I’d like to introduce this column by reciting half of Air Jordan’s most famous press conference. The Roundup is “ba-aack.”
Let’s start with the game that everybody and Mike Brown’s mother is still talking about.
When LeBron James and Dwyane Wade took to the hardwood of the Double-A on Tuesday, the Olympic teammates added another spectacular chapter to the league’s best rivalry between its biggest superstar and its most disgruntled. Separated by only 12 games in the standings, Cleveland and Miami traded baskets down the stretch in a game that some are comparing to the great Boston-New Jersey showdowns of the mid ‘80s.
Cleveland ultimately prevailed in a 92-91 squeaker when The King, who finished with 32 points on 9 of 23 shooting, stole an ill-advised, behind-the-back pass from D-“Magic” Wade with 4 seconds left, driving the length of the court and converting on two crucial free throws.
Besides living up to some of the more memorable late January classics, Tuesday’s showcase will probably be best remembered by a first half in which LeBron-Wade traded baskets like Jordan-Bird in a Micky D’s H-O-R-S-E commercial. Wade finished with 30 after two quarters and added another spectacular bucket after halftime. He finished with 32.
On a note of similar importance, one unusual figure has begun to catch the eye of many a bewildered box score junky. That’s not a Chan Ho Park April batting average, sports fans. Nope, not a homeless man’s delinquent credit score. Jayson Williams’ blood-alcohol level?
That’s an actual NBA winning percentage… On Wednesday, the New Jersey Nets won their fourth game of the season, spawning a new League slogan in the process:
“The NBA: Where Point Oh Nine Happens.”
It was an all-around great night for the Nets. The team raised its mark to 4-40, picked up its first win of the decade, snapped a 29-game losing streak to the Western Conference, and pulled to neck and neck with the Washington Generals in the race for a fictional playoff spot.
Through 44 games, only the ’93-’94 Dallas Mavericks, at 3-41, had a worse “start,” and New Jersey will have to play .13 ball the rest of the way if it wants to match the ’72-’73 Philly Sixers historic 9-win mark. Kiki Vandewheghe’s boys haven’t won a game since topping the Knicks in the second to last day of last year. Back then, oil was $75 a barrel, unemployment was over 10 percent and Congress’ health care bill was dead in the water.
Hey, Jersey! If you look at it that way, doesn’t seem that long ago!
And poor Jay-Z. The guy hasn’t made an investment this bad since he signed Vanilla Ice to Def Jam. Mr. Roc-a-fella is strapped with minority ownership of a team that’s 28th overall in attendance and only filling 71 percent of the IZOD’s seat capacity on any given night. I, for one, would not pay to watch the Nets if they moved to Brooklyn, changed their name to the Dodgers, and signed Jackie Robinson as a player coach.
Turning now to a demographic that doesn’t get a lot of love in the Roundup, white guy David Lee, who is pumping out 19 and 11 and shooting 55 percent from the field, found out Thursday that he will not be packing his bags for the All-Star extravaganza in Dallas despite 26 double doubles and at least 24 and 9 in five of his last seven. Lee would have been the first Knickerbocker to make the midseason showcase since Latrell “The Kids Gotta Eat” Sprewell and Allan Houston. Speaking of…
Instead, David will swing over to Houston to be the best man for his knot-tying best friend. The Knicks forward told ESPN’s Chris Sheridan earlier this week that he “wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t make [the All-Star game].”
Let’s see. Lee could’ve spent three days competing for chicks with the likes of LeBron, ‘Melo and KG, or show up as the tallest, richest guy at a party with a copious number of emotionally distraught UT grads wondering why they still haven’t found Mr. Right. Again I repeat, no kidding. Next weekend could be more epic for David than “Wedding Crashers” remade as a Spike Lee joint.
And with that, it’s time for this week’s edition of Streaking: Everybody’s Doin’ It!
The “In Underwear for Charity Run” Streak: Memphis. Chris Wallace has heard my pleas. His team is 8-2 in its last 10 and reeled off 11 in a row at home. Good thing the Grizz aren’t actually running around half naked – nobody wants to see Marc Gasol in anything less than the soaking, stench of a tank top he’s already wearing.
The “Still Partially Clothed, But a Little Tipsy and It’s Getting Chilly” Streak: Cleveland. The perpetually hot Kingsmen are 18-3 at home, have ripped off 6 straight wins and built a comfortable 4.5 game lead on Boston. What’s more, as each scissor-free day passes, LeBron looks more and more like he might be letting his Chia-fro develop into a full-blown Dr. J Man-Fro. Prepare to have your life altered.
The “Birthday Suit But, Hey, It’s Dark Outside” Streak: Denver, the hottest team in the league. They’ve won 9 of 10 to springboard to within 3.5 of the struggling Kobes, and have 2 straight wins without Carmelo, who’s nursing a bum left ankle. Kenyon “I Play High… Above the Rim” Martin has 12 double-doubles in his last 16 games, and Nene has notched double-digit scoring in eight straight, despite thinking he’s a soccer star.
The “Wild Wimbledon, Only Clothes Are These Painted Flags, ‘Lookout, Queen Mother!’” Streak: Kevin Durant. He’s scored 25 plus in 19 straight games, a phenomenal stretch that pails in glory only to his new nickname…
While Kevin enters a pantheon solely reserved for the likes of “The Admiral” and “Skywalker,” Boston forward Glen Davis has gone in the opposite direction, as he mulls a change to the, um, repetive “Uno Uno.” The switch seems a bit uninspired until you consider that he’s following the Spanish-numbered scheme of another Big Baby, and that his “Uno Uno” houses four syllables in its six letters.
That’s got to be a first. Moving on.
Guns don’t kill franchises. Trigger-happy two guards with bad knees and $111 million contracts kill franchises. David Stern has had enough with both, and proved it by suspending Gilbert Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenon without pay for the duration of the seaon. The 14-30 Wizards, already lacking in firepower, now lose a guy who’s netting 23 points a game, as well as a player who threatened to shoot that guy in his bad knee.
Last Friday, Derrick Rose did this:
(For those without YouTube capabilities: Rose ran the length of the floor and then basically used Goran Dragic as a human escalator. Monster throwdown.)
Before he comes down, I would just like to take this brief moment to address Bulls GM John Paxson and head coach Vinny Del Negro directly.
Gentlemen, on behalf of basketball fans everywhere, I’d like to formally announce that the demarcation point of Your Last Chance begins right here.
Vinny, great hair.
We’re tired of the teasing. Your “Baby” Bulls shave three times a day, the sack of bones and hair that is Joakim Noah is improbably gifting you with a double-d every night. Luol Deng – the man you wouldn’t trade for KOBE BRYANT – is back to his above average self. And now, as evidenced by the fact that he has his head stuck in the ceiling, we know for sure – we are one-hundred percent, unequivocally certain – that your star point guard’s right knee and ankle are fully recovered. You have no more excuses. That’ll be all.
This column is fading faster than the Celtics’ title hopes. I need a buzzer beater. Big ups to Timmy for 27 boards.