MMPG: The FourCast
Editor's note: This is a post-holiday edition of Monday Morning Point Guard.
1. New Orleans at Oklahoma City (Tuesday)
Of note: The Hornets will forever be linked to Oklahoma City after Hurricane Katrina forced the franchise to spend two seasons there. But the Hornets and Thunder may be linked in other ways because the Thunder is rumored to have interest in New Orleans center Tyson Chandler and is reportedly willing to part with the expiring contracts of Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox. Chandler has missed the past 11 games with an ankle injury and is having his worst season since the Chicago Bulls dealt him to the Hornets in 2006 (8.8 points and 8.3 rebounds). The Hornets are reportedly looking to cut salary with the team sputtering through the regular season. The Thunder lost its first two games against the Hornets in November, which led to P.J. Carlesimo's ouster. But the team has improved. Kevin Durant had his streak of five-consecutive 30-point games snapped before the all-star break, but he had a huge weekend by winning the Rookie Challenge MVP with a record 46 points and winning the first ever G-E-I-C-O competition. (How lame is it to write those letters?)
2. New Jersey at Dallas (Wednesday)
Of note: Devin Harris returns to Dallas for the first time as full-fledged all-star, while Mark Cuban continues to tell everyone who will listen that he doesn't regret dealing Harris for Jason Kidd last year -- even after Harris exploded for 41 points in New Jersey's 121-97 romp when the teams met on Dec. 19. Harris likely wouldn't have had the freedom to blossom into a star in Dallas, but now the Mavericks are rumored to be interested in poaching one of the Nets stars out of New Jersey -- Vince Carter. The Nets reportedly want Josh Howard in any deal with with Mavericks, but Dallas is hoping that it can make a deal by sacrificing Jerry Stackhouse. After this season, Carter is on the books for more than $33 million the next two seasons.
3. Toronto at New York (Friday)
Of note: Three of the biggest dominoes to drop in the collapse of the Phoenix Suns -- Bryan Colangelo, Shawn Marion and Mike D'Antoni -- will have a nice reunion to talk about old times. Colangelo admitted that he blundered in trading for Jermaine O'Neal by shipping him to Miami in exchange for Marion -- who must have an "I Will Only Be Traded For O'Neals" clause in his contract. O'Neal wasn't terrible but he helped make the Raptors rather irrelevant and increased the likelihood that Chris Bosh will leave as a free agent in 2010. Bosh, who is currently out with a sprained right knee, is one of the talents that the Knicks plan to target, which might reunite him with D'Antoni, the U.S. Olympic assistant coach. This is the first meeting between the Atlantic Division teams this season. They will play again on Sunday.
4. Miami at Orlando (Sunday)
Of note: Pat Riley knew that the Miami Heat needed to shore up its frontcourt if it was going to make any noise in the postseason. The Heat managed to get by the first half of the season with Joel Anthony, Jamaal Magloire, Mark Blount and the undersized Udonis Haslem. Now Jermaine O'Neal, who averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds this season in Toronto, brings his big body and his big contract (he's owed $23 million next season, which will clear up money for Miami's free agent plans in 2010). The Heat studied O'Neal to see if he was healthy enough to play and finally pulled the trigger on the much-rumored deal with the Raptors (for Shawn Marion). O'Neal will get his first test against Orlando's Dwight Howard, who has averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in two games against Miami. The teams have split both meetings.
Others in consideration: Atlanta at Los Angeles Lakers (Tuesday); Orlando at New Orleans (Wednesday); San Antonio at Detroit (Thursday); Atlanta at Portland (Friday); New Orleans at Los Angeles Lakers (Friday); New Orleans at Utah (Saturday); Boston at Phoenix (Sunday); Miami at Orlando (Sunday); Detroit at Cleveland (Sunday).
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