You've seen a man jump over a Spud in a single bound. You've seen Ron Artest wish his way out of Indiana. You've seen Shaq and Kobe hug. Yay!
Twenty Questions for Tenny
You've seen the Pistons become a foregone conclusion in the East, just waiting for a Texas-sized challenge in the finals. You've seen Wilt's name come up, and thankfully, it was for a scoring record on the court.
You've watched a lot.
So it's time for Twenty Questions of The Daily Dime's Ten Cent, who offers his two cents on hoop questions great and small. Thank you in advance for reading.
1. Which team will do much better in the second half than the first?
Plenty of candidates here. Hmmm . . . lessee. Slumping Timberwolves find a groove with new pieces. The dawning of the Darko Age in Orlando brings magic to the O-rena. T-Mac and Yao shed doubters, provide solid 1-2 punch.
And the winner is -- Raptors rise by virtue of shedding that 0-9 start, and the rising age of Bosh.
2. Which team is going to do much worse in the second half?
Could it get worse for the Knicks. Yep. MSG is a mansion built too close to the shore. Here come the waves! Golden State seems to be in a greater implosion mode. Yeah, the 24-28 Warriors have only ten more wins in them.
3. Detroit has had the fast start, 41-9. But who could very well end up with the NBA's best record?
The Mavs. They are being pushed the hardest, and they know home-court advantage could be the difference-maker in a series with the Spurs. Avery Johnson will continue to push the right buttons on his 41-11 team.
4. Dirk Nowitzki for MVP?
For the love of Uwe Blab, why not?
5. How many times will the average NBA Package subscriber hear the Rob Thomas' "Ever the Same" theme during breaks for the very good public service program "NBA Cares?"
6. How many hearings will it take before you're singing it while making morning oatmeal.
7. Can you return to regular programming here?
Yes . . . "I'll be there for you and you'll be there for me . . . " Sorry.
8. At season's outset, the Hornets were a near-unanimous preseason pick as the NBA's worst. It looks like they will post at least two times as many wins as predicted. How many wins does NOK finish with?
Looks like 43 wins is about right. If the underrated David West hits a few more winning buzzer beaters (he's got three already), then he should win some kinda award. I don't care if Steve Nash could turn a canned ham into a double-digit scorer -- the Hornets and their ardent fans in Oklahoma City are a feel-good story of the year.
9. We've seen Ali G interview Nash and Kobe Bryant. How long could an interview with his alter-ego, Borat, last before getting censored on basic cable?
Fifteen seconds, tops. We hear the entire nation of Kazakhstan's not too happy with Borat.
10. Should David Stern decree that the Pistons and Pacers meet in the first round? Right now, Pacers are fitting into the 4-5 slot, so that would make it quite possible. This has to happen.
It will. And it will be a very good series.
11. The Lakers are .500, perched precariously on the final spot, with all but Seattle and Portland having something of a chance of surging past Kobe and Co. Forget the playoffs, though. How many more times will Kobe break 50 this year?
Three times: Tuesday against Portland, March 12 against Seattle, April 11 against Golden State. Thank you, crystal ball.
12. So, you've got a crystal ball. When will the Celtics hoist their next banner?
We hear that Laker emeritus Rick Fox wore "17" to mock his old Celtics, whose title needle has now been stuck on the 16 spot for the last 20 years. It's the Curse of Rick Fox. Seems a long way off.
13. Can you imagine Allen Iverson in another uniform?
That would look very strange. Don't like it. He should be a Sixer for life. Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?
14. Sacramento's 24-29 heading into the second half. Think they'll make the playoffs with the seemingly beefier Ron Artest?
Of the teams knocking on No. 8 seed door, the Kings seem a good candidate. Mike Bibby has shouldered the scoring load, with 20.5 ppg a career high. The Kings always make the playoffs, right?
15. Andrei Kirilenko fills up a fantasy stat line. Is the Russian going to take over the league lead in blocks?
Nope. He's fourth now at 2.81, but AK-47 won't shoot down Samuel Dalembert, the Camby man and 'Zo, who all lead him in BPG average. But he could lead his team into that eighth playoff spot, with a little help.
16. Is Tim Duncan's achin' foot the most relevant injury affecting who will ultimately wear the crown?
Yes. Plantar fasciitis is actually a pair of four-letter words.
17. The Clippers sit at 30-21. Sam Cassell seems to be thriving, and holding up nicely. Is this the year they not only make the playoffs, but win a playoff series?
As the standings read now, it's looking like they draw the Spurs in the first round. So, plantar fasciitis or no, Manu and Tony have an unfortunate exit waiting for the Clips.
18. Did that All-Star Game signal LeBron making the leap? Is he going to carry his team like Jordan? Should Cleveland fans be ready for something special -- like a playoff series victory -- sooner rather than later?
Keep an eye on Larry Hughes' comeback. Something special could be brewing. The crystal ball says so, not me.
19. Shouldn't George Karl just keep the fragile Marcus Camby under wraps until, say, a week before the playoffs, and then unleash the rested and ready shot swatter?
Yes. Ten Cent is very adamant about this. And for that matter, that's what Riley should do with Shaq. Well, Shaq has often played like he's under wraps this year, coming back from injury. But Diesel will be in overdrive come playoffs.
20. And Dwyane Wade?
The crystal ball says that 17-point run he used to scour the Pistons is the start of something big.
Andrew Ayres, who rolls as Ten Cent, is an NBA editor for ESPN.com
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Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo
Yao Ming, after tangling with Shaq in the All-Star Game, aims for the road back to .500. His Rockets play the Clippers on Wednesday.
On draft night, there are always plenty of fans who question teams' selections. Remember how much flak the Raptors caught for taking Charlie Villanueva at No. 7? So far he's been well worth that selection. Andrew Bogut and Channing Frye have been among the most impressive young big men. And how good has Chris Paul been for the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets?
Pistons Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace earned lots of respect for their role in the East comeback in the All-Star game. A sampling of newspaper stories:
Pistons Lend Spark To East's Victory
Richard Hamilton has won a college national championship at the University of Connecticut and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons. Each had plenty of hype. However, they pale in comparison to what he experienced this weekend for the NBA All-Star Game. Hamilton was barraged with a seemingly endless array of questions, some meaningful, some mundane. During the NBA Finals, Hamilton recalls sitting at a table and being asked 10 or 15 questions. "Here, you're asked hundreds of questions," he said. -- Booth Newspapers Pistons Prove Practice Makes Perfect
When in trouble, the Eastern All-Stars turned to the best team in the NBA. Even without a player, the Detroit Pistons were the best team on the court Sunday night. The Detroit quadruplets Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Richard Hamilton sparked a rally from a 21-point deficit to lead the East to a 122-120 victory over the West at Toyota Center in the 56th All-Star Game.-- Houston Chronicle
Charles Barkley is among the nominees for the Hall of Fame in Springfield. So's Dick Vitale.
Lucy Nicholson /AP Photo
Nate Robinson jumped over the previous Sir Slam of the Sub Six-Foot dunkers, Spud Webb. Maybe Larry Brown can work this play into the Knickerbockers' rotation.
Heading into All-Star weekend, I heard a lot of talk about how to put the sizzle back into the Slam Dunk contest. And I'll admit much of the talk was justified.
The dunk contest certainly is not what it used to be, but this year's event showed that its decline has little to do with the quality of the jams. Even the biggest skeptic has to give it to this year's four young contestants -- Nate Robinson, Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Hakim Warrick.
Those cats did some phenomenal stuff, even by the high standards the contest's history has set. Conventional wisdom was that we had seen just about every possible way to dunk a basketball. But Robinson, Iguodala and (to a lesser degree) Smith, all showed that creativity has no limits. . . .
The league needs to change the way dunks are scored. They need to add decimals. Instead of limiting judges to scores of 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, they should let them give scores such as 8.7, 9.3 and 9.7. That would make sure that only an absolutely incredible dunk got a 10, and it would make it easier for judges to differentiate between dunks, where the slightest idiosyncrasy (a lean, etc.) can make all the difference in the world.
As for adding more sizzle, only getting the big names in the contest will do that. Besides Vince, who is perhaps the best dunker ever, I don't know who would have done more than what we saw Saturday night, but having the big names involved would create a Michael vs. 'Nique-type atmosphere.
Can you imagine having Vince face off against Kobe in a final? Without that kind of star power, the contest will never be what it was when Dr. J and the other great players (not just dunkers) participated.
Still, what we saw on Saturday wasn't bad.
As we pass the official midpoint of the NBA season, there are quite a few arguments out there for Most Valuable Player consideration.
You've got key cogs on highly successful teams like Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Tim Duncan and Pau Gasol. Then, you've got players who have totally put teams on their backs to this point such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. So many quality choices, it just depends on your criteria in selecting an MVP.
A look ahead to the post-All-Star break part of the 2005-06 NBA schedule:
• The toughest remaining schedules (based on and weighted by the current record of remaining opponents): Rockets (.539), SuperSonics (.538), Trail Blazers (.532), Clippers (.527), Raptors (.527).
• The easiest remaining schedules (using the same criteria): Heat (.446), Nets (.467), Pacers (.469), Grizzlies (.477), Bucks (.479).
• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
Back in the old Sportstalk.com days, when we heard or came up with a gargantuan deal, we called it a King Kong trade.
For those of you who like to think big, here's a four-team, 18-player deal that gives the Trade Machine a serious workout. Here's what it looks like:
• See this trade in the ESPN Trade Machine.
Why would the Knicks do it? Because they would replace Marbury with the only other point guard in the league with the street cred Isiah Thomas loves -- Bassy. Because Randolph, for all of his problems in Portland, is a great young rebounder and low post scorer. Because Francis can replace most of Marbury's punch in the backcourt and is more willing to move to the two. Because Griffin still has upside, one word that Isiah loves more than anything else. Because Larry Brown loves Ratliff's shot-blocking ability and because his bloated contract would be a great fit in New York's bad contract heaven.
Why would the Wolves do it? They wouldn't give up anything they really want and they would walk away from the deal with Marbury, a guy who, if he plays the way he's capable of playing, could lead the Wolves to the Northwest division title and the No. 3 seed in the West.
Why would the Blazers do it? Are you kidding? The Knicks would be taking all of their bad contracts (and headaches) off the books at once and replacing them with two valuable young players in Frye and Robinson. The Blazers would go into the summer with not only a high first-round draft choice and a load of young talent, but also heaps of cap space to spend in the summer.
Why would the Magic do it? Because the deal would rid them of Francis' and Dooling's bad contracts. Because Jaric and Crawford would give the Magic a big backcourt to balance out the contributions of Jameer Nelson. Because Outlaw has shown enough upside that he's worth a shot -- especially with the future of Grant Hill up in the air.
This would be by far the biggest trade in NBA history. Although the chances of a trade like this happening are very small, it doesn't hurt to dream.