It's hard to get on a guy's case after he gives his team 39 points and 15 rebounds ... but a loss to the Grizzlies? In spite of Wednesday's two-point defeat at the hands of Memphis, Boozer had a tremendous week, averaging nearly 25 points a game along with 13.3 rebounds while averaging a little under 35 minutes a night. He still hasn't registered a block since Dec. 17 (Monta Ellis has had three rejections in that time), but it's not like we're keeping a running tab on that.
Stoudemire is still shooting better than 60 percent, his Suns are still running and he even got to rest his knees a bit this week in playing 29 minutes a game over four contests. Despite the limited minutes, Stoudemire averaged 23.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and a steal per game. The highlight of his week came Wednesday in Madison Square Garden, when Stoudemire scored 30 points (on just 14 shots) and grabbed 11 rebounds in only 33 minutes.
Finally paired with Carmelo Anthony, Iverson stuck to his pass-happy ways. A.I. looks like he's having fun out there, firing bounce passes on the break to players he'd barely heard of before being traded to Denver a month ago. The Nuggets, winners of five straight heading into Friday (four games behind Utah) appear to have a real chance at making the Northwest Division race interesting, especially if Iverson continues to out up the 26.5 points, nine assists and two steals he averaged this week.
Kidd has gotten consistently better as the season has moved along: his jumper has more arc on it, he's driving into the post more and his defense -- once a liability in November and December -- has been among the NBA's best over the last month. No point guard has locked up better than Kidd over that stretch, which is amazing when you consider how listless and uninterested he looked on that side of the ball for the season's first six weeks.
Marion is the force behind Phoenix's way-better-than-you-think defense and his ability to find seams in an opponent's defense on his way to alley-oop opportunities still astounds. As the rest of the league settles into the pre-All-Star Game doldrums, marion is still working his tail off. After a frustrating four-point, five-block, 12-rebound effort against Portland on Dec. 19, Marion went a bit nutty over the next three games, averaging 19.3 points (on a white-hot 73 percent shooting) and 12 rebounds (including 20 in a win over the Timberwolves) as well as eight steals and three blocks.
With new addition Troy Murphy on the floor, Indiana's spacing has looked heaps better. Strangely, though, the extra room didn't do much for O'Neal's shooting percentages this week - as he hit only 39 percent of his tries -- an unclogged lane should pay off in the long run. O'Neal averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds and 2.7 blocks this week, and the Pacers won two of three (knocking off Chicago and Miami). The Pacers are three games behind in the tough Central -- they're probably overachieving -- with O'Neal holding down the fort at both ends of the floor.
Bosh's Raptors continue to lead in the Atlantic Division, despite dealing with injury and an ever-changing (for the better, recently) rotation from coach Sam Mitchell. Bosh has also turned into one of the NBA's better clutch players, especially at home, which Bosh capably demonstrated in a win over the Hornets on Wednesday night. His rebounding (7.7) dipped a bit this week, but Bosh poured in 28 points per game for the Raptors, who have won eight of 12 in January.
Randolph has played well of late, but teams are starting to go after him on both sides of the ball with increased vigor. Still, it's hard to understand why defenses don't try to double-team Randolph (and New York's Eddy Curry, for that matter) every time he touches the ball. Don't wait for him to get hot, and don't wait for him to make his move -- Portland's super-slow offense takes 12 seconds to get him the ball anyway, so by the time he passes out of the double-team, the whole possession is just about shot.
Note to Charles Barkley: Dwight Howard is a center. He plays in the pivot, gets rebounds, sets screens, commits offensive fouls -- the sort of things a CENTER does. We've seen a refreshing turn of attitude in 2006-07 with Howard in the middle, Amaré Stoudemire playing the pivot (and not glorified power forward) and even venerated Tim Duncan (once-proud purveyor of the "I'm not a center, I swear" attitude) taking his lumps at the 5. Speaking of lumps, Howard took some lumps this week, averaging 13.5 points and 4.3 turnovers a game as well as with 11.5 rebounds a contest.
For weeks we've been begging Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to allow Ginobili to stay on the court for extended minutes. Ginobili finally saw nearly 36 minutes of action in a slow-paced loss to Houston on Wednesday. The results? Not great. The Argentinean averages 16.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 28 minutes a night; but managed just 15, four boards and four dishes during the extended look. Still, if the Spurs want to hang with Phoenix and Dallas, Ginobili is going to have to take minutes away from Michael Finley.
On the cusp: Chauncey Billups, Pau Gasol, Carmelo Anthony