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SL: Philly fans embrace Iverson; waiting for Granger's MRI results

Ball Don't Lie

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Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your fries.

Jeff Gammage, Philadelphia Inquirer: "When his picture appeared on the scoreboard. When he was introduced. When he touched the ball. And when Allen Iverson(notes) scored his first two points, with seven minutes left in the first quarter, the Wachovia Center erupted. [Monday night's] game against the Denver Nuggets was part reunion, part theater, part sport. Fans held up signs that said, 'Welcome home, A.I.,' and, 'A.I., we missed you.' Iverson's return brought people out — in the cold, in the night, to South Philadelphia, to what is usually a half-empty arena. They came for the player, for what he meant and might mean again. They came to be part of an event, the unexpected, storybook return of a lost son. They came to join in and help generate the excitement that rolled not just through the Wachovia Center but across this sports-crazed city. [...] The evening's love affair started at 6:05 p.m., when Iverson sauntered onto the court to warm up, almost an hour before game time. He drew shouts from the fans who'd rushed to surround the courtside players' entrance as soon as the doors opened at 6. When Iverson appeared, his white headband instantly familiar, the temperature in the building seemed to go up 10 degrees."

Tom Lewis, Indy Cornrows: "What do you give a man who has everything for his birthday? Well, for legendary NBA Hall of Famer and Pacers' president, Larry Bird you get a present from your training staff in the form of the MRI results on Danny Granger's(notes) bruised heel. Bird celebrates his 53rd birthday today while keeping tabs on his all-star player's immediate health status. The team reports that the MRI results will be available tomorrow, but I'm sure the boss has already been apprised of the results. Bird certainly won't want the MRI to reveal any surprises. The current diagnosis of a bruised heel is annoying and requires rest and treatment. The rest part of the equation includes staying off the foot as much as humanly possible, which is why Granger's appearance on crutches today and reports of his arrival back in town in a wheel chair shouldn't elicit an overreaction."

Gary Washburn, Boston Globe: "Since arriving in Boston three years ago, [Ray] Allen has drastically improved his defensive reputation and worked arduously to blend into coach Doc Rivers's help-oriented defensive system. Assigned to some of the league's top shooting guards, Allen put special emphasis on stopping dribble penetration and contesting jump shots. While Allen has been working to end his perimeter struggles, his defense is peaking and that is not lost on Rivers. 'It's funny you noticed because we were kidding with him that I thought it was one of his better games,' Rivers said of the Oklahoma City game. 'And San Antonio as well on [Manu] Ginobili at times. What we want him to do as much as possible is to keep the ball square and then contest shots and I thought he did both. Harden, I don't think, got a shot off without a hand in his face. He was right in his face. When Ray does that, it brings another dimension to our defense.' A career .397 percent 3-point shooter, Allen is shooting 32 percent this season. In his last 17 games, Allen has converted more than one 3-pointer just four times. Rivers is convinced those 3-pointers will begin falling and said he has encouraged Allen to keep shooting. Regardless of how many drop, opposing teams have to account for Allen defensively."

Dave D'Alessandro, The Star-Ledger: "One week into his new job, Kiki Vandeweghe has turned the role of offensive coordinator over to Devin Harris(notes), and that's a no-brainer. The old playbook has seven or eight basic sets with a dozen variations of each, so how many of the play calls can one expect the Nets' new coach to grasp by now? 'None of it,' Vandeweghe said with a laugh. 'We only kept about three or four plays. I can remember that. I can't remember too many more.' He's being modest, his point guard said. 'Yeah, he understands it,"' Harris said of the offensive vernacular that the Nets have used under former coach Lawrence Frank for years. 'He wants me to call more for myself at points in the game, which I'm trying to do.' On that, they always agree."

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Chris Tomasson, NBA FanHouse: "The NBA has been in business since 1946-47. But never in league history has there ever been a regular starting center as short as Houston's 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes(notes). That counts all those guys in tight shorts who played in dingy gyms before there even was a shot clock. Guys in the pivot wearing Chuck Taylors weren't as low to the ground as Chuck Hayes. FanHouse went to the Elias Sports Bureau, which researched NBA starting lineups since the first NBA game on Nov. 1, 1946. Nobody could be found as short as Hayes who was a team's regular starter at center. 'I can't even think of the last shortest center,' said Hayes, averaging 5.4 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.0 minutes. 'It's unbelievable. It's kind of funny. When you have the starting lineups, (the announcer) goes from taller to shorter (with the Rockets starting 6-8 shooting guard Trevor Ariza(notes), 6-8 small forward Shane Battier(notes) and 6-9 power forward Luis Scola(notes)). ... We go from the tallest center to the shortest, and we still find a way to win games.'"

Steve Buffrey, Toronto Sun: "Jarrett Jack had a perfectly good reason to start tying one of his shoes in the game against the Chicago Bulls last Saturday night. The shoe had become untied. Seriously, the Raptors' point guard said yesterday following practice that he wasn't trying to disrespect the Bulls by putting the ball under his arm and tying a shoe as the final seconds in the third quarter ticked off. And he's shocked by the overwhelming (mostly negative) response. 'I didn't know it was going to be that much of a big deal,' Jack said. 'Everybody was like calling me and saying I was crazy. But my shoe came untied. And when I was looking up, I saw that they were kind of confused on defence, and I was like: 'Hey, why don't get my shoe together, while they're trying to get their defence together?'' The Raptors were heading toward a 110-78 blowout over the Bulls, so there's the suggestion that Jack was rubbing Chicago's nose in it."

Alex Raskin, HOOPSWORLD: "Kevin Pritchard prides himself and his co-workers on keeping their cool. 'We don't panic,' said Pritchard. 'What we talk about all the time is calm waters. Can we still have calm waters? As a group, as a coaching staff, as players, during the game, over the course of a game, over the course of a week, over the course of a year, we stay 'calm waters.' So when asked if the Blazers would react to [Greg] Oden's injury with a trade, Pritchard didn't have to search for an answer. 'No, not right now.' Making a trade is a sticky situation for Portland anyway. The team doesn't want to relinquish young talent such as Jerryd Bayless(notes) or Rudy Fernandez(notes); injuries have diminished the trade value of Patrick Mills(notes), Nicolas Batum(notes), Martell Webster(notes) and Travis Outlaw(notes); and veterans like Steve Blake(notes) and Juwan Howard(notes) have more value on the Blazers than they do elsewhere. Andre Miller(notes) can be traded after December 15th, but it's unclear how much value he has at this point. His PER has fallen over three points since last year and he is owed over $7 million next season."

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: "Suns rookie forward Taylor Griffin(notes) will spend a week with the team's NBA Development League affiliate. Griffin was assigned to the Iowa Energy on Monday after making his second appearance of the season in Sunday's loss at the Los Angleles Lakers. Griffin, picked 58th overall in June, will practice with Iowa for three days and play a home-away series with Dakota on Friday and Saturday before returning to the Suns. 'It's just routine,' Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. 'We want to get him a chance to play some games.' Kerr said he does not like long-term assignments to the D-League because of the separation from the Suns. 'He's valuable to us in practices,' Kerr said. 'He's a good practice player because he can play inside or outside.'"

John Reid, The Times-Picayune: "Despite having a superb performance in this past Friday's victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul(notes) said his left ankle remains sore. Paul returned against the Timberwolves after missing eight consecutive games and scored 16 points, dished 15 assists and had eight steals in a team-high 38 minutes in the Hornets' 98-89 victory at the New Orleans Arena. 'It's going to be sore, but I'm getting better and I'm still doing treatment,' Paul said. Despite the soreness, Paul practiced today and Sunday without limitations and is expected to start on Tuesday night against the Sacramento Kings."

Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star: "Riding a two-game win streak on the back of a five-game losing skid that led to an hour-long air-clearing on Friday, the Raptors are suddenly showing signs of cutthroat engagement. And while there are those waiting to gauge the longer haul - 'Don't give us the title too soon,' said Jack — there have been hints of palatable change. Even coach Jay Triano's chief locker-room critic, veteran swingman Antoine Wright(notes), has been improving his reviews — this as Wright has improved his play in the wake of Friday's team-meeting gut check. 'Coach is coaching us differently now. He's pointing out guys on tape and just holding guys accountable,' said Wright. 'And you can see other guys getting on guys.' Wright said Hedo Turkoglu(notes), the soft-spoken forward, has even raised his voice. '(Turkoglu) has been very vocal these last couple of days about what he wants from (Andrea) Bargnani and what he wants from (Marco) Belinelli. That's just been helping us a lot. Turks is talking.'"

RealGM/Houston Chronicle: "Following Monday's practice, Rick Adelman explained to the media that nothing has changed with the status of Tracy McGrady(notes). 'It's the same,' Adelman said. 'It hasn't really changed. He just wants to get out there and play. I've said it enough times now that it's what's best for the team, him and everything. We want to be sure it's the right time when he does go out and play.' McGrady engaged in some spirited play at the end of Monday's practice. But Shane Battier cautioned against reading too much into such scenarios. 'We all look good in half-court situations, playing one-on-one,' Battier said. 'He has a ways to go. ... When he comes back, he comes back.'"

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