NBA News & Rumors: KG, Westbrook, Jackson, Bynum/Odom, Miller and Millsap

Garnett’s knee is just fine. It has been a concern in camp, but apparently KG has his explosion back. In a recent practice, he caught an alley-oop and slammed it home. The Celtics’ fortunes depend heavily on the health of Garnett’s knee. Without him at full strength, they’ll have a tough time competing with the Cavs and Magic. As an NBA fan, a healthy KG is good for the league.

Is Russell Westbrook turning into a dependable point guard? The Oklahoman reports that is A/T ratio in the preseason is 5.4. Last season it was 1.6, which is quite bad. It’s a small sample size, but if Westbrook can get his A/T ratio above 3.0, it will reap dividends for the Thunder. From a fantasy perspective, if he were to cut his turnovers in half and have the same number of assists (which would result in a A/T ratio of about 3.0), then he’d be the 15th most efficient point guard (just below Mo Williams) instead of the 21st most efficient.

Stephen Jackson will play for the Warriors, but he’s not happy about it. There’s a good chance the Warriors will acquiesce and try to fulfill Jackson’s wishes to be traded, but the 31 year-old has three more years remaining on his contract at the tune of $9.3 per season, so there’s no guarantee that a playoff team would be willing to make a move for him. Miami could move Michael Beasley, but Jackson’s contract would ruin the Heat’s financial flexibility next summer. The Suns could use Jackson to replace an aging Grant Hill, but they’re in financial trouble. The Hornets probably make the most sense, but are they willing to spend?

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Chicago’s youngsters star in upset

Bulls GM John Paxson has taken a lot of grief for his decision to the draft rights of LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas back in 2006. But as Thomas was knocking down jumper after jumper in the fourth quarter of Game 1 at the Garden, that trade doesn’t look quite as bad anymore. Sure, Aldridge still projects to have the better career, but Thomas has made big strides in his third season, and he’s still just 22 years old. He finished with 16 points (on 8 of 12 shooting), six rebounds and three blocks.

But I’m burying the lead. Derrick Rose was the reason the Bulls were able to pull the upset. He posted 36 points (tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most points by a rookie in his playoff debut) and 11 assists. He shot 12 of 19 from the field and made all 12 of his free throws. It was truly one of the best playoff debuts by a rookie in the history of the league, especially considering that he was going up one of the better defensive point guards in Rajon Rondo.

Joakim Noah rounded out the “young core” trio with 12 points, 17 rebounds and three blocks. Ben Gordon chipped in with 20 points and had a great fourth quarter.

The Celtics are in a bad way down 0-1 and without Kevin Garnett for the foreseeable future. Rondo played well (29 points, nine boards, seven dimes, one turnover), and Paul Pierce scored an inefficient 23 points (on 8 of 21 shooting), but Ray Allen’s 1 for 12 shooting killed Boston.

Simmons connects Garnett news with suspect reporting

One point that Bill Simmons made in his “woe is me” column about how the Celtics will be without KG in the playoffs was how the truth about Garnett’s injury didn’t come out until the franchise let it out.

There’s a hidden sub-story lurking here: It involves the fall of newspapers, lack of access and the future of reporting, not just with sports but with everything. I grew up reading Bob Ryan, who covered the Celtics for the Boston Globe and remains the best basketball writer alive to this day. Back in the 1970s and early ’80s, he was overqualified to cover the team. In 1980, he would have sniffed out the B.S. signs of this KG story, kept pursuing it, kept writing about it, kept working connections and eventually broken it. True, today’s reporters don’t get the same access Ryan had, but let’s face it: If 1980 Bob Ryan was covering the Celtics right now, ESPN or someone else would lure him away. And that goes for the editors, too. The last two sports editors during the glory years of the Globe’s sports section were Vince Doria and Don Skwar … both of whom currently work for ESPN.

For the past few years, as newspapers got slowly crushed by myriad factors, a phalanx of top writers and editors fled for the greener pastures of the Internet. The quality of nearly every paper suffered, as did morale. Just two weeks ago, reports surfaced that the New York Times Company (which owns the Globe) was demanding $20 million in union concessions or it’d shut down the Globe completely. I grew up dreaming of writing a sports column for the Globe; now the paper might be gone before I turn 40. It’s inconceivable. But this Garnett story, and how it was (and wasn’t) covered, reminds me of “The Wire,” which laid out a blueprint in Season 5 for the death of newspapers without us fully realizing it. The season revolved around the Baltimore Sun and its inability (because of budget cuts and an inexperienced staff) to cover the city’s decaying infrastructure. The lesson was inherent: We need to start caring about the decline of newspapers, because, really, all hell is going to break loose if we don’t have reporters breaking stories, sniffing out corruption, seeing through smoke and mirrors and everything else. That was how Season 5 played out, and that’s why “Wire” creator David Simon is a genius. He saw everything coming before anyone else did.

Ultimately, Garnett’s injury doesn’t REALLY matter. It’s just sports. But I find it a little chilling that the best player on the defending NBA champion could be sidelined for two solid months, with something obviously wrong, and nobody came close to unraveling the real story. We still don’t know what’s wrong with his knee. We just know it’s screwed up. And, yeah, you could say that Garnett has always been guarded — with just a few people in his circle of trust — and yeah, you could say that only a few members of the Celtics organization know the truth (maybe coach Doc Rivers, GM Danny Ainge, majority owner Wyc Grousbeck, the trainers and that’s it). But this was a massive local sports story. Its coverage is not a good sign for the future of sports journalism or newspapers in general.

It’s a good point, and one that has been made before (without the references to “The Wire” — Bill’s specialty). With the death of the newspaper, there won’t be 5-10 hungry reporters sitting in a press room at the Boston Herald waiting to dig into a story. Most reporting is done from a distance these days, and even those with “access,” don’t have that much access. What’s lost here is that franchises are more guarded about information than they’ve ever been, because they’ve been burned by the Bob Ryans of the world before. Ryan was/is just doing his job, and doing it well, but there is little to no incentive for teams to be up front about injury information. For this, we have Bill Belicheat to thank.

Bill Simmons on the KG news

Predictably, Simmons was crushed to learn that Kevin Garnett will be unable to play early on in the playoffs. His editor asked him for an immediate reaction.

The best thing about being a sports fan on the West Coast: Every game comes on three hours earlier. I watched a 12-inning Boston-Oakland game Tuesday night that ended at the totally reasonable time of 11:29 p.m. Had I stayed up for that one on the East Coast, I would have been dead for work the next day, Oh, wait, I don’t have a real job. Bad example. But you get the idea.

The worst thing about being a sports fan on the West Coast: Things happen while you’re sleeping. I never know what to expect upon first glance at my Blackberry. Today, I woke up at 7:10 in the morning, trekked downstairs, let my dog outside, ground some coffee beans, filled the filter, added the water, got the brewing process going, and then, even as I was still wiping the crust from my eyes, these three e-mails were atop my inbox…

It’s interesting to read his stuff on a shortened timeline. (He says he had only 150 minutes to write the piece.) Is it as funny or as good as his usual columns? You be the judge.

Here’s how the NBA Playoffs are going to go…

Sure, with its seven-game format, the NBA Playoffs aren’t quite as consistently dramatic as March Madness, but there are a number of compelling storylines as we head into this year’s postseason. Will KG return in time to help the Celtics try to repeat? Will LeBron and the Cavs ride home court advantage to the Finals? Can Chris Paul and the Hornets put a less-than-stellar regular season behind them and make a run? Can Kobe finally win a title without Shaq?

The Playoffs start on Saturday, and looking at the matchups, I think I have a pretty good idea how things will play out. Granted, I’m likely to make a few mistakes along the way, but that’s part of the fun, right?


#1 Cavaliers vs. #8 Pistons
Let’s see – the Pistons limped into the playoffs, going 8-9 in March and 3-5 in April. Earlier in the season, they traded away arguably their best player (Chauncey Billups) and the guy they got in return (Allen Iverson) is (rumored to be) spending his time getting banned from the local casinos. If Detroit had held onto Billups, maybe they’d be able to make this a series, but without him, they’re floundering. I hope Joe Dumars has fun with that cap space!

#4 Hawks vs. #5 Heat
Here’s a first round battle between two teams that don’t have a legitimate chance of making the Finals. If the NBA were to adopt a single-elimination format (or even three-game series across the board), maybe….maybe…one of these teams could get hot and make a run. As it stands, the winner will have the right to face a determined Cavs team in the second round. Not that it matters, but I’m going with the Hawks here. They have home court advantage, have won three of four against the Heat this season and are simply a better team. Hats off to Dwyane Wade for willing the Heat this far, but I don’t think we’re going to see a LeBron/D-Wade matchup in the second round. (Not unless Jermaine O’Neal discovers the Fountain of Youth by this weekend.)

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