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Court Vision: Lakers lose again, this time without Gasol

Dwight Howard struggled from the free throw line again on Tuesday. (Bill Baptist/Getty Images) Dwight Howard struggled from the free throw line again on Tuesday. (Bill Baptist/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

•  Silver Screen and Roll examines Pau Gasol trade possibilities.

•  The Lakers lost to the Rockets without Gasol, who sat with knee pain, on Tuesday, falling to 8-10. Dwight Howard shot just 8 for 16 from the free-throw line and was fouled repeatedly during a fourth quarter that saw Houston outscore Los Angeles 34-22. Howard was just 5 for 10 from the charity stripe in the final period and didn't attempt a shot from the field during the fourth quarter.

The Orange County Register reported that Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni once again defended his center from criticism.

D'Antoni to Lakers fans asking for Dwight to be benched so they can't foul him: "They have no clue what they're talking about." D'Antoni said. Dwight's free throws weren't the problem -- but he didn't want to bench a guy who's going to be the "franchise player." "You don't do that to him, and it's not him who's causing the problem."

•  The Free Darko store is open for business for the holidays.

•  David Aldridge suggests the NBA spread out its schedule.

Of course the league is not going to cut back on the 82-game regular season. But it could do something about scheduling. It could reduce the ridiculous and unwatchable exhibition season from its current three-plus weeks to one week, which is all the preseason anybody wants or needs to see. That would give the league another 14 or so days to schedule its 82 games.

Yes, that would mean the regular season would open up against the baseball playoffs. There are tradeoffs. A few lower-rated games at the start of the regular season might well mean a healthier team at the end of the regular season. Or, it may not do that at all. But it would be worth it to find out.

•  John Hollinger of ESPN.com goes after Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova.

Any survey of 2012 free-agent failures has to begin in Milwaukee, where a year ago the big buzzword was "Ersanity" after Ersan Ilyasova averaged a double-double in February, won conference player of the week, shot 45.5 percent on 3s for the season and finished with a 20.55 PER.

Now? It's more like "Ilya-coma." After signing a five-year, $40 million free-agent deal this summer ($32 million guaranteed), he has been perhaps the league's most disappointing player. Ilyasova's Odom-esque decline includes a 9.69 PER, a 35.3 percent mark from the floor and some shockingly bad defense. He already has lost his starting job, and in a humiliating 21-point loss to the Hornets Monday night, he was without a doubt the worst player on the court.

•  Eric Freeman of Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie takes up the idea of NBA players employing their own beat writers, a practice being pioneered by Nets guard Deron Williams.

A biased website doesn't necessarily have to ignore particular stories. DeronWilliams.com is obviously going to support Deron Williams, but there's a way to do that while remaining a useful spot for news and information even when the Nets are playing badly. Readers aren't dumb, and they don't want to feel like a publication's reason for being causes it to ignore the realities of the stories it covers. Bias is one thing — willful obfuscation is another.

Quasi-journalistic endeavors like DeronWilliams.com are going to be more common, but the key to making them more useful will be in melding the two approaches that constitute them. There's a way to market a player while meeting the negative head on.

•  Matt Moore of CBSSports.com with a feature on DeMar DeRozan.

For one thing, DeRozan has figured out he has to use his size. He used just 6.7 percent of his possessions last season in the post, where he was lethally efficient according to Synergy Sports. DeRozan has increased his time in the block this season to 14.9 percent, where he's the 10th-best player in the league at points per possession. DeRozan says it's something that he came to on his own this year.

"That was just me. I feel like I'm bigger than a lot of two-guards, and I think it's just effective. I look at guys like Kobe and, as they started to get older, they got better in the post. I just looked at it as, 'If I get better at it now, that's going to benefit me later.' It's something I think helps make me better than a lot of two-guards."

•  Zach Lowe writes at Grantland that Vince Carter deserves consideration for the Hall of Fame.

Is all of it — the Toronto disgrace, the postseason flops, etc. — enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame? It looked like it a year or so ago, when Carter appeared on his way out with career numbers that were very nice, but that did not quite confer Springfield lock status upon him. But he's averaging 13 per game now, shooting 42 percent from deep, and playing legitimately solid defense. He'll at least approach 22,000 career points this season, and with a guaranteed deal for next season, he has a shot to reach 23,000 if he stays healthy. Only 13 players in NBA/ABA history have eclipsed 22,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, and 4,000 assists; Carter, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce will make it 16 shortly, and a few others — Clyde Drexler, Gary Payton, Larry Bird — barely missed. Eleven of those 13 players are in the Hall of Fame, and the other two are Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant. There is obviously some major cherry-picking involved in selecting those numbers; Carter will barely make the rebound and assist totals, while several players, including Dirk Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing, have blown away the 22,000/5,000 feat by a wide margin while falling short on the dimes. Still, the numbers are impressive, and if you like plus/minus stuff, Carter's teams have usually scored much more efficiently with him on the floor — and defended at about the same level with him on the floor as on the bench.

•  Famous hip hop hype man Flavor Flav hangs out with three young Blazers: Damian Lillard, Will Barton and Elliot Williams. He's wearing his signature alarm clock, don't worry.

•  HoopsWorld.com reports that Eddy Curry, who was cut by the Spurs and Mavericks earlier this year, is headed to China to play professionally.

•  Trey Kerby has a comprehensive breakdown of the new Air Jordan XX8 at The Basketball Jones.

•  The Wizards beat the Heat on Tuesday night and Mike Prada isn't sure exactly how it happened.

Wow.

The Wizards certainly didn't look like the inept team we've seen all year. Their offense was fluid and their transition game, even without John Wall, actually existed. They put together a balanced scoring effort and, with the aid of some missed Miami three-pointers, got enough stops down the stretch to get the win. I don't know how it happened either, in case you're wondering. For now, let's celebrate and figure out what happened later.

•  NetsDaily.com notes that Nets co-owner Jay-Z has five reasons he thinks his franchise is cool.

The five reasons Jay-Z listed are not really surprising: the jerseys ("All-black everything."); the court ("It's herringbone, which is crazy. In fact, the NBA fought me on it."); Barclays Center ("It's beautiful, amazing, really well-done. It's just classy."); Brooklyn ("Well, Brooklyn is cool; that's like the definition.); and well, himself ("Me? Ha, I am Brooklyn.")
•  Dan Devine responds with five reasons the Nets aren't cool.
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