By Ben Golliver
• Derrick Rose's progress after knee surgery has been gradual. The Bulls point guard has taken great care to nix any possibility of a rushed return to the court. YouTube user BeyondTheBuzzer posted video of Rose dunking with two hands (albeit somewhat gingerly) before Sunday's game against the Thunder.
• The Basketball Jones asks NBA All-Stars: Is Russell Westbrook a dog or a cat?
• The Los Angeles Times reports that the Lakers won't be counting on Pau Gasol to make an impact during the regular season.
"I think by the time he gets back we'll either be in or out. So his impact will be in the playoffs if we can get there," [coach Mike] D'Antoni said.
• Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News writes that the Spurs enjoyed a little team bonding over In-N-Out burgers.
“It was one of those carpe diem moments,” forward Matt Bonner said. “You know you shouldn’t be eating a grease-laced double burger with fried onions, fries and a milk shake, but once in a while, you’ve got to go for it. It was one of those things where no one will claim responsibility, but everybody enjoyed it.”
Stephen Jackson was ambivalent about the experience.
“It was good, but I don’t like In-N-Out like that,” he said. “Fatburger, Sonic, Five Guys, but not In-N-Out. But I ate one.”
• Grantland's Zach Lowe writes that it's not all doom and gloom for the Jazz after a quiet trade deadline.
But they’re so flush with cap room this summer that even the mammoth cap holds attached to [Al] Jefferson and [Paul] Millsap don’t soak up all their open space. (They have other cap holds that could take them over the cap, depending on how they want to navigate July.) That will give Utah enormous flexibility, even if they lose one of these guys without compensation in a market crowded with cap-space teams. They could re-sign one and sign-and-trade the other for a trade exception and other assets, which would allow them to take on someone else’s long-term salary later; this is basically how the Jazz acquired Jefferson from Minnesota. The number of teams with space, plus new prohibitions on sign-and-trades for tax teams, will hurt the sign-and-trade market a bit, but it will be there, especially for Millsap.
And losing Jefferson for nothing, or almost nothing, wouldn’t be a disaster. The Hawks may well have been better off in the long run taking exactly that course with Joe Johnson instead of re-signing him to a ludicrous super-max contract in 2010 — a contract that paralyzed their franchise until they off-loaded him to the Nets. Jefferson is a nice offensive player, but he’s a huge liability on defense in a pick-and-roll league, and he’s about to hit the wrong side of the aging curve. No team should be in a rush to pay him $12 million per year, though someone probably will. Millsap is a better all-around player, and the Jazz have to nail this decision if they indeed intend to keep one of their starting bigs, even with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter requiring more minutes.
• TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz on the Pacers' successful starting lineup.
Even as the NBA undergoes a radical sea change with respect to size and position, being big is still an asset. Virtually every single night they take the floor, the Pacers’ starters have an enormous advantage -- literally. With the 6-foot-2 [George] Hill replacing the 6-0 [Darren] Collison in the first unit, the Pacers have legitimate length at all five positions and tower over opponents. Logically enough, this group works its strength.
It’s tough to move downhill against the Pacers in the half court because everywhere an offensive player turns, there are limbs blocking his path. For similar reasons, it’s also difficult to shoot over the top, move off the ball and more generally, find open parking spots anywhere on the floor. As a result, defenses have to work hard to get clean looks against the Pacers’ first unit.
• Jacob Frankel of HoopChalk also puts the Pacers' defense under the microscope.
• Shark Fin Hoops has the Chinese Basketball Association's absolutely terrible Dunk Contest, which involved a contestant trying to stick a shoe to the backboard while dunking.
• David Aldridge of NBA.com interviewed Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried to discuss his support for equal rights.
"Everybody deserves the right to be married to anybody they want," he said. "But for gays or lesbian and transgender or transsexuals, it has to be civil unions. But why can't it be a marriage? I mean, it's two regular people, and they decided to get married in matrimony."
He joined Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization founded by a former amateur wrestler, Hudson Taylor, who wanted to confront the homophobia that is still rampant throughout sports at all levels. Taylor wanted straight athletes to take a public stand condemning prejudice toward gay men and lesbians, whether or not they were involved in athletics.
• Professional basketball player Dan Grunfeld takes up the equal rights topic at the Huffington Post.
I'm a ballplayer. I'm a pro. I've been in an NBA training camp and have competed in some of the top leagues overseas. I've spent a lot of time in NBA locker rooms. I've been on the bus. I've been on the plane. I've sat around the table. That doesn't mean that I have all the answers or that I can presume to summarize the sentiments of all athletes, because there are no easy answers to these questions and there is no consensus opinion on the subject. But, at the very least, it means that I truly understand what it's like to be an athlete in today's world, like only an athlete really can, and am therefore able to provide first-person insight that may help flesh out this controversial topic.
Based on these experiences, do I think an openly gay competitor would be accepted in the sports world? In a world where guys are tough, jokes are filthy, and "manliness" (among other things) is measured on a daily basis? Truthfully, it's an impossible question to answer. The only certainty in this situation is that it would be messy. It would be complex. It would be difficult. There would be moments of great understanding, compassion, and growth, juxtaposed with cruel instances of insensitivity, ignorance, and bigotry. Just like America is a melting pot of different people from different backgrounds, the sports world is also a quilted cast of characters from various ethnicities, cultures, and religions. Accordingly, there will never be complete harmony on any issue, especially one as divisive as this.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation on the Lakers pushing toward the playoffs.
When we look at the Lakers' recent rise in the standings -- L.A. has gone 11-4 since the last week of January, and is now just one game under .500 and 2.5 games out of the No. 8 seed -- we may want to see a team that has cracked the code, figured it out and will now proceed to soar. Instead, we see a team playing pretty much playing like it has been all season long ... but it picking up wins instead of losses.
According to NBA.com/stats, over the last 15 games (11-4 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.04 points per possession and allowing 1.02. Over the entire season (59 games, 24-25 record) the Lakers are scoring 1.05 points per possession and allowing 1.03. The team's efficiency differential for the season is +1.9; over the last 15 games it is +2.3. The Lakers are barely different. It's hard to look at the data and ascertain that anything has clicked into place. This is essentially the same team that it has been: a slightly above average club. But the Lakers' unlucky record from the first half of the season is now regressing to the mean, which the data indicates is still far short of expectations.
• Matt Moore of CBS Sports sounds disappointed
by the Rookie of the Year race.