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David Aldridge

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With a championship as his sole focus, LeBron James has the look of a winner-in-waiting.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Like legends before him, LeBron sporting 'The Look'


Posted Apr 19 2010 10:20AM

CLEVELAND -- He has The Look.

It is the look that Larry Bird had in 1983, and Magic Johnson had in 1985, and Isiah Thomas had in 1988, and that Michael Jordan had in 1990, and that Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had in 2002, and that Tim Duncan had in 2007.

It is the look of imperviousness, of arrogance, of inevitability. It is the look that states, silently, that whatever has come before no longer matters, and what is yet to come isn't a challenge. It is the look of now, that a championship is coming, and maybe several before the run is done, and there is nothing that anyone, or any team, can do about it.

LeBron has The Look.

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It is a look born from heartbreaking, searing playoff losses, forming callouses to cover the pain -- the pain of losing in the Finals in 2007, when James was precocious as a teenager -- he damn near still was a teenager -- but his Cavaliers really weren't ready for Prime Time, their halfcourt offense strangled slowly on national TV by the veteran Spurs; the pain of losing Game 7 of the conference semifinals in Boston two years ago, when the Celtics had the Look and Paul Pierce had the game of his life, and the pain of losing Game 6 of the conference finals in Orlando a year ago, when James walked off the court as the Magic celebrated their conference title.

It is the way of the NBA, the crucible, where almost every championship team in the last three decades had to pay its dues, show its mettle, prove that it was worthy. The Cavaliers have paid, and shown, and proven.

"We have the look of a champion," James allowed after Game 1 Saturday. "We have a couple of guys that have rings on this team. Shaq has four, and Leon (Powe) has one. We have a couple of coaches that's been (to the Finals) and has won NBA championships. We're looking forward to the challenge. This is why we're here and this is what we've prepared for."

But Dwight Howard has The Look, too, and that's why, for all the talk about how hard the Western Conference is -- and it is -- the East's playoffs figure to be a titanic struggle of wills, James' and Howard's, the second act in a play that may run for years and years and years, like the Fantasticks. Each has been to a Finals, and knows now what it takes to make another one. Unless you have James or Howard, you're looking up, with James 25 and Howard 24. (As one executive pointed out this weekend, even if Dwyane Wade stays in Miami this summer, and the Heat adds another piece to play with him, it still won't have a player capable of guarding Howard.)

Having The Look does not always mean your team is going to win the championship. The Cavaliers of a generation ago, of Mark Price and Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance, had it. Karl Malone had it in his MVP season in 1997. But Michael Jordan patented The Look in that generation of players, and his Look trumped their Looks. (I still, to this day, regret there wasn't a Game 7 in Salt Lake City in the 1998 Finals, just to see what would have happened. Jordan never played in a Game 7 of the Finals. He deserved a Game 7. So did that Utah team.) But it does mean that the team with the best chance of beating you is your own.

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LeBron James (center) is determined to impose his will upon whoever crosses his playoff path.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

O'Neal has deferred to James all season, let him do most of the talking to the team. But in the last month, even though he hasn't been playing, teammates have noticed a difference in his demeanor and focus.

"Big Fella is a beast down there," Powe said, "and always talking to everybody about the playoff basketball experience, what he had and how he got it done, and how his team got it done. And he said he seen the same thing in us."

Shaq has had his time as the Man -- "my track record has stated that I've run a lot of Fortune 500 companies," he said Sunday. "Laker Corporation, Miami Corporation. Took the Orlando Corporation where it's never been" -- and with his background, O'Neal appreciates how close the Cavaliers are this season. He came to Cleveland as the last best hope to solidify the Cavs, make them title-worthy. He knows the stakes; win, and James is much more likely to stay. Lose, and all bets are off. That's why Shaq was working out at 11 at night on his own at the end of the regular season, after working out at the team's facility during the day, and why he hasn't had a cheeseburger in seven weeks.

"This run, there's no room for mistakes," O'Neal said. "And I'll be damned if I'm going to be the mistake."

The last decade has been building to this moment, from the years when James dominated at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, to when the Cavs, to put it charitably, tanked a season to make sure they got James with the first pick in 2003, to the years with Carlos Boozer and Ricky Davis and Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Drew Gooden and Sasha Pavlovic. Though many have come to town to try, it may be impossible to accurately state how important James is to the collective psyche of the city.

"I went to watch him in high school," O'Neal said. "Ron Harper, we came to play the Cavs, and he said, 'Why don't you come see this kid?' Went to watch him in high school. He was sort of like me in high school. If he wanted to, he could have scored 60, 70 points. But what I liked about the kid is, he had a little guy over in the corner. Not going to go to college. Never going to go to the pros. LeBron crossed his man up and he could have thrown it down and gotten the crowd in the game. But what did he do? He kicked it to his dude for the three. And that's why his team won the state championship."

Mike Brown often states, as his mentor Gregg Popovich states about Tim Duncan, that James allows him to coach him. The two are now hand in glove. When Brown wanted to use the first part of the season to experiment with different lineups, to see who could and couldn't play with one another, James was on board, even if it meant a few losses that could have cost Cleveland home-court advantage. But it helped. Now the Cavaliers know they can play O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas together against the Lakers, or against Boston, because it worked in the regular season.

"There was a concern (about home court)," James said. "As a competitor, of course. But when you've been in this league for a long time, and you understand what this league is all about, you understand situations like that. Team chemistry, to try and find that as quickly as possible, is more important than wins and losses, and that's what we were trying to find at the beginning."

Today, it's closer to the end. So many moving parts, all leading to this moment, when LeBron flashes the Look and a whole state holds its breath. Eight weeks. Sixteen wins.

"It's game time now," James said. "Right now's the time."

Dribbles

Friday's announcement by the Commish following the Board of Governors meeting that the league's salary cap projection for next season is now a much healthier $56.1 million instead of the $50 to $53 million the league had predicted last summer was a potential game-changer for a number of teams that planned to be players in the 2010 offseason. Not only that, but with an increase in the luxury tax threshhold likely to follow, fewer teams will be writing checks -- for less money -- for exceeding the luxury threshhold. And some owners were counting on being able to pocket that additional loot.

Was it good news? Yes, in the sense that it meant teams did a yeomans work selling more tickets, sponsorships, suites, etc. than the league thought possible a year ago, and limited the damage done as the recession finally seemed to be ebbing. Even though the cap is still going to go down compared to last year's $57 million, a drop of two-tenths of a percent is not at all bad.

But it was bad news in the sense that owners remain as determined as ever to force major concessions from the players when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, meaning the possibility of a long, protracted lockout in 2011 hasn't dissipated one bit. A Players Association source told Yahoo! Sports Friday that the union would examine whether there was grounds for a collusion lawsuit, based on the league's pessimistic numbers last summer -- which the union will no doubt argue led to a freeze on team movement.

There could be as many as eight teams -- including a couple we don't know about -- that are currently for sale or being sold, according to a very, very high team source that has knowledge of such things. You could argue that that is a good thing, as it means owners with deeper pockets may be coming into the game. But the mere fact that so many teams may be up for bid also means a lot of the league's current owners are looking to cash in and get out.

In the meanime, though, the cap raise will be great news for the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Wizards, Clippers and Bulls, all expected to go hot and heavy into free agency July 1. (The Kings, Thunder and Wolves also will have enough room to go after the big fish, but OKC is saving all its coin to extend Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Minnesota is unlikely to be anyone's free agent destination at the moment and Sacramento , slowly rebuilding its fan base, would be an unlikely candidate to raise its payroll significantly in the near future.)

"It was good news, because it adds to what we have if it bears out," Knicks president Donnie Walsh texted on Friday evening. "This gives us more flexibility."

A breakdown of some of the key players:

KNICKS

The Knicks were operating with an assumptive cap number of $53.5 million. With only four players -- Eddy Curry, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas and Wilson Chandler -- under contract for next season, the Knicks had, by my count, around $31 million in projected cap room if the cap came in at $53.5 million, enough to sign one max free agent at around $16 million, but not two. At $56.1, though, New York would have just enough to get two max players -- though it still would have to renounce its rights to free agent forward David Lee to sign two max players.

Now, the Knicks can sign one max player and re-sign Lee at the $12-14 million it would probably take next season to keep him, and still have a couple million left over to sign a veteran player above the veteran's minimum. The Knicks would still have to sign several players at the minimum in order to fill out their roster, though. They could also use that room to trade for a player under contract. (Cap Avatar Larry Coon breaks it down further here.)

NETS

With Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Yi Jianlian and rookie Terrence Williams under contract for next season, and the Nets picking up the third-year option on guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, New Jersey has around $27.5 million in committed salaries for next season (and that already counts more than $4 million set aside for a high lottery pick, which will be no worse than fourth and could be first overall). That gives New Jersey $26 million in cap room, not enough for two max free agents, but enough for one max player and $10 million in additional room for other moves.

But the Nets could add another $3.2 million in room if forward Kris Humphries doesn't exercise his player option for next season, and reach $30 million or so total in room. They still wouldn't be able to sign a second max, but they would be players for a lot of free agents just under the max level, and they could make a deal for just about anyone. And that room could increase further if New Jersey gets the first pick, and takes John Wall. That would make Harris expendable, and a lot of teams with room would probably be quite interested in a still-young (27) point guard with a reasonable (three years, $26.8 million remaining) contract.

HEAT

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The Heat might be able to find a willing trade partner for Michael Beasley this summer.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Many agree that if -- if -- Miami cuts to the bone and frees up as much money as possible, that it could stand to gain the most from the additional cap room. If, for example, Miami was to renounce its rights to all of its free agents, including Udonis Haslem and Jermaine O'Neal, the Heat could be anywhere from $35 to $40 million under the cap next season, an Eastern Conference executive said Sunday. That's more than enough to re-sign Wade at a max level, add a second max player in free agency and have as much as $8 million available to entice a third free agent at a salary greater than the expected mid-level price. (This year's mid-level was $5.854 million.)

But Pat Riley could also use that extra room to try and re-sign Haslem, considered the heart and soul of the team. Haslem made $7.1 million this season and it was going to be hard to keep him at the old projections. Now, Miami could keep him and Wade and add another superstar. Riley's often taken the mid-level exception and split it up to sign two players; no reason he couldn't do the same with $8 million.

It is even conceivable -- though not likely -- that Miami could find a trading partner for second-year forward Michael Beasley, sending Beasley's salary into the room of a team under the cap for draft picks and no salary in return, and have enough room to re-sign Wade and add two max free agents. The Heat's longtime beat writer, Ira Winderman, explored this possibility here.

Whatever it decides, Miami will be a force this summer.

WIZARDS

Washington has one big ticket -- Gilbert Arenas's $17.7 million next season -- and little else on its cap going forward. Only Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Al Thornton and Nick Young are on the books for next season (Javaris Crittenton, obviously, won't be back, the Wizards aren't going to pick up Josh Howard's option and guard Shaun Livingston, rejuvenated in his stay in D.C., has probably played himself onto a better team's roster next season), giving the Wizards only $25 million in committed money.

Add a few cap holds here and there and the Wizards were expecting to have around $18 million total in cap room under the $50-$53 million cap projections. At $56.1 million Washington will have more than $20 million available -- a lot of room, but still enough for only one max player.

It's much more likely, given Washington's uncertainty on the court and in ownership, that the Wizards will have to be trading partners. They have to make some tough decisions about Blatche, who was a 20 and 10 guy after getting more playing time, but still exhibited some of the tendencies that made him unworthy of more playing time and responsibility in his first four NBA seasons. Building around him is far from a foregone conclusion, and his more than reasonable salary (two years and $6.7 million left) could make him a very desirable piece elsewhere.

Of all the teams with significant cap room, the Wizards are the one that most needs some good fortune in the lottery, to assure them of at least one major, low-salaried building block to start reconstructing their team.

CLIPPERS

L.A. only has five players -- Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and DeAndre Jordan -- under contract for next season, though the Clippers would like to bring back free agents Rasual Butler and Craig Smith. Including cap holds on those two, the Clippers would be over $40 million in committed salaries, with not quite enough room to make a max offer under the old projection (though renouncing them would have created enough space). With the new one, they can make an offer for a max player, and the Clippers have leaked out word (clumsily) of their desire for James to be that max player.

If the Clips can't lure a premier free agent, they could re-sign Butler, Smith or guard Steve Blake and add a veteran player for higher-than-mid-level prices, and filling out the roster with quality depth wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, considering L.A. will add another young player via the draft with a high Lottery pick. At the least, the Clippers certainly could be aggressive trade partners with teams that might be looking to lower their own luxury tax bills next season, and there will be no shortage of those.

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Playing with Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose is sure to lure some free agents to Chicago.
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

BULLS

Chicago mortgaged its immediate future, trading John Salmons at the deadline to Milwaukee for expiring contracts, in order to clear enough cap room to go after a max player. The Bulls succeeded, but now that they have the extra room, one wonders if they would have held onto Salmons (a bargain at $5.45 million, less than the mid-level) if the revised projection had come in two months earlier.

Chicago has Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and rookies Taj Gibson and James Johnson under contract for next season. That's about $31 million in salary, give or take a few hundred thousand. Even with the increase in the cap projection the Bulls will only be able to make one max offer, albeit with a nice chunk of $8-9 million available for a second, less expensive free agent if they can land the superstar. One would expect there will be any number of people who'd like to play with Rose and Noah for the next 10 years, which means that Chicago, if not everyone's first choice in free agency, will certainly be somewhere on every blue-chipper's wish list. And that will make Chicago a player in any number of potential sign-and-trade scenarios.

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Playoff edition)

1) Cleveland (61-21): No matter what you do, they have a counter. And they have LeBron. Top that.

2) Orlando (59-23): But they have Dwight Howard. Deal with that.

3) L.A. Lakers (57-25): Not writing them off yet by a long shot.

4) Phoenix (54-28): I may be getting ahead of myself, but a second round with Nash and Cuban mixing it up for two weeks would be pretty compelling stuff.

5) Dallas (55-27): Can a team that doesn't dominate any major statistical categories win it all? This one could.

6) Atlanta (53-29): Thirteen straight and counting at the Highlight Factory.

7) Denver (53-29): Melo set a pretty high bar (42 points) in Game 1 against Utah

8) Utah (53-29): No Kirilenko, no Okur, and a dinged-up Boozer, for the Nuggets. Tall task.

9) Oklahoma City (50-32): Nothing takes away from an incredible regular season. Nothing.

10) Boston (50-32): KG can make liars out of all of us, starting with the Heat.

11) San Antonio (50-32): Can Parker, Ginobili stay healthy at the same time?

12) Portland (50-32): Don't know if the Blazers can beat Phoenix four times without B Roy, but man, they have a lot of heart.

13) Milwaukee (46-36): A fairly good playoff debut for Brandon Jennings.

14) Miami (47-35): We gonna see, Michael Beasley. We gonna see.

15) Charlotte (44-38): Gerald Wallace made some man-sized plays against Dwight Howard in Game 1.

16) Chicago (41-41): Say this about Joakim Noah: he ain't scared.

Team of the Week

(Final regular season edition, with limited results from a shortened week)

Orlando (2-0): While most teams rested most of their star players down the stretch, Stan Van Gundy kept Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, et. al., out on the court for their normal minutes. Most coaches, rightly, don't want to take any chances by playing stars with even a hint of physical malady just before the playoffs; the Lakers rested Kobe Bryant's knee and finger, the Heat sat Dwyane Wade. But the Magic went into the playoffs without any letup, winning six in a row overall entering the postseason, and that's a good thing to do for fans who wanted to see one of the league's best teams at full strength.

Team of the Weak

Minnesota (0-2): Lost seven straight to finish the season, including one last 20-plus point beatdown, this one by the Spurs last Monday. This is a team with a lot of questions, from whether it's worth it to keep Al Jefferson and Kevin Love on the same team to whether it can afford to slog through another awful season waiting for Ricky Rubio, or whether it should deal his rights this summer for someone, anyone who can help right now.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Now that Conan O'Brien is part of the Turner family, agreeing to a new late-night show on TBS starting in the fall, when can I expect the invite to come to L.A. to sit on the couch? Of course Chuck and EJ and the Jet are going to be on the first week; I get that. But how about hooking a working man up in, say, December? (True story: I was invited by a friend to the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004, where I was interviewed in the hall by Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. He wanted me to say bad stuff about Kobe, as I recall. Didn't take the bait. Mama didn't raise no fools, now.)

The kids still love hearing my Walter Mondale impression. (Right, kids? Kids?) I can do the wild and the wacky highlights like Marv. If you need to see highlights of my work, we have two years of "The Beat" on TiVo and years of sideline interviews and studio stuff with the guys, like 'Where He Come From?' and 'Who He Play For?'

Call me.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

A lot of responses to last week's awards column, and a lot of disagreements. You have the floor.

MVP -- (My pick: LeBron James)

From Brandon Blueford:

Look how far (the) Thunder has improved from last season. They are inches away from finishing the year off with 50 wins. But that would not have happen without the play of Kevin Durant. The guy has been a beast this year and a consistent one at that. With similar numbers as LeBron but stats aren't everything in a MVP. Not trying to knock on LeBron -- the guy is hands down the best entertainer out there. But Durant has turned a falling organization into a threat when playoff time comes to push.

From Carina Centeno:

I think that Carmelo should be MVP. LeBron is just too arrogant and just not that good. The self-pronounced "King" that couldn't win it if his life depended on it.

ALL-NBA TEAMS

(First team: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard; Second team: Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Andrew Bogut; Third team: Pau Gasol, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Jason Kidd, Tim Duncan)

From Sam Sharpe:

It is shocking to me that in no part of your article do you mention Chris Bosh's 24 ppg and 11 rpg season.

No, I don't think he should be in the conversation for MVP, but I find it hard to believe that he actually had a worse season than both of Amar'e Stoudemire and Pau Gasol in not making your Third Team All-NBA list. Bosh's numbers are indisputably better than Stoudemire's 23 and 9, and Gasol's 18 and 11. Furthermore, Bosh has gotten his number with greater efficiency than either of Stoudemire or Gasol. I understand, that there is more to these awards than good numbers, but even if you don't reward Bosh in your All-NBA list, AT LEAST give hive some love somewhere else.

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Fans were left wondering why Chris Bosh didn't make any of David Aldridge's All-NBA teams.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

I spy your "All-Depth Charge team," that seems to be the appropriate place to put a player like Chris who plays in another country on a bad team, and therefore has limited exposure aside from free-agency rumors. But no, not even some kind of "Honorable Mention" is given to him. How someone can rationally believe that either David Lee or Andre Iguodala is a better player than Chris Bosh is beyond me (as is how David Lee can be considered a center).

Mr. Aldridge, How do account for this major oversight?

From Sheldon Mafia:

Bosh should be in an All-NBA Team or at least in the honourable mentions. You put Iguodala and Granger over him? C'mon now, that's not right.

From Shawn Desrosiers:

I usually like your pieces but you totally forgot about Chris Bosh...the guy averaged 20+ and 10+ again. He was leading the league in double-doubles for awhile and lets face it is one of the best (if not the best) power forwards in the league.

From Alex Doyle:

All-NBA Third Team: Rajon Rondo, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Amar'e Stoudemire, Pau Gasol. Rajon Rondo has been known as the best defensive guard in the NBA. Kidd is solid defensively,but he doesn't possess Rondo's speed or intensity. Rondo and Kidd are equal passers. In my understanding, Kidd's only advantage over Rondo is in outside shooting. Gerald Wallace is a very balanced player because he averages almost 20 points and at the same time pulls down over 10 boards per game. I am content with him knocking out Duncan even though they are basically equal in stats. My reason is that Duncan has faltered significantly on the offensive end during the second half of the season.

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER -- (Aaron Brooks)

The Phoenix, rising. From Kevin Keim:

I'm disappointed to not see Goran Dragic's name at least mentioned in your picks for M.I.P. award. His game has improved so much that has allowed Coach Alvin Gentry to rest Steve Nash for entire fourth quarters of games. He also stepped up to the plate and led the team to a win in OKC when Nash was out.

From Kyle Mitchell:

Russell Westbrook should be Most Improved but not even a mention? What about George Hill?

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR -- (Tyreke Evans)

From Justin Mathew:

I agree mostly with your picks, and iIcan see why you chose each one. But there are a few things i would change in my ballot. On rookie of the year, Tyreke will win it, but as of late i think Stephen Curry has been better and deserves the award.

COACH OF THE YEAR -- (Jerry Sloan)

From Zain Rehmani:

I have a concern with your article concerning the COY. How, I repeat, HOW on earth does Scott Brooks not deserve COY? We are talking about a team that more than doubled its winning percentage, and has turned into a team that I truly believe can pull some HUGE upsets in the first round.

MVP Watch

(PLAYOFF EDITION, WEEK 1)

LeBron James (24 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 9-19 FG, 6-7 FT): Got a little perimeter happy in Game 1 with the Bulls sagging off, but when Chicago made it close in the third quarter, LBJ went hard to the bucket and made two big shots to re-establish order. Doesn't have to shoot it great any more for the Cavs to win playoff games.

Dwight Howard (5 points, 7 rebounds, 9 blocks, 2-4 FG, 1-6 FT): Came out in Game 1 against the Bobcats like Ewing in the '82 title game with Carolina -- swat everything, even if it's a goaltend. You're making a point, marking your space and letting 'em know the paint is yours.

Kobe Bryant (21 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 6-19 FG, 7-12 FT):
Kevin Durant (24 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 7-24 FG, 9-11 FT):
You knew the Lakers weren't going to give Durantula any open looks Sunday. Magnificent team defense, building a wall to keep him on the perimeter, and Ron Artest was outstanding on the ball. But the playoffs are all about the adjustments you make. How does Scott Brooks help Durant get open, and how does Durant help himself?

By the Numbers

$648,946 -- Amount of money the Cavaliers received from the league's playoff pool for finishing with the best record in the NBA and for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

$15,400,000 -- Annual amount the Pacers pay to run Conseco Fieldhouse -- an arrangement that the team said last week had to end, with the city picking up the yearly tab. Otherwise, Pacers Sports and Entertainment president Jim Morris told the Indianapolis Star that the team would keep all of its options open, including moving out of Indianapolis.

$27,897,430 -- Share of the film and television production and studio Lion's Gate Entertainment that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has purchased since late last month, approximately 5.4 percent of the company, according to the stock website Seeking Alpha. Cuban already owns the high-definition television network HDNet (and its companion HDNet Films), part of the movie distrbution company Magnolia Pictures and part of the art and independent movie theatre chain Landmark Theatres.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) My only problem with the NBA's fine of Phil Jackson for saying Kevin Durant gets favorable treatment from referees is that it wasn't high enough. Jackson is an unrepentant recidivist when it comes to flogging officials in the postseason; his teams have never lost a playoff game, they have only been cheated by incompetent officiating. I know that this gamesmanship is designed to influence the officials, but most people lose that subtlety, and those that are listening for dog whistles in the first place only hear their conspiracy theories validated.

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Phil Jackson deserved a stiffer fine for his verbal barb directed at Kevin Durant.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2) Speaking of which, don't take the bait , Durantula.

3) If you expect objectivity on this item, honestly, you should look elsewhere. Hurrah. (Though I will not be objective if my beloved AU Eagles play Washington State next year in that crucial 10-23 first-round matchup.)

4) This is, simply, a magnificent read on Kevin Garnett by the Boston Globe's Jackie MacMullen, one of the best who's ever covered the NBA. Ever.

5) Every time I turn on a playoff game, Mickael Pietrus is draining a big shot.

6) Of course Coby Karl wants to be judged on his skills as a player. That's understandable; he's worked his butt off. But it's still heartwarming that the Nuggets signed him last week, in part, because it will help his dad in his recovery, knowing if he can get off the deck, he can coach his son.

7) You can laugh if you want, but at least Derrick Coleman tried to do something positive and real to impact the lives of people in his community after he was done playing.

Not Feelin' ...

1) Afraid KG had to sit out a game after that elbow to Q-Rich's noggin Saturday night. Intent doesn't matter. Nor does it matter if Richardson provoked him, or if he was throwing the 'bow just to clear himself or didn't see Richardson: the league has said that contact with the head, whether with a punch or an elbow, gets you suspended. To have any credibility, Stu Jackson had to make this call.

2) Never pleasant when a good man gets fired. You will persevere, Eddie Jordan.

3) You're Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors' team president and GM. Your boss, Richard Peddie, calls you in this week. He says, "Bryan, we spent $52 million on Hedo Turkoglu, and $20 million on Jarrett Jack, and traded for Reggie Evans, and traded for Marco Bellinelli, and traded for Amir Johnson, and traded for Antoine Wright, and kept Jay Triano on as coach, all on your say so, to keep Chris Bosh happy and make sure we make the playoffs. And we didn't make the playoffs. And Bosh isn't happy." What do you say?

4) The Jazz can't catch a break, can they?

5) Fairly certain this is the first time I've put the following combination of letters together: Eyjafjallajokull. (By the way, that's pronounced, Eyjafjallajokull.) Saw a guy on TV saying if this thing really fires up, we could have severe winters here in the U.S. for two or three years. Great. Just great.

6a) Even if half of what the prosecutor is Georgia believes is true about Ben Roethlisberger, he has to sit out at least three games. The Steelers stand for something besides just winning football games -- or, I believe they do. They can prove it by putting what's right ahead of what's convenient.

6b) Hova. Papi. Hug it out, brothas.

7) Best wishes to Nick Charles, a top-flight sportscaster who is in a very tough battle.

Tweet of the Week

I got so much swagger I swear swagger tryna sue me!!!!
--Spurs rookie forward DeJuan Blair (@DeJuan45), Friday, 3 a.m. Who knows why?

They Said It

"I think we had a lot of guys that played like dogs."
-- Gregg Popovich, following his Spurs' Game 1 loss Sunday night to Dallas. Yikes. You either love this guy, or hate him. I love him.

"As I speak today, yes."
-- Sixers GM Ed Stefanski, asked on Thursday if he would be around to finish the search for a new coach after the team fired Eddie Jordan.

"Y'all want me to blame the coach so bad & I'm not. The media is even trying to get me to throw him under the bus. Never point the finger."
--Nets guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, tweeting his support for interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe, who is not expected to be retained by New Jersey under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

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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photoMavericks vs. Spurs: First half
Dallas leads the Spurs 56-51 at the half.
photoDouglas-Roberts to Kidd-Gilchrist
Chris Douglas-Roberts drives and dishes to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the layup.
photoManu's And-one Floater
Manu Ginobili curls around the defense and sinks the nice floater plus the foul.
photoHenderson's Sick Rejection on Haslem
Gerald Henderson meets Udonis Haslem at the rim and sends his dunk attempt out of bounds.
photoBlair's Tough Bucket
Devin Harris finds DeJuan Blair who ducks the defense and makes the basket.

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