Posted: Monday January 23, 2006 12:54PM; Updated: Monday January 23, 2006 9:05PM
Marty Burns will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
Turns out he was right. Just like he was right to sit out the fourth quarter of that game, despite the protests of the critics (again) who said he was denying fans a chance to witness history. Of course, many of those same critics would have lampooned Bryant for staying in the game and chasing a personal record at the risk of injury.
Bryant doesn't have to worry about that anymore. On Sunday, he painted an 81-point masterpiece, with only a handful of points coming after the outcome had been decided. And his Lakers won the game.
The only question now is, what will he do for an encore?
Chris Paul, Hornets
One night after posting a career-high 28 points and 11 assists in a loss to the Wizards, the Rookie of the Year candidate collected 27 and 13 on Saturday at New York while leading the Hornets to their eighth victory in 11 games. Over his last four games, Paul is averaging 23.8 points, 9.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 51.9 percent from floor (28-of-54) and 92.0 percent from the foul line (35-of-38). The Hornets have now won five of six since Paul came back after sitting out one game from a sprained finger suffered on Jan. 6 that was supposed to keep him out two weeks. Said Knicks coach Larry Brown: "He is as good as anybody that has come into our league in a long time."
Manu Ginobili, Spurs
Just when he seemed to be getting in a groove, the All-Star shooting guard is out with an injury again. The 6-6 Argentinean severely sprained his right ankle when he landed on Udonis Haslem's foot while driving to the hoop in Friday's win over the Heat. He had to be carried to the locker room and is expected to be out two weeks. Ginobili, who is averaging 15.4 points, already missed 10 games this season because of injuries to the same foot (bone bruise, sprain). Without him, San Antonio lost at home to the Nuggets on Sunday. "I just feel so bad for Manu," Tim Duncan said. "He was right back in the mix, he was starting to feel good and this happens again."
Is Doc Rivers in trouble in Boston?
With the Celtics limping along at 16-24, coach Doc Rivers has begun to feel some heat. The former NBA Coach of the Year has been criticized for inconsistent rotations, not playing Al Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins enough, and for the team's 7-12 record in games decided by five points or less. Still, Celtics boss Danny Ainge says he has no intention of making a coaching change any day soon. ''Doc wants to be great," Ainge told the Boston Globe. ''He's learning as a coach and I think he's doing a good job. I think he is creating a very good culture on our team. The professionalism of our team is very good. The work ethic of our team is very good. I like the atmosphere he has created in practice every day. I like the work the guys are putting in. I like how hard our players are playing, night in and night out, with few exceptions." Here's another reason Ainge might be reluctant right now to make a change: Rivers still has over $10 million left after this season on the four-year contract he signed in 2004.
Grudge match(es) of the week
Tuesday, Jan. 24: Pistons at T'wolves
Pistons coach Flip Saunders makes his first trip back to Minnesota, where he compiled a 411-326 record in 10 seasons before being fired midway through last season and replaced by his pal Kevin McHale. Saunders, of course, has done more than land on his feet. His Pistons have the NBA's best record (33-5), earning him the honor of coaching the Eastern Conference at next month's All-Star Game. It should be an emotional return for Saunders, whose friendship with McHale dates back to their days together at the University of Minnesota.