As the New York Knicks weigh whether to offer a new contract to Jeremy Lin, fans wonder what happens to "Linsanity."
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The idea, of course, is for NBA teams to get a look at the draft prospect.
SAN ANTONIO -- When historians document the eureka moment in the ascension of the Oklahoma City Thunder, they will not focus on the good fortune that turned out to be Kevin Durant. Nor will they cite the brilliant drafting of James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, or even the shrewd trades that brought in Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha.
The Spurs play host to the Thunder in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals on Monday (9 p.m. ET, TNT). The series is tied at 2-2 after both teams won twice on their home floor. How did we get here and what's in store for the rest of the series? Five SI.com NBA writers take stock of a matchup that is living up to its billing.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kevin Durant stood on the court at Chesapeake Energy Arena and let the noise wash over him, noise like you don't hear anywhere else in pro sports, unique because of the volume but also because of the tone. It is less of a full-throated bellow than a high-pitched shriek, the sound of families with children who are hopped up on candy way past their bedtimes, at the state's most delightful circus. Durant built this big top, with his youth and his bounce, his long arms and feathery jumpers. Fans around town wear T-shirts with his name in place of the Thunder logo. That's about right. He and the franchise are interchangeable. They came to Oklahoma City together and they will likely win championships together. The only question is when.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It took 50 days, 20 games and 10 different opponents. It took the highest scorer in the NBA, the loudest crowd and the best sixth man. It took a poised point guard, a proven defensive stopper and an inspired front line. But the Oklahoma City Thunder did what no one has been able to do since Tax Day. They beat the San Antonio Spurs. The Thunder didn't just snap the streak, they sawed it in pieces, treating San Antonio the way the Spurs have been treating everybody else for the past two months.
I'm not going to claim that what's going on with the San Antonio Spurs isn't surprising. With 20 straight wins heading into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals in Oklahoma City on Thursday, they are playing, after all, at a level reached by few teams in NBA history. Even with their consistently outstanding season, you didn't see this coming.
When the NBA Draft lottery balls came bouncing down in 2007, then-Seattle assistant general manager Rich Cho was standing next to then-Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard inside the Madison Square Garden room where the fates of two franchises were being determined.
SAN ANTONIO -- To their credit, the Thunder have not yet offered to negotiate terms of surrender. No white flags have been spotted near the bench. No one has screamed "no mas!" Scott Brooks has not ordered his troops to retreat.
Maybe Kenyon Martin's pride was doing the talking, or maybe the Clippers' forward and 12-year veteran was reserving judgment until the end of the playoffs.
SAN ANTONIO -- The future seemed to arrive with all the subtlety of a lightning bolt Sunday evening. Impressive winning streaks and home-court advantage bothered the Oklahoma City Thunder less than a 7-footer standing in front of the basket.
At a time when the Eastern Conference finalists, Boston and Miami, are dealing with age or injury issues, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are peaking, collectively winning 16 of 17 games in the opening rounds. The Thunder faced the past two NBA champions -- confident, veteran teams with renowned closers in Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks and Kobe Bryant of the Lakers -- and broke their spirit with youthful energy and talent enriched by crunch-time poise and grit. The Spurs are merely the hottest team ever to enter a conference finals, having won 18 straight and 29 of 31, including dismantling four-game sweeps of the Jazz and Clippers in which their average margin of victory was 13.75 points.
LeBron James is cocky. Kobe Bryant is a ball hog. Kevin Garnett is a thug. Dwight Howard got his coach fired. And Metta World Peace? Ugh, Metta World Peace.
LOS ANGELES -- Clippers general manager Neil Olshey still had a smile on his face, which tells anyone who was at Staples Center on Saturday afternoon that it was still early.
The usual guidelines no longer appear to be relevant. The NBA postseason has become unusually unpredictable. What comes next may no longer be based on what happened before.
SAN ANTONIO -- Before he reached the modest age of 20, Tony Parker had played in 87 NBA regular-season and playoff games and considered it nothing more than normal. Everything in his life seemed to happen fast -- from a playing career that began professionally in France when he was 17, to the way he approached the game, which was roughly equivalent to the way Usain Bolt approaches a run in the park.
Everything is hard for the Clippers. They slogged through an injury-filled regular season. They struggled to score in their half-court offense all year. They lost to teams they should have beaten. They endured a grueling seven-game first-round series with the Grizzlies.
No team handled the shortened season better than the Spurs. After receiving an infusion of athleticism and outside shooting, coach Gregg Popovich played Scrooge with minutes, not allowing anyone to play more than 32.8 a game and letting the team's Big Three -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker -- skip selected games in order to keep rested. But unlike many veteran contenders, the Spurs didn't suffer a decline in playoff seeding for the gains of better health. In the process, Popovich developed a roster that doesn't have merely one Sixth Man Award candidate, but an entire lineup of them. That depth was on display in a first-round sweep of Utah, as San Antonio's bench often extended leads.
Feelings of dread had to be welling up in the stomachs of the Grizzlies and their fans Wednesday night as an alarming pattern repeated itself. As in Game 1, the Grizzlies built a huge lead on the Clippers through great defense and crisp offensive execution. And as in 1, they stopped doing those great things, lost both their composure and the greater part of that lead. This time, though, Memphis managed to hold on for an excruciating 92-80 win, closing Los Angeles' series lead to 3-2.
LOS ANGELES -- Zach Randolph was the leading per-game scorer in the history of the Los Angeles Clippers when they traded him to Memphis in the summer of 2009. Randolph was averaging 20.9 points, more than Elton Brand or Danny Manning, but the Clippers had just drafted an aerial acrobat from Oklahoma named Blake Griffin and he happened to play the same position. The Clippers billed Griffin as their power forward of the future. They couldn't have Randolph in his way.
These are the stats that should make San Antonio's future playoff opponents quiver after the Spurs closed out their four-game sweep of Utah Monday night with an 87-81 win at EnergySolutions Arena: None of San Antonio's starters shot better than 40 percent from the field in Game 4. None scored more than 11 points, and the starting frontcourt combined to shoot just 5-of-18 from the field. And yet the Spurs dominated most of the game. They led for the final 36 minutes. They were up as much as 21 points on the road against a team desperate to avoid elimination. And they did it with nine players seeing 20 or more minutes of action, with a bench that became their most productive unit. Now, as the Spurs move further in the playoffs, whoever they end up facing may look at Monday's game and question how any team can keep pace with such a lethal wave of weapons.
This is how thin the line between experience and age can become. Last year, the Mavericks' depth, experience and chemistry became a lethal combination and helped them out-class Oklahoma City in five games to capture the Western Conference title on their way to an NBA championship. But on Saturday, a Thunder team that was just a year older showed that it learned from the lessons of that bitter conference finals series with a 103-97 victory over Dallas to complete a sweep of their first-round series with the defending champions.
Considering their depth, their regular-season record and the presence of three serious scorers, one might have thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have burned right through their first-round series with the Dallas Mavericks. Instead, they've barely eked out two wins in their own building, the most recent a 102-99 escape Monday. Talent wills out, but the veteran Mavericks have given the Thunder all they can handle.
If the Dallas Mavericks ever had any hope of mounting a serious title defense, this was a game they had to have. They were playing in front of their own exorcised fans, having narrowly dropped two games at Oklahoma City that they probably should have won. They had put the screws to the league's scoring champ while their own superstar was starting to heat up. Everything seemed ripe. Instead, the Thunder exposed the Mavericks' age, swallowed up their offense and ran them out of their own building. One look at Mark Cuban grimly swearing to himself courtside told you all you need to know: Dallas' 95-79 Game 3 loss was a crusher.
For two months now O.J. Mayo has heard the rumors about the aborted deadline deal with the Celtics for Ray Allen, how it was he who quashed the trade that would have broken up Boston's Big Three. He heard reports coming out of Boston of a conversation he allegedly had with Celtics president Danny Ainge, of how he told Ainge he wasn't interested in winning championships, that Boston's rich history didn't count for much.
Heavy lied the crown last season as the top-seeded Spurs suffered one of the worst first-round upsets in playoff history. This year, they're the ones dishing out the embarrassment in their opening matchup. The Spurs cruised past the Jazz 114-83 in Game 2 on Wednesday in San Antonio to take a 2-0 lead, leaving little doubt as to how this series should end.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter and Chris Paul was already in Vinny Del Negro's ear. Let me go back in, it's not over. Del Negro was not inclined to leave his prized point guard and his still sore groin out on the floor much longer, not with his team down 21 and playing like the Washington Generals. Let me go back in, it's not over, Paul said, knowing that stinking out the joint for three quarters was "just how we play," knowing his team had a rally left in them. Let me go back in, it's not over, Paul said, and Del Negro listened, opening the door for one of the most improbable comebacks in NBA playoff history.
In what should be a rare first-round treat, Oklahoma City gets its chance to avenge last year's Western Conference finals loss to the Mavericks, while the defending champs will decide whether their follow-up act will be defined by mediocrity or mettle. The Thunder, who were a lackluster 7-7 down the stretch, won three of the four regular-season matchups with Dallas, but two were by a combined six points. The Mavericks -- who haven't been the same since losing Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson to free agency last summer -- lost 10 of their last 19 games.
Two weeks ago, this would have felt like a San Antonio walkover. The Spurs have destroyed the league of late, outscoring opponents by nearly 16 points per 100 possessions -- an unthinkable number -- over their last 20 games and generally peaking at the right time. The Jazz have been a nice story, but they are the worst defensive team among all playoff clubs, precisely the kind of slow-footed group the Spurs slice apart with fast-moving pick-and-rolls, quick passes and gobs of three-pointers. The Spurs scored well and rained threes in taking three of four from the Jazz, and their only loss came in a late-season game in which Gregg Popovich rested Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
This should be the best series of the first round, Lob City against Grind City, in-your-face against over-your-head. The Clippers are in the playoffs for the first time in six years, but Chris Paul did not join them just to qualify. He did that in New Orleans. The Clippers are trying to sell Paul on a long-term contract extension and the result here will help or hurt their pitch.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- By Tony Parker's calculations, this shouldn't be happening.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- As the Dallas Mavericks discussed their pressure-packed plight on Thursday night, it was tough to separate the reality from the rhetoric.
Eric Gordon is a fan of New Orleans, which should come as welcome news to, well, New Orleans fans.
BOSTON -- They're not old. They're not dull. They're not done.
NEW ORLEANS -- The hurricane and the oil spill hit five years apart. At various times the team had neither a permanent home nor an owner. The best players wanted to leave, the league was locked out and the country was in recession.
NEW ORLEANS -- "How's your wife and baby?'' asked a woman.
Free-agent guard Gilbert Arenas will sign with the Memphis Grizzlies so long as he passes his physical, he told SI.com.
They used to play four games in a day, with the Dallas Mustangs and the Illinois Warriors, the Seattle Stars and the Wurzburg X-Rays, the Long Island Panthers and the Oakland Green Machine. They'd eat a muffin in the morning, play two games, a sandwich in the afternoon, play two more. "And then do it again the next day," Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd said.
Magic center Dwight Howard isn't the only big man counting the days until the March 15 trade deadline.
DALLAS -- When you devote your career to winning the final game, what do you do after it's been won? At long last Dirk Nowitzki didn't know what he was in for.
NEW YORK -- Perhaps the turning point in the Knicks' 104-97 victory over the Mavericks on Sunday occurred with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter and New York trailing by five. Lamar Odom floated a careless backcourt pass in the direction of Jason Terry, and Jeremy Lin lunged in and stole it. Time seemed to stop momentarily, the building frozen in anticipation. Then Lin took a dribble, drifted to the basket and unfurled an emphatic dunk. A one-time 12-point Dallas lead was all but eradicated.
LOS ANGELES -- As the elevator doors opened and Chris Paul walked toward the sunlight in the Staples Center tunnel on Saturday afternoon, the counter-intuitive occurred.
The Houston Rockets have had extensive discussions with the New Orleans Hornets about center Chris Kaman and appear to be in the lead to trade for him, numerous sources told SI.com.
In last year's playoffs, moments before Game 6 of the first-round series between the Spurs and Grizzlies, Zach Randolph sat in the locker room at FedEx Forum and reflected on what became of the 2007 Golden State Warriors.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- There was a Portland-bound plane to catch late Monday night, so the proud and blissful Memphis Grizzlies couldn't talk all night about how they found that fighting spirit again. No matter how badly they wanted to.
The most unexpected trade on draft night is turning out to be a win-win for San Antonio and Indiana.
Monty Williams walks where no NBA coach has walked before. He leads a New Orleans team that is owned by the league and shaped by the commissioner. He guides a club that began training camp with only five players under contract and today boasts nine new faces. He coaches a squad that endured seven days of near trades, a vetoed deal and collapsed proposals before All-Star point guard Chris Paul was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers.
BOSTON -- A visit to the White House is supposed to commemorate the title that was. For a majority of the Dallas Mavericks, however, their meeting Monday with President Barack Obama inspired them to think of what may be -- and what has to be.
BOSTON -- As his Dallas Mavericks teammates celebrated a dramatic, 90-85 win (RECAP | BOX) over the Celtics inside a dimly lit visitors locker room on Wednesday night, Lamar Odom dressed quietly in the corner.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama saluted Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday as NBA champions who staged a season-ending charge to beat LeBron James and the vaunted Miami Heat and claim their first title with a "heart that's the size of Texas."
HOUSTON -- On Feb. 4, 1994, the Houston Rockets sent Robert Horry and Matt Bullard to the Detroit Pistons for Sean Elliott, a trade that has been forgotten by just about everybody except the people involved. When Horry and Bullard arrived at The Palace of Auburn Hills, they were greeted by Joe Dumars and Bill Laimbeer. Coach Don Chaney shared the plays he would run for them. The next day, they put on their uniforms in the Pistons locker room for a home game against the Nets. "Our allegiance switched from the Rockets to the Pistons," Bullard said.
Dwane Casey was headed back to Dallas on Friday with a better winning percentage than the team he left behind. The surprise is that he left the champion Mavericks in order to become head coach of the cheerless Raptors.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- It had been quite some time since Tyson Chandler avoided anyone in the lane, but this was different.
1. The NBA lockout goes on and on ... In July, as forecast, NBA owners locked out the players, and for two months the two sides barely negotiated at all. Once talks resumed on a new collective bargaining agreement, they were able to progress toward a deal while also giving the impression that irreconcilable differences were keeping them apart. The problem? The owners had trouble agreeing among themselves on the terms of a new deal, and the same was true of the players -- which in turn gave each side very little room from which to compromise.
Wasn't this what last year was supposed to look like for Miami? You know, when they were supposed to cruise through the season without experiencing a losing streak, set the single-season record for victories and leave a path of devastation along their route to an NBA title? The form Miami showed for most of Sunday's 105-94 rout of defending champion Dallas in Sunday's opener came about a year later than expected, but it was nevertheless chilling to see how much better the Heat looked compared to the retooling defending champs in a rematch of their Finals matchup.
Free-agent center Samuel Dalembert has agreed to a two-year deal with the Rockets, a source confirmed to SI.com.
Four-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul has been traded from the New Orleans Hornets to join the Los Angeles Clippers in a deal that sends Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman in the opposite direction.
Chris Paul is gone, his future Donald Sterling's problem now. The most controversial trade in recent memory -- what else can you call a deal the commissioner has to approve and 29 owners get to whine, I mean, weigh in on? -- is in the books. Debate over whether or not the NBA shoved Hornets GM Dell Demps into a corner, whether the Lakers/Rockets offer was better than the Clippers,' whether there is a conflict of interest for a man (David Stern) hell bent on keeping star players in small markets to have unilateral control in deciding where and when one will be traded will evaporate around the water cooler.
The NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets have reached an agreement to send point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers.
Does this trade make David Stern eligible for executive of the year?
The Chris Paul trade show continued anew on Monday night, when a source confirmed an ESPN.com report that the Hornets and Clippers re-engaged in discussions to send the four-time All-Star point guard to Los Angeles. It was the latest revelation in a wild day for the Clippers, who matched a four-year, $43 million offer sheet from Golden State for center DeAndre Jordan and picked up veteran point guard Chauncey Billups via the league's new amnesty waiver wire.
Did you hear the news? Every team in the NBA just traded for Hornets star Chris Paul, only to have the trades voided, because they were not in the best interests of the Hornets, who are owned by every team in the NBA. Confused? Shut up and renew your season tickets.
Chris Paul looked destined to be traded to Los Angeles for the third time in four days on Sunday night, when two SI.com sources confirmed that the Clippers were closing in on a deal to acquire the New Orleans point guard and four-time All-Star.
Showbiz Tonight talks to the stars about the Kardashians! Has reality TV's most famous family worn out their welcome?
Is Dallas ready for the Kardashians?
One day after the Houston Rockets came painfully close to landing Lakers forward Pau Gasol, they're going hard after his brother.
The three-way trade that would have sent New Orleans point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers died for the second time on Saturday night, sources confirmed to SI.com.
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets continue to revise their three-way trade proposal that would send Chris Paul to L.A., sources have told SI.com.
The Mavericks are exploring a sign-and-trade for free agent center Samuel Dalembert, a source close to the situation confirmed.
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets have re-engaged and are exploring possible ways of completing a proposed three-way deal involving Chris Paul, multiple sources connected to the deal told SI.com.
More than they need Chris Paul, the New Orleans Hornets need new owners.
A proposed three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers has fallen apart, according to executives involved in the talks.
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets have discussed a three-way trade that would send Chris Paul to Los Angeles and Pau Gasol to Houston, league sources told SI.com. New Orleans would receive Rockets shooting guard Kevin Martin and forward-center Luis Scola.
The Knicks are nearing a deal for free-agent center Tyson Chandler, according to league sources.
No decision has been made by New Orleans about where to send point guard Chris Paul, but a source with a good read on the talks puts the list of leaders for his services as such: the Lakers, Clippers and Warriors. There are other teams making a push, among them Dallas and Houston, but there are no indications that they're being seriously considered by Hornets general manager Dell Demps.
The race to land New Orleans point guard Chris Paul sped up significantly on Tuesday, as sources told SI.com that the Hornets have homed in on the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics as possible trade partners.
When Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak fielded the inevitable question about trading for Dwight Howard last week, his intentionally vague response said everything about why the topic was being discussed in the first place.
Assuming Chris Paul is paying attention to the post-lockout treasure map as he plans an exit from New Orleans, it should be clear by now that the "X" that marks his fortunes is nowhere near New York.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 5. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
With the official end of the NBA lockout near, some 400-plus players are eager to get back to work. Two-time All-Star and longtime New Orleans forward David West might top that list, having missed out on the Hornets' playoff run with a late-March injury that required surgery and six months of rehabilition.
When ESPN.com reported on Tuesday that the Celtics would be willing to trade point guard Rajon Rondo for the right player, it surprised anyone who had seen the sixth-year player's mastery of the team's system in recent years.
LAS VEGAS -- Rudy Gay wasn't even back playing yet, but he was still the happiest guy on the floor.
What is a 32-year-old NBA player to do during a lockout? Here is Shane Battier's list of summer options.
Perhaps there will be a closing flurry of trades over the remaining days of June, but don't count on it. The season all but ended Thursday amid the relative quiet of the NBA draft, where no blockbusters were negotiated and no rookies were greeted as franchise saviors. If this season was an 11-month opus to extravagant theatre (dating back to "The Decision" and all of its popular fallout) then you could hear the song fading down to nothing as deputy commissioner Adam Silver announced the last of the 60 picks in front of his small remaining audience in downtown Newark, N.J.
This NBA draft may have been short on All-Star talent, but it could be strong in leadership. Many of the lottery picks earned their way to high first-round salaries because they were able to overcome deficiencies in athleticism or size -- which says a lot for their character as basketball players.
You know this is an inverted time for basketball when a 6-foot-4 point guard is expected to go No. 1 in the NBA draft, held June 23 in Newark, N.J. If the Cavs indeed select Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, it will be the third time in four years that the top pick was spent on a point guard of Irving's height or smaller.
It's never too soon to start thinking about next season (assuming there is one, of course), and the online gambling site Bodog has the early lines on the favorites. Miami (5-to-2) leads the field, while Toronto (150-1) is the longest of the long shots. Here's a look at the top six contenders on the board and our view of their chances of winning the championship in 2012, with the caveat that the effect of the new collective bargaining agreement on roster decisions is obviously a huge unknown.
Dallas Mavericks fans greet the NBA champions as they arrive at the airport.
MIAMI -- The NBA has seen behind the curtain, removed the mask. For all of their nine-figure contracts, for all of their All-Star appearances, MVP trophies and off-the-wall athleticism, the Heat are beatable. Not by a collection of stars or a group of gifted me-first players. But by a team.
MIAMI -- One was arriving. The other was leaving. In each case, their clothes described the man.
Fans in Dallas, Texas, celebrate the Mavericks' NBA championship victory.
The Mavericks are returning to the arena where they surrendered a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals, and that's not a bad thing. Without those events, Dirk Nowitzki may not be in the position he is in today.
DALLAS -- The question raised to LeBron James on the morning of Game 5 was whether the evening's performance would define him. Hours later comes the answer, following a 112-103 loss in which James contributed two points in the fourth quarter. The answer is no -- not yet.
DALLAS -- Can Pat Riley get 1984 out of his head? We're not talking about the novel. We're talking about an enduring series that seems to be renewing itself now that the Mavericks have evened the NBA Finals with their 86-83 comeback victory against Miami in Game 4.
DALLAS -- It should go without saying that the Mavericks need to make a stand Tuesday in Game 4. They've yet to play a strong game overall in the NBA Finals, and they've still had chances to steal all three games.
DALLAS -- The Mavericks will take this matchup every time. A one-eyed Chris Bosh gets a single shot to win Game 3, after which Dirk Nowitzki is given two chances to reply. That Miami won 88-86 to take a 2-1 lead in the Finals is why this series has a chance to become one of the best in modern times. Little is predictable, and nothing is without drama.
After their stunning comeback victory in Game 2 of the Finals, the Mavericks look to maintain their momentum as the series shifts to Dallas for Game 3. SI.com's five NBA writers analyze the top storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
The two opening games of the Finals have confirmed what we knew already. We knew Miami was more athletic and superior defensively, and we knew the Dallas was the more cohesive team based on its years together and its refusal to give in this season as it has so many seasons before.