Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your pumpkin banana meringue pie.

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press: "It was one year ago Tuesday that the Pistons dealt Chauncey Billups(notes) to Denver for Allen Iverson(notes), officially bringing down the curtain on their reign of Eastern Conference excellence and initiating the start of their tumultuous transition. And ever since, the biggest question surrounding this franchise was, which core piece would next be on the trading block? It was curious when Tayshaun Prince(notes) was a late scratch Tuesday due to what the team reported as a lower back strain, and Jason Maxiell(notes) didn't play against Orlando. Was there a trade in the works? Were they considering packaging Prince and Maxiell for another expiring contract that could help them next summer in the free-agent shopping market? Joe Dumars shot down the suspicions, insisting there are no deals looming. He figures that the Pistons already have enough new faces. But Dumars also must understand that one of the consequences of transition is the perception of a revolving door in the Pistons' locker room. He truly has a team now that requires a program to identify the names."

Ray Richardson, Pioneer Press: "Two years after leaving the Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett(notes) is still capable of getting what many NBA observers refer to as a 'hometown call.' The 15-year veteran had a significant hand in the Boston Celtics' 92-90 victory Wednesday night at Target Center, leaving the Wolves fuming and winless since the regular-season opener. Garnett heard boos from most of the crowd of 19,133 after he tied up Wolves forward Corey Brewer(notes) for a jump ball with 3.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Brewer and Wolves fans felt Garnett should have been called for a foul after he reached in to put his right hand on the ball. A replay on the video scoreboard appeared to support the claims. 'I've been waiting for a game like this when a veteran player gets a call or no-call,' Wolves rookie point guard Jonny Flynn(notes) said. 'It definitely happened tonight.'"

Mike Bresnahan, L.A. Times: "The Lakers won another game but might have lost another big man. Pau Gasol(notes) is a little closer to returning, but Andrew Bynum(notes) was injured toward the end of the Lakers' 103-102 overtime victory Wednesday over the Houston Rockets. Bynum was fouled hard across his right arm while going up for a shot and sustained a sprained elbow with 24.7 seconds left in overtime. He will be re-evaluated today in Los Angeles. 'I can't even lift my arm right now,' Bynum said. 'They just took a shot at me. That's that, I guess. It's not that bad. It just takes a little while to heal up.' Anybody ready for Lamar Odom(notes) at center?"

Jerome Soloman, Houston Chronicle: "[Trevor] Ariza just doesn't have the assassin's mentality that makes stars super. Prior to this season, he had never taken 21 shots in a game as he did Wednesday, and it seemed he didn't want to take some of those. Kobe Bryant(notes) was the only other player on the court firing up shots at that rate. Bryant got off 30 attempts and scored a game-high 41 points. Unlike Ariza, Bryant is quite comfortable firing away. If Ariza had more Aaron Brooks(notes) or Kyle Lowry(notes) in him, he might be a perennial All-Star. But he is what he is, and that's OK. The Rockets knew what they were getting when they signed him with their mid-level exception. But the Rockets' fortune this season might rest with Ariza's transformation from extra to lead. He won't have all the lines in this production, but through five games he leads the team in field-goal attempts and scoring, and that is not likely to change. It's not his fault the Rockets lost, but it was a game that they could have won had he played better."

Michael Wallace, Miami Herald: "Dwyane Wade would prefer not to do things this way. His team left him no choice. For the second time in as many nights, the Heat built a double-digit lead and seemed destined for a confidence-boosting victory. And for the second time in as many nights, Miami found a way to stumble down prosperity's slippery slope. But unlike Tuesday's fall from ahead in a home loss to Phoenix, Wade helped his team avert a complete collapse. Wade scored a season-high 40 points and made the game-winning jumper with 24.6 seconds left as the Heat escaped with a 93-89 victory over the Wizards at Verizon Center. Wade played all 24 minutes of the second half — a stunning feat considering it was the second night of a back-to-back set for Miami. But the Heat had few other options on a night when the offense again fell flat."

Dan Steinberg, D.C. Sports Bog: "'Sometimes it's just frustrating,' Brendan Haywood(notes) said last week, when Caron Butler(notes) hurt his knee. 'It feels like we're cursed.' Well, that was last week. Then came Wednesday night's loss to the Heat, when Mike MIller(notes) went down with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder — "Felt like it slid a little bit on me and went numb," Miller said, describing the injury. Flip Saunders said he'll likely be gone 7-to-10 days. But even if it really is that brief of a recovery, this means that within the season's first six games, 60 percent of the Wiz starters will have missed at least one game with an injury. The two who have been spared are Gilbert Arenas(notes), who missed most of the last two years with rotted knee, and Brendan Haywood, who was sidelined for 75 games last season. Does that really seem fair?"

Jimmy Smith, The Times-Picayune: "The frustration of a weak defensive performance two nights earlier against the New York Knicks gnawed at New Orleans Hornets Coach Byron Scott for two days. As he watched video of Monday night's disheartening 117-111 loss at Madison Square Garden, Scott seethed, boiling over at one point during Wednesday morning's shootaround at New Orleans Arena. 'I did all the talking,' Scott said. 'I asked them: 'Are you guys scared?' Nobody answered. I told them, 'We're just 15 guys right now. We're not a team. We're just a collection of individual basketball players. Don't tell me you want to be good. Show me you want to be good.'' It took an extra period, but the Hornets finally put away the stubborn Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night 114-107 in front of a crowd of 13,566, snapping a two-game losing streak. Peja Stojakovic's(notes) 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation — at the time his first make after seven misses — tied the score at 97 in regulation. The 3-pointer was Stojakovic's only points."

Sam Amick/Jason Jones, Sac Bee: "When the talent pool is shallow, you fill it up whenever possible. That was the rough logic behind the Kings' signing of Ime Udoka(notes) on Wednesday. The 6-foot-5, sixth-year swingman spent the last two seasons as a key reserve for San Antonio, averaging 18.0 and 15.4 minutes, respectively. He was a strong defensive presence and an occasional three-point threat, although his 32.8 three-point percentage last season was the worst of his career (37.4 percent overall). Udoka unexpectedly became available Oct. 22, when Portland cut him in favor of rookie draft pick Patty Mills from Saint Mary's. According to sources, Udoka has a nonguaranteed contract for the veteran's minimum salary that will run through the end of the season and pay him a prorated amount of $1.03 million. It won't be fully guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2010."

Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard, who looked like Larry Bird on the free-line line Sunday in Toronto, said he told everybody around him — teammates, coaches, etc. — to stop giving him advice. Howard, a career 60 percent free-throw shooter, hit 14-of-16 against the Raptors after making only 7-of-17 coming into the game. 'Everybody is always asking me about it,' Howard said. 'Everybody telling me what to do and what not to do. I'm like, 'Just let me shoot. I've worked on it all summer.' Now I just feel good. I'm not worried about making it or missing it.'"

RealGM/Star Ledger: "Nets forward Yi Jianlian(notes) will miss an undetermined period of time with a sprained MCL in his right knee. 'It's a shame; if you look at it, he had a good start to the season, he was aggressive and assertive in the first few games,' coach Lawrence Frank told the Star Ledger. 'You feel bad for him, and hopefully from a mental standpoint, he understands the preparation that's required to come back.' The Ledger reports that the recovery time for such an injury is two to four weeks, but it has taken six weeks for some players. Yi was injured Monday night after taking a hit on his knee in the third quarter from Charlotte's Gerald Wallace(notes)."

Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star: "Charles Oakley is developing a cooking show for TV and producing a couple of movies. He's a restaurateur and a car-wash mogul. But what he'd really like to be is an NBA coach. So why, six years after he retired from the league, has the former Raptors forward — who made a name for his uncanny grasp of the game's defensive intricacies — never counted himself a member of an NBA coaching staff? 'Teams don't want to pay,' Oakley was saying in the lead-up to his appearance Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre [...] Money has always been central to Oakley's value system; he grew up poor in East Cleveland and sees the green as the ultimate sign of respect. But surely there's more to his absence from the league than the insufficiency of NBA assistant coach's salaries, which can range from $100,000 to quite a few times that much. Perhaps the thing that makes Oakley beloved by fans and scribes — his need to say whatever's on his mind — is the thing that's holding him back. In the NBA, after all, yes-men outnumber publicly honest ones by about a zillion to one."

The Columbian: "Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he wants point guard Andre Miller(notes) to be more aggressive. While McMillan acknowledged that Miller is still finding his rhythm as the leader of Portland's second unit, the Blazers coach stated that he needs Miller to attack the paint more often and find open shooters. Miller, who was acquired by Portland as an offseason free agent, struggled through the Blazers first four games of the season. He was shooting 31.2 percent (10 of 32) from the field and 14.2 percent (1 of 7) from behind the 3-point line prior to Tuesday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks at the Rose Garden. Miller's shot should begin to fall as the season unfolds — he is known for being a very reliable player who works himself into shape. But in the mean time, McMillan said that he wants the 10-year NBA veteran to create offense by pushing the tempo, engaging in pick-and-roll sets and posting defenders up. 'I want him very involved,' McMillan said. 'To the point where I want him pushing and handling the ball probably 90 percent of the time he's in.'"

Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News: "Not that he wants his former boss, Donnie Walsh, to fail at rebuilding the Knicks, but Pacers president Larry Bird doesn't want to see LeBron James(notes) come to New York next summer. 'I hope he stays in Cleveland,' Bird said Monday. 'He's from Ohio and he means so much to that team and that state. I used to love to go and play in Cleveland because they love the game. And, I like to see the great players stay in the cities and with the teams that drafted them. It means so much for the league and the state. So I would rather see him stay.'"

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