|LeBron James leads the Heat in scoring with 28 ppg, in rebounding (8.2) and assists (6.8). (Getty Images)|
Like everything else, also lost in the Linsanity has been the recent dominance of the Miami Heat. Remember them? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two of the game's transcendent talents, engaging in the fascinating daily exercise of melding their talents, egos and personalities into a well-tuned machine?
Yeah, not so interesting anymore. Which is fine with LeBron and Wade.
"Everyone has their time in the sun, and right now it's Jeremy Lin and the Knicks' time in the sun," Wade told reporters Thursday in Cleveland. "And more power to 'em."
Not that anyone has noticed, but the Heat have ripped off 15 wins in their past 18 games and finally look like the unstoppable force their star duo imagined when they teamed up with Chris Bosh in July 2010.
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After losing three games in four nights in mid-January, the Heat have lost only three times since. They've won four in a row on the road, and on Tuesday night became the first team since the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks to win three road games on consecutive nights by double-digit margins.
After finishing their road trip Friday night in Cleveland -- where LeBron generated a rare non-Lin headline when he said he might consider returning to the Cavs someday -- the Heat have three games at home before the All-Star break. On Sunday against the Magic, they can avenge a 13-point loss at Orlando on Feb. 8, which equaled their largest margin of defeat this season.
Maybe people will actually watch, considering the Magic-Heat game immediately follows the conclusion of the Mavericks-Knicks on ABC.
And now for the rest of this week's Postups.
• As the NBA approaches All-Star weekend in Orlando, the first major post-lockout event, two nagging issues that were paramount to the 149-day work stoppage will be at the forefront: franchise musical chairs and superstar musical franchises. Dwight Howard's future in Orlando will be this All-Star weekend's Melo Drama, and we will also eagerly await an update from commissioner David Stern on the status of efforts to keep the Hornets in New Orleans.
While league sources indicate the field of potential owners for the Hornets has been narrowed -- perhaps to as few as two groups committed to keeping the team in Louisiana -- the announcement of an agreement with one of those groups is not expected during All-Star weekend. The first order of business was the renewal of the arena lease, which Stern said in December was contingent on "first of the year" discussions with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and the state legislature.
"We continue to work with the Hornets to reach a long term leasing agreement," said Frank Collins, Press Secretary for Jindal.
Meanwhile, the city of Seattle, which lost the SuperSonics to Oklahoma City in 2008, has put together a plan to build a new arena to attract an NBA and NHL team.
With the league already in a state of overexpansion, the only practical way for Seattle to get a team would be via relocation. Until the Hornets have a new lease and a new owner, and until Sacramento approves funding for a new arena, Seattle will have two teetering franchises to target.
The Sacramento City Council is expected to vote Feb. 28 on a financing term sheet for a $387 million downtown arena, including a plan to use parking revenues to account for about half the bill. The rallying cry of using no public money to fund the arena has been a popular refrain among supporters of the Sacramento arena.
Of course, there are doubts as to whether leasing public parking facilities can account for the $200 million that has been estimated. If a shortfall occurs, "pressure would be placed on other public and private sources" to make up the difference, according to the Sacramento Bee. (I know, shocking.) Plus, the parking structures currently funnel an estimated $9 million a year into the city's general fund. But fear not; it won't take much to trick the citizens into paying for the shortfall without them realizing the added costs are associated with the arena.
• Meanwhile, the Hornets' fortunes when viewed through the prism of the franchise-shaping trade of Chris Paul to the Clippers couldn't have turned out worse in the short term. Even after two straight wins heading into Friday night's game against the Knicks, the Hornets (6-23) have the second-worst record in the league and the fifth-worst average attendance (14,302). Fans are left to wonder what might have been had Stern approved the trade the organization's basketball people wanted to make -- the one that would've sent Pau Gasol to Houston, Paul to the Lakers and delivered Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. Moreover, the coveted first-round pick the Hornets got in the revised trade from the Clippers (via Minnesota) likely won't be anywhere close to a top-five pick.
While many fans are savvy enough to understand the Clippers trade created a clearer path to rebuilding, the primary purpose was to reduce costs and make the franchise more attractive to potential buyers. Final judgment can't be rendered until we see what assets GM Dell Demps is able to extract for center Chris Kaman and his $14 million expiring contract. But the most important tipping point in the deal is the future of shooting guard Eric Gordon, the key asset acquired in the trade. Hornets officials were forced to decide whether to offer Gordon a maximum extension without knowing if he's healthy. In the end, they didn't offer him one, and they still don't know if he'll be healthy this season. Gordon will become a restricted free agent after the season and has appeared in only two games. He had arthroscopic surgery this week on his right knee, which will put him out for six more weeks.
• Mike Brown responded this week to Metta World Peace's assertion that the Lakers coach is "all stats" while World Peace -- referring to himself in the third person by his former name, Ron Artest -- "is all feel." World Peace's beef with Brown is that he "panics" and takes him off the floor at the end of games due to concerns about how he's shooting from 3-point range (13 for 63, or .206, at week's end) and the free-throw line (19 for 47, or .514).
The key quote from World Peace in a conversation with CBSSports.com last week was this: "Right now, coach is a stats guy. His background is video coordinator or whatever. So he's all stats. But Ron Artest is all feel."
Brown met with World Peace on Tuesday to talk things over.
"I said, 'Metta, I don't take anything personally,'" Brown told reporters in Los Angeles. "I'm OK with it. Just be careful what you say to the media in that regard. But if I was a stats guy, Metta, you wouldn't be playing at all."
• The addition of J.R. Smith to the Knicks' backcourt rotation gives them another high-octane shot-maker to add to their newly humming offense since point guard Jeremy Lin took over. Smith was the target of Mardy Collins' hard foul that triggered this infamous brawl between the Knicks and Nuggets at Madison Square Garden in 2006. But his decision to join the Knicks, which he announced Friday on Twitter, has more immediate implications. Even if Smith comes off the bench, as expected, his presence could have a direct impact on the chemistry that has blossomed between Lin and the Knicks' current starting shooting guard, Landry Fields.
Fields was productive as a rookie early last season, but his game fell off dramatically after the Knicks pulled off the blockbuster trade with Denver for Carmelo Anthony. His re-emergence during the team's seven-game winning streak with Lin at point guard has been striking. It's more than an on-court fit, as Lin (from Palo Alto, Calif.,) and Fields (who went to Stanford) became friends long before Lin got his chance in New York.
The two trained together in Palo Alto during the offseason and lockout, and went out to dinner to celebrate when the Knicks claimed Lin off waivers in late December. When Lin, who had previously been released by the Warriors and Rockets, got settled in New York, he was sleeping on Fields' couch because he didn't know whether he was in New York to stay. That all changed when he came off the bench to produce 25 points and seven assists Feb. 4 against the Nets and was even more brilliant in his first start against Utah, thus solidifying a guaranteed contract for the balance of the season.
Fields has enjoyed his most complete stretch of the season since Lin rose to prominence and has averaged 14 points and 5.3 assists over the past three. Fields has suddenly shown a proficiency in running the pick-and-roll as the ball-handler in addition to finishing -- often as the recipient of Lin's deft passes.
You also might have noticed something else: Fields and Lin have a unique pregame ritual that involves opening their palms and pretending to page through a book and putting on imaginary glasses.
"It's the glasses that signify the prestigious universities, the Harvard-Stanford connection," Fields said. "The book is the Bible that signifies our faith in God, and the goofiness of it is just kind of us. We didn't want to make something so serious out there. We wanted to try and be different with it also. Just something to kind of lighten the mood before we go out there."
• Lost in Lin's sudden and spectacular emergence with the Knicks is that the Warriors -- despite releasing him as part of their failed bid to land restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan with an offer sheet -- deserve credit for being on Lin from the beginning and signing him to a two-year contract after he failed to stick with the Mavs following an invitation to 2010 summer league.
Eric Musselman, who coached Lin for 20 games in the D-League last season, said representatives of about 15 teams approached him to inquire about Lin during the 2011 D-League Showcase in South Padre Island, Texas, when Lin was on assignment from Golden State. In one game, Lin had 22 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals. In another, he had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
"I thought he was an NBA player," Musselman said. "He was a great loose-ball-getter, great rebounder, fearless getting to the rim. He could dribble-drive to the right maybe better than anybody I've coached other than [Gilbert] Arenas. He had great length and excellent size at the one. We played him at the one, two and three, and he didn't care what position he played. We started him only 10 of the 20 games we had him, and he didn't care about that either."
• With this sudden burst of heavy minutes and the increased frequency of games due to the lockout, Lin has confided in friends back home in California that he was looking forward to taking a much-needed break during All-Star weekend to rest his body and partake of his favorite diversion: fishing. But Lin won't be so lucky, as he was added (along with Heat rookie Norris Cole) to the Rising Stars Challenge next weekend in Orlando. Tired or not, Linsanity must go on.