Kudos for Rick Carlisle

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle reacts during his team’s play against the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series in Dallas, Texas June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Jason Whitlock heaps praise on on Rick Carlisle for his coaching in Game 4:

He did crazy (stuff). He inserted J.J. Barea into the starting lineup. Barea has been a nightmare in the Finals. He can’t finish at the rim. He can’t knock down open perimeter shots. He left his game in the Western Conference playoffs.

Carlisle went with Barea to change his rotation and rest Shawn Marion. With Barea in the lineup, DeShawn Stevenson would come off the bench and defend Wade or LeBron James.

Carlisle also tied Peja Stojakovic to the bench. Peja left his shot in Los Angeles. The few minutes Carlisle would have wasted on Peja, he gave to Brian Cardinal. Well, at least “The Custodian” didn’t turn the ball over and escort a Heat offensive player to the rim.

The Barea and Cardinal moves didn’t really pan out. That’s fine. Down 2-1 and with Dirk sick, a coach has to try something.

And Carlisle did find minutes for Stevenson. In Dallas’ two victories, Stevenson has played a combined 48 minutes. In Dallas’ two losses, Stevenson has played 29 minutes. Stevenson played 26 minutes Tuesday. He knocked down three 3-pointers. He played solid defense on James and Wade.

Where Carlisle really made his mark Tuesday was in the fourth quarter, when he mixed in some zone defense. The Heat scored only 14 points in the final 12 minutes. The zone slowed Wade’s penetration, and it masked Nowitzki’s exhaustion.

Carlisle coached a masterpiece.

Carlisle definitely deserves some credit as Dallas came up big last night. But this is a crafty, veteran team that never gives up, and that, along with LeBron’s Houdini act, had just as much to do with the outcome.

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Line of the Night (11/19): Peja Stojakovic

You read that right: Peja Stojakovic. The Hornets are trying to stay competitive without Chris Paul, and Peja’s 25-point, 13-rebound effort led New Orleans to a 110-103 win over the Pacific Division-leading Phoenix Suns. He was 7-11 from 3PT range on the night.

The win is especially impressive given David West’s off night (6p, 4r, 2-11 shooting), but the Hornets had a balanced attack with four other players in double figures.

The NBA’s 68 worst contracts

The economy is really starting to take its toll on professional sports, and the NBA is no different. Bad contracts are bad even when the economy is pumping, but they really stand out in tough times like these. So I decided to look through the payrolls team-by-team to try to identify the worst contracts in the NBA. I expected to list 15-20 names, but I ended up scribbling down 68. That’s right, there are no fewer than 68 bad contracts in the NBA.

I didn’t include any of the players that are in the final year of their contracts because…well, what’s the point? They’ll be off the books in a few months anyway. Instead, I wanted to focus on those contracts that are going to haunt teams for years to come, so to be eligible, players have to have at least a year left on their current deals.

It’s tough to compare someone making superstar money to an average, everyday role player, so I split these 68 contracts up into three groups: the Overpaid Role Players, the Not-So-Super Stars and the Injury-Prones. I will rank them from least-worst to most-worst with the thinking that I wouldn’t trade the player for anyone further down the list but I would trade him for anyone previously mentioned. So, for example, if a guy is listed #7 within a particular group, I’m not trading him for anyone ranked #6-#1, but I would think seriously about moving him for a guy that is ranked #8+.

So let’s start with the role players and go from there…

(Note: In most cases, I don’t blame the player himself for his outrageous contract. The fault lies with the general manager that inked the guy to the deal. However, this rule goes out the window if the player has a history of only producing in his contract year – I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas.)

Read the rest after the jump...

Marc Stein’s trade talk: Amare, Tyson, Richard Jefferson and more

The trade deadline is Thursday, and trade talk is really heating up. Marc Stein gives us the latest.

Two rival executives we spoke with Sunday night immediately wondered whether the Suns’ decision to replace Terry Porter with Alvin Gentry would convince Phoenix to “tap the brakes,” as one put it, on its Stoudemire talks. If the Suns are going to try to recapture a semblance of what they had under Mike D’Antoni, with the only holdover from D’Antoni’s staff taking over, you can understand why Gentry would prefer to have Stoudemire for the rest of the season to help the cause.

Stoudemire is still under contract for another season, so it wouldn’t hurt the Suns if they wanted to see what Gentry could do with this group before moving their star player over the summer. I’d say that the Porter firing makes it more likely that Stoudemire stays put, though I’d still put the chances at better than 50/50 that Amare is moved before the trade deadline.

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David West drops 40 to help upend Lakers

Check out the 1-2 punch of Chris Paul and David West last night against the Lakers: 72 points (25-47 from the field), 15 assists (all by Paul) and 14 rebounds. West was unstoppable for much of the second half; he drained 18-footers like they were layups and the Lakers simply didn’t have an answer for him defensively. He finished with 40 points and 11 rebounds, while Paul posted 32 points, 15 assists and three steals en route to an impressive 116-105 win. It’s tough to beat a team when two of their players post numbers like that.

For his part, Kobe Bryant kept the Lakers in it through much of the third quarter, scoring 20 of his 39 points in the period. But he only managed two points in the fourth quarter on 1 of 6 shooting from the field. Meanwhile, the Lamar Odom Watch continues. LO only got 12 minutes, but managed 12 points, three assists and a rebound in that limited run.

The Hornets have won 16 of their last 21 games. After kind of a shaky start, it’s good to see one of the premier teams in the West actually playing like title contenders. However, I just don’t know how far that Paul and West can take them. Peja Stojakovic (12.9 ppg, 40% FG%) and Morris Peterson (6.3 ppg) are shells of their former selves , and other than James Posey (10.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg), the Hornets don’t have many other scoring options. I really thought after his fine play last season that Julian Wright would make a big jump this year, but he’s been struggling with a sore ankle and has only appeared in limited minutes in 16 games thus far.

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