What is happening around the league currently? (Follow the Kobe Beef on Twitter to keep up to date in 140 characters or less.) Several items transpired after last night’s round of games and into this morning. Here we break down a few key points that will play a role today, into the weekend, and beyond.
Manu Ginobili inked a new three year deal with the San Antonio Spurs today for just over $38 million. Ginobili’s abilities as a proven flopper with low basketball IQ are invaluable assets to a team that will soon be involved in the rebuilding process. George Hill and DeJuan Blair are the future for the Spurs and Ginobili is likely sticking around because of his play of late, which has been remarkable especially with the frenetic pace at which he plays and his simply stupid luck (which he has always had) shooting the ball. Ginobili stays a Spur but what will become of Mr. Eva Longoria?
Not many things can actually be decided in the playoff race in the West before the dust settles on 14 April but at least two things can be gained by certain teams tonight, if they are lucky. The Los Angeles Lakers travel to the Target Center tonight to play the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves are one of the worst teams in the NBA this season and are lottery bound; the Lakers on the other hand hold the top spot in the West. They could lock up this top seed and secure the best record in the West with a win over the Timberwolves tonight. Having rested Kobe Bryant last night in their loss to the Denver Nuggets last night, he will undoubtedly be ready to play and win.
The Dallas Mavericks are the other team that can have part of their fate decided tonight, if they get a little help from the Memphis Grizzlies. Dallas travels to Portland to play the Trailblazers tonight, which could still shape up to be a first round matchup depending on where all the pieces fall. Portland has had the Mavericks number all season having beaten them in each of their three previous meetings this year. In one of those wins Andre Miller was completely unstoppable and dropped a career high 52 points against a hapless Mavericks team. Other than playing for sheer pride and redemption the Mavericks are also playing to secure the Southwest Division title. If they can finally find a way to beat the Blazers tonight they will be half way to that goal. Memphis holds the key to the other half of the equation as they travel to San Antonio to play the Spurs. The Grizzlies must prevail tonight for the Mavericks to lock up the Southwest, if, of course, the Mavericks themselves win.
In the Leastern Conference the race for the last playoff seed has become even tighter. Last night the Chicago Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 109-108. LeBron James sat out last night’s game for rest which has fueled speculation, especially north of the border, that the Cavaliers would rather play the Bulls in the first round. Both the Toronto Raptors and the Bulls hold identical 38-40 records and are tied for the final playoff spot in the East. I have written ad nauseam, it seems, about the intertwined destinies of both Chicago and Toronto so I will not write on the issue here more than I already have. (Read previous entries on this topic if you have not done so.) Sunday is their showdown, tune in if you can.
Kenyon Martin hopes to return to the Denver Nuggets by Saturday from a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup and in street clothes for the last five weeks. His return may help stop the bleeding that Denver has experienced of late. But the team may have already righted the ship as they have rattled off four consecutive wins. Chauncey B-B-B-Billups probably has something to do with this as he said, “For us, the playoffs started a week ago and we’ve got to play ugly and fight and scrap and claw.” Over these last four games they have been doing just that as the Nuggets attempt to hold onto home court advantage in at least one playoff round. Getting Martin back will certainly help this team play ugly, fight, scrap, and claw as he is one of their best defenders and has quite the knack for rebounding. Hopefully, however, K-Mart’s return will be more appropriate for his young fans than his recent tirade was after an April Fools prank which he was the victim. Take a listen.
Jerry Colangelo has some ‘splaining to do. Kobe Bryant has not officially agreed to play in the FIBA World Championship as yet but he certainly hasn’t ruled it out. According to Bryant he is playing as far as he knows. This is great for Team USA, isn’t it? Kind of. You see, Colangelo, for some bonehead reason decided to make LeBron James mad which led to LeBron basically saying he has no plans on recommitting to Team USA. Thanks, Jerry. Dwyane Wade is going through an unfortunate divorce, the proceedings of which could interfere with the games which are being held in Turkey this summer. So you have a vague commitment from Kobe, LeBron is mad, and Wade is going through the Big D and we don’t mean Dallas. (On a side note: Dwyane Wade, please come play for the Mavericks. I know the officials and Emperor David Stern handed you a title here to spite the fans and Mark Cuban but winning a ring here while wearing blue, silver, and white would go a long way to helping heal deep, deep wounds. Give it some consideration.) What is Colangelo to do? Well, he damn well better do something before more players decide to opt out. It would be wise on his part to invite young players (Kevin Durant, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, DeJuan Blair, Russell Westbrook, etc.) to tryouts and practice for the team to instill a sense of pride in them for being able to represent their country. Do it for your neighbor, do it for Obama, do it so the lazy Spaniards don’t win again, and do it for America (cue the America song from Team America). The skill level that Team USA brings to the Worlds will not be in question but it would be nice if America’s best talent participated.