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PLAYING GREAT BALL
Posted by Rob Peterson on Nov. 23 2004 1:45 p.m. ET

THESE FIVE HAVE ELEVATED THEIR GAMES

So, how was your weekend?

As we all know, the incident at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday dominated news not only in the NBA, but also the sports world.
-- NBA.com

It was difficult not to run into coverage of it. You can check out the sidebar on the right ("Timeline of Events") to see how the NBA, the Pacers and others in the media reacted to the story and the historic suspensions.

But in the meantime, if you don't mind, we have some other guys we want to talk about.

From Dwyane Wade's game-winner on Friday against Utah (Video: 300k) to Grant Hill's Lazarus act, there has been some great basketball being played in the league.

But let's start with Wade who is quickly becoming not only a guy you can count on in the clutch, but the guy to count on in crunch time.
-- South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Has any other player recently made that leap to go-to-guy so quickly in his second year? I know the talk has been all about Shaq in South Florida, but if you look at it, Wade's been the MVP of the Heat this season.

Speaking of leaps, who can forget LeBron James' sky-scraping dunk against the Bobcats? (Video: 300k)
-- Cleveland Plain-Dealer

This season, the young King is becoming the player everyone thought he would be. Already this season he's added a Player of the Week honor to his growing resumé. Or in other words, LeBron is earning his wings this season.
-- New York Times

When LeBron came to New York on Sunday, you had to watch your step because writers who couldn't stop drooling made the floor slippery.
-- New York Daily News

Of course, the comparisons to Michael Jordan have been bandied about for some time now.
-- New York Daily News

Well, there's one thing LeBron can do this season that MJ never did: Become the youngest player to lead the league in scoring.
-- New York Daily News

Another player who was once compared to Jordan is back and it's made for one of the more magnificent stories in the NBA this season. Welcome back, Grant Hill. In case you hadn't noticed, he's been excellent this season. Who'd have thunk that after being sidelined for the better part of three seasons he'd come back like this?
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

Stardom and excellence isn't limited to the very young and the rehabilitated, however. Well, I guess you could put Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire in the young category (he's only 22), but he's in his third NBA season. And he's been studly for the Suns. An absolute force. Just look at these digits Stoudemire posted during the Suns' recent five-game winning streak, which included a come-from-behind win on Friday against the Lakers:
-- Arizona Republic

Stoudemire: 34, 38, 33, 33 and 21 points to lead the Suns in each of the last five games. That's good scorin', right there.

And while the addition of Steve Nash has been a huge lift for the Suns, Stoudemire has been their ballast.
-- Arizona Republic

Even as high as he flies, Stoudemire remains penitent.

"Look at him now, kissing the net with his shots, wrecking the rims with his dunks, saying his prayers before bed," writes Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.

"'That's every night,'" Stoudemire told Bickley. "'It's mandatory.'"

Speaking of prayers, the Mavs had theirs answered when they found out that Dirk Nowitzki's ankle injury isn't as serious as originally thought. (Which is easy for us to say, of course.)
-- Dallas Morning News

Nowitzki, as we noted as one of our many, many, many choices for early-season MVP, is another player who seemingly has raised his level of play this season. And during Thanksgiving week, the Mavs are thankful that they could have their leader back as early as Friday.
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

TIP-INS

Congrats to the Hornets for notching their first win of the season on Monday against the rugged Jazz, who retired future Hall-of-Famer John Stockton's jersey at halftime of the game.
-- New Orleans Times-Picayune, Salt Lake Tribune

Bulls: What are you waiting for?
-- Chicago Sun-Times

Former Spur Sean Elliott knows what Nets center Alonzo Mourning is going through.
-- Newark Star-Ledger

Will this trade ever happen? Looks like more teams are throwing their hats in the ring for VC.
-- ESPN.com

In Houston, Jeff Van Gundy's looking for a hero … or at least a leader.
-- Houston Chronicle

According to one paper, Boston fans have a new curse to worry about: TD's revenge. Can't the fans in the Hub just enjoy success for once?
-- Boston Herald

Did you know four sons work for head-coaching dads in the NBA? Well, now you do.
-- Charlotte Observer (Registration required)

AND FINALLY...

I don't know, but karma may play a role in this change down the line. Philly fans, beware.
-- Philly.com

Welcome back to full strength, Mr. Hill.
(Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

TIMELINE OF EVENTS
By now you know the story. It's been everywhere. You couldn't turn on a TV, flip open a paper or talk to someone without seeing, reading or hearing about the unprecedented brawl between the Pacers and the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
-- NBA.com

You know what NBA commissioner David Stern had to say. You know the result.
-- NBA.com

The NBA Players' Association said they would appeal the suspensions.
-- SI.com

Here's what Pacers co-owner Herb Simon had to say. And here's what Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson had to say.
-- Pacers.com

Also, here's a quick look at what others have had to say about it.

Percy Allen, Seattle Times: 'When players and fans cross the line, we all lose'

Jay Mariotti, Chicago Sun-Times: 'Stern response does us all a big favor'

Adrian Wajnarowski, ESPN.com: 'No one commands respect like Stern'

Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press 'Blame it on dumb view of respect'

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Utah's Jerry Sloan on his team playing four road games in five nights:
"That shouldn't bother them. Some people have to work five days a week."
-- CBS.Sportline.com

2004-05 ARCHIVE
Nov. 23 -- Playing Good Ball
Nov. 16 -- SuperbSonics
Nov. 9 -- Hitting the Blue Note
Nov. 3 -- Bling, Bang, Boom
2003-04 -- Archive

WEEKLY KERR
Steve Kerr, TNT analyst and Yahoo! columnist writes about what Rick Carlisle will need to do to get the Pacers into the playoffs.