Then & Now: Your Weekly NBA Digest, 2/22

Welcome to Then & Now, where ↵Bethlehem Shoals sums up the week in NBA hoops and tells you what to ↵look for. Find it here every Sunday evening.
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The stars come tumbling down: Al Jefferson and Amare ↵Stoudemire, out for the season. Danny Granger, Kevin Garnett, and Manu Ginobili, down for several weeks. Greg Oden once again ↵in street clothes; it doesn't matter how long he's out for, the jury's ↵getting restless already. Of course it's sad that first-time All-Star ↵Granger has to take a break from his breakout season, or that ↵Jefferson can no longer play for the honor of GM-turned-coach Kevin ↵McHale. The Spurs will miss Manu, but they've got youth and depth at ↵the guard position. But the Celtics without Garnett, that's serious. ↵It could very well cost them home court advantage. ↵
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↵Trades no one believes in: It's funny, a few months ago ↵everyone was stockpiling cap space or expiring deals for a shot at ↵LeBron, Wade, Bosh, or other marquee free agents, the ultimate boom or ↵bust fairy tale. You know, the kind of irrationality we all expect ↵from this most outrageous of pro sports leagues (MLB takes itself too ↵seriously and refuses to play along, despite the steroids). Now, though, this nation's economic woes have hit owners and ↵franchises, and suddenly saving money is about -- gasp -- saving money. ↵Color me disillusioned. ↵
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↵Phoenix returns to scoreboard busting: Since replacing Terry ↵Porter with Alvin Gentry, the Suns are 3-1, having gone over 140 ↵points in all their wins. Yeah, I'd say the old Suns are back. So ↵maybe only one of the wins came without Amare, and Sunday they fell to ↵the KG-less Celtics -- suggesting they're not going to be winning any ↵titles this year. But let's hope that Steve Kerr has learned an ↵important lesson and that as long as Nash anchors the team, running ↵will be a priority. The best sign? Leandro Barbosa has returned from ↵oblivion. ↵
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↵FILM CRITIC: ↵
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↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
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↵LeBron's three-point shot has improved greatly this season. But to be ↵quite honest, top-of-the-key jumpers just never really felt like the ↵real James. That is, until Friday's 55-point explosion against the ↵Bucks, where LBJ hit a slew of outrageous long bombs that were every ↵bit as jaw-dropping, improbable, and superhuman as the rest of his ↵game. He took the three-pointer and made it his, and we may never look ↵at it the same again. ↵
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↵COMING ATTRACTIONS: ↵
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↵-Will Toronto go on a second-half run now that Shawn Marion's come on ↵board, and Andrea Bargnani's secured the starting spot? Will Jermaine ↵O'Neal, the other half of this semi-blockbuster, provide the Heat the ↵big man they need to move up in the East? And what about the Sixers, ↵greatly improved since losing Elton Brand? Couple that with Garnett's ↵injury, and there might be a lot of movement in the Eastern standings ↵these next few weeks. ↵
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↵-Delonte West has been on the shelf since mid-January with a fractured ↵wrist. Cleveland hasn't exactly struggled in his absence, but with him ↵and Williams on the floor, the Cavs instantly become a more versatile, ↵potent, active, and less Bron-centric team. And, in a sharp break with ↵the past, anything but stagnant in the half-court. ↵
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↵-Here's a storyline no one really considered: The "soft" Pau Gasol and ↵"enigmatic" Lamar Odom have a chip on their shoulder because of last ↵year's crushing Finals loss, as well as the good news that Andrew ↵Bynum would fix everything this season. That's why Gasol's an All-Star ↵and Odom, restored to a central role in the wake of Bynum's injury, ↵has taken it upon himself to dig in and single-mindedly crash the ↵boards like he hadn't spent most of his career trying to measure up to outlandish "next Magic" comparisons.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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