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2:21PM Update: Tim Brown made a John Wall highlight tape from the Hoop Summit.  


It was a busy few days in the wake of that Laker win.  Some must-see items to get to before we continue our normal jog through cyberspace...

  • Kobe Bryant reacts, with profanity, to the idea of playing the Blazers in the playoffs.  
  • The Lakers lodged a complaint with the league regarding the pregame video the Blazers played depicting Rudy being fouled by Ariza.  
  • Everyone has a take on the controversial Spurs vs. Kings ending that Dave wrote about earlier that could directly affect the playoff chase.   Here's Abbott. Here's Ziller. Here's Pelton. Here's Jaynes.
  • One final plug because this needs to be seen: Alex McDougall's slideshow of images from Saturday's NIke Hoop Summit. Incredible contribution to BE. 
Joe Freeman leads it off this week with a nice piece on the Blazers' 3 point shooting.

General manager Kevin Pritchard put a premium on shooting when he rebuilt the franchise, and few rosters in the NBA boast a better top-to-bottom collection of shooters. It plays perfectly into coach Nate McMillan's system. He says hitting three-pointers is invaluable because it opens the interior for the Blazers' front court and allows Roy to roam the court and drive to the basket.

Jason Quick went off the deep end  in Los Angeles. Moving on.

Quick's story about Nic Batum after the Lakers game, however, is smile-inducing.

Nicolas Batum, easily the quietest, most to-himself player on the team, was heading to his locker, when he fixed his eyes on me. I don't know Nic very well, so I can't get a read on why he is staring at me. Then, for the first time all season, we have a conversation that he starts.

"I try,'' he says, smiling wryly.

Try what?

"Pau,'' he says.

Brian Hendrickson looks back on his preseason questions to see how far the team has come.  

Is a playoff berth a sure thing?

Much more so than anyone expected at the beginning of the year. Making the playoffs was considered a reasonable goal back in October, but was still viewed as a stretch because, in the tough Western Conference, 50 wins - normally the benchmark for an excellent season - can be necessary just to get into the postseason. Winning nine more games than the year before was a tall order, and many teams have stumbled while attempting to take that next step from .500 to 50 wins. Well, the Blazers have 52 so far, could pick up two more this week, and have already posted their best record in nine years. And despite another season in which a 50-win campaign will be required to make the playoffs, Portland wrapped up its playoff berth 10 days before the regular season ends, and did it on the strength of a Rose Garden-record 32 home victories. The ease with which this team reached the playoffs speaks volumes about the improvement it has made in the last year.    

A great lede from Mike Barrett in his Clippers game recap.

It could have been easier, and maybe should have been, but no one really cares at this point.     

Dwight Jaynes previews tonight's "Thunder" game.

Brian Hendrickson has some early data on the Coach of the Year race and he says it's not looking good for Nate.  

Wendell Maxey weighed in on the Coach of the Year talk last week. And again today.  

As does Marc Stein.

Ian Thomsen polls scouts to get their read on the end of year awards. B. Roy makes third team all-NBA.  Dwight, I hope you're reading. hands out its year-end awards. Kevin Durant wins Most Improved.

Hendrickson also writes, "Greg Oden will not make either of the NBA's All-Rookie Teams." Not a surprise.

Speaking of Greg, if you're looking for a glossy 1 on 1 ESPN interview during which no new ground is covered, here's your video.

Apropos of nothing, this picture of LaMarcus Aldridge is really funny.

Last night I was pondering how strange it is that I'm more excited for tonight's "Thunder" game than I was for Friday's Lakers game.  SJ from Rip City Project feels differently.

If I were a rapper, having to write about the "Thunder" would be the equivalent of needing to put out one more album to get out of my crappy record deal. Usually, rappers just recycle all their own songs, put out a greatest-hits collection with a new single and that is that. I kind of feel like doing that.    

How are y'all feeling about that postgame video with JQ and JC?  

Trail Post runs down a list of the best Jock Jams.

BustaBucket photoshopped a reaction to Kobe's postgame statements.

Power Rankings

Feel free to add any links that I missed in the comments.

-- Ben (