Monday Morning Point Guard
Anyone who purchased Shaquille O'Neal's platinum debut album, "Shaq Diesel," in 1993 fully understands the marriage between music and basketball. Okay, that might be a stretch. But Sunday was a huge day for the NBA and the music industry, as ABC featured two possible NBA Finals previews (San Antonio at Boston and Los Angeles at Cleveland) and CBS broadcast the Grammys.
The nationally televised basketball games didn't disappointment -- although the individual matchup between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James was a bit of an overhyped downer -- and the Grammys were loaded with several over-the-top (though not necessarily good) performances. I thought about linking the Grammy award winners with the NBA after watching Roger Mason Jr. hit another gutsy, late-game shot to lead the Spurs to victory in Boston, Lamar Odom upstage Bryant and James in the Lakers' win in Cleveland, and the extremely pregnant M.I.A. steal the spotlight from "Rap Pack" rappers Jay-Z, Kanye West, T.I. and Lil Wayne.
So, I picked out a few song and album titles that fit with different teams and players this season. Check out the list and feel free to post your own:
"Please Read the Letter"
For the seven NBA Coaches -- P.J. Carlesimo, Eddie Jordan, Sam Mitchell, Reggie Theus, Maurice Cheeks, Randy Wittman and Marc Iavaroni -- who have been handed pink slips so far this season.
Cleveland rocks this season because General Manager Danny Ferry finally found the correct sidekick for LeBron James when he acquired Mo Williams from Milwaukee in the offseason. The Cavaliers have the best record in the Eastern Conference at 39-10.
"Viva La Vida"
Shaquille O'Neal used to rule the world, winning four championships from 2000 to 2006. But after being written off as finished in Miami last season, O'Neal has found new life in Phoenix, returning to all-star form and proving that a soon-to-be 37-year-old man can still rock the rim with a nasty dunk.
The Los Angeles Clippers appear to be running in place, in no particular direction, once again. Despite a talented roster that features Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Zach Randolph, Eric Gordon and Al Thornton, the Clippers have been unable to stay healthy all season and have once again become a punchline on Jay Leno's nightly routine.
Elton Brand's season ended before it really began, as he dislocated his shoulder, crashing to the floor just 23 games into a five-year, $82-million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. While Brand sat out, the 76ers figured out how to win and entered the playoff picture. Then, after a brief return, Brand was forced to have season-ending surgery.
"Harder Better Faster Stronger"
Dwyane Wade spent eight weeks with training guru Tim Grover last summer, repairing his left knee and his restoring his career. Wade led the league in scoring most of the season, but now is second behind LeBron James at 28.4 points per game. Wade has also put the Miami Heat in playoff contention.
The 2008-09 season has been a disaster for the Washington Wizards, who have the league's worst record and need to finish the season 9-22 to avoid the worst 82-game record in franchise history. Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson -- three-fifths of their projected starting lineup -- are sidelined with injuries. Eddie Jordan has been fired, Antonio Daniels traded, and Caron Butler feels as if he's been Punk'd by Ashton Kutcher.
After Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, the rest of the Eastern Conference doesn't appear to be striving for much more than mediocrity. Every team except the Washington Wizards has a chance to make the playoffs, with just seven teams having winning records and seven others within 5 ½ games of the eighth playoff spot.
The 2008 draft class may be the most impressive crop of rookies to enter the league since 2003. Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has been the front runner for rookie of the year all season, but this star-studded class also includes centers Greg Oden and Brook Lopez, guards O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon and forwards Michael Beasley and Kevin Love. The young players have had their ups and downs, and with the exception of Oden, they are on losing teams. But they have shown considerable promise.
"Swagga Like Us"
Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce each won their first NBA championship last summer and brought Banner No. 17 to the Boston Celtics. This season, the Celtics have spent the entire season boasting about their superiority -- with wins, with Garnett's incessant taunts and chest thumps or with complaints to officials almost every time something doesn't go their way.
The five leading MVP candidates -- LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul -- were all members of the U.S. Olympic gold medal team. Team USA was dominant in Beijing and each player credits their success this season to the experience of practicing and playing with the best every day last summer.
"One Kind Favor"
The Los Angeles Lakers still owe a debt of gratitude to the Memphis Grizzlies for gift-wrapping Pau Gasol last season. Gasol has developed into a trusty sidekick for reigning MVP Kobe Bryant and earned his second all-star selection this season. With center Andrew Bynum out for the second year in a row, Gasol will again be asked to help the Lakers get back to the NBA Finals.
The San Antonio Spurs can never be overlooked -- especially in odd seasons (the Spurs have won championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). They have been the Lakers' closest competition in the Western Conference this season and with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker healthy, they look even more dangerous with Bynum going down with a knee injury on Jan. 31.
The New York Knicks don't want anything to do with Stephon Marbury, but they don't want him going anywhere, either. The Knicks are content with paying Marbury $21.8 million not to play, so long as he doesn't go somewhere else to possibly win a championship.
"Killing the Blues"
Despite the emergence of rookie O.J. Mayo and development of Rudy Gay, the Memphis Grizzlies are headed to the NBA lottery for the third consecutive season. In Lionel Hollins, the Grizzlies have their fourth coach since last reaching the playoffs in 2006.
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