By Ben Golliver
April 10, 2013

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said in an interview with Jim Rome on Showtime that he would have met violence from former Rutgers coach Mike Rice with violence of his own.  "I would have smacked the hell out of him," Bryant said. "No question about it. No question about it. That probably wouldn't have been the best way to react to it, but that's how I would have reacted to it."

• From last week: The NBA responds to Rice's mistreatment of his team during practice.

• Jason Friedman of is celebrating Houston's first postseason berth since 2009 and marveling at the team's youth.

It’s just not supposed to work this way.

NBA history is littered with the carcasses of uber young teams who take their lumps while being served tough-love lessons on the importance of chemistry and experience. Maturity matters. So, too, does the significant amount of time it typically takes for a team to congeal and coalesce in a way that makes it playoff caliber.

What, then, are we to make of this year’s Houston Rockets, a club undeniably overflowing with young talent but one possessing precious little in the way of playing experience after reshuffling the deck last summer, undergoing a sea change mere days before the season started and then yet another prior to the trade deadline?

Kevin Pelton's projections strongly favor the Nuggets in the race for the Western Conference's No. 3 seed. Denver held a half-game lead over Memphis entering Wednesday.

• Tom Ziller of SB Nation examines the relationship between assists and shooting percentage, concluding that many of the league's most efficient offenses don't exactly pile up the dimes.

But the Heat are easily No. 1 in shooting ... and in the bottom half in assist percentage. The Thunder are No. 3 in shooting ... and No. 27 in assist percentage. The Knicks by far get the lowest percentage of field goals via assist, yet land in the top ten in shooting percentage. There are explanations in these cases. Miami, Oklahoma City and New York each have superlative individual scorers, and two of them (the Heat and Knicks) have one of their weaker starters at point guard. But it doesn't change the data: low assist rates simply don't matter for these teams.

On the other side of the map, the Nos. 2 and 4 teams in assist percentage (the Bulls and Timberwolves) are Nos. 29 and 28 in shooting, respectively.

Video: Fan takes basketball to the face.

• Indiana's Cody Zeller has declared for the draft.'s Andy Glockner offers some thoughts.

Where Zeller was incredibly successful was in using his ability to run to score in transition, and that should translate to the next level. If you followed @LukeWinn‘s Power Rankings all season, his “GaZeller Watch” showed how dominant Zeller was on runouts. According to Synergy, he converted 39 of his 49 field goal attempts in transition this season, and as Luke showed almost weekly, he was, by far, the most prolific big man in the country in terms of points generated in transition. Zeller can really move for a big, and in a league where hustle and effort can be variable over 82 long games, that’s a big plus.

• Royce Young of previews the Spurs' road to the Finals, which likely runs through Oklahoma City.

But assuming good health, the Spurs seem to be headed on a crash course rematch with the Thunder in the Western Finals. It's been five years since the Spurs played for an NBA title. Will things finally change this time around?

Here's the thing with their matchup with OKC though: The Thunder's best is better than the Spurs best, Harden or not. When both teams meet their standard of performance, OKC's just a superior team. The catch to that is that the Spurs are much more consistent with their play and have a wider margin for error. The Spurs can often win when they play poorly. The Thunder, not as much.

• The Point Forward brought you Metta World Peace's repeating "I'm too sexy for my cat" over and over. Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones has some fun with it.

• The NBA made Iman Shumpert shave an Adidas logo out of his hair. Henry Abbott contemplates what that means.

I don't doubt the NBA is technically correct here. It's simple to believe the league really did negotiate for those rights, and doubtless the union really did hand them over. In a sense, Shumpert and every NBA player had long been paid not just to play basketball but also to adhere to rules like these, which help the NBA and its players make more money in exclusive league-wide sponsorships. There's method to all this. (And doubtless without such rules, any number of players would be a sideshow of NASCAR-style sponsorships. A few years ago Rasheed Wallace was talking about selling a tattoo to corporate interests.)

But even with all those realities as they are ... let me just put it this way: I'm really glad I wasn't the poor sucker who had to tell Shumpert his hair was in violation. It is hard to imagine something more creepy and Big Brotherish.

The Sacramento Bee reports that the current owners of the Kings, the Maloof family, issued a deadline to Sacramento-area investors interested in bidding for the team. That sounds important, but the general response seems to be: "Do they even have the power to do that?" The NBA recently brokered meetings in New York between the Kings, the Sacramento group and a Seattle group intent on moving the team, which made no mention of Maloof-imposed deadlines and which implied that the league's Board of Governors, and not the Maloofs, will ultimately drive the discussion of the franchise's future.

The Maloof family has given the Sacramento investors seeking to buy the Kings until 5 p.m. Friday to submit a written, binding "back-up" offer that matches the deal the family has in place to sell the franchise to a group in Seattle, a source close to the deal told The Bee today.

The source told the Bee that if the Maloofs receive a matching offer by Friday, they will consider it as a serious back-up proposal should the NBA nullify their tentative deal with Seattle. If the offer doesn't arrive, or doesn't match the Seattle bid, the Maloofs have said any talks are off with the Sacramento group. The source declined further comment about who issued the ultimatum, when, or why.

• Joe Swide of Portland Roundball Society calls Blazers fans to arms for Wednesday's game against the Lakers.

The relationship between the two teams is less of a rivalry and more that of a fiercely defiant territory refusing to surrender to an oppressive empire. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Lakers sent the monstrous Shaquille O’Neal with his sheer brutality masquerading as a post game to bludgeon [Arvydas] Sabonis, Brian Grant, and the rest of our noble frontcourt into submission. The Blazers responded with the invention of “Hack-a-Shaq” in an ill-fated attempt to stave off destruction. After the repressed memory of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Kobe, Shaq, and Rick Fox’s campaign of total war set Portland down a path that nearly led to its complete basketball ruin. It required the ascension of Brandon Roy to resurrect the city from the very literal ghost of Darius Miles, the battle of red seats versus black seats, and reel off nine straight victories in Portland over the Lakers from 2005-2010. The Rose Garden haunted the Angelinos like the Russian winter haunted so many would-be conquerors.
still clinging to his hopes of returning

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