Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this around-the-league notebook edition of the Dime.
SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION
LeBron gave us the highlight of the week with this sick dunk, but he failed to deliver the clutch shot against the Lakers in L.A., which could be bad news for the Cavs come playoff time (See Box 8).
The much-discussed trade that would send wayward forward Ron Artest from Indiana to Los Angeles for Clippers swingman Corey Maggette, which moved suddenly toward completion this week after initial resistance from L.A., has fizzled.
NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that the Pacers have abandoned their interest in Maggette because of concerns with his troublesome left foot.
The Clippers, sources said, will have to wait up to a month for the removal of Maggette's cast just to determine if the 26-year-old can be reactivated this season -- or if an ongoing ligament problem will require season-ending surgery that places a screw in Maggette's foot. Indiana, as a result, has elected not to pursue the deal, even though Maggette -- a rugged scorer known for getting to the free-throw line -- had been near the top of its wish list since the Pacers decided last month that they would honor Artest's public request to be traded.
One more team to keep on your Ron Artest scorecard: New Orleans-Oklahoma City.
The Pacers, like just about every playoff-bound club in the league, would love to pilfer P.J. Brown from the Hornets. That won't happen, because Brown is an untouchable along with Chris Paul and David West, but sources close to the situation indicate that the Hornets haven't ruled out the idea of bringing Artest in.
Yet with Brown off-limits, NO/OKC is unlikely to offer the Pacers much more than salary relief and possibly second-tier youngsters or draft considerations. Desmond Mason and his expiring contract, acquired in October from Milwaukee for Jamaal Magloire, is an obvious option since Mason ($7.2 million) and Artest ($6.8 million) are a virtual salary match.
The Pacers, though, are expected to keep probing for potential deals after coming close to swapping Artest for the Los Angeles Clippers' Corey Maggette. New Orleans also continues to be pursued as a third- or fourth-team conduit in a larger Artest deal by the clubs -- such as Denver, Minnesota, Houston and the Lakers -- who need a multi-team trade to assemble a package Indy likes.
If the end of his Sacramento career is indeed approaching, free agent-to-be Peja Stojakovic isn't bound to remember this farewell fondly.
Nor would you call this a contract drive.
Plagued by back troubles, Peja hasn't had a 20-point game in more than a month (Dec. 11).
You wouldn't have to look hard for reasons why Erick Dampier has begun to lose the support of coach Avery Johnson, as some of Johnson's thinly veiled critiques in the past week suggest.
Johnson lobbied as strongly as anyone for the Dampier acquisition via a sign-and-trade with Golden State in August 2004. Yet Dampier, looking increasingly lethargic, had failed to score 10 points in a whopping 25 consecutive games entering the weekend. His longest such streak last season was four.
All the Mavericks really expect from their center, as a result, is activity on the boards and a low-post presence defensively. The team's unspoken mantra is that they're a threat to anyone in the league when they get something out of Dampier. But they're not even getting that consistently, which has to be a concern given the five years and nearly $57 million left on Dampier's contract after this season.
Hunter (Southfield, Mi): Between the Cavs and Nets, which team would you least want to face in the postseason? LeBron can be scary, but New Jersey is showing the rumors of its demise were greatly exaggerated and they are still in position to possibly pull off a trade before the deadline to bring them another big man.
Stein: Don't think the Nets are going to find a big man of consequence. But I'd still take them over the Cavs in a playoff comparison. Experience is the difference. LeBron in the playoffs is still an unknown. Maybe he'll be fabulous from the start. But until we see him on the playoff stage, we don't know.
I'd probably still pick Miami to win a seven-game series with Jersey in the second round, but I'd also expect the Nets to give the Heat some problems. The Heat are bound to struggle defensively with a perimeter trio that likes to get up and down.
"We get kind of mind-boggled a lot."
Atlanta swingman Joe Johnson, referring to his young team's increasing struggles to hold late leads, leaving the Hawks as the only team in the league with fewer than 10 victories entering the weekend.
I'll go out on a limb and suggest that Wednesday's Magic at Sonics tussle will be remembered for other things ... like Ray Allen's front-row scrap with Keyon Dooling ... or maybe Steve Francis' refusal to re-enter the game in the fourth quarter to earn an indefinite suspension from Orlando management.
That said ...
I'd say Rashard Lewis merits at least a mention for what he did in Seattle's 113-104 triumph. Gaudy numbers are in abundance lately -- Orlando's Jameer Nelson, for example, had a career-high 32 points in the same game -- but Lewis still managed to stand out with 45 points that saved the Sonics. (The total was also notable because it reminds you that Lewis needed another five points to match the career-best 50 he scored in Japan in the second game of the 2003-04 season.)