The Brooklyn Nets took care of business at home, beating the Chicago Bulls, 110-91, to force a return trip to Chicago. Brook Lopez, who led the Nets with 28 points and added 10 rebounds, said after the game, "I dedicated my game to fellow tall Stanford alumnus and twin, Jason Collins, for his bravery today. I have nothing but love." Lopez then hung his head and added, "Unfortunately, I let him down by amassing a large number of points and rebounds. If you're listening, Jason, I'm sorry. But also, I'm really proud of you. I'll try to contribute in fewer tangible ways next game."
The NBA playoffs are upon us, with 16 teams competing for the Larry O'Brien Trophy. But what about the other guys? What about the teams we wish were in the playoffs? We may know, in our heads, that they didn't do enough to get into the postseason, but that doesn't change how we feel in our hearts. We'd like to see these teams competing in Bill Simmons's Entertaining as Hell Tournament, but until that day, we'll just have to write longingly about why we wish they had made it to the promised land.
Portland Trail Blazers
Sean Fennessey: This isn't exactly a song for the Blazers because the Blazers were hard to watch this year. Nic Batum was long and lean and aggressively French, J.J. Hickson played like an exploding can of soda, and Weber State's Damian Lillard was a revelation to those who enjoy tiny-man dunks but don't much care for consistency. (He is only the Rookie of the Year because Anthony Davis hasn't totally figured out how to play basketball yet. He will.) I won't miss those Blazers and I certainly won't miss their bench, mostly because their bench doesn't exist beyond the many terrified faces of Meyers Leonard.
In case you were busy wondering what living Nicolas Cage's life would feel like, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday:
The NCAA tournament got under way in Dayton as North Carolina A&T edged Liberty, 73-72. The win was a clear victory for Revisionist Bracketologists, who are well aware of the infringements on liberty that occur when advanced technology mechanizes our agricultural processes. However, the day's other game, in which the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders fell to St. Mary's, was a triumph for Conservative Bracketologists who respect religion's place in society and who do not support raiding, regardless of the color it takes. Fortunately, both groups found common ground in Kentucky's first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris, as John Calipari is both an affront to those who desire a more equitable distribution of finite economic resources and God.
In a Western Conference showdown, the Denver Nuggets proved their recent winning ways are no fluke beating the Oklahoma City Thunder, 114-104, on the road. "It's not fair," said Thunder forward Kevin Durant after the game. "It's our house. They should have to play by our rules." Scott Brooks lent his star forward a sympathetic ear, saying, "I hear you, Kevin, but be honest, what rules did they break?" Durant fought back tears as he said, "All of them." "Well, that's true," Brooks granted, before asking, "but were they punished for their infractions? Huh? How many free throws did you shoot tonight?" Durant was silent. "Come on, Kevin," Brooks implored. "How many?" "Sixteen," Durant said with a shake of his head. Brooks kept pushing. "And how many did you make?" "Fourteen," Durant said with a grin. Brooks rubbed Kevin's head. "That's pretty good, isn't it? Maybe they just came in here and played really well. And maybe, just maybe, we can learn from this and give ’em 'what for' come playoff time. Does that sound good?" Durant's grin stretched into a broad smile, as he stood up, visibly reinvigorated. "Yeah, Coach, it sure does!"
A survey of the players and teams making moves in last night's NBA action.
1. LeBron James
And that was just pregame. Man, this was a real #getoffme kind of night. Everybody was like, "GET. OFF. ME. #GETOFFME." Either on the court or off, a few of the games had an almost playoff-type feel, even if not all the teams involved were playoff-bound. And in those games, a few players did things that screamed, "get off me, sir."
First, there was the colossus that doth strode (strideth?) the earth, LeBron James, whose 40 points, eight boards, and 16 assists led the Heat to a double-overtime win over Sacramento.
In case you were busy winding down all of your Italian business interests, here's what you missed in sports on Tuesday.
Trevor Mbakwe and the Minnesota Golden Gophers upset top-ranked Indiana, 77-73 in Minneapolis. Mbakwe, who started his college career playing for Indiana head coach Tom Crean at Marquette, said, "Something about Crean brings out the best in me. Maybe it's his smile that says at once, 'I care,' and 'I know this isn't forever.' Maybe it's that 'come-hither' stare, in which worlds are created and destroyed in his irises every time he blinks behind his wire-framed glasses. Maybe it's his lyrical name, 'Tom Crean.' All I know is, when I see his face, I'm compelled to be at once my best and worst self."
Join your Shootaround crew for some fake trades, pipe dreams, and beautiful, dark, twisted, deadline day fantasies.
The Book of Revelation
Golden State Warriors get: Devin Harris (Hawks), Earl Clark (Lakers), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Aaron Brooks (Kings) Los Angeles Lakers get: Josh Smith (Hawks), Andris Biedrins (Warriors) Atlanta Hawks get: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Tyreke Evans (Kings) Sacramento Kings get: David Lee (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors)
The worst-case scenario is that this is the annihilation of many teams at once — but at least it will be entertaining! The Lakers reunite Dwight Howard with his old pal Smith, who gets reunited with his own Cliff Paul; Biedrins slides in at the end of the bench. The Hawks build around Al Horford, Gasol, and Evans, who gets a little more institutional structure — for him, this is one of those “change of scenery” reboots. The Kings lose two streaky young stars but acquire solid cornerstones for the future, whatever that concept means to them. The Warriors get a couple experienced guards who, on any given night, might offer a passable impression of a fourth-quarter triggerman. They also get the budding Clark and Cousins, a combustible talent who could really benefit from a God-fearing coach. Ivan Johnson gets thrown in just to give the Warriors an edge in weirdness. Consider it an homage to 2006-07, when the Warriors traded a third of their team away in January and went on one of the most thrilling playoff runs ever. — Hua Hsu
In case you were out learning that what you thought was Oscar Fever is actually just an untreated strep infection, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
In their first game since the death of longtime team owner Jerry Buss, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics, 113-99, at Staples Center. Kobe Bryant, who led a ceremony in Buss's honor before the game, was somber afterward, saying, "He's not gone, man. You can't just get rid of a guy like him. He's still here, with us, in this locker room. In fact, he's in my locker right now, waiting to scare me, like I'm a fool. But I'm not a fool. He's the fool, and he's way out of line." Dwight Howard then emerged sheepishly from Bryant's locker holding a blonde wig and a Jerry Buss mask.
James Harden had a career night against his former team, scoring 46 points as the Houston Rockets edged the Oklahoma City Thunder, 122-119. After the game, Kevin Durant was distraught in the locker room, telling coach Scott Brooks, "He was my best friend. Now he moves away, and he acts like he doesn't even know me. This is your fault! We never should've let him move! It's not fair!" Brooks nodded gently, before saying, "Do I feel guilty, Kevin? A little. Honestly, I do. I didn't want you two to have to be apart. But sometimes decisions are made, and while they hurt, they're right decisions in the long run. Plus, you like hanging out with Kevin [Martin], don't you?" Durant shook his head, fighting back the tears. "I hate Kevin! I hate everyone!" Brooks scowled at his forward, "You don't mean that, Kevin. Tell Kevin you're sorry." Durant looked at his teammate, as his lower lip started to quiver. "I'm sorry, Kevin. I like you. It's another Kevin that I don't like right now: me." Martin patted his teammate on the back, "I get it, man. The trade wasn't easy for me either. And, hey, [Thunder Assistant Coach] Mo Cheeks is gonna take me out for ice cream later. You wanna come?" Durant couldn't help but let himself smile. "Ice cream with Mo? Yeah, man. I'll be there."
Keith Smart is in the stretch run of another disappointing Sacramento season, his first full year in charge after taking over for Paul Westphal seven games into last season. (Hey, remember Paul Westphal? Or did you kind of forget he ever coached the Kings? You did, right?) Smart is a defense-first guy presiding over the league’s worst defensive team and perhaps its most volatile player — DeMarcus Cousins, a promising big man who can’t control his temper or commit himself to playing hard on defense for an entire game. Smart’s a great guy with whom to talk hoops, and he sat down for a one-on-one with Grantland in Dallas before the All-Star break.
In case you were busy spending your day off either volunteering with a local charity or watching Magnum, P.I. on Netflix, here's what you missed in sports on Monday.
The Chicago Bulls heaped more misery on the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, beating them at the United Center, 95-83. "The in-fighting and name-calling has got to stop," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said after the game, "because no one is going to top Dwight Coward, which I just came up with."
The Indiana Pacers earned a hard-fought 82-81 win at Memphis after George Hill knocked down the game-winning free throw following a questionable foul call. "There were bad calls all night long. All night, all night. All night long. All night. All night long, all night. All night long, oh yeah," said R&B legend Lionel Richie. "But why are you at my house asking me about basketball?" Meanwhile, Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, left alone at his postgame conference, asked, "Hello? Is it me you're looking for?" to an unmanned television camera and a security guard named Clint.
In 2009, five journalists and filmmakers in Seattle got together to make Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team, a documentary film that told the story of how the SuperSonics left Seattle. The film won a 2010 Webby Award for Best Sports Film.
Dear Sacramento Kings fans,
You probably hate hearing anything about Seattle right now. We know the sick feeling in your gut, the rage in your head, the sadness in your heart. There is nothing anyone could say to you right now that would make things better. We have felt your pain, and we understand the irony of hearing this from the fan base that may now gain from your loss.
We are the producers of the documentary film Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team. Sonicsgate was a blueprint for other fans of struggling teams to learn from as much as it was our battle cry for the Sonics to return. Over the past four years since the film came out, the Sonicsgate crew has provided advice and support to many Kings fans fighting to save their team, including members of the Here We Stay campaign and the producers of the documentary Small Market, Big Heart, about Sacramento’s fight to keep the Kings.
In case you were busy trying to concoct a homemade flu vaccine out of common household spices, here's what you missed in sports last weekend.
The San Francisco 49ers, led by second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick beat the Green Bay Packers, 45-31, in San Francisco to advance to the NFC Championship game. Kaepernick and running back Frank Gore combined for 300 yards rushing against an overwhelmed Packers defense. When told this stat after the game, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said, "That's what it was! Run defense! I knew I was forgetting something. It was on my to-do list. I swear." McCarthy then pulled out a Palm Pilot, poked at it with a stylus for a couple of minutes, and then showed it to the gathered reporters. "Look, right here: 'Go over run defense.' It's always one thing you forget to do, am I right?"
The Seattle Seahawks rallied from 20 points down in the fourth quarter to dramatically cover the spread against the Atlanta Falcons, 28-30. Russell Wilson threw for 385 yards and ran for 60 more, accounting for three touchdowns in the cover. After the game, when asked about his team's success, Wilson fought back tears, saying, "We fought so hard; we left it all there. I'm just so proud of my whole team. It's hard to put into words what happened tonight. But I still aim to come out even stronger next time we play." The Seahawks will again go for the cover next September against an opponent yet to be determined.
In case you were out pretending like you've seen and have an opinion about Oscar nominee Amour, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
The Cleveland Browns have filled their vacant head coaching position, hiring Rob Chudzinski away from the Carolina Panthers. It has also been reported that Chudzinski is targeting former San Diego head coach Norv Turner to be his new offensive coordinator. "I can't imagine a more Cleveland set of hirings than Chud and Norv," said longtime Browns fan Milt Johnson. When asked to try harder and really push his imagination, Johnson let out an exasperated sigh, saying, "Fine, I guess that they could have hired like Chan Gailey and an old, overweight Golden Retriever named Honey, but I don't really know how having a dog as an offensive coordinator would work."
The Sacramento Kings may begin play as the Sonics 2.0 in Seattle as early as next season, though Sacramento — its mayor, Kevin Johnson, and the fans who supported the Kings when they were a team worth supporting — has not given up its years-long fight to keep the only pro team in town. But if the NBA wants the duplicitous, bumbling Maloofs to sell the team to a big-money group from Seattle, that is probably going to happen. The owners of the Kings would have to file relocation papers by March 1 if they want to begin play in Seattle next season. The trade deadline is February 21, setting up an awkward period in which teams wishing to deal with Sacramento may have to go through multiple and haphazard layers of approval to get a deal moving.
New ownership, whether it's formally in place or in de facto control of the team, will want a say in any big decision — whether to trade DeMarcus Cousins, add long-term contracts, or cut as much salary as possible.
In case you were out doing some very last-minute ballot-box stuffing for the People's Choice Awards, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Kansas avoided an upset in their Big-12 opener beating Iowa State, 97-89, in overtime, as freshman sensation Ben McLemore banked in a game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation. "When it left my hand, I actually kind of called 'bank,'" said McLemore in his postgame interview, using the same rhetorical technique he did in ninth grade when he failed to convince his friends that he "actually kind of got to second base" with his sleepaway camp girlfriend, Mindy Williams.
New Mexico edged out UNLV, 65-60, at home in a matchup of ranked Mountain West foes. "I heard that the Pit was a tough place to play, but, man, I don't see how they can get away with that," complained UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett. "That court was just concrete, and like 30 feet deep, and there were no fans or hoops or anything. It was just, like, a bunch of snakes. I don't know how they came up with that final score, but I'm surprised we kept it that close. I'm terrified of snakes. Unless, maybe my terror scored points? The game we were playing certainly wasn't basketball. All I'm saying is that this better not affect our seeding come tournament time."