In The Scrum With Mark Jackson

Warriors Coach Mark Jackson speaking about the Warriors finishing 7-1 on the east coast road trip, he also spoke about not letting losses affecting the mental psyche of the team, and what the team needs to do moving forward.

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Child’s Play

Around 12 P.M. each game day, the Orlando Magic complete their shoot-around. Some players go to the trainers, some go to the hot/cold tubs, and a fleet of reporters blankets some players.

As the various players disperse throughout the arena, one player remains on the court with his Nike’s squeaking against the hardwood floor, drenched in sweat and breathing heavy. He is either working on his free-throws or his ever improving jump-shot; this player has a lot to prove. He has played in the shadow of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett during his career, and now he is ready to show the world that this is his time.

Since David Stern called his name in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft, Glen Davis’ maturity level has always been in question by his teammates and coaching staff. The questions surrounding his maturity, or lack thereof, has hindered his growth as a player. A year after being sent to Orlando via a sign-and-trade, and months after the “Dwightmare” saga, Davis has finally found a basketball home; not as a backup, but as a starter and a veteran leader on one of the younger teams in the league.

Davis has played with Garnett and has been coached by Doc Rivers, a leader of men. Therefore, the conception of Davis metamorphosing from a young player with juvenile predispositions into a team leader is not a far-fetched idea to fathom.

“I’ve always seen it; one day I will have an opportunity to lead, but I never had that opportunity,” Davis said.

That is a quote Davis would have never said in Boston; being an understudy to Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett. This quote is also a test to his maturity level, not only as a person, but also as a basketball player. Now that he has been asked to be a leader, both on and off the floor, this new frame of mind can have a positive outcome on his play and the play of the younger players on this Orlando Magic team.

Davis’ maturity may be attributed to playing under Doc Rivers, and the current Orlando Magic Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, both whom are considered leaders of men.

In 21 games this season, Davis has averaged 16.0 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game; and on a frontline that is softer than Johnson’s baby lotion; Davis’ season averages should escalate due to the injury of swingman Hedo Turkoglu. On defensive possessions, Davis is in constant communication with his teammates; always yelling out directions – a skill he learned from playing alongside Garnett in Boston.

Furthermore, on offense, Davis is averaging a career high in shot attempts and is shooting 74% from the free-throw line; a stark and bleak comparison to his predecessor in LA who is shooting 46% from the free-throw line this year.

Is this the same Davis that famously cried like a big baby on the bench in Boston when Garnett yelled at him for missing a defensive assignment? The answer to that is no, he is no longer a big baby. He has developed into a man that is ready to take his game to the next level.

Additionally Davis has also taken rookie Maurice Harkless under his wing. During the first seven games of the season, Harkless only played sparingly off the bench. However, after being mentored by several veteran players such as Davis and Aaron Afflalo, Harkless has gained his confidence and finds himself inserted into the starting line-up with consistent minutes.

Nobody denies Davis’ heart, but critics have questioned his attitude. This season more than ever, he has done everything to shed his past reputation. Hence, Davis might be one reason the Magic inches closer to respectability this season. Davis brings the Magic an unexpected enhancement in leadership and veteran play.

Davis has proved, so far, that he is a man amongst boys and that is no laughing matter.

In The Scrum With Mark Jackson

Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson disusing the preparations he made for the Magic, the strengths of several of Orlando’s players, and what he expects from his team tonight.

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In the Scrum With Josh Smith

Josh Smith discussing his compatibility with teammate Al Horford,the teams expectations after the departure of Joe Johnson, and the importance of playing team basketball.

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In The Scrum With Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson speaking about the Nets being focused in the second half against the Magic, ball movement, three point shooting,and how important the Nets role players are to the teams success.

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In The Scrum With Andray Blatche

Andray Blatche speaking about the Nets third quarter turnaround against the Magic, staying focused, and being patient throughout the course of the game.

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In The Scrum With Deron Williams

Deron Williams speaking about Gerald Wallace’s versatility, The Nets shot selection against the Magic and being focused throughout the game.

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In The Scrum With Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan speaking about how the Spurs attained a victory against the Magic, Defensive rotations, and how the veteran players on the Spurs manage their
minutes during the season.

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In The Scrum With DeQuan Jones

DeQuan Jones speaking about the coaching staff expectations,having to work from the bottom up to secure a spot on the Magic, and talking about how important work ethic is to having a successful career.

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Catching Up With Leandro Barbosa

Leandro Barbosa discussing the contribution’s everyone must make, the Boston coaching staff giving him confidence, and making an impact during games.

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In The Scrum With Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce talking about finding a way to win, the adjustments the Celtics made to contain the Magic three-point shooters, and closing the game.

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Catching Up With Arron Affalo

Arron Afflalo talked about adjustments that were made against the Pistons, and what the teams need’s to do in future games to be successful.

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Blue Magic

It was a blue-out at Amway Arena on Tuesday night; not because of the empty seats in the arena but because the Knicks were in town. Around 18,846 transplanted New Yorkers filled Amway Arena and boldly shouted, “Let’s go Knicks,” giving the Knicks an unexpected home-court advantage.

One Magic season ticket holder for 10 years, who comes from Queens New York, said: “I’ve been a season ticket holder for the past 10 years and when the Knicks come to town, it is always a special occasion. I would say about 60 percent of the fans that attend the Knicks and Magic games are Knicks fans.”

For three quarters, the NBA’s lone unbeaten squad was just one point better than the shorthanded Magic until their stamina and veteran leadership took over at Amway Center. It’s only the third time in Knicks history that they’ve started 5-0 (1969-70 and 1993-94 were the other two).

Carmelo Anthony made a key defensive play early in the fourth on Glen Davis, got hot from the field and finished with 25 points.

“We tried to get a home run early,” Anthony said. “We were trying to win the game all in a couple of plays. Then in the third quarter we settled down. We buckled down, holding them to one shot or not even a shot”.

Anthony has thrived at power forward this season holding season averages of 26.8, 7.4 rebounds, and a 27.3 PER.

“I like that play, that physical stuff,’’ said Anthony. “Sometimes down there, I’m just trying to hold my ground, playing against a guy like Big Baby, 40 to 50 pounds heavier than me. It’s a matter of fighting him before he gets the ball and using my quickness.”

The game against the Magic was the first of a three-game road trip that continues Thursday in San Antonio and concludes Friday in Memphis.

“It’s only five games into the season,” Anthony said. “I’ve been saying the whole time we’re going to take it one game at a time and enjoy it. As long as we’re having fun playing basketball, whether we win or lose, we can accept it.”

The Magic, who started the season with an impressive 2-0 record, has expectedly fallen back to the bleak grim of their reality of being a contender for the NBA lottery. They are losers of five straight and has fallen to 2-5 on the young NBA season.

Their shortcomings aren’t surprising; injuries have limited Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu to a combined two games this season. They rank 29th in points only averaging 88.00 PPG and 23rd in defensive rebounds.

However, it is not too late for the Magic to get back on track. Yes, they must get healthy, but being more committed on the defensive end of the court and playing with a sense of urgency will help turn this young team in the right direction.

Kidd Signs With The Knicks

For years, the Knicks have lacked depth at the point guard position. Since the departure of Stephon Marbury in 2009, the Knicks haven’t had a viable and productive option at point guard. That all changed last season  in a 25 game stretch with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, a guard whom the Knicks claimed off-waivers from the Houston Rockets.

Now, in the summer of 2012, Lin is a free agent and has signed an offer sheet with the team whom waived him after training camp. The Knicks are expected to match any offer made toward Lin, and to validate Lin as their point guard of the future, the Knicks have gone after several experienced floor generals to help tutor Lin.

Knicks GM Glen Grunwald made several attempts at signing two-time MVP Steve Nash, but they were spurned by Nash when he signed with the Lakers.

Knicks forward Carmello Anthony was shocked when Nash decided to sign with the Lakers, but those sentiments about Nash were forgotten when Grunwald shocked the basketball world and announced the signing of legendary point guard and future Hall Of Famer  Jason Kidd.

“I was shocked to hear Nash was going to the Lakers,’’ Anthony said Friday after the U.S. Olympic Team opened training camp in Las Vegas. “I honestly really thought he’d be in New York. But it was definitely a shock. To hear the J-Kidd news kind of took that burden off a bit.”

The Kidd and Lin tandem is going to help the Knicks on several fronts. The chemistry issue between Anthony and Amare  Stoudemire will greatly benefit from the presence of Kidd. The addition of Jason Kidd provides the Knicks with a player who can defend on the perimeter, rebound the ball, and shoot the open three.

Even with being the second oldest player in the NBA, at age 39, Kidd is still a respected floor general who demands the most from his teammates.

“It really doesn’t matter; Steve Nash, Jason Kidd. A point guard is a point guard,’’ Anthony said. “Someone to run the team, get guys in their position, get everyone going. It takes a lot of pressure off me to try to do everything out there. I can pick my spots. With Jason, it’s a point guard to bring the ball up the court and get everyone involved. I don’t have to do much ball-handling. My mindset is working off the ball a lot; this helps me out to prepare for that”.

Kidd is now reunited with former Dallas Maverick teammate Tyson Chandler. Chandler flourished under Kidd on the offensive end of the court due to Kidd’s use of the pick and roll.  With Kidd as his PG in Dallas, Chandler had one of the best scoring averages of his career – 10.11 points 9.35 rebounds, and 1.44 blocks per game.

“I talked to him all summer,’’ Chandler said. “I honestly didn’t think we had a good shot at him. I thought New York would be a great place for him. I expressed that to him. I was just as surprised as everyone else when he made the decision. I feel like he definitely has a lot left,’’ Chandler said. “I’d throw his age out the window. He’s definitely valued on the court, but he’s more valued off the court. Whether in the locker room, film, in the huddle, he’s unbelievable”

Kidd will be a valuable asset in helping the development of Lin. Yes, Lin did take the NBA by storm last season, but he only did it in 25 games playing against less than stellar teams. There are still too many questions about Lin’s game. Can he defend on a consistent basis? Can he score on a consistent basis? Does he still have trouble going left? How can he get on the same page with the rest of his teammates?

When Anthony returned from injury during the height of “Linsanity,” he struggled playing alongside Lin. It wasn’t until after Lin went down with an injury and was ruled out for the remainder of the season, that Anthony found his stride and had the best stretch of his Knick career during Lin’s absence during the month of April.

Kidd, in an interview on WFAN yesterday, said, “With the intention of signing Lin back, I saw that I can help. Hopefully, help them win and help Lin. He’s a talented point guard, so at this stage I just felt I could help those guys. I think he’s going to be a consistent player, then it’s up to the media to label him great or good. But if you’re consistent in the league, you’ll win a lot of ballgames. So that’s what I’m here to try to help him with.’’

Kidd was rumored to sign with Brooklyn as a package deal alongside Deron Williams. That rumor seemed to gain steam when a picture of Williams and Kidd surfaced of the two of them playing golf together.

“I thought it was a good spot for him, a good situation for him,’’ Williams said. “Number one, he can help that team out a lot; as far as distributing the ball, getting the ball in the right spots, taking the pressure off Carmelo to lead the team. He’s definitely a veteran guy who knows how to play the game and will be a Hall of Famer. He doesn’t have to do as much as he had to do with Dallas. At his age, it will help him out a lot. I thought he was going to Dallas. We didn’t even talk about the Knicks. It kind of came out of nowhere.’’

Kidd will make everyone on the Knicks better, and will help the long term development of Jeremy Lin. He will help mature this roster from immature players who fold even when some expectations are accepted from them, and finally he will bring this franchise something they haven’t had since the days of Patrick Ewing – respectability.

A Changing Of The Guard In The West

Breaking up is hard to do, and after Game 6, with the debacle by the San Antonio Spurs, it is now more evident that it is the end of the line for them. In the aftermath of Game 6, the OKC Thunder left the Spurs with confetti all over them and broken-hearted fans worldwide.

For two months, the Spurs seemed invincible, being on a 20-game winning streak. But that all came to end after Game 3, when OKC overcame a 2-0 deficit and won four games in a row. Cue up the slow singing and flower bringing in San Antonio because the funeral can possibly begin this summer, with some veteran mainstays retiring or others going elsewhere.

After the Spurs gave their coach Greg Popovich “some nasty” after Game 1, they found themselves with a 2-0 series lead over the OKC Thunder. The general consensus about this year’s Western Conference Finals was that the series was over and the Spurs were going to the NBA Finals.

OKC was down 18 in Game 6 and it seemed as though this series was headed for a 7th and deciding game. However, the Thunder has proved yet again why they are one of the premier teams in the NBA. The Thunder erased a 15-point half-time deficit before pulling ahead in the fourth quarter and advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1996 when they were known as the Seattle SuperSonics.

Kevin Durant played the entire 48 minutes but the fatigue didn’t stop him from scoring 34 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.

“I was not going to take him out,” said head coach Scott Brooks. “I don’t care how many times he looked at me fatigued. He has enough, and I think all of our guys have enough to play. You just have to fight through it.”

”I told the coaches that I could go all night,” Durant added. “I could go 48, and I didn’t think they would let me do it. But they kept me in and I just tried to give my team a spark.”

Even before the final buzzer sounded, Kevin Durant went over to hug his family; signifying that the weight has been lifted and in just five short years in the NBA, he is going to the NBA Finals.

”I never want to take those moments for granted,” Durant said. ”I know it’s just one step closer to our dreams, but it felt good.”

For San Antonio, Tony Parker had 29 points and 12 assists, but only two assists and eight of the points came in the second half; two in the third and six in the fourth quarters.

Tim Duncan scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds.

Additionally, Stephen Jackson scored 23 as San Antonio lost its fourth straight, after becoming only the fourth team in NBA history to win 20 games in a row.

”There’s not much to complain about,” Manu Ginobili said. ”We had a great run. We just couldn’t beat these guys.”

This loss for the Spurs against the Thunder can possibly foreshadow the Changing of the Guard in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma city GM Sam Presti is a R.C. Buford disciple, the architect of the Spurs. Sam Presti has built the Thunder in the same mold as the Spurs. The OKC version of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili is Durant, Westbrook, and Harden.

Both GM’s have laid the foundation for the long term success of both teams, and while one team seems to be quietly fading to black, the OKC Thunder are rising to a national spotlight.