Posted Mar 1 2010 11:49AM
Seven questions for the next seven days:
There will be so many significant things to sort out on the road to a labor deal between the owners and players. But one has to hope that when the new collective bargaining agreement is finally hammered out, there will be a patch to cover the huge loophole that will allow free agent Zydrunas Ilgauskas to likely return to the Cleveland Cavaliers later this month.
Everyone knows, of course, that Ilgauskas was sent to the Washington Wizards as part of the deal that brought Antawn Jamison to Cleveland. Everyone also knows that any rule permitting Ilgauskas to simply get a buyout from the Washington Wizards and return to the Cavs for the playoffs is wrong.
To quote Woody Allen in Bananas: "It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."
In fact, it is nothing but bananas to think that any team should be able get away with such a blatant circumvention of the salary cap.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson has called it a charade and a sham. When asked his opinion, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, smiled and said, "Me just coach," and then rubbed his thumb and forefinger together as a reminder that previous criticisms of league policy have cost him money.
Sure, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas and Utah, among others, made overtures to Ilgauskas. But it has appeared all along that he is on his way back to Cleveland. The league, to protect its integrity, needs to patch that hole.
The Dallas Mavericks are already riding a seven-game winning streak with the addition of newcomers Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood. Now they have a prime chance to overtake Denver for the No. 2 seed (and home-court in a possible second-round playoff series) or even the Lakers' hold on No. 1.
The opportunity comes courtesy of an extended tour through Cupcake City over the next three weeks. Beginning tonight in Charlotte, the Mavs will play six of their next eight games against teams with records below .500. The combined opponents' record in that span is 118-233 (.336).
Well, all the feel-good talk around Tracy McGrady in New York certainly went up in smoke now that he's back on the bench with an aching knee.
After McGrady played just 15 minutes, shot 0-for-3 and sat out the second half of Saturday night's loss to the Grizzlies, the New York Post said it's a good thing the Knicks aren't in the playoff race or the McGrady experiment would be a disaster.
Let's see ... he mostly limped through 47 cameo minutes in six appearances in December with Houston. Then, he proclaimed that earned him about 35 minutes a night of playing time for coach Rick Adelman.
Anybody still wondering why the Rockets decided it was time to finally call an end to the T-Mac Era?
How many more weeks will people give them before they start to comprehend that the Spurs are not going to suddenly find an "on" switch?
Coach Gregg Popovich has tried more lineups than he has fingers and toes and nothing has worked to give the offense a spark or the defense the old tenacity and character that carried the Spurs to four championships.
Never mind Sunday's win over Phoenix. It's one step up and two steps back in San Antonio these days.
The question isn't how deep they'll go into the playoffs, but how will the Spurs get themselves out of the $15 million entanglement with Richard Jefferson for next season?
When does everyone start to appreciate the under-the-radar job done by general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles that has turned the Milwaukee Bucks into a below-the-radar success story?
It was all about Brandon Jennings' 55 points early in the season. Now, it's about Andrew Bogut and John Salmons and a lineup that has seven different players averaging double figures en route to six wins in seven games and a possible playoff spot.
Just when LeBron James and the Cavs have stumbled a bit and it looks like Kobe Bryant and his friends can make a run at the league's best record, up comes March. The Lakers play 11 of their 15 games this month on the road.
The traveling begins with a three-game road trip week that takes the Lakers from Miami to Charlotte and then to Orlando for Sunday's NBA Finals rematch, Part II. The Lakers won the first meeting this season 98-92 on Jan. 18.
Everything is relative. So when you're the New Jersey Nets, two wins in seven games might feel like you're the 1971-72 Lakers during their 33-game win streak.
After their win in Boston on Saturday, the Nets' 6-53 record is actually ahead of the pace for all-time ineptitude. The 1972-73 Sixers were only 4-55 at this point on their way to 9-73.
But the Nets have a tough week ahead with home games against Cleveland and Orlando prior to the start of a five-game road trip.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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