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Suicide lines: McGrady hurt; Hawks end 17-year drought in Utah

Ball Don't Lie

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

Marc Berman, New York Post: "Uh-oh. Tracy McGrady's(notes) comeback took a troubling turn when the new Knick limped off the court in the final minutes of his second game. The cursed Knicks limped to a horrifying 83-67 loss to the Bucks and were booed off the court by a surly Garden crowd after scoring their season low. McGrady said afterward he knocked knees twice and wouldn't guarantee he'll be healthy enough to face the Celtics tonight in Boston. 'Hopefully it's not sore [today],' McGrady said. 'Maybe I'll lace them up and play, but we'll see. We'll see how it feels before the game.' It was a buzzkill evening on all levels — none worse than McGrady's knees. The Knicks' pitiful offensive showing — 26 points in the second half — overshadowed the warm halftime ceremony to honor the 40th anniversary of the Knicks' 1969-70 championship team. These Knicks dropped 17 games under .500, losers of seven straight — their longest such streak since 2008 — and the fans booed for the game's final minute."

Tim Buckley, Deseret News: "They were up by one heading into the fourth quarter, and led by as many as six with less than eight minutes to go. But there would be no amazing finish this time. No protecting their fourth-quarter lead, something they've done in 29 of 30 such situations previously this season. No heroes this night, not from Utah. Not with starting point guard Deron Williams(notes) dressed in street clothes that looked much sharper than the Jazz without him. And not with starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko(notes), the primary impetus behind their recent run of success, injured and out too. Behind 28 points and some clutch late-game shooting from Joe Johnson(notes), Atlanta won 105-100 Monday night at sold-out EnergySolutions Arena - ending the 36-20 Jazz's four-game win streak, and giving the 35-20 Hawks their first win in Utah since hall-of-famer Dominique Wilkins scored 43 on Feb. 13, 1993."

Stephen A. Smith, The Philadelphia Inquirer: "It's over. The tears. The jogging out to midcourt at the Wachovia Center to kiss the floor to raucous, rabid applause. The crackling voice, filled with gratitude and appreciation for an organization that said, 'You can come home again.' It all ended for Allen Iverson(notes) yesterday afternoon when the 76ers announced that, arguably, the greatest player in franchise history would be out 'indefinitely' because of his daughter's illness — undoubtedly ending The Answer's career in Philadelphia. It wasn't supposed to end this way, of course. Not in Philadelphia. Not for Iverson, and not in the way he is departing. We can listen to Ed Stefanski, the Sixers' president and general manager, tell us that Iverson's departure is in the best interest of the team to allow him time to 'deal with his family with this very serious issue.' But a cricket fan from England wouldn't have a hard time deciphering what's going on here. Iverson isn't what he use to be."

Eddie Sefko, Star-Telegram: "If Brendan Haywood(notes) isn't careful, Mavericks fans are going to start expecting this all the time. The new center put together another titanic game Monday night, which has pretty much been the norm during the Mavericks' winning streak, which reached four with a 91-82 bashing of Indiana at American Airlines Center. Haywood had 13 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks, anchoring the defense and taking advantage of his offensive opportunities. During the streak, he has averaged 12.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks. The last three wins in the streak have come against Eastern Conference teams. The stakes rise Wednesday when the West-leading LA Lakers come to AAC. 'You got to have a center,' coach Rick Carlisle said. 'Over time, to win championships in this league, you got to have size. Nobody's really won it playing small ball. We know it's important. That's why we got two guys like that.'"

Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic are a long shot to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference standings and thereby on the postseason seeding chart. But that's nothing compared to the intrigue and possible league-wide repercussions that await. The Magic could do something far more devastating to Cleveland if they catch up with the Cavs in the playoffs again. They could run LeBron James(notes) out of town. Cleveland sports fans are all nervous wrecks wondering if the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets or Miami Heat might be the team that steals their BeLoved LeBron this summer. The team they ought to be worried about having the most impact on LeBron? The Magic. Magic point guard Jameer Nelson(notes) says the NBA and its marketing machine might want LeBron's Cavs and Kobe's Lakers in The Finals, but he said Orlando looks to 'spoil' those plans. How compelling would it be if James' free-agent future rested on the outcome of a Magic-Cavs playoff series?"

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Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Michael Beasley's heart and pride are in the right place. But the reality is he is in a different place than he was at Kansas State and all those other places where he was the featured scorer. With the Heat, he is a Tito Jackson, a supporting player. Just like Scottie Pippen was in Chicago. And Kevin McHale was in Boston. And James Worthy was in Los Angeles. That doesn't mean he can't be great, an All-Star, even dream about being a Hall of Famer. But in the NBA, it's about one player leading. Just as it was with Jordan and Bird and Magic. Just as it is with Dwyane Wade(notes). While others might take the humorous approach, such as Charles Barkley, there is nothing wrong with being a complementary player in the NBA. Those players get complimented plenty."

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune: "Joakim Noah missed his second breakaway dunk in as many games Monday night in the Bulls' 101-95 loss to the Wizards. But that rejection paled in comparison to the dejection Noah portrayed afterward, when he painstakingly detailed his frustration with the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. 'I don't think the foot is going to be 100 percent for the rest of the season,' Noah said bluntly. [...] 'I have to find a way to play through it, but I don't really know what to do,' Noah said. 'My foot is feeling better than it did three weeks ago. But it's still not 100 percent. They told me before I started playing that they were going to play me 10 minutes a game and see how it feels. It's feeling OK. They don't want to push it too much right now and I have to sit for another three or four weeks. They want me to be ready for when it really counts.' Of course, with such a fickle injury, there is no guarantee when Noah will be fully healthy. The only known cure for plantar fasciitis is total rest."

Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer: "Are the Cavs in trouble? No, they are on a three-game losing streak. They remain a team with the NBA's best record at 43-14. They have the league's MVP in LeBron James. They have three other players who have been All-Stars within the last two years — Antawn Jamison(notes), Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Mo Williams(notes). This is the only team that has survived the first round of the playoffs in each of the last four years. All that's missing is a championship, and that's where Mike Brown comes in. Whenever a team makes a trade such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) to Washington for Jamison, it means the coach must adjust. Brown now needs to ask, 'Who are my best players?' A quick list of eight would be: James, O'Neal, Jamison, Mo Williams, Anderson Varejao(notes), Delonte West(notes), J.J. Hickson(notes) and Anthony Parker(notes). Why eight? Because that's the usual playoff rotation."

Mike Ganter, Toronto Sun: "The Toronto Raptors organization owes Rasho Nesterovic(notes) a bonus on his pay cheque. Well, maybe not a bonus, but something for removing a blight from their team history. Since Oliver Miller left the Raptors for good back on Feb. 1, 1999, his name has been in the Raptors record books alongside the likes of, dare we say, more deserving Raptors such as Damon Stoudamire(notes), Morris Peterson(notes), Doug Christie(notes), Chris Bosh(notes) and Jose Calderon(notes) to name a few. Nesterovic took care of that Saturday when he went five-for-seven from the field to surpass the 1,000 field goal attempts as a Raptor and thereby qualify for standing in the all-time franchise leader in field goal percentage. Nesterovic's mark of .545 easily surpassed Miller's mark of .509 knocking the Big O off the perch he has held for far too long. 'I've got no comment on that,' Nesterovic said laughing following practice on Monday."

Fred Kerber, New York Post: "Brook Lopez may have to go a little Norman Bates if the Nets are going to avoid the infamy of the worst record in NBA history. By his own admission, Lopez is a nice guy. But the Nets need for him to get nasty, maybe a little psycho, and demand the ball. Or as Vince Carter(notes) put it last year, Lopez needs to play like a 7-footer. 'That's honestly not my nature. Vince was right in play like a 7-footer. Obviously you've got to be tough and stuff like that, attack the basket,' Lopez said. 'I don't know if the defense changes or I stop fighting for position or what. I just need to establish myself more, make myself more of an option.' Sunday's loss to the Grizzlies was the perfect example. Lopez had his greatest quarter ever, 17 points in the first. By halftime, he had 22 points, threatening his career high of 32 that he set in November against the Blazers, the team the Nets face tonight at the Meadowlands (7:30; YES, WFAN 660 AM). But after halftime, Lopez got just three shots. Yes, Memphis adjusted, but Lopez became just another Net offensively."

John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune: "James Lang. J.R. Smith(notes). Tim Pickett. Brandon Bass(notes). Hilton Armstrong(notes). Cedric Simmons(notes). Marcus Vinicius(notes). Julian Wright(notes). Adam Haluska(notes). Darrell Arthur(notes). The reason so much time and so many words have been spent bashing the Hornets over the team's draft picks since the team relocated to New Orleans in 2003 is because the franchise consistently has been so abysmal at the art form. Re-read the list. That roll call isn't an ode to precision or a flattering testament to player evaluation. Among that crew only Wright remains with New Orleans and if he and the franchise had their druthers, he'd be gone; he all but requested a move this season as the trade deadline neared and, undoubtedly, the Hornets gleefully would've shipped him if they could've found a sucker ... er, taker. But that batting average of 2 for 12 — the two hits being a couple of homers in David West(notes) (2003) and Chris Paul(notes) (2005) — significantly jumped this season. If we're going to call the team's evaluators everything including the devil for the pool of rookie selections from 2003 to '08, then the devils have to be given their due for what happened on June 25, 2009. That night, New Orleans took point guard Darren Collison(notes) with its first-round pick, No. 21 overall. And in the second round it swung a trade with Miami — shooting guard Marcus Thornton(notes), the No. 43 overall pick, came to New Orleans in exchange for a couple of future second-round picks. So far, so good. Very, very good."

Mike Baldwin, The Oklahoman: "Ten-game win streaks aren't rare in the NBA. But they can sure make a team, especially a young team such as the Thunder, feel pretty good. If Oklahoma City beats Phoenix tonight in the Ford Center, it will be the franchise's longest win streak in nearly 14 years. 'It makes all the difference in the world just how you feel every day,' said veteran forward Nick Collison(notes). 'Morale is so much higher. It's a lot more fun to come to the gym and the arena, knowing you've got a good chance to win.' Ten-game win streaks have occurred about five times a season the past three years. Three teams have had streaks of 10 games or longer this season. OKC can become the fourth with a win tonight over the Suns, who will rest star Steve Nash(notes). A victory would mark the franchise's longest win streak since the George Karl-coached Sonics won 11 straight early in the 1996-97 season."

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