One More Shopping Hour Remaining
The Bonzi deal went down, giving the New Orleans Hornets more depth as they try to hold off all the teams aggressively pursuing them. But right now, general managers are blowing up the phones trying to make some last ditch deals. Unless some team makes an incredible offer for Mike Miller or the Denver Nuggets decide to give up former Montrose Christian star Linas Kleiza to get Ron Artest, it looks like it could really be an anticlimactic afternoon. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
About last night, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Shaquille O'Neal's debut last night. He started out sluggished and seemed to get stronger and more effective as the game progressed, when I thought it would be the other way around. And I swear, Shaq couldn't have looked much worse when the game started. The first time Shaq touched the ball, he looked lost, and fell on his backside - shaking up the ground - while throwing the ball back out. He went to the bench after less than three minutes and I thought, boy, they shouldn't have traded Shawn Marion.
I still think Marion works better with the Suns - and he surely would've helped against Kobe Bryant last night - but it was nice to see that Shaq didn't slow them down. I certainly wasn't anticipating 124 points. DJ Mbenga faked the funk and Shaq gave him a nasty dunk on his grille. Shaq was diving for loose balls, sliding all over the floor, taking out officials like a bowling ball plowing through pins. He also stayed out of the way of Amare Stoudemire, and actually freed him to get some good looks at the basket.
I'm going to continue to hold off on judging this deal completely. One game is not enough: I have to see if Shaq can have 15 point, 9 rebound games consistently. If he can, it was a great gamble - although I doubt it.
The real revelation last night was the Lakers are really good - with or without Andrew Bynum. Bryant is energized, electrifying and excited. Pau Gasol has made the game so much easier for him out there. They've gone 8-2 with Gasol. He scored 41 points on 25 shots, and he has a bad right pinkie finger. I don't know the level of Bryant's pain but the fact that the Lakers have urged him to have surgery is a hint that this is no minor injury. Still, I wouldn't expect him to do anything else put play the rest of the season, with so much at stake. He's on his best team since Shaq left and he has a chance to win a title and a gold medal in the same season.
As for the other big debut last night, I can already tell that Jason Kidd will make a difference for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, the Mavericks lost and Chris Paul completely destroyed him with 31 points, 11 assists and 9 steals - but who beside Deron Williams hasn't Paul destroyed this season; he's killing just about everybody. What impressed me - even though Kidd played a rather pedestrian game - was that he was already encouraging his teammates to make the extra pass to get better shots.
Dirk Nowitzki was also playing with more fire and determination than I've seen in some time. After getting fouled on one driving layup, Nowitzki screamed, seemingly cursed (possibly in German) and slapped five with his teammates as if he was trying to snap them from their wrists. It looks like Dirk is going to be more emotional - in a good way - which is what the Mavericks have needed from him the past two postseasons. Kidd might not have had the numbers, but he is making his presence felt.
The weird part about Kidd in Dallas, is that the Mavs don't really have the athletes he was used to running with in New Jersey (Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, Vince Carter) or Phoenix (Shawn Marion). It was funny watching him throw lobs to Josh Howard and Howard coming down with the ball and going back up with a layup. It's going to take some time for Kidd to be the triple-double machine, though. Since he is a point guard and the ball is in his hands most of the time, he has a responsibility to get everybody involved as opposed to Gasol and Shaq who just have to run the floor and wait for some offensive opportunities to come their way.
Even if there are no more major moves these last two months should be really, really fun.
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