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Suicide lines: Setting Suns, Rudy Fernandez, Bulls go bowling

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

Scott Bordow, East Valley Tribune: "The end came at 9:28 p.m. When the horn sounded on the Dallas Mavericks' 122-117 victory over the Suns on Tuesday, it was over. The game. The season. An era. The Suns are now five games back of the Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. There are 18 games to play. Do the math. 'For us to get in, it's going to take something wild,' Steve Nash said. 'We'd have to go on a tear and one of the teams is going to have to tank a little bit.' The Suns have lost a season-high five straight games. They can't play defense, and on Tuesday, in a game it had to win, Nash said Phoenix came out flat for the second half. Does that sound like a team about to go on a tear?"

Joe Freeman, The Oregonian: "As Rudy Fernandez was being carted away from the Rose Garden on a stretcher Monday night, his family and nation watched in a daze of helplessness. The Trail Blazers' lopsided victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, which featured prominent Spanish players Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and Pau Gasol, was broadcast live in Spain, meaning Fernandez's family saw his frightening tumble late in the third quarter. Then they had to labor through the reality that they had no way of reaching him. 'Everyone was scared and nobody knew what was going to happen,' Rodriguez said. [...] Fernandez was released from a Portland hospital Tuesday afternoon in good spirits and with relatively minor wounds, including a bruised chest and a right hip pointer. The reserve guard is listed as doubtful for the Blazers' game tonight against the Dallas Mavericks, but Rodriguez, who stayed overnight at the hospital with his countryman, said Fernandez was upbeat and improving."

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune: "With healthy bodies at a low and minutes played at a high, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro canceled practice Tuesday and took his team bowling to blow off steam. And, no, Dwyane Wade didn't receive an invitation. If he had, one could picture him and Ben Gordon rolling strike after strike, continuing their shootout from Monday night's double-overtime thriller that had anybody even remotely connected to the NBA still buzzing the day after. 'Man,' said former Bull and journeyman guard Rick Brunson, now on Virginia's coaching staff. 'D-Wade looked like Jordan out there.'"

Sekou Smith, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "No one came out and said it. They didn’t have to for everyone start talking about it. But everyone wants to know, is Marvin Williams done for the season? Is the lower back injury that the cost him Monday’s game against New Orleans going to cost him the rest of his season? We were told he will be out 'indefinitely,' with more opinions from specialists being sought."

Mike Monroe, SA Express-News: "Tony Parker, a member of the French National Team, had a pregame conversation with Charlotte coach Larry Brown about plans to have Brown assist the French team this summer. Brown, who has two players in the French team's player pool, already had planned to spend some time at the team's training camp so he could observe Bobcats Boris Diaw and Alexis Ajinca. He said if France's recently named head coach, Vincent Collett, has no objections, he would be happy to help him prepare the team for international competitions. 'He said he wanted to talk to the coach first to see if they could work together,' Parker said, 'because he said he didn't want to overshadow him, or anything like that. He's going to call the new head coach — he got elected last week — and we'll see what happens.'"

Gwen Knapp, San Francisco Chronicle: "In a tense 2 1/2 minutes, [Monta Ellis] contradicted pretty much everything [Don] Nelson and the Warriors had said about him over the last two weeks. The comments might have been the best defense Ellis has ever played. First off, he contested Nelson's assertion that he would be moved to point guard for the rest of the season, arguing that he had never been the team's shooting guard this season. Second and more important, he said his left ankle, the joint he damaged on a taboo moped last summer, was in perfect shape. He didn't miss a second of playing time because of stiffness, as the team said. 'That had nothing to do with it. I went home to see my mom,' he said almost sternly. 'My mom was sick. That's why I took the time off. It had nothing to do with my ankle.'"

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: "Suns fans have gone from asking 'Who?' to bellowing 'Lou' for Louis Amundson, just as he has gone from an affordable practice energizer to the Suns' only reserve big man in the rotation. Before Boris Diaw was traded in December, Amundson went through an 11-game stretch in which he played 29 total minutes. It was much like his first two NBA seasons, when he played 27 total games. But the trade made Amundson a regular, and forward Amaré Stoudemire's eye surgery made him a necessity. He is a virtual lock to return next season, when the Suns have a team option to keep him for the bargain salary of $855,189. 'It feels good to be wanted,' Amundson said."

Frank Dell'Apa, Boston Globe: "Last season, the absence of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett barely affected the Celtics during a visit to Miami. Leon Powe scored 25 points and Eddie House added 20 off the bench as the Celtics defeated the Heat, 117-87, on Jan. 29, 2008. The injury situation is more dire as the teams prepare to meet tonight. Garnett (right knee strain) will not be available, nor will his replacement, Glen Davis (right ankle sprain), nor point guard Rajon Rondo (right ankle sprain) or key reserves Tony Allen (thumb) and Brian Scalabrine (concussion). 'We're going to try to grind these games out, for maybe the next a week and a half,' coach Doc Rivers said. 'Five of eight rotation players are out right now. We're going to try and hold it down. We'll see if we can. If we can't, we can't.'"

Darnell Mayberry, The Oklahoman: "When Chucky Atkins came to the Thunder as part of a Jan. 9 trade with Denver, the veteran point guard assumed he had waived goodbye to a bad situation with the Nuggets. Assumed the door had opened for more playing time in Oklahoma City. Two months later, Atkins returns to Denver for the first time tonight stuck in a worse situation than before. He’s trapped in the rotation behind rookie starting point guard Russell Westbrook and backup Earl Watson [...] Rather than sitting and sulking on the sidelines, the 34-year-old Atkins has voluntarily become somewhat of a player-coach, with obviously more coaching than playing. Atkins has taken Westbrook, the No. 4 overall pick, under his wing over the last two months, educating the 20-year-old on how to be a successful lead guard. Whether during timeouts or during game play, Atkins can be seen yakking in his teammates’ ears, sharing anything and everything he’s learned from 10 years in the league."

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: "The condition of Josh Howard's injured left ankle is becoming more uncertain. The Mavericks' small forward will be examined again Thursday by the same specialist who looked at him Monday. And while the Mavericks have said Howard will miss the first two games of their four-game trip, the possibility exists that his absence could be much longer, possibly until the end of March. The Mavericks hope Howard will be back sooner than later. But with the injury having flared up twice this season — Howard missed 11 games in November and December with it — it's conceivable he could miss a similar stretch this time."

Melody Gutierrez, Sacramento Bee: "As a response to the bad economy, the Kings will announce season-ticket price reductions today that will cut the cost of some plans by as much as 44 percent for the 2009-10 season. One-third of all tickets in Arco Arena will be $25.50 or less, and the franchise will continue to offer 1,000 tickets at $10 for next season. The move mirrors what most NBA teams have done in recent weeks to reach out to fans struggling to pay their mortgages and retain their jobs. Some teams froze prices or focused on added incentives, which previously has been the Kings' strategy. However, in a letter from Joe and Gavin Maloof that will be mailed to season-ticket holders, the co-owners wrote that they are responding to what fans said was most important to them — savings."

Ross Siler, Salt Lake Tribune: "I'm ready to declare Conseco Fieldhouse my favorite building in the NBA. We only come through once a season, but it really is a temple to basketball. It's the closest thing to the feel of a baseball stadium that there is in the NBA. Beyond all the little touches — including bars to hang jerseys in front of each locker — the Pacers get bonus points from me for announcing both Williams and Boozer as not only Jazz players, but members of the gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic team during intros."

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