Ball Don't Lie - NBA

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

Eddie Sefko, Star-Telegram: "In billiards, they call it slop. On a Monday night in Wisconsin, when the troops are falling like flies and the legs are dead at the end of a long road trip, the Mavericks will call it a pure shooter's bounce. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) — given a chance to play hero after rookie Roddy Beaubois made the defensive play of the game — hit an 18-foot jumper at the overtime buzzer that hit front rim, back rim and the backboard glass before falling straight through the net for a 115-113 Mavericks victory over Milwaukee at the Bradley Center. It capped a 32-point night for Nowitzki, left the Bucks completely frustrated after a hard-fought rally and ensured that big-time efforts by Beaubois, Drew Gooden(notes) and Jason Kidd(notes) did not go unrewarded. 'It was a little lucky at the end,' Nowitzki said. 'I thought it was going to swish, then when it rattled off the rim, it seemed like it was in the air forever. The bounce obviously was lucky. But it dropped in and we'll take it.'"

Rick Bonnell, Charlotte Observer: "You find Stephen Jackson(notes) a high-maintenance player? Charlotte Bobcats coach Larry Brown knows high-maintenance, and it doesn't rattle him. 'I can deal with (high-maintenance) kids. All you have to do is be straight with them,' Brown told the Observer Monday. 'After six years with Allen (Iverson in Philadelphia), I don't look at anybody as a challenge. (Jackson) wants to play and he's a competitor. Guys like that you can make work in your locker room.' The Bobcats acquired wing scorer Jackson, along with point guard Acie Law(notes), from the Golden State Warriors Monday, giving up starting shooting guard Raja Bell(notes) and reserve forward Vlade Radmanovic. Brown is enthusiastic about this deal, and Jackson played at shooting guard against the Magic on Monday night."

Mike Bresnahan/Broderick Turner, L.A. Times: "Pau Gasol practiced Monday. Translation: Here we go again. This time, the Lakers forward seemed upbeat that he would not have another setback in his prolonged recovery from a strained right hamstring. On a day filled with injury news — Kobe Bryant(notes) practiced, but Luke Walton(notes) will be out at least six weeks because of an injured back — Gasol's possible return Thursday against Chicago carried more weight than everything else combined. 'It's possible,' Gasol said Monday. 'I definitely need a couple days of testing it out and making sure that it's not getting aggravated. I didn't get this far to take another [break] because of trying to do too much too quick and setting myself back again.' [...] Gasol has gone through a practice on two separate occasions over the last few weeks, only to report soreness the next day and be forced to dial back his regimen. 'This time it felt different,' Gasol said. 'I feel pretty confident that [today] will be another good day.'" 

Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: "Suspension-free, Rashard Lewis(notes) was back in Amway Arena for the first time in a month and a half. He had arrived earlier than any of his Magic teammates on the floor, as per his pre-game shooting routine. He noticed something he hadn't ever seen before in the rafters: The 2008-09 Eastern Conference championship banner. 'I haven't been in the arena and it was something I missed,' he said, referring to the banner-raising opening night. 'I was looking at the banner and it brought back memories of something we had accomplished.' Lewis scored just 10 points in a rusty return to help the Magic beat the Charlotte Bobcats 97-91 on Monday night. They improved to 8-3, but 8-3 is a Magic mirage of sort. Lewis realizes this version of the team does not yet resemble the team that won the East and reached the NBA Finals last season. 'We should start playing well soon,' he said. When? Coach Stan Van Gundy was understandably glum at first, lost in thought. 'I'm just waiting to see us play well,' he said."

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: "As is customary for pregame and postgame interviews, Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan on Monday stood in front of a backdrop that carries the team's logo and one of its sponsors. Only this time, the cloth backdrop — held in place by duct tape — fell off the wall, partially draping McMillan's right shoulder as he answered a question from a national reporter. 'I will pretend I didn't see that,' McMillan said after looking out of the corner of his eye. Three hours later, he could have said the same thing after the Blazers wilted much in the same fashion as the silver backdrop, losing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead before falling 99-95 to Atlanta in overtime. So what was very nearly a perfect five-game trip instead turned into a series of what-ifs and could-haves, should-haves that led to the end of the Blazers' six-game winning streak. 'It was OK,' center Greg Oden(notes) said of the 4-1 trip. 'But it could have been great.'"

Mark Bradley, AJC: "Before Monday's game, someone mentioned to Mike Woodson that his team, wonder of wonders, had just ascended to the top of Marc Stein's NBA power ratings on In case you missed that, let me repeat it: The Atlanta Hawks are, at least for this week, regarded as the finest basketball team in the best league in the world. The ... Atlanta ... Hawks. 'That's pretty nice,' said Woodson, smiling as he spoke. And Woodson, as you know, is frugal with his smiles. But think about where this franchise and this coach have been, and where they are now: From 13-69 in 2004-2005 to No. 1 after Week 3 in November 2009. (And not just according to ESPN. The power ratings by John Schuhmann of likewise have the Hawks at the top. Can the BCS be far behind?) [...] 'It's just Week 2, though,' counseled Randolph Morris(notes), who was seated alongside. (Actually, it's Week 3. But close enough.) 'We want to be there at Week 50.' Which would be shortly after Halloween 2010, which I don't believe is what Morris meant. Still, you get the drift. It's a long season, et cetera. But you know what? These Hawks might be No. 1 for a while yet."

Kate Fagan, Philadelphia Inquirer: "Marreese Speights is the one with the partially torn knee ligament, but it looks as if 76ers coach Eddie Jordan will do the tweaking, possibly to his starting lineup. When reporters were permitted to watch the Sixers' practice yesterday at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, power forward Elton Brand(notes) was working with the second unit even as Speights walked the sideline, a brace supporting the partly torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. Seeing Brand in a white practice jersey instead of first-team blue certainly raised eyebrows, but it did not necessarily guarantee that Jordan intended to change his starting lineup. But Jordan's and Brand's words afterward certainly pushed one closer to that conclusion. Asked about Brand's sporting second-team white, Jordan said he had him playing center with the second unit. Asked if that might indicate an impending switch in the starting lineup, Jordan said, 'Um.' He paused and smiled. 'Who knows?' he said."

Marc Stein, TrueHoop: "There is some hope, according to NBA front-office sources, for a three-way deal that is currently in the exploratory-discussion phase. Sources told that the Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings, in considering the feasibility of a Samuel Dalembert(notes)-for-Kenny Thomas swap, have discussed expanding that concept with Boston by trying to draw in the Celtics on a potential three-way deal that would land Andres Nocioni(notes) with the Celts. Sources further stressed over the past 48 hours that this should be classified as an ongoing conversation as the teams involved decide how much they like what's on the table. But the full deal as it stands, if it eventually gets that far, would send Nocioni to Boston, Kenny Thomas(notes), Tony Allen(notes) and Brian Scalabrine(notes) to Philadelphia and Dalembert and J.R. Giddens(notes) to Sacramento."

Charles F. Gardner, Journal Sentinel: "Ersan Ilyasova might have been the hero Monday night, but Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings(notes) didn't see him on the team's final possession in overtime. Instead it was Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki ... 'I wanted the ball at the last second,' Jennings said. 'Unfortunately I didn't know Ersan's man had doubled me. When I looked back at the tape, I saw he (Ilyasova) was wide open for the jump shot.' Ilyasova recorded his first double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds, and he combined with reserve guard Luke Ridnour(notes) to fuel the Bucks' second-half rally. The 6-foot-10 Ilyasova had 17 points and nine rebounds after halftime while shooting 6 of 11 from the floor, including 4 of 6 from three-point range. 'The second half was great for us,' Ilyasova said. 'To come back from 18 points (down) is not easy against Dallas.' Ilyasova also shared defensive duties on Nowitzki with Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes). 'He's one of the best players in the NBA,' Ilyasova said of the Dallas all-star. 'He can shoot; he can drive. I tried to do my best and just force him into tough shots, contested shots.'"

Frank Isola, New York Daily News: "Mike D'Antoni blamed himself Monday for the Knicks' 1-9 record, saying he 'should take all the responsibility' for the worst start in franchise history. 'My job is to get them to play,' D'Antoni added. 'So far we haven't done that. That's about all I can say. I'm leading the team and I haven't led them anywhere so far.' D'Antoni is in the second year of a four-year, $24 million contract. His record as Knicks' coach is 33-59 heading into tomorrow's game at Indiana. Although there have been calls for D'Antoni's head, team president Donnie Walsh reiterated that he fully supports his coach. 'I hate to put a coach in this position,' Walsh said. 'It's a difficult position and I've definitely done that. I'm happy with Mike. I'm very happy with Mike.'"

Frank Dell'Apa, The Boston Globe: "Coach Doc Rivers is taking the blame for the Celtics' recent downturn. He offered a mea culpa after practice yesterday, saying the team was not fresh in back-to-back defeats vs. Atlanta and at Indiana last weekend, and added that Paul Pierce(notes) (left knee sprain) should not have played against the Pacers. 'I told him, No. 1, I shouldn't have played him, in my opinion,' Rivers said of Pierce. 'He talked me into it and I shouldn't have played him. No. 2, he's not going to practice [yesterday or today]. I told him that after the game.' Pierce, though, did participate in agility drills yesterday, then went to the sideline as the Celtics scrimmaged, working out on a stationary bicycle, then going to the locker room to have his knee taped. Pierce's status for tomorrow's game against Golden State at TD Garden has not been determined."

Jeff McDonald, S.A. Express-News: "Manu Ginobili says the tight left hamstring that, depending on who you ask, kept him out of the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Oklahoma City is feeling fine. Ginobili re-iterated Monday that he never wanted to come out the Thunder game, and said he expects to be ready to play Wednesday at Dallas. 'I think I'm ready,' Ginobili said. 'I've got to convince, as always, Mr. Popovich.' [...] Unlike that night, Ginobili thought he could have finished the game against the Thunder. Never one to argue with a coach, Ginobili said he did not petition Popovich to put him back in. 'I didn't even have a shot to try to convince him,' Ginobili said. 'He just sat me. I never said my hamstring was hurting. I never said I wanted to rest. He just thought it was the best option, and he went for it. He's the one who decides who's in and who's out.' Ginobili very much expects to be in against the Mavericks. He hopes Popovich agrees."

Michael Grange, The Globe and Mail: "I'm getting the sense that the Raptors are going to make a waiver claim on Pops Mensah-Bonsu(notes) who was released last week by the Houston Rockets. With Reggie Evans(notes) still struggling to have his foot heal, the talk around the arena yesterday was of the wistful variety: wouldn't it be nice to have an energizing; rebounding game-changer off the bench. The release of Quincy Douby(notes) opened up the roster spot; Pops deal isn't guaranteed. Don't be shocked if the Raptors pick him up."

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