The injury bug: Last night, the Orlando Magic lost not one but two starters due to injury. Jameer Nelson got knocked out of the game in the first quarter after getting hit in the jaw by teammate Dwight Howard, and Hedo Turkoglu left during the second quarter because of a sprained right wrist. I'm not saying that losing those guys is the reason Orlando lost to the Spurs, but it sure didn't help. The Magic took Nelson out of the game only as a precaution -- he's had two concussions in two years -- but he could play in the team's next game on Friday. Turkoglu will have an MRI and visit with a hand specialist today to determine the extent of his wrist injury.
Matt Bonner: He was in and out of the Spurs/Magic game in less time than it would take to reheat a slice of pizza in the microwave. His line: Zero-for-everything in 39 seconds of PT.
Jermaine O'Neal: Remember this guy? Yeah, he's still a Pacer, although I wouldn't fault you for forgetting that fact. The Drain has missed 31 straight games with a left knee injury, but he has been practicing -- we're talking about practice, man! -- and said he expects to be back soon. To which I say: Why?! My theory: To increase his off-season trade value. Indiana coach Jim O’Brien says Jermaine can return to active duty once his cardiovascular conditioning is good enough to play.
Los Angeles Clippers: Tank-a-palooza 2008 continued for the fake-injury-riddled Clips, who made the Dirk Nowitzki-less Mavericks look like champions-in-waiting even without their reigning MVP. Josh Howard threw in 32 points, Erick Dampier became a real center -- for one night, anyway -- by scoring 19 points and gobbling up 17 boards, and Jerry Stackhouse put up 20 without even choking anybody. There's no better way to reheat your magic sauce than to play the Clippers.
Update! Dirk Nowitzki, play-by-play announcer: From the always-funny Odenized. It's almost six minutes long, but watch the whole thing. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.
Jason Kidd: While his teammates were lighting the house on fire against the hapless Clippers, Kidd maintained the sloppy, lackluster play that'll probably help Avery Johnson get fired after the season: 10 points on 2-for-7 shooting, 8 assists, and 7 turnovers. But he did have a +/- score of +15, so I guess he actually played really well. Thank the gods for advanced stats!
Juwan Howard: The wily veteran is still alive and capable of putting up big numbers. Last night, he put up three trillion of them.
Atlanta Hawks: You guys do want to make the playoffs, right? Then why did you lose to the Dysfunction-A-Bulls?
Mario West: The good news: Super Mario got into the game for a whole minute and 16 seconds. The bad news: He scored a one trillion.
Larry Hughes: Ew! What the hell did I just step in?! Oh, it's Larry Hughes' jumper! Is that...is that corn? [shudder] Anyway, Larry's shot has returned to its typically ugly form. Last night he scored 9 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He's 9-for-33 (27 percent) over his last three games.
Andres Nocioni: The ragin' Argentinian went on a towel-slamming, expletive-slinging rampage when he got benched on Saturday, but there's a reason he was riding the pine: He sucks. Right now, anyway. Last night, Chapu grabbed 4 rebounds and committed 3 fouls in 13 scoreless minutes.
Drew Gooden's huge, throbbing ego: Drew Gooden played like a man last night, scoring 31 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. It was Gooden's ninth double-double in the 16 games since he was traded to the Bulls. The million-dollar question, though, is can he keep this up? Said Gooden: ''Yes, I can. And I will continue to work to get better at it. This is something that's not new to me, but I've got to brush off some of the old tools and put them back into use. Because I have had a couple years [playing with LeBron James] where I was the guy that goes out, works hard and grabs rebounds and becomes a defender with offensive capabilities." In case you need a Gooden-to-English translation, that means playing with LeBron was holding him back, and not that it's easier to put up big numbers when you're on a lousy, lottery-bound team. But Gooden's mouth wasn't finished. Not by a long shot. "I possess the tools. I don't want to sound cocky, but I think I possess everything. I feel like I can pass, block shots, play great defense, play help defense, shoot threes." No, not done yet. There was more. ''I believe that I can do it all. And confidence is the number one factor when it comes to offense. I can score in the post; I can score with my back to the basket, face up.'' You go, Drew. I look forward to watching you win the MVP next season. Look out, NBA!
(Still...as well as Gooden has been performing lately, it does sort of make you wonder: Was playing with LeBron holding him back? John Hollinger didn't seem to think so, but Gooden's PER has skyrocketed from 12.6 to 18.9 since joining the Bulls. According to Hollinger's own reference guide, that change has moved Gooden from somewhere between the "scrounging for minutes" and "in the rotation" range to between "solid second option" and "borderline All-Star." Food for thought.)
C.J. Miles: Yet another one trillion award winner. Congrats, C.J.!
Washington Wizards: The Wiz followed up their ultra-impressive win over the Pistons by laying a huge, rotten egg against the Trail Blazers. Washington lost by 20 after scoring only 82 points on 35 percent shooting. The co-Grand Marshals of the Brick Parade were Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, who combined to shoot 9-for-33 from the field and 2-for-11 from three-point range.
Stingy statisticians: Basketbawful reader Sun Devil brought this to my attention: Joel Przybilla -- the newly dubbed Vanilla Godzilla -- was credited with 25 rebounds in Portland's not-so-pretty 83-72 win over the Los Angeles Clippers last Saturday. For VG, it was a career-high. But wait! The NBA ruled that Przybilla's career-high was even career-highier: He was shorted one offensive rebound during the fourth quarter of that game, which means he actually grabbed 26 rebounds instead of "only" 25. This moves our Vanilla Godzilla into a tie -- along with with Bill Walton and LeRoy Ellis -- for the most rebounds in a regulation game in Trail Blazer history. Note: Przybilla grabbed 17 rebounds against the Wizards last night. Man, he's treating the backboards like the real Godzilla treated Tokyo...he's destroying them. Roar!!
Derrick Coleman: Coleman -- whose NBA career was limited and cut short due to laziness, character issues, a giant fat ass, and, of course, injury problems -- got injured again, only this time it happened while filming an episode of the TV show Pros vs. Joes. DC was participating in a rebounding challenge against some "average joe" when he came down from a jump and landed awkwardly, hurting his always-troublesome knee. This means that Coleman has the dubious distinction of being the first Pro to ever get injured during battle with a Joe. [Hat tip: TrueHoop.]
Charley Rosen: Hopefully this is the last follow-up entry to Face-Guard-Gate. Rosen finally admitted that NBA rules don't prohibit face-guarding. However, he also said, "Even though this is true, my point remains valid, i.e., that refs used to call face-guarding fouls and no longer do so." Actually, his original point -- which was "...it must be noted that Battier face-guarded Bryant on virtually every jumper. The last time I looked at the rule book, face-guarding was illegal." -- was without question not valid in any way, shape, or form. But I guess Rosen, who's just a wee bit on the arrogant side, can only concede so much at one time without his head exploding. But then, that's pretty much what I've come to expect from a man who once said, "A note to long-suffering Cavaliers' fans: Don't get caught in the LeBron James pipe dream. The best King James can ever be is an average NBA player." Good call, Charley.
(And a final note: I would really like to see some video evidence of those routine face-guarding "toots" that Rosen says referees used to make. His claims just don't jibe with the 20 years of NBA action I've watched. Take that classic Blazers/Celtics double-overtime thriller on March 15, 1992. Buck Williams face-guarded Larry Bird the entire game -- Buck even told Mike Fratello in an interview that his defensive strategy against Bird was to "get a hand in Larry's face" -- yet he wasn't once whistled for it. If anybody was ever going to have a face-guarding call go their way, it was Larry Legend playing at the Boston Garden. Hey, I'm sure face-guarding has resulted in many fouls over the years, but typically only when the defender made or seemed to make contact with the offensive player, not because the officials were trying to stomp out the face-guarding menace.)
Brandon Marshall: The Denver Broncos' wide receiver could miss up to four months of offseason training after mutilating his right forearm in a bizarre at-home accident. According to the Associated Press: "Marshall has acknowledged [the accident] was the result of horseplay with family members and a misplaced fast-food bag. He said he slipped on the bag Saturday while wrestling with family members at a Florida resort and put his right arm through a home entertainment center." According to Steve Antonopulos, the Broncos head athletic trainer, Marshall "sustained right forearm lacerations to one artery, one vein, one nerve, two tendons and three muscles. All have been repaired, and his right forearm and elbow will be immobilized for six weeks. Rehabilitation will begin in six weeks. Full recovery is expected to take three to four months." This incident definitely qualifies for the Brian Griese Memorial Bonehead Injury Award, thus named because Griese once tripped on a steep driveway at a friend's house and was knocked unconscious, then later sprained his ankle when he was run over by his dog. (Said Griese: "I was walking down the stairs and my dog came barreling down the stairs after me and clipped me, and I kind of twisted my ankle on the stairs.")
J. Jonah Jameson says: Help end the menace of Spider-man by reading my guest NBA Closer column at Deadspin.