What was that about trading for DeMarcus Cousins?

The Sacramento Kings took a 99-81 beating against the Boston Celtics Wednesday night. It was punctuated by the Celtics’ unselfish play with six players finishing in double figures.

But my eyes were drawn to DeMarcus Cousins, the edgy center for the Kings and the rumor of many a trade bait despite many a denial by the Kings. Of all teams, the Celtics were linked to Cousins’ trade rumors incessantly, all the way up until the point Rajon Rondo was injured. Granted, these were rumors and demands fueled by fans, but they were so pervasive it became a part of the national basketball conversation. So it was fitting to see Cousins in person at the Garden (a chance to watch on TV for me) and evaluate how he’s changed over his tumultuous two years in the league.

Let’s just say there was nothing new to see.

Despite an impressionable stat sheet (17.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg) coming into Wednesday’s game, he tallied a lethargic 13 and 6 against the Celtics. At one point, it looked like Cousins was openly pouting on the court. His body language was terrible.

It’s self-evident that Cousins is a remarkably talented player and likely has a bright future in the league, given the right amount of growth. But you see the emotional baggage he carries on the court right now. The immaturity. The lack of focus.

And there are actually Celtics fans that want to see him play with KG? Please. Not only will it not happen, it shouldn’t. The Celtics rejected the same kind of player and adult project when they dropped Glen “Big Baby” Davis. There’s no need to go down that path again. Not now.

No discernible centerpiece in Orlando

Just watched the Orlando Magic get blown out by the Brooklyn Nets, 97-77, and the obvious issue with the other Florida team still has Dwight Howard’s fingerprints.

There is no discernible centerpiece for the Magic’s offense. Glen “Big Baby” Davis is not the man. Neither is J.J. Reddick. Nor do I suspect swingman Arron Affalo (knee) is the answer. More or less, the Magic just dish it around and hope that somebody catches fire. As we’ve come to know in the past 20 years … check that, forever … no successful basketball club lacks a primary scorer, much like the Magic have no primary scorer. For a team built for Howard — yes, they’re still built for an in-and-out offense that is dependent on a low-post threat — the Magic are struggling to find an identity without the not-so new Laker on offense. They’re through 44 games now and are a dismal 14-30. Oh, and they’ve lost six straight.

Kobe the distributor?

Two games in a row Kobe Bryant has 14 assists. It’s the common thread for the Lakers on their newly minted 2-game winning streak.

The Lakers finished off the Oklahoma City Thunder Sunday with a 105-96 win. Sure, Kobe was taking the big shots down the stretch as any scorer should, but he made another concerted effort to include his teammates in the win. He finished with 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds, just shy of a triple double.

I’ve long wondered whether the Lakers’ problems were something you could pin on the Black Mamba as well. He took too many shots for my liking and forced too many plays. But people continually complained about Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, as if they encompass the play of the entire team.

In the last two games, this Black Mamba has been getting Steve Nash going, he’s dropping the ball off for his starved big men Dwight and Pau. He’s dishing back to Chris Duhon and finding the cutting Earl Clark. He’s involving everyone.

The Lakers look good with Kobe dishing the ball. And he’s still Kobe, he’s still a threat.

I don’t want to predict what the Lakers will do going forward, but I think they should really look at what he’s done in these two past game and give him a big hint. Lord knows the Lakers organization can’t tell him what to do.

Jeremy Lin inspires both the positive and negative

Jeremy Lin is a sensation in the NBA. (REUTERS)

It didn’t take long before the puns turned to racism. For me, the beginning was the borderline New York Post back page “Amasian.” But early Saturday morning, it was the brazen “Chink in the armor” headline from ESPN that so angered the masses.

ESPN has since fired the headline writer and has suspended an anchor for using the same slur on a telecast.

I knew it would come to this. I just didn’t think it would be ESPN.

Since the moment Jeremy Lin started lighting up the Garden and the eyes of respective fans around the world, there’s been an endless stream of puns put forth to play off both Lin’s name and heritage. As if “Linsanity” wasn’t enough, you’ve got “Linvincible,” the “all he does is lin” chants and many more. It’s added to what has been a remarkable story about a point guard that was one step away from being out of the NBA. But it’s also added a layer of racism around the coverage of the most popular professional Asian-American basketball player ever.

What’s more, the blatant racism has re-opened what I would like to call ever-fresh wounds. Lames excuses like this one, delivered as a comment on Jim Romenesko’s site, continue a perpetual sense of “gray area” when in fact headlines like “Chink in the armor” are clearly racist:

“I’ve used “chink in the armor” many times — and never thought of it as racist. People need to get over it.”

Because a phrase like “chink in the armor” can stand alone means nothing to me. The fact that it was used in conjunction with a story about an Asian-American man, when it clearly wasn’t necessary, is all the evidence I need to throw out the race card.

What pisses me off, and I’m pretty sure every other person of color in this great country, is the idiots that try to excuse away what is obvious and offensive. It’s why the wounds are ever-fresh. Not only are the folks who use these tactics are saying forgive the offender, but they are also diminishing what others are legitimately calling out as racist, thus continuing the cycle of offensiveness.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen this become the tactic of choice for racists — particularly on comment boards. They see the bigotry of some as a chance to defend, downplay and delegitimize the concerns of others. It’s no surprise that they’ve capitalized on moments like these. But it’s heartening to know that wherever intelligent conversation takes place, this kind of hackneyed racism is shot down immediately. It’s just unfortunate that it has to sully a great story in Lin, who as a classic underdog with an exceptional background deserves the attention and popularity he is getting.

My hope is that organizations like the New York Post, ESPN and others, take into account the responsibility they have to handle Lin’s story with care, particularly in regards to racism. There will always be some that excuse away their behavior, whether it was born of ignorance or hate. But news organizations like these are smarter than that and they do know better.

David Stern’s confusing obstruction of the Chris Paul trade

David Stern
David Stern is, simply, a bully.
Suffice it to say, NBA commissioner David Stern has an overbearing personality that played a huge role in the general distaste of the lockout. That distaste is now boiling over in the continued confusion over the blocked trades of Chris Paul by the league owned New Orleans Hornets.

The Los Angeles Clippers followed up after getting their first proposal nixed by Stern and company by getting out of the fray, realizing that they were compromising their future success by including players like Eric Gordon in the trade possibilities. In turn, the NBA is now actively trying to revive a deal with them, hoping not to lose out on yet another one of the few landing spots for Paul as of this writing.

Billionaires vs. millionaires doesn’t even come close to describing the power play that was occurring behind the scenes in the NBA this fall. Stern was so pompous, so boneheadedly determined to recoup owners lost cash, and so head-scratchingly back pedaling in the end, that when Deron Williams called him a bully the other day, the collective basketball world didn’t even flinch. Many nods were recorded.

Why is Stern a bully? Because of the NBA dress code. Because basketball related income for players is now 51.5 percent — after being 57 percent under the previous labor deal. Because Stern often derides players, as if they’re children, to better educate themselves on matters of importance. Because the lawyer in him is so unrelenting that he almost lost an NBA season, much to the satisfaction of his bosses and the dissatisfaction of NBA fans.

So after handing down take it or leave it deals to NBA players in the last month, including a 50-50 and 51-49 take on basketball related income in favor of the owners, Stern turned on the charm for two days and the deal got done.

Silly Stern, didn’t he know that he could’ve had that deal a month ago? Why of course not. To reach a deal over the NBA lockout, Stern had to push the players to the brink … stripping them of every dime, nickel and penny that he could recover for his 29 bosses. Only when he realized the players had a backbone, de-certifying their union in preparation for a suit against the league, did he change strategy and relax his death grip on the season.

Flash forward to the NBA’s fastened free agency period. Rumors of a Paul trade had been surfacing for months because of Paul’s unwillingness to re-sign with the Hornets. It’s a deadbeat franchise. With no NBA owner there, and no incentive to invest without one, the franchise is in a coma.

In making a deal for Paul, Hornets general manager — or should I say, general chump? Because that’s definitely how he’s being treated — Dell Demps knows he has to prepare for a future without his franchise player. Much like Dwight Howard and the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets last year, the idea behind a trade of your best player is to get compensation for him while he’s still under contract, rather than get screwed and get nothing when he walks at the end of said contract.

Somehow, the entire sports world understands this simplicity.

Here are some facts: Two deals were put on the table — both of which were very fair — and both were shot down by Stern. Not by Demps, who put them together, but by the big bad NBA commissioner. Stern even went so far as to say he made these decisions, particularly in blocking Paul’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, “free from the influence of other NBA owners.” So he’s in the spigot himself here.

He called the trade to the Lakers a bad one for basketball related reasons. After the Lakers dropped out of the running for Paul, he then went on and directed his executives to shake down the Clippers for everything they have. When they pulled out — for obvious reasons — he then directed his executives, taking Demps out of the equation, to revive the deal.

None of this makes any sense.

In the weird, twisted world of the NBA, negotiations can appear disheveled and even aimless in approach. But make no mistake about it, with Stern on board as a direct stakeholder in the Hornets’ future, the confusion and comatose nature of the franchise will only heighten with the NBA as its owner.

And then Stern will relent, unapologetically, and accept a deal for lesser value. It could have been done a week ago, but that’s just too easy.

Post Celtics-Warriors thoughts

Monta Ellis dropped 41 points on the Celtics in a 107-103 loss. (AP photo)
Just some random things I saw from the Celtics 107-103 win over the Warriors Friday night:

– Interior defense on the Celtics looks different. But you know this. It’s just odd that the perimeter defense looks so different too. Watching Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry can run a pick-and-roll with David Lee and carve up the Celtics so easily — with Kevin Garnett on the floor — is worrisome . That’s probably a bit of an overreaction given the nature of the Warriors offense and their stellar guards. But I just keep imagining LeBron James and Dwyane Wade running that pick-and-roll with Chris Bosh and having a much tougher time trading buckets. Of course, that is if the Heat ever actually run a set offense. Mind you, Ellis dropped 41 points and Lee put up 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Celtics didn’t get off easy.
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A trade later, East now up for grabs

With Carmelo Anthony in the East, and Kendrick Perkins in the West, life just got tougher for the Celtics. (AP photo)

I’m one of the few people that immediately said I liked the Boston Celtics’ trade of Kendrick Perkins for essentially Jeff Green. (Let’s forget the other guy for a second.) It was, in my initial opinion, a good deal because of the skills and athleticism that Green brings to the table. What I wasn’t really aware of from the 10 or so games I’ve seen of the Thunder on National TV was the inconsistency in which he plays. First night in green, he looked like a deer in headlights. That was the first warning sign.
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Busy bees

I like to think that I’ve been busy, and that’ why I haven’t posted here. I’ve been thinking about it for the last two weeks — stewing on it really — but I haven’t been able to square away the necessary time to really jot down my thoughts. Even now, I don’t really have the time.

But here are a few things that I just had to write down because, if anything, they’ve dominated headlines and have distracted me from the things I’m actually supposed to be doing.

1.) Carmelo Anthony to New York — I thought this was both a logical trade in the pieces given and taken on both sides and it also ended the “Melo-drama” of the NBA trade season. Great move for New York, despite the loss in depth. Great move for the NBA, to be done with this ridiculous year-long side story.

2.) Celtics trade Kendrick Perkins — I didn’t see that coming. His defensive presence is the only reason the Celtics were the favorites for an NBA title. And if Shaquille O’Neal can’t seem to get healthy, there’s no telling whether the Celtics are even better than the Orlando Magic. I’m waiting to see how the team responds when they’re not playing at 10:30 p.m. EST.

3.) Barry Zito’s back in the rotation — Everybody’s punch line is back in the starting rotation for the San Francisco Giants, with manager Bruce Bochy penciling him in as the No. 4 starter, switching places with Jonathan Sanchez. Madison Bumgarner will remain the No. 5 starter while Tim Lincecum stays at No. 1 and Matt Cain at No. 3. Not a bad rotation. Plus, it’s nice to switch back and forth between lefty’s and righty’s.

4.) Jim Harbaugh has a thing for Alex Smith — The rookie coach of the San Francisco 49ers says, “I very much like Alex. I like being around Alex. I had an opportunity to evaluate the tape, and I think he’s a very good football player. That being said, we’re going to make the decision to bring in the best quarterbacks that we possibly can to compete for the starting quarterback job.” Let’s not play with Alex’s feelings. Dump the sour grapes for something new and flashy. Preferably Auburn in flavor.

I don’t expect to be posting much for the next month as I’ll be all over the high school state tournaments for basketball and hockey in Massachusetts. But I do intend to steal a moment or to drop a quick one-liner every now and then.

5 takeaway thoughts on Lakers-Celtics

Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins battle in the paint. Very fitting of these two teams. (AP photo)

Last night’s Lakers-Celtics game, a 92-86 win for the Lakers, was much more than a dog-and-pony show for Ray Allen‘s super-human 3-point shooting capabilities.

(Allen connected on 3-of-8 threes to surpass Reggie Miller for the all-time lead in 3-pointers made with 2,562.)

Allen, without question, was brilliant and gracious. I’ve followed him since his time with the Milwaukee Bucks and I can honestly say there isn’t a more deserving guy to hold this record than him.

But for the game, and the rivalry, there’s a lot to draw upon from last night’s contest. It was, in the best way I know how to describe it, an “I told you so” game. Let me explain.

1.) Only 9 healthy — Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal, Semih Erden, Marquis Daniels and, for shits and giggles, Delonte West didn’t play last night for Eastern Conference’s best team. Is it any wonder why they lost? Erden, the 7-foot Turk who has been playing aggressive and strong in his reserve role, was out with an adductor strain leaving the Celtics thin in their greatest asset — the frontcourt — after notable injuries to Shaq and Jermaine. The whole reason the Celtics picked up Erden and the O’Neals was to compete with the Lakers in the paint. Last night’s loss becomes painfully obvious when the bigs to back up Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins are no longer available and, like last night, get in foul trouble.
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