Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. The second half of the season for the reconfigured Miami Heat didn't start auspiciously on Wednesday. Newly acquired center Jermaine O'Neal exited in the third quarter with a cut near his right eye, and then James Jones, who started at small forward, suffered a bruised right hand moments later. The Timberwolves took advantage, as Sebastian Telfair put up 30 points, a career high, and dished out eight assists, while Minnesota outrebounded the Heat 49-24 en route to a 111-104 upset in Miami. It was quite a thud, considering the Heat are expected to improve following the O'Neal trade. Now the Heat play four consecutive Eastern teams who are above .500, including three against teams they'll be competing directly against for playoff position down the stretch.

2. It was an interesting juxtaposition in New Orleans, where two 23-year-olds who are already the league's best at their positions met last night. The Hornets' Chris Paul was matched up against the void left by the injury to Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson, while Orlando center Dwight Howard faced what was left after New Orleans traded away Tyson Chandler (and before it was revealed Chandler is coming back). It was the pre-eminent stars of each team pitted against the deficiency that will prevent the other from winning a title this year. Paul made hay, racking up 36 points, 10 assists and six rebounds while Howard looked tired after an incredible performance Tuesday, and the Hornets ran away with a 117-85 victory.

3. Don't be surprised if the Lakers swoop in and grab a big man at the trading deadline. Such a move would serve the dual purpose of replacing Andrew Bynum while he recovers from his knee injury and undermining the Celtics and Cavs, both of whom are known to be seeking depth at the post positions. The unloading of Chris Mihm to the Grizzlies opened up some cap space as well as a hole in the rotation in the form of a backup center. Joe Smith is a possibility now that he has been returned to Oklahoma City. Jason Collins has apparently been shopped by the Timberwolves. And then of course there's Shaq, in case the Suns want to continue to hold down the reset button on the last 12 months and the Lakers are willing to take on his $21 million salary. That reunion with Kobe in the all-star game could have been just the beginning of Hollywood's latest Back to the Future production.

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