Ball Don't Lie - NBA

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

Marc Berman, New York Post: "On the other side of the globe from Coney Island, former Knicks star Stephon Marbury(notes) made his debut in China yesterday and told The Post he was suffering from major jet lag. Marbury scored 15 points and had eight assists as his new team, Shanxi lost 102-101 to Dongguan Marco Polo. He had four steals and four rebounds, but shot 0 for 6 from 3-point range, according to China Daily. 'The time difference is a big problem,' Marbury told The Post via Skype yesterday. 'I wake up early, in the middle of the night, and stay up most of the day. It stinks. I have not played since the last game against the Magic [in the second round of the playoffs last May]. So I was tired. I played 28 minutes, all of the fourth quarter. Talk about being tired. Wow. It was fun being out there though.'"

ESPN: "The struggling Boston Celtics just got Kevin Garnett(notes) back from injury. They'll hope he doesn't trade places with Paul Pierce(notes). Pierce injured his left foot in the first quarter of Boston's 99-88 win over the Washington Wizards on Monday. He sat out part of that quarter and all of the fourth even though the win was not certain. The Celtics outscored the Wizards 25-10 without their captain to beat the Wizards. 'I'll get some X-rays tomorrow, but I think it's not going to be too bad,' Pierce told reporters after the game, adding that he thought it was a sprain. 'I would have known by now [if it was broken]. I think I'll be all right.' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said the injury was nothing serious, but he didn't want to risk aggravating it by pushing Pierce. 'I just didn't want to take a chance,' Rivers said on why Pierce sat out the final quarter. 'I shouldn't have played him in the second half. I think I messed that up. He wanted to go out and he wasn't playing bad, but I just didn't think he was moving well enough. Why take a chance?'"

Geoff Calkins, The Commercial-Appeal: "The idea was to get the ball out of Kobe Bryant's(notes) hands. But, then, when isn't the idea to get the ball out of Kobe Bryant's hands? Especially when the clock is running down at the end of the game. Especially when you lead the Los Angeles Lakers by two points. So Marc Gasol(notes) went sprinting toward Bryant, joining O.J. Mayo(notes), who was already on the scene. Bryant — and it's hard to believe it, even as I type this — passed the ball to Ron Artest(notes). Artest rose and fired. 'Everything stopped for a second,' said Marc Gasol, as the ball spun through the air. It missed. Bounced harmlessly off the rim. And then everything started once again. The noise, the jubilation, the streamers. The Grizzlies celebrated a 95-93 win. 'It kind of shows what kind of team we are,' said Rudy Gay(notes). A good team. A resilient team. A team that can lose a crusher to New Orleans Saturday and then come back and and beat the world champion Lakers two days later. And, yes, I know, no game in an NBA season is more important than any other game. Head coach Lionel Hollins says it all the time. But this one sure felt more important, didn't it? More vital to the Grizzlies' season and cause?"

John Reid, The Times-Picayune: "Jeff Bower said they are in the process of gathering further evalations to determine if knee surgery is the best course of action for injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul(notes). Bower said an MRI test was performed Sunday and those results will be reviewed by several top orthropedist specialists from around the country before a decision is made, but Paul is sidelined indefinitely. 'It's likely there is going to be a surgical procedure,' Bower said. 'But as I said, we're in the fact-finding stages right now, gathering as much information as possible for decisions to be made for the next steps.' Paul will miss the Feb. 14 All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, because he could be sidelined for up to a month. It is speculated that Paul has a possible cartilage tear in his left knee, but Bower would only say the injury is more serious than a bruised knee, which was the initial diagnosis announced by the team. Bower said a determination whether Paul will require surgery will be determined in the next day or so."

Brian Windhorst, The Plain Dealer: "The suitcases have been put away, the fridges have finally been fully stocked and the Cavaliers' various road jerseys have been stuck in the back of the equipment room. The Cavs are at the start of the mother of all homestands, their longest in 15 years and, in terms of days, the longest in team history. Tuesday the Cavs play the second game, against the Memphis Grizzlies, of a seven-game homestand. Because of a number of off days and the All-Star break, the Cavs will go a record 20 days between road games. 'When the schedule came out I did wish that things were a little more balanced,' coach Mike Brown said. 'But after everything we've been through, now I'm glad to be home for three weeks.' This stretch, especially in the number of days, once was rare. But it seems to be part of a unannounced league-wide trend this season."

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: "For Robin Lopez(notes), scoring can be as easy as rolling off his screen, catching Steve Nash's(notes) pinpoint feeds and slamming, as he did for Phoenix's first two baskets Monday night. Lopez can be more industrious and slam back teammates' misses as he did on consecutive trips in Monday's first quarter. But the Suns also are looking to Lopez more in the post, where he is spending extra practice time developing moves. Lopez has not held down the starting center spot because of his offense but his improved ability to finish near the rim is a nice bonus to his 7-foot presence on defense and the boards. 'We've got to try to start attacking some with post-ups with (Lopez) and Amar'e (Stoudemire) both, so that when they switch and we've got a smaller guy on him, we can throw the ball right in the post,' said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. Lopez said he is refining moves but also concentrating on post position, making sure he is on a line between the passer and the hoop so he can move either way with the ball. 'Coaches and my teammates have done a very good job of making me feel acclimated,' Lopez said. 'It's always good to have a go-to move and then the counter. When the defense figures that out, you've got to get better at that and start adding to your arsenal.'"

Mike Monroe, S.A. Express-News: "Tim Duncan has been a part of seven previous rodeo road trips, the extended journey that makes tourists of the Spurs while the AT&T Center is filled with the twang of country music and the tang of equine excrement. Not once has the Spurs captain felt a more compelling need for the team to use the trip to turn around its season. And with good reason: Never have the Spurs arrived at embarkation day with a worse record. Aware that no rodeo road trip has produced a losing record and each has been an attendant jump-start to the season-ending push, Duncan agreed that this year's seven-game trip — which begins Wednesday in Sacramento after a six-game homestand produced only two victories — is the most important yet. 'Yeah,' he said, 'and we hope the results of the past are what we get now. We need it. We need to turn that corner.' Game 1 of this season's trip will begin with the Spurs at 27-19 (58.7 percent). No previous rodeo trip began with such a poor winning percentage. The previous low came in 2004, when they headed to Salt Lake City for Game 1 of a seven-game, 20-day trip at 31-18 (63.2 percent)."

Mike Wells, Indy Star: "The Pacers have work to do if they expect to be able to trade forward Troy Murphy(notes) before the Feb. 18 deadline. The Pacers have already tried to send him to Cleveland, but those talks didn't last long because they were asking for too much, according to a source. The Pacers wanted the Cavaliers to give up forward J.J. Hickson(notes), center Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes) and multiple draft picks for Murphy, the source said."

Steve Luhm, The Salt Lake Tribune: "Paul Millsap continues to do a masterful Carlos Boozer(notes) impression. In his second start for the injured Boozer, Millsap finished with 25 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots in the Jazz's 104-92 win over Dallas on Monday night at EnergySolutions Arena. Millsap dueled the Mavericks' perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki(notes), to a near standoff. Nowitzki finished with 28 points and eight rebounds — not nearly enough to prevent Millsap & Co. from posting an energy-filled win. 'It's fun to watch guys play hard,' said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. In the first quarter, Millsap scored 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting. His teammates were a combined 5-for-14, so Millsap's quick start prevented Dallas for taking early control of the game. 'He was really alive,' Sloan said. Significantly, Millsap's four field goals in the first quarter came on a layup, an 8-footer and a pair of 18-foot jumpers — the kind of shot he might not have made earlier in his career. 'I've put in extra time, working on it,' Millsap said."

Eddie Sefko, The Dallas Morning News: "Remember those Mavericks who were so good at executing and keeping their poise in tight situations earlier this season? If you know where they are, tell them Rick Carlisle and Mark Cuban are looking for them. Right now, that team is gone. Monday night's fourth quarter was proof as the Utah Jazz dismantled the Mavericks down the stretch for a 104-92 runaway win at Energy Solutions Arena. It was a tight game early in the fourth, but the Jazz went on a 12-2 binge to go ahead, 98-84, and close out the Mavericks, who lost their third game in a row. It's the first time all season they have dropped three consecutive. 'You got to be worried,' said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 28 points, but who didn't get a shot in the fourth period. 'We haven't really played well for a month, and lost some games we should have won. But you can't hang your head. You got to keep working and stay positive and stay together. We are a veteran team and we need to respond.'"

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: " In a season that has been about buying time until 2010 free agency, time might be running out. Falling for the second consecutive game to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Miami Heat returned to .500 for the third time this season with Monday's 97-81 loss. The previous two times the Heat fell to .500, it was able to right itself. This time, at 24-24, the task might prove overwhelming for a team teetering on the brink of falling out of a playoff seed. 'Needless to say,' coach Erik Spoelstra said, 'that was a very tough evening for us. We're going through a little bit of a funk as a team. It is a trying time for us.' Not only are eight of the Heat's next nine on the road, but its next two games are a back-to-back road set against the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers."

Julian Garcia and Mitch Lawrence, New York Daily News: "The Nets will have the cash and the assets to rebuild their team. Now all they need is a new place to play, and it appears they are close to getting it. While they are still on schedule to move to Brooklyn at some point in 2012, the Nets likely will be playing in Newark the next two seasons after reaching a preliminary lease agreement with the Devils to play their home games at the Prudential Center, according to a source familiar with the team's situation. According to the source, the Nets and Devils reached a new agreement last week and are expected to sign it this week. It should reach Gov. Chris Christie's desk soon after and it is expected to be approved. 'It's going to happen,' said a source familiar with the negotiations."

Justin Rogers, MLive.com: "In case you haven't been paying attention, New York Knicks forward David Lee(notes) is tearing it up this season. He's averaging nearly 20 points, shooting well over 50 percent from the floor and is fifth in the league in rebounding, pulling down an impressive 11.5 boards per game. Lee is set to be an unrestricted free agent this season and seems likely to field offers between $12-14 million per season. Those numbers are obviously well beyond what limited funds the Detroit Pistons will have to spend. Had the Pistons been interested, the time to strike would have been this past offseason. Lee was a restricted free agent, meaning that the New York Knicks could match any contract offer. But with New York spending the last few years positioning itself to be a player in the 2010 free agent market, it's highly plausible they wouldn't have matched a lucrative, multi-year deal for Lee. Let's be honest. If the Knicks were that intent on keeping Lee in New York long-term, they probably would have signed him to more than a one-year contract. By allowing him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Lee seems likely to sign with another team by the time the New York is making their desperate pitch to LeBron James(notes), Dwyane Wade(notes), Chris Bosh(notes) and the other marquee names on the market."

And finally ...

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