Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. Yao Ming reminded everyone last night why he'd be an All-Star even if he didn't have a billion Chinese voting for him every year. Yao was dominant against inferior competition inside against the Bulls, finishing with 28 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Perhaps more impressive was his performance at the line, a perfect 10-for-10 night that few other 7-footers can match. He's an 86 percent free-throw shooter for the season, a number that could mean plenty late in a few playoff games this year.

2. The Raptors are going with their giant frontline experiment again with Jermaine O'Neal back, teaming him with Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani in the starting lineup, but it's difficult to assess them when the guards play as poorly as the did against the Cavs last night. Starters Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker shot a combined 2-for-16, while backup Jason Kapono went 1-for-5 in a 101-83 loss. That's 3-for-21 altogether, enough offensive ineptitude to cancel 20-point performances from Bosh and O'Neal and a double-double for Bargnani. And certainly enough to scuttle any chance Calderon (1-for-9, 2 points) had at replacing Jameer Nelson in the All-Star Game.

3. Tuesday was a great day to be a Cavs or Celtics fan, and not just because those teams won. The specter of perhaps losing Jameer Nelson for the season is a blow to the Magic, who stand little chance of winning unless he comes back or the team is able to swing a major deal before the Feb. 19 trading deadline. Nelson's leap in production, highlighted by a 5.8-point surge in points per game this season, gave the frontcour-dominated Magic a dimension they haven't had in the last couple of years. Orlando without Nelson now is no better than the team that was dumped by the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last year. The onus is on the front office to somehow salvage what appeared to have been a breakthrough season without mortgaging a promising future.

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