The Miami Heat: After his team scored only 13 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 102-86 loss to the Crabs in Cleveland, Dwyane Wade said: "This team is just better than us. You have to be realistic. I understand this team has NBA championship aspirations. We don't have that. We're focusing on trying to get to the playoffs and this team is trying to get to the championship. It's totally different."
Translation: We suck.
Okay, maybe that interpretation is a tad harsher than what Pookie actually meant, but it's true.
Meanwhile, King Crab pulled a reverse Magic Johnson. Instead of going from point guard to center, LeBron went from forward to point guard. This was necessary because Mo Williams and Delonte West are both MIA, and Boobie Gibson was scratched from the starting lineup and didn't enter the game until the second half after joining his pregnant fiancee, singer Keyshia Cole, who was hospitalized for precautionary reasons.
Said James: "I knew I was going to have the ball in my hands a lot because I was the starting point guard or point forward, whatever you want to call it. Like Magic [Johnson]. I can go coast to coast and do a lot of things with the ball that point guards in this league can't do. I was aggressive, they fouled me and I continued to be aggressive."
Agressive. Yes. That's one way to put it. LeBron (36 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists) finished with 21 free throw attempts. Meanwhile, D-Wade -- who went 11-for-26 from the field and committed a game-high 6 turnovers -- finished with only two foul shots. Has it really been that long since the 2006 NBA Finals?
Make no mistake: The Crabs were roughing Wade up, but the refs kept choking on their whistles. Home cookin'? What do you think? And Pookie's old teammate, Shaq, dropped Wade twice without a response from the officiating crew. For example:
By the way, in case you've forgotten, this isn't the first time these former teammates have bumped into each other...
Said Wade: "I went into him a couple times and nothing got called. I do what I normally do and that's be aggressive. He stepped up and delivered a couple body blows, but he knows I'm not going to break. So it's fine. He got a little blood, but it wasn't nothing."
Replied Shaq: "I'm not going to move and I ain't going to flop. So I'm just going to stand there. They're either going to call a foul or let us play."
I guess they decided to let 'em play. Unless somebody looked cross-eyed at LeBron, that is.
Dwyane Wade: As if everything I already mentioned wasn't enough, Pookie got straight up posterized in the first quarter by J.J. Hickson. Wade tried to get Hickson back in the third quarter, but J.J. rejected him at the rim.
Quentin Richardson: In 28 minutes, Q went 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-3 from downtown, and finished with a whopping zero points. On the bright side, he didn't have any turnovers.
The San Antonio Spurs: On TrueHoop, John Hollinger spun about how Tony Parker's inability to check back into the game might have been responsible for the Spurs loss to the Frail Blazers in Portland:
All Tony Parker could do was sit and watch. Marooned at the scorer's table while he waited for a whistle to get him back in the game, he saw the clock tick inside 4 minutes ... and 3 ... and 2 ... while a six-point San Antonio turned into a dispiriting 96-93 defeat to Portland.
Parker's whistle never came, courtesy of a 3:32 stretch without a dead ball, and by the time Parker got back in his team was trailing 88-87 and he was ice cold after spending five fourth-quarter minutes on the bench. San Antonio went 3:29 without scoring, encompassing five entry trips, until Manu Ginobili's lay-up with 18.5 seconds left and the outcome largely in hand.
Okay, sure. Maybe the Spurs pull this one out if Parker gets back into the game earlier. Or maybe they don't. But the fact is, the Spurs -- who entered the season as championship contenders -- were facing a team without its best player (Brandon Roy) and its two best centers (King Schlong and the Vanilla Godzilla). All things being equal, shouldn't this have been an easy win for San Antonio?
It would have been if these were the Spurs of old. But they are not. Tim Duncan (15 points, 12 rebounds) was outperformed by LaMarcus Aldridge (28 points, 13 boards). Juwan Howard's mummy (10 points, 5-for-5, 8 rebounds) played better than any of San Antonio's non-Duncan big men. Keith Bogans, Matt Bonner and Michael Finley combined for 28 scoreless minutes. Richard Jefferson finished with 8 points on 3-for-8 shooting.
Speaking of which...is anyone else tired of hearing announcers say that Jefferson "hasn't yet been worked into the mix"? The Spurs are 48 games into the season. What's the holdup? There was a time when San Antonio operated like the Borg, seamlessly assimilating players into their collective. Which is why when they restocked the shelves last summer -- adding Jefferson, Antonio McDyess, DeJuan Blair and Theo Ratliff -- everybody thought the Spurs were going to be okay.
But they aren't. They really aren't. I mean, they're probably good enough to win close to 50 games by beating up on bad teams. But plus-.500 teams have stymied them all season. The Frail Blazers became the second team -- after the Utah Jazz -- to sweep the season series against the Spurs. That never used to happen.
San Antonio has plenty of talent. That's not the problem. And while injuries to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have been a popular excuse from San Antonio fans, the fact is the Spurs have lost plenty of games in which their big guns have all been present and accounted for. Including contests in which their opponents have been without one or more of their top guys. Chemistry is a funny thing. Teams either have it or they don't. The Spurs always used to have it. Now? Not so much. And this has been particularly evident down the stretch.
Said Jefferson: "This year we've lost to the Blazers twice without Brandon Roy, lost to Denver without Carmelo. We just haven't played well and hit shots the last six minutes of the game."
I've said it before and I'm saying it again: The Spurs championship era has ended.
The Los Angeles Clippers: So the Clippers...what...fired Mike Dunleavy as their coach while retaining him as their general manager? I mean, I can't blame them in the least. Dumbleavy has been a turrible coach for, well, ever. But...why now? And why keep him around at all? Apparently, for the same reason he relieved of his coaching duties any earlier: To save money. And not some astronomical amount, either. We're talking about $5.5 million. According to USA Today, Clippers owner Donald Sterling was worth $500 million back in 2005. I'm pretty sure he could afford to give the team a completely fresh start, right?
I guess Sterling thinks assistant coach Kim Hughes -- who has been named interim head coach -- can do better than Dumbleavy. Or maybe it's just another cost-saving move. But if that's the case, I ask again, why now? The Clippers could have started over before the season started. You know, maybe give the team a fighting chance. Assuming Sterling even noticed that was necessary.
[The Clippers] stayed with [Dunleavy] while the team dropped seven of its first 10 games, even though eight of them were played in Staples Center. They stayed with him through a four-game losing streak in January that included a 40-point loss to the Lakers and a blown 13-point lead in the final 15 minutes against the Cavaliers. They even allowed him to finish off this last eight-game road trip after back-to-back losses to New Jersey and Minnesota -- the two worst teams in the league -- in the fourth and fifth games. Maybe Sterling didn’t want to buy another airline ticket for Dunleavy to come home when the charter flights were already paid for.
So the Clippers wound up dropping seven of the eight games and plummeted to seven games below .500. They are seven games behind Portland for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Yes, those would be the same Portland Trail Blazers who lost both of their centers for the season, as well as an assortment of injuries that kept out every member of their rotation except Andre Miller and Martell Webster at one stage or another of the season. So that wipes out the injury excuse Dunleavy liked to trot out as often as possible.
Houston started the season without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, but the Rockets are still ahead of the Clippers. So is New Orleans, which has had Chris Paul in and out of the lineup. Yes, the Clippers have been hit, most notably by the broken kneecap that kept No. 1 overall draft pick Blake Griffin from playing a single game. But they also have been done in by uninspired play, bad substitution patterns and a general malaise that indicated a lack of confidence in the head coach. If they were going to try to make a run at the playoffs they needed a jumpstart, not the setback that was this final trip under Dunleavy's watch.
Dunleavy hasn't been the answer for a long time. The Clippers seemed to be the last to realize that.
In which case they're probably also be the last to realize that Kim Whateverhisnameis isn't the answer either. But I'm sure they'll be preparing for the NBA Draft lottery by then.
In other words: They are who we thought they were.
On a personal level, I'm sad to see Mike leave the sidelines. Pictures of Dunleavy -- facepalming, looking shocked, looking annoyed, or just plain looking like he has no idea what he's doing out there -- have been a staple of this site for years. So I am hearby challening all Basketbawful readers to scour the Interwebs for the best Dumbleavy pictures you can find. Next week, I will post a special pictorial retrospective of Dunleavey's coaching career with The Other L.A. Team.
Michael Wilbon: The same 'tard who brought us "Kobe Bryant should be the new NBA logo and get Jerry West's old nickname" had another beauty last night, as reported by AnacondaHL: "Oh my God, on PTI did Wilbon just suggest Utah and Memphis switch names? Utah Grizzlies, and Memphis Jazz? WORST OF THE NIGHT."
Get Loud: Presenting -- courtesy of AnacondaHL -- the official theme song of the 2009-10 Sacramento Kings:
Bad baby names: From chris: "In a world where Mario West plays CONTRIBUTORY BASKETBALL...SOME KID WAS NAMED 'ESPN.' Not 'Espen' like the former hockey player, but ESPN as in, the network that brings you mediocrely-produced Association coverage, and the insights of Hubie Brown. Seriously."
Lacktion report: After recovering from his baby name shock, chris submitted his daily lacktivity update:
Heat-Crabs: Jamaal Magloire countered two points with a pair of fouls and a giveaway in 5:41 to earn a 3:2 Voskuhl, while Darnell "Lacktion" Jackson clawed his way into a missed field goal for a +1 suck differential in 2:15!
Spurs-Frail Blazers: Matt Bonner rocketed into riches tonight with a 4.7 trillion (4:42), while Michael Finley found himself filed in the lacktion ledger with a surprising +5 in 6:06 after taking two fouls, losing the rock to Rudy Fernandez on a bad pass, and bricking twice from Pioneer Place (including a potential game-tying shot at the end!!!!).