Ball Don't Lie - NBA

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

Ethan J. Skolnick, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "No way. No chance. No how. That's what Alonzo Mourning assured the friends and family who gathered at his house for a cookout Sunday afternoon, and agreed on one thing: That he would cry. 'I told them that they are going to lose that bet, because I don't have any intention of crying,' Mourning said before Monday night's ceremony to raise his No. 33 to the AmericanAirlines Arena rafters. Cry? Mourning? The man who entered the NBA with a shoulder chip larger than the championship ring now on his right ring finger? The man who Erik Spoelstra, then the video coordinator and now the head coach, endearingly recalled as a 'total psycho when we first got him' from Charlotte in 1995, with intensity that never took a meeting, practice or game off? The man who shook off kidney disease and slapped away the Dallas Mavericks' title shot? [...] A jersey rising up to the rafters. As Creed's My Sacrifice plays, and Reid calls him a 'Heat legend, warrior, philanthropist, champion, No. 33, Alonzo Mourning!' Tears. Lots of tears."

Bob Finnan, The News-Herald: "Zydrunas Ilgauskas said he's not prepared to offer a reward for the missing game ball from the night he got his 10,000th point. But he would be willing to make a trade. 'They can't do much with that ball,' he said. 'It would be nice for someone to bring it back. I can sign my jersey. I can't ask LeBron (James) to sign something. I'm not going to hold my breath. It's just a ball. The accomplishment means much more to me. My career wasn't based on that. If they want to bring it back, I'll give them something. Who knows, maybe there are some poor kids playing with it now. Maybe they need it more. Then keep it.' The ball was never recovered after the Atlanta game on March 21. Ilgauskas would like to have it back for his trophy case."

Eric Pincus, HOOPSWORLD: "While the Los Angeles Lakers battle through their longest road trip of the season, back in Los Angeles injured center Andrew Bynum nears a return. Bynum partially tore his right MCL on January 31st in Memphis against the Grizzlies. The original timetable for recovery was said to be 8-12 weeks. According to his website www.andrewbynum.com, Bynum has progressed to the point where he is 'playing 2 on 2 and 3 on 3, while waiting on the team to return.' Following standard recovery protocols, Bynum's next step towards recovery would be to test himself in a 5 on 5 scrimmage ... typically the final step before a player is back on the active roster."

Jason Quick, The Oregonian: "Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he has reached a comfort level with his rotation as the team heads down the stretch and toward the playoffs. However, there is one small, er, rather large decision to be made as the team completes its final nine games ... Greg Oden. 'Right now, the only thing we have to look at is Greg,' McMillan said. 'Will I go back to Greg in that starting lineup? Probably. Probably. But for right now, until he gets his rhythm and does some good things, we are going to stay here (with Joel Przybilla).'"

Eddie Sefko, The Dallas Morning News: "Josh Howard's season is about to resume, probably Tuesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Teammates have indicated Howard has looked sharp in recent practices, but Jason Terry offered the clearest sign of Howard's imminent return after Monday's practice at the Target Center. 'He looked great,' Terry said. 'Even last week, he was good in our last hard practice. He looked confident. I know he felt a little bit of pain, but the biggest test will be tomorrow,' he said, referring to tonight's game against Minnesota. 'If he hits that first shot, I'll bet he won't feel a thing tomorrow.'"

Dave D'Alessandro, The Star-Ledger: "What would have happened if the Nets' rebuilding plan took a more conservative route, and they stood pat by retaining two starting forwards named Nenad Krstic and Richard Jefferson while using the draft to fortify their otherwise weak frontcourt? Yes, it was a serious question. Caveat lector: One cannot be certain whether the following is a serious answer. 'Umm ... Nenad Krstic, mentally, probably would still be struggling,' Jefferson replied solemnly Monday night, when the Bucks visited Izod Center for the final time. 'And I probably would have killed somebody by now.' Wow, he must have loved it in Jersey. 'That's 100 percent honest,' Jefferson continued. 'Yes, the team would probably be a little bit better, but ultimately would they be that contending team? Probably not. There's too many things ...'"

Marc J. Spears, Boston Globe: "The Thunder's prospects have made [Kevin] Durant comfortable in saying he wants to be in Oklahoma for a long time. 'I like the nucleus that we have,' he said. 'I'm excited. I want to be here as long as possible. It's like family. I love being here. We're going to get better. We can get better. Hopefully, we will make the playoffs next season. That's what we're fighting for. We'll have a good chance.' Durant also is hopeful that interim coach Scott Brooks will be retained next season. The Thunder fired P.J. Carlesimo after a 1-12 start. Under Brooks, Oklahoma City is 19-40 and has been much more competitive. Durant says two keys to the improvement under Brooks have been pushing the ball offensively and better defense. The Thunder haven't offered Brooks the permanent job and are expected to consider their options after the season. But Brooks's performance has made it tough for him to be sent packing."

K.C. Johnson, The Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls' idea of an extended rotation these days is playing their eighth man, say, 12 minutes. In the last five games before Sunday's, coach Vinny Del Negro had basically ridden a seven-man rotation with an eighth player averaging a meager 6 minutes 55 seconds. The loss to the Raptors slightly strayed from the pattern because Linton Johnson III replaced John Salmons late in the first quarter due to foul trouble. But with Luol Deng back in Chicago, Tim Thomas still battling a sore back and Lindsey Hunter at the team hotel with the flu, Johnson and Thomas still combined to play only 18 minutes in a rare nine-man rotation. 'I'd like to get some guys' minutes down,' Del Negro said. 'But if they have to play a few more minutes to give us a chance to win, then they have to go do their job.'"

Marc Berman, New York Post: "Knicks point guard Chris Duhon said he believes more stability and less in-season trades will boost the Knicks' chances of making the playoffs in 2009-2010. Other than adding a shot-blocking center, Duhon said he feels the team is good the way it is. Had the Knicks not made a flurry of moves during the season — two trades on Nov. 21 and two more at the trade deadline on Feb. 19 — they would have been on track for a playoff berth. The Knicks (29-44) have nine games left, including tonight's game against the Jazz. They are on track for a 50-loss season, verging on playoff elimination and another lottery. 'I'm happy with how the team battled the whole year,' Duhon told The Post. 'We had a lot of mishaps with trades where we had to start over. If we have a consistent team throughout next year, we'll be fine. It's tough going through a season, having to fit guys in, and then do it again.'"

Al Iannazzone, NorthJersey.com: "The Nets are playing like a team that can’t wait for the regular season to end. Eight more games, guys, just eight more. That’s all that remains in their season and perhaps coach Lawrence Frank’s career on the Nets’ bench. To his credit, Frank has had this team unexpectedly in the playoff race for most of the season, but on back-to-back days, the Nets have been embarrassed. If this is how the Nets are going to end this year, it won’t reflect well on Frank, who has one year left on his contract."

Mike Wells, The Indianapolis Star: "Even as the regular season comes to a close, Roy Hibbert is playing for something — the chance to get better. While the Indiana Pacers continue to see Hibbert as their future middle man, he has experience some growing pains of late. That’s why Pacers head coach Jim O’Brien is getting Hibbert more floor time — to develop him into the 'go-to' guy Hibbert hopes to become. 'I like it when Roy goes off two feet,' O'Brien said, describing how Hibbert’s development has 'taken a step backward' from a month ago. 'When he shoots a running hook shot — when he goes off one foot — he gets legally bumped a little bit and it's not as effective of a shot. He needs to be balanced in the low post. When he's balanced, he can be a threat down there.'"

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