Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 9:16 AM
Here's what we believe to be a rather interesting question: Have you ever heard so much buzz about an NBA .500 team in March?
Okay, so the here-and-now New York Knicks -yes, 18-18 at press time and sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division -sure have had a facelift during the course of this 2011-12 truncated NBA season but sometimes we think the national media goes a little nutty over certain stories (see Jeremy Lin) when there are pro hoops teams out there such as the San Antonio Spurs (25-11) who garner less attention than a neighborhood street cleaner.
In short, the Lin-Sanity bit that's not only taken New York City but the nation by storm has been a fun story and -as we've said before in recent Jim Sez columns -it's hard not to root for the former Harvard grad who has handled all his media/social duties with a real grace.
Still, word to Knicks fans from SoHo to Southampton -your team still is just .500 and right now you're barely holding onto the eighth and final playoff berth in the East.
Okay, so now that is out of our system we'll get to the Sunday afternoon TV tilts on ABC but first this key reminder:
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NEW YORK (18-18) at BOSTON (18-17) -1 p.m. ET, ABC
While the pro hoops universe seems to have centered around these Knicks, the real NBA news story happening is right here in Boston where trade rumors surrounding mega-star point guard Rajon Rondo (14.2 points per game and 9.8 assists per outing) continue to make the rounds.
Obviously, said rumors didn't seem to both Rondo's play in Friday's 107-94 win/cover against the woe-be-gone 6-point underdog New Jersey Nets -Rondo finished up that blowout win with 14 points and 13 assists and he was a major key in the Celtics committing just two first-half turnovers.
Here, if Rondo feels "challenged" by the presence of Lin, than this could be a real stat-sheet stuffing game for the Boston lead guard who may or not be getting shipped out to the Los Angeles Lakers or perhaps the Dallas Mavericks sometime prior to the NBA's March 15th Trade Deadline.
One major key for the Knicks here: They must make sure with all this "selfish" talk that forward Carmelo Anthony still gets his 16-to-22 shots (he had 22 points in Wednesday's rollicking 120-103 win/cover against 10-point pup Cleveland) and they must make sure that key reserve G Steve Novak (15 points versus the Cavs) gets to attempt a handful or more three-pointers as his bombs have really lit the fuse on some big Knicks scoring runs lately.
MIAMI (28-8) at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (22-14) -3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
We know, we know. Everyone's champing at the bit to see if Lakers' superstar Kobe Bryant is gonna nail Miami guard Dwyane Wade after the latter broke Bryant's nose last week with a silly/stupid All-Star Game foul -yes, we know that it wasn't a hard foul but why do what Wade did at that moment and than later claim he still "owes him one"?
Now does Wade "get it" a little bit more when so many sports fans root, root, root hard against the Heat?
As it is, Wade and Company will be looking to bounce back from Friday night's 99-98 loss at 5-point underdog Utah thus snapping Miami's nine-game winning streak. As for Wade, he did his part with 31 points and 6 rebounds but fellow mega-star LeBron James (again) turned down an opportunity to win it and passed off to big man Udonis Haslem who missed a long-range jumper right before the buzzer sounded -hey, we hear Cleveland Cavaliers fans laughing out loud in the background!
No doubt Wade would have loved to take that final shot -maybe here he will get that opportunity -but one guy who never refuses to take the big late-game shot is the aforementioned Bryant who now has played two games since the All-Star nose break with Friday's 115-107 non-cover home triumph against 10-point pup Sacramento featuring a 38-point game by Kobe while still donning that "Phantom of the Opera" type mask to protect his nose.
One thing the Lakers had to love about this latest "W" was that the Kings put a scare into 'em after LAL built up a 20-point lead and so Mike Brown's crew will be all business here -as if Bryant never is! -and one key game strategy is to watch the shot distribution of Lakers big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum who attempted 11 and 13 field-goal tries, respectively, in the win against the Kings while combining for 34 points. The Lakers would take that here against defensively-stout Miami but let's see which big man Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra tries to limit here. Now, put up your dukes, Dwyane!
In other NBA News & Notes ...
It's not all that often an NBA team can shoot 35 percent from the floor and still win but that was the case with the Phoenix Suns in their ugly-as-sin 81-78 triumph over 2 ½-point road fav Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. The Suns didn't exactly scorch the nets -they shot a collective 28-of-80 -and how about that stat line on C Channing Frye who finished 2-of-18 from the floor for 6 points? If the Suns are thinking about moving Frye (as has been suggested in some circles) than this shooting performance surely lowered his "stock price", right?
Do you wonder what it must be like for the 4-30 Charlotte Bobcats this year?
Not only are the 'Cats the far-and-away worst team in the NBA but in Friday's 102-72 loss at 15-point favorite San Antonio there was Charlotte shooting a woeful 3-of-16 from beyond the three-point arc and rookie G Kemba Walker -one year removed from one of the great late-season/tournament runs in NCAA history -coming off the bench to play 24 minutes and score 8 points. My, has life's fortunes taken a hit for Mr. Walker who could have been elected governor of Connecticut at this time last year ...
Finally, when you're looking at NBA Coach of the Year candidates (and we know it's still early to do so) than any list highlighting the top three contenders than does not include Spurs' boss-man Gregg Popovich and/or Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins is absolutely useless. But let's not forget the job being done in Indiana (22-12) by relative unknown Frank Vogel who has tweaked his rotation in recent days and come up with some neat chemistry. Might the Pacers be a major source of problems for the aforementioned Heat in the NBA Playoffs? Could be.
NOTE: Catch all our College Basketball reviews and previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and make sure you're with us every day through the great hoops month of March!