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SECAUCUS, N.J., March 3, 2007-- If Dr. Frankenstein was looking to create an updated monster for the new millennium, the last place he would look for body parts is the NBA this season.

Between Wally Szczerbiak's left ankle, Theo Ratliff's lower back, Sean May's right knee, Nenad Krstic's ACL, LeBron James' thumb, Allen Iverson's hip, Stephen Jackson's toe, Jason Richardson's right hand, Yao Ming's right leg, Troy Murphy's nose, Sam Cassell's groin, Pau Gasol's left foot, Shaun Livingston's left knee cap and Dwyane Wade's left shoulder you'd be talking about a pretty decrepit creation.

Hell, the league has been so unlucky when it comes to injuries this year that I'm surprised I haven't come down with a case of tendonitis or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from just typing about the damn thing.

Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Indiana, Washington and Toronto are waiting with baited breath for Wade to make his decision to shut it down and get surgery or rehab for a stretch run with the defending champs.

With no Wade, the East is pretty wide open. Detroit is the favorite, as they're 14-6 since picking up Chris Webber, but they've dropped two games to Indy, two to Agent Zero & Co., split a pair with the Bulls and got smacked around by Shaq last night in an 85-82 loss to Miami.

Out West the Mavericks look unstoppable, but what happens when Yao is patched up and rejoins the steady Rockets?

Then again, the way things are going so far this year, Dirk could break his arm and Chauncey could fracture his leg by the time the playoffs start and we'll be looking at a totally new scenario.

And now, these are the 10 things I learned this week ...

1. Not quite, LeBron

It was his best offensive game of the season, playing against the best team in the league, but why did LeBron James' game against the Mavericks on Thursday leave me with a bad taste in my mouth?

LBJ hit season highs in points (39) and field goals made (17) and the Cavs had the Mavs' 14-game winning streak on the ropes, but LeBron couldn't seal the deal.

James went 4-for-8 from the foul line, including two late misses, and blanked on two potential game-tying 3-pointers on the game's final possession to seal Cleveland's fate in the 95-92 road loss.

Worse yet, James came up empty in yet another nationally televised game which doesn't bode well for the Cavs in the playoffs when every game will receive national attention and scrutiny.

2. Are the Knicks a playoff team?

The standings have New York just 2.5 games out of the eighth playoff spot in the East, and even without Jamal Crawford who is out for the season because of a stress fracture in his right ankle (there's that injury bug again!) the Knicks have the talent with Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and David Lee to make a push for the postseason.

But they can't seem to turn the corner.

Look at their last eight games: Beat the Lakers, lose to the Warriors, beat the Magic, lose to the Sixers, beat the Bucks, lose to the Nets, beat the Heat, lose to the Celtics.

If the Knicks can find some consistency, and beat the teams they're supposed to beat, then the postseason is a definitely a possibility. New York starts off March with Golden State, Atlanta and Seattle. If they can win those three they will be right back in the playoff hunt.

3. Big Ben returns to Detroit

Just three days after putting up an absolute beast of a game against Cleveland (14 points, 19 rebounds, seven blocks), Ben Wallace suited up in the visitors locker room at The Palace at Auburn Hills, and hoped to replicate some of that production against his former team.

Wallace had a decent all-around game, (six points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks), but the Bulls lost 95-93 thanks to a tip in at the buzzer by his eventual replacement in the middle, Chris Webber.

What a way to lose. That's like going to visit your ex-girlfriend's house for a weekend and have to witness her current boyfriend save the family cat from a tree and become the hero in front of everybody.

4. OK, Chris Bosh gets a mention. Happy?

This is for all of you last week who took umbrage with me calling Melo, LeBron and D-Wade "The New Testament" without including Chris Bosh in the mix.

Chris Bosh is a good player. He is a very good player. He may one day become a great player. But, Bosh doesn't have the personality, nor the versatility, nor the kinship that those three guys share. That isn't a dig at Bosh. He is an excellent player within his own right.

Bosh averages 22.9 points and 10.7 rebounds and is the central cog for Toronto, one of the most balanced teams in the league.

That said, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are constantly paired together as two contemporary actors at the top of their craft. Just because Dustin Hoffman, a peer, isn't associated with them as a trio, doesn't mean that Hoffman is any less of an actor.

5. What happened to Orlando?

Maybe this team just got anointed a contender too soon. But you can't blame us, the media. I mean, they had a legit point guard in Jameer Nelson, a healthy Grant Hill providing that veteran voice and experience, and of course Mr. Man Child himself, Dwight Howard.

Add in the fact that the Magic ended last season winning 12 of their last 15 games and started this season winning 13 of their first 17 games, and it looked like there was a new force to be reckoned with in the East.

The team that is going out on the floor these days is a far cry from the promising squad we saw several months ago. Orlando is 28-32 overall, 16-20 in conference, 10-20 on the road and has won just three of its last 10 games. Not to mention they lost a back-to-back to freaking Atlanta in late January. They just don't look like a playoff team.

6. Alexander Johnson gets sent down

Just about two months ago, on Jan. 9, Alexander Johnson got the start at power forward for the Grizzlies and chipped in 10 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes and Memphis upset the Lakers 128-118.

The 6-9, 240 pound rookie out of Florida State started 19 games for the Grizz, but on Thursday was sent down to the Arkansas RimRockers in the D-League.

The D-League should be good for Johnson to get some more minutes and develop some post moves, but can you imagine being Johnson and have a college buddy call you for tickets?

Friend: "Alex, I saw you doing your thing last week on TNT. Me and a couple of your boys are coming down to Memphis next weekend; can you get us some tickets?"

... (pause, awkward silence) ...

Johnson: "I'm not a Grizzly. I'm a RimRocker."

... (click) ...

7. Amare watch

The chances of Amare Stoudemire coming back to be as dominant force as he was before reconstructive surgery on both knees were about as slim as a 50-something year old Samuel L. Jackson coming out with movies in back-to-back years with the word "snake" in the titles.

Um...wait a second...

If Sam can do that, it shouldn't be a surprise that STAT is averaging 20.8 points and 9.9 rebounds and is coming off the month of February where he averaged 28.5 and 13.2 including huge games of 24 and 23 on Feb. 1 and 43 and 16 on Feb. 25.

Yes, the Mavs look like the favorites to win it all, but if Amare is playing at this high of a level over a seven-game series, how can you not like Phoenix's chances?

8. Reggie and Scottie curtain call

I was at the Nets-Wizards game on Tuesday to see what was grilling on the hibachi (truth be told, my appetite wasn't satiated after seeing Gil go 7-for-25), but the buzz amongst some of the writers and reporters before the game was about two guys in their 40s.

Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller are both rumored to be on the comeback trail.

Pippen has been out in the open about it, the 41-year old former six-time champion with the Bulls used All-Star Weekened in Las Vegas as a stage to announce his desire to return to the Association.

Meanwhile, there was speculation that Miller would lace 'em up again for a title run with the Mavericks, but owner Mark Cuban shot down the notion on Wednesday.

Just for kicks, I approached Mark Jackson who was working the Nets game on Tuesday, to ask him about the two old-heads playing again. Jackson was a teammate of Miller's for four years in Indiana and was a competitor of Pippen's his whole career.

He told me I'd have to ask Scottie or Reggie about their intentions but said (I'm paraphrasing), "I don't get the itch to come back. Those two guys are tremendous athletes though, and I'm sure they would do great if they did suit up again."

9. Deke still getting it done

Back on Jan. 13, I pointed out (well, more like waved my finger at the fact) that Dikembe Mutombo is experiencing a rebirth this season.

On Friday, Mutombo's renaissance produced another masterpiece.

Deke pulled down 22 rebounds in the Rockets' 108-97 win over the Nuggets. It was the first time in NBA history that a player older than 40 years old grabbed 20 boards or more in a single game.

"The old man can still rebound,'' Mutombo said after the game.

Ahhh, and it's refreshing to know that the old man can still unabashedly refer to himself in the third person.

10. Nash's percentages

Steve Nash is shooting 57 percent on two-point field goals, 48 percent on 3-pointers and 53 percent overall.

Those numbers are unheard of for a 6-3 point guard. Nash joins Ruben Patterson (6-5) and Tony Parker (6-2) as the only qualfied players under 6-6 shooting better than 50 percent from the field.

Have a question or comment for The McTen or care to share what you learned this week? Send an e-mail.