Tracy McGrady: You'd better sit down for this, because it's going to be quite the shocker: T-Mac left last night's game against the Thunder in the opening minute of the second half after hurting his left knee, which was sliced open during the summer to have "loose bodies" removed. And, even more shockingly, he didn't return.
Said McGimpy: "Tonight I went back to square one, even before surgery, is how my knee is feeling right now. I want to play, man. I want to play. Just to get off to this start, for me personally this is a bad start. To have to play your way through an injury that I've never had before and a surgery that was my first surgery is very frustrating. My game is really based on athleticism, and that's something that I don't have right now. I've never had any relief because I've just been trying to work my way into playing shape and strengthen my leg. I've never been 100 percent. I've just been trying to play, hoping that playing on it will take me over the edge and I don't have any more pain. It hasn't worked in my favor. It's sharp pain. It almost just seems like I never had surgery. I'm feeling the same pain."
Let me say up front that I know exactly nothing about Tracy's surgery or any rehab he's been doing since then, so I fully admit I'm talking out of my you-know-what here. But when I think about T-Mac, I can't help but compare him to Kobe. They're similar players with similar physical abilities and basketball skills. The big difference is that Kobe absolutely kills himself training to become the best player alive. This has been well-publicized. I've never read or heard anything about McGrady pushing limits or breaking personal barriers during the offseason. And, frankly, he doesn't strike me as that type of guy. If Kobe'd had loose bodies removed from his knee, I would imagine he'd bust his butt rehabbing and working out to make that joint stronger than ever. McGrady? I don't think he did that...which is why he's struggling now. I know I might be way off on this. But it's just a gut feeling.
Anyway, like I said last week...you can probably hold off on ordering those 2009 NBA Champion Houston Rockets t-shirts...
The Yao Watch: Egads. A second straight game without having one of his shots blocked. This is almost certainly the result of a reverse stat curse. However, Yao did suffer a left foot injury last night. And yes, that's the same foot he broke last season. It doesn't sound like it's serious...yet. But it sure makes me nervous.
The Oklahoma City Thunder: That's 1-10 now. In case you're keeping track at home.
The Phoenix Suns defense: They gave up 109 points to a Jazz team that was still missing two starters (Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur) and started Jarron Collins at center. So much for Terry Porter's "defense first" philosophy. Uh, Terry. If they're not defending or running, you might as well be coaching a lottery team. And there's a lot of season left, so that's not outside the realm of possibilities.
Shaq: The Big Cactus battled foul trouble all night and finished with 9 points on 3-for-11 shooting and one lonely rebound. Yes, you read that correctly. Shaq had just one board in almost 32 minutes of PT. (The only other time that happened was March 29, 1999, against the Vancouver Grizzlies. However, that was during Dennis Rodman's short stint with the Lakers...and Rodman grabbed 17 rebounds.) Said the Diesel: "I had two quick fouls, so I had to go to my finesse game." Here's the problem with that: Shaq never had a finesse game. And it showed. Even worse, Shaq had three shots blocked, including back-to-back swats by Andrei Kirilenko in the fourth quarter. You can watch all three blocks here.
Another quick note on Shaq. He was fined $25,000 for verbally abusing officials and not leaving the court in a timely manner when he was ejected Sunday for almost killing Rodney Stuckey. And as an anonymous commenter noted, this wasn't a first for the Big Flagrant. The last time the Suns faced the Pistons, last February, Shaq put Amir Johnson on the floor.
Internal dissent: After last night's loss to the Jazz, Steve Nash said: "We don't really run that well. They're a good running team at home and we're not really a running team at the moment." This comment came just a week after Raja Bell complained about the team not running enough. And it wasn't the first time Captain Canada has sounded tepid on the Suns' new slow-it-down style. Last week, he noted that: "When Shaq plays (well) it's great. We're much more deliberate. I just hope we find the versatility and balance. When Shaquille isn't on the floor, we're not a team that's built for half-court basketball." Shaq, of course, keeps saying that championships are won "inside-out" (Translation: Get the ball to me). Terry Porter says he's fine with his team running...but that's not how he's calling the shots right now. This might just be transition pains as the Suns learn a new brand of ball. But if the team continues to be so inconsistent, you can probably expect continued grumpiness from the :07 Seconds or Less holdovers.
Louis Amundson: Basketbawful readers Garron and Jason K were quick to notice that the 2006 D-League Rookie of the Year had a 19-second Mario against the Jazz.
Jarron Collins: As noted above, he started at center for the Jazz. His line: 12 minutes, 0-for-2, 2 fouls, for a glorious suck differential of +4 (as noted by Basketbawful reader Filip).
The Los Angeles Clippers: They are now 1-9. And eight of those games have been at home. The Clippers have gone straight to suck. They did not pass GO. They will not collect $200. (But Baron Davis will get $65 million over five years.)
Speaking of B-Diddy, he could have tied it at the buzzer, but his turrible three-point attempt had as good a chance of reaching the moon as the basket. Said Davis: "Basically, we were trying to get like a misdirection and get me coming off the wing for a 3. But they read it right. And when I caught the ball, I had two guys on me and almost a second and a half to get a shot up with Tim Duncan -- one of the best defensive players -- standing in my face."
It was just another bad shot in a night full of 'em for the Clips. And coach Mike Dunleavy wants everybody to know that his players are chucking up some ugly ones. "We had some situations on turnovers that were careless turnovers, but the biggest factor to me was shot selection. We probably had 10 bad shots in this game. You can't give that many possessions away and expect to win. Until we get the discipline we need, as far as taking good shots and not making careless turnovers, we're going to struggle." Man...if only the Clippers had somebody to teach and instill discipline in the players. Who's supposed to do that again? Oh. Yeah. The coach.
The Fabulous Oberto: Caleb "the nailbiting Spurs fan of Brisbane" was not pleased by what he saw out of the Fabulous One last night: 14 minutes, 0-for-1 shooting, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 foul. Usually, it's a bad sign when your starting center doesn't grab a single rebound and is thoroughly outperformed by backup Matt Bonner (7 points, 4 rebounds and 1 blocked shot).
Steve Novak: He surpassed last Saturday's Mario with an 8-second Super Mario against the Spurs. You keep reaching for the stars, Steve!
George Karl: Yesterday, Denver Stiffs ran a post about how Karl -- surprise, surprise! -- had some rather unflattering thing to say about the recently-departed Allen Iverson: "There are less bad plays, more solid plays. I think the wasteful, cheap possessions that we used to have 10 to 15 a game, they don't exist very much anymore. We have contested-shot charts, bad-shot charts and cheap defensive possessions. I would say that when A.I. was here, we had most games in the teens of contested, tough shots, sometimes in the 20s. And I don't think we've had a double-digit one since (Billups has) been here." And more: "I don't think there's any question coaching a team for many minutes, without a passing and point guard mentality, is frustrating for a coach. Sometimes I saw something, but I couldn't get it done on the court because I didn't have a playmaker out there."
Reading between the lines isn't too had on this one: The team's failure wasnt MY fault, it was ALLEN IVERSON'S fault. So add A.I. to the list of players who have failed Karl, which includes Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Ray Allen, Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson. (Note that three of those players won championships without Karl.) I'm sure Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups will be added to this list some day.
The American legal system: From Yahoo! news: "A homeless man has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $101 million for starting two fires, including one that burned more than 163,000 acres in California two years ago." I get the jail time and, in fact, think the duration is a little short. But, seriously, what's the point in sentencing a homeless man to a $100+ million settlement? What does it accomplish? You might as well force him to remunerate in Wonderflonium or Space Gold. Here's a little reality check, Judge Whoever. If that man could pay back even $100 -- let alone $100 million -- he wouldn't be living in a cardboard box and eating out of dumpsters. But I'm sure this steep sentencing will scare other transients from starting fires in the future. Anyway, on the subject of the American legal system...
Mark Cuban: The latest scandal -- accusations of insider trading -- probably has him yearning for those halcyon days when all he had to worry about was keeping bloggers out of his locker room. Of course, Cuban, as always, remains defiant.