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Tag:Suns
Posted on: May 28, 2010 6:35 pm
Edited on: May 28, 2010 6:42 pm
 

Pieces in place for Lakers-Suns chess match

PHOENIX -- The last time Kobe Bryant walked out of U.S. Airways Center, he was “jovial” – which is to say, he was spitting mad. The Lakers’ defense had faltered badly in Game 4, and Bryant was none too pleased that such a lapse would come at a crucial time in the Lakers’ championship defense.

So he fumed in the postgame interview room, railing stone-faced about how the Lakers had lost their defensive urgency and how they needed to get it back – and fast. The defending champs had succumbed to a barrage of 11 3-pointers, 49 percent shooting and 18 offensive rebounds in losing Game 4 115-106.

There was another defensive lapse in the second half of Game 5 at Staples Center – or “lapses,” as Bryant called them – when the Suns erased an 18-point deficit in the third quarter and an 11-point deficit in the fourth. Everyone will remember the chaotic, improbable finish, with Ron Artest catching, landing, and shooting the game-winner at the buzzer off Bryant’s air ball. But the other 47 minutes, 56.5 seconds of Game 5 provided a lot more clues as to how Game 6 might turn out Saturday night in Phoenix.

The Lakers did a much better job handling the Suns’ 2-3 zone, despite the fact that their shooting percentage declined from 50 percent in Game 4 to 42 percent in Game 5. They did it with dribble-penetration and ball-reversal, which made it easier to get the ball into the post, where Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom either kicked it out of the collapsing zone, worked their hi-lo interior passing Magic, or went to the basket. The Lakers’ triangle offense still wasn’t nearly as crisp against the zone, but it was more efficient than it had been since Suns coach Alvin Gentry adopted the strategy early in Game 3.

But Bryant had made it clear after Game 4 that he didn’t want the focus on offense, “which doesn’t win championships.” That’s why it’s worth noting a key tactical shift for the Lakers’ defense, and a greater commitment to rebounding and running the Suns off 3-point shots – with Bryant himself, unsurprisingly, leading the charge.

The Lakers’ defensive effort, the kind prescribed by Bryant after Game 4, began showing up midway through the third quarter as the Suns were trying to cut the deficit into single digits. Artest, who later would go from goat to hero in a matter of seconds, blocked Amar’e Stoudemire’s shot and then stole the ball from Steve Nash leading to his own layup that made it 67-51 Lakers with 6:13 left in the quarter. The teams exchanged baskets for the next two minutes, a breakneck pace the Lakers want to avoid, when Bryant put a stop to it himself.

Stoudemire, seeing a different look with the Lakers switching on pick-and-rolls, lost the ball out of bounds for his fourth turnover. On the Suns’ next trip, Bryant soared in the lane and blocked Stoudemire’s shot – a statement play from the “jovial” Bryant, who got his third block of the night. It was 73-56 Lakers, but they couldn’t sustain the defensive effort – sure to be a point of emphasis in Game 6.

“We had a mental lapse,” Bryant said. “Mental lapses – transition defense and giving up 3-point shots and great looks. But the defense had been steady pretty much all night, except for that spurt when we enabled them to get back into it.”

There were more statements from Bryant, who aggressively closed out on Jared Dudley at the 3-point line and forced him instead into an off-balance runner that he missed with the Lakers leading 83-72 early in the fourth. After the Suns cut it to 88-83, Bryant got his fourth block, this time on Goran Dragic, and grabbed the defensive rebound with 6:24 left.

“Defensively we were terrific,” Bryant said. “We did a great job. We had a stretch where we enabled them to get back in the game, but for the most part we did a good job.”

Despite the way it ended for the Suns, Game 5 was the first time in the series that the road team dictated its tempo and style. The Lakers survived with a little luck, with consistent – if not always effective – effort on the defensive end, and with Artest showing far better instincts on the last play than he’d shown moments earlier when he launched an ill-advised 3-pointer when the right play was to run out the clock and wait for the Suns to foul.

Despite the shift in venue, expect a carbon copy of Game 5 Saturday – without the ending, of course. For five games, the Suns and Lakers have felt each other out, and now it’s clear how they’re going to attack each other and try to stop each other.

“We know what they want to do now,” Stoudemire said. “They’re going to switch the screen-rolls and try to take me out the game. We still need Steve to be aggressive.”

By switching on pick-and-rolls, thus doubling Stoudemire and leaving a big man on Nash, the Lakers turned the Suns’ prolific passer into more of a scorer in Game 5. Nash was up to the task, ripping off one difficult and clutch shot after another in the closing minutes. Nash will be a scorer if he needs to be, but the Suns can counter the Lakers’ strategy by simply setting another screen for Nash and forcing the Lakers to make another decision. If there’s an open man to be found, Nash will find him. And as is always the case with the Suns, if they shoot the ball at a high percentage, they usually win.

“Whatever they throw at us, I think there’s something we can do to use our abilities,” Nash said. “They had a big guy on me. I tried to be aggressive, and the next game I’ll do the same. Or if they change it, we’ll go to whatever else they’re giving up.”

Before he’d even left the arena Thursday night, Nash was already moving pieces around on the chess board in his mind. And you can bet that Bryant, albeit more quietly this time, was doing the same thing.
Posted on: May 26, 2010 8:46 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2010 10:07 pm
 

Buss mum on Phil; doesn't want 'distraction'

LOS ANGELES -- None other than Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss was on my flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles Wednesday, and as we walked through the concourse at LAX, I explained that I'd be derelict in my duties if I didn't ask him for his reaction to the latest developments in the Phil Jackson saga.

"We'd both be derelict if I answered that question," Buss said. "I'm not going to talk about it because I don't want any distractions for the team."

Of course, by allowing Jackson's contractual uncertainty to linger throughout the Western Conference finals, Buss and Jackson have indirectly fueled  the distraction themselves. With rumors swirling about teams coming after Jackson, and with Jackson unwilling to shut the whole thing down simply by saying he's either coaching the Lakers or retiring next season, the distraction grows bigger and bigger.

I asked Buss if he could say definitively that he would not be outbid for Jackson's services, and he refused to answer that question, too. He wouldn't commit to a timetable for addressing the Jackson matter publicly, nor would he say when he expects to resolve the matter with Phil himself.

As for the conference finals, which resume at Staples Center Thursday night with the series tied at 2, Buss said, "I'm confident," noting that the Lakers have been in this situation "many times."









Category: NBA
Posted on: May 24, 2010 6:14 pm
 

Channing Frye: Mr. Sensitive

PHOENIX – Channing Frye moved around the 3-point line, draining shots from every spot on the floor. No, it wasn’t a dream. Just practice.

But still …

Frye then strolled over to a crowd of reporters waiting to discuss with him one of the most obvious storylines in the Western Conference finals – his incredible 1-for-20 shooting slump, punctuated by 17 consecutive misses. But instead of talking about how he’s going to shoot better in Game 4, Frye went with the defensive approach instead – lecturing the media and urging them to go find a better story.

No thanks, Channing. This one will do just fine.

“You know what guys, to be honest I’m kind of disappointed,” Frye said. “First you said we couldn’t beat them and now you’re talking about a lot of negativity. I think we need to look at how well Robin [Lopez] is playing, how well Amar’e [Stoudemire] is playing. My baskets – yeah, they would’ve helped. Yeah, I haven’t been shooting very well. But I feel like I’m doing other things better, helping out defensively and getting as many boards as I can. So for you guys to talk about me shooting, that’s kind of – there’s better stories to write about than me shooting.”

With all due respect, that’s for me to decide. Your job is to make shots.

Now I say this with all the requisite disappointment and astonishment that I felt as Frye kept going farther down this road in a hyper-sensitive rant Monday after practice. I know Frye as one of the most thoughtful, approachable players in the NBA – one of the nicest guys you could ever present with a question and a digital recorder.

But to ask for positive coverage in the midst of an epic shooting slump – one the Suns won’t recover from if Frye doesn’t snap out of it – was a little much. I could go back and watch video of the one shot he’s made in the series and write positive things about that, but it was so long ago it might have been purged from the YouTube archives by now.

“I think you guys make a bigger deal out of it than I do,” Frye said. “Shots just aren’t going in. All of them are good shots. I’m shooting them the same way and they’re just not going in. … Like I said before, it’s not a story or anything to write about. It’s kind of frustrating that we win a game and you guys talk about something negative again. So for us and for me personally, I just need to continue focusing on what the team wants and focus on what’s really important and that’s playing defense and getting boards.”

I tried to help Frye out by putting a positive spin on my question: The uproar over his slump stems from the fact that he was so good during the regular season – making 172 3-pointers after making only 20 in the first four years of his career – that it’s obvious Phoenix needs him to shoot better to have a chance to beat the defending champion Lakers.

“I totally understand that,” Frye said. “I like that question. You know what, I like that. Yeah, we need to hit shots – not just for me but for everybody else. I don’t think we’ve been shooting particularly well. It’s just one of those things.”

That’s one way to look at it. Another way is this: Subtract Frye’s 1-for-20 shooting, and the rest of the Suns are shooting 52 percent in the series (117-for-224).

There’s no question shooting a basketball is mental, and Frye is stuck in a mental rut as much as anything. He said he studied video of his shots, and didn’t see anything mechanical going wrong. It’s not for lack of practice, either. Frye told me earlier in the season that he held marathon shooting sessions last offseason that transformed him from the so-so mid-range shooter that the Suns thought they were getting into a 3-point threat who became a major part of Phoenix’s 54-win season and surprising journey to the conference finals.

“As shooters, we’re kind of emotional like that, sensitive about stuff like that,” teammate Jason Richardson said. “You don’t really want to say too many things to him. You kind of want to help him get out of his own funk and at the same time don’t put any added pressure on him. He knows there’s pressure on him with you guys talking about his shooting percentage. We’re still confident in him, and every time he’s open we want him to shoot the ball. That’s what he does best and that’s what made him successful on the court.”

As for coach Alvin Gentry, he still believes in Frye and won’t hesitate to use him in Game 4 Tuesday night.

“He’s a great shooter and he’s had a great year for us,” Gentry said. “He’s going through a tough time right now, but we still believe in him and that’s why I still play him. That’s what I told him: ‘You should just go out there and just shoot it and not worry about it. They’re not gonna get on your __, they’re gonna get on my __. And I don’t really care.’ I’m going to try to use him because I think he’s an important guy to our team. We’re not about to give up on him.”

Even though Frye is 1-for-14 on 3-pointers in the series, he isn’t the only culprit. In a way, it’s amazing that the Suns are still in the series given that only Richardson (10-for-20) and Jared Dudley (6-for-12) have hit more than one 3-pointer in three games. Take out Dudley’s numbers, and the Suns’ reserves are 2-for-24 on 3-point attempts in the series.

Alas, all of this was too negative for Frye’s taste.

“Why don’t we focus on what we’ve done?” Frye said. “We were down 0-2 – a lot of negativity, a lot of guys saying we’re going to get swept and we can’t compete with them. And we come out and play a great game and now we’re talking about me not being able to shoot well. I think it’s such a small part of the game. I don’t think we should focus on this. And now I’m getting upset, and I usually never get upset. But we played so hard and everybody left their heart out on the court and we’re just going to talk about something little like this. It’s something I’m kind of amazed about. I think we should focus on some of the good stuff.”

In the end, that’s what Frye did, predicting that his slump will be coming to an end in Game 4. From the Suns’ perspective, it better.

“That’s the funny thing about basketball,” he said. “You can shoot it today and it doesn’t go in, and you can shoot it tomorrow and it does. It’ going to go in tomorrow, I can tell you that. It’s going to go in tomorrow.”

Category: NBA
Posted on: May 24, 2010 5:27 pm
 

Somebody get Nash a helmet

PHOENIX – Having completed his media obligations outside the Suns’ practice court Monday, Steve Nash took a couple of steps and the horde of reporters and cameramen parted like the Red Sea. When this guy goes into a crowd, blood can never be far behind.

Sporting a fractured nose that he noted is “nicely curved,” Nash was on his way to have what the team described as a “minor procedure” to put it back into place. Easy for them to say. Nash is accustomed to all kinds of procedures, and has even been known to perform impromptu surgery on himself – as he did Sunday night after a collision with the LakersDerek Fisher knocked his nose out of kilter.

Thankfully for all involved, there was no blood this time.

“I think he just needs to put on, not just the mask that Rip Hamilton wears, but like a whole helmet or something like that over his whole face,” teammate Jason Richardson said after practice. “You watch the play over and over again and you’re like, ‘What happened?’ And then you see that his nose is on one side of his face. And he’s there adjusting his own nose, and I’m like, ‘Ah, man, come on.’ But that’s Steve Nash, man. He’s used to stuff like that. He gets hit in the face all the time.”

Death, taxes, and a bloody and/or battered Nash in the playoffs. These are the things we can count on every spring.

There was the infamous bloody beak that caused him to miss the final crucial seconds of a loss to the Spurs in Game 1 of their 2007 playoff series … the hip check into the scorer’s table from Robert Horry that got Amar’e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw suspended for leaving the bench later in the same series … Tim Duncan’s elbow turning his eye into a swollen, bloody mess in Phoenix’s second-round sweep of the Spurs this year … and now this.

“I’m lucky,” Nash said. “I’ve had a couple bumps or bruises that haven’t affected my play. Those don’t bother you. It’s the ones that limit you that you hope you don't have to face.”

Luck? What kind?

“I think it’s just bad luck,” Richardson said. “Bad luck and bad timing.”

Nash, who quietly helped the Suns climb back into the Western Conference finals with a 118-109 victory Sunday night that cut the Lakers’ advantage to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series, will not wear any sort of protective gear in Game 4 Tuesday night in Phoenix. The Spurs’ Manu Ginobili tried a plastic mask after breaking his nose this postseason, then switched to good old-fashioned tape. He was never the same after the injury.

“This guy’s gone through a lot of stuff the last two or three years in the playoffs,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Nash. “I don't think it’s going to bother him. “On second thought, Ginobili, it really curtailed his game. I thought his game really tailed off after the broken nose, so it’s probably an individual thing.”

Nash presumably has been hit in the head enough to understand how to work around it. As a Canadian, he perfectly embodies the kind of toughness that his homeland’s national sport requires.

“That’s what the hockey guys do, man,” Richardson said. “Get your teeth knocked out, get your nose broke, get five or six stitches on your eyeball and you still play. He’s a tough guy and he’s going to play through stuff like that. I know in the back of his mind he’s like, ‘Why are people getting in my face?’ But he’s fine.”

Through the first three games of the conference finals, Nash has been even more of a facilitator than usual. He’s attempted only 28 field goals in 102 minutes on the floor, shooting 50 percent – but only 1-for-6 from 3-point range after making 124 treys in the regular season.

“Sure, I’d love to get 15 or 20 shots up, but my job in this offense is to read the defense,” Nash said. “That’s really our offense – pick and roll and I read the defense and try to make the defense pay for how they decide to play us. At different times in this series, a lot of people have benefited. I have a lot of faith in my teammates, and that’s the way we play.

“We don’t really play a game where we say, ‘Steve’s not getting enough shots, let’s go to offense B,’” Nash said. “That’s just not the way we play.”

Clearly, Nash only knows one way to play: hard-nosed. Even if that nose doesn’t always stay in the same place.
Posted on: May 23, 2010 8:14 pm
 

Phil, Gentry relaxed before Game 3

PHOENIX -- In the coaches' pre-game news conferences Sunday night -- also known as night at the improv -- Phil Jackson and Alvin Gentry revealed little in the way of strategic clues for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. That's OK. Jokes are better anyway.

For our opening act, we had Jackson, who was asked about center Andrew Bynum's comments Saturday in which he spoke about looking forward to playing the Celtics.

"It was a moment, what we call a brain fart in our business," Jackson said, suggesting that the swelling in Bynum's knee had spread to his brain. "He wasn't thinking very clearly right there."

As for his contract status, Jackson was asked if he'd noticed a column by Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times suggesting that the Lakers should pay Jackson whatever it takes to keep him next season. He also was asked to respond to a tweet from his girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, who wrote about Jackson making her lasagna and called hiim "a keeper" -- which some construed as a bit of subtle lobbying for her father, Dr. Jerry Buss, to pay her man.

"She should," Jackson said. "But it's her dad who I really have to please."

Next up, Gentry, who said his team was in good spirits facing a must-win game on its home court after falling behind 2-0 in L.A.

"I do think they've played about as well as they can play," Gentry said. "I sure as hell hope so, anyway."

No team has come back from a 3-0 deficit since the NBA's best-of-7 playoff format.

"If something happens and we don't win the game," Gentry said, "we know we're in deep, deep trouble."

The Lakers lost Games 3 and 4 at Oklahoma City in the first round, and also struggled to close out the Rockets in the conference semifinals last season. The tendency to ease off the pedal when the going is good is something that Jackson is aware of, but hasn't seemed overly concerned about since the Lakers took a 2-0 lead Wednesday night.

"We've grown significantly as a basketball  club," said Jackson, insisting that Bynum was the only one looking ahead to the Celtics. "... We're not thinking that. If you do, you're going to wind up right back here playing them [in Game 6]. There's no doubt this team is a great team on their home court."


Posted on: May 20, 2010 5:42 pm
 

Old and slow? Maybe, but Fisher can still defend

LOS ANGELES – For three playoff series, Derek Fisher has heard about how he’s the weak link in the Lakers’ title defense. There was no way he could keep up with Russell Westbrook’s quickness, hold up against Deron Williams’ size, or stifle Steve Nash’s creativity.

“They say he’s old and slow,” noted philosopher and defensive guru Ron Artest said. “I just don’t see it.”

Nobody else does, either. And no, your eyes have not deceived you. Here are the Lakers, two wins away from a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals – and they’ve gotten here not despite Fisher, but in large part because of him.

“I guess I’m smart enough to know that if we win, it doesn’t really matter,” Fisher said. “I guess for some guys it’s harder to not take things personally and try to be who they aren’t when the goal is really to help your team advance. And when you do that, the individual things kind of mean less. I’ve said it before: I’ve never seen anything on the side of any one of my rings that says anything about points per game, percentages per game, who had the most assists, who had the most steals. It’s just a ring. It has your name on it and the team and the organization and that’s it. That’s pretty much all that matters to me.”

No, Fisher, 35, hasn’t done it all by himself against the murderer’s row of point guards the Lakers are toppling on their way to the Finals. After Westbrook sliced through the Lakers’ defense in victories at Oklahoma City in Games 3 and 4 of the first round, Kobe Bryant raised his hand after a video session and said, “I’ll take him.” Bryant slowed Westbrook down, and the Lakers haven’t lost a game since – eight in a row heading into Game 3 of the conference finals Sunday in Phoenix.

But Fisher didn’t need much help against the Williams, arguably the best point guard in the league, as the Lakers swept past the Jazz. Nash, the gold standard for modern-day point guards – or point guards of any era, really – hasn’t been able to find the kind of space and freedom he’s accustomed to with Fisher digging in and using his underrated combination of strength, quick hands and good old fashioned guile.

“He can guard all the point guards,” TNT analyst Hubie Brown told me. “Fisher, in my opinion, is one of the feistiest defensive point guards that we have in the league. He’s very cerebral. He understands the defensive game plan. You can never fall asleep with the basketball because he’s got quick reflexes and quick reactions, plus he gets a lot of deflections. Then off of his man, OK, he’s one of the best point guards that we have in the league in double-teaming and also playing the passing lane on any type of a ball reversal back to his man.”

(Note to reader: At this point in my conversation with Brown the other day, I prayed that the Lakers’ practice court would open up and swallow me. In 30 seconds, Brown had said more intelligent things about basketball than I’ve ever written. And there was more to come.)

“This guy, you don’t hide this guy,” Brown said. “Also, if you break down his game, if he’s running in transition, you never have to worry about a guy getting a clear layup because he’s going to take a charge. And in this league, that’s very difficult for guys to do no matter what size they are – to take the full contact while people are moving. So to me, he’s the total package.”

In the Lakers’ 124-112 victory over the Suns in Game 2 Wednesday night, Fisher’s numbers didn’t measure up to Nash’s – but his impact on the game far exceeded his counterpart’s. Fisher had seven points on 2-for-8 shooting with five assists, two steals and two turnovers. Nash had 11 points and 15 assists, but shot only 4-for-8 from the field with five turnovers. At key sequences in the game – when the Lakers were building an early lead and then pulling away in the fourth quarter after the Suns had tied it at 90-90 – Fisher wound up on the superior end of the action.

Late in the first quarter, Fisher intercepted a post pass from Nash as the Suns were trying to find their offensive rhythm. Late in the second quarter, Fisher hurt the Suns with his offense – finding Andrew Bynum for a dunk, hitting a corner 3-pointer and making a driving layup to give the Lakers a 65-56 halftime lead. Midway through the fourth, Fisher forced Nash into consecutive turnovers, the first leading to a corner 3-pointer by Jordan Farmar on which Nash failed to close out defensively. In 67 seconds, the Lakers stretched a six-point lead to 11 and the rout was on.

“Steve can hurt you without scoring, whereas some of the other guys at the point guard position need to score for their team to win,” Fisher said. “Overall it’s exactly the same. You want to limit penetration. You want to keep the guy in front of you. You want to make him shoot the ball over the top instead of letting him get to the rim and make plays for himself or other people. You want to make him work as hard as possible. You’re not going to stop him, but you can’t allow him to do whatever he wants to do out there. And sometimes that means sacrificing yourself, your game, your body and that means picking up some fouls to do it. Just do what it takes.”

Next up, presumably, will be the Celtics' Rajon Rondo, who has been the single most influential point guard in the postseason -- better than Williams, Nash, Jason Kidd, all of them. Once again, it will seem to be an impossible task for Fisher to hold up against Rondo's length, speed, quickness and guile. And once again, Fisher will have to find a way.

That’s what he does: whatever it takes, and more than everybody expects.


Posted on: May 18, 2010 6:26 pm
 

Lucky? Stoudemire shouldn't have gone there

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Amar’e Stoudemire wasn’t able to come up with anything on the court to stop Lamar Odom from having a dominant 19-point, 19-rebound performance in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. So on Tuesday, he came up with an excuse.

“I’m not giving him no hype,” Stoudemire told reporters before the Suns practiced at Staples Center. “He had a lucky game.”

Among other things, Stoudemire is known for his quotability. In a “Twitterview” with NBA media this week, I asked him how far Cleveland would’ve gone if he’d been traded there instead of Antawn Jamison. True to form, Amar’e came through with a one-word answer: “Championship.”

Beautifully done. He may or may not be right about that. But when it comes to Odom, he’s dead wrong.

And foolish for saying it.

As exhibited in the Lakers’ 128-107 victory in Game 1 Monday night, Kobe Bryant is going to get his numbers in this series. With 40 points – 35 of them by the end of the third quarter – Bryant enjoyed his sixth straight 30-point playoff performance. He seemed to relish the Suns’ strategy of trying defending him with 37-year-old Grant Hill. Bryant called that challenge “enjoyable,” and by that, he meant, “Get this old man away from me before I embarrass him.”

Whether it’s Hill or Jason Richardson or Jared Dudley, the Suns have no one who can check Bryant with any semblance of success. For that reason alone, this is going to be a long series for the Suns – or a short one, depending on how you look at it.

But to a man – including Stoudemire – the Suns have insisted that the key to challenging the Lakers is preventing Bryant’s supporting cast from hurting them. This did not go well in Game 1, with Odom’s monstrous game leading a 44-35 scoring advantage by the Lakers’ suspect bench over the Suns’ reserves, who were supposed to have been a key strength going into the series.

“[Bryant] is gonna score,” Stoudemire said after the game. “That’s one thing he’s gonna do. We know that, so we’ve got to make sure we try to contain him a little bit more. But we’ve got to close out the other guys. We’ve got to do a better job on their role players.”

The two sources of consistent production for the Lakers during their title defense have been Bryant and Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum has been in and out of the box score. Derek Fisher has made some big shots and has held up better than anyone anticipated against three prolific point guards – Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams and now Steve Nash.

But during their run of postseason success in the past five years, Odom’s performance has been a tipping point for the Lakers. When he plays well, the Lakers usually win. When he plays like he did Monday night, the Lakers almost never lose.

With the possible exceptions of Bryant and LeBron James, Odom is as physically gifted as any player who’s come into the league over the past dozen years. It’s often a question of motivation, but there’s no doubting his talent.

“I’ve played with Lamar for a long time, so I wasn’t impressed,” said Ron Artest, who grew up playing with Odom on the playgrounds of Queens, N.Y. and in AAU ball. “I’ve seen him do that all the time.”

So why any opposing player would want to ignite the one area of Odom’s game that is lacking – his motivation – is beyond me. Stoudemire should know better than to rattle Odom’s cage, and he should know better than to say his performance Monday night was an aberration.

The Lakers are 9-2 this season when Odom has 15 or more rebounds, including a 17-point, 19-rebound game against Houston in January and a 10-point, 22-rebound effort against Portland in February – both wins. In his postseason career with the Lakers since the 2005-06 season, the Lakers are 7-2 when Odom has 15 or more rebounds. Four of those nine games have come against the Suns, and Odom scored in double figures in all four, as well. In those games, the Lakers are 2-2.

But even if Stoudemire forgot about those games, surely over the past five years he’s noticed at least a handful of Odom’s 47 games with 15-plus rebounds since he put on a Lakers uniform. If not, maybe he’s seen highlights of one or two of his 174 double-doubles as a Laker. During the same five-year period, Stoudemire has 28 games with 15-plus rebounds and 156 double-doubles. How many of those were luck?

After throttling Stoudemire and the Suns’ supposedly improved defense in Game 1, Odom wouldn’t engage him in a war of words Tuesday.

“I’m not gonna do that,” Odom said. “Not when it comes to basketball.”

As for his performance, Odom said, “It was good. Could be better. Hopefully I can have another lucky one.”
Posted on: April 4, 2010 1:34 pm
Edited on: April 4, 2010 2:19 pm
 

Bogut injury puts scare into contenders

BOSTON -- The video of Andrew Bogut's horrific arm injury was bad enough. The specter of a late-season injury to their own teams was enough to make stomachs turn Sunday at TD Bank Garden.

In separate pre-game interviews, separated by a few minutes and about 50 feet in the locker room hallway, Doc Rivers and Mike Brown both reacted with the expected head-shaking and somber tone when asked about the devastating fall taken by the Bucks' center Saturday night. The more they talked, it was clear both understood that they could be walking in Scott Skiles' shoes at any moment.

"We could go out here today and something could happen," Brown said before his Cavaliers played the Celtics. "We’re going to have to have some contact in practice, and even if it’s five possessions or three possessions, something could happen. Something could happen driving home in your car. There’s all types of what-ifs, what-ifs, what-ifs. And if you try to be too careful then stuff can still happen and you won't get accomplished what you need to get accomplished to be ready. That’s a tough injury for Bogut. You hope that doesn’t happen to anybody else. But in the same breath, it’s part of t game and part of life."

Unlike Brown, Rivers isn't contemplating whether to rest his stars heading into the playoffs; Cleveland is one win away from wrapping up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, while Boston is trying to overtake Atlanta for the third seed. If they do, there's a chance their first-round opponent will be the Bucks, who will be without Bogut until next season.

"It was just a freak accident," Rivers said. "It was horrific. It was awful to watch. But it happens."

Ray Allen, a former Buck who had been preparing for possibly facing his former team in the playoffs, said, "This is a tough time of the year because they are making playoff plans, selling playoff tickets and they’re right there in the hunt. I think every coach dreads that."

Rivers was adamant -- and I agree -- that Bogut was not the victim of a dirty play. Running out for a court-length pass and breakaway dunk Saturday night against the Suns, Bogut dunked ahead of Amar'e Stoudemire and tried to hang on the rim in an effort to protect himself and Stoudemire.

"If he could've hung onto the rim long enough to get his feet back, he wouldn't have been injured," LeBron James said. "Just a freak accident."

There was no significant contact from Stoudemire, who may have had a hand on Bogut as he went up -- if that. The issue was that as he tried to protect himself by grabbing the rim, Bogut lost his grip and tried to brace the fall with his right arm, which bent catastrophically beneath his entire body weight.

And with it, the Bucks' aspirations of going deep in the playoffs crumpled, too.
 
 
 
 
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