MMPG: The FourCast
1. Cleveland at New York (Tuesday)
Of note: And the first contestant in Who Might Be a Knick in 2010: LeBron James, a 23-year-old forward from Akron with dreams of being a global icon. He is seeking a championship trophy and a league's most valuable player award, but might settle for a few more people buying his sneakers. James returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since he dropped 50 points on them in March, while the Knicks made two trades on Friday with the obvious plan of landing No. 23. New arrivals Al Harrington, Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley will make their debuts, but the focus will be James. He loves toying with the New York media and should have a blast this time around.
2. New Orleans at Denver (Thursday)
Of note: The homecoming has worked out quite nicely for Denver native Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets. They improved to 8-3 since Billups arrived, following a 114-101 win over Chicago on Sunday in which he had 21 points and eight assists. Billups is averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 assists with the Nuggets, and with him providing some stability at point guard, they have been a much more efficient offensive team. But he will have the difficult task of trying to contain Chris Paul, who leads the league in assists (11.8) and steals (3.08) while also averaging 21.1 points.
3. Miami at Phoenix (Friday)
Of note: Shaquille O'Neal spent a good part of last week trying to make nice with his old friends, Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, who have clearly moved on while O'Neal clings to their championships past. Now he will face the Heat for the first time since he was traded to Phoenix, where he spent a good amount of time trashing Pat Riley, the Heat medical staff and former teammates Chris Quinn and Ricky Davis. It will also be Shawn Marion's first game in Phoenix as a visitor. It will be interesting to see if O'Neal sticks to his deny-everything approach when he's called out again.
4. San Antonio at Houston (Saturday)
Of note: It wasn't too long ago that the Spurs were 1-4 and some were talking about them being done -- at least until Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker come back. But this franchise hasn't won four championships since 1999 because of dumb luck. Gregg Popovich has coached up his team, which has won five of its past seven games, and has just about every new piece fitting in nicely around Tim Duncan. The most notable is Roger Mason Jr., the former Wizard who has led the Spurs in scoring in two of their past three games. After hitting seven three-pointers and scoring a season-high 29 points in a win over Utah on Friday, Mason is averaging a career-high 15.2 points and shooting 50.8 percent from three-point range. Not a bad pickup.
Others in consideration: Chicago at Utah (Monday); Dallas at L.A. Lakers (Friday); Golden State at New York (Saturday); Houston at Denver (Sunday)
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