The story of the week in the NBA, if perhaps the season, was Knicks' guard Jeremy Lin's remarkable coming out party as the first player ever to average at least 20 points and seven assists in his first four starts.
The upbeat and enthusiastic undrafted kid from Harvard and the D-League who'd been cut twice and would have been back in the D-league or released again if Baron Davis were healthy revived the Knicks and became a sports must see. The story of next week may be whether All-Stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stourdemire — New York media now puts "superstar" in quotes when mentioning their names — who've been out amidst the Lin excitement, can fit in and keep the Knicks winning.
I doubt they can, and this really is a unique chance for the Knicks. They know now after a year they cannot win with Anthony and Stoudemire. But now with a point guard under Mike D'Antoni's pick and roll friendly system, they have the perfect opportunity to become one of the big stories for the rest of the NBA season: Trade Anthony and Tyson Chandler for Dwight Howard.
How could both teams not at this point? Anthony and Stoudemire don't fit together, which has been clear for a year. They're never going to be defenders and, yes, they can try to be unselfish and move the ball, but it's not who they are. More significantly, it's a rare chance to get the game's top big man. No disrespect, but you can get Anthonys. You can't get Howards. Stoudemire is, essentially, untradeable because of his large uninsurable contract because of knee problems. But Howard in the middle and Stoudemire running the pick and roll with Lin and stepping outside to create room for Howard gives the Knicks a sort of big three to compete. They have seen their three of Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler doesn't work.
There's two other points: Would the Magic do it and would Howard come to the Knicks? The latter seems easy. He wants to be in New York. Why go to the Nets and Brooklyn? New York is the Knicks. Plus, Stoudemire, Lin and what the Knicks have is a better chance to win than Deron Williams and whatever. Plus, it's New York City, did I mention.
As for the Magic, they'll never get a better deal. Howard doesn't seem to want to go to the Lakers. But even if he did, so what if you get Andrew Bynum. Compared with Chandler and Anthony. Brook Lopez from the Nets? C'mon. I assume there'd be some other pieces involved. You figure the Knicks would take some salary. I don't think you could sell them on Hedo Turkoglu. But maybe Jason Richardson, who'd be a nice addition for that group. Maybe Orlando takes back Landry Fields and Tony Douglas or some combinations to make the money work. They can insist on Iman Shumpert. With Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis, the Magic have a star and a team that could do something. If Howard is leaving, it's difficult to see how they could do better.
Nothing is likely to occur until after All-Star break as the Magic remain convinced they have a shot to keep Howard. And if they can they will and should. But if they cannot it's a trade that makes sense all around. And how sweet would that be and how good for the NBA for one of these stars who blackmailed his team to end up on the end of a trade he never imagined. Better watch out what you wish for. Maybe it won't end up the way you like. If the Knicks had a chance to get Howard or Anthony a year ago, who would they have chosen? So if they have a chance for Howard now how could they pass it by?
Boston’s Rivers compares Deng to Garnett
-- It wasn't an All-Star effort from Luol Deng Sunday with 10 points, one in the first half, on three of 12 shooting. Deng, though, seemed just relieved to be back playing after his torn wrist ligament. He was wearing a new wrap, but said he was fine and there was nothing more wrong with his left wrist. "I'm all right," Deng said afterward. "If I'm playing I'm fine. I did not shoot the ball well. I'm never really worried about that. Maybe early in my career. But there are a lot of things I can do out there to help the team," and Deng's defense on Paul Pierce helped hold Pierce to nine points on four of 10 shooting. And Boston coach Doc Rivers noticed and he says others are as well. "They have another All-Star on that team. I'm glad Deng made (the All-Star team). I've always thought Deng was an All-Star. I think he's Kevin Garnett in a lot of ways. He's an All-Star when he has to be. But he has no problem taking a back seat if other guys have it going. There are not a lot of players like that. He's one." ... Former Bull James Johnson has been having some nice moments lately, particularly developing a reputation as one of the better perimeter defenders. He blocked Nick Young at the buzzer with the Wizards isolating for a game winning shot, and Friday made Paul Pierce look bad and added 14 points and seven rebounds in a Raptors' upset. ... Rivers likened Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to New England Patriots coach Bill Belechick in suggesting why it took Thibodeau so long to be recognized. "He's worked on coaching and personality, working with people," Rivers said. "Thibs is a great guy, but you don't see that. I think his players see that. That's part of the reason (he is so successful). That's (also) part of the reason he wasn't hired. They thought this guy doesn't get along with anyone. Thibs just works and expects everyone to work as hard as him, which is impossible. Around him, he's a terrific person. Belechick is maybe similar to that. Away from it (he's fun). His players see that. All that really matters is to get your players to buy in and he does that." Thibodeau remains one Bulls win or Miami loss away from coaching the Eastern All-Stars in Orlando. The deadline is after the games Wednesday.
Luck is often a lot better than brains…
-- Rivers Sunday also told a classic "what if" story regarding Thibodeau. It's not unlike Phil Jackson's story that shows you luck is often a lot better than brains. Jackson tried hard to get the Timberwolves expansion coaching job because he was despairing after so many years of being rejected of ever getting an NBA job. Fellow former CBA coach Bill Musselman got the job and Jackson dejectedly stayed as assistant with the Bulls. And we know the rest of the story. Rivers recalled sitting with Thibodeau in the playoffs in 2009 as Thibodeau was contemplating finally getting a head coaching job. "He had two jobs," said Rivers. "He was leaning toward the other. I grabbed him by the shoulders and said, 'Are you kidding me? You have a chance to coach Derrick Rose and you're considering another job? Are you freaking nuts?' We laugh about it now. They offered him a longer deal, more (money). I literally said, 'A penny to go there (Chicago) and $10 million to the other place? I'm going with the penny.' In the long run, you'd be allowed to coach because you'd win which allows you to coach more. He made a great choice." That "other" team was, as we know, the New Orleans Hornets, who though they had Chris Paul, they were in financial and ownership confusion. And Paul had given every indication his time there was limited. But here's the other parts of the story. There actually was a third job. The Nets quietly were making overtures to Thibodeau. But it was coming from Rod Thorn, and indications were Thorn would not be rehired. So that made it difficult to consider. And the deal with the Bulls wasn't finalized. The Bulls were still in the process of finishing analysis and interviews. So Thibodeau really showed his interest in the Bulls and faith in himself. Without a guarantee from the Bulls, he rejected the other jobs. And he was coach of the year and now needs one win to be All-Star coach. Which wasn't much likely in New Orleans or New Jersey. So who would Jackson have been in Minnesota? Who would Thibodeau have been in New Orleans? But who would the Bulls have been without both of them?
NBA news and notes
-- Remember Flip Murray, who came to the Bulls as part of the Tyrus Thomas trade? The second round pick from Shaw University opened the 2003-04 season for injured Ray Allen in Seattle and scored at least 20 points in 10 of 11 games. Not to say that is the fate of Jeremy Lin, but defenses do adjust. It's big news. Would it be if it were going on in Seattle? Well, Oklahoma City. Like they say about New York, there are two definitions of a dynasty: When a family in China rules for 1,000 years or a New York team wins three games in a row. ... The Lin story has caught the attention, obviously, of players as well and Bulls players were having a debate after the Bobcats game about whether Lin was more successful because the teams the Knicks had played were so called "show" teams on the pick and roll, which can be easier to split or beat. But a few players were checking their phones for his updated game stats as they left the arena. ... I saw where Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) was giving some humorous advice to Lin, though you know the Lakers aren't laughing. Artest may have fallen as far as any player in the league. His defense is poor and he's shooting 31 percent and 16 percent on threes. ... Tough break for Keith Bogans, whose career is probably done with a serious ligament tear and fractured ankle. ... The Pacers have cooled some, but Roy Hibbert wants to keep that potential rivalry with the Bulls hot, telling NBA-TV: "(Derrick) Rose is a great player, but that was our night (winning in Chicago and celebrating some). I don't understand why he would want to take that away from us. He wants to play us again. We can't wait to play, too."
-- Dwight Howard officially continues to go nuts. After the Magic came back to win in Milwaukee Saturday by scoring in 12 of their last 14 possessions, Howard complained to reporters he doesn't get the ball enough down the stretch. Howard is shooting 49 percent on free throws. Yes, watch out what you wish for. You might get him. ... I'm even starting to feel sorry for LeBron James for last week's stupid controversy of the week when ESPN twisted Larry Bird's comments into criticisms of James and everyone promoted overrated Kendrick Perkins condemnations of James' innocent twittering of Blake Griffin's dunk. I thought James was funny when in his bit of self flagellation said even when there's no milk at the store he gets blamed. But with so many prima donnas around, James always makes himself available to media in a conversational way. There certainly are many more difficult for him to be treated as he is so often. Though he does preen a little much. NBC, I heard, is thinking of using him to replace their old peacock logo. Now, see, it even gets to me. ... Miami's so called closer lineup with their big three, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller is probably what teams will see in the playoffs and better prepare for that.
-- They're counting down the record for worst ever in Charlotte this season, though they can't lose 73 games like Philadelphia. The Bulls don't get their unprotected first until 2016 from the Tyrus Thomas deal. Thomas, by the way, looks like he's on Eddy Curry's diet. Apparently, they don't have a weight room in Charlotte, either. ... The Ft. Wayne D-League team let Joey Meyer go and hired Christian Laettner. So you can't learn much in that league anymore, I'd say. ... The Spurs were 15-7 when Manu Ginobili was out and four years after they were too old you just can't get rid of them ... The Hornets are awful, we know. But they would have been worse, certainly in the long run, contrary to conventional short term wisdom, if the league had not rejected that first trade. Kevin Martin Sunday had his first double figure game in his last five and is shooting well below career averages, Luis Scola is at a career low in shooting and averaging a paltry 5.7 rebounds, and Lamar Odom is a mess with career lows across the board. And all have large long term contracts. Yes, the Hornets would have been marginally better. But still not a playoff team and doomed for years to come. At least they have Eric Gordon and a possible trade (Pacers for Danny Granger most speculated) and draft picks and eventual cap room. It's a lot better than where they would have been even if they have to suffer through this season.
-- It looks like Kevin McHale did a nice job of building the Timberwolves before he left with the draft day deal of O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love and drafting Nikola Pekovic, who is making everyone forget Darko Milicic. OK, but Pekovic play like bull, averaging 16.7 points and 10.1 rebounds in February. ... We know Russell Westbrook loves to look off Kevin Durant when Durant has a lot of shots, but it is getting more difficult to see how the Thunder in big games can overcome Westbrook's turnovers. He's had at least five in eight of the last 10 games, at least seven in seven games this season and averaging more than four per game against just over five assists. The minimum ratio for a productive point guard is considered 2.5 to 1 assists to turnovers. There's been talk the Thunder should even play James Harden at point as the loss of Eric Maynor has hurt. The Thunder's assist/turnover ratio is worse than all but the Kings, who are not allowed to pass the ball. ... Do you suppose John Havlicek, formerly a sixth man, ever would have tweeted? Minnesota rookie Derrick Williams expressed his disfavor about playing time, writing on twitter: "Anybody ever felt like a caged lion? I just want to get out there and play a little more. ... everybody does, but I can't do anything about it." They seem like twitches, but that's why old timers always are shaking their heads. ... The Trail Blazers continue to be undermined by brutal guard play with Jamal Crawford shooting 38 percent and 32 on threes, Wesley Matthews 41 percent and Ray Felton 37 percent and 20 percent on three. ... Also not helping the cause has been Devin Harris in Utah, averaging 9.1 with shooting down in every category. And he couldn't shoot before. And nine point guards have scored at least 25 against the Jazz ... It was a year ago Jerry Sloan resigned, and talk about your loyalty, his assistant Phil Johnson, who turned down head jobs to stay with Sloan, left with him despite being offered the job to succeed him. Johnson is doing some TV work for the Jazz, but told the Salt Lake Tribune he's also had some time to do things he wanted, like taking skiing lessons. Sometimes, though, that's having too much time. ... Steve Nash becomes the oldest point guard to ever play in an All-Star game.