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GIVE THE KING A BREAK
Posted by Brad Friedman and Rob Peterson on January 20, 2006 1:05 p.m. ET

JAMES DESERVES PATIENCE

Everywhere you scroll these days, someone is pointing out how LeBron James has been coming up short in the clutch.

While nobody is questioning his talent (that would be sacrilege!), there are those second-guessing his ability to come through in the clutch.
-- [The Beacon Journal]

They're also asking questions here and here.
-- [Oakland Tribune and Indy Star]

We think it's important to note that Allen Iverson didn't hit his first game winner until Nov. 12, 2004, nine years into his career. By that time, he'd played in the NBA Finals, won three scoring titles, a Rookie of the Year honor and a MVP award.
-- [NBA.com]

So, let's gives James some space. Cleveland faces Utah on Saturday, and maybe James will come through in the waning moments. But even if he doesn't this weekend, or this season for that matter, he still has plenty of time left to catch Iverson.

THAT'S CHICAGO

With a 16-22 record, the Bulls have been a disappointment. Beginning in December and spilling into January, they had an eight-game win streak and then recently experienced a three-game slide.

All of that happened before pulling out an emotionally-charged overtime win against New York on Wednesday which featured Knicks forward Antonio Davis rushing into the stands to the aid of his wife.
-- [Chicago Tribune]

Oh, we don't know. Maybe you heard something about that? (Did it get people's attention?) That, and AD was suspended five games for his stampede into the stands.
-- [NBA.com]

Seasons can have turning points, and that could be one for Chicago, or even just Ben Gordon, who hit the game-winner, but has been streaky all year. On Saturday, the Bulls battle the Pacers, and a win against their second-place divisional foes on the road would go along way in restoring Chicago's confidence.
-- [NBA.com]

RETURN OF THE KINGS?

Another team to watch is the Kings, who head to Florida take on Orlando on Saturday and Miami on Sunday. Sacramento overcame the 51-point performance from Kobe Bryant on Thursday to push the Kings' winning streak to three games.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

We're not saying the Kings are ready to be a contender, but with Shareef Abdur-Rahim back in action, Sacramento could at least be a thorn in the side of Western Conference opponents, as they were -- and more -- during the Webber era.
-- [San Jose Mercury News]

Speaking of Webber, he's still not feeling comfortable in his new home in Philadelphia. The former All-Star claims Maurice Cheeks' new system isn't that much better for him than the one Jim O'Brien used last year. The only saving grace for the Sixers has been the fact the Atlantic Division has been less than stout, and their 18-20 record as of Friday has them safely in second place.
-- [Baltimore Sun]

The Sixers will go on the road to Minnesota on Sunday, as ABC tips off its regular-season Sunday coverage, (1 p.m. ET, regional coverage). ABC's own Hubie Brown breaks down the other ABC matchup as the Nuggets host the Spurs (1 p.m. ET, regional coverage).

Denver has won seven of their last nine games in January after finishing an injury-riddled December by losing eight of 11 contests. The Spurs, last year's NBA champions, will look put the Nuggets' recent good fortunes to the test.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

A WILD WEDNESDAY
Posted by John Schuhmann on January 19, 2006 10:00 a.m. ET

SO MUCH BASKETBALL, SO LITTLE TIME

Wednesday is always a busy night in the Association, and last night was no exception with 12 games on the docket and that means it's busy night for the remote controls as well. The TiVo remote operates the cable box, switching between the League Pass games, while the TV remote switches between the local games (Knicks and Nets here in Jerz, as well as the ESPN game) and also works the picture-in-picture.

Of course, Wednesday is not all about basketball in the Schuhmann household. From 9-10:00, the local signal switches to ABC for Lost. I enjoyed the present-day storyline quite a bit last night, but I could definitely have done without the flashback storyline. It didn't really add anything, unlike last week's flashback, which I thought was very good.

Anyway, on the hoops. Several games went down to the wire last night, but I'll start with the one I was watching early in the night...

Vince Carter and Allen Iverson both caught fire at times in Philly, but Carter had the better supporting cast. Kidd had another near triple-double, RJ grabs 16 boards, Krstic goes for 16 and seven and Uncle Cliffy comes off the bench for 15 on 7-of-12 from the field. A team-effort if there ever was one, as the Nets sent a message about who's the best team in the Atlantic.
-- [Newark Star-Ledger, New York Daily News]

Now, I know Mo Cheeks was looking for more defense from his team, but at one point early in the fourth quarter, he had a unit of Kevin Ollie, Kyle Korver, Matt Barnes, Shavlick Randolph and Samuel Dalembert on the floor. Korver can shoot of course, but he's not exactly great at creating his own shot, so where is the offense coming from with this group? Not surprisingly, the Sixers didn't score for the first 4:20 of the fourth. By that time, the Nets had built a 17-point lead and cruised the rest of the way.

Cheeks, who addressed his team for a half hour after the game, believes that there is a good team there in Philadelphia, somewhere.
-- [Philadelphia Inquirer]

SIMULTANEOUS BARN-BURNERS

Our remote skills were tested as the Bucks-Spurs and Knicks-Bulls games both went down to the wire simultaneously.

The Bucks had a tough time holding on to the ball down the stretch. Mo Williams lost the dribble twice and both Michael Redd and T.J. Ford had it slip out of their hands as they went up for shots in the final two minutes. Meanwhile, Michael Finley hit two huge threes on the other end, helping the Spurs hand the Bucks their first loss of the season in a game decided by five points or less.

Finley says he had been pressing a bit, but he was able to hit the big shots after his coach told him to relax.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

I was quite impresssed with Milwaukee's execution of the final full-court inbounds play, as T.J. Ford ran a post route and Toni Kukoc hit him in stride to get a potential game-tying shot off. Bucks coach Terry Stotts believes it may have been the best game they've played all season.
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Defense was at a premium in the final minute of regulation in Chicago and it seemed neither team was willing to pay for it, as guards kept finding lanes to the basket, until the Knicks did a nice job of forcing a tough shot from Ben Gordon, which he missed to send the game to overtime.

The extra period was interesting to say the least. Chris Duhon and Maurice Taylor were ejected for fighting and Antonio Davis was ejected for going up into the stands to check on his wife. The teams traded baskets for most of the period and after Jamal Crawford tied it with a three with 4.6 left on the clock, Ben Gordon won it with a jumper at the buzzer. Even Clyde Frazier had a tough time coming up with the words to describe the wild night in the Windy City.
-- [New York Daily News]

I already think that too much is being made of the Davis incident and (as Larry Brown says) that there's no comparison to what happened in Detroit last season, but a suspension will likely be handed out.
-- [New York Post, Chicago Sun-Times]

Apparently, Duhon got the message from his general manager John Paxson that the team needs to be tougher.
-- [Chicago Tribune]

TWO MORE THRILLERS BEFORE BED

In Denver, LeBron James first passed up a wide open three and then missed the game-tying free throw with six-tenths of a second to go. Alan Henderson's tip had Denver fans holding their breath, but it rolled off the rim and the Nuggets came away with their seventh win in nine games.

LeBron takes the blame and says he needs to work on his free throws.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

In Portland, the Blazers got a big game from Viktor Khryapa and a couple of free throws from Juan Dixon to beat the Raptors by two. Chris Bosh's three at the buzzer fell short, but you have to love his performance down the stretch.
-- [The Oregonian]

FIRST ALL-STAR ANNOUNCED

With the Cleveland loss and Detroit's win in Atlanta, the Pistons clinched the best record in the Eastern Conference as of Feb. 5, meaning Flip Saunders will coach the East at the All-Star Game in Houston next month. The West is still very much up in the air, with the Mavs trailing the Spurs by just one game.
-- [NBA.com]

More importantly for Detroit, things look good for Ben Wallace (a free agent this summer) to stay in a Piston uniform next season.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

The Pistons will be in New York for the first game of tonight's TNT double-header. In the second game, the Lakers take on the Kings.

The Kobe-Shaq story won't go away quickly, but it's great to see Ronny Turiaf finally wearing the purple and gold.
-- [Los Angeles Daily News]

KOBE-SHAQ IV
Posted by Jeffery Dengate on January 17, 2006 11:15 a.m. ET

CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

It was kind of like a feud between siblings. You know, the kind where the parents let it go on only so long before Dad has to step in and patch things up.

Well, maybe it was Pat Riley and Phil Jackson playing the roles of a couple sensible fathers, telling their sons to play nice and share their toys.

Then again, it sounds like Bill Russell, the Celtics legend honored on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, had a hand in Kobe and Shaq showing each other a little love.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times and Sports Illustrated]

The game marked the first time since their fallout in the summer of 2004 -- after a tumultous loss to Detroit in the Finals -- that the two acknowledged each other when their teams met.
-- [NBA.com and South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

To tell the truth, we kind of had a feeling this could happen, based on what the two were saying leading up to the contest: That it was just a game. There wasn't a hint of the animosity Kobe and Shaq displayed leading up to previous meetings.
-- [South Florida Sun-Sentinel]

So, with a hug and handshake closing one chapter, Bryant decided to work on the next: Helping his team get it's first victory over the former Lakers' center's new squad.
-- [Los Angeles Daily News]

En route to the Lakers win, however, there were some unexpected fireworks late in the first half. After a nice back and forth, where L.A. rookie Andrew Bynum was served up a facial by Shaq before making a nice spin move for a dunk on the aging center, Bynum let his excitement get the best of him and banged into Shaq as the big men ran back down the floor. We probably don't need to tell you Shaq didn't take too kindly to the gesture.
-- [Los Angeles Times, Reg. req'd]

We'll just chalk it up as a rookie mistake. A big one at that.

Don't sleep on the Kings, who have won three in a row.
(Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Pistons coach Flip Saunders, on his team's league-best 30-5 record:

"I think we all thought we had the opportunity to be good, but I don't think anyone would have expected 30-5. But our guys approach each game very professionally. And when you do that, your record can get pretty gaudy, because you're not thinking about winning 40 before you win No. 38."
-- [Detroit News]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
Jan. 13 -- Who's the Man?
Dec. 1 -- Welcome Back, Larry
Nov. 17 -- League Pass Surfing
Nov. 10 -- Setting OWGs Straight
Nov. 4 -- Season Underway
Oct. 27 -- The Central Is Stacked
Oct. 19 -- All Dressed Up
Oct. 14 -- LeBron Out Of Hospital
2004-05 -- Archive
2003-04 -- Archive