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AN OFFICIAL NBA PUBLICATION

Greatest Playoff Game-Winners

may/jun 2010

Jamal Crawford Flying Under The Radar

Samuel Dalembert Difference Maker

Playoff preview 10 Things To Watch This Postseason

Also inside

$4.99 USA

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LeBron James Dwyane Wade Dwight Howard Brendan Haywood Amar’e Stoudemire Chauncey Billups DeJuan Blair Grant Hill Common

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WARMUPS Al bello/NBAE/Getty Images

Andy Roddick and Dwyane Wade pose before playing a game of H-O-R-S-E on day five of the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open at Crandon Park Tennis Center on March 27 in Key Biscayne, FL.

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Members of the 1970 NBA Champion New York Knicks such as Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Dick Barnett and Walt Frazier pose for a photo at a game on February 22 at Madison Square Garden, commemorating the 40th anniversary of their title.

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WARMUPS

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He may be playing against the Orlando Magic, but we don’t think Stephen Curry was trying to control the ball with his mind here. Instead, he was probably more shocked at the fact that the Spalding sphere wasn’t going through the hoop, as Curry has been on fire the second half of the season.

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It may not have counted, but LeBron’s alley-oop reverse jam off the Delonte West lob was probably the dunk of the year.

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THINK ABOUT IT. First, we pioneered the 10-year/100,000-mile warranty. Then, we led the way with Hyundai Assurance. Now, according to the EPA, Hyundai is the most fuel-efficient car company in America. Sure, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s another important milestone reached, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s also a reminder to stay focused on whatever lies ahead. For more on Hyundai, visit HyundaiSonata.com THE ALL-NEW SONATA

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MAy/june 2010

The Gameplan

Features

56

50

It took the world a while to learn how to pronounce his first name correctly, but now everybody knows who Deron Williams is. He’s the point guard with the ill crossover and the ability to put up 30 every night, the man who keeps Carlos Boozer’s stat line stuffed and Jerry Sloan confident that has team can win every night. But most of all he is the key to Utah’s quest for an NBA title.

Will.I.Ams 50 A World of Difference Jamal Crawford never made the playoffs before this season. But the ATL has been the perfect location for the well-traveled guard to thrive, and in return he may just be the missing piece that gets Atlanta to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

64 10 For ‘10 Playoff Preview Will we get the Cleveland-Los Angeles matchup every fan has been salivating for since last season? Or can the Magic once again spoil the show? Does Boston have one more charge left behind the Big Three? Can Denver or Utah usurp the purple and gold? We have all the answers to your playoff questions as we prepare you for what is sure to be a wild ride until June.

Poster

74 Tears of the Son

Two Kevins: Durant on the front; McHale on the flipside

A native of Haiti, Samuel Dalembert has always played with the pride of his nation on his back. That love for his homeland runs deeper than ever after the catastrophic earthquake that devastated Haiti last January. Normally viewed as a quiet player around the League, Dalembert bears all as he reveals his emotions upon learning about the disaster, and what he has already done and plans to do to continue to help rebuild his country.

47 24 Seconds… with the Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill

47 HOOP

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The Gameplan

May/june 2010

Departments

41 First Five

16 The Point

Corey Brewer, Brendan Haywood, Roy Hibbert, Anthony Morrow, George Hill

19 Jumpball

Losing can have quite the effect on the emotions. So how do NBA players cope with ending up on the wrong side of the score more often than not? Catching Up: David Thompson; Fab 5: A three-way Fab 5 extravaganza; Straight Shooter: So where does Steve Nash keep his Olympic torch? Celeb Row: Common is just the wright fit for his latest movie; Bread and Butter: LBJ’s patented stuff from behind; and more

78 Call Out

33

86

41

102

37 81 Check-It 102 Stepback A look back at the Lakers’ Sam Bowie and Vlade Divac frontcourt

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Spin Moves: The Birdman has some eclectic tastes when it comes to entertainment (and no, he doesn’t listen to Baby and Weezy…or so we think); Triple-Double: Thad and Carl break down the latest from Luda, Usher and Kidz in the Hall; TechEd: Shane Battier gets ionic with his car washing

36 104 Final Exam Does Joakim Noah make the grade?

HOOP

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The Point It was the biggest win of the regular season for any team as far as I was concerned. When the final buzzer went off at the IZOD Center on March 29 and the home team’s final score bested the visiting team, they might as well have sprinkled confetti and streamers, handed out commemorative T-shirts and hats,1 and the MVP of the game, Brook Lopez, should have gotten paid to exclaim “I’m going to Disneyland!”2 while Commissioner Stern came out to present a trophy to mark the occasion. Be it far for me to poke fun at the situation across the river from where I grew up. The team I pledge my shaky allegiance to did not fare much better,3 their hopes pinned to a dude who’s going to be switching up to #6 4 next year and who will in all likelihood stay put 460 miles west of Gotham. But if he does indeed head for greener pastures, the Nets’ lawn in Newark is certainly looking spiffier than what they have growing in the Garden. Don’t let a dozen or so wins5 bring the party down—there’s plenty of optimism to be found. The Nets’ core of Brook Lopez and Devin Harris is as solid as any young PG-C duo in the League.6 Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts are serviceable shooting guards who would only improve if paired with a star that commands attention.7 As disappointing and inconsistent as he’s been, Yi Jianlian has shown the occasional flash to keep around. With a guaranteed no-worse-than-No. 4 in this year’s quality-laden draft, the Nets are likely to get an impact player to fill a hole. But the two biggest chips going for the woeful Nets have nothing to do with basketball. The recent purchase of the team by Russian oligarch8 Mikhail Prokhorov and the eventual move to Brooklyn will change the franchise more so than signing Bron and Wade.9 The ownership and address change will shed years of playing in the Knicks’ shadow,10 making their home in a swamp11 and promoting the visiting team over their hometown product.12 The negative stigma of being a Nets fan will be no longer.13 The simplicity of taking the subway to a game would attract fans. Moving into a tight-knit community in Brooklyn where residents will live within walking distance to the arena14 would foster a vibe that would never come in a place connected by snarling turnpikes and parkways. The millions that will be presumably injected into the franchise by Prokhorov will go far in making the Nets an attractive place to play for top talent. Ask the Mavs and Blazers if having an obscenely wealthy owner hasn’t helped morale and winning. Having Jay-Z and Beyoncé along for the ride? Well, that’s just gravy.15 I almost forgot to toot the horn of Nets CEO Brett Yormark. Every team should kill for an upper level executive that squares off with a fan who was showing displeasure over his team by wearing a paper bag over his head. The Nets might’ve deserved the paper bag treatment, but you have to admire Yormark for caring enough about the team to question the fan. Dude even turned the incident into a promotional tool, meeting the displeased fan for lunch and handing out Nets goodie bags to anyone wearing a paper bag in the stands. Genius. So take solace in your pitiful ’09-10 season, Nets fans. The future is plenty bright once you cross those two rivers to beautiful BK, NY. If I were Knicks management, I’d be a little nervous about not being the only game in town anymore. Did I mention I live six train stops from the Nets’ future home? BONUS POINTS 1. They would read “Not The Worst Team in NBA History” 2. Knowing Brook, he’d probably go there regardless. 3. The Knicks’ win total was nothing to be proud of.

Ming Wong #2

4. LeBron says it’s out of respect for MJ, but what about Dr. J or Bill Russell? 5. At the time I was penning this, they still stood at 11 wins, but I’m being optimistic 6. I’d say they’re up there with Jameer Nelson/Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose/Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings/Andrew Bogut. 7. If paired with after the Nets signed LBJ or Dwyane Wade, I see at least 3-5 more points per game for each. 8. I considered mogul, magnate, bajillionaire, but thought oligarch fit better. 9. And I really mean that. 11. Seriously, the land around the IZOD Center is reclaimed swampland. 12. The Nets ran a promotion during the season where they gave away two-sided jerseys to fans, one side a Net, the other a star from the visiting team. 13. Only a Clippers fan can empathize with that. 14. During the Knicks heydays, desperate NYCers jonesing for some basketball would occasionally make the eight-mile trek (which would typically take more than the 15 minute time that Google Maps claims) to the IZOD Center. 15. It’s like getting blessed with your own chauffeured Maybach and discovering that he’s driving you to your personal G-5.

016

Editor-in-Chief Ming Wong #2 Design Director Kengyong Shao #31 Associate Editor Seth Berkman #91 Senior Designer Matt Candela #52 Editor-at-Large Jeramie McPeek #4 Tech Editor Shane Battier #31 Style Editors Candice Wiggins #11, Zaza Pachulia #27 Straight Shooter Steve Nash #13 Videogame Editor Nate Robinson #4 Music Editors Thaddeus Young #21, Carl Landry #24 Movie Editor Danny Granger #33 Car Editor Devin Harris #34 WNBA Editor Lois Elfman #40 Senior Writer Michael Bradley #53 Contributing Writers Christopher Cason #24, Jon Cooper #10, Anthony Gilbert #1, Josh Gordon #44, Darryl Howerton #21, Andy Jasner #27, Trevor Kearney #8, Brett Mauser #25, Dave McMenamin #35, Jeff Min #12, John Nemo #16, Rob Peterson #9, Earl K. Sneed #23 Design Intern Jocelyn Chuang #3 Retired Numbers #6, #11, #13, #30, #99 Professional Sports Publications

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Senior VP, and Executive Producer, Production, Programming, and Broadcasting Danny Meiseles Senior VP, Multimedia Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Senior VP, Marketing Communications Mike Bass Senior Director, NBAE Production John Hareas Executive Vice President, Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca Vice President, Licensing Mary Pat Gillin Senior Coordinator, Licensing Tom Cerabino Manager, Global Media Programs Felecia Groomster Senior Directors & Senior Official NBAE Photographers Andrew D. Bernstein, Nathaniel S. Butler Senior Director, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, Photos Imaging David Bonilla Official NBAE Photographer Jesse Garrabrant Senior Photo Editor Brian Choi Photo Coordinator Kevin Wright All NBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All NBDL photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBDL Enterprises. HOOP is published monthly, December through June, by PSP. © 2010 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. To subscribe to HOOP, call (800) 829-3347. PRINTED IN THE USA

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10. Even when the Nets made back-to-back Finals, folks east of the Hudson River barely took notice.

Volume 38, No. 4

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AMAZING IS WAKING UP IN YOUR

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– MATT GOLDBERG, COLLIDER.COM

TOUCHSTONE PICTURES PRESENTS A MANDEVILLE FILMS PRODUCTION A JONATHAN MOSTOW FILM BRUCE WILLIS “SURROGATES” RADHA MITCHELL ROSAMUND PIKE BORIS KODJOE WITH JAMES CROMWELL AND VING RHAMES MUSIC COSTUME EDITED PRODUCTION DIRECTOR OF EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY RICHARD MARVIN DESIGNER APRIL FERRY BY KEVIN STITT, A.C.E. DESIGNER JEFF MANN PHOTOGRAPHY OLIVER WOOD PRODUCERS DAVID NICKSAY ELIZABETH BANKS BY DAVID HOBERMAN TODD LIEBERMAN MAX HANDELMAN BASED ON THE SCREENPLAY DIRECTED GRAPHIC NOVEL BY ROBERT VENDITTI AND BRETT WELDELE BY JOHN BRANCATO & MICHAEL FERRIS BY JONATHAN MOSTOW SurrogatesMovie.com For Intense Sequences Of Violence, Disturbing Images, Language, Sexuality And A Drug-Related Scene

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B

Lost Causes FOR EVERY WIN IN THE LEAGUE, THERE’S A LOSS*

* CUE SAD TROMBONE HOOP

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By Jeramie McPeek #4 Will the Lakers repeat? Is this LeBron’s last hurrah in Cleveland? Can the Magic make it back to the Finals? The talk amongst hoop fans these days, and over the past month for that matter, has surrounded the teams at the top of standings, understandably. With the arrival of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, basketball experts and living room prognosticators alike are abuzz, analyzing the possible matchups and comparing the statistics from the justcompleted season. But what about the other guys? You know, the forgotten few, make that the forgotten half of the NBA’s roster that has just wrapped up their own seasons that few outside their own locker rooms will remember. While 16 teams compete for this year’s championship, 14 teams are officially on summer vacation. “Gone fishing,” as Kenny Smith might say. And for all but a handful of those lost souls, the ’09-10 season was a lost cause some time ago. Or was it? “I told the team at the All-Star break, ‘We’re not turning things off here,’” says Timberwolves head coach Kurt Rambis,1 whose club was 13-40 at the break. “’We’re not flushing the rest of this year. We’re going to continue to work hard, we’re going to continue to push you as individuals. We’re going to have guys training and lifting weights, and developing their bodies, and we’re going to be working on our team and adding new concepts.’ “I told them I wasn’t going to let up and they shouldn’t let up either. They need to continue to drive themselves to get as good as they can possibly be, so that when we get to training camp next year, we’re further along.” Looking ahead to the future is key, of course, for teams struggling through a losing season. But that’s easier said than done at times. Nobody takes well to a hard-fought loss, a crushing blowout or a long stretch of Ls like the New Jersey Nets suffered when they started the season an all-time NBA worst 0-18. “There really aren’t any words to describe it,” said Nets guard Devin Harris after the record-setting loss to the Mavericks way back on December 2. “You want to make history, but not this way. Not this

way. You know, it’s not going to be an easy road, but it’s not something you can just turn around and say, ‘OK, we’re going to win today.’ It’s how we prepare and how we execute out there on the floor. It’s a process.” Unfortunately for New Jersey fans, the road didn’t get a whole lot easier over the next 64 games. As we went to press on this issue, with just three weeks left in the regular season, the Nets were still one win away from escaping infamy, desperate to surpass the 76ers’ league benchmark2 for futility, a 9-74 record established in ’72-73. “This year has always been, first and foremost, a developmental year, developing our young players, developing a foundation as we go forward,” Nets interim head coach Kiki Vandeweghe3 told The Record after replacing Lawrence Frank in early December. “Every day we want to get better. We’re not going to focus on wins and losses.” Good idea, Coach. But how do professional athletes do that? How do they stay motivated, especially down the stretch of a season when the playoffs are obviously out of reach? Suns guard Jason Richardson, who is playing in the postseason for just the second time in his nine-year NBA career, says it’s all about embracing the role of spoiler. “You start playing for pride,” says the 29-year-old guard, who played for lottery teams his first five seasons. “You try to mess other people’s seasons up. You’re almost like the Grinch at Christmas. You don’t want anybody to be happy.” The fifth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, J-Rich wasn’t all that happy his rookie season with Golden State, as his Warriors lost 61 games. “Coming from Michigan State, where we won a championship my first year and we reached the Final Four my sophomore year, I was miserable,” he admits, looking back. “We had a lot of guys with different agendas and we were losing, so it was definitely tough. You come in and try to bring your winning ways, but you just have to keep your composure and keep going out there, and working hard.” Kevin Love can relate. The second-year T’Wolves’ forward won a high school4 state championship in Oregon and led UCLA to the Final Four as a

freshman, before being drafted by Minnesota in ’08. “It was a very rough shock,” Love says of the introduction to losing. “You know, most of these guys, that’s why they’re [in the NBA]; they’ve won all their life. It’s something that you don’t accept, and it’s tough to adjust to, because the locker room is down when you’re losing, you’re depressed... But you still have to bring it every day, and come out and try to get a W every game. “You just go onto the next game. We have 82 of them, so usually when you lose, you’ve got another game the next night or a couple days later. In the NBA, there’s not really much time to feel sorry for yourself, or dwell on the losses.” Fellow frontcourt mate Al Jefferson agrees, choosing to look at a crystal ball rather than the dayto-day standings on NBA.com. The 25-year-old big man has logged just seven postseason games in six seasons,5 but is confident he has more ahead. “It takes a lot of hard work to be a playoff team and to play for a championship,” he says, philosophically. “You have to go through stuff like this to get to where you want to be. You just have to keep your head up and stay positive throughout the season. This is still basketball. It’s still fun going out there and playing against the best, and learning against the best. So it’s fun, in that manner. But it still sucks losing.”

BONUS POINTS 1. Rambis experienced the highs and lows during his own NBA career, winning four championships with the Lakers and playing for lottery teams in both Charlotte and Sacramento.

3. The Sixers’ leading scorer that season, Fred Carter, told USA Today in early March that he hoped the Nets would not break his team’s record for losses. “We weren’t fortunate to win NBA titles. This gives us a different immortality.” 4. Love played in three state high school championship games while at Lake Oswego High and was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in ’07. 5. The Celtics pushed the Pacers to seven games in the first round of the ’05 playoffs, Jefferson’s rookie year.

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2. As a player, Vandeweghe’s teams reached the postseason in 12 of his 13 pro seasons.

HOOP

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HOW WILL YOU

TAKE OVER?

IN STORES NOW 2KTAKEOVER.COM

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*According to 2008-09 Gamerankings.com and NPD data. ©2009Take-TwoInteractiveSoftwareanditssubsidiaries.Allrightsreserved.2KSports,the2KSportslogo,andTake-TwoInteractiveSoftwarearealltrademarksand/orregisteredtrademarksofTake-TwoInteractiveSoftware,Inc.The NBA and individual NBA member team identifications used on or in this product are trademarks, copyrights designs and other forms of intellectual property of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective NBA member teams and may not be used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of NBA Properties, Inc. © 2009 NBA Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. “PlayStation” and the “PS” Family logo are registered trademarks of Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. The PlayStation Network Logo is a service mark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. Microsoft, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. Wii and the Wii logo are trademarks of Nintendo. © 2006 Nintendo. The ratings icon is a registered trademark of the Entertainment Software Association. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

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By Michael Bradley #53

catching up with...

29

The number of consecutive games Kevin Durant went earlier this season with scoring at least 25 points. The record is held by Michael Jordan with 40 straight games of 25 or more points during the ’86-87 season.

DAVID THOMPSON When David “Skywalker” Thompson was at the peak of his powers, soaring above the fray with his 44-inch vertical leap and seemingly endless arsenal of spectacular moves, he appeared invincible. But knee injuries and a sad descent into the world of substance abuse brought a premature end to a sparkling career.1 Clean and sober for several years, Thompson shares his story with students, NBA players and business professionals in the hope that they will steer clear of the path that he followed. He lives in Charlotte, NC, and can still throw it down when challenged.

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Bonus Points 1. Thompson averaged 22.7 ppg and 4.1 rpg while shooting 50.5 percent from the field in nine seasons with Denver and Seattle. 2. Thompson played with the Nuggets from 1975-82, joining the team during the ABA’s final season. He helped Denver to the Finals, where it lost in seven games to Julius Erving and the New York Nets. 3. Michael Jordan was 11 years old when Thompson led North Carolina State to the 1974 NCAA title. In his 1998 autobiography, For The Love of the Game, Jordan wrote: “Without Julius Erving, David Thompson, Walter Davis or Elgin Baylor, there would never have been a Michael Jordan. I evolved from them.” 4. Thompson graduated from NC State in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. 5. Thompson was runner-up to Erving in the 1975 ABA Slam Dunk Contest, the first-ever slam-dunk contest.

nba photos/nbae/Getty Image s

HOOP: What is the message you bring when you speak to groups, especially students? Thompson: I want to share my experiences and hopefully can teach people about making intelligent life choices. I tell them to stay away from drugs, to stay in school and to be good people. I speak to a lot of high school and middle school kids, and I hope to show them the right path. HOOP: Do the kids know who you are? Thompson: I bring a video with me so they can see the Skywalker in action. Most of the kids know me from videogames, because some have “Legends of the ’70s and ’80s,” and some let you have slam dunk contests with people from the past against today’s players. During the video, there are highlights of my time playing and also Michael Jordan saying how I was his idol. That brings instant credibility.

“I’m big time now. Now I’ve made it.” —Zydrunas Ilgauskas on appearing as a puppet in a LeBron James Nike commercial

HOOP: You also had a chance to reach out to the Denver Nuggets,2 one of your old teams. How did that go? Thompson: One of the people who worked for the Nuggets wanted me to come out, because he had read my book [Skywalker], and he wanted all the players to have a copy of it. They’re going through a lot of things I was when I played. They were receptive to me, and some of them, including Carmelo Anthony, started reading the book as soon as they got it. HOOP: How does it feel to have them regard you with that respect? Thompson: It makes you feel real good to have an impact on the future generations of players. When you play professional sports, there are a lot of challenges and temptations. It’s easy to take the wrong path. If I can use my life lessons to help them, that’s great. HOOP: What did it mean when Michael Jordan asked you to introduce him at his Hall of Fame induction?3 Thompson: I was really honored. For a guy who is arguably the greatest to play the game to say you were an inspiration and that he patterned part of his game after you is really great. HOOP: What was it like to be on stage while he gave his acceptance speech? Thompson: The whole experience was exciting, just to see how people responded to Michael. I have been to a lot of Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, but I never saw anyone get an ovation like the one he got. People cheered and cheered for minutes. HOOP: You played in the ABA during its last season. How does that league compare to the NBA now? Thompson: The ABA game was similar to how a lot of guys play now. We were very athletic, and we liked to get up and down the floor. There were a lot of guys who were very creative and could do it all. There are guys like that in the NBA. I enjoy watching LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. They can all play above the rim. HOOP: Your two daughters, Erika and Brooke, have been quite successful, too. Tell us about them. Thompson: Erika is the oldest, and she graduated from North Carolina State [Thompson’s alma mater] and attended film school. My younger daughter, Brooke, is getting her PhD in sports psychology from Florida State in August. I hate to go down there, but at least [NC State] beat them this year in the ACC tournament. We tease each other about that. HOOP: Speaking of graduating, you went back to NC State and completed your degree work.4 What did that mean to you? Thompson: That was one of the things I’m most proud of. I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have on people. At the ACC Tournament this year, a lady came up to me and told me she went back to school because I did. HOOP: Do you still play any ball? Thompson: I work with [former NBA star] Bobby Jones to run some summer camps, so I have to be able to get out there. It’s funny. I’ll hit 10 three-pointers in a row, and the kids still want to see if I can dunk. So I throw some down. I haven’t lost all of my 44-inch vertical leap. If I get loose, I can still do some pretty good dunks. HOOP: So, how about an old timer’s dunk contest?5 Thompson: [laughs] Oh, no. There could be some injuries.

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BRACK-IT

EIGHT THINGS. ONE UNDISPUTED CHAMP. GREATEST PLAYOFF WALK-OFF BUZZER BEATERS

024

MICHAEL JORDAN 1989 Eastern Conference First Round Game 5 vs. LEBRON JAMES 2009 Eastern Conference Finals Game 2

ALONZO MOURNING 1993 Eastern Conference First Round Game 5 vs. JOHN STOCKTON 1997 Western Conference Finals Game 6

RALPH SAMPSON 1986 Western Conference Semifinals Game 5 vs. ROBERT HORRY 2002 Western Conference Finals Game 4

DEREK FISHER 2004 Western Conference Semifinals Game 5 vs. KOBE BRYANT 2006 Western Conference First Round Game 4

In the battle of #23s, the original is still the best. While both buzzer beaters were the first of their respective playoff careers, LeBron’s high-arcing, bring-down-thepacked-Q three-pointer does not compare to the iconic shot by MJ that launched him to mythical proportions. Despite the requisite drama (one second remaining, a hushed Cleveland crowd staring at a imposing 0-2 series deficit with the series shifting to Orlando) and a joyous and raucous celebration (to be fair, most playoff walk-off shots are) Bron’s shot loses points in our book because Orlando went on to take the series. Not even close in our opinion: MJ in a first round cakewalk.

It’s rather ironic that the most famous moment from the man who owns the most career assists in the NBA would be an unassisted [Ed note: we tried to fact-check this but couldn’t verify. In our estimation, it’s unassisted.] three-pointer. A seriesending one, to boot. Not to be outdone, a center more known for his snarling defense around the basket makes the cut with an uncharacteristic 20-foot J to dispatch of the Celtics and propel the nascent Hornets to their first-ever playoff series win. This was probably the toughest call in the first round: taking nothing away from Stock’s cold-as-ice trey, but the image of Zo on the floor with his arms outstretched after the shot fell through the net remains fresh in our minds even after 17 years.

This was before tenths of seconds on NBA game clocks and backboards that light up red upon their expiration, but there was no doubt Ralph Sampson beat the buzzer. The inbounds play was designed for the 7-4 forward (yes, 7-4 forward) to catch-andquickly-shoot [Ed note: as crazy as it may sound now, but at the time, it was close to 50/50 as to who the best Rocket big man was between Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon] the entry pass. Sampson’s buttery touch found the bottom of the net to untie the game, denying the world a third consecutive battle between the Lakers and the Celtics. Big Shot Rob’s most famous clutch moment (that in itself says a lot) needs little description. In most unlikely fashion Horry winds up with the ball and lines up a straight-away three that becomes one of the most famous shots in NBA history—certainly one good enough to make it to the next round.

In a matchup between two longtime teammates and ’96 draftmates, we pit a tactician against a wily vet whose game is more heart and guile. Kobe calculatedly measures up the entire moment leading up to the big shot—coolly bringing the ball up after the jumpball, measuring up the defense, syncing the game clock to his internal clock, getting to his favorite spot (right elbow), rising up, release, followthrough and celebrate, like the countless time he’d practiced it. Even the fans see it coming. Fisher’s game-winner was all about playing off the Kobe threat on the inbounds, catching and heaving a lefty stroke with Manu Ginobili pasted all over him and then running off the court in disbelief at the turn of events, all in 0.4 seconds. In what might be the only time that Fisher ever bests Kobe in a basketball accomplishment, we’re going with the more improbable of the two.

HOOP


BY MING WONG #2

Winner:

ALL PHOTOS: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Robert Horry MICHAEL JORDAN vs. ALONZO MOURNING

ROBERT HORRY vs. DEREK FISHER

MICHAEL JORDAN vs. ROBERT HORRY

As pleasing as it was to witness the fifth-year Hornets metaphorically usher in a new era against a past-its-prime Celtics team with a series-ending shot, there is no way that giddy feel-goodness trumps the indelible image any NBA fan has seared into their memories: MJ taking the inbounds, taking two dribbles to the left, jumping, hanging, release, jumping fist pump (even after all these years it looks as if Jordan kicks an exasperated Craig Ehlo out of the picture), followed by three more fist pumps, Brad Sellers embracing him (Seller’s finest NBA moment)—it’s a play that would live on even without YouTube.

For all the big stars and retired-numbered legends that have donned Laker purple-andgold, two of their most remembered shots are by role players Fisher and Horry. The D-Fish shot was the most dependant on good fortune of all the shots in Brack-It. With 0.4 seconds to make happen, even Fisher would be the first to admit it was luck. Horry’s bomb cemented his status as Big Shot Rob, it turned around a series (the Lakers would’ve trailed 3-1 in the series had it not fell through) and effectively ended the hot rivalry at the time between the Kings and Lakers. Horry moves on to face MJ.

As easy as it may seem to lavish superlatives onto the Jordan shot, aka known as “The Shot,” we’re beginning to run out of them. While it was clearly a defining playoff moment for Jordan, paving the way for countless other postseason memories, it was quickly squashed by a 4-2 thrashing by the eventual champion Pistons in the Semis, where MJ was physically and psychologically beaten down. Now we’re not even remotely suggesting that Horry was a better player than the newly minted Bobcats owner (even though Horry one-ups Jordan in the ring department), but as walk-off buzzer beaters go (the Lakers also went on to win the title in ’02) the Horry bomb was one for the ages. While many in Richfield Coliseum (admit it Cavs fans, you saw the dagger coming) and the rest of the NBA world predicted the outcome as soon as MJ got his mitts on the ball, no one in their right mind could’ve foreseen Horry—keep in mind, the play started out with Kobe clanging a short runner, followed by Shaq doinking a gimmie, then what seemed like an eternity passing when Vlade Divac taps the ball out to a waiting Horry [Ed note: what was he even doing out there? Shouldn’t he have been crashing the boards?] draining the trey to win it all. Isn’t that what every buzzer beater needs? The unexpected turn of events, much like Horry besting Jordan.

HOOP

025


ith a physioball

Dance Life

Meredith

Indiana Pacemates

when you’re on the court in an NBA arena everyone can see you, so I just look at it like everyone can see me better. [laughs]

Had you danced for any professional or college teams before that? Meredith: Yes. Actually in high school I danced for the WNBA and the Indiana Fever’s co-ed hip-hop dance team.

Do you have any special routines or superstitions on a game night? Meredith: We get a game sheet and it includes our uniform list that we have to bring for the night, when we’re going to be on the court, and which timeouts we’re dancing. I’m very organized so I’ll go through that game sheet and double-check it. This may sound crazy but I also usually get Subway before a game. I get the same sandwich every time.

And you’re an education major? Meredith: Yes. Elementary [At Indiana University in Indianapolis]. I would love to have the little kids, anywhere from kindergarten to second grade..

Which sandwich do you get each game? Meredith: [laughs] Just turkey, cheese and lettuce on wheat. It’s very plain and simple but it gives me the fuel I need to perform for the next three hours.

I’ve read that you sometimes believe you’re too tall; how tall are you? Meredith: I’m 5-9 and I feel like I get taller everyday. [laughs] I think for the four years that I’ve been on the team, I’ve been the tallest.

When you finish college, do you still plan on being involved in dance or are you going to focus on the teaching aspect of your career? Meredith: I will do both. I think that the Pacers organization has given me opportunities to experience and perfect my love for kids. I’m involved in the NBA’s Read to Achieve program and I think I can do both and it will make me a better teacher if I do both… I tell everyone I’m not gonna quit the Pacemates until we make the NBA Finals. It may be a while. [laughs]

How many years have you been dancing for the Indiana Pacemates? Meredith: I’ve been a member for four years.

Are there any advantages or disadvantages for being the tallest girl on a dance team? Meredith: None whatsoever. It doesn’t affect anything performance-wise or costume-wise, because all our uniforms are made to fit us, and

Do you think All-Stars should be chosen by the fans or left to the coaches and fans? Meredith: I definitely think the fans should have a voice. Fans make the [game]. They are the second ambassadors of the NBA. Danny Granger was fortunate enough to do so last year and it was a huge celebration for Indiana. Regardless of who gets chosen, the number one thing a fan can do is to support who is on the court. I’m proud of the fans we have here in Indiana. Seth Berkman #91

txt msgs

caron butler

026

has been unreal. First class all the way. HOOP: Rumor has it it’s lobster and caviar postgame with chinchilla towels Caron: Lol. Real close to it, I’ve been truly blessed to be placed in this situation HOOP: Only playin…we know you’re a humble man who prefers straws and mountain dew Caron: I love my straws. Haven’t had a dew in almost a year straight cold turkey HOOP: that’s something to be proud of…so you’re a burger king mogul. What’s your fave bk meal? Caron: I would have to say the number 1 king sized plus cheese, bacon, no onion, king sized lemonade HOOP: Wow, someone’s been taking advantage of the perks of ownership… Caron: Yes Sir! HOOP: You ever heard of secret menu items? Like getting ham and eggs on your whopper during the shift from breakfast to lunch?

Caron: When I worked there, yes. Our slogan [is] “have it your way” lol HOOP: speaking of BK, I’ve always wondered why the burger king aint got a castle and the white castle aint got a king… Caron: Things that make you say Hmm… HOOP: Know what else makes me go hmm for the last 10 years: when will the mavs win it all? Is this the year? Caron: I hope so. We have the pieces in place HOOP: Since the Knicks aint in it, I’ll root for the mavs in the playoffs Caron: Thanx bro HOOP: It’s been real. Thx for the time. Now you’ve got me jonesing bk now. I’m gonna ask for the “caron” when I order Caron: Lol I like that. Take care bro Ming Wong #2

meredith: courtesy of matt stoltz; matt bowen; caron: glenn james (2)/nbae/getty images

HOOP: That old spice ad spoof was one of the best nba player vids this year. Was it your idea? Caron: it was all the mavs. Really funny because I love that commercial HOOP: Your female following would’ve preferred you reenact it. Shirtless, horse and all. Caron: Lol I like that HOOP: What did your wife Andrea think of the spot? Caron: She actually thought it was very funny HOOP: no doubt...how’s Big D been? We hear Cuban takes care of his players Caron: Dallas has been great. The city and the organization HOOP

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4/12/10 3:56 PM


good looks

checking the league’s fashion game HOOP’s Style Eds Candice Wiggins and Zaza “ZQ” Pachulia bring a baller’s perspective to the world of fashion.

Kevin Love

Zaza: He played in Italy, so I expect him to have good style. He looks pretty casual here. I give him a pass—but we may need to talk about his hair.

Zaza: Same casual look, nothing too much to report here. He looks comfortable, but I’d probably wear a better fitting shirt if I were him.

Candice: He’s rocking the Gumby hair! I haven’t seen this look executed since Omar Epps rocked this in the movie Juice. I have to say, I kinda dig it; although it’s in the realm of that “not for everybody” edgy category. “Hair parted with a barber’s preciseness”—like Nas said in the song “Got Urself A...” The shoes seem a little random, but no more random than the hair.

Candice: Ah. Cali-casual executed to perfection (I just have to ask: “Why did they have to be positioned this way in the photographs?” It’s feeling kind of “seventh grade picture-esque,” no?) This is screaming “I’ve lived in LA,” down to the Converse shoes, so I’m assuming this could have been influenced from his time at UCLA. I’m not a fan of his shirt, but the flannel goes way back—I’m talking DJ Quik circa 1982. It feels like its all clashing, but I’ve seen enough Californians wear something like this that I’m almost immune to it. I don’t “Love” it, but I don’t hate it either!

Michael Beasley Zaza: He has a nice jacket on, a nice color green, he’s got some Gucci shoes which go well with his jacket, but I don’t like the way he’s wearing them. The tongue of his shoes shouldn’t be outside of his jeans. If you want the tongue to be out, you need a much more narrow style of jeans— these jeans are too baggy for this look to be good. Candice: Also love this look. It’s SO modish, without trying too hard. He looks like the basketball version of Drake, which is super dope. The jacket is my favorite piece, and I even like the shoes with the tongues out (which I’m usually not a fan of). The pose is great, the most natural looking of them all. This is probably my favorite outfit overall. Casual blazers rock, and so does this look. Candice’s Nattiest

Marc Gasol

Dwight Howard

Channing Frye

Zaza: He looks the classiest of everyone in this photo shoot. The suit is fitted, and he’s more dressed for the photo shoot. I would expect nothing less, he’s got Euro-style. I think I have to say he’s the winner of this round. ZQ’s Nattiest

Zaza: A casual look here, he’s got jeans, tennis shoes, and a t-shirt. He’s wearing True Religion jeans and those are pretty popular.

Zaza: I like his coat. Brown isn’t my favorite, but it’s a nice coat. He might think about adding a scarf, it would look nice with this as well.

Candice: I spent more time trying to figure out what the wicker chair was doing in the picture, than actually looking at the outfit. He’s a big guy, so I’m sure that, although his shirt appears to be snug, it’s probably a size 6XL. (My brother wears 5XL, and he’s 6-8, so I understand). I like the style of his True Religion jeans, and overall I think his style is great. He looks cool and comfortable. I just loathe the hands on the knees pose, but I’m sure that’s not his fault.

Candice: We all know that it’s hard for the big fellas to find clothes that don’t visually overwhelm the body, but unfortunately that’s the case with Frye’s attire. The jacket is just a little too big for this kind of picture. The brown color is OK, and I can even forgive the socks and ankles showing, because I don’t think it was intended to show. I’m a fan of Channing’s, but not this outfit.

Candice: This is so GQ magazine, I love it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It’s better to be over dressed than under dressed. This is so true in this case. He looks sharp, and professional. I’m not sure how he got his hair to look like that, but I like it. I think he looks stylish and sophisticated, and above all, comfortable.

all PHOTos/NBAE/Getty Images

Brandon Jennings

HOOP

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4/9/10 4:01 PM


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FAB FIVE

A LONGTIME POP CULTURE AFICIONADO, JALEN ROSE PITS HIS PERSONAL TASTES AGAINST SOME NOTABLE PERSONALITIES. UP THIS MONTH: DR. KEN JEONG AND THE MOST INTERESTING MAN IN THE WORLD

Dr. Ken Jeong

Jalen Rose Jonathan Goldsmith,

aka, The Most Interesting Man in the World

What was your last awkward moment? Filling out my NCAA tourney bracket realizing that the University of Michigan was not invited...UGH!

When I uttered my first line during my television debut. The line was, “Doctor, she has a contusion on her ankle.” I went completely blank on live television and what managed to come out was, “Doctor, her left ankle is corroded.” Truly, the most ignominious beginning of a 50-year career.

I was at Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year with half the cast of Community. We were on Bourbon Street and I’ve never been recognized by so many people at one time ever in my life. Anyone who goes to Mardi Gras, The Hangover is required viewing. It’s almost like a prerequisite.

What was your best April Fool’s prank? I stay as far away from April Fools pranks as possible. They seem cheesy.

A good buddy of mine had a special night planned for his lady. I gave extensive instructions and my friend listened by purchasing expensive Champagne and booking a hotel suite with world-class room service. [I gave him] a strong sleeping pill. The only thing they remembered was their wake-up call for their flight the next morning.

My sister gets me every year on April Fool’s Day. What I love about my sister is she is the person who never pranks anyone, so when it comes out of her mouth, it’s that much more effective. The best pranksters are ones who are the most unassuming and the people you don’t expect to be the pranksters.

What was the best meal you have had? Caesar salad with hard-boiled eggs, grilled lobster tails, sweet potatoes and corn. YUM!

I had rabbit ragou and homemade fettuccine with a bottle of local Chianti at an old restaurant not far from Florence. I think seeing the Pieta and the statue of David only added to the magnificence of the day.

For my wife’s birthday, we ate at this restaurant called Saam at The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles. It was a 22-course meal. When you’re drinking champagne with actual gold in it that pretty much sets the tone. They had some food that literally melted in your mouth.

When was your most nervous moment? Watching the birth of my kids. I have the ultimate respect for women and how they deal with this painful process.

There were three, each time I gave my marriage vows.

About eight years ago, doing stand up comedy the very first time I was on TV on Comedy Central. The execution was fine, but the butterflies of being onstage for TV was a pretty big deal for me.

What was your ‘I-finally-made-it’ moment?

030

HOOP

When I was sitting in a local Mexican market, a man approached me for an autograph and told me the day before he asked his sevenyear-old son what he wanted to be when he grew up and the boy replied, “The most interesting man in the world.” Another moment was when an elderly gentleman approached me on a bus and said “when I come back to earth, I want to be you.”

Knocked Up, my first movie role. If it weren’t for Judd Apatow I wouldn’t be working in movies. The Hangover pushed the bar to heights I’d never imagined in my life. Me getting recognized on Bourbon Street was all because of The Hangover.

FAB 5: DR. KEN: COURTESY OF NBC

When I received my invitation to play in the McDonald’s High School All-American game, I realized that all of my hoop dreams could become a reality.


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3 pts

Should the NBA change the playoff format from conferences to the best 16 teams? Kevin Martin: No way, ’cause that would be way too much traveling. If you got your one seed in Boston and your 16 seed is in Portland… you gotta keep it in the West and East till the Finals. [After being told Houston would quality for the postseason under the new format] Never mind, you know what, yeah I think it should be like that. Taj Gibson: That’s college. In the NBA it’s kind of different, every [conference] gets the top eight picks for a reason; playing hard and earning it. In this League, every win is important, so if guys know they’re going to be somewhere 1-16 it’s not a good look, guys aren’t going to compete every night. The system we have now is pretty good, but

I don’t know I might change my mind. [laughs]

Devin Harris: It would make it like a non-conference college schedule; I wonder how you would get to the 82 games though. It could be fun. I mean it’d be something different; obviously road trips would probably be a little bit less [long]. It’d be something interesting though to kind of contribute to.

[Bonus Answer] Brook Lopez: No. My pants are off. [Ed note: Lopez’s response was given as he was getting dressed for before a game. His reply sent the Nets’ locker room into hysterics]

On February 24, Dwight Howard scored 30 points and had 16 rebounds, while going a perfect 11-of-11 from the field. He became the first NBA player to record 30+ points and 15+ rebounds without missing a field goal (min. 10 FGAs) since Wilt Chamberlain did it on March 11, 1969 against Detroit (34 pts, 27 rebounds).

“The only skeptics that can skepticize me are the skeptics that have been where I’ve been.” —Shaq

know your newb

DeJuan Blair

San Antonio Spurs You just came back from an east coast trip; did you get to see any of your family? [Ed note: Blair is from Pittsburgh, PA.] Just a couple of friends, that’s it.

Do you pull for the Big East when Pitt loses? Yeah. It’s kind of hard to root for West Virginia because of the Pitt rivalry, but it is what it is. You’re raised in Pittsburgh and went to school there; were you able to get back at all during the season? I have been so busy that I haven’t been able to get back. We might do a fashion show [this summer], just to have fun. I don’t plan on getting in the show myself though. I might do a camp for the kids also.

032

Being able to play next to guys like Antonio McDyess and Tim Duncan, what have been the most important things they’ve taught you about the pro game? Being relaxed and learning as much as you can and keeping you head in everything. There are a lot of ups and downs and I try to just be the best player I can. Who were some of the Pittsburgh athletes you looked up to growing up? LaVar Arrington. There weren’t many NBA players. Danny Fortson’s from that area and I talked to him a couple of times. He’s a good player and good person. I saw when you were in New York you got to ride in the back of a Maybach; how did that come about? It was fun. It was actually a hotel car. I was looking for a taxi and they said we’ll put you in the back of a Maybach and I said, “Oh my God.” That was the first time I was ever in one and it was amazing. Seth Berkman #91

3 Pts: clockwise From top: allen einstein; elsa; gary dineen; newb: Kent Smith/nbae/getty images

Did you keep up with the NCAA Tournament much? I did, but I stopped [when Pitt lost].

You recently saw The Hangover; what did you think? It was pretty good. I never had any experience close to that.

HOOP

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4/12/10 3:55 PM


217

From March 4-7, the Los Angeles Lakers lost three straight games for the first time in the 217 games they’ve played since Pau Gasol joined the team.

18

The New York Knicks missed all 18 of their three-point attempts in a 113-93 loss to the New Jersey Nets on March 6, breaking a League record for most misses from three without a make.

“I told my buddy to look at it like a kung fu teacher. I might teach you the lotus and I might teach you the tiger, but I’m not going to teach you the crane, because the crane can beat both of them.”—Rasheed Wallace

straight shooter

Phoenix’s Steve Nash Aims for Honest Answers to Your NBA Questions He kept his Olympic torch but you won’t see any Steve Nash garden gnomes in his house. You will find an abundance of healthy snacks and possibly a snowboard stashed in the attic waiting to be used Being a healthy eater, is there a guilty food you miss?

Did you get to keep your Olympic torch from the 2010 Winter Olympics?

Given your directing prowess, which NBA player do you think makes the best actor?

barry gossage; jasper juiner; andrew d. bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen with your likeness?

Do you ever attend your teammates’ children’s birthday parties?

What is something you’re currently restricted from doing by your NBA contract that you look forward to doing again or trying after your career is over?

I just try to eat all natural foods—fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken, raw nuts. I stay away from anything that’s been processed or synthetic. At first, I probably missed chocolate or sweets. But after a while you don’t even crave it anymore. I didn’t eat a ton, but I liked it. I’d like to have a bag of M&Ms at the movies or ice cream or something, but after a while, you stop craving it and you really don’t care anymore. I don’t think I will start eating it again after my career is over. Maybe to some moderation, but I don’t really miss it. I feel good about it. It’s not like something where I can’t wait for this to be over so I can eat again. I’m happy doing this. I was always kind of going that way and it just got to a point where I took it to another level. I learned a lot from my naturopath, and just over the years it’s been an evolution of learning and making good decisions for myself. I think even if I wasn’t playing hoops right now, I’d still want to eat this way. I did. Everyone got to keep their torch. Everyone who ran with a torch, and those of us who lit the cauldron. I gave one of mine away to charity and I kept the other. It’s just at home. Maybe I’ll put it in my girls’ room. They liked the whole torch experience. Thankfully, I think the propane tank has been removed. I’m not really into souvenirs. They sent me a great photo from the opening ceremonies, which was a nice memento, but that’s about it. I do have some stuff, but I only keep it because I feel like somebody in our family will want to see it later. I have no need for it personally. That’s a tough one. Maybe Amar’e [Stoudemire]. I’ve had four great leading men so far in our films, Amar’e, LB [Leandro Barbosa], Alando [Tucker] and Robin Lopez. So we’ll see what the court of opinion says. But my favorite NBA actor of all time is Vlade Divac. He was a fantastic actor. A great player, but also the greatest flopper of all time. They all kind of roll into one, but the scariest is definitely the two- or four-foot garden gnome. They sell them here at the arena. You know, the big bobbleheads that are the size of large garden gnomes. It’s very off-putting, very scary. I don’t really have too many things with my likeness on it myself. We do have some regular bobbleheads around, but they’re mostly broken. The girls have destroyed them. They liked them at first, but they’re getting over them, too. I’m sure I have, but I can’t remember the last one. It just depends on the ages. It’s more if our kids are similar ages. Probably snowboarding. I’ve done it a couple times. I’m not very good, but would like to be able to do it again. Our schedule is not conducive, obviously, and neither are our contracts. But it’s a fun, active sport, and it’s great to be up in the mountains in the snow. I just think it’s a fun challenge.

Got a question for Steve? Email it to hoop@pspsports.com

HOOP0506-StraightShooter.indd 33

HOOP

033

4/9/10 3:55 PM


head 2 head

Eric Gordon vs. JR Smith

If this was an ink contest, JR Swish would win hands down (although those Decepticon and Young Money tats are questionable, at best). But we’re basing this comparison on strictly ball skills, and this may be our toughest challenge yet.

1

Round

Scoring: These are two players who we’ve been watching ever since their prep days and they haven’t disappointed upon their arrival in the League. Some of us here even got to see JR in person putting in work at gyms across New Jersey. Back then, not only did he have amazing hops for a kid that didn’t even have a driver’s permit, but he had range like Reggie from three. Meanwhile, peep some old YouTube highlights of EG back in high school and dude was putting up 30 almost every night. Fast forward a few years later and the former Indiana “Mr. Basketball” is defying the critics, by showing he has a pro-ready game and looks to be the future for the Clips. But JR just has a little bit more explosiveness to the hoop, and although his deep J isn’t always dropping, when he’s on, there are few players as dangerous as Mr. Smith in the game today.Winner:

Eric Gordon guard 6-3, 222 Los Angeles Clippers

SMITH

2

Round

Winner: GORDON

Gordon

Smith ’09-10 stats

034

PPG

APG

RPG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3PT%

FT%

PER

17.2

2.9

2.7

1.1

0.2

.465

.364

.734

15.00

PPG

APG

RPG

SPG

BPG

FG%

3PT%

FT%

PER

14.8

2.4

3.1

1.2

0.3

.405

.332

.704

13.54

gordon: noah graham; andrew d. bernstein; smith: garrett ellwood (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

Floor Game: Smith’s handles are definitely underrated, but you don’t wanna get caught guarding #5 one-on-one… not only will he most likely blow by you, but he can cross you up as well and nail a trey in your grill. But end-to-end, Gordon is a bit more dangerous with the rock in his hands. He is naturally more of a shooting guard, but can play the point as well. With Baron in town he doesn’t have to be the floor general as much (you could even make the case that Gordon is being groomed into Boom 2.0), but he has the speed, handle, eye and smarts to be a point guard at any given moment for the Clips.

HOOP

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‘I feel like a ‘72 Chevy with the ball bearings and carburetor shot, a couple of flat tires and the engine light on.” —Udonis Haslem From February 17-March 6, the Dallas Mavericks became the first team in nearly half a century to win 11 straight times by 10 points or less; the last club to do so was the ’62-63 Lakers.

11, 10

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Round

Defense: Both players are far from DPOY considerations, as offense is where they shine. Gordon has the kind of build though where he can take on bigger guards or small forwards and he has the feet to keep up with the speediest of 1s. JR doesn’t shy down from the best who play his position, but he’ll never be confused with Ron Artest or Bruce Bowen. Smith also has the luxury having Birdman and Kenyon Martin behind him, plus Chauncey sometimes taking on the opposing team’s best guard himself. It’s an ugly round, but the slight nod goes to Gordon.

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Round

Clutch: As the No. 3 option for the Nuggets with the game on the line, JR Smith surprisingly gets a decent amount of looks in the waning seconds… of the first, second and third quarters. Dude definitely isn’t afraid to chuck one up from deep as the clock inches towards zero, and I guess you have to count the ability to beat the buzzer in any frame as clutch. We have seen him do it a few times with the game on the line as well, but nine out of 10 times those shots go to Chauncey or Melo. He can be great in the playoffs too, but on the flipside is prone to catch a cold streak of arctic proportions. Eric Gordon hasn’t had many chances to take a game over yet for the Clips, nor swish a trey as the buzzer sounds, although we envision him as that No. 1 option as they continue to grow and learn to win games. But right now we’d rather have JR Swish with the ball in his hands and the game on the line.

Winner: SMITH

Winner: GORDON

5

Round

JRguard Smith 6-6, 220 Denver Nuggets

Leadership: Similar to the clutch category, when you’re playing behind the franchise (Carmelo Anthony) and one of the best point guards of the past decade (Billups), Smith doesn’t get much time to shine in the leadership category. His immaturity at times has drove George Karl crazy, but we are beginning to see slivers of improvement as he gets older. Gordon seems like a quiet cat, but its not long before the Clips hand over the entire set of keys to the team to him. They will be his team for a long time, while Smith will defer to Anthony and Billups as long as he’s in the Rockies.

Winner: GORDON

The Verdict

In a way this matchup is like one of those Gatti-Ward boxing matches; both dudes may not yet be main event status, but they bring the kind of electrifying skills to carry a card all by themselves. This may be the closest head-to-head matchup we’ve had yet, but there has to be a winner. Based on his slightly better all-around game and consistency, the judges award this matchup to Gordon in an upset.

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celeb row

Transition Game even divine. I mean, not only was Rod Thorn the guy who got me the gig, but I come in and play for his team [in the movie]. But also the writer of the film, Michael Elliot, 10 years before asked me to co-write something with him and I never got the chance. Who would know that I would be starring in his film also 10 years later? There were a lot of things that happened that I just felt were meant to be.

Common Knowledge We’ve seen our share of good and bad when it comes to “rappers turned actors,” but Common is one of the guys that has made a seamless transition from the booth to the big screen. After supporting roles in American Gangster, Smokin’ Aces and Wanted, the Chi-town native and diehard hoops fan gets his first shot at a leading role in the romantic comedy Just Wright (in theatres May 14). I’m a big Nets fan so I was glad to see you representing them in the movie. Scott McKnight might be able to help out the Nets right now. [laughs] Let me just say, I’ve had so many editions of HOOP because I used to be a ball boy and I used to take those home after every game.

Were you able to see Rod Thorn on set at all and did he remember you? Yeah, we did a scene where Rod Thorn and some of the other Nets’ brass were having a discussion about Scott McKnight, and I got to talk to Rod Thorn and I told him how everything came full circle. It’s really kind of amazing in some ways, serendipitous or 036

Do you have any memories that really stick out of encounters with players when you were a ball boy? I’ll say this, I remember Charles Barkley always being one of the coolest and nicest guys. He always played and had fun with the ball boys. I remember meeting Dr. J and him being a real gentleman, a real cool guy. I had a funny situation—one kinda crazy thing I did was I used to get gym shoes from all of the players and I would give them to my teachers so I wouldn’t get in trouble. One time Michael Jordan was sitting on the bench and he had a cast on his foot and was still hitting shots from the bench. I also remember Michael Jordan first coming in and he was playing something on his radio and they told him he needed to turn it down, that it was an exhibition game and they didn’t need that in the locker room. By the third exhibition game he was playing whatever he wanted to because they knew it was Jordan time now. Did you do any special training and conditioning to get prepared for the movie? Man, I did some intense training. It started with me talking to the guys I knew in the NBA first, trying to get a feel for what it’s like as much as possible. Baron Davis is one person that I’m cool with that I really had a chance to follow around a little bit and pick his brain. I had some brief conversations with [Rajon] Rondo and was intending to get in touch with Dwyane Wade but we were both always on the move by the time I started shooting. I got to see him on the set though... I’m not gonna front, I was out there thinking I could do this, feeling really great playing against them. [laughs] It really was a dream. I felt like I was in the NBA for a month and a half. Who do you think is going to take it this year? I might go with my emotions and say Cleveland. I think it will be good for the NBA. If you had to compare yourself—not Scott McKnight, but Common—to any NBA player past or present, who would it be? I would say Chris Paul because he’s a killer on the court and a great leader, and he hasn’t even peaked yet. Seth Berkman #91 Read more questions with Common on hoopmag.com

common: david lee; bosh: all photos/NBAE/Getty Images

How did you get the job as a ballboy for the Chicago Bulls? My father [Lonnie Lynn] played in the ABA for two years and he knew Rod Thorn who was the general manager for the Bulls at the time—who’s actually now the general manager of the New Jersey Nets. He mentioned to him that I was interested in the ballboy job, so I wrote a letter telling my story and Rod Thorn allowed me to get that job and I worked there for like two and a half years.

Chris Bosh

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Bread and Butter

LeBron’s blindside block from behind Sometimes surprises aren’t always a good thing. Sure, everyone likes an unexpected birthday party or when you find a $20 bill in your pocket, but what about when you have a clear path to the bucket and out of nowhere comes Akron’s Finest to pin you from behind? See? Not so good. LeBron James hasn’t always been so dominant. Yes, he was ahead of his time when he entered the League in ’03, but his game has undergone some major transformations since then. Most notably, he is a monster on the defensive end, as his athleticism and height allows him to be a force against any player in the game. And his most dominating move in his bag of tricks is the block from behind, which usually leads to a fast break and finish on the other end by none other than the King himself. Normally anyone who challenges Dwight Howard at the rim ends up on the wrong end of a poster. But D-12 went a bit soft to the rim in this play and the King makes him pay. Seeing that Anderson Varejao is having some trouble with Howard 1-on-1 in the post, LeBron goes into stealth mode and sneaks up with the pin. The best part about LeBron’s propensity to get blocks from behind? The fact that he normally continues the play by starting the break, resulting in him slicing through the lane for a four-point swing in Cleveland’s favor. “He comes out of nowhere,” says Aaron Brooks. “You probably think you have a wideopen layup and you got a 6-8 guy jumping almost to the top of the backboard.” Checkmate. Seth Berkman #91

David Lee scored 37 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, and added 10 assists on April 2. Lee is the first player with at least 30 points, 20 rebounds, and 10 assists in an NBA game since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had 35/20/12 against the Warriors in Los Angeles on March 5, 1976.

“Must be nice to be 19.” —Willie Green after seeing Jrue Holiday eating Chicken McNuggets and fries before a game

fernando medina/NBAE/Getty Images

‘That little man, he’s so good. I wanted to kiss him, but no, I’m not.”—Luis Scola on Aaron Brooks

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Watch more highlights by following us at twitter.com/HOOPmag and joining us on Facebook! HOOP

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In his shoes Game 7, 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks Dominique Wilkins (47 points) vs. Larry Bird (34 points)

Entering the fourth quarter, Dominique Wilkins had 33 points and had held Larry Bird to only 14, as Atlanta clung to a two-point lead. As Bird turned on the magic switch, he and ’Nique would engage in one of the greatest one-on-one duels in NBA history. Here’s what Dominique had to say about playing against Bird in such an epic battle. “In today’s game you don’t see a lot of star players guard each other. The defenses have changed somewhat. It’s not so much these guys don’t want to guard each other, there’s a lot more strategy and defensive sets put into place. It was the playoffs and it was against one of the best players to ever play and one of the best teams assembled. It conjures a bit of a negative twist for me because we lost that game, but nevertheless it was one of the greatest games I think that was ever played in the playoffs. That’s what basketball is about, when you get two stars going head-to-head and they try to will their team to win. And at the end of the day someone is going to lose and someone is going to win. But when you play like that on that level, there’s something you should hold your head down about when you lay it all on the line, and did everything you could to win.”

what were we thinking?

playlist

kevin martin “I listen to all Jay-Z. My Top 5 songs are…” “Encore” “What More Can I Say” “Song Cry” “Allure” “H to the Izzo”

May/June 2008

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shoes: dick raphael; playlist: bill baptist/NBAE/Getty Images

It’s tough to do playoff previews, especially when you’re trying to plan two months ahead when races are still playing out. It’s even tougher trying to come up with a kitschy theme, instead of your old bland, “here’s who will win and why.” We admit to drinking a bit of the campaign fever Kool-Aid in ’08. It still came out looking pretty cool, but our biggest regret might be those slogans for each team. Maybe we’d feel different if we kept our original Rockets’ tagline, “Who But Houston?”

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Sure, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s just a tire. Like the PaciďŹ c Coast Highway is just another scenic drive.

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BY BRETT MAUSER #25

2. Brewer joined the Hawks’ Al Horford and Bulls’ Joakim Noah in winning back-to-back NCAA titles before all three went in the first half of the first round of the NBA Draft. Of potentially going back for a third title, Brewer says, “We won championships both ways; we did it as an underdog and as the guys on top. It was time to go. You can only turn down the NBA one time.” 3. Of the climate difference, Brewer says, “Minnesota grows on you.” 4. An ACL tear sustained in December ’08 ended Brewer’s sophomore NBA season after 15 games. 5. He also eclipsed 35 percent from beyond the arc, nearly twice as good as the 19.6 percent he shot from deep as a rookie. 6. Speaking of getting to the top, Brewer has two of the best YouTube-worthy dunks this season; one on Derek Fisher and another on Robin Lopez.

DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

7. On the Minnesota roster, only Damien Wilkins (30) is over the age of 27.

22 - Guard/Forward- Minnesota Timberwolves

19 percent from deep.

Coming out of college, the book on Corey Brewer was that he’d struggle offensively in the League, and true to the scouting report, Brewer had a rookie year that he described as “terrible.”1 In the past, the Timberwolves swingman had gotten his by running the floor for Portland High (TN) and then for two-time national champion Florida.2 This was different… a lot different. The contrast in systems paralleled that of sunny Gainesville and snowy Minneapolis,3 and Brewer was out of his element. “It was a lot easier when I was in a system where you went up and down like we did in college,” says Brewer. “To walk the ball down court and throw it into the post, I’d never played that way my whole life. It really hurt me. I struggled. I didn’t know what to do.” This offseason, he rehabbed his knee,4 hit the weight room, took thousands of jumpers, and worked on creating his own shot. The results? Brewer more than doubled the scoring output from his first two years, averaging more than 13 points a night.5 On top6 of that, he’s oft asked to shadow the likes of LeBron, Kobe and D-Wade on the defensive end. Now it’s a matter of translating individual improvement into Ws. The young T-Wolves7 didn’t have many in ’09-10, languishing in the loaded Western Conference. However, Brewer believes that between he, Al Jefferson, Jonny Flynn and Kevin Love, Minny might not be far away. “We’re trying to get it through our heads,” he says. “It can only get better.”

COREY BREWER

BONUS POINTS 1. Brewer averaged a modest 5.8 points per night but shot 37 percent from the floor, including just

FIRST FIVE

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FIRST FIVE

BY STEVE HUNT #29

33 - Center - Dallas Mavericks

BRENDAN HAYWOOD For a while it looked like another lost season for the long-standing1 Washington Wizards center. Then came a blockbuster trade that sent Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson to Dallas in exchange for Josh Howard and Drew Gooden, propelling him from Conference basement to a possible playoff top seed. It was not easy to say goodbye though. “The hardest thing was leaving friends and people in the organization I liked and have been a part of my life for nine years,” says Haywood. However, having Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson accompany him has helped. “He [Stevenson] and I communicate a lot,” he says. “Coming over with him made this transition easier.”2 Being Haywood’s teammate for five years, Butler knows all about his skill set and what he means to Dallas. “Great defensive presence, great basketball mind, great IQ—he brings those intangibles,” says Butler.3 “He’s a guy that really studies the game.” And for Haywood, his Mavericks’ job description is simple. “My role is to come here, clog up the paint on both ends, take advantage of my opportunities and give us a defensive force on the back line,” says Haywood. Thus far, the move has been positive. “It’s been pretty good, the team has been winning,” he says. “For me to get out of that situation and get to a winning situation is great for me.”4

BONUS POINTS 1. At the time of the trade, Haywood was the longest-tenured Wizard, having been with the club since ’01, when he was drafted 20th overall by Cleveland and then traded to Washington. 2. Brendan is friends with both Butler and Stevenson, but of the two, has a closer relationship

3. However, one thing Haywood doesn’t have is a catchy nickname like Butler. Butler is known as “Tough Juice.” Teammates refer to Brendan as B-Wood. 4. During his nine-plus years in Washington, the most the Wizards won were 45 games, which they did in ’04-05. As of 4/9/10, the Mavericks already had 51 victories.

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with Stevenson.


BY MELODY HOFFMAN #34

55 - Center - Indiana Pacers

ROY HIBBERT BONUS POINTS 1. Hibbert is averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds this season. 2. He still keeps in touch with some of the Georgetown centers he watched when he was growing up: Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing. “Whenever I see Big Pat, because he coaches for Orlando, he always talks to me,” he says. “Obviously he doesn’t want me to do too well against them, but he always tells me how I am improving. I am appreciative of all of their support.” 3. During his senior year, Hibbert led Georgetown in scoring with 13.4 ppg, rebounding with 6.4 rpg and in blocked shots with 2.2 bpg. As a junior, he helped lead Georgetown to its first Final Four since 1985. He ranks fourth in career blocks at Georgetown with 259, behind—you guessed it—Ewing (493), Mourning (453) and Mutombo (354). 4. Hibbert improved from being second on the team with 76 blocked shots last year to leading the Pacers this year with an average of 1.6 blocked shots. 5. Though he’s playing more minutes this year—24.7 minutes, 10 more minutes than last year’s average of 14.4—his fouls per minute (.213) from his rookie year are down by a third this season.

FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Pacers’ middleman Roy Hibbert counts himself as one of the last of a “dying breed” of true centers. “I like to shoot1 on the outside so that people respect me, but I like to bang in the post,” Hibbert says. “Centers that like to do most of the work inside, but also can shoot from the outside, they’re extremely hard to guard.” It’s no surprise that the 7-2 Hibbert likes the old-school duties of the pivot. After all, he did master his big-man skills under the storied tradition of Georgetown centers.2 “I want to have the defensive mind like Dikembe, I want to be tough like Alonzo, and I want to have the post moves and the footwork like Patrick. I always want to be remembered and talked about in the same light as them,” Hibbert says of his fellow Hoya bigs.3 This offseason he will work to improve his defense so he can better protect the rim.4 But he insists he’s moved beyond the rookie mistakes that kept him in foul trouble last season. “I’ve done an extremely better job than last year,” Hibbert says of keeping opponents off the free throw line. “I still have a lot to learn because sometimes I get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Last year I probably led the League in fouls per minute.5 My teammates told me that they need me in the game and the only reason I’m not in the game is because I’m fouling. I’ve come along and my awareness on the court has gotten better.”

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FIRST FIVE

BY ROB PETERSON #9

22 - Guard/Forward - Golden State Warriors

ANTHONY MORROW ORROW For Golden State Warriors guard Anthony Morrow, shooting is the easy part. Deciding which sound he wants to hear—a full-throated roar from the faithful at Oracle Arena or stunned silence on the road—when he drains a killer three-pointer?1 That’s difficult. “It all depends where we are,” Morrow says. “If we’re at Staples Center2 or the Garden, then on the road. But I love our fans. I love hitting a three for them. What I like even more than making the shot is when I can see, out of my peripheral vision, the fans standing with their hands up. That gives me a boost.”3 And why shouldn’t Dubs fans show him love? Morrow went undrafted4 out of Georgia Tech in ’08, but his humble NBA beginnings belie a steely confidence honed by his summer regimen of 700-800 shots per day. “Sometimes, I’ll add pull-up jump shots, so it’ll be 1,000,”5 he says. Morrow’s accuracy from long range6 has made him a perfect complement to fellow guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. “My teammates have seen me get real hot,”7 he says, “so it’s a blessing to have the opportunity.”8

BONUS POINTS 1. In ’08-09, Morrow became the first rookie in NBA history to lead the League in three-point percentage (.467). 2. Morrow scored a career-high 37 points against the Clippers in Los Angeles on 11/11/08, in just his fourth NBA game. 3. Through 3/18/10, Morrow has nearly half (.470) of the three-pointers taken at Oracle Arena. He has hit 45 percent on the road. 4. Morrow was so far off the radar, his name didn’t appear in the 2008 NBA Draft Media Guide. 5. Morrow works out back home in Charlotte, where he was named North Carolina’s “Mr. Basketball” his senior year in high school.

7. Morrow credits his flawless shooting motion to a cousin who helped him with fundamentals and by watching Michael Jordan shoot. “He had perfect form on his jump shot,” Morrow says. 8. Yes, that is “Thunder” Dan Majerle sitting in the lower right corner

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6. On 3/8/10, he went 6-for-6 from three-point range, tying a team record for most three-pointers in a game without a miss.


GEORGE HILL

3 - Guard - San Antonio Spurs

BY JEFF MIN #12

Spend some time with Spurs’ second-year guard George Hill and it becomes overwhelmingly clear that this young man’s best attributes aren’t limited solely to his physical abilities. He’s lightning quick—certainly. And, yes, he’s tenacious on both sides of the ball—there’s no arguing that—but what ultimately shines through for this 23-yearold from Indiana is the amount of heart he shows both on1 and off the court.2 “I learned how to take advantage of opportunities and me giving back to the young kids, and kids who are less fortunate, means the world to me because I didn’t have that growing up,” explains Hill in regards to his dedication to philanthropy.3 “I have fun with the second to fourth grade kids that I sponsor in Indianapolis called G3 Rising Stars. It’s been a blessing and fun getting to know them in the summer.” Hill is committed to improving himself as a person and player.4 His offseason work has paid dividends as he’s transitioned seamlessly into the Spurs starting rotation. Just three-quarters into his sophomore season Hill has answered all his naysayers, showing remarkable poise in pressure-packed situations. He still has plenty to work on at this point—specifically finding scoring opportunities for teammates—but for now he’ll be expected to step up in the playoffs and continue to work himself deeper into San Antonio’s core. “If I just play my game it’ll open up the floor for the veterans. I can’t sit back and figure out, ‘OK, I need to do this and let that person do that.’ I just have to go out and play my game at all times, and if that’s going out and being aggressive then so be it.”

BONUS POINTS 1. Head coach Gregg Popovich is not only confident in George’s abilities, but he often refers to him as his favorite player. That’s high praise considering how tough Pop can be on his point guards. 2. Hill was recruited by several high-profile programs, but instead of moving out of state, he opted for a smaller school in IUPUI so he could stay closer to his family and ailing grandfather.

GREGORY SHAMUS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3. Hill is an active participant in a number of charities. This past holiday season he treated five teenagers from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to a shopping spree. 4. Sophomore slump? Not for George Hill, this season he’s improved his numbers in every major statistical category.

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24 seconds with Grant Hill

By Jeramie McPeek #4 HOOP: The Suns are back in the playoffs after sitting one out last season. What are your expectations this year? HILL: We’re going in to win. We’re not just happy to be there. But it does feel good. It’s good for the team, good for the psyche of the young guys, good for the organization. HOOP: How much fun have the last few years been, being able to play relatively injury free1 and be a significant contributor again? HILL: The last three years have been great. A great bunch of guys, a great environment and, of course, it’s good to be healthy. So I’m having the most fun I’ve had in my career. HOOP: We saw your tweet asking why broadcasters have to give your age every time you touch the ball. HILL: I don’t really hear what goes on during the game, but my wife informs me of that. She’s always asking, “Why do they always have to mention your age?” But it’s all good. It’s a compliment. HOOP: Well, you are almost old enough to be Robin Lopez’2 father, after all. HILL: Well, I did have a fling with somebody when I was 14 in Fresno [laughs]. No, I’m just playing. HOOP: You’re now the third-oldest3 player in the League behind Shaq and Kurt Thomas.4 What do you think when you hear that? HILL: Just that a lot of the guys I came in with are gone. The guys from our era are moving on. There are very few of us left. When I’m playing now, I feel like I’m representing all those guys that are retired. HOOP: Are you going to outlast Shaq and Kurt? HILL: Definitely. I’m the oldest starter now with Shaq out hurt [laughs] [Ed note: at the time of the interview, the Diesel was nursing a thumb injury]. I might be able to squeeze out another couple years. HOOP: Tell us about your cross training during the summer. HILL: I just try to do things outdoors that I can’t do during the season, so I paddle surf, kayak, cycle, swim, play tennis. It keeps me in shape. HOOP: Stand-up paddle surfing?5 HILL: It’s a great core workout. You’re balancing the whole time, paddling, outside on the water. It’s calm water. You’re not in the ocean or anything, but it’s fun. HOOP: What would you like to do after your career? HILL: I thought about it a lot earlier in my career, because of all the injuries. Obviously, I’ve prepared myself, but right now I’m just focusing on enjoying these last few years of playing. HOOP: Is your mom still pushing a political career? HILL: Not really. She always wanted it when I was younger, but there are ways to serve without getting into politics. As long as I do that in some form, my parents will be happy.

barry gossage/nbae/getty images

HOOP: Is it true you got a call from President Clinton the night you got drafted? HILL: Yeah. I had known him for a long time, as my mom and [Hillary Clinton] were college roommates. So he had seen me play when I was younger. But it was cool to have the President call me on draft night. HOOP: And you called President Obama on election night, right? HILL: I don’t know if I called him on election night, but I’ve seen him a few times since. Steve [Nash] and I went and saw him while we were in DC this year.

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HOOP: What’s his game like? HILL: He probably thinks he’s better than he is [laughs]. But he’s a passer, a good facilitator, runs the show, has good leadership out there on the floor. He’s probably the best president that’s ever played. HOOP: Back to your post-NBA career, maybe you could be a DJ. We hear that you enjoy mixing a little bit? HILL: Not me. That’s J-Rich. I used to fool around6 with that when I was in high school, but I have not been on the turntable since I’ve been in the NBA. HOOP: After seeing your new Twitter7 avatar, we think you’d make a good DJ. HILL: I was getting ready to go to a concert in 1986, the Fresh Fest with Whodini, Doug E. Fresh, and a bunch of rappers. That was a very LL Cool J, Washington DC influence. HOOP: What photos do you have that you hope will never surface? HILL: We all have embarrassing photos at embarrassing ages. I used to go to Up Against the Wall [a mall clothing store], and dress with the parachute pants, the bad flat-tops, all that stuff. Luckily I have all the photos, so no one can get a hold of them. HOOP: You were a big New Edition fan back in the day, right? HILL: All-time greatest boy band. I think they were underrated. The ’80s were their reign. Obviously, they’re still around, but those were great times and great music. HOOP: Bobby Brown or Johnny Gill era?8 HILL: Bobby Brown. I actually went on stage with Bel Biv Devoe9 once, too. We had just won the championship at Duke and they were at Carolina performing, and they brought us up on stage. Me, [Christian] Laettner, Bobby Hurley. HOOP: Did you know all of their dance moves? HILL: Not BBD, but New Edition. I still know them. I’m hoping my wife will get them for a concert for my birthday one of these years. Maybe my 40th. A private New Edition concert for 100 of my closest friends. HOOP: Is HOOP invited? HILL: You might be. I don’t have many friends. HOOP: What does Tamia10 think of your dance moves? HILL: When we dance together she’s always trying to be sexy and I’m trying to be funny, so it doesn’t work all that well together. HOOP: What are you listening to on your iPod right now? HILL: I tend to listen to stuff probably from ’85 to ’96. That was my favorite era. HOOP: You sent a tweet thanking Steve Jobs for the iPad. Did you get a preview pad? HILL: Oh no, I think that was my buddy. I just retweeted him. I’m not like Nash, I don’t have all the new stuff.

For more questions with Grant, visit hoopmag.com

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2. Lopez was barely 6 years old when Hill was drafted out of Duke in ’94. 3. Lindsey Hunter was the oldest player in the league before making the move from the Bulls’ bench to the front office in early March. 4. Thomas is one day older than Hill. Kurt was born on 10/4/1972, and Hill was born on 10/5/72. Interestingly, HOOP editor-at-large Jeramie McPeek, who conducted this interview, was born on 10/2/72. 5. According to Wikipedia, stand-up paddle surfing is “an ancient form of surfing” and an “emerging global sport.” 6. Hill says he does fool around making music on his Apple laptop, however. 7. Follow the Suns’ forward at Twitter.com/RealGrantHill33 8. Brown left the group in 1986 and was replaced by Gill. 9. Bel Biv Devoe was a group made up of three original members of New Edition. 10. Hill’s wife, Tamia, is a five-time Grammy Award nominee. 11. The author’s take on Hill’s singing: “He was singing real quiet and kind of under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear as he wanted me to help him remember the titles of the songs. So it wasn’t a real accurate reflection of his singing voice. His teammates were all around us, too, watching the NCAA games, so he probably didn’t want them to hear.”

layne murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

HOOP: How about a group or song that would surprise our readers? HILL: Goo Goo Dolls, [singing] “I don’t want the world to see me, cause I don’t think they’d understand.” Or Red Hot Chili Peppers, [singing again] “What I’ve got you’ve got to give it to your mamma.”11

Bonus Points 1. Hill played in all 82 games for the first time in his career in ’08-09.

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P L AYO F F S B E G I N A P R I L 1 8 FOR FULL SCHEDULE GO TO NBA.COM TM & © 2010 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. ©Copyright 2010 NBAE. Photos: Bob Rosato/NBAE Getty Images

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The reason for the Hawks transformation from a happy-to-bethere playoff team to a Finals contender is the first guy off the bench

According to SITA (Specialists in Air Transport Communications and IT Solutions), it’s estimated that 32.8 million pieces of luggage are lost every year worldwide. The Atlanta Hawks are grateful for some of those pieces, specifically the baggage that supposedly belonged to Jamal Crawford, but didn’t make it with him when he arrived from Golden State. Said baggage included allegations of an attitude problem and a less-thantenacious approach to defense. Yet, ask anyone around the Hawks about it and they have no idea what you’re talking about—isn’t that always the case when trying to locate lost luggage? In fact, part of the reason the Hawks made the deal for the 30-year-old Crawford, who marked his 10th season in the League this year, besides his obvious on-court talent and the need for the skill set he brings, is that no one General Manager Rick Sund talked to about Crawford could find anything bad to say about him. “We did a lot of research there,” Sund says. “All the people that we talked to while we were doing our homework were very, very favorable in some of the things that he does off the court and in the community1 and what a great guy he is. Particularly with the media, he never turns down a request, whether he has a HOOP

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good game or a bad game. The one thing that was consistent across the board was that he was a good kid.” That group included Isiah Thomas, who Sund said gave Crawford “a glowing endorsement,” despite having traded him while Knicks GM. So the Hawks made the 2009 Draft-Day trade, parting with ’07 first-round pick Acie Law, who has since been moved to Chicago, and Speedy Claxton, since released. It’s a deal that NBA.com’s Shaun Powell called “A Havlicekian steal...getting the best sixth man in basketball for a glass of sweet tea.” Sund prefers to opine that the deal has worked out for both teams, but he won’t deny that Crawford has made a major impact in Atlanta. That was all Crawford ever wanted to do, make a difference. Instead, he became “The Difference.”2 Crawford led the League in scoring for a player who didn’t make a start and provided the kind of instant offense off the bench that reminded Sund of players like “The Microwave,” Vinnie Johnson, during Detroit’s championship years. For his part, all Crawford would admit to was doing his job. “I think I’ve done a good job but there’s room for growth. I can continue to get better,” he says. “They can help me get to the playoffs and hopefully I can help them go further. That was one of the reasons they brought me in.” Crawford’s low-key demeanor should not be confused with low-energy. “Us Seattle guys are kind of easy,” says fellow Seattle native Marvin Williams. “He’s super easy. He’s a great teammate, a great locker room guy.” “He’s real,” adds center Al Horford. “What you see is what you get with him. He’s a real soft-spoken guy. He’s just a good guy.” Sometimes good things happen to good guys. The trade to Atlanta seems to be such a case.

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His transition to Atlanta has been seamless even though it required taking on a new role, coming off the bench. “I pointed out to him that he could really get some notoriety in his career right now on a good team, a team that was going to be able to win” Sund says. “Every team has it. Whether it’s [Manu] Ginobili in San Antonio, or [Leandro] Barbosa or [Jason] Terry, or players like that. So he not only came in here accepting that role, he embraced it.” Crawford has grown to love it, thanks, in large part to his teammates. “In the first game, I was really hesitant as far as shooting the ball and everybody pulled me to the side and said, ‘You have to be aggressive. That’s why we brought you here. We know what you bring to the table,’” he recalls. “I’ve done that ever since and it’s worked out really well for all of us.3 “With this team I prefer to come off the bench. I think it gives us good balance. I don’t really care about starting too much. As long as I’m out there when in it counts, I’m fine with that.” Hawks’ head coach Mike Woodson seems to be as well. “To have another option offensively, it takes pressure off of Joe [Johnson], [Mike] Bibby, Josh [Smith], Marvin, all of those guys to have another offensive weapon,” says Woodson whose ’09-10 Hawks were his fifth straight team to improve its record from the previous season. “We’ve been pretty good offensively this year because we’ve sacrificed the ball and everybody has shared it. Jamal has added an offensive weapon we haven’t had coming off the bench, that explosive since I’ve been here.” That explosiveness off the bench nicely complements Johnson, who Crawford stated was the first Hawk player to talk with him after the trade. Come the fourth quarter, Johnson knows he’ll still get opponents’ attention. But now, it’s no longer their undivided attention. “He makes the defense play honest,” Johnson says. “He’s a great guy to have out there on the court in the fourth quarter. [Opponents] can’t really guess who will take the last shot. I can get it, Jamal can get it or Mike [Bibby] could even get it.”

"If we brought a Championship

here we'd be remembered for sure

...that's the goal...

we really do have

from left: Kevin c. cox (2); jesse d. garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

a chance."

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"I always believed you win as a team, you lose as team and basketball's a team sport," he adds. "Even as great as guys like LeBron and Kobe are, they need teammates. So I think everybody wins and loses together."

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“I love it,” says Crawford, who ranked in the top 10 in the League in fourth-quarter scoring. “I just love being in that position. It feels good when your teammates look to you in that situation.” It certainly feels better than prior to his arrival, when the Hawks relied mainly Johnson as the main threat. While Bibby, Williams, Smith can shoot, none of them can do it like Crawford.4 Proof of that was when Smith admitted to swearing off the three upon Crawford’s arrival— with 15 games remaining he’d taken a total of six all season after hoisting up an average of 94.2 attempts over his first five NBA seasons. “He adds the extra depth that we’ve needed for a while,” Smith says. “I like watching him. I liked watching him play when he wasn’t on the team.” Smith isn’t alone. Williams recalls watching Crawford light it up for Rainier Beach High School, long before he starred at Bremerton High School. “Man, the first time I ever saw him play, the things he does now are what he did in high school. He was unbelievable,” raves Williams. “I remember going to the state tournament. I stayed a couple of hours to watch his team play. It was definitely something special.” Williams credits Crawford as being the foundation of the current basketball boom in Seattle—a city still hurting from the departure of the Sonics in 2008. “He really made it happen for kids out of the Seattle area, let them know that making it to the NBA is possible,” Williams says. “Seattle wasn’t exactly a basketball factory when Jamal was coming out. You look at Seattle today, he was one of the main guys that started it.”5 Crawford is hoping to start something similar in Atlanta, where he’s trying to help the Hawks crash the party of the Eastern Conference elite and join the likes of Cleveland, Orlando and Boston, the East’s representative in the Finals in each of the last three seasons. While he can’t take all the credit for the overall rebirth of the Hawks—they did win 47 games last season—he can take credit for the nightly lift he gives the team just by removing his warm-ups and walking to the scorer’s table. “It’s a huge feeling,” says Horford. “He comes in and changes the game. When we’re at home he gets the fans involved and really gets everybody going. It’s a luxury that we have. He’s been one of the biggest differences from last year to this year.” “We’re talking about a guy who’s scored 50 three times in his career,” adds Williams.” Sometimes, guys have a night. You might have 50 in a night. But to have three nights like that is unbelievable. He’s in rare company when it comes to that. He’s an explosive scorer, definitely.” He’s so explosive that he routinely turns three points into four, albeit with help of defenders, setting a record for four-point plays, breaking Reggie Miller’s mark of 24.6 “Watching Reggie Miller as a kid, him kind of being known for that, and getting fouled on three-pointers is pretty rare. So for me to break his record after watching him growing up and doing that, is unexplainable,” says Crawford, who was unaware of his proximity to Miller’s mark until being told about it at the end of the ’08-09 season. HOOP

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sidebar: kevin c. cox; from left: layne murdoch; scott cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

Statistically, in the NBA, where 16 of the 30 teams compete in the postseason, it’s actually harder to miss the playoffs than to get in. Tell that to Crawford, the League’s most hard-lucked player when it comes to sniffing the postseason. In his 10th season and with over 650 games under his belt, Crawford has the distinction of being the longest tenured active player to never have played beyond the 82nd game of the season. This dubious honor came to an end this season as Crawford’s Hawks are poised for a deep playoff run—something Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill can only wish for. While no strangers to the postseason, for dudes like McGrady and Hill, being a playoff virgin might be a welcomed alternative. Despite putting up some gaudy numbers in 38 postseason games (career averages of 28.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 6.2 apg, all up from his regular season numbers), detractors never let McGrady forget his 0-7 record in the first round of the playoffs. T-Mac’s onetime Magic teammate has been just as fruitless in the postseason. In 22 games over six series (not counting ’10 playoffs) Hill has never been in the celebratory locker room. So take solace in that fact, Jamal. Next up after Crawford? Troy Murphy, who could reach 631games by the end of the season.

Another record of which Crawford was very much aware was his mark for the most games played without appearing in the postseason.7 That one ended in April. “It was very weird,” he says. “The most troubling thing about it was the fact that I actually hadn’t appeared in the Playoffs. I always felt like on the big stage I would do very well but I always had to watch it on TV. That was tough on me. But saying the longest continuous streak, whatever, that didn’t really bother me. “I always believed you win as a team, you lose as team and basketball’s a team sport,” he adds. “Even as great as guys like LeBron and Kobe are, they need teammates. So I think everybody wins and loses together.” Helping the Hawks advance in the Playoffs has been his main goal all season and would mean more than any individual award, like Sixth Man of the Year, for which he’s been touted all season. “If we brought a championship here we’d be forever remembered for sure,” he says. “That’s the goal. Everybody can identify with Dominique’s teams because they went to the second round. That era was tough. He had to go against everybody. But we have a chance. We really do have a chance.” That’s “The Difference.”

BONUS POINTS 1. Crawford financed the renovation of the gym at Rainier Beach High School, where the basketball court is now referred to as Crawford Court. In addition, his foundation supplies Seattle Public High Schools with medical supplies and he’s bought heart defibrillators for each school. Before leaving New York, Crawford renovated a library at P.S. 58 in the Bronx. 2. Crawford credits his nickname “The Difference” to Hawks Vice President of Public Relations Arthur Triche. 3. Jamal has made it work for his teammates as well as for himself, dishing out his 2,500th career assist on Dec. 4 at Sacramento. He scored his 10,000th point on Feb. 21 in his return to Golden State. 4. The Hawks kept a stat in their press notes of their record when Crawford made at least three three-pointers in a game. They were 17-6 through games of March 18. 5. There are currently 13 NBA players from the state of Washington. In addition to Crawford and Williams they are: Brandon Roy, Aaron Brooks, Jason Terry, Rodney Stuckey, Nate Robinson, Spencer Hawes, Martell Webster, Luke Ridnour, Brian Scalabrine, Jon Brockman and Ronny Turiaf. 6. Crawford started the season with 19 four-point plays and passed Miller’s record of 24 on March 6, at Miami. 7. Crawford’s streak ended at 678 games. According to Elias Sports Bureau and ESPN Research, he was well short of the all-time mark of 734 set by fellow Marietta, GA native and former Hawk Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Indiana’s Troy Murphy currently holds the mark, which could reach 621 by season’s end. HOOP

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By Michael Bradley #53 Portraits by Melissa Majchrzak

You don’t see it when he’s on the move. Or in the air. When he takes over, you won’t pick it up, either. There he stands, pounding the dribble, waiting for the right move. His expression is placid. Intense? Serene? Tough to tell. Deron Williams doesn’t advertise his feelings or emotions. Scored a big basket, did he? Better look back downcourt, because he has probably already run back to get back on D. Big dunk? Big dish? Big stop? Almost nothing. Maybe a small smile. Slap some skin. Then it’s on to the next thing. Even when he’s clowning around with the fans, like Williams did when he dropped in on a couple of guys in the front row after he was fouled while finishing on the break against the Hornets, he did so with a blank expression. But he was having fun. We think. We know our basketball players better than just about any other professional athletes. They don’t wear headgear or padding. They play right in front of us. No foul territory. No warning track. Or boards and glass. So we see their every grimace. Hear their shouts. Sometimes, they even drop in for some popcorn. Not Williams. He’s not giving you that kind of access. Is he happy? Well, if the Utah Jazz are winning, then all is good. Is he angry? If you keep him off the All-Star team when he deserves a shot, yeah, he’s furious. Williams will tell you, but he does so in an understated way, sort of like his game. On the surface, he’s cool and in charge, almost always making the right move. But simmering below is some hot magma, ready to erupt into a poster-quality jam or a defiant response to a wrong perception. You’re not going to find that stuff too often, so you’re not really going to know the man. But here’s what you will find out.

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“Coach made him earn it. [Williams] still doesn't like that. But he has earned a starting spot for Jerry Sloan. That's a big deal.” —Carlos Boozer

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He’s In Charge. You want to play point guard for Jerry Sloan? For the man who perfected the hand-check to the point where he was called “The Clamp?”1 Then you had better study the position and learn how to play it right. You had better pass when it’s time to pass, shoot when it’s time to shoot and make sure everybody around you is doing their jobs. Me-firsts need not apply. That sour look on Sloan’s face doesn’t go away, because his drive doesn’t ever abate. Or, maybe he’s just in a bad mood. Whatever the case, you had better do what he wants. Williams has just about reached the point where that is second nature. He says it isn’t so hard playing for Sloan, that he could “play in any system.” Perhaps, but this isn’t some up-anddown festival, where the margin for error increases as the possessions pile up. Made a bad pass? Don’t sweat it. When you’re scoring 120 a night, there are always more opportunities. Utah doesn’t walk it up, by any means, and when Williams gets going on the break, no one—not even Sloan and his clamp from back in the day—can stop him. But not many mistakes are tolerated in Utah. “Coach Sloan is good for me,” Williams says. “He wants to win, and he doesn’t change for anybody. When you run the same plays every night for 20 years, you know what to expect. Every night, there is consistency. “But I feel like I have freedom. Rarely does [Sloan] not let me play. I call most of our plays. He doesn’t restrict me in any way.” That wasn’t always the case. When Williams came into the League, Sloan put training wheels on him, something the rookie didn’t like.2 There was Chris HOOP

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Paul, the other big-name point guard in the same ’05 Draft, tearing it up for the Hornets on his way to the Rookie of the Year award,3 and Williams was paying his dues, averaging fewer than 30 minutes a night. Of course, Sloan was doing it the right way, allowing his apprentice to grow slowly. Williams still believes had he played more, the Jazz would have reached the playoffs, but the big payoff came in ’07, when a confident sophomore point guard led Utah to the Western Conference Finals. “Coach made him earn it,” Jazz forward Carlos Boozer says. “[Williams] still doesn’t like that. But he has earned a starting spot for Jerry Sloan. That’s a big deal.” Watch Williams now, and it’s hard to argue with anything Sloan did. Just about every game proves how well the guard grasps his responsibilities, quite an accomplishment for someone who’s just in his fifth season in the League. “He’s a very capable scorer and passer,” says Phoenix guard Steve Nash, who knows a little bit about those things. “He does make very good decisions. He’s a true point guard in that sense, and that’s why I think he’s so important to his team.” Take the March 4 game against Nash’s Suns in Phoenix. Late in the fourth quarter, Williams nailed a huge threepointer and then drove deep down the right side and fired the ball out to Mehmet Okur, who drilled an open threepointer in a come-from-behind 116-108 victory. It was the classic example of the modern point guard, who must score and distribute. More importantly, he must know when to do each. “The point guard gets to judge when to get people involved and when to take over and score,” says Williams, who clearly enjoys being that hardwood arbiter. Sloan isn’t at all surprised by Williams’ development into a complete performer. In fact, he doesn’t necessarily see it as an emergence, rather more of a growth. One of the things that attracted the Jazz to the guard when he was at Illinois4 was his ability to differentiate between setting up others and creating for himself. “I think he’s always had it,” Sloan says. “I just think the team is a little better around him, and that’s helped him. He has had tremendous ability and knowhow from the beginning.” HOOP

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“The knock on me... was that I wasn't athletic. It's a perception that's been hard to break.” —Deron Williams

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He’s a Freak. The Jazz’s March 17 win over Minnesota was not all that noteworthy, unless you count those interesting green uniforms. Utah cruised, 122-100, to keep fighting for better position in the West hierarchy. En route to the rout, Williams—who had rolled his ankle in the first quarter—slashed hoopward from the left wing and flushed the ball authoritatively with his right hand over the late-rotating Al Jefferson, who has a full five inches on Williams. While Boozer howled in delight, Williams ducked his head and went back on defense. Maybe if Williams punctuated his thunderous dunks or slick highlightquality moves with some emotion, people might just recognize how athletic he is. But he doesn’t, so they don’t. The result is a reputation as a meat-and-potatoes type, one who is responsible, effective, tenacious and, well, boring. Big mistake. Maybe it’s because he plays in Utah, but few people realize Williams has quite the collection of jaw-droppers in his arsenal.5 “The knock on me coming out [of college] was that I wasn’t athletic,” Williams says. “Even though I’m bigger than some guards, I’m pretty quick. It’s a perception that’s been hard to break.” Just check out his reel from the ’08 Olympics. There he is throwing down a couple thunderous dunks. Check out that double-clutch, reverse layup on the break against Yao Ming and China. Perhaps his calm, quiet demeanor is what spoils it for him. If he beat his chest a little and danced after big plays, people might take more notice of him. But make no mistake, Williams is extremely dangerous and extremely entertaining. That’s quite a combination. And since he is bigger and stronger than most of the guards defending him, Williams has an advantage when he gets to the basket against them. “I just think he’s able to take contact, HOOP

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NBA’s Best Kept Secret Vol. 8 It’s not something Deron Williams is going to bring up when he meets up with Dallas’ Jason Terry. “I’m good friends with Jet,” Williams says, referring to the Mavericks’ guard. “It” is the crossover move Williams laid on his pal last season. He yo-yoed the ball back and forth, between his legs and back. He swayed a little. He jab-stepped. And then... Terry hit the deck. It was a beautiful thing, unless you happen to be Terry. The TNT fellas had a great time with that one, especially Karl Malone, who called for repeated viewings. Terry hit the deck, shouting out as he fell. Williams calmly nailed the open jumper and headed back downcourt, another crossover victim notched on his belt. “I’ve never brought that up with him,” Williams says. “But I’m sure he got enough texts after the game.” There’s a lot of that going around. Players have been left in the wake of Williams’ underrated crossover ever since he came into the league. Check out the highlights. There’s Kirk Hinrich practically breaking both of his ankles trying to keep up. Derek Fisher just stood there and let Williams go by. And whose idea was it to put Anderson Varejao on Williams? You can bet somebody caught heat for that. Even Kobe isn’t immune. Williams sent him back about five feet with a killer version last year. Williams doesn’t advertise the crossover. It isn’t his signature move, and it doesn’t have a nickname. It just has a perfect place in his arsenal and can clear him space whenever he needs it. The fact that it happens to embarrass some good friends is just gravy. On their faces.—#53

“When he didn't make the All-Star Game, he used it as motivation. He should have been an All-Star two or three times by now.” —Carlos Boozer

layne murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

create contact and get himself more space and time and avenues on the floor,” Nash says. Even Sloan, who was hardly a spectacular player or vivacious personality, recognizes Williams’ athletic skills and expects to see even more of the flashy stuff in the future—within the confines of the Utah system, of course. “He’s always had that, and now that he has the confidence and experience in the League, it’s going to continue to come out,” Sloan says. “He has a tremendous upside, even in that regard. It’s just a matter of getting more comfortable.” He Doesn’t Forget. Anybody who saw the 2005 NCAA tourney final between North Carolina and Williams’ Illinois squad remembers how great the game was. Carolina opened a big halftime lead, but the Illini closed furiously after intermission. It was tied. Then tied again. A tip-in. A missed shot. Then another. A free throw. A last wayward three-point attempt. And then it was over. UNC 75, Illinois 70.6 “I don’t like to look back at that, but it’s almost impossible not to,” Williams says. “It’s one of those woulda, shoulda, coulda things.” Williams may not spend too much time reminiscing about the title game disappointment, but don’t mistake his apparent nonchalance for a lack of pain. The guy remembers everything about the game. And just about everything else. There isn’t too much he doesn’t keep with him. He uses it for fuel, just like he does those comments about his athletic ability—or lack thereof. Don’t be the one to list Williams’ HOOP

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limitations. He’s by no means perfect, and he’ll admit that readily. There remains work to do. He just doesn’t want to hear too many other people squawking about it. Coaches, sure. Front office types, of course. Teammates, you bet. But some of those others? Forget it. You’ll get put in the same category as the people who left him out of the All-Star game before this season. “When he didn’t make the All-Star Game, he used it as motivation,” Boozer says. “This year, when he finally got the recognition, he felt it was deserved. “He should have been an All-Star two or three times by now.” Williams was happy his first experience with the weekend came in his hometown of Dallas, where he and his family moved from West Virginia when he was young. Even though his West squad fell, 141139,7 and Williams had some trouble late in the game with Dwyane Wade, it was a great experience, even if it came too late for Williams’ liking. “It was great to be at home and have my family around,” Williams says. “But it bothered me that I hadn’t been there before, some years more than others. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I used it as fuel for the fire.”

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He Wants To Win. Ask Williams about his golf game and don’t expect him to regale you with tales about his birdie on 18 at Pebble Beach or how the game helps him relax. “What’s your handicap, Deron?” “I’m a 10 handicap.” “That’s pretty good for a guy who has played about three years.” “It’s not bad, but it’s not where I want to be.” There are people who have played golf for decades and would kill to be a 10. Charles Barkley would settle for being a 10—on each hole. Not Williams. If someone is keeping score, he wants to do better. Just ask Boozer. Not long after Williams picked up the game,8 which has been tormenting players for centuries, he decided to take a big step. “He couldn’t get it out of his head that he wasn’t good at it,” Boozer says. “He said, ‘Booz, I bought a golf simulator for my house.’ I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to be ready when the snow melted and he could play in the summer.” Williams has the All-Star recognition and a burgeoning stardom as one of HOOP

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“We're happy about being in the playoffs each year, but at the same time, we want to win a championship.” —Deron Williams the League’s rising players. He doesn’t, however, have a ring. Hasn’t come close to one. Yes, the Jazz reached the Western Finals in ’07, but they remain on the periphery of contention for the big prize and are certainly chasing the Lakers. That, more than any perceived slight about his athletic ability or All-Star snub, drives Williams. He wants to win it all. As part of the ’08 U.S. Olympic team, he earned a gold medal—“The first [basketball] championship I ever won at any level,” Williams says.—and loved the experience. Williams is a competitor who wants to be mentally stronger and physically more capable of leading his team to a title. “We’re right there, and we have been right there for a couple years,” he says. “We’re happy about being in the playoffs each year, but at the same time, we want to win a championship, and we feel we can do it with the players we have. “But time is running out. There’s a sense of urgency.” And, really, that’s all you need to know about Deron Williams. BONUS POINTS 1. Sloan averaged 14.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 2.5 apg during his 11 seasons with Baltimore and Chicago. 2. Williams started 47 games as a rookie. 3. Chris Paul averaged 16.1 ppg and 7.8 to win the Rookie of the Year. 4. Williams averaged 11.0 ppg and 5.9 apg at Illinois and was a secondteam all-America in 2005 5. You want more Williams? Check out his dunk on the Lakers’ Andrew

melissa majchrzak (2)/NBAE/Getty Images

Bynum and Pau Gasol last season. 6. Williams had 17 points and nine assists in the 2005 national title game against North Carolina. 7. Williams scored 14 points, handed out six assists and registered four steals in the All-Star Game. 8. After playing in a charity event after his rookie season, Williams caught the golf bug. Now, Williams has his own golf tournament every year, which benefits a different charity each year. HOOP

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10 Things to pay attention to during the Playoffs

Old Dogs

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This is a tale of two cities and Big Threes. Both have likely seen better days, but like any former champ, you can’t count them out. Let’s start with the younger of the two: the San Antonio Spurs somehow managed to transform their foggy nucleus into young gunners this season. It was just a year ago that their rosters were full of guys born during the Ford administration . Somehow, they’ve time-machined over-30 guys Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, Michael Finley, Fabricio Oberto, Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka and turned them into DeJuan Blair (20), Richard Jefferson (29) and Keith Bogans (29). Next thing you know the Spurs’ average age dropped down to a fresh-faced 26.6, making them the fifth youngest squad in the 2010 NBA Playoffs. Yes, Tim Duncan (34), Manu Ginobili (32) and Tony Parker (27) are all playoff vets who have battle scars from their many playoff victories—as has key acquisition Antonio McDyess (35)—but the nine other Spurs are all in their 20-something years. Consequently, the Spurs have new life, with people like George Hill (22) grabbing the lion’s share of guard minutes and running the Spurs’ most efficient offense of the Duncan Era. As the Spurs get younger, the C’s are using a different approach—to seize the day one last time. A perfect illustration of the contrast between the two is Finley (37) leaving the Spurs mid-season to join the Celtics. Another illustration was the summer acquisition of Rasheed Wallace (35). Mix these former champions with the Big Three from the Celtics’ 2008 championship squad—Ray Allen (34), Kevin Garnett (33) and Paul Pierce (32)— and you see why many are calling this the last hurrah for the NBA’s second-oldest playoff team (Boston’s average age is 29.1; Dallas is oldest at 30.3). The playoffs will reveal which strategy is more proficient, a mix of young and old or the wise vets coming together for one last run.

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As basketball junkies, March was a sacred time for us. At the risk of the hate mail, we’re going to just say it: the madness of March has nothing on the ridonkulousness (if Rick Reilly can make up such a nutty word, we have every right to turn it into a noun) of the NBA’s April and May. We won’t even get into how much better the NBA’s postseason is compared to the collegiate ranks (if you must: the quality of play is better, only the cream of the cream of the cream of the crop move onto NBA rosters, the less subjective sevengame series...). Here are 10 interesting sidebars to pay attention to while you spend a month glued to ABC, NBATV and TNT.

By Darryl Howerton #21

melissa majchrzak; ron hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images

The Hall of Fame Coaching Couple

Jerry & Larry would be a cool sitcom—the 21st Century version of The Odd Couple (cue theme music) with Jerry Sloan as Oscar and Larry Brown as Felix. We can see it now: Jerry as the blue-collar, lunch-pail guy who goes to work at the same place doing the same job for 31 years. Larry is the can’t-sit-still guy who’s always taking on new projects, going through nine different professional jobs in 25 years. The two old-school coaches in a new-era League full of zygotic and precocious talent young enough to be grandkids of Brown and Sloan. Jerry just goes about his job as he has for the past 22 years as head coach of the Jazz. He likely has the same tried-and-true routine. The playbook? It’s probably the same one written in analog form in a black-and-white marbled composition notebook labeled “Utah Jazz 1988-89 Playbook.” Can you blame him? It’s produced a .600 win percentage, a couple of Finals appearances and playoff spots in all but three seasons. Whatever hand Utah management deals him, Jerry’s Way will more often than not make them into a winner. Jerry just wins. You can set your clock to it. A wind-up, analog one, of course. Brown is the same way, meaning it’s his way or the highway. Teaching, nudging, advising, pleading, molding, demanding, screaming—it’s really all the same to Larry— his players abide by playing basketball the Larry Brown way. Unlike Sloan, Brown’s act is less Wayne Newton and more Globetrotters, shuffling from city to city, finding success at nearly every stop. At every address change is the usual: learning period, improvement, revival. Even a perennial Lottery franchise like the Bobcats aren’t immune to Larry’s Midas touch. You can set your watch to that as well. And it looks like this Jerry & Larry show just may have the legs to get picked up for yet another season.

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LeBron Does “Like Mike”

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Michael Jordan won his first NBA title in his seventh season. LeBron James is in season seven. Jordan had just won his second MVP award when the Bulls won the 1991 NBA Championship. James, in all likelihood, is on his way to winning his second NBA MVP award this year. Jordan was the NBA’s only player who perennially posted 30-plus Player Efficiency Ratings before he took over the game. Ditto James. All coincidences? LBJ sure hopes not. Yes, Kobe Bryant’s game and physical attributes resemble Jordan more than James does, but when it comes to career arc, LBJ is more MJ than KB, you see? And just like Jordan in season seven, it appears that this is the time when the 6-8, 270-pound all-world star has been given a supporting cast big enough to go deep in the playoffs. Give Danny Ferry credit: it’s been a work in progress and the Cavs general manager has made steps forward every season, adding a small piece here (Mo Williams), a medium piece there (Antawn Jamison) and occasionally a large piece (Shaq) along the way. But in the past 365 days, he’s pulled off some real coups to provide this depth: landing complementary role Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Powe, while also re-acquiring Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The Cavs now have nine players that have two-year adjusted plus-minus scores of zero or better. The ’08-09 squad only had five. And with forward-center Anderson Varejao leading the Cavs’ defense like Scottie Pippen, it is no wonder Cleveland is beating foes by 10-plus points a game. James’ supporting cast has become just like Jordan’s, in a sense. Big and deep. It’s also reminiscent of the Bulls breakthrough ’90-91 season when GM Jerry Krause realized Chicago did not have the manpower to match up with Detroit’s bigs in a seven-game series. So he went out and added Scott Williams and Cliff Levingston to his already beefy frontcourt of Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, Will Perdue and Stacey King. Sounds kind of similar to the bouncer crew James now has on his frontline: Shaq, Z, Varejao, Jamison, Hickson and Powe. Last year, Cleveland had trouble throwing bodies at Dwight Howard in the Eastern Conference championship. If the season seven theory holds true, the Cavs won’t have that problem this year.

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Tri-ed and True

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Tex Winter’s health problems. Ron Artest’s newness to the system. Pau Gasol’s preseason injury. Luke Walton’s season-long injuries. Derek Fisher showing his age. Who knows exactly what sidelined the triangle offense at times in Los Angeles, but one thing is clear: the 2010 Lakers are triangling less than ever in the Phil Jackson era. Consequently, the Lakers’ offense just ain’t what it used to be. Don’t get it twisted: the Lakers are still a championship-caliber team. But they’re doing it with devastating defense this year, ranking near the top in defensive efficiency headed into the final month of the regular season. You could make the case that the Lakers are the best defensive team in basketball, with Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant all vying for All-NBA Defensive honors. Conversely, at the same time, the Lakers’ vaunted offense—third in offensive efficiency in ’08-09—ranks no better than 10th this season. This, despite the fact, the Lakers returned all but one player (Trevor Ariza) from their 2009 NBA championship team and feature one of the most tailor-made players—mobile big men who can shoot from outside and pass—for the offense in Gasol. It’s really a rather stunning development that surprisingly hasn’t gotten more play. And with a couple of teams loading up on frontline talent to combat the Laker bigs (Mavs and Spurs), don’t be surprised if this doesn’t become front-page news in May. “When you play against the best teams and best players in the League, offense is going to help you, but it’s not going to be the final factor,” says Gasol. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Phil Jackson’s 1998 Bulls’ championship team that barely got it done with D when the triangle wasn’t as tried and true as normal. Will the Lakers pull it all together for a repeat run? They’ll certainly tri.

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Superman or Not, Dwight Howard is no Clark Kent

It’s time to debunk some theories regarding Dwight Howard. Critics who reference 20th Century box score statistics tend to make common false references to Dwight Howard at clutch time: 1. They’ll say he needs to demand the ball more, and then point out his lack of field-goal attempts. 2. They’ll point out his free throw shooting percentage—60 percent—and consider him a liability at crunch time. 3. They’ll point out his lack of an outside shot or ability to create a basket, implying that he is not much of a go-to man in the clutch.

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All three theories are bunk. Howard shoots 10 free throws per game; only LeBron James and Kevin Durant get to the line as often. So many times, when TV analysts are saying Howard only took 10 shots in a game, they are ignoring the 10 free throw attempts he has also taken, which basically translates to another five shots—not to mention the three-point shots he’s created by commanding double-teams (Orlando leads the League with 10 threes made per game). When they say Howard’s 60-percent free-throw rate hurts the team, again they are mistaken. There’s not a single team in the League that has a true shooting percentage of .600 (the Suns have the League-high at .584; the Lakers are the median at .542). Without even accounting for the percentage of possessions where turnovers occur (.236 is the League median), there are not many shots away from the rim that you’d rather take than having Howard shoot free throws for you. And regarding the lack of his outside shot and ability to create baskets, it doesn’t matter. Howard’s offensive and defensive prowess makes him one of the most clutch players in the NBA. And his mere presence on the floor allows other players—remember Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis last season?— to become clutch because of his unparalleled paint dominance (he makes 4.4 shots at the rim for a League-best 74 percent). Howard says, “I don’t really think about all that. I’m just trying to win games.” And his ’09-10 plus-minus stats in clutch time show he’s putting up W’s. Howard’s clutch stats—defined by Roland Beech at 82Games.com as the last five minutes of regulation or overtime with leads five points or less—translates to a +17 per 48 minutes of clutch time (last year he was a +15). The only 2010 All-Stars with better clutch numbers are Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. That’s pretty good company. Plus, Howard’s mere presence has allowed teammates Vince Carter (+31) and Lewis (+19) to also rank among the leaders in this specialized category. So the next time you hear someone question Howard as a go-to player, see what lies beneath the black-rimmed glasses and stodgy suit.

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garrett ellwood (2); cameron browne; fernando medina/NBAE/Getty Images

Top Billing

After Shaq won his 2006 NBA Championship with the Miami Heat, I told The Diesel my theory that there were many great players in the NBA, but at that time, only three great leaders: himself, Tim Duncan and Chauncey Billups. I’ve since added Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett to that list, but Shaq himself co-signed on that original statement, adding that what made them such great leaders of men is that each stayed true to his own unique personality. For Mr. Billups a.k.a. Mr. Big Shot, that meant playing point guard on and off the court. Or as Nuggets nutty strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess notes in a famed NBA Fit video, “One thing about this human being, he makes every single person get better every day.” The blue-collar Billups put what he preached into practice—what he learned from Sam Mitchell and Terrell Brandon in Minnesota as KG’s teammate to what he imparted to Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince in Detroit when he became their backcourt floor leader on a championship squad. Be a teammate 24/7. He got his Nuggets dressing like professionals. Got them to stop partying before game nights. He got them to just say “no” to fast food (hello, Chef D, Billups’ personal chef) and “yes” to extra early-morning workouts (hello, Steve). He got them talking about practice. He got them looking out for each other. He got them to play harder and smarter. Then only three months after his Mile-High arrival, the 2004 Finals MVP who had played in 102 playoff games got Carmelo Anthony, Nene, Chris Andersen and JR Smith into their first NBA final four. His seventh. Now with Coach George Karl facing his biggest battle, cancer, Billups has become the closest thing the NBA has seen in decades: a player-coach.

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Big D Rolls 10 Deep

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up. Rodrigue Beaubois is the Mavs’ 10th man. He scored 40 points in a game in late March and leads all rookies in player efficiency rating. Yet the 6-0, 170-pound third-stringer has almost as many DNP-CDs as he does games played. And he only plays for 13 minutes in the games that he does get into. That’s deep. Nobody in the NBA is as versatile as this Mavericks team that boasts four starters who have played in multiple All-Star Games. That’s quality depth. You have two future Hall of Famers (Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd), two more former All-Stars (Shawn Marion and Caron Butler), a top 10 center (Brendan Haywood), a reigning Sixth Man of the Year (Jason Terry) and three other bench players who were starters for playoff teams the last two seasons (Erick Dampier, Jose Barea and DeShawn Stevenson). Throw in two productive three-point bombers who can be relied on to stretch the floor, Tim Thomas and Matt Carroll. Heck, we even hear that owner Mark Cuban has a serviceable J. That’s filling out a roster. Which brings us back to Beaubois—the super-talented scoring point who lit up the Golden State Warriors for 40 points in 30 minutes on 22 shots...which came two days after he only logged 48 seconds in a game—who’ll likely be seeing sparse minutes and even a few DNP-CD come playoffs. That’s just downright scary.

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Hotlanta Cooking

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Lemme give you a recipe for some good down-South homemade cooking. Have patience because it does take six years to prepare. First off, bring in Chef Mike Woodson to your kitchen and have him work with some raw Josh Smith...your measuring cup after a year will read 13 wins. As you let Smith marinate another year, go buy some Joe Johnson, and then add a dash of Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia to your bowl...now your cup is at 26 wins. Let your ingredients set another year until your measuring cup reads 30 wins. Now go out and buy some Mike Bibby, add some Al Horford and mix them with your already boiling ingredients...your cup will soon read 37 wins and you’ll have enough food to get yourself a participant ribbon at the first round of the NBA Cookoffs. Let the ingredients stir another year and soon you’ll see the cup read 47 wins, where you’ll have enough feast to get you a couple participant ribbons in two rounds of the NBA Cookoffs. Finally, add some Jamal Crawford to your dish, then sit back and enjoy...the measuring cup is sure to read 50-something wins and who knows what happens after that? This may indeed be the year that Hawklanta tastes Fifty-Win Final Four Fondue. Serves about 18,729. Enjoy. And be careful: the plate is very hot.

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Beware the Newb

Kevin Durant may win many NBA scoring titles and rookie Brandon Jennings may top his 55-point performance, but the real secret to their young teams’ surprising success this season is a stifling brand of defense that makes the Oklahoma City Thunder and Milwaukee Bucks viable playoff contenders now and for years to come. The two Midwestern cites separated by 885 miles operate on similar defensive philosophies and the common thread running through both operations is assistant coach Ron Adams, who worked with the Scotts, Bucks head coach Scott Skiles when he was in Chicago and now with Thunder head coach Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. Adams is known for making his teams put in daily work on a consistent, fundamentally sound defense that ultimately becomes the team’s calling card for success. When young stars like Durant and Russell Westbrook take to defensive instruction just like Thabo Sefolosha and Nick Collison do, then you know Brooks has his team on the right path. Same is true for Skiles, who always molds his teams into his own fiery personality. Andrew Bogut [Ed note: Bogut suffered a season-ending injury at press time, but you can expect him to serve as an emotional and inspirational leader from the sideline], Luc Mbah a Moute and even Jennings have thrived in the Bucks’ nuanced system that is especially inviting for seasoned pros like Kurt Thomas and Jerry Stackhouse, who can add their hammering toughness to the mix. Neither team is expected to last more than a round in their playoff debut, but their first round draw better come prepared. Both teams have the perfect blend of upstart boldness and naiveté that can make them a dangerous opponent.

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from left: scott cunningham; barry gossage; issac baldizon; d. clarke evans; nathaniel s. butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Playoff Pay-off

While the world watches the 2010 Playoffs with their own dream matchups in mind come June (Kobe vs. LeBron anyone?), there will be eight NBA teams picturing playoff stars in their own team’s home colors come July. These eight—the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Wizards, Kings, Clippers, Timberwolves and playoff-bound Heat—are all capable of paying top dollar to many of the top free agents this summer, thus setting up the most anticipated free-agent frenzy in NBA history. And the playoff marquee has an unprecedented mix of drool-worthy top-shelf talent—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson—to go with All-Stars Ray Allen and Carlos Boozer, making these games mean even more. For all the free-agents-to-be, the playoffs will be a chance to make one final statement on why teams should open up the coffers. For some, the postseason is an opportunity to gauge whether or not their respective teams have done enough to warrant a re-up or to seek out greener pastures. For others, the national spotlight is their audition tape to prospective employers that they can still play. Not that these stars needed the extra motivation to perform come playoff time, but it will certainly make for a compelling few weeks of basketball.

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By Andy Jasner #27

Since the disastrous earthquake struck Haiti, Samuel Dalembert hasn’t stopped crying for his home country Samuel Dalembert looked around and viewed the destruction. It was eye-popping. It was worse than imagined. Bodies were lying in the street. Children were walking, around shavings of glass dangling from their feet. Buildings had collapsed. Families were displaced. All hope seemed to be lost. And then something amazing happened which Dalembert will never forget. It will stay within his memory bank for the rest of his life. It’s why he loves his native country. “There was this boy, maybe 10 or 11 years old without a shirt, with ripped pants and cuts all over his face,” Dalembert remembers. “His feet were all cut up. He looked starving. He sees me, puts his arm around me and asks me if I’m thirsty. I started to cry. Imagine this kid with nothing, absolutely nothing, seeing me, recognizing me and wanting to help me. “It made me so proud to be part of this country of Haiti. I had a bunch of bottles of water with me, which was part of the reason for my trip, to help these people from this country I love. I gave the boy some bottles of water and he told me he loved me. But the fact that he wanted to help me, well, I didn’t know what to say. I started to cry. I’ve been crying a lot.”

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In mid-January, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake rattled Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Dalembert grew up. Thousands of people died after the massive earthquake with one geophysicist calling it the strongest earthquake since 1770 in Haiti. Dalembert,1 a seven-foot center who was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers with the 26th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, is one of two players of Haitian descent2 to play in the NBA. Dalembert has more than fondness for his country. He truly loves everything about it. He has a number of family members still living there despite the tragedy. Dealing with the aftermath of this mega earthquake has been the hardest obstacle to overcome in his entire life. In a country where more than 80 percent of Haitians are unemployed and nearly 300,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS with very few hospitals, there is still hope. Yes, hope. “I know it sounds crazy, but Haiti has been through so much in its history,” Dalembert says. “We might be the toughest, most resilient people in the entire world. We almost have to be because of the tragedy that has struck our people. We have a lot of love and we have always fought for everything we’ve gotten. “We have always made the best of things. I don’t know how that’s going to happen this time. I guess over time things will get better. They have to. I lose a lot of sleep thinking about it and I’m doing everything I can to help. I know I can’t save the entire country, but I know I can help. And I will keep helping.” It was five hours after the earthquake: Dalembert hadn’t received any news about his father, 16-year-old sister or 15-year-old brother.3 There was no cell service in Haiti. Each time Dalembert’s phone rang, he jumped off the ground—literally. Finally, THE call arrived from his aunt. Everyone had survived. His father, a government worker, e-mailed Dalembert’s aunt to tell her all was well and she called him in Philadelphia. For the more times than he could count, Dalembert cried. “Tears of happiness,” Dalembert recalls with tears still streaming down his cheeks. “Man, these are tears of happiness. The waiting and waiting and waiting was so hard. I just wanted to know. But Haiti isn’t like the United

States. The technology is not nearly as advanced. I was so glad the news was great. I don’t know how I would have handled it otherwise. I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about that.” After a quick two-day trip to Haiti to survey the damage, Dalembert flew back to Philadelphia4 with a long delay in Miami. He finally made it to the Wachovia Center about five minutes before the Sixers4 hosted the New York Knicks (picture at right). With no sleep, and the trip so fresh in his mind, he still put on his uniform, scored 12 points and grabbed 21 rebounds in a 93-92 loss. Despite the loss, Dalembert’s teammates were simply amazed with his effort. “I don’t know how he did it,” Sixers guard Lou Williams says. “There’s no way I could have played. Sam is one of the strongest people I’ve ever been around. He was just amazing.” Adds forward Elton Brand: “Tough, tough, tough. He’s so mentally tough. Wow. I don’t what to say. To give that kind of effort after what he’s been through... wow. I keep saying wow. It was one of the gutsiest things I’ve ever seen in my life.” Dalembert explained it like this: forgetting the trauma for two hours was better than sitting around and just crying. It was almost a place to escape to for a brief time. “I cried on the way home after the game and I cried when I got home,” Dalembert says. “I wanted to play. I needed to play. I needed some normalcy in my life.” Nothing will ever be normal again. Not after an earthquake like this. Not after a country was virtually destroyed. Dalembert will do everything humanly possible to aid in the cleanup. He made a second trip to Haiti over the All-Star Break after donating more than $120,000 through the Samuel Dalembert Foundation5 and through UNICEF. While he was in Haiti, he spoke to business leaders and government officials about developing a long-term plan for relief efforts. After the season ends, Dalembert will return to Haiti to continue with the action plan. Dalembert brought food, water and other supplies and will keep giving money to keep the goods coming. The rest of the NBA quickly followed with a public service announcement taped through the NBA Cares program [see sidebar].

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There is so much to do with rebuilding the country, but Dalembert has a plan. He wants to have houses rebuilt and more hospitals constructed. Keep in mind there there is one hospital for approximately every 100,000 people in Haiti. He wants more schools developed. The money raised thus far has touched Dalembert. Strangers have approached him in restaurants and handed him checks. Fans have sent checks in the mail and on the Internet. “I have a $64 million contract and people keep handing me checks to help,” Dalembert says. “I’m giving as much of my own money as possible, but to see someone who may not make a whole lot of money give me a nice check to help my people reminds me why I love the United States as well. The generosity has been overwhelming. “In Haiti, the hospital care is thin. Getting medicine is so hard. This money now is to get these people food, medicine and hospital care. They need it and they’re going to keep needing it. I was at dinner one night and this nice older woman gives me a check for $100 and I started to cry again. I told her to keep it, but she insisted. So I told her I’d match it on the spot. “Seeing how this country has rallied around my country is so heartwarming.” Dalembert has one year remaining on his contract with the Sixers.6 It’s possible he could get traded during the summer. No matter what transpires, he’s prepared to handle it with grace. After the earthquake, his next stop in the NBA will simply take care of itself. “It’s funny because I learned a lot from this,” Dalembert says. “I don’t complain anymore. I remember being upset about parting ways with the Canadian Olympic Team in 2008 and I was very, very upset about it. Looking back, I should have handled things differently. In the past, I’ve also been upset about minutes or fouls called on me. This has taught me a big lesson. I show up every day to work hard. Whatever the coaches want, I’ll do. I go in and give it everything. I don’t complain. “I regret past instances where I complained or made an issue of things. I feel like a more mature person now. The tragedy was awful, but it has given me a new outlook on life.” Dalembert lived in Haiti until he was 14. At that time, he moved to Montreal briefly before landing a coveted

scholarship to Seton Hall.7 The whole life-changing experience gave him all the opportunities he needed to succeed. As a little boy in Port-au-Prince, he didn’t own one pair of shoes. A soccer ball consisted of crumpled paper which was taped together. And a basketball? Forget it. There were Dr. James Naismith-like paper basketballs with peach nets. “Soccer is the sport of choice in Haiti,” Dalembert says. “I still love soccer very much. As I grew taller, I liked basketball, so I kept playing. Moving to Montreal and New Jersey gave me chances to play. The more I played, the more I liked it. As I started to get better, it became more fun. I never forgot where I came from, though. I never will. “Basketball is not that popular in Haiti, but since I have been in the NBA, it has gotten more popular. The people in Haiti will ask me questions about the Sixers that I was surprised they might know. I love it that basketball is gaining popularity there. “There are Sixers jerseys and other NBA jerseys, too. There are kids interested in basketball, though most kids still play soccer. Basketball is gaining a niche in the country. I’m so happy to see people interested. I think over the next 20-25 years, it will get even more popular.” During Dalembert’s visit to Haiti8 over the All-Star Break, a teenage boy stopped him. They talked about people they knew and Dalembert told him some of his plans to help. The boy had cuts on both arms and legs and looked as if he hadn’t eaten in several days. He proceeded to ask Dalembert9 a question. “He asked me if he could help in any way,” Dalembert says. “He wanted to help. I cried again. I’m surprised I still had tears left after the amount of times I had cried. Once again, it’s a testament to the people of Haiti. They are so giving and unselfish. They are resilient and tough. They are beautiful inside and out. This boy just blew me away. I was speechless again. The unselfishness is heartwarming.” Dalembert hugged the boy and kept walking through the streets. He looked left. He looked right. He looked straight ahead. He knew he had to. He knew looking back was not an option. If he did, he knew he would cry.

BONUS POINTS 1. Dalembert played two years of high school basketball for Lucien-Pagé High in Montreal before transferring to St. Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, NJ, where he still is the all-time leader in blocked shots despite just one-and-a-half years there. 2. Olden Polynice was the other. Polynice played 15 seasons in the League where he averaged 7.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg. 3. In addition to his relatives in Haiti, Dalembert’s grandmother, Hypromene Charle, mother and another sister live in Florida. 4. Dalembert has been with the Sixers for nine seasons, but he missed the ’01-02 season with a knee injury. 5. He has an incredible wingspan of 90.5 inches, which is a reason he’s among the league leaders in blocked shots every season. 6. In April of ’07, the Samuel Dalembert Foundation was founded in order to help underprivileged children in Haiti. Over the last three years, the foundation has expanded in a variety of ways. For more information, please visit www.dalembertfoundation.org. 7. In ’07-08, Dalembert averaged a double-double – 10.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. 8. Dalembert set a Seton Hall record with 167 career blocked shots. 9. Electricity reaches only five percent of the country’s land area throughout Haiti. 10. Dalembert enjoys dual citizenship in Haiti and Canada and speaks fluent English, French and Creole.

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Love To HAITI Samuel Dalmebert has not been the only member of the NBA family making an impact on the relief efforts in Haiti. Through its NBA Cares program, the League has raised over $3 million to help with the relief efforts. Among the first to lend support were Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade, who founded the Athletes Relief Fund for Haiti. Wade pledged $175,00o while LeBron James and Kevin Durant pledged $100,000. Stars like Derrick Rose, Joe Johnson and Antawn Jamison have taken other approaches in helping, such as donating $1,000 for every point they score in certain games. Many teams collected donations before and during home games this season or donated goods, like the Detroit Pistons who gave 10,000 pairs of new shoes and 2,000 Pistons T-shirts, jerseys, and hats to charity. While in Memphis, the Grizzlies organization donated $50,000 to help send a team of medical experts from Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center to Haiti. Much more needs to be done though, and if you can check www.nba.com/nba_cares for more information.—#91

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A group including New York Governor David Paterson, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Nets’ minority owner Jay-Z help break ground at the site of the Barclays Center, future home of the Nets’ franchise in two years. david dow/NBAE/Getty Images

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Nêne is normally not known as a ball facilitator on the court, but he dishes some well-deserved love to a participant at the Denver Nuggets’ Special Olympics Basketball Clinic at the Pepsi Center last February. garrett ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

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Ray Allen is normally seen as the quietest of Boston’s Big Three, but he does just fine rallying the troops at a Stay in School assembly last February at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Boston. Darren McCollester/NBAE/Getty Images

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Sir Charles poses with the West Point Cadets prior to strapping on a headset to call the game between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat on March 25 at the United Center. NBA photos/Getty Images/Sport

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CHECK IT

NEXT OF KIN

With all the countless tools at your disposal to interact with your social circle these days, it’s become ironically harder to stay in touch. Even the smartest of smartphones don’t make it any easier, usually just providing an on-the-go solution without simplifying the process. Microsoft’s Kin Two (and baby brother Kin One) makes all your tweets, texts, pokes, e-mails, phone calls, pics and vids to your friends live in one slick superfluous device. Learn how you can untangle your social networking web on page 86.

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BY HOLLY MACKENZIE #32

SPIN MOVES

Chris Andersen Denver Nuggets

When he’s not swatting shots, primping his hair or pumping up the Pepsi Center crowd, Chris Andersen likes to keep things simple. He hasn’t followed the typical NBA career path and his eclectic tastes reflect that. You won’t find much hip-hop hyping him up for a game and he expresses his country roots with a “Honky Tonk” tattoo splashed across his stomach. When you or I get bored, we might go see a movie. If Chris Andersen finds himself with free time, he goes and gets tattooed. He would also like you to know that he does not use Twitter and his goal for the season is winning a championship. This man of many colorful tattoos and big hair is also a man of few words, often allowing his ink—and especially his play—to speak for him.

Birdman’s Music “Ahhh. David Allan Coe right now and Led Zeppelin is always good. Allan Coe and Hank Williams Jr., pretty much some good old country stuff.”

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Birdman’s TV [without hesitation or explanation] “The King of Queens.”

Birdman’s Video Games “PS3. Rainbow Six is my game.”

Birdman’s Technology “I’m not a Twitterer, or none of that. I just have an iPhone. It’s mainly movies and music for me. Not too much of a texter, but I’ll see you calling, not answer, then text you back instead.”

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ILLUSTRATION: MATT CANDELA; GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Birdman’s Movies “Anything with Will Ferrell in it.”


triple double

Three albums. Two players. One dynamic pair of music critics

Ludacris Battle of the Sexes

Usher Raymond v. Raymond

Thaddeus Young

These guys are out there, but I really like their sound. Kidz In The Hall is a whole new brand of hip-hop and Land Of Make Believe is unlike anything I’ve ever put on my iPod. Some of their beats sound like techno and their flows are similar to The Clipse, but it blends perfectly. The track “Flickin’” is simply unbelievable and I already put it on my pregame playlist. Other tracks that I loved were “Fresh Academy” and “Out To Lunch.” I really came into this review not wanting to hear this group because I’d never heard of them… but I was dead wrong. Any true hip-hop fan needs this blaring on their headphones.

There’s just something about Ludacris that puts everybody in a good mood. Maybe it’s his timing or his delivery, I don’t know… but every time he starts rhyming, I start nodding my head. Battle of the Sexes is Ludacris’ first album in two years and it went to No. 1 in its debut week. I really liked this album because he went back to his old, easy style of flows. He was joking around and making every hook clever like he used to do on songs like “Fantasy.” The first single “How Low” was played out on the radio, but you can’t deny how catchy it was. The second single (my favorite track) “My Chick Bad” was incredible, especially since it featured Nicki Minaj. From his rhymes, you can tell that Ludacris truly loves what he does for a living, and how can you blame him? He has been on top of the game for over a decade now and Battle of the Sexes showed that he has no plans of coming down.

If we were talking about sales, Usher would have a No. 1 album because of his name. But Raymond v. Raymond wasn’t his best work and that may be unfair since I like his old stuff so much. “Hey Daddy” was overplayed when it came out and I really never got into it. There are a couple of nice slow ones that reminded me of Usher’s classic sound, like “There Goes My Baby.” Why couldn’t the whole album sound like that? “Papers” was a solid track and told a story about his failing marriage (which I read ended last year). At least you know that it came from the heart. As an R&B fan, it kills me to say that I’m not feeling Usher’s new album, but I was a little bored throughout. He needs to get back to his ’04 sound, when he put out three straight incredible projects.

Carl Landry

This group is new to me. I had not heard of Kidz in The Hall until now, so I had to go back and do a little research on them. I see they are from the Midwest (Chicago) and I am from Milwaukee, so I had to give them an honest listen. What I heard on this album was very new and refreshing. I really liked the product they put together. Land Of Make Believe is a very smooth album with a cool laid-back feel. There really wasn’t a song on the album that I did not feel. “Take Over The World,” “Will II Win,” “I Am” and “Bougie Girls” were all solid tracks. I can tell that they have some familiar influences in their music. I hear a little Kanye and a lot of Outkast in their rhymes. If you are a fan of hip-hop this album is a strong addition to your collection.

Ludacris is one of the most talented rappers in the game! The way he puts together albums is close to brilliant. Battle of the Sexes is the next big album from Luda that I am sure we will be bumping well into the summer. Luda just has a way of staying relevant each and every year. “How Low Can You Go” and “My Chick Bad” are all over the radio right now. I saw the remix video to “My Chick” the other day. I think the next big hit will be the collaboration with Trey Songz and then the track with Flo Rida “I know You Got A Man” will be huge as well. Those are typical Luda No. 1 hit singles right there. Anyone who does not like Ludacris does not really like music. I’ve been bumping this every day since it came out. This gets the heavy rotation sticker for sure!

The first track I heard off the album was “Papers” which has the familiar Usher Confessions sound. “Hey Daddy” and “Lil Freak” are really big right now. “More” was really big during All-Star this year and it has a really high-energy sound to it. I really like “There Goes My Baby”, “Okay” and “Into The Night,” as well. I was a little disappointed because I heard an advance copy that had the “In My Bag” track featuring TI and a “Cutter Off” track that were both really hot! Both tracks should have made the cut, but for some reason were not on the album. I was not a big fan of the will.i.am track “OMG.” I think it has been really tough for Usher to come up with anything that can compete with the great success he had on Confessions, however, this album had some very strong songs on it and I am sure it will do well.

thaddeus: Jesse d. garrabrant; carl: rocky widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Kidz In The Hall Land of Make Believe

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Game Rec Game

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Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games nate robinson #4

What’s up gamers? Sorry I missed y’all last issue. It’s been a bit hectic since I’ve made the move from New York to Boston. But I got my game systems hooked up now and I’m ready to go. I’ve been a bit on a classical tip lately, going back to two of the best characters ever—Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario. My lads and I have been having fun with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. The game is a cool way to get people to try out the new events they normally wouldn’t play elsewhere, and it’s even more fun when Wii and Mario and Sonic are involved. You also got so many characters, like Yoshi, Luigi and the Princess. Playing that game has got me nostalgic, as I’ve also played some throwbacks like Mario Kart Wii. My kids love playing Mario Kart on the Wii and that’s all we seem to be doing lately. But I remember the original Super Mario Kart and the Haunted track was the toughest because if you went too far off you’d fall off the track. I’m looking forward to see what the summer gaming season has in store and the BFAM [Ed note: Nate’s Modern Warfare 2 gaming clan] keeps growing stronger. Peace out until next time.

nate: nathaniel s. butler/nbae/getty images

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Microsoft Kin

the goods

With the proliferation of social networking, we’re all inundated with more time spent updating our lives to our inner circle and checking up on their happenings. Ironically, the result of this is actually less time being social with one another. Take back some of those moments with the Kin Two, which is a mobile device that organizes the myriad of social networking tools (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, among others) and integrates it all seamlessly into a slick interface dubbed the Loop, where it’s synced with your Studio, a secure website that mirrors your Kin. Outfitted with a very usable still/video camera (we give a “thumbs up” to the 8-megpixel, 720p HD camera, even in low light situations), a tactile slide-out keyboard, 8GB of storage [Ed note: because of the Studio feature of offloading your Kin’s data, you essentially have “limitless” storage] and Zune capabilities, the Kin is a one-stop shop for the social media enthusiast. It comes in two flavors: the Kin One is the more compact version and the Kin Two is the full-sized model. Besides a smaller form factor, the Kin Two sports a smaller screen, 5-megapixels/standard-def camera and 4GB of built-in storage.

Price unavailable as of press time (slated for mid-May launch via Verizon)

Baron Davis Collectible Vinyl Toy Bring Baron home with this limited-edition vinyl figure from Li-Ning. Outfitted with his signature kicks, the 7.5-inch tall pose-able figurine has articulating arms and a removable basketball.

$69.99

Bodum FYRKAT Urban dwellers who crave the smell of open-fire grilled meats can now do it up in colorful style on their balcony or rooftop with the FYRKAT. Don’t underestimate its petite size—the 13.4-inch diameter is plenty for a few chunks of charcoal to sizzle up four patties, a pack of hotdogs, a couple of big steaks and even a whole fish, all with a cheery demeanor.

$49.95

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Jackson Pulverizer For all your demolition work—drywall teardowns, nail removals, prying woodwork, even breaking up concrete—the Pulverizer is the ideal all-in-one hand-held tool. Unlike unwieldy crowbars and heavy sledgehammers, the Pulverizer is a compact 12.8 inches long and only 3.5 pounds, making it a cinch to carry around to play Godzilla on your next demo job.

$39.99

Casio Pathfinder Whether you’re hanging out with Bear Grylls or thrown into a Roland Emmerich movie, you’d be well-prepared with a timepiece that can do everything the Pathfinder can: chart the tide and Moon data, orient with a digital compass, measure altitude, air pressure and temperature. Can it tell time? It receives radio signals periodically to ensure that the watch stays synced with an atomic clock. It’s also water resistant to 200 meters and the internal battery charges via solar power.

$350

Cisco Valet Plus Requiring not the aid of a creepy or swarmy techie to install, the Valet Plus is the wireless router designed for the uninitiated. Plug the Valet Plus to your broadband modem and then install the software via the included USB key on the computers you want to have access and that’s all there is to it for wireless-N networking. No more guesswork, no more SSIDs, passwords or IP addresses. Need more help? Cisco has your back with 24/7 phone support.

$129.99

HTC HD2 The most eye-catching thing about any modern smartphone is the screen and bar none, the HD2 is one of the most impressive ones we’ve seen (yes, iPhone, that includes you). The phone’s peppy 1-GHz processor keeps the action—movies, MobiTV, games, web browsing, to name a few—smooth, launching and navigating through the featurepacked apps with little delay. The only drawback to the HD2 is the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS which comes off a bit chunky and less intuitive than the iPhone or Android OS that we’ve gotten accustomed to for smartphones.

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tech ed Tech Editor and gadget junkie Shane Battier test-drives the latest in tech goods. in This issue, he takes on the Ionic Clean Washing System.

Ionic Clean Washing System

$249

Pros: + Uses less water than a commercial car wash + Easy to use + Great marketing campaign + Green solution Cons: – Doesn’t effectively work – Leaves white watermarks on surface – Loose valves and hoses

My latest tech review takes me back to my childhood for a minute. I grew up in suburban Detroit, the Motor City. People take their automobiles very seriously and did their best to keep their whips in tip-top shape. I tried to take advantage of this (as well as satisfy my Garbage Pail Kids and baseball card addiction) by starting my one-man car wash business. I had a monopoly of sorts in my neighborhood, but, man, was it tough work. That is why I was excited to hear that I would be reviewing a product that promises to revolutionize the home car wash market. Not without, however, reservations. The Ionic Clean washing system promises that ‘ultra-clean, spot free’ surface cleaning power. The catch? The Ionic Clean guarantees this without the use of soap or chemicals. The secret lies in the use of ‘de-ionized water’ that is created by the unit and has unique cleaning properties. Without getting all Chem 101 on you, basically the Ionic Clean removes the ‘magnets’ of particles on the surface of whatever you are cleaning. Minerals and dirt will stick to these ‘magnets,’ creating dirty spots and water spots. The de-ionized water of the Ionic Clean is purified and promises to leave the surface area of your car, boat, or window too slick for dirt or minerals to form. Voila! A spot and chemicalfree wash and rinse. Or at least in theory. Operation of the unit is surprising simple. Simply turn the selector to ‘By-pass’ and the tap water from your garden hose will begin to flow. Scrub the car using the telescoping brush. After scrubbing the car with the brush, turn the selector to the De-ionizing setting. De-ionized water will begin to flow from the brush. According to the directions, by simply holding the brush with the de-ionized water six inches from the surface, you will rinse the dirt right off and because the de-ionized water contains no minerals, it should leave a streak free shine. No drying, no ShamWowing. (Is that a word?) The results were disappointing. After scrubbing the car with the tap water and rinsing with the deionized water, I was ready for that ‘new car’ shine. Didn’t happen. While the large deposits of dirt had been scrubbed off with the brush, the water spots that were left actually made my car look dirtier. I washed my car again to see if I had made a mistake and sure enough, my car was covered in white waterspots. No bueno. I am not a scientist, but the promise of the de-ionized technology seemed a little too good to be true. It was. For as great as technology is, sometimes the old school solution of a little soap, water, and elbow grease just can’t be improved. Hopefully the Ionic Clean 2.0 will be a little more effective in the future, but for now, stick with the neighborhood car washer. You never know, he could be a future NBA player.

For video reivews of Shane’s TECHed page, check out hoopmag.com

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Š 2009 NBA Entertainment. Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser NBAE/Getty Images.

Where caring happens.

Become Involved In Your Community NBA.com/community

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GEAR

adidas

Young Guns 2010 $85

Weight (size 11): 16.5 oz.

Peep some of the adidas athletes during the playoffs and you’ll notice a lot of them rocking the Young Guns 2010. For what it’s worth, we think they should’ve went with the other adidas shoe reviewed this issue, the Clima Madness. They’re both very similar shoes as they share a lot of the same DNA: the same adiPRENE+ midsole/outsole chassis, similar patent toecap and upper. Essentially the two are the same shoe save for the forefoot strap and the lack of lateral venting fins; both shoes have the same $85 price tag. To no surprise, the YG ’10 tested very similar to the Clima Madness. The only differences in the shoes—the strap and lateral ventilation—didn’t add to the experience. The strap surprisingly allowed some extra tightening (most forefoot straps are aesthetic adornments) but at the cost of having the front of the shoe dimple when tightly cinched. The pinched material wasn’t noticeable on the foot, but aesthetically it wasn’t pleasing. The absence of the side vent isn’t a deal breaker, but the extra ventilation is always appreciated. All things being almost equal, we’d recommend the Clima Madness over this one. Like a set of twins that go out of their way to distinguish themselves from the other, there is still one that looks just slightly better. Construction: Comfort: Playability: Value: Style: Innovation:

Li-Ning might be a relatively unknown commodity in the States, but in China where their roots are, the brand is as synonymous as Nike here. No strangers to the NBA market, where Shaq, Baron Davis, Jose Calderon and Chuck Hayes have been balling in them, Li-Ning just made their shoes available for mass consumption in the American market with the opening of their first retail store in Portland and have also made some of their wares available to their American online store. As of press time, the only available shoe is the BD Doom, Boom’s signature shoe that he’s been wearing and promoting via a series of funny viral spots (some of them are up on hoopmag.com). At almost $100, the BD Doom is no “Starbury” in terms of budget. The upper overlay is patent with a snakeskin pattern over nubuck. Dotted all over are some reflective nubs for some flavor. Prominently on the tongue sits the eye-catching cartoon-esque BD logo that doubles as a lace tab. Initial impressions were solid. The shoe envelops the foot tightly, but the BD Doom slowly lost points as the day went on. The cushioning on the shoes, Li-Ning’s Bounse technology, feels gummy, like the gumminess found in the candy form in the shape of bears. It does feel soft on landing, but there’s little spring-back action. It can be described as mushy. On lateral cuts, the responsiveness was also lacking, leaving the foot spill over the midsole. Neither setbacks led to any problems on the court, but it was noticeable enough to cause some concern during play. As far as looks go, we think the BD Doom is a solid first effort from Li-Ning. Like other NBA imports, it just needs some seasoning to adapt itself to the American game.

CHECK IT

Li-Ning

BD Doom $99.99

Weight (size 9): 15.75 oz.

Construction: Comfort: Playability: Value: Style: Innovation: 090

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For 360° views, visit HOOPMAG.COM


adidas

Clima Madness $85

Weight (size 11): 16 oz.

If there’s one thing adidas has found a nice niche in these days with their basketball shoes, it’s producing a mid-priced, value-laden shoe. The Clima Madness is just that. The CM doesn’t knock your socks off in any particular way. It just produces solidly with little fanfare and complaint. The lightweight shoe moves well both laterally and north and south. The fit is nice for most feet and for those looking for extra arch support, the CM brings that as well. The cushioning comes courtesy of adiPRENE+ and ventilation from the Climacool channels in the middle of the outsole and the mesh fins on the lateral and tongue; both were ample. The one drawback to the CM is the shoe’s relative high profile. Shaving off an eighth of an inch on the forefoot would have gone a long way. The design folks at adidas need to get a little more creative; a few offerings in their lineup this year—Cut Creator, Young Guns 2010 (also reviewed in this issue)—have a similar feel to them. That said, we’re not calling it out for being ugly. It actually turned some heads at the gym and looks more expensive than its modest price sticker. Construction: Comfort: Playability: Value: Style: Innovation:

We’ve straddled the line between praise and contempt for Jordan Brand’s penchant for remixing their greatest hits. Some have been hits (Spiz’ikes) and some have been blasphemous (AJ 13 Fusion). Ask any Jordanhead and they’ll disagree as it’s subjective, but most will agree on one thing: the mash-ups/fusions need to slow down. We appreciate that they have a proud lineage to fall back on, but releases like the Flight 9 just cheapens the original. Based on the amalgamation of the AJ IV and V and based on MJ’s #9 for the 1992 Olympics, the Flight 9 got some puzzled reaction from passers-by. But like many JB hybrids, it was polarizing. There were a lot of folks who were feeling it, but others viewed it as a bastardized mock-up of a classic. On the floor, it did not impress. From the get-go, the shoe never quite felt right—the forefoot left a pinching feeling, the bottoms felt heavy and clunky and the bad feelings never subsided even after an adequate break-in period. Like most Jordan products that roll through here, little fault can be found in its construction; all stitch work, midsole welding and materials were top notch. Truth be told, we encountered more love for the Flight 9 than repulsion. We just couldn’t shake the feeling that at first glance, it looks like a once-beautiful face that had gotten some nip/tuck done. It’s still a relative beauty, but just something oddly weird about it when you stare at it for a while.

Jordan

Flight 9 $110

Weight (size 9): 17.5 oz.

Construction: Comfort: Playability: Value: Style: Innovation: For 360° views, visit HOOPMAG.COM

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wear (Clockwise from top left) ArgyleCulture Reversible Plaid Jacket, $98; LRG Yacht Clubbin Tee, $28; ArgyleCulture Multi Russell Vest, $58; PUMA Archive Edition Track Jacket, $110; adidas Originals P-Sole, $40; Jordan Plaid Woven Shirt, $60; Converse Star Player Ox $125

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(Clockwise from top left) PUMA Leather Layered Flip, $35; Converse Cruise Control, $132; LRG Core 3 Hat, $36; PUMA Cabana Racer II, $65; adidas Originals adi Trefoil Tee, $20; Junk Food Adam Bomb, $32; ArgyleCulture Solid Knit Pique Polo, $58

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(Clockwise from top left) Converse by John Varvatos Gauzy Pique Full Zip Hoodie; adidas Originals Greatest Moments Windbreaker, $85; LRG Core One Tee, $20; Jordan Summer School Tracky, $85; New Balance 750, $85; PF Flyers Mercer, $90

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wear (Clockwise from top left) adidas Originals Street Seersucker Tee, $30; RS By Sheckler Plaid Hoodie, $24.99; Incase Messenger Backpack (Courier Collection), $149.95; Jordan Classic â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;91, $105 Jack Purcell Edward Boat Shoe, $70; LRG Core 2 Cargo Short, $59; adidas Originals Football Tee, $25

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wear (Clockwise from top left) adidas Originals Eric Bailey Nature and Wealth Tee, $34; Southpole Striped Polo, $17.99; Southpole Plaid Shorts, $19.99; Junk Food Wheaties, $32; adidas Originals Street Archive Seersucker Jacket, $90; PF Flyers Rambler Lo, $70; Nooka Zub Zot (amazon.com), $140

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(Clockwise from top left) Nike Basketball T-Shirt, $20; Nike Dunk High, $82; Nike Air Max â&#x20AC;&#x2122;90, $95; American Classics Poplin Shirt, $10; Nike Basketball Track Jacket, $100; American Classics Welt Pocket Short, $12

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(Clockwise from top left) PUMA YugoRun, $80; Nike Desire T-Shirt, $20; Southpole S/S Button Down, $19.99; Southpole Plaid Shorts, $19.99; Nike Basketball T-Shirt, $20; Jordan Classic â&#x20AC;&#x2122;91, $105

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wear (Clockwise from top left) RS By Sheckler Plaid Shorts, $14.99; ArgyleCulture Herringbone Texture, $58; adidas Originals Nizza Low-adicolor, $45; New Balance 205, $65; PUMA G. Vilas, $70; Jordan Butta Cargo Short, $58; American Classics Yarn Dye Polo, $9

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wear (Clockwise from top left) Li-Ning Baron Davis Beardman T-Shirt, $29.99; Nike Air Max â&#x20AC;&#x2122;90, $95; Converse by John Varvatos Pro Leather, $150; Nike Kobe Carpe Diem T-Shirt, $20; RS By Sheckler Plaid Shorts, $24.99; Southpole Striped Polo, $17.99; American Classics MultiArgyle Vest, $14

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CHECK IT

(Clockwise from top left) LRG Commodore Woven, $64; Nike Kobe Track Jacket, $90; Jordan Summer School Woven Short, $58; Converse Poorman Weapon, $60; K-Swiss Vintage California, $50; Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Chuckit, $40; LRG No Babylon Woven, $69

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STEP BACK

1995 Western Conference Semifinals, Game 4 May 14, 1995 SAN ANTONIO SPURS vs. LOS ANGELES LAKERS Great Western Forum

Arriving in the NBA in 1989, Vlade Divac would help change the face of the NBA. The Serbian Center was known for his love of The Flintstones, but his success in the League helped pave the way for an influx of European and international ballers.

In Sacramento, alongside Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Jason Williams and later Mike Bibby, Divac and the Kings reached unprecedented success. They’re flashy style of play led them to the League lead in wins in ’01-02 and they came within one game of the NBA Finals, before losing to the Lakers in a classic seven game series in the Western Conference Finals.

Divac spent his first seven seasons with the Lakers, improving his scoring average every season, culminating with 16 ppg in the ’94-95 season. He would spend two seasons with the Hornets (Divac was involved in the trade that brought Kobe Bryant to L.A.) before catching on with the Kings.

Currently he is president of the Olympic Committee of Serbia and is involved with humanitarian work in Serbia.

Divac has made appearances on Married…With Children, and in films like Eddie and Space Jam Jam.

“The Admiral” David Robinson goes down as one of the best centers to ever play the game. A graduate of the Naval Academy and a legend in San Antonio, there are few who can say they don’t respect the career of Robinson. From two Olympic gold medals, two NBA championships, the ’95 MVP award and countless other recognitions, Robinson was a no-brain selection for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this past September.

Robinson had to serve a two-year commitment to the Navy before entering the League. Robinson made cameos in Like Mike, Forget Paris, and MC Hammer’s “Too Legit to Quit” music video. He also had a great run in several Nike spots with “Mr. Robinson’s neighborhood.”

Despite whatever old wives tales you may have heard, Sam Bowie was quite the baller. At 7-1, 235 pounds, he was a can’t miss prospect after a stellar college career at Kentucky. Bowie was also a high school All-American and was selected to the 1980 US Olympic Men’s Basketball Team.

The League’s Community Assist Award is named the David Robinson Plaque in honor of his philanthropic efforts during his career. He also created The Carver Academy in 2001 in San Antonio and has donated over $11 million in funding to the non-profit school.

Injuries would hamper most of Bowie’s career though. He missed almost two seasons in college due to shin injuries and despite a bounce-back senior campaign, never really played again at 100 percent.

Long before the Staples Center, there was the Great Western Forum. The Lakers began play in the “Fabulous Forum” in 1967 and would reside there until 1999. Along the way the purple and gold won six NBA championships. George Lynch III led the North Carolina Tar Heels to the ’93 NCAA National Championship. He was selected 12th overall by the Lakers in that year’s draft and played three seasons in L.A.

The Forum also hosted home games for the Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Sparks and events in the ’84 Summer Olympics. The building is now home to occasional church services and minor sporting events.

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ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/ BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMA IMAGES

Lynch was traded to Vancouver before the ’96-97 season to clear up cap space so the Lakers could sign Shaquille O’Neal. He played two seasons for the Grizzlies, three for the Sixers and four for the Hornets franchise before retiring in ’05.


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DOES JOAKIM NOAH MAKE THE GRADE?

FINAL EXAM

GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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HOOP May/June 2010