Posted Jan 24 2011 2:40PM
24 -- How many times since the start of the season has Carmelo Anthony said that he doesn't want to make the same mistakes as LeBron James that damaged his image with the public? How many times does he have to get booed on his home floor in Denver to know he's been making them?
23 -- When the West was won? Perhaps between now and the start of All-Star Weekend. Beginning with Saturday night's dismal loss in New Orleans, the Spurs are in a stretch where they play 12 of 13 games on the road through Feb. 17 that will likely determine whether they keep cruising to the No. 1 seed or crack the door open for a challenge.
22 -- If the Lakers are going to make a real run at San Antonio, this is where it starts -- a five-game homestand that concludes with a showdown against the Spurs.
21 -- What separates the Knicks and Nets besides a river? Attitude. The Knicks would never pull the plug on a potential trade because of a few hundred rumors.
20 -- Meet the Fresh Prints of L.A. That would be Kobe Bryant when he becomes the first athlete to have his hand and foot imprinted in cement at the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theater. Why not? His collection of diamond rings could probably rival Marilyn Monroe's.
19 -- But does anyone with Kobe's top-of-the-marquee star power really need to be continuing the hissing match with Smush Parker, who barely gets his name in the credits?
18 -- Remember when the days of Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and John Stockton were clearly the era of the legendary point guard debates? So today you can pick from the list that includes Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Brandon Jennings and John Wall, not to mention veterans Jason Kidd and Steve Nash. I reserve the right to change my mind every 24 hours.
17 -- If there is one person in the NBA who keeps the 'Melo-drama in Denver in the proper perspective, it's George Karl, because he has to.
16 -- For the Mavs' sake, you have to hope the deal in the works to bring Peja Stojakovic on board pays off bigger dividends than last year's All-Star much-celebrated deal for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood that still produced a first-round playoff loss.
15 -- Jeanie Buss says she could see her beau Phil Jackson hosting his own cooking show. Of course, he's always been quite adept at keeping the pots boiling.
14 -- Until the Hawks can up with a satisfactory explanation for scoring just 59 points in a home game, nobody from Atlanta should be able to play the "overlooked" or "disrespected" card in an Eastern Conference race that clearly has Boston, Miami, Chicago and Orlando clearly a cut above.
13 -- Is it Daylight Savings Time already? No, it just seems like June with Celtics at Lakers on Sunday. But still no re-litigation of Game 7 of the 2010 Finals with a healthy Kendrick Perkins for the Celtics. Perkins will miss the four-game road trip (Portland, Phoenix, L.A., Sacramento) and is aiming for Feb. 4 at home against Dallas for his season debut.
12 -- If the Rockets can't come out of the Carmelo Sweepstakes as a dark horse winner, they'll likely turn their attention to getting a big man and that would put them right back at Denver's door aggressively pursuing Nene.
11 -- Look who's back. When New Orleans slumped to 7-9 in December there was plenty of talk that the defense was part myth and part product of a slow pace. But when you've won eight in a row and held back-to-back opponents Atlanta and San Antonio to 59 and 72, Monty Williams has the Hornets getting after it.
10 -- For all the joy over the win streak, the biggest number in the Big Easy was in the stands, where the Hornets drew 18,023, their third sellout of the season. Now a crowd of just 11,759 Monday night against the Thunder is required to avoid triggering a clause that would allow termination of their lease in New Orleans for only $10 million after this season.
9 -- It is not merely player-envy from the fans and the media that has the 'Melo-drama taking hits. There are NBA peers who are shaking their heads and Utah's Deron Williams is one of them.
8 -- While there may be a rush to write off Greg Oden after his latest season-ending surgery, the Trail Blazers are not yet ready to include themselves in that group. The difference between the situations of Oden and Yao Ming? Oden just turned 23. Yao is 30.
7 -- Breaking up the logjam of forwards for the West in the All-Star Game after Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are likely named starters this week: Dirk Nowitzki (numbers rivaled his MVP season before the injury), Pau Gasol (he kept the Lakers afloat while Andrew Bynum was mending) and Blake Griffin (the young sensation everyone wants to see). Sorry, Tim Duncan, if you want to go, it has to be as a center. On the outside, Kevin Love has to wait until his team is better. LaMarcus Aldridge is the unkindest cut while having his best season in Portland. Zach Randolph is squeezed out, but took his bow last year.
6 -- Now that rookie John Wall has asked coach Flip Saunders to fine him $50 for every time he shows frustration in a game, how about if Wizards fans get a free hotdog and a drink for every game their team continues to remain winless on the road this season?
5 -- The Wizards play five of their next six on the road, where they are 0-20 this season. The worst road record for a season in league history was 0-20 by the 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets. The record for consecutive losses to start a season is 29 by the Mavericks in 1992-93.
4 -- If the Heat and Lakers fulfill many preseason predictions and meet in the NBA Finals, there might be a handful of teams who aren't convinced about their superiority. The Bulls are the newest addition to a growing list that includes the Pacers, Grizzlies, Jazz and Nuggets as teams that have beaten both Miami and L.A. this season.
3 -- It can't be too comfortable to be David Morway, G.M. of the perennially-underachieving Pacers to have Kevin Pritchard traveling with your team as an observer. Team president Larry Bird still thinks the Pacers are a playoff team and in the East anything's possible. Easy to blame coach Jim O'Brien, too. But when Danny Granger still has taken more 3-pointers than free throws, the problem is on the court.
2 -- Whip out those wallets, contenders and wannabes. It's the start of contract buyout season in the NBA. After it likely becomes official that Peja Stojakovic joins the Mavs after a buyout in Toronto, Troy Murphy, Rip Hamilton and James Posey are good bets to be the next veterans on the move.
1 -- What does it say about the possibility of avoiding a labor lockout when it practically takes a mud wrestling match for the players and owners agree to sit down and talk during All-Star Weekend?
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