. Not looking to force things, but still capable of pulling it out in the end -- can't believe that fadeaway from 26 feet rimmed out in Toronto Sunday.

Carmelo Anthony (27 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, .338 FG, .800 FT): Didn't shoot it great and turned his ankle good late in Saturday's overtime win over New Orleans. But 'Melo was still the Western Conference player of the week as the Nuggets continued their dominance at home and put some space between themselves and the west's other contenders behind the Lakers.

Dirk Nowitzki (22.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2 apg, .530 FG, .875 FT): Lost out in fan voting for a starting forward spot in the Western Conference, but the Diggler looks like he's sufficiently recovered from that shoulder injury.

Tim Duncan (20 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 3 apg, 1 bpg, .395 FG, .667 FT): Crossed the career 20,000-point plateau in Friday's loss to the Rockets, but the Spurs dropped four of five after looking like they'd turned the corner earlier this month. There has been noticeable defensive slippage from a team that's prided itself on choking the life out of opponents' halfcourt sets.

Dropped out: Brandon Roy

By the Numbers

10 -- Consecutive games won at home by Memphis, a team record.

18 -- Consecutive losses on TNT by the Suns after said Grizzlies beat them on Monday on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

$1,600,000 -- Amount that Thunder owner Clay Bennett agreed to pay litigants of a class action lawsuit last week. The suit, filed by three fans of the former Seattle SuperSonics on behalf of 1,000 season ticket holders, alleged that the Seattle ticket holders had the right to maintain their season tickets through this season after they renewed them while the team was still in Seattle in 2006, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Induction of the Dream Team (there is only one) into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next August, as first reported by Jackie MacMullen this week. Being in Barcelona in 1992 and witnessing the U.S. men's Olympic team play against the game of basketball, not any one opponent, is among the highlights of my career.

2) LeBron's getting defensive in the final seconds Saturday night.

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The original Dream Team is Hall of Fame-bound.
Andrew D. Bernstein/ NBAE/ Getty Images

3) Great Games Friday: Celtics over Portland in OT and Rudy Gay's game-winner for Memphis over Oklahoma City (though we had to wait for Kevin Durant's last-second good look to hit the back rim).

4) Insert Nets joke here

5) Appropos of nothing: How about this for the inaugural class of Halftime Act Hall of Fame: the Jesse White Tumblers, Christopher , Quick Change , the Two Gymnastics guys and the Red Panda performer who tosses plates on her head while on a unicycle ? Feel free to offer your suggestions to daldridgetnt@gmail.com.

6) Having no discernable musical talent, it always amazes me to see creative people putting something together, more or less, on the fly. That's why it was fascinating to see Jay-Z, Rihanna, Bono and The Edge performing "Haiti a mi amor" during Friday's Haiti telethon. My guess is that song came together sometime Thursday night, they rehearsed it once or twice Friday morning and were singing in front of millions Friday night. Incredible.

7) I'll ask again: what do Jim Caldwell's critics say this morning? His team is in the Super Bowl, his key players are healthy and no one is going to remember the Colts' regular season record in two weeks if they're holding the Lombardi Trophy. That was a great Jets defense Peyton Manning dissected Sunday, and who knows if he'd been on the field if it had been he who'd taken that blindside hit in that now-meaningless loss to the Jets in Week 16 instead of backup Curtis Painter?

Not Feelin' ...

1) Holy moly. The Knicks lost by 50 on Sunday? At home? To a team playing without its starting point guard and starting center? Didn't Byron Scott get fired for that?

2) Don't think we'll hear any more pregame prognosticating from Miami's Michael Beasley, who foretold an "easy win" over the Bobcats Wednesday morning. Final at Time Warner Cable Arena Wednesday night: Charlotte 104, Miami 65.

3) Come on, YungBuck3! Love your Tweets! Don't shut it down!

4) The Kings' collective adjustment to Kevin Martin's return. Yes, they were on a decent roll while he was out injured, but he's back now, and they have to find a way to make it work.

5) Really? The Knicks lost by 50 at home?

6) I'm not in Leno's corner, to be sure, but the more I think about it, the more I can't work up much outrage for poor, put upon Conan. You know, the guy who got $32 million to take the spring and summer off.

7) I think we can all agree that we're all better off without John Edwards anywhere near the White House, right?

Tweet of the Week

What is this Boston thing people are talking bout I'm lost like the tv show
---Knicks guard Nate Robinson (@nate_robinson), Wednesday, 10:01 a.m., responding to rumors that the Celtics are trying to trade for him.

Mr. Fifteen

This week's Mr. Fifteen is Clippers center Brian Skinner. The 33-year-old Skinner once was one of the league's top per-minute rebounders as a starter and key rotation player for Milwaukee and Sacramento, two of Skinner's seven stops in his 12-year NBA career (he was also involved in trades sending him to Toronto and Chicago, though he never played for those teams). But after some time as a spot starter for Los Angeles last season, Skinner has appeared in just 10 games this season, totalling just 102 minutes, and is behind centers Chris Kaman and DeAndre Jordan and power forwards Marcus Camby and Craig Smith in the Clippers' rotation.

Me: How do you stay ready when the minutes are so sparse this season?

Brian Skinner: For me, personally, I work out. I work out, I make sure I get my cardio, I make sure I get my routine. If I play, I know I'm changing my routine the next day, 'cause tomorrow's not promised. I think the one thing, I've been traded a lot. I've moved around a lot of places. So I look at it (as) I'm not necessarily playing right then and there. I'm playing for other teams that are potentially looking. It's more of a pride thing for me, to make sure I'm staying ready, to make sure I'm doing what I need to do, so when the opportunity happens, it's not because I didn't prepare.

Me: Do you consider it a compliment that you've bounced around so much, because teams think you can handle that role?

BS: I played for some of the best coaches that ever coached this game. I take it as a privilege. Some people say 'journeyman;' I say it's privileged. I look it as, I've been in 12 years. I'm in shape. I'm taking care of what I need to care of. And opportunities are going to come, opportunities are going to go. My job is to make sure I'm ready when they do.

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Brian Skinner is doing what he can to stay prepared.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Me: Is there a fraternity of guys who've been in the league 10, 12 years and managed to stick around year after year?

BS: I've been a starter, to the sixth guy, to the last guy, like now. I'm not getting a lot of time and I'm not getting a lot of minutes. I think I'm just trying to be opportunistic right now, be positive, encourage the other guys, and try not to bring any negativiity to the team. It's frustrating, obviously. It's always frustrating. You want to play. But, you know, it's going to happen. It's going to happen one way or the other. But I've enjoyed the time I've had here. I enjoy working out and I enjoy being with the guys and the camraderie.

Me: Is there temptation to go to Europe?

BS: Always. I mean, always. You want to play. Sometimes people go for the minimum, when they can get way more money. It's not even about that. It's about passion and love for the game. When you lose that, you don't need to play anymore. You need to go and find something else and begin the second segment of your life. Yeah, that's always an option. That's not always the first option. You start to distance yourself even moreso with the NBA, with the rigorous schedule and having to leave your family and leave your loved ones. But that's always an option. Heck, yeah.

Me: What advice do you give guys in similar situations?

BS: Stay positive and don't let anyone else take your joy. That's my thing. I'm not going to let anyone else take my joy. I might be disappointed, but you know, it's not going to carry out onto the court. You have a selfish, I think, kind of temptation that goes along with it, and you talk a big game, but when you get on the floor, you remember why you play the game. It's a love and it's a passion. So, my thing is, continue to work hard, obviously, be seen, not heard, whether it's anything with the coach, and always have that same kind of joking attitude, and be who you are. Don't let the game change you. It's not going to make you any better; it's not going to be make you any worse. But stay true to yourself.

Me: As the season goes on, do you foresee an opportuntity here as the season goes on and the rotation gets shorter?

BS: Some of it's political. Some of it is and some of it's not. Some of it's just preferences. I can't control what the coach does. I can't control what the team does. I can control what I can do, and I do with the time I get. That's all I can do. It's easy to see you get frustrated about that. You can't let it affect you. Because if you do it'll eat away at you and it'll take away everything that you possibly worked hard for. It'll take all the mental intensity that you have. It'll take everything physically. You're not going to want to come in, you're not going to want to do the things. You're going to say 'you know what? I'm just going to go home early.' You've got to stay focused and do the same things consistently. And if you do that, it's going to eventually pay off.

Me: Does Ricky Davis (his Clippers teammate) lord it over you because he was taken one spot -- 21st -- ahead of you in the first round in 1998?

BS: Nah, you know what, we haven't really talked about it. I played with him in Cleveland [in 2001-02] and we never talked about it. But you've got guys from (the) second-round draft picks, and some point in time, third round, back in the day, they don't remember that you know, you played well and got the opportunity. It's about opportunity. It's about the chance, making the most out of it. It's about five minutes. I remember Kevin Martin, in Sacramento, (behind) Bonzi Wells, couldn't play. Kevin didn't play at all, and everybody was talking about him, different things. And he came out. The first 10 games, he shot 60 percent from the three, and after that, he took off, and now he's Sacramento's, one of their leading scorers. You see that, and it can happen to anybody. Anybody that you think is quiet, and just mediocre, and they really don't have a heart and passion for it, you can see that build, you can see that fire build up slowly, and they can become a great player. So, anything can happen.

Me: So if they give you one shot, you can show them you can still get it off the glass?

BS: All I need is one. One chance. That's it. I just sit the bench right now and wait for coach to call my name.

They Said It

"Just like every team, people have disagreements. We're all men, and men know how to handle things. We handled that like we were supposed to, like men, and now we're better people because of that. We're better teammates."
--Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay, from this week'sTNT Overtime Insider podcast , on how he and teammate O.J. Mayo handled friction between them.

"Last season, we made a stand at the defensive end. For some reason, we were shutting teams down and teams couldn't score. We was known in the playoffs as the (expletive) team. We want to get that edge back."
--Denver's Carmelo Anthony, telling me how the Nuggets have lost some of their defensive intensity from last season.

"He possibly could be our second-best post-up player if not our best post-up player."
--Bucks Coach Scott Skiles on the newly acquired, 35-year-old guard Jerry Stackhouse, signed last week to replace the injured, lost-for-the-season Michael Redd.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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