NBA High-5: Led by Tony Parker's All-Star play, Spurs are red-hot coming into ... -

The five most interesting stories, rumors and notes in the NBA:

1. Rodeo drive: Even with all the Jeremy Lin stuff, a great performance Monday by Deron Williams (38 points in a win over Lin's Knicks), Chris Paul lifting the Clippers and reigning MVP Derrick Rose returning for Chicago, it's possible no point guard is playing better right now than the Spurs' Tony Parker.

His fellow Frenchman, Nicolas Batum of the Blazers, certainly thinks so.

"Tony is playing great," Batum said Saturday. "I don't say that because he's my friend. He's the best point guard right now in the NBA."

Parker has had an amazing month, averaging 25.5 points and 8.2 assists in February while helping the Spurs win all 10 of its games, part of an 11-game win streak that is the longest in the NBA this season.

The Spurs come into their game against the Blazers at the Rose Garden tonight having won seven road games in a row in a great start to their annual "rodeo road trip" -- the extended road trip they take every season when their home arena is taken over by a rodeo.

This season's trip is nine games, and the San Antonio Express-News' Tim Griffin points out that the 7-0 start is the best ever on the rodeo trip, which concludes in Denver on Thursday.

The Spurs have had an impressive season, closing to within two games of once seemingly uncatchable Oklahoma City for the top spot in the Western Conference. They've done so while Manu Ginobili -- arguably their best player -- has missed 23 games, first with a broken hand, and now a strained oblique suffered against the Clippers. Ginobili is expected to miss two weeks, as is reserve center Tiago Splitter, who has a strained right calf.

But the Spurs just roll on, last losing on Jan. 29. The catalyst has been Parker, whose outstanding play has earned him a fourth trip to the All-Star Game, his first since 2009. Last night, in a win at Utah, Parker had 23 points and 11 assists, his third consecutive double-double.

"Tony's an All-Star and did what he's been doing for us all year: Scoring, finding people, playing tough defense, being a leader," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

2. Amid the turmoil:
The way the Lakers just walloped the Blazers last night, you'd think everything was all sunshine and roses in the franchise. But last night's win came while there was a lot of backstage turmoil in the franchise after Kobe Bryant ripped management for their handling of trade rumors about forward Pau Gasol.

The hubbub was enough to prompt GM Mitch Kupchak to issue a statement in which he said he understood what players go through, but that his responsibility is to make the team better.

For his part, Gasol said he appreciated Bryant having his back, and other teammates also expressed support for him, while coach Mike Brown said he'd probably leave the matter alone,'s Dave McMenamin reports.

What's really going on with the Lakers?'s Ken Berger writes that Bryant's criticism wasn't directed at Kupchak, but at what Berger calls a dysfunctional front office led by Jim Buss, the son of owner Jerry Buss, who has taken the strongest hand in player personnel decisions. Writes Berger of the tumult:

And much of it can be traced to the growing influence of executive vice president Jim Buss, the owner's bon vivant son, who has helped transform a great franchise into a steaming pool of nepotism and nincompoops.
3. Hello, Chandler: Last night's game in Denver was a crazy one as the Nuggets and Timberwolves went to overtime, and the Nuggets overcame yet another injury to pull out a 103-101 victory.

The Nuggets were up by three and were inbouding the ball with 3.9 seconds left in OT, but Julyan Stone's inbounds pass was stolen by Minnesota's Martell Webster, who inexplicably did not pull up for a tying three-pointer, instead driving and dunking with 1.3 seconds left.

What the heck?

Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said he was baffled by Webster's decision, and the former Blazer explained that he thought he could get fouled and get a three-point play. For Stone, Webster's brain freeze was a huge gift.

"When I saw him pass the 3-point line, I just said, 'Thank you,'" Stone said. "That's all I was thinking - go lay it up."

What was Stone, an undrafted rookie point guard who had appeared in 10 previous games, doing in the game? Well, Andre Miller got himself thrown out for arguing a call, and starter Ty Lawson sprained an ankle, joining the Nuggets' huge injured corps that already had Danilo Gallinari (ankle), Nene (calf) and Rudy Fernandez (back).

Ah, but there's still hope in Denver, which is in a 3-8 funk. None of the injuries is season-ending, and the Nuggets appear to have help on the way -- or rather, already in the building. Wilson Chandler was in the Pepsi Center last night after returning from China. A restricted free agent, Chandler said he intends to sign with Nuggets once he gets a letter of clearance from the Chinese Basketball Association, the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman reports.

Another team, of course, could make Chandler an offer, but the Denver would have three days to match.

4. Feathers flying: The Blazers' 20-point victory over Atlanta on Saturday looked like a strong win over a team that seems to be an upper-half Eastern Conference playoff team. But we're seeing now that the Hawks had some backstage stuff going on.

ESPN's Chris Broussard writes that the return of backup point guard Kirk Hinrich threw the Hawks "out of whack," and that forward Marvin Williams is unhappy and wants to be traded to a team where he can have a bigger role offensively.

This came after backup guard Tracy McGrady -- the former multiple All-Star who has carved out a niche as a savvy, athletically-limited reserve -- expressed his displeasure about his playing time in an interview with the Journal-Constitution's Michael Cunningham.

McGrady's discontent prompted GM Rick Sund and coach Larry Drew to meet with the veteran before Monday's loss at Chicago, after which McGrady said things were "ironed out," the AJC's Chris Vivlamore reports.

5. Meeting of the minds: Normally, if a former player shows up at a game and meets with a team executive, you might not make much of it. But when Karl Malone showed up at the Jazz home game last night and met with owner Greg Miller, it was as if TMZ had spotted Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries having lunch together.

Malone and Miller had engaged in a public spat in which Malone accused Miller of undermining former coach Jerry Sloan, and Miller fired back with personal shots at Malone on his blog. On Monday, Malone and Miller met after the game, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

There were even differing accounts of how long they were in the office they met in, with the Tribune saying one hour, 15 minutes, and the Deseret News estimating they talked for "almost an hour." The Deseret News also detailed how Miller seemed to ignore Malone when they were near each other at halftime before finally approaching Malone after the game.

After Malone emerged from the meeting, he told waiting reporters, "We talked, and it's between me and Greg." Miller no-commented.

The Jazz, by the way, lost for the fourth time in five games -- a recipe for creating interest in the strange Malone-Miller drama.

22 Feb, 2012

Manage subscription | Powered by

What's on Your Mind...

Powered by Blogger.