Thursday, December 20, 2012

Nowitzki practices for first time since knee surgery

DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki has gone through his first full practice with the Dallas Mavericks since undergoing knee surgery that forced the 11-time All-Star to miss every game so far this season.

Following the practice Wednesday, Nowitzki gave no real timetable on when he might make his season debut, except to say "maybe any time after Christmas."

Nowitzki had arthroscopic surgery on his ailing right knee Oct. 19. It was the first knee surgery for the 7-foot forward in his 15th NBA season.

Nowitzki said he'll see how his knee reacts after the first day of stopping, pushing off and moving. He said he plans to have a couple of similar practice and will absorb some contact as well before trying to play in a game.

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Cavs center Varejao out with bruised knee

BOSTON (AP) -- Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao missed Wednesday night's game against the Boston Celtics because of a bruised right knee.

Varejao, the NBA's leading rebounder at 14.4 per game, was injured Tuesday night against Toronto when he landed awkwardly on his right leg and crumpled to the floor in pain after being fouled late in the first quarter. He limped to the locker room, but returned with 9:04 remaining in the second quarter and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes.

After the game coach Byron Scott said he was still concerned about Varejao's availability against the Celtics.

Rookie Tyler Zeller got his first career start in Varejao's place.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Kobe Bryant Reacts To Mike Brown’s Firing

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant updated his Facebook page with the following in the wake of the Mike Brown firing news:
Kobe Bryant Reacts To Mike Brown’s Firing

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

NBA to change All-Star ballot, eliminating center

NBA to change All-Star ballot, eliminating center

The NBA is finally doing something about the Duncan Dilemma.

The league will announce Wednesday a change to its All-Star ballot that will, for the first time, allow fans to vote for three undefined "frontcourt" players instead of having to vote for two forwards and a center. With more and more teams playing smaller than in the past, the definition of "center" was becoming increasingly difficult -- not to mention finding enough quality big men for whom to vote.

For years, for example, the Spurs have listed Tim Duncan as a power forward, even though everyone on earth knew he was their starting center. And so when it came to All-Star balloting, Duncan would take up a forward spot in a very crowded field of Western Conference stars instead of his logical spot in the middle. This was good for Duncan, who surely would have made his 13 All-Star teams anyway, but it often cost another forward a shot.

The league decided to make the change after the NBA's Competition Committee agreed to the move at its meeting last month, VP of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson said Tuesday evening.

"It makes sense," Jackson said. "It made sense to our Competition Committee. Having a center is the only specific position that was singled out on the ballot. It just seemed a little outdated and didn't represent the way our game has evolved. By the same token, it also affords the same opportunity, if you have two good centers in a given year, pick 'em both. They both can be selected. Which is impossible right now." That would be good news for players like Boston's Kevin Garnett and Miami's Chris Bosh, nominal forwards who are now playing center for their respective teams. Under the old rules, Garnett and Bosh would have been in the center category with the likes of Philadelphia's Andrew Bynum, Atlanta's Al Horford and Indiana's Roy Hibbert. Now, any of them can be selected as a "frontcourt" player.

"It was something that we originally thought made some sense, but we didn't want to make a decision in a vacuum, of course," Jackson said. "We ran it by the Competition Committee and they thought the idea made some sense ... it gives the fans some flexibility while keeping competitive balance."

The league will debut the 2013 All-Star ballot on Nov. 13. Players are selected for the ballot by a committee of national media who cover the NBA on a regular basis. The 2013 All-Star Game will be Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Mavs' Nowitzki still experiencing knee swelling

DALLAS (AP) -- Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki hopes to avoid surgery after experiencing more swelling in his troublesome right knee.

Nowitzki missed his second straight preseason game as Dallas beat Houston 123-104 Monday night. The 11-time All-Star said after the game he is going to reduce his workload over the next week and see if the swelling goes down in his knee, which has been drained twice over the past month.

The 2011 NBA Finals MVP said if there is no improvement over the next few days, he may have no choice other than to have surgery, which would probably sideline him into the regular season.

"I guess that it's obvious that I don't want (surgery) done," Nowitzki said. "If it's going to keep swelling up on me, that's not a way to go through an 82-game season and hopefully a long playoff run."

Nowitzki said the swelling wasn't as bad as it had been when he had problems before a preseason game In Spain last Tuesday. He practiced once the team returned to Texas and experienced more swelling afterwards.

It is the same knee and same issue Nowitzki dealt with early last season. The Mavericks held their perennial All-Star out for a four-game stretch in January to improve his game conditioning and give him time to strengthen his right knee.

Nowitzki said he is going to avoid practices and scrimmages, limiting his workouts to time in the pool and on the elliptical machine.

"It makes no sense to play in the preseason on a swollen knee," Nowitzki said. "So we'll see what's going to happen in the next couple of days."


Monday, September 17, 2012

NBA Notes: Can OKC extend Harden?

James Harden

The Sixers’ 2012-13 rotations are far from set after the team underwent a huge offseason makeover. Where does Lavoy Allen fit in after the additions of Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown and Arnett Moultrie? Dei Lynam has the answer (see story).

Here’s a look at some other news from around the league on Monday:

Can OKC keep Harden?
The Thunder have quickly become a powerhouse in the Western Conference since moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, improving in each of the last four seasons in both winning percentage and postseason progress.

Naturally, the franchise would like to keep its core group of young players together, but that might not be totally possible according to’s David Aldridge.

After recently handing an extension to Serge Ibaka, the Thunder have secured Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka for the long-term. But that could leave Sixth Man of the Year James Harden on the outside looking in.

To keep Harden, who could demand a maximum contract, the Thunder would have to go over the luxury tax, and that’s something the ownership has yet to do since its move to the NBA’s third-smallest market.

“James is somebody we value,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti told The Oklahoman last week. “We think he’s an important part to what we’re trying to do. “… By the same token, we’ve been very upfront and transparent with everybody that we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization as a result of the new collective bargaining agreement.”

Rivers to C’s: Focus on Heat
In June, the Celtics came within one game of representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, and even though the already-old squad is another season more mature, they’ll enter 2012-13 with a chance to go far again.

So when the Lakers — the Celtics’ long-time rival — added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to instantly put themselves back into the fold in the West, the conversation naturally went the way of the two teams possibly meeting in the Finals. But that’s not what Boston coach Doc Rivers wants his players focused on, he told Boston sports columnist Bob Ryan, via the Celtics Blog.

“Honestly, I don’t care about the Lakers,” Rivers said. “I have my eye squarely on Miami. I come up to my players during the year … I bring up Miami every single day to them. I want them to hate them. I want them to beat them. That’s gotta be our focus.”

As ProBasketballTalk points out, Rivers quipped a few lines that could get Miami’s attention.

“I’m smart enough to know that if we get in a track meet with Miami, they’re probably going to win,” Rivers said. “But if we get in a thinking meet, we will win that game.”


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Clippers' Griffin says knee is good to go

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- All-Star Blake Griffin said Tuesday his left knee is healed after last month's surgery that forced him to miss the London Olympics, when he worked on his shot and free throws while his U.S. teammates were winning a gold medal.

Griffin is doing drills and running this week as he continues rehabbing from the July 16 surgery to repair a medial meniscus tear of his knee that he suffered during practice with the U.S. national team in Las Vegas.

"I'm doing all my normal movements," he said. "I feel like I'm at 100 percent."

The latest knee injury had nothing to do with the stress fracture of his left patella and surgery that forced him to miss the 2009-10 season.

It's been a busy summer for Griffin. In addition to being with the national team until his injury and then his surgery, he signed a five-year contract extension in July that could be worth up to $95 million.

After he got hurt, Griffin didn't watch any of the team's exhibition games, calling it "a little too fresh and a little too painful."

But once the Olympics began, he watched his former U.S. teammates during their run to the gold medal.

"It was just good to see those guys get what they deserved and see how hard everybody worked from the time we got together to the end," he said.

Griffin used his downtime "trying to become a more complete player, working on my shot and working on free throws," he said. "Those are two things that I was able to work on a lot even if it was stationary."

The Clippers kept busy this summer, re-signing Chauncey Billups and bringing Lamar Odom back to the franchise in a deal with Dallas. They also landed free agents Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Willie Green, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins.

"This is a great place to play and guys want to come here," Griffin said. "The fact that we've had guys toward the end of their careers, guys like Grant Hill, that chose to play here, I think that says a lot about our team and the direction we're heading in. It's great to be a part of something that has kind of turned the corner."

Last season the Clippers got swept by San Antonio in four games in the second round of the playoffs after having the best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history.

"We laid the foundation," Griffin said. "This year we want to take a step forward and I think the pieces that we've added, the guys we have returning and the work guys have put in this offseason has been tremendous. We look to take that next step as a franchise."

The Clippers' co-tenant at Staples Center pulled off its own big deals, adding Steve Nash from Phoenix and Dwight Howard from Orlando.

"It's great for LA, it's great for basketball," Griffin said. "It's going to bring a lot of excitement, but they still have to play just like everybody else."

Griffin said he spoke on Monday to gold medal-winning teammate Chris Paul, who plans to return to Los Angeles next week to recuperate from the surgery he had last week to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb.

Griffin endorsed Gary Sacks, the Clippers' director of player personnel, to replace Neil Olshey as the team's general manager. Olshey left to take on the same role in Portland.

"If he doesn't get the GM job I'll be shocked and definitely a little disappointed because he deserves it and I think everybody else thinks he deserves it," Griffin said. "I hope that it's going to be him."

Griffin interacted with fans during an appearance at a West Los Angeles Subway restaurant, where he assembled a turkey sandwich and helped give away prizes to mark the chain's 47th anniversary.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Dwight Howard trade: Lakers show more commitment to winning

Dwight Howard

The moment he hung up the phone Thursday, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak stared across the room at Coach Mike Brown.

Kupchak had just ended a conference call with officials of the Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers, the final chapter of what Kupchak described as a "frustrating" process in pursuing Dwight Howard.

After all, the Magic spent over a year weighing every trade proposal imaginable, while Howard gave mixed signals on his intentions. Once that phone conversation ended, though, Howard became a Laker. Kupchak recalled the conversation with Brown:

"We have a deal," Kupchak said.

"Who are we getting?" Brown asked.

"Dwight Howard," Kupchak answered.

"Who's going out?" Brown asked.

"Andrew," Kupchak answered, referring to center Andrew Bynum, who will now play with the 76ers.

"That's all?" Brown asked.

"That's all," said Kupchak, though the trade also involved sending reserve forwards Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga and protected first-round and second-round picks to Orlando for forward Earl Clark and guard Chris Duhon.

Brown still struggled processing the news.

"No Pau?" Brown asked, in reference to Lakers forward Pau Gasol. After all, reports first indicated these talks would also include Gasol going to the Magic, and he had been the subject of endless trade speculation ever since the NBA nixed the Chris Paul deal, which would've sent Gasol to the Houston Rockets.

"No Pau," Kupchak said.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Bucks add another piece to frontcourt, sign Przybilla

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The Milwaukee Bucks have signed free-agent center Joel Przybilla, maintaining an offseason push to beef up their frontcourt.

The 7-foot-1 Przybilla returns to Milwaukee for his second stint with the Bucks after beginning his career with the franchise.

The ninth overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft by Houston, Przybilla was dealt to Milwaukee in a draft-night deal in exchange for Jason Collier and a future first-round pick.

The 32-year-old Przybilla has averaged 4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 580 career games split between Milwaukee, Atlanta, Portland and Charlotte.

Earlier this offseason, the Bucks added center Samuel Dalembert in a trade and drafted North Carolina power forward John Henson in the first round.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bulls sign first-round pick Teague for backup at guard

Marquis Teague

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Bulls say they have signed first-round draft pick Marquis Teague.

Teague was taken with the 29th selection out of Kentucky and is expected to fill a backup role at point guard. The Bulls signed Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson in an effort to get by while Derrick Rose recovers from a major knee injury.

Teague averaged 10.0 points and 4.8 assists to help Kentucky win a national title in his lone season. Older brother Jeff plays for Atlanta.

The Bulls announced the deal Wednesday.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chalmers; NBA exhibition game canceled

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A second NBA exhibition featuring Anchorage native Mario Chalmers scheduled for Alaska's largest city has been canceled this year.

The Mario V Chalmers Foundation NBA Game scheduled for Aug. 3 was canceled Tuesday. Sullivan Arena officials said Chalmers cited injuries, free agency and the Olympics as factors in not being able to fill out a roster.

Chalmers, an Anchorage Bartlett High School star who won an NBA title with the Miami Heat this year, previously tried to schedule an exhibition game last winter.

The December game was canceled when the league's lockout ended and players had to get back to their respective teams to report for training camp.


Wizards sign free agent guard A.J. Price

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Wizards signed free agent guard A.J. Price on Tuesday.

Price, who played three seasons with the Indiana Pacers, will give the team depth in the backcourt, team president Ernie Grunfeld said. He'll be a backup for Wizards guard John Wall.

The 6-foot guard has averaged 6 points, 2 assists and 1.5 rebounds in 150 games in the last three seasons with the Pacers.

Price was selected by the Pacers in the second round of the 2009 draft.

With Price's signing, Washington has 13 players under contract.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Bosh replaces Haslem in Heat's starting lineup for Game 2

udonis haslem and chris bosh

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- All-Star forward Chris Bosh is back in the starting lineup for the Miami Heat.

After coming off the bench in the first four games since returning from an abdominal injury, Bosh was back in the starting lineup for Miami for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

He replaced Udonis Haslem. The rest of Miami's starting five is LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier.

Bosh had started every game he played in throughout the regular season and the playoffs before missing nine games with a strained lower abdominal muscle during the Eastern Conference semifinals and finals.

Coach Erik Spoelstra said after Bosh scored 10 points off the bench in Game 1 that the Heat "need more from him offensively."

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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Durant Takes Charge, Pushes Thunder to NBA Finals

Kevin Durant

For all the points, rebounds and assists that filled Kevin Durant's impressive stat line, it was a defensive play he made that fired up his coach and teammates.

"That's his first charge of the year," Russell Westbrook interjected when Durant was asked about drawing an offensive foul against Manu Ginobili in the fourth quarter of Oklahoma City's 107-99 win in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

Indeed, it was.

The league's three-time scoring champion had 34 points and 14 rebounds while playing all of regulation for the first time all season, leading the Thunder into the NBA finals. But it was taking that charge that got his team pumped up.

Durant stepped in front of Ginobili's drive during a 3½-minute scoreless stretch by San Antonio that allowed Oklahoma City to take the lead for good.

"I just wanted to go out there and sacrifice my body for my team. I knew that would give us a little spark," Durant said.

"Manu's an unbelievable player at twisting his body and making crazy shots, so I just wanted to time it right. It felt good to get that for my team and I could tell they were excited that I got my first one when I looked at the bench."

Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who trailed by 18 in the first half and erased a 15-point halftime deficit.

The Thunder took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter, getting nine of their first 13 points on free throws as the fouls started to pile up for San Antonio — six on the defensive end and three on the offensive end in the first 7 minutes.

That included Durant's stop just outside the restricted area under the basket.

"Down the stretch, it seemed like they got every whistle possible and that really changed the tide," San Antonio's Tim Duncan said. "We were playing tough defense and trying to get stops, but the whistle kept blowing and they went to the line."

Tony Parker finished with 29 points and 12 assists, but only eight of the points and two assists came after San Antonio took a 63-48 halftime lead. Duncan chipped in 25 points and 14 rebounds, and Stephen Jackson hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points.

The Spurs had won 20 in a row, moving past the Thunder for home-court advantage in the West and then taking a 2-0 lead in the series, before losing four in a row.

"There's not much to complain about," Ginobili said. "We had a great run. We just couldn't beat these guys."

Durant grabbed the final rebound, dribbled the ball across half court and raised his right fist to celebrate with a sold-out crowd wearing free white T-shirts. The franchise will play for the NBA title for the first time since 1996, when it was in Seattle.

Game 1 of the NBA finals will be Tuesday night in Oklahoma City against either Boston or Miami. The Celtics lead that series 3-2 and can earn a trip to the finals with a win at home in Game 6 on Thursday night.

Durant celebrated even before the final buzzer, hugging his mother and brother seated courtside after a foul was called with 14 seconds remaining.

"I never want to take those moments for granted," Durant said. "I know it's just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good."

Coach Scott Brooks said he was not going to take Durant out of the game, no matter how many times his All-Star gave him a fatigued look.

"Kevin's an amazing young man," Brooks said. "His stat line is not even close to who he is as a young man. He's respected by his teammates, by the staff, by the city. He's a great ambassador to this league and I'm proud to coach him. He wants to be coached.

"He's a great leader."

The Thunder, only three years removed from a 3-29 start that had them on pace for the worst record in NBA history, went through the only three West teams to reach the finals since 1998 — Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio — to earn their shot at the title.

Derek Fisher and James Harden hit 3-pointers in a three-possession span to increase the lead to 99-93 with 3:13 remaining. Jackson, who had made his previous six 3-pointers, and Parker both missed 3s that would have gotten the Spurs within 103-102 in the final minute.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich thought the game was lost in the third quarter, when the Spurs were "playing in mud."

The Spurs got quick offense in the first half and made 9 of 15 from 3-point range while shooting 55 percent overall.

Parker, who had been largely bottled up ever since the Thunder put 6-foot-7 defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha on him in Game 3, had a hand in the Spurs' first 12 baskets, making seven on his own and assisting on the other five.

Kawhi Leonard and Jackson followed his three-point play by nailing back-to-back 3-pointers for a 34-16 advantage in the final 2 minutes of the first quarter.

The youthful Thunder stormed back with an 11-2 run to start the third quarter and eventually pulled ahead after Durant's 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 79-77 with 1:41 left in the period.

"We can't have their legs, their energy. We are never going to jump as high or run as fast," Ginobili said. "But the first half we did a great job, we just moved the ball to find teammates, made shots. In the second half, they were very active and we couldn't find anything easy."

Notes: Popovich, whose request for his team to play nasty led to T-shirts being made in San Antonio, said at the morning shootaround that his team needed to play "with a little bit of ugly." Not nasty? "I was trying to stay away from that word," he said. ... San Antonio had a 29-28 edge in the second quarter after getting outscored 138-106 in the period in the first five games — dropping more than six points per game. ... Greg Willard was scheduled to be one of the three officials but pulled out due to illness. Rodney Mott replaced him, alongside Joe Crawford and Bill Kennedy.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

NBA - Celtics douse Heat to reduce deficit

NBA - Celtics douse Heat to reduce deficit

The Boston Celtics ramped up on defense to re-energise their playoff ambitions with a 101-91 victory over the Miami Heat, their first win in the NBA Eastern Conference finals series.

A win at home was critical for Boston, especially after losing in overtime to Miami on Wednesday. The Celtics still trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series but could now tie it up in Boston on Sunday.

The raucous crowd energised the Celtics, who surged to a 13-point lead by halftime and a 22-point margin by the end of the third quarter. Center Kevin Garnett top scored with 24 points and captain Paul Pierce had 23 points.

"Kevin does so many little things. He does so many intangibles, he's our best communicator. I could go on and on," Boston guard Rajon Rondo said of his team mate.

Rondo, who played all 53 minutes of Wednesday's overtime loss, chipped in with 21 points and 10 assists, steadying the team in the fourth quarter when Miami mounted an aggressive comeback against the tiring Celtics.

"He stayed with us, stabilised us really," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Rondo.

The Celtics' tough defense - the decisive factor in their run past Philadelphia and Atlanta to the conference final – was back on track in the win.

"The difference was our defensive energy, which allowed us to run," said Rivers. "We had terrific ball movement for three quarters ... our rebounding was terrific in stretches."

Rivers praised the "phenomenal" effort of his team's second string players, including Marquis Daniels and Keyon Dooling, who each got significant playing time.

"What the second unit did was come in with a defensive energy that just changed the game," Rivers said.

Daniels, who played just 18 seconds in Wednesday's game two, logged more than 17 minutes as a stand-in point guard, adding nine points and five rebounds.

The Heat's Lebron James, in pursuit of his first NBA title, dominated the first quarter and ended up as the game's top scorer with 34 points.

The Heat cut Boston's lead to eight points late in the game, at one point staging an 11-0 run.

"He kept us afloat," team mate Dwyane Wade said of James. "We made a run in the fourth quarter (but) we can't dig that big of a hole for ourselves."

Miami did itself no favours from the penalty line, missing 10 of 20 free throw attempts. James was one of five from the line.

"We know this is a tough place to play but we know we can play a lot better than this," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
"We still have a golden opportunity."


Friday, May 18, 2012

Heat cancel practice, media session following Game 3 loss

Miami Heat

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Miami Heat canceled practice and their media availability one day after a blowout loss in Game 3 to the Pacers.

The team gave no immediate reason for Friday's decision, which was announced on the Heat's media telephone hotline.

The Heat lost 94-75 on Thursday night and trail Indiana 2-1 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Miami's latest defeat was magnified by a sideline confrontation between star guard Dwyane Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra. The two exchanged words during one of the worst playoff games of Wade's career. He scored just 5 points on 2-of-13 shooting and refused to discuss what happened with Spolestra.

Wade has been slowed by injuries. The Heat are also without power forward Chris Bosh, who has an abdominal strain.


Friday, May 11, 2012

NBA says foul called incorrectly

Josh Smith

The NBA says a foul against Boston with 3.1 seconds left in Atlanta's season-ending loss on Thursday should have been called sooner, which would have given the Hawks a free throw instead of just the ball out of bounds.

The Celtics' Marquis Daniels held the Hawks' Al Horford as Atlanta was inbounding the ball trailing 81-79. Referee Eric Lewis called a foul, but ruled it came after Marvin Williams had released the ball, meaning it was just a common foul that resulted in another throw-in.

However, replays showed the foul occurred before the ball was passed and should have been treated as an away-from-the-play foul, in which case Atlanta would have been awarded one free throw and retained possession of the ball.

Boston won 83-80 to take the series 4-2.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lakers' Bryant, Gasol team up to buy horse

Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are more than just teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA stars have partnered in owning a racehorse.

Bryant and Gasol bid against each other for an ownership stake in a 4-year-old gelding named Siempre Mio as part of a Lakers Foundation fundraiser at Riviera Country Club on Tuesday night.

Santa Anita Park chief executive officer Mark Verge donated a 25 percent stake in the gelding along with a day at the races as part of a live auction.

"Pau Gasol bid first, but then he and Kobe got into a little bit of a bidding war. Kobe won the bidding at $8,000," Doug O'Neill, who trains the gelding, said Wednesday.

Verge then offered Gasol a chance to buy a 25 percent interest in the horse in exchange for a donation to the Lakers Foundation. Part of the deal was that the new owners pay no expenses in the horse's care and training.

O'Neill said he spoke to Jeanie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, about having silks designed similar to the Lakers' jerseys.

"Pau was really excited," O'Neill said. "He told me he loves horses and it was just a matter of time before he bought a racehorse. Kobe can't wait to see him run, barring playoff conflicts."

Siempre Mio has two wins and a second in five career starts, including winning his most recent race on March 31 at Santa Anita. The gelding is also owned by Verge, who owns and Chris Quinn, vice president of sales and marketing at Santa Anita.

Bryant and Gasol aren't the first among the Lakers organization to be involved in thoroughbred racing. Jerry Buss has co-owned horses over the years, while son and team executive Jim Buss was a licensed trainer for several years in California.


Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats could become worst team in NBA history

Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Bobcats could become worst team in NBA history

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player ever, is poised to become the owner of the worst team in league history.

His embarrassingly bad Charlotte Bobcats have one more shot to avoid the title.

Heading into Thursday night's regular-season finale, the Bobcats are teetering on the verge of the worst winning percentage (.106) ever and could clinch the dubious distinction with a loss at home to the New York Knicks in the lockout-shortened season.

Charlotte is a woeful 7-58 and its record-setting futility would eclipse the 39-year-old mark held by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. That team finished 9-73 (.110) in a full regular season.

Jordan led Chicago to six NBA championships, but his Bobcats get no respect -- Charlotte has become the butt of jokes.

"It has been tough, but we are just trying to move forward," guard D.J. Augustin said. "Many people are laughing at us and making (the streak) as a joke, but we take it very seriously. We are just trying to stay positive and play hard until the end."

With a loss to the Knicks the Bobcats would finish the season with a 23-game losing streak -- ironically the same number Jordan wore with the Bulls. The streak is a franchise record, topping the 16-game skid from earlier in the season.

The NBA record is 26 straight losses set last season by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Coach Paul Silas certainly would like to avoid the embarrassment of being known as the coach of the worst team ever.

"If we get a win it will be the best thing that has happened to us all season," Silas said.

While Jordan was known as an intense competitor on the court, his team hasn't been very competitive this season.

The Bobcats have lost 21 games by 20 or more points and nine by 30 points or more. Staggering numbers but not surprising considering Charlotte is last in the league in scoring and shooting percentage.

Jordan told the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday that he knew this was going to be a trying year, but didn't expect it would be this bad.

"But did we want to chase the most pingpong balls (in the May 30 draft lottery)? No way," Jordan told the newspaper. "Ever since I've owned the team I think we've made some very positive moves on the business side. We had to make a difficult decision to turn over the talent. This year the talent we had didn't respond, but that doesn't cause me to turn my back on the plan."

The top six players from the Bobcats' lone playoff team two season ago -- Stephen Jackson (San Antonio), Gerald Wallace (New Jersey), Raymond Felton (Portland), Boris Diaw (Sacramento), Nazr Mohammed (Oklahoma City) and Tyson Chandler (New York) -- all are gone, having either been traded or waived under Jordan's watch.

The Bobcats' current roster is full of inexperienced players.

"I keep reminding myself it's a young team," Silas said.

Jordan has asked fans to be patient. The Bobcats should be more than $20 million under the salary cap, which means they could make some noise in free agency.

They also have a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the draft, likely to be Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Still, that means little to this group of players who are focused on avoiding being tagged as the worst team in NBA history.

Swingman Gerald Henderson called this year a learning process.

"Nobody in here is used to losing like we have lost this year," he said. "It just kind of humbles you and teaches you a lot about what it takes to be successful in this game. It also teaches you what it takes to have a good team in the NBA.

"Hopefully we will come out with a win" against New York.

The Knicks have already clinched a playoff spot and cannot enhance their seeding, so it's possible they may rest several starters against the Bobcats.

"If we play like we played (against Orlando in Wednesday night's 102-95 loss) I think we'll have a chance," Silas said.

Jordan doesn't seem to be taking the losing too hard.

He attended a Chicago Blackhawks playoff game on Monday night rather than watching his Bobcats play on the road at Washington.

Perhaps one of the NBA's greatest winners is tired of losing.


NBA roundup: Bulls closing in on No. 1 overall seed

Kyle Korver

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Korver scored 20 points to help the Chicago Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers, 92-87, Wednesday night and inch closer to the top overall seed in the NBA playoffs.

The Bulls ended the game needing just a win over Cleveland tonight or a loss by the San Antonio Spurs to clinch the league's top spot.

Carlos Boozer scored 16 points, and Joakim Noah had 14 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago. Derrick Rose finished with 10 points in 27 minutes.

Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 22 points in his first career start for Indiana, which rested Danny Granger and Leandro Barbosa with the No. 3 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference locked up.

Denver 106, Oklahoma City 101: Ty Lawson scored 25 points as the Nuggets beat the host Thunder. The Nuggets ensured they won't be the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

New York 99, L.A. Clippers 93: JR Smith scored 21 points, including a rally-stopping jumper with 31 seconds left, and the host Knicks held on to beat the Clippers.

Philadelphia 90, Milwaukee 85: Evan Turner scored a career-high 29 points and the visiting 76ers got a win while resting some key players for the playoffs. Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young sat out for Philadelphia.

Washington 96, Cleveland 85: John Wall had 21 points and 13 assists as the visiting Wizards won their fifth straight.

Orlando 102, Charlotte 95: J.J. Redick had six three-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points as the host Magic handed the Bobcats their 22nd consecutive loss. The Magic snapped a three-game losing streak and secured the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference but lost forward Glen Davis to a sprained right ankle.

Notebook: Commissioner David Stern said Metta World Peace's history, including his role in the "Malice at the Palace" brawl in 2004, weighed into the decision to suspend the Lakers forward. World Peace was suspended for seven games for elbowing Oklahoma City's James Harden in the head.

Atlanta All-Star center Al Horford said he's definitely out for the best-of-seven series against Boston, which begins this weekend. Horford, one of Atlanta's key players along with Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, has missed most of the season recovering from surgery.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

NBA - World Peace banned for seven games

Metta World Peace

Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace has been suspended for seven games for delivering an elbow to the head of Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden.

Moments after his slam dunk in Sunday's game, World Peace was headed back upcourt when he ran into Harden. After pounding his chest in celebration, World Peace raised his left elbow and hit Harden flush, just behind his left ear toward the back of his skull.

Harden fell to the court and stayed down for about a minute and missed the rest of the game and World Peace was ejected.

"The concussion suffered by James Harden demonstrates the danger posed by violent acts of this kind, particularly when they are directed at the head area," NBA Commissioner David Stern said.

"We remain committed to taking necessary measures to protect the safety of NBA players, including the imposition of appropriate penalties for players with a history of on-court altercations."

World Peace, who changed his name from Ron Artest last September, has been suspended 13 times in his career for total of 111 games.

He will miss the Lakers' regular-season finale on Thursday and serve out the rest of his ban over the next six games he is eligible and physically able to play, including this season's playoffs.

The Lakers, who are 41-24 this season, said World Peace has for the most part been a model citizen both on and off the court since joining the Lakers in 2009 but that his behaviour on Sunday was not acceptable.

"His actions could have seriously injured another player, and his absence during this suspension will hurt our team as well," Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.

"While we accept the league's decision, we will be supportive of Metta and try to help him be more professional on the court."


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Celtics G Rondo misses game with back injury

Rajon Rondo
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BOSTON (AP) -- The Celtics are playing without Rajon Rondo after he hurt his back in Boston's game against New York the previous night.

Rondo was injured when he fell hard to the floor in the third quarter of the 118-110 loss to the Knicks on Tuesday night. He finished the game and had 13 assists, extending his streak of games with at least 10 to 23. Coach Doc Rivers said Rondo probably would miss Friday night's game at Atlanta.

The Celtics also faced the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night without guard Ray Allen, who missed his sixth straight game with an injured right ankle, and swingman Mickael Pietrus, who felt pain in his knee.

For the Magic, Dwight Howard was sidelined for the sixth consecutive game with a herniated disc.


Friday, April 13, 2012

NBA-Bobcats crash and burn against weakened Heat

Miami Heat vs charlotte bobcats

The Miami Heat were without starters Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem but still feasted on the league's worst team, handing the Charlotte Bobcats a 15th consecutive loss in a 105-82 home romp on Friday.

LeBron James scored 19 points and Chris Bosh added 18 as the Heat won for the first time in three games to resume their chase of the Chicago Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference.

The Bulls lead by 3 1/2 games, although both teams have already secured playoff berths.

Standout guard Wade remained sidelined with an ankle injury while forward Haslem did not play because of a virus.

Despite coming up against a weakened Heat side, Charlotte (7-51) fell to within one game of a franchise record for consecutive losses.

Derrick Brown had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Michael Jordan-owned Bobcats, whose last win came on March 17, with the outcome never in doubt once Miami had rushed to a 33-19 lead by the end of the first quarter.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Derrick Rose game-time call

Derrick Rose

Chicago Bulls Guard Derrick Rose

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose fully participated in Thursday morning's shootaround and is likely to face the Miami Heat.

Rose missed Tuesday's win over the New York Knicks with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the second quarter of Sunday's loss in New York.

But Rose practiced Wednesday and said the swelling was gone.

 "He's made great progress with all his stuff, and he's feeling good," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday. "It was a freaky thing that happened to him and he's fine now."

Rose has missed a total of 23 games with a variety of injuries, including turf toe, back spasms and a groin injury. He missed the Bulls' win over the Heat on March 14.

"Take Rose off that team and they're still better than a lot of teams in the NBA," LeBron James said Thursday. "And you add him and they're very special."

The Bulls are 16-7 without Rose this season.

"They have one of those defenses that keep you in games," Chris Bosh said. "They have a really talented, very good team, and they have guys who have stepped up. At first we were surprised (how good the Bulls were without Rose), but after a while, it was all the same thing, you kind of expect them to play well. Whether he's in or not, they're going to be a tough team.


Cuban confirms exchange led to Odom's end in Dallas

Lamar Odom

DALLAS (AP) -- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had noticed Lamar Odom's uninspired play numerous times before, and kept hoping things would change.

It took one reply by Odom during a heated halftime exchange in his last game, when Cuban questioned the player's commitment to the team and Odom told him to quit playing games, to realize it was time for the two sides to part ways.

"Just his response to it. Everybody goes through ups and downs. Every player does. We tried to put him in a position to succeed. ... It didn't work," Cuban said Tuesday night, his first public comments since the team confirmed a day earlier that Odom was done in Dallas.

Their halftime exchange came after Odom played an uninspired four minutes Saturday night at Memphis.

"I just asked him, does he want to go for it or not. Is he in or is he out? I think he thought we were playing poker. I just didn't get a commitment. And that was the end," Cuban said. "This was a big game for us, and he wasn't connecting to that. And if you're not positive energy, you're negative energy."

When asked if that was the first time he noticed Odom having such a demeanor, Cuban responded, "No, but the first 17 times, I decided to try to help him and turn it into a positive."

That never happened.

Odom's averages of 6.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 20.5 minutes in his underwhelming 50-game stint in Dallas were career lows. He was also often late for team activities such as practices and meetings.

The Mavericks didn't release him and instead said Odom would be listed inactive for their remaining nine games. That started with Tuesday night's game against Sacramento.

"He didn't want to play. He decided to go elsewhere or do something else. Now we regroup and go forward," Cuban said. "We kept on hoping things would turn out right. It just got to the point where there weren't enough games in the season to try to find out."

The defending NBA champion Mavericks were only one game ahead of ninth place in the Western Conference standings going into the game against the Kings.

Dallas acquired the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year from the Los Angeles Lakers just before the lockout-shortened season. It was a low-risk deal for the Mavericks, who gave up a first-round pick and the trade exception from a deal that sent Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks.

The Lakers seemed compelled to move the 6-foot-10 forward, who made $8.9 million this season, after trying to send him to New Orleans in a Chris Paul deal that was nixed by the league. There were also the personal issues for Odom, whose 24-year-old cousin was murdered last summer only days before the player was involved in a fatal car accident that killed a teen pedestrian after the car he was riding in as a passenger collided with a motorcycle.

Cuban said the Mavericks knew about Odom's fragile emotional state when they got him.

"Yeah, but we thought we could fight through it," Cuban said. "We knew that's why he was available."

Cuban insisted that he failed in trying to make the situation work, and that he didn't have to talk to anyone else to know the end had arrived.

"If I'm going to be the guy who smiles with my hand on the trophy, I've got to be the guy who takes the responsibility," Cuban said. "It was just my initiative, just paying attention. ... I was working with him, tried to get him back on the horse. When I failed, it was my job to recognize it, and deal with it."

Odom, the husband and reality TV co-star of Khloe Kardashian, still has a year left on his four-year contract. Any team that has the 13-year veteran on its roster on June 29 must give him a $2.4 million buyout or be responsible for the full $8.2 million he would be due in 2012-13.

"The way his contract is structured, it will hopefully create some opportunities for us," Cuban said, acknowledging he thinks Odom is tradeable. "Absolutely. It's in his best interests to get his act together, and I'm sure he will. Lamar is still a talented basketball player. He just went through some issues this year. We thought we could work through them with him this year and we weren't able to. Next."


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NBA: Irving, Thomas named Rookies of the Month once more

NBA: Irving, Thomas named Rookies of the Month once more

The NBA announced Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) that Cleveland Cavalier Kyrie Irving and Sacramento King Isaiah Thomas have been named as Eastern Conference and Western Conference Rookie of the Month, respectively, for March.

It was the second straight month that the pair has received the honor, and the third straight citation for Irving, this season's overall number one draft pick.

Irving, a former Duke Blue Devil, averaged 19.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.5 steals for the month, lead all rookies in scoring and assists. He also was second in free throw percentage, hitting 88.1 percent of his charities. His clutch skill was likewise on display, lead all rookies in fourth-quarter scoring with 7.4 points per game.

One highlight of Irving for the month was helping his Cavaliers upset the NBA-leading Oklahoma City Thunder last March 9 (March 10, PHL time), 96-90, a game in which he had a career-best 12 dimes.

The last player drafted this season, Thomas normed 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals during the month. The speedy floor general also led all rookies during the month in fast break points with 64 markers and free throws made with 54 charities.

Thomas definitely shone in his team's 104-103 squeaker over the Utah Jazz, posting 19 points, seven assists, five boards, and two swipes last March 30 (March 31, PHL time). He also had a career-best 28 points in a close 117-112 loss to the San Antonio Spurs last March 28 (March 29, PHL time).

Other nominees for the monthly citation included Denver Nugget Kenneth Faried, Houston Rocket Chandler Parsons, Detroit Piston Brandon Knight and Charlotte Bobcat Kemba Walker.



Derrick Rose

The abbreviated NBA season has been somewhat of a surprise in certain cases, and I have a short list of true title contenders for June.

It breaks down quite easily between a two tiers - true contenders and pretenders.

True contenders:
Chicago: There really isn't anyone in the league that is in the class of the Bulls. With Derrick Rose injured, the Bulls still managed to keep pace and have the best record in the NBA. Look for them to be in the Finals this year.

Oklahoma City: A huge step forward from last year, the Thunder are playing extremely well on the road. As always Kevin Durant is a go to guy and they are sitting where everyone myself included expected them to be after last year's breakout. If they keep pace they should win the west.

Miami: There are some holes in this roster after the big three, which are relied upon by this team almost solely. I believe they will reach the conference finals but their true character will be tested in the clutch, and particularly LeBron James.

Los Angeles Lakers: I don't believe this needs an explanation. Despite LA's struggles this year they are still in a contending position, and still trump the Thunder in experience, and have a motivated Kobe Bryant on their side. If the role players step up, they could make some noise. Coach Brown is a great playoff coach.

Orlando: I don't believe Orlando is a true title contender this year, however there isn't anyone else in the Eastern Conference that can stop Dwight Howard. Ryan Anderson is dangerous from the outside. If Hedo Turkoglu can find his 2009 form they will make some noise as he is a very difficult player to defend. The Magic live and die by the three-pointer and if they don't go down, I see an early exit.

Boston: The Celtics continue to prove me wrong and modestly sit in the top half of the Eastern Conference yet again. If this team is healthy they will make some noise as their experience will trump any of Philadelphia, Atlanta, or Indiana.

San Antonio: I can't remember a time where the Spurs weren't competitive. Third in the NBA in point differential, 9-1 in their last 10, and the second best home record in the league. The Spurs will be a tough matchup for anyone in the west.

On the cusp:
Los Angeles Clippers: Beware the Clippers. As of now they are seeded against the champs and they will certainly have their hands full with the young talent on this team.

Dallas Mavericks: Don't count out the Mavericks, but I simply don't think they are going anywhere. I really dislike Lamar Odom's lack of drive on this team, and Dirk Nowitzki needs help if they are going to pull out another trophy.

Honourable mentions: Philadelphia. Playing inspired and loose basketball. Likely a first round exit, but an excellent bounce back season from the 76ers.

Should be another great June.


NBA roundup: O.J. Mayo-led Grizzlies keep Thunder from tying for NBA's best record

O.J. Mayo

O.J. Mayo scored 22 points, including a key 3-pointer with 17 seconds left, and the visiting Memphis Grizzlies prevented Oklahoma City from tying for the NBA's best record by beating the Thunder 94-88 on Monday night.

Oklahoma City had pulled within a game of league-leading Chicago by blowing out the Bulls a day earlier, but the Grizzlies took the lead just after halftime and hung on to snap the Thunder's six-game winning streak.

Tony Allen added 15 points and Marc Gasol scored 13 for the Grizzlies, who were without starting point guard Mike Conley (Lawrence North) for a second straight game because of a sore right ankle.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 21 points and Russell Westbrook scored 19, with 12 coming as Oklahoma City tried to rally in the fourth quarter.

Clippers 94, Mavericks 75
Randy Foye had 28 points with a career-high eight 3-pointers and visiting Los Angeles won its sixth consecutive game.

Blake Griffin had 15 points and 16 rebounds for the Clippers, who last won six in a row in March 1992. Griffin had scored 20 points in each of the previous six games.

Rockets 99, Bulls 93
Goran Dragic scored 21 points, Luis Scola added 18 points and 12 rebounds, and visiting Houston gave Chicago back-to-back losses for the first time this season.

The Rockets trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half and were down 13 in the third, but they went on a 14-1 run to tie it at 62 late in the quarter, then had a 17-2 burst in the final minute of the third to take an 84-72 lead.

Bucks 112, Wizards 98
Brandon Jennings scored 17 of his 19 points in the third quarter and visiting Milwaukee pulled within two games of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.

Mega Millions crazy
Washington Wizards rookie Chris Singleton said it was worth buying $10,000 in tickets for last week's Mega Millions lottery, adding it was "either that or blowing it in the clubs."

Singleton didn't win a share of the record-breaking top prize, but he said Monday that he did win some money. He's not sure how much because he hasn't gone through all of his tickets yet.

Accusations fly
Cablevision and Madison Square Garden are pushing back against criticism that news of Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin's knee injury was withheld until after a ticket-buying deadline had passed.

The team announced Saturday that Lin would miss the rest of the season. On Monday, New York Daily News writer Frank Isola said medical testing had shown the injury earlier but the team held off announcing it to get past the deadline for season ticket holders to buy playoff tickets for all rounds. Lin's play has been credited with spurring interest in the team and the Knicks are in contention for a playoff spot.

Cablevision and MSG refuted the story and said any suggestion connecting the announcement with ticket sales is a "malicious attack."

Lakers C Andrew Bynum left in the first quarter of Sunday's 120-112 win over the Golden State Warriors, spraining his left ankle while coming down on the foot of teammate Josh McRoberts (Carmel/Pacers). X-rays came back negative, Bynum got treatment Monday and is listed as day-to-day ahead of today's home game against the Nets. . . . Bulls star Derrick Rose missed his 11th straight game Monday against the Rockets because of an injured right groin. . . . . . . . The Mavericks were without G Jason Kidd (groin) and F Lamar Odom (stomach illness) for their game against the Clippers. . . . Cavs G Daniel Gibson is having surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left foot and ankle.


Monday, April 2, 2012

NBA: Lakers beat Warriors 120-112 behind Kobe’s 40

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant scored 40 points and Pau Gasol added 26 as the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves rallying for the second straight game against one of the Western Conference’s worst teams, beating the Golden State Warriors 120-112 on Sunday night.

Ramon Sessions added 23 points in his best game since being traded to the Lakers two weeks ago. Gasol and reserve Troy Murphy had 11 rebounds each after All-Star center Andrew Bynum sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of the Lakers’ eighth consecutive home win against the Warriors.

David Lee led six Warriors in double figures with 27 points. Klay Thompson added 18, Nate Robinson 17 and Richard Jefferson 16 for Golden State, who lost their fifth in a row and 10th in their last 12.

In Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook scored 27 points, while Kevin Durant added 26 points and 10 rebounds as the Oklahoma City Thunder used a dominating third quarter to beat Chicago.

The Thunder pulled away by outscoring Chicago 31-12 in the third quarter, allowing the Bulls to make only five of their 21 shots.

Oklahoma City clinched a playoff berth in the process, with the help of tiebreakers over the teams fighting for the Western Conference’s final spot in the postseason.

The Bulls played without All-Star point guard Derrick Rose for the 10th straight game, falling to 14-6 this season without the reigning MVP and 7-3 during his current absence with a groin injury.

In Boston, Rajon Rondo had a triple-double as Boston handed Miami their biggest loss of the season.

The Celtics outscored the Heat 31-12 in the third quarter, turning a five-point halftime lead into an 80-56 advantage. They stayed ahead by at least 19 the rest of the way for their fifth straight win.

Miami’s past three losses have been by at least 15 points and their previous worst defeat of the season came just one week earlier in a 103-87 setback in Oklahoma City.

Rondo finished with 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds for his fifth triple-double of the season.

The Celtics increased their Atlantic Division lead to one game over idle Philadelphia.

In other NBA action, it was: 
. Raptors 99, Wizards 92
‧ Nuggets 104, Magic 101
‧ Pacers 104, Rockets 102, OT
‧ Suns 92, Hornets 75
‧ Blazers 119, T-Wolves 106


Rajon Rondo shines under spotlight

Rajon Rondo

BOSTON -- At this point it's the worst-kept secret in the Boston Celtics' locker room: Rajon Rondo adores the big stage and produces some of his finest efforts under the glare of the national spotlight.

He just doesn't like to admit it. Fortunately, the stats -- and his teammates -- can't lie.

Rondo registered 16 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds as part of his 18th career triple-double in Sunday's 91-72 triumph over the Miami Heat at TD Garden. It's his 14th triple-double on national television (six have come in postseason play) and three of his five this season have come as part of the "NBA Sunday Showcase" on ABC, against the Heat, Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks.

"We're just going to tell him we're playing on ABC every day," Celtics coach Doc Rivers quipped.

Heck, if this keeps up, Boston might want to consider a national TV partner for its next deal. After all, Rondo has whispered to a teammate or two about being a little extra amped when the world is watching.

"You see how y'all got these cameras on me? Rondo likes these cameras," Brandon Bass said with a big smile. "Every TV game, he really steps it up."

Bass is just giddy to be playing with a point guard like Rondo. He's been witness to six of Rondo's career triple-doubles -- including being on the wrong side of a 2009 game while he was with the Dallas Mavericks.

Now Bass is benefitting from all those slick passes from Rondo. With 14 assists on Sunday, Rondo has reached double digits in helpers in each of his past 13 games (and 16 of the last 18). He broke Bob Cousy's 56-year-old record for assists in a month in March, and did it in five fewer games than Cousy needed back in January 1956.

"Point guard, man. Point guard. That's what he do," said Bass, sounding like a Rondo promoter. "That's what he told me a couple days ago -- that's what he gets paid to do, be a point guard, man. He's been playing well. I'm happy I'm on this side."

So, come on, Rondo. Fess up. You love the big stage.

"I think my teammates put a spotlight on me more than the media or the televised games," he said. "Four or five guys came up to me today and told me to be aggressive and show them what a great point guard I am, so I just tried to go out there and just be great."

Funny how no one tells him to be great on a random Tuesday in Cleveland. But that's fine. The Celtics as a whole pride themselves on playing their best ball when the games matter most and Rondo's triple-doubles hammer that home.

Rondo has been otherworldly in terms of quarterbacking the offense in the second half of the season, but particularly over the last 13 games. His assist streak, and this may be no coincidence, started right around the time Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told Rondo he wouldn't be traded. Kevin Garnett said Sunday that the trade talks had to wear on Rondo and that he tried to keep his teammate focused while he endured the rumors.

"Nine is 9," Garnett said, referencing Rondo's jersey number. "I know he got beat up a little bit during the trade talks and all that. As his big brother, I've just been talking to him, telling him the positive stuff, keeping it positive with him, man. When you're going through tough times, you really see who's with you. He's a little beat up, at the same time, he's been picking up where others have been slacking.

"There are other point guards out there, but this kid is something special, and I hope the city, and not only that, but the fans gravitate to who he is. The same thing that makes you great, sometimes is the same reason why people hate you."

Rondo can be guarded with his comments and rarely delves too deep when asked about topics specific to himself.

An example: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he told Rondo to be more aggressive before Sunday's game. "One of the things going into the game today," Rivers said, "we told Rondo that we needed him to be a scorer. Not necessarily a playmaker, a scorer. And I thought he set the tone at the beginning of the game by doing that, and I thought that loosened it up for everybody else to get into the game."

Sure enough, Rondo came out ultra-aggressive, treating himself to a layup line that included three straight buckets at the rim in the early going. That helped Boston open a double-digit lead just eight minutes in (with Rondo racking up 10 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists at that point, triggering the triple-double watch).

Asked about the instructions from Rivers, Rondo shrugged and offered, "It's just what the coach ordered and I tried to be aggressive."

Every now and then, a bit of Rondo's enormous self-confidence leaks through, giving a glimpse of why he's so good, particularly on the national stage.

Asked after Sunday's game if he felt the Celtics have a good matchup with the Heat when he's healthy, Rondo said, "When I'm healthy, I think we can probably beat anybody."

You'll recall that Rondo wasn't healthy last season when the Heat ousted the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Rondo had dislocated his elbow early in the series and played the final games essentially with one arm.

If Rondo is healthy, the Celtics can be an absolute nightmare opponent for any of the East's top seeds, including Miami. And there's no secret why.

Every game of the playoffs is on national TV, which might just make it Rondo's playground.