Trade deadline approaches! Dwight Howard for Andris Biedrins anyone? Anyone?
Games of the week. Seven of 'em. Let's get to it.
Monday: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls (5:00 PM PST)
Just how good are these Pacers? Larry Bird has built a wonderful team with a very high ceiling. They play top ten defense (91.9 points allowed), and still beat their opponents by six points per game. Roy Hibbert looks very much like an All Star big man, and David West, Danny Granger, Paul George and Darren Collison are all solid -- and occasionally spectacular -- players. At 23-12, they're third in the East, and figure to stay there as long as the Sixers continue to struggle. The playoffs out East seem very two-horse-racey between the Heat and the Bulls, but the Pacers should take one or two games against either of those teams in the second round. And after the playoffs? They'll have the cap space to sign one more impact player, and seemingly have their sights set on hometown hero Eric Gordon. Let's see where this team goes.
Tuesday: Houston Rockets at Boston Celtics (4:30 PM PST)
Did you know that the Houston Rockets and the Boston Celtics played each other in the finals? Twice, in fact? Yep. 1981 and 1986. The Celtics beat the Rockets both times, four games to two. It seems to me the most entertaining moment of this eighties version of the Mavs and the Heat was this brawl between Houston center Ralph Sampson and Celtics guard Jerry Sichting. Lovin' Sampson, who's gotta be at least a foot and a half taller than Sichting, trying to connect punches with those tentacles of his.
Wednesday: Portland Trailblazers at Minnesota Timberwolves (5:00 PM PST)
This past weekend, I saw these two teams with my own eyes, and man, was it a blast. The game wasn't too close, but it was entertaining as hell. Kevin Love put on a show -- 42 points and 10 rebounds -- and the Wolves spanked the Blazers by 22 points. The loss has sent shockwaves through the entire Blazers organization, and most of the heat is falling on coach Nate MacMillan, who has failed to take a roster of quality vets without their two betwixt stars to the promised land. You know, because anyone else could. The Blazers would be wise to just blow it up and start over with Nate than axe him for failing to beat the cruel hand of fate and multiple knee injuries.
Thursday: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls (5:00 PM PST)
Hey Otis Smith: you could probably get a lot of nice players from the Bulls for Dwight and Hedo's shit contract. Just sayin'.
Friday: LA Clippers at San Antonio Spurs (5:30 PM PST)
I am going to go out on a limb and hypothesize that Spurs guard Gary Neal will be thoroughly discussed in the Clippers pre-game walkthrough. For those who didn't watch the last matchup between these two clubs (and most didn't since it was a Saturday matinee game on League Pass), Gary Neal played something of an important role in the game's proceedings. With 3.8 seconds left in regulation, Clippers' ball, and the Spurs down by three, Neal stole the inbounds pass from Chris Paul, and nailed a three to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Gary Neal hit the go-ahead three with twenty five seconds left, and the Spurs never trailed again. Probably should put a body on that guy, Vin of the Black.
Saturday: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors (7:30 PM PST)
Oh man. I don't even need to explain what this matchup means to Warriors (and I guess Mavs) fans everywhere. Just seeing these two team names hearkens back to the most glorious seven weeks of my basketball life, when the Golden State Warriors made the playoffs as the eighth seed for the first time in thirteen seasons, and proceeded to embarrass reigning league MVP Dirk Nowitzki and the top-seeded (66 win) Dallas Mavericks in six games. It was truly an out-of-body experience; a euphoria that has yet to be matched in my life. When the series ended, I felt I was looking at two wildly divergent clubs with dramatically different futures. At the time, I was sure that the Warriors had finally arrived on the national scene, and were poised to become a perrinnial playoff club. As for Dirk and the Mavs? I was pretty sure they were gonna blow that thing up, trade away Dirk, fire Avery Johnson, and start from scratch. Shows what I know. I hate being a Warriors fan.
Sunday: Boston Celtics at LA Lakers (12:30 PM PST)
In July 2007, the Boston Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, two superstars at the end of their athletic primes, to assist Paul Pierce in a five year mission to win as many championships as possible. However, in February 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were looking at another first round exit, somehow acquired superstar forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, and instantly turned themselves into contenders. The rest, of course, is history. These acquisitions -- as well as the rise of Rajon Rondo, a 2006 late first round pick out of Kentucky -- has propelled each of these teams to elite standings, and has garnered championships for all of these players. Now, five seasons later, and at the eve of the trade deadline, almost every single one of these players is involved in a trade rumor. With the Ides of March drawing nigh, I am almost certain this is the last time we will see these two teams, who revived the greatest rivalry in all of sports, playing a game that resembles the 2008 or 2010 finals. Nearly all of these players (save Kobe) have a fair shot at being traded come next week. Let's enjoy this matchup while we still can.