Around the League

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Around the League

Dwight Howard Photo ShootThe Miami Heat held up the championship trophy on June 20th, and a week later the 2013 NBA Draft was held in Brooklyn. Since then some veteran stars have relocated while others chose to remain with their current squads. Here’s a quick hits edition of the five most influential signings of the past few weeks:

The most speculated upon player this off-season was Dwight Howard. Entering his 10th pro campaign, the 27-year old, 7X All-Star, 5X Rebounding champ and 3X Defensive Player of the Year chose to depart the glitz and glamour of the Lakers and hitch on with the Rockets and head coach Kevin McHale. Howard was never truly comfortable in LA and it showed. He griped about Mike D’Antoni’s offense and his misuse. Nonetheless, Howard still led the league in boards, and when motivated he’s easily the best 5-man in the league.

Mikhail Prokhorov promised a winner when he bought the Nets a few years ago. With the acquisition via trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the rebuilding Celtics, Brooklyn now has the most talented first 5 in the league with PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson and C Brook Lopez. KG and The Truth may not have much left in the tank, but they will bring leadership and championship pedigree to a franchise that has struggled in the standings for so many years. And come the 2014 playoffs, these two won’t back down from anyone, including LeBron.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles ClippersThe Cleveland Cavaliers have the best young lead guard in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. And now they’ve gambled on the mercurial Andrew Bynum, who, when healthy, is one of the two or three best centers in the league. Only 6 million of Bynum’s two-year, 24-million-dollar contract with the Cavs is guaranteed, which is important in this case considering that Bynum played zero minutes last year for the 76ers due to knee issues. Entering his 9th year, Bynum is only 25 years old and has two championship rings from his time with Kobe and Co. If he can stay healthy this could be the best free agent signing of the summer.

The Golden State Warriors upset the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs and then a few weeks later signed free agent Andre Iguodala away from them. Entering his 10th year, the above-average defender Iguodala brings a toughness and well rounded game to coach Mark Jackson’s relatively young team. Iggy’s career averages are impressive:  15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.9 apg and 1.7 spg. He is a strong, sturdy wing player who has played in all 82 games five times in his career.

I’m going to combine a player and coach for my final pick – Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. Paul is the best point guard in basketball and pushed hard for the Clippers to go out and get the respected Rivers. After 9 seasons in Boston, including a title and another trip to the Finals, Rivers expressed interest in departing the rebuilding C’s. He found the perfect landing spot with “LA’s second team.” The talented Clips are on the verge of making the jump to title contender. However, if CP3 had decided to leave via free agency, LA would have slipped back to average in the talent-heavy Western Conference.

Ask the Czar

Carl from Aurora wants to revisit the rulebook:

In the last two minutes of the Bulls/Celtics game on Sunday, the ball hit two different Bulls players before hitting Paul Pierce last, who was completely out of bounds, and the ball was awarded to the Bulls. Why not the Celtics? The Celtic player was all the way out and was not in the field of play at all. Why was the ball awarded to the Bulls and not to the Celtics? I´m unclear on this rule, please clear it up for me. 

Carl, I understand your confusion. Since the Bulls were the last players to make contact with the basketball inbounds before it crossed the out-of-bounds line, it seems they should have been faulted rather than rewarded with the ball. However, a closer look at the game rules will help make sense of this call. According to Rule No. 8, Section II (c) in the Official Rules of the NBA for the 2011-2012 season: The ball is caused to go out-of-bounds by the last player to touch it before it goes out, provided it is out-of-bounds because of touching something other than a player. If the ball is out-of-bounds because of touching a player who is on or outside a boundary, such player caused it to go out.

If the basketball had ricocheted off the Bulls players and bounced on the floor out-of-bounds before hitting Pierce, then the officials would have awarded possession to the Celtics. Unfortunately Pierce was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because the ball hit Pierce first and the ground second, it was rightfully called out-of-bounds off of Pierce and turned over to Chicago.

Gameday Dish: Lakers vs. Celtics

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers and their 16 NBA Championships come to Boston only once during the regular season every year. Due to more than 50 years of history and rivalry with their West Coast counterparts, Boston Celtic fans look especially forward to the annual arrival of the purple and gold in the state where basketball was birthed. And since the Celts hang 17 Championship banners in the rafters of the TD Garden, tonight’s contest and the one hosted by the Angelino hoopsters later this year could be previews of the June championship round for the big enchilada.

At 14-10, Boston’s veteran squad suffered through a season-opening three-game losing streak as well as a separate 5-game slide, signaling to some the end of an era. But now Coach Doc Rivers’ team is on a season-high 5-game winning streak and, impressively, has been victorious in 9 of their last 10 games. The Celtics last played and won on Tuesday at home against the Charlotte Bobcats. In that 48 minutes, 14th-year forward Paul Pierce scored 15 points to move into second place on Boston’s all-time scoring list, passing 3-time NBA MVP Larry Joe Bird. In Boston buckets, ‘The Truth’ now trails only HOF’er John Havlicek.

Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty ImagesCoach Mike Brown’s squad last competed on Monday night in Philly where they were beaten 95-90 by the Atlantic division leading 76ers. At 14-11, the Lake Show sits two games behind their Staples Center cotenants, the Clippers, in the Pacific Division. The problem for Kobe Bryant and company has been their collective road performance. LA is 11-2 at home, but only 3-9 on the road. Tonight’s matchup is the fourth in a current six-game road trip for the Lakers (so far they’re 1-2).

In Monday’s loss, Kobe passed his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA’s career scoring list with 28,601. Amazingly, in his 16th season in the league, 5X champ Bryant leads the NBA in scoring at 29.3 ppg despite a torn ligament in his right wrist.

These two storied teams met in both the 2008 NBA Finals and again in the 2010 Finals. In ’08, the first year of Boston’s new Big 3 of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics prevailed. In ’10, former coach Phil Jackson and Kobe beat the Green&White in a tough, physical seven-game series that came down to the last minute. And while most league followers and commentators don’t believe that either of these teams will represent their respective conferences and meet in the 2012 title series, both sides in tonight’s contest have the veteran talent, leadership and coaching to be in the mix and make a run to the ring come the postseason

I’ll be back in the TNT booth with Marv Albert and my upcoming Rising Stars Challenge rival Steve Kerr for LAL @ BOS tonight at 8:00 PM ET.

Fratello Telestrator: Paul Pierce

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