Despite some obvious rust — seeing as he hasn’t played in an NBA game that counted since January of last year — Stephon Marbury looked alright in his Celtics debut, a home win over the Pacers. Even at less than his best (8 pts, 2 asts, 12 mins), anyone can see how Good Steph will help the C’s as a backup point guard; the problem is that everyone is terrified of what will happen if/when Bad Steph shows up. Last night the new Employee #8 had a few timing issues, and naturally he doesn’t know Boston’s playbook yet. But Tommy Heinsohn brought up a good point; since Steph will often be playing against backup point guards, his adjustment period will be that much easier from here on out … If the Pacers hadn’t played the C’s so close, this would have been a good opportunity for Doc Rivers to get Marbury a lot of minutes. T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack will make anyone guarding them have to work, between T.J.’s speed, Jack’s strength, and the fact that both of them are always pushing the pace and looking to shoot. As it stands, Steph could only play in spots as Rajon Rondo (17 asts) had to take care of business … The other day we talked about the Knicks and Nuggets having more tattoos than any other team in the NBA. We may have to throw the Celtics in that discussion now. Marbury, Mikki Moore, Big Baby, Eddie House, JR Giddens and KG all have a lot of ink. A graphic showed that Mikki Moore is the University of Nebraska’s all-time leading shot-blocker. Isn’t that like being the best actor in a Master P movie? Who is Mikki’s main competition, Rich King? Note to T.J. Ford: When Tommy Heinsohn says you’re a “grouch” on the court, you might want to step back and re-examine your enjoyment of the game.
Just to add to the drama, of course the Pistons go to Orlando without Allen Iverson and play their best game in weeks (seems like months), snapping their eight-game losing streak and convincing even more critics that Detroit is better without Iverson. ESPN’s Jon Barry probably said it best during the second half: “The Pistons are starting to believe they’re a good team again.”
Back in the starting lineup and playing like he just found out he’s not the father, Rip Hamilton was unstoppable. He dropped 31 points, running Courtney Lee through the hamster wheel and getting away with all those dirty veteran tricks — elbow to the gut coming off a screen, anyone? — he’s learned over the years. It seemed every time the Magic got close in the fourth quarter, Rip found himself open with Lee a step or two behind him, draining jumpers from close to mid-range.
ESPN ran a segment called “Building the Magic” where they showed a timeline of Orlando’s key franchise moves in the post-McGrady era: drafting Dwight Howard and Jameer, acquiring Hedo Turkoglu, signing Rashard Lewis and hiring Stan Van Gundy after the 20-minute Billy Donovan regime. You know what didn’t get mentioned? Drafting the ACC’s all-time leading scorer with a Lottery pick three years ago … Why doesn’t Van Gundy play Dwight (21 pts, 13 rebs) and Marcin Gortat next to each other more often? Imagine the picks and screens being set between those two, and on the other end, who wants to drive the lane against that? We don’t have to rehash Dwight’s intimidating presence, and Gortat looks like he used to run sh*t at a Colombian prison.
It’s hard to get too excited about Shaq‘s 45-point dumping on the Raptors, where he connected on 20-of-25 from the field and added 11 boards. Hell of a throwback performance, but at the same time, Shaq might as well have been in a gym by himself. The Raps played ZERO defense on him; in theory Diesel was getting triple-teamed, but in reality it was more like two Raptors standing there watching him dunk while the third guy was out of the play after trying and failing to steal the entry pass … Chris Bosh placed the blame somewhere else, though. “He was just camping down in the lane. I mean, if they’re not calling three seconds — I thought it was a rule, but I guess not,” Bosh said in the post-game. True, Shaq has been known to park himself in the lane while the refs let him do it, but you’ve gotta have more pride than to let a dude who’s a week short of his 37th birthday hang 45 on you … The Lakers’ 72-win dream (or at least the dream of some of their more insane fans) is dead, as Kobe and crew were just uncharacteristically bad in a loss to the Nuggets. L.A. didn’t even crack 80 on the scoreboard and shot 29 percent from the field, which you could attribute to them arriving in Denver at 4 a.m. yesterday morning, or to the Nuggets playing some tough defense … The Nuggets weren’t exactly an offensive machine, either. Carmelo went 4-for-17 (12 pts) and the team shot 3-for-21 from three, but they were just tougher and executed when they had to. Birdman racked up seven blocks to go with 11 points and 12 boards … Chris Paul had 20 assists against the Bucks. The Hornets won on a Tyson Chandler tip-in with three seconds left. The New Orleans crowd was going nuts. So why was CP extra-pissed afterwards? Because the Hornets had a 17-point lead with less than five minutes to go, and still needed a last-ditch shot to avoid blowing it. Charlie Bell was hitting crazy H-O-R-S-E shots during Milwaukee’s 22-4 run, and stuck the go-ahead corner three with 10.5 seconds left. New Orleans went to David West, who missed a jumper, but Chandler was there for the putback. After Luke Ridnour missed a desperation heave and the Hornets sideline reporter tracked down CP, he wasn’t happy at all. “That never should have happened,” Paul kept saying.
Other big stat lines from Friday: Al Horford had 21 points and 22 boards in a win over Miami; LeBron posted 30 points and 14 boards in a win at San Antonio; Ray Felton had 26 points and nine dimes to beat the Warriors; and Dirk dropped 41 points in an overtime win over the Thunder. Kevin Durant hurt his ankle in the first quarter and didn’t return … That Hawks game was a highlight orgy, with two standouts: D-Wade catching Joe Johnson in mid-air and tossing his dunk attempt when Joe was about to go with the full-extension Jordan Brand special; then Josh Smith catching a follow dunk where he finished it behind his head after nearly jumping over somebody in black … President Obama was sitting courtside for Wizards/Bulls. According to Washington’s play-by-play man, Obama is the first President to come to a Wiz game since Clinton; Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. never made it out to a game. Every time JaVale McGee scored, he saluted Obama … Mark Jones in the ESPN studio: “The Bulls are dealing with a smaller deficit than President Obama is dealing with.” How long do you think it took him to write that one? … As for the game, the Wizards won in a 20-piecing. During one Joakim Noah free throw sequence, the Wiz color commentator was asked to break down Noah’s form. “Ugh, I don’t even want to look at that,” he said … We’re out like Bosh blaming the refs …