â†µPoint Guards Are the Engine of the Future: Okay, the Jazz are â†µstill on fire. Eleven straight and counting. But in the tightly-packed â†µWest, the real news this week was the Hornets, who found out that nothing sets a â†µteam off like trying to trade a key piece. The Tyson Chandler trade â†µgot nixed by OKC's doctors, and Chandler promptly returned playing â†µevery game like it was his last. David West, whose second half has â†µjustified that All-Star appearance, followed a Player of the Week â†µaward with more strong play. And Chris Paul has â†µjust gone nuts. Finally, the team that broke out last year is back â†µand making moves. â†µ
â†µRondo for President: The Celtics beat the Cavs without Kevin â†µGarnett on Friday, making a convincing case for their depth, maturity â†µand poise -- and the likelihood of their surviving this long-simmering â†µstand-off at the top of the East. Then on Sunday, with Rondo and Big â†µBaby on the bench, they were forced to start that rascal Stephon â†µMarbury, and walked away from their home floor with a loss to the team â†µthat, since Jameer Nelson went down, has been seen as a distant third. â†µNo one's blaming Steph, or firing up the Marbury Doomsday Clock, but â†µyet again, it shows how important Rondo is to that team. KG's absence, â†µon the other hand, is probably making Boston stronger. â†µâ†µ
â†µShut Your Mouth; You're Talking About Shaq: You're excused for â†µnot knowing that, even with Nash now back, the Suns have now lost four â†µstraight and are slipping into the lottery. Shaquille O'Neal had a â†µfull-on revival this past week, piling up points in wins against the â†µRaptors and Lakers, then grabbing attention by calling â†µout former coach Stan Van Gundy for saying he'd flopped on Dwight â†µHoward. Van Gundy and Chris Bosh, whom Shaq compared to RuPaul earlier â†µin the week, brushed it off -- not without a little condescension -- but the â†µpress ate it up, and if you squinted, it was just like old times. â†µ
â†µNo, this isn't a fluke. Watch enough of the Bobcats and you'll get â†µused to the Boris Diaw/Emeka Okafor two-man game. Diaw's more â†µcomplete, and aggressive, than he was in that Most Improved season â†µunder D'Antoni -- supposedly the coach whose system made him successful â†µin the first place. And Okafor, while he's not Dwight Howard, is â†µintimidating inside, the perfect match for the versatile Diaw. Worth â†µnoting that Marvin Williams also is coming into his own. â†µâ†µ
â†µ-- Let's force the metaphor one more time: All eyes are on Detroit, as â†µthey count down the halcyon days until Allen Iverson returns and â†µhas to come off the bench. Basketball-wise, there's not much to â†µworry about here; AI will provide instant offense and play in the â†µfourth if he's really on fire. No one knows, though, what will happen â†µwhen one of the league's most charismatic stars is thrust into a â†µsupporting role. Iverson's no Marbury, and will try to be a good â†µsoldier, but the question remains whether he's fundamentally â†µincompatible with Dee-Troit Basketball. â†µâ†µ
â†µ-- Speaking of Iverson's old team, Denver's got to be the most â†µschizophrenic show in town these days. They're still sixth, headed â†µfor the playoffs, and a more cohesive unit than in the past. Chauncey â†µBillups has been everything the Nuggets possibly could've asked for. â†µIt's not even like they're in a slump. But Melo and Karl are â†µfeuding again, a distraction that not only gets in the way of the â†µpresent -- it casts a pall of uncertainty over the future. Anthony's â†µhaving his best overall season as a pro, but is still most valuable as â†µa scorer. J.R. Smith could readily step into that number one option â†µslot, everyone's looking to save money ... could Melo be headed â†µto the Knicks, who have probably given up on Wade or Bron? â†µâ†µ
â†µ-- Ah, continuity: For MVP, it's Wade or Bron. Kobe's in the â†µrunning, technically, but he got one last year. Wade has been â†µabsolutely scintillating as of late, while James has been content â†µmerely to lead a team that's finally back at full-strength (and beat â†µthe Heat twice this past week). Then again, the Heat have a shot at â†µhome court advantage, when few people pegged them as a playoff team â†µheading into 2008-09. And they don't have the likes of Mo Williams to â†µget their superstar's back. Expect LeBron to be rewarded for his â†µteam's success, but it will be a close vote if Wade continues this â†µrun. â†µâ†µ
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