By Ben Golliver
January 22, 2013

The Cleveland Cavaliers unveiled a "Manti Te'o Kiss Cam" during a game. (@SoleCollector) The Cavaliers unveiled a "Manti Te'o Kiss Cam" during a Tuesday game against the Celtics. (@SoleCollector)

By Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney

• The Cleveland Cavaliers are having a little fun, broadcasting the "Manti Te'o Kiss Cam" on the Quicken Loans Arena JumboTron. Brilliant. Picture to the right via @SoleCollector.

• David Thorpe of ranked the top 25 players under 25 and the Thunder have No. 1, No, 2 and No. 7. They had No. 4, too, but traded him to the Rockets.

• Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register continues on his noble mission to get through to Dwight Howard.

He has failed in that central way that everyone who has ever played on any team can understand: You get a feel for the other personalities, you make real efforts to serve in the best way for the team to win, and you earn your standing in the group by playing hard.

None among the cast of Lakers characters are blameless in a tragedy that has reached the season's midpoint and grows more epic by the day, but Howard has fallen short even of living up to his promise of a fresh start after that diva act in Orlando.

He has been more Shaquillian than he would ever admit – just without the one key element that can redeem a whole lot of everything: the utterly dominant play.

•  Meanwhile, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant live-tweeted his first viewing of the game in which he scored a career-high 81 points against the Raptors.

• In an interview with USA Today Sports, former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy continues to assert that NBA commissioner David Stern stepped in to stop him from getting a commentating gig with ESPN.

Q: Do you believe you were submarined out of that job?

A: I'm pretty sure I was by David. It's funny. People say it all the time that when an opportunity closes, you end up in a better place. It happened to me in Wisconsin. I lasted one season and got fired. I was 36 and absolutely depressed — like I just blew the best opportunity I ever will have in my life. A few months later, I'm in the NBA.

(The ESPN job) would have been more money but I would have been basically flying to LA all the time. Now I work Wednesdays, a little on Fridays and do a college game on a Saturday every couple of weeks. I stay in touch with the game and I'm having fun with it.

Q: Why do you see Stern's footprints?

A: (ESPN) contacted me – they drove the whole thing. All of a sudden, it came to a stop. Whether it was Stern directly, the league office making a call or someone at the top at ESPN . . . There's no question the comments I've made about David Stern kept them from hiring me. I said things that pissed him off.

• Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen floats Pacers forward Paul George as a Most Improved candidate.

Right now he's at the top of my list because of the growth he has shown already over the course of the season. The Pacers went 10-11 while struggling to score over the first six weeks in Granger's absence. Along the way they've turned themselves into the NBA's top defensive team, with the 22-year-old George providing leadership on the perimeter. He has also emerged as a go-to scorer and turned himself into a prospective All-Star this season while leading the Pacers to a 16-5 record since that bad start.

Last Friday, in a win against the visiting Rockets, the 6-foot-8 George scored 31 points while adding six rebounds, five steals and exceptional defense on James Harden (who went 5-for-17). "I've never really seen a defender like Paul,'' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

• Sean Highkin of Portland Roundball Society with a midseason report on the Blazers.

Let’s be clear about one thing: this team is not good. They’re in the thick of the race for the eighth seed in the playoffs right now, but they won’t be there at the end of the season. Nothing about what they’ve been doing is sustainable. The amount of overtime and close regulation games they’ve won was crying out for regression, and the current six-game losing streak is starting to bear that out. Whatever Terry Stotts insists to the contrary, the fact that three of the Blazers’ five starters are averaging at least 38 minutes per game is going to catch up to them, be it in the form of an injury or just general burnout. And when it does, things will get ugly, because they have arguably the worst bench in the NBA. However, even the biggest skeptic about this roster can’t deny that the team is a lot better than anyone thought they’d be going into the season, and the things that have made it so are what makes the future of the franchise so promising.

•  John Schuhmann of can't believe how poorly the Lakers are playing.

Defensively, the Lakers have breakdowns all over the place this season, mostly with guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. But there’s no clear explanation why they’re much better with only one of the two bigs on the floor. It may be a foot speed issue, and they may just be able to recover better with a smaller, quicker player at the four. Under Jackson, they were better defensively with Lamar Odom at the four than with Bynum and Gasol out there together.

Still, this is all kind of ridiculous. And it’s all too familiar. On the last team D’Antoni coached, he had two guys making about $40 million combined who couldn’t play well together either.

Under D’Antoni, the New York Knicks were a minus-137 and absolutely awful defensively in 1,506 minutes with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together. The coach’s inability to get his two stars on the same page is a big reason he isn’t in New York anymore. Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks are even (plus-0) in 497 minutes with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor together.

• Ricky O'Donnell writes about the Bulls' recent success, including some praise for Carlos Boozer.

But ever since the calendar turned to 2013, Boozer has been rather excellent.

In 11 games in the new year, Boozer is averaging 22 points and 11.5 rebounds on 52 percent shooting. As Jason Patt noted at Blog a Bull, he's getting more looks close to the rim and he's converting them. Boozer's defense might also be slowly starting to take form, as the power forward has gotten his net rating to -0.3, much better than it was earlier in the season.

• Are you late to the party on the news about the Kings potentially moving to Seattle? Tom Ziller has you covered with a comprehensive rundown.

• Knicks guard J.R. Smith mocked Nets forward Kris Humphries with a Kanye West/Kim Kardashian burn on Twitter.

• Zach Lowe names his All-Star teams. He kicks starters Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard to the curb.

I love the guy, even if I'm uncomfortable with his pathological cruelty to rivals. He is my Twitter avatar, and I've learned more about the modern NBA from watching Kevin Garnett play defense than from almost any other player.

But he's logging just 29.8 minutes per game, his rebounding and individual defense have slipped just slightly, and he's not a "throw me the damn ball" offensive force on a night-to-night basis anymore. His Player Efficiency Rating of 18.4, while still excellent, would be his lowest since 1996-97.

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