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
Image Source:
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.


Texas guard J'Covan Brown entering the NBA draft

J'Covan Brown

Texas will have a big hole to fill in its backcourt next season.

J'Covan Brown announced Monday he was forgoing his final season of eligibility to enter the NBA draft.

"There were a lot of reasons to come back to school next year, most importantly getting my degree and being around my teammates every day," Brown said in a statement. "But the time has come for me to pursue a career in professional basketball and take care of my daughter, Jordyn. This has been a difficult decision, but it is the best decision for myself and my family."

Brown averaged 20.1 points to lead the Big 12 in scoring this past season as the Longhorns went 20-14 and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 14th consecutive time.

He is not projected to be a first-round pick.

"Our staff wishes J'Covan and his family nothing but success as he moves forward," Texas coach Rick Barnes said in a statement. "We've literally seen J'Covan grow up and mature before our eyes over the last three years here, and we are proud of the man that he has become. We respect his decision and understand his need to provide for his daughter."


Bynum leaves Lakers game with sprained ankle

Andrew Bynum

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Andrew Bynum has sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the Golden State Warriors.

The team says X-rays were negative, but Bynum won't return to Sunday night's game at Staples Center. He has a moderate sprain and will be re-evaluated on Monday. The starting center had no points and three rebounds when he left the game.

Bynum ended March averaging 22.2 points and 10.9 rebounds in 17 games during the month.


Jordan says he's 100 percent committed to Bobcats

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Michael Jordan said Sunday that he's 100 percent committed to the Charlotte Bobcats and has no intention of selling the struggling NBA franchise.

The Bobcats have lost 12 of their last 14 games and own the league's worst record at 7-43, but Jordan says he isn't ready to bail out on the team after the Hall of Famer bought control of the organization from Bob Johnson in March 2010.

The New York Daily News reported Sunday that Jordan has contemplated selling if the team doesn't turn things around - both in performance and profitability.

"I was disturbed to hear the false report that I intend to sell my majority interest in the Charlotte Bobcats," Jordan said in a statement. "I am 100 percent committed to building the Bobcats into a contender and have no plans to sell the team."

The Bobcats are clearly in a rebuilding mode and it will likely take some time to turn them into a contender. The team traded away veteran stars Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson with the hope of rebuilding through young talent.

They're now looking to build the franchise around lottery picks Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, as well as young players such as Gerald Henderson, D.J. Augustin and Byron Mullens. The process has been a painful one for coach Paul Silas, whose contract is up in July.

The Bobcats are on pace to finish with the second-worst point differential per game since 1976, losing by an average of 13.1 points. The only NBA team with a worse mark than the Bobcats is the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks (15.2 ppg).

The only positive is the Bobcats are practically guaranteed to earn one of the first four picks in the NBA draft. If they finish with the NBA's worst record they will have a 25 percent chance in the draft lottery of landing the No. 1 pick - possibly Kentucky's Anthony Davis, the AP Player of the Year.

Jordan recently has made efforts to help the community, and even agreed to a sponsorship deal with a local hospital in Charlotte. He has donated money to area projects to support school systems and battle hunger, calling the initiative "Cats Care."

He has said repeatedly that he believes strongly in making an impact in Charlotte and the surrounding community through his position as Bobcats owner.

Although the team's financial situation has improved since Jordan took over the franchise, Forbes magazine recently estimated the Bobcats are losing more than $10 million annually.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tonight in the NBA: Heat at Celtics

Tonight in the NBA: Heat at Celtics
Tonight in the NBA: Heat at Celtics
The Sixers will travel to Miami on Tuesday to face the Heat.

Here's a look at the action today around the NBA:

Heat at Celtics, 3:30 p.m. 
The Miami Heat will try to avoid an eighth consecutive regular-season road loss to the Celtics when they travel to Boston Sunday.

Ray Allen has missed the last five games with a sore right ankle and may be out again Sunday.

Even in his absence, Boston has climbed to the top of the Atlantic behind Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Pierce has averaged 22.3 points during the Celtics' 6-1 run.

Garnett, 35, has recorded 23.7 per game on 59.3 percent shooting over the last three games.

"I hear you all calling me old. I hear you all calling me ... weathered," Garnett told the team's official website. "I'm motivated. It doesn't really take much to motivate me, man. I'm older in basketball years, but in life I'm 30-something."

Miami defeated Toronto, 113-101, on Friday for just its third win in its last nine on the road.

Nuggets at Magic, 6 p.m. 
The Orlando Magic will try to avoid a third straight loss Sunday against the visiting Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets are looking for their first back-to-back victories in nearly a month.

The Magic are third in the Eastern Conference and six games behind Miami in the Southeast Division race.

Orlando has not lost three in a row since a season-worst four-game skid from Jan. 26-30.

The Magic, however, are 20-3 at home versus Denver.

Denver is coming off a 99-88 victory over league-worst Charlotte on Friday.

The Nuggets have lost 17 of their last 18 road games against Orlando.

Wizards at Raptors, 6 p.m. 
The Washington Wizards look to avoid a fifth consecutive road loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night.

The Wizards are also looking to post back-to-back victories for just the second time this season.

Washington upset the Sixers, 97-76, on Friday after losing five in a row.

The Wizards hope to carry over the momentum against the Raptors.

"Maybe this is a game we need to have that ice broken," said coach Randy Wittman. "That was spectacular by our guys."

Washington has taken two of three from Toronto this season.

The Raptors have lost six of the last eight. They are coming off a 113-101 loss to Miami on Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Cavs' Irving out with sprained shoulder

Kyrie Irving

NEW YORK (AP) -- Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving missed the Cleveland Cavaliers' game against the New York Knicks on Saturday night because of a sprained right shoulder.

Irving injured his shoulder during Friday night's loss to Milwaukee in Cleveland. He traveled with the Cavaliers to New York and was evaluated Saturday morning by the team's training staff, which listed him as questionable for the game. The Cavaliers waited as long as possible before deciding that Irving wouldn't play.

A leading contender for NBA Rookie of the Year, Irving said after Friday's game that he was in pain. The top pick in last year's draft, he also revealed he separated his right shoulder as a high school sophomore.

Despite favoring his shoulder, Irving scored 29 points and made all six 3-point attempts in Cleveland's 121-84 loss to Milwaukee. The Cavaliers had lost six straight and nine of 10, dropping them from the playoff chase.