Wednesday , Feb , 04 , 2009 Christopher Sells

The Return of Melo

Also, the Spurs are old and more talk about Kobe’s 61.

The Return of MeloBest in the West?
Carmelo Anthony is back from his broken hand and has been playing well, averaging 27 points and 5.5 rebounds in two Nuggets wins. And he confirmed what most of us, except for the league’s coaches, apparently, already knew. When asked if he was the best small forward in the West, he responded, "Can you name one better?" Nope. Not based on their play this season, anyway. The problem is that so many power forwards in the conference are spectacular.

The Nuggets will need Anthony to continue his recent brilliance since Chauncey Billups sprained his ankle last night in the second quarter against the Spurs and didn’t return to the game. It’s hard out there for All-Star point guards.

Part of the reason that the Nuggets were able to hold of the Spurs for last night’s win was that the Spurs trotted out their B team to play last night. Gregg Popovich’s explanation:

"[Tony] Parker makes the All-Star team, becomes hard to deal with, so we’re going to sit him and teach him a lesson. [Tim] Duncan says he wants to renegotiate his contract, so I said, ‘Sit, I’m not talking to you.’"

Word is that Manu Ginobili was legitimately injured, so he’s in the clear and Michael Finley is just old and needed rest. Duncan and Parker just were apparently tired. It would be easy to take Pop to task for the questionable tactics, except that his team almost won. So I guess there’s not really much to be said.

Still Talking About 61…
So a day later, the talk of Kobe’s 61 still hasn’t subsided. It doesn’t help that the four-letter network has been beating us over the head with it, but there have been countless people comparing it to other performances against the Knicks (most notably Michael Jordan’s 55 against the Knicks) and wondering if this is something Kobe could keep up. The Lakers play in Toronto tonight, where Kobe famously put 81 on the Raptors three years ago. Everyone wants to see the Kobe scoring machine keep going. Everyone but Phil Jackson, of course.

"We don’t want him to because we have so many other players that can contribute," Jackson said. "Obviously with Andrew [Bynum] out, we’re missing a piece of scoring there that’s been effective for us. At the end of the game [against New York], Pau [Gasol] was feeding Kobe and finding him in ceratin situations where he probably could have persisted in the post himself."

The Knicks’ crowd seemed pretty happy that Gasol and the other Lakers kept setting Kobe up for the record-breaking performance. Their applause for him and chants of "MVP" pretty much proved that. While most have credited the Madison Square Garden crowd for acknowledging that type of performance, some have criticized them for it, most notably Reggie Miller.

"{I was texting Spike [Lee] as the games was going on, saying how disappointed I was in the fans chanting ‘MVP!’ for Kobe. I was like, ‘How the mighty have fallen.’ Because I remember in times past, I never got cheered. I’m sure Jordan never got cheered. And now they are chanting ‘MVP!’ for Kobe? And all (Lee) kept doing was texting back and going, ‘Look, times have changed. The climate has changed.’}"

Spike is right. Things aren’t what they used to be. Back in those days, the Knicks were good and rivalries were far more heated, to the point that many altercations took place. Now things are more civil and the NBA has worked hard to get their players to be more liked. And I seem to remember the MSG crowd respecting Jordan. They may have respected Reggie if he hadn’t spent so much time antagonizing the crowd as well.

And, for the record, LeBron James has no intentions of trying to match or top Kobe’s scoring output when the Cavs play the Knicks tonight.

"…It’s not about individuals in this league– it’s about the basketball game. I’m not trying to out-do Kobe or anybody on their team. I’m just trying to win the game. I just go out and play my game. I’m not a video game where you can expect me to go out there and score 60 or 70. I play the game and I’m not about individual accolades."

So maybe the talk will be put to rest soon. Unless Dwyane Wade comes in later in the week and goes bananas as well.

The Long Road to Recovery

When Andrew Bynum tore his MCL last week, there were a few people out there who called it karma, since he broke one of Gerald Wallace’s ribs and collapsed one of his lungs with a flagrant foul. Wallace has been hospitalized since, being evaluated away from his team and across the country from his home.

It was finally decided that he could return home yesterday. So he’s headed back to Charlotte. On a bus. Doctors were unsure of how his lung would hold up in an airplane, so they instructed him to take a nearly 2500 miles road trip. No word on whether the bus will be stopping for sightseeing.