The Opening Tip: Friday, March 18

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  • Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: If there was any such exercise that’s the equivalent of throwing red meat to the masses to devour, this would be the perfect item. Sure, there are plenty of Laker stories that cause division and uprising. There’s an Andrew Bynum injury, questioning of Kobe Bryant’s shot selection, debating the Lakers’ all-time greatest players, Luke Walton’s contract and any praise for the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat. But this one surpasses them all — questioning the Lakers’ fanhood. The latest issue of GQ Magazine ranks the top 15 worst sports fans in the country and to no one’s surprise, Lakers fans are on that list. … “I think they’re accustomed to success,” [Phil] Jackson said in amusement about the rankings. “That’s kind of a natural reaction when you have a lot of success. People enjoy the show rather than feeling they have to encourage the team in an element of fanatacism.” But by no means are Lakers fans simply star-gazers [OK, GQ put it a little less delicately]. That’s all part of the show of course. There’s no atmosphere that can duplicate Laker games, where you’ll see Jeanie Buss allowing Justin Bieber to wear Jackson’s championship ring, Ron Artest chatting up Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg courtside about a possible collaboration and Dustin Hoffman appearing in every Kiss Cam segment. But to pin Laker fans as mindless celebrity-crazed socialites is simply wrong on every level.
  • Matt Steinmetz, When Warriors owner Joe Lacob says publicly at the end of the season he’s not bringing back Keith Smart as coach — which seems very much a foregone conclusion at this point — he’ll certainly have some reasons. Right at the top of the list will be Smart’s relationship with second-year point guard Stephen Curry. There is no feud, no profanity-laced shouting matches or even any dislike, really. There’s not even really a “problem.” But something’s amiss between the two. If you’ve been watching the Warriors all season long you’ve seen it. To say Smart has had Curry on a shorter leash than Don Nelson did a year ago would be an understatement. You’d have to be watching a different game to not notice all those times Smart showed his frustration after a Curry mistake or misplay, which was typically followed with Acie Law at the scorer’s table.

  • Michael Lee, Washington Post: JaVale McGee’s triple-double on Tuesday against the Chicago Bulls received a negative reaction from many pundits who believed that McGee went to seemingly embarrassing means to reach the milestone during a blowout loss. McGee finished with 12 blocked shots, 12 rebounds and 11 points in the Wizards’ 98-79 loss to the Bulls and needed a dunk with 18.7 seconds remaining to accomplish the feat. NBATV analyst Kevin McHale called it a “bad triple-double” and described it as “terrible.” Fantasy writer Tom Carpenter said McGee was “acting like a buffoon,” especially after he received a technical foul for hanging on the rim in celebration of the dunk — with his team down by 18. But McGee said on Wednesday that he doesn’t care about the negative criticism that followed. “I got a triple-double,” McGee said. “Who can say they got a triple-double? I’m not really worried about it.” McGee said, if anything, he was upset that some tried to discredit his accomplishment by comparing it to other failed triple-double quests — such as the one eight years ago by Ricky Davis, who was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers when he attempted to rebound his own miss on his basket in order to get a triple-double in a win against Utah. Davis finished with 26 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. “I couldn’t understand how they was saying it was like Ricky Davis,” McGee said. “The thing about it is, I wasn’t trying to get a triple-double until they started running plays for me at the end. So, that’s totally different.” Coach Flip Saunders called the plays down the stretch for McGee to get the final point needed for the triple-double and said he spoke with his third-year center about the disapproving response to his accomplishment.
  • Peter May, Like most of us, Kendrick Perkins never saw it coming. Three weeks ago, he was a Boston Celtic, going through the morning shootaround at the Pepsi Center in Denver. There was a game that night against the Nuggets, although the injured Perkins was going to be a spectator, having injured his knee two nights earlier at Golden State. Perkins, of course, never made it back to the Pepsi Center for the game that night. After the shootaround, his agent, Bob Myers, called and told him of the possibility of a deal. Perkins had no clue. “I was pretty surprised,” Perkins told via telephone. “I had no idea. I talked to Doc [Rivers] and he said he wasn’t pushing it, that he was trying to stop it.” Rivers said he did stop it. That was Perkins Deal No. 1, according to the coach. “At the time I talked to him, it was a different deal and I did put a stop to that one. But I also told him that something might still happen,” Rivers said. Soon, Perkins Deal No. 2 came along and Rivers then had to say goodbye to a player he had, he said, come to regard as a son. “It was the most difficult thing I have had to do since I’ve been in the league,” Rivers said. “It was like sending one of your kids [away]. It can be very hard to separate the basketball from the personal and this one was definitely that for me. Perk had great spirit. He had the intangibles you look for. We all decided to make the trade, but, for me, it hurt. It hurt a lot.”
  • Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times: Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the NBA — and perhaps even Lakers fans. The recent surge by center Andrew Bynum — the uptick in rebounding and shot-blocking and dominating play by the 7-footer since the All-Star break — has taken place while he remains less than 100% healthy. Bynum said he’s having issues with his right knee. He missed the first 24 games this season recovering from off-season surgery on that knee. He also missed a game this season with a sore left knee. “I have a little bit of fluid,” Bynum said about his right knee. “I’m still taking medication. I’ll let you all know when I get off that, and it’ll be fine.” Bynum then smiled — something he has been doing a lot of lately.
  • Julian Benbow, Boston Globe: Quietly, Shaquille O’Neal’s return has gone from a matter of “when’’ to “if’’, but with the trade deadline and buyout additions, and the returns of [Glen] Davis and [Delone] West, [Doc] Rivers feels he has enough to supplement the starters with or without the O’Neals.  “Right now, I don’t really look at who’s not here,’’ Rivers said. “We finally have enough guys. You can play with this group. I’m just excited about that.’’ Shaquille O’Neal averaged 9.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 20.7 minutes, and when he was on the floor, Rajon Rondo had another future Hall of Famer at his disposal.  Rondo’s numbers have dropped lately, a result of playing too many minutes. But with O’Neal in the lineup, he went on assist binges. If the Celtics get O’Neal back in time for the playoffs, Nenad Krstic would join the second unit, making the Celtics incredibly deep.  “If we get Shaq back, then it’s going to make us a better team,’’ said Davis. “Just with his dominance and the way we played [against the Pacers].’’  The question is how big is the “if’”?
  • Brian T. Smith, Salt Lake Tribune: [B]arring a setback, [Ronnie] Price expects to return to action Sunday at Houston.  The 6-foot-2, 187-pound guard has missed nine consecutive games and 14 of 15 since spraining his big right toe Feb. 9 against Chicago. Price initially thought that the injury would keep him out for a couple practices, a game at most. Fifteen contests later, the six-year veteran is balancing excitement with patience as he anticipates officially stepping back on the hardwood.  Recent injuries to Jazz starters Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko and Raja Bell have drawn the most attention during the past two weeks of up-and-down Utah basketball, overshadowing Price’s downtime. But the speedy, aggressive guard is a key piece to the Jazz’s second unit, and his addition should give Utah an extra weapon as the team attempts to overtake Memphis for eighth place in the Western Conference with 13 regular-season contests to go.  “It’s been very frustrating to watch,” said Price, who is averaging 3.1 points and 11.4 minutes in 54 games. “To know that I probably could have been playing a lot of minutes and had a chance to help the team in some way. To not have that opportunity when that opportunity is there is kind of tough. But everything happens for a reason — I’m a firm believer in that.”
  • Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel: Even though he has been more serious this season, [Dwight] Howard always has maintained that the Magic play their best when they feel loose and relaxed. He facilitates that process before every game when the players huddle together immediately following pregame introductions; his teammates typically gather around him and he offers something — maybe a joke or even occasionally a funny dance — that puts smiles on everyone’s faces.  To be sure, the current group of 13 players share a goofball spirit.  Late in the first quarter of Wednesday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, forward Hedo Turkoglu blocked a shot and then wagged an index finger, a silly gesture for someone who rarely blocks shots. When play stopped 22 seconds later, Turkoglu glanced at the Magic bench and saw teammates Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Quentin Richardson laughing uncontrollably. Turkoglu started laughing, too.
  • K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune: The “MVP” chants occur in every arena now, including Thursday night in Prudential Center as the Bulls beat the Nets 84-73. If they eventually become reality, Derrick Rose will supplant Wes Unseld as the youngest most valuable player in NBA history. Rose, 22, also will become the first player to win the award in his third season since Moses Malone in 1978-79. Michael Jordan won his first after his fourth season in 1987-88. All along, Rose has downplayed talk of the award, even shrugging off Jordan’s endorsement. Rose said he’s focused on winning and growing as a leader. “I feel more comfortable,” Rose said. “I’m able to talk to my guys no matter what it’s about. If it’s on the court, they know if I yell at them it’s nothing serious. We’re just trying to win.”
  • Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post: The Nuggets have been blessed with depth with the acquisition of “Knuggets” Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler — and the third member of that trio, Danilo Gallinari, could play tonight for the first time since Feb. 25. That was the night Gallinari scored 30 points at Portland but also fractured the big toe on his left foot.  At the Nuggets’ practice Thursday, Gallinari was going at it hard, playing intense one-on-one basketball.  “We’ll see,” he said about playing tonight. “I had a chance to run and jump and was trying to get some contact.”  [George] Karl said, “I think he’ll play.” The coach also noted, however, that Gallinari has seemed tentative in some workouts. Karl said if Gallinari does play, it’ll be for about 20 minutes off the bench.”
  • Published On 9:43am, Mar 18, 2011
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