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Posted by By Brad Friedman on March 10, 2006 9:51 a.m. ET


Pat Riley's coached a few good ones in his day, including a 6-9 point guard by the name of Magic Johnson. So Riley recently coming out and saying his current Heat star Dwyane Wade has the most complete skills of any he has led is quite a statement.
-- [Miami Herald]

''[Wade's] athleticism and quickness in combination with his overall skill level is probably the best package,'' Riley said in the Miami Herald. "[Johnson] doesn't come close to doing what Dwyane can do physically, athletically."

Of course, there's no player in the league he's drawn more comparisons to Johnson than LeBron James, whom Wade will face 1 p.m. ET on ABC this Sunday as the Cavs visit Miami . At 6-8, James also has the ability to play point guard, and Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy recently concluded that James, too, is more advanced in his skills than a young Magic Johnson.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

Magic Johnson won five NBA titles because he trusted his teammates, and the Cavs are beginning to win close games because James is doing just that. In four of the last five games in which James has had the ball in his hands with the Cavs tied or behind in the closing seconds, he's delivered a play that led to victory.
-- [Akron Beacon Journal]

The kinship that James and Wade share extends beyond just the Johnson comparisons, however. Both were members of the 2003 Draft class and have served as teammates on two All-Star squads and one Olympic team, fueling a close friendship between the young superstars. Sunday's matchup is personal then, with bragging rights on the line. Wade's Heat have won six-of-nine matchups against James' Cavs. This year, however, the score is even: 1-1.

Another ABC game to watch Sunday is the Texas showdown between the Rockets and Spurs at 3:30 p.m. ET. Yao Ming has been dominant in the last three games, topping the 30-point mark and registering double-doubles each time out. He's coming off a 38-point, 10-rebound and five-block effort vs. the Pacers, and Houston has won four in a row. With McGrady injured the last two games, not only has Yao stepped up, but so has the Rockets' bench.
-- [, Houston Chronicle]

A pair of often-overlooked squads collide Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET on League Pass, as the Clippers visit Milwaukee. Surprisingly enough, the Clippers are the team with the most wins in L.A. this year, and are in second place in the Pacific Division. They haven't even won a playoff game since 1993, when Larry Brown was at the helm, or a playoff series since 1976, when the organization resided in Buffalo and was known as the "Braves." This year could be the end of both of those steaks.
-- []

Milwaukee, meanwhile, is fending off a Chicago team just two games behind in the tough Central Division for the No. 8 seed in the East playoffs. Being in a small market, national media attention is rare for the Bucks, but it seems as if they aren't doing enough talking of their own. According to Milwaukee star Michael Redd the Bucks don't have a real vocal leader in the locker room among the players.
-- [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

"There's no real rah-rah guy in the locker room," he said. "It's just the nature of the group."

Posted by By John Schuhmann on March 9, 2006 10:30 a.m. ET


Wednesday is always a busy night in the association and there's guaranteed to be plenty of highlights, exceptional performances and a couple of games going down to the wire. Last night, we League Passers got more than our money's worth. Only one of the 10 games was decided by more than seven points and there were plenty of big numbers being put up.

We'll start in Toronto, where the Cavs and Raps were completing a home-and-home. Two Raptors scored 30 points and that didn't include Chris Bosh, who just recorded his 27th double-double of the season. For the Cavs, LeBron James went for 35 to bump up his scoring average, but it was one of his six assists that won the game, as he found Damon Jones in the corner for the game-winning three at the buzzer (Video).

Next stop: Boston, where for the second straight night, the Celtics got a career game from rookie Ryan Gomes and some late-game heroics from Paul Pierce, who also happened to record the sixth triple-double of his career. Don't look now, but the Celtics have won five of their last seven and are making a run for the playoffs.

Gomes has been a spark for Boston, and Doc Rivers says "Blame me" for not playing him earlier in the season.
[Boston Globe (reg. req'd.)]

Heading south, the Bobcats came back to beat the Warriors by three, getting 29 points from Jumaine Jones and a huge put-back slam from Gerald Wallace with seven seconds to go. Having lost 11 of their last 14, the Warriors are searching for answers.
[San Francisco Chronicle]

Further on down the coast, Dwyane Wade returned from his wrist injury to score 40 points and Shaquille O'Neal and Udonis Haslem each recorded double-doubles as the Heat beat the Wizards. It was Miami's 15th straight victory over Washington. So, the media will keep bringing it up coach.
[Washington Post]

After the Heat escaped with two close victories over losing teams, and after they struggled early on without Shaq, one columnist has come to the conclusion that they need both of them to succeed.
[Miami Herald]

In Detroit, the Pistons got 27, 25 and 24 from Billups, Rasheed and Hamilton to complete the Wednesday sweep of the Bulls, as Automotion also defeated the Lovabulls in the Dance Team Bracket. The victory assured the Pistons of a better record than the (current ninth seed) Bulls, clinching them a playoff spot ... with 22 games still to play.
[, Detroit News]

In Milwaukee, the Kings played just seven players and came one Ron Artest free throw away from all seven of them scoring in double-figures. Six was enough for the victory over the Bucks, who can't figure out what has been going wrong at home.
[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

At the Toyota Center, Jeff Foster grabbed 10 offensive rebounds (16 total), including some huge boards down the stretch, but the Pacers couldn't get the big basket they needed in the final minute, falling to the Rockets, who lost Tracy McGrady to back troubles early in the second half and trailed by 17 points with four minutes to go in the third. They got 38 points, 10 boards and five blocks from Yao Ming though, and a big fast break bucket from Keith Bogans with 25 seconds left turned out to be the difference.
[Houston Chronicle]

Perhaps the best individual performance of the night came in Utah, where Andrei Kirilenko scored 15 points, grabbed 11 boards, dished out eight assists, blocked eight shots and ripped two steals, leading the Jazz to a three-point win over the T'Wolves. The Jazz made some mistakes down the stretch, but Minnesota missed two game-tying three attempts in the final 15 seconds.
[Salt Lake Tribune]

In the only blowout of the night, Pau Gasol recorded his first career triple-double and Jake Tsakalidis went for 17 and 15 as the Grizzlies won easily in Seattle. Gasol says he was aware of the accomplishment as he found Tsakalidis for a dunk with a few minutes left in the game to reach it.
[Memphis Commercial Appeal]


All of the above pales in comparison to what went on in New Orleans last night.

Professional sports returned to the Crescent City as the Hornets hosted the Lakers at the New Orleans Arena.
[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

It was an important day for P.J. Brown and his family.
[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

Before the game, some of the Hornets, along with a few legends and WNBA stars, took time to help rebuild the city. Meanwhile, Commissioner Stern toured some of the devestated areas and renewed his promise to bring NBA basketball back to New Orleans full-time for the 2007-08 season.
[New Orleans Times-Picayune]

On the floor, the Lakers got 40 points from Kobe Bryant and a 18-point, 17-rebound performance from Lamar Odom to beat the Hornets and tie them for the seventh spot in the West.
[Los Angeles Times]

So let's recap: Two 40-point games, seven more of 30-plus, two triple-doubles, 17 double-doubles, three games that came down to the final shot and a sellout crowd in New Orleans.

You do have League Pass, right?

Posted by By Jeff Dengate on March 6, 2006 8:45 a.m. ET


And the Oscar goes to ... Mark Cuban. No, the Mavericks vocal owner didn't win in the Best Supporting Actor category for his courtside cheerleading, but he was in the running for one of the Academy's Awards of Merit -- well, actually seven.
-- []

Cuban could have jumped from his seat, pumping his fist, like we've seen so many times at NBA arenas around the country, had one of his productions been called out by the likes of Jack Nicholson or the other celebrity presenters. In case you were keeping score at home, Cuban is executive producer of the George Clooney-directed "Good Night, and Good Luck" which was nominated for six Academy Awards (Best Picture; Directing; Actor, Leading; Cinematography; Screenplay; and Art Direction).
-- [ and]

Add to that his Magnolia Pictures production, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room", was up for the Documentary Feature statuette and Cuban could have been a very happy man Sunday night.
-- []

But, by now you've likely seen the clip of Nicholson announcing the final award of the night to "Crash" and noticed he mouthed, "Wow" to his side immediately afterward.

We're guessing that "Wow" didn't come as a reaction to an Oscar-t-shirt-clad Cuban, venting his frustration on the selection folks who shut-out Cuban on the night. Even Cuban wouldn't show up to a black-tie affair in a t-shirt, right? Well, right.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Apparently disappointment was on the menu for Cuban and the Mavericks on this day.

(An aside, if you can call seven Oscar nominations and losing out to the likes of Ang Lee's direction or Philip Seymour Hoffman's performance as Capote a disappointment, then sign me up ... )

While Cuban was being sent home empty handed -- sans a certain eight-and-a-half-pound trophy -- he most likely already knew his Mavericks had dropped their game vs. the Suns.

Now, the two parties must re-group and again focus on a slightly larger prize: The Larry O'Brien trophy.

But, if you thought "Brokeback Mountain" was a nearly impassable obstacle, consider the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns.

Entering the week, the Mavericks were the hottest team in the game, winning 19 of 20 contests and closing the gap between themselves and the Detroit Pistons for the league's top record.

But an age old question was revisited when they dropped both games to last year's Conference Finalists. Can the Mavs get it done come playoff time?
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

And how to do that? Well, start by beating the Spurs in San Antonio, something the Mavs will need to do if they hope to win the best-of-seven, which could come as early as the second round this year.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Should the Mavs get the upper hand in that matchup, they would then possibly meet the Suns, the team that ended their playoff run last season.
-- [Arizona Republic]

I, for one, am hoping to see the above matchups transpire -- in whatever order or rounds. And I'm hoping both series go the full seven. But, unlike last night, Cuban's team will need more than zero wins to get as far as Game 7, which, if in Dallas, don't expect Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman to get an invite.
-- []


While Hollywood's biggest night may have been a label reserved for Sunday's festivities, excuse the Lakers for thinking it was Saturday and getting the party started early. That's because they turned in an outstanding performance, led by Kobe Bryant's 40 points and Lamar Odom's 24-10-5 night, to drop the Pistons.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

So, while the Lakers look on track to return to the playoffs after a one-year absence, the Pistons have to find a way to get rested while also keeping their hold on that all-important homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
-- [Detroit News]


The Oscar and the Larry O'Brien aren't the only gold awards eyed by NBA types these days. Yesterday, USA Basketball announced 23 players charged with returning the United States to the top of the global basketball scene.
-- []

LeBron and Dwyane face-off Sunday on ABC.
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on wearing a tuxedo to Sunday's game instead of his customary Mavs gear:

"I did the tux to the game because I thought it would be different and fun. Had to wear one for the Oscars, so why not for the game? But since we lost, I don't see it happening again."
-- [Dallas Morning News]

2005-06 ARCHIVE
Mar. 3 -- Revenge of the Herds
Feb. 13 -- The Heat is On
Feb. 10 -- Left Out in the Cold
Feb. 3 -- We're Going Streaking!
Jan. 27 -- Trade Winds Blow
Jan. 23 -- Points a Plenty
Jan. 20 -- Give the King a Break
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