NBA Today - December 25

NBA Today - December 25

NBA Today - December 25
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SCOREBOARD

Tuesday, Dec. 25

Seattle at Portland (8 p.m. EST). The Trail Blazers, winners of 10 straight, face Kevin Durant and the SuperSonics in a Christmas matchup.

STARS

Sunday

-Kobe Bryant, Lakers, scored 39 points to lead Los Angeles past New York 95-90.

-Linas Kleiza and Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets. Kleiza hit a jumper just before the final buzzer and Anthony had 30 points and 12 rebounds to help Denver squeak by Sacramento 106-105.

-Stephen Jackson and Baron Davis, Warriors. Jackson scored 29 points and Baron Davis added 27 to lead Golden State to a 105-96 victory over Cleveland.

-Paul Pierce, Celtics, had 24 points to help Boston get past Orlando 103-91.

YOUNG GUN

Kobe Bryant scored 39 points, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 20,000, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off New York 95-90 on Sunday. His 3-pointer in the opening minute of the third quarter allowed him to reach the milestone at 29 years, 122 days. Before him, only Wilt Chamberlain (29, 134) and Michael Jordan (29, 326) had gotten there before turning 30. Bryant also added 11 rebounds and eight assists in his first game at Madison Square Garden in nearly two years.

20-20

Boston (22-3) had four players score more than 20 points to get past Orlando 103-91 on Sunday. The Celtics, who have the best record in the NBA, avenged a Nov. 18 loss to the Magic, their first of the season. ... Antonio McDyess finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds - his fifth straight game with at least 10 rebounds - to help Detroit (20-7) down Houston 94-82. The Pistons have won five straight and 12 of 14 to join Boston as the only teams with 20 victories.

SNAPPED

Allen Iverson had his streak of four straight 30-point performances end, finishing with 21 points in Denver's 106-105 win over Sacramento on Sunday. Iverson had scored 30 or more points in six of eight games.

STRONG IN DEFEAT

Jamal Crawford scored 31 points for New York in a 95-90 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Knicks, who were again without Stephon Marbury, have lost two straight and eight of 10. ... LeBron James, the NBA's leading scorer, paced Cleveland with 25 points in a 105-96 loss to Golden State. The Cavaliers have lost 10 of 13 to fall to 12-16.

SPEAKING

''We did our normal thing. We asked the Lord's prayer after a Sunday ballgame. Forgive us our sins and trespasses. We had some trespasses, there's no doubt about it.'' - Lakers coach Phil Jackson, after Los Angeles downed New York 95-90 on Sunday.

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Re: NBA Today - December 25

Tuesday's NBA betting matchup notes

Miami at Cleveland

The Heat have played on Christmas each of the last three years, beating the Los Angeles Lakers each time.

Phoenix at L.A. Lakers

The Suns and Lakers have not met since Los Angeles won 119-98 in Phoenix's home opener on Nov. 2.

Seattle at Portland

Portland will be trying for its 11th straight victory when it hosts Kevin Durant and the Seattle SuperSonics on Christmas Day.

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Re: NBA Today - December 25

Lakers recall guard Coby Karl from NBA development squad
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif.  -- The Los Angeles Lakers recalled guard Coby Karl from the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League.

The 6-foot-5 Karl, the son of Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, averaged 18.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 10 games with the D-Fenders.

The Lakers signed the undrafted rookie out of Boise State in July, less than four months after he had cancerous lymph nodes removed.

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Re: NBA Today - December 25

Tuesday’s best NBA bets
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Miami at Cleveland

Never underestimate Dwyane Wade, especially on Christmas Day.

Wade has led the Heat to a 2-1 straight up (SU) record in three straight holiday tilts, including last season’s 16-point triumph over the Lakers.

The fifth-year guard, averaging 24 points this year, dropped 40 points on Los Angeles.

“Makes it great man, makes it great,” Wade told reporters after routing the Lakers. “To be playing on Christmas is great.  And we can go home and continue enjoying Christmas Day knowing that you played an unbelievable game, knowing that your team played well and that you got a win.”

Miami is 4-2 ATS in its last six road games, while the Cavaliers are a meager 4-8 in their first 12 contests in Ohio.

Pick: Heat

Phoenix at L.A. Lakers

The Lakers and Suns loathe each other.

Phoenix has eliminated the Lakers from postseason play the last two seasons. The Lakers, though, trounced the Suns on Nov. 2 in the Grand Canyon State.

The latest matchup added fuel to an already intense rivalry.

Suns coach Mike D’Antoni became irate when Lakers coach Phil Jackson called a timeout right after the Suns called one late in the fourth quarter with Phoenix trailing, 111-78.

“Yeah, I was pretty upset,” D’Antoni told reporters after the setback. “I thought he disrespected our players. But he likes to play the mind games and that’s fine. He might want to try to do it in playoff time when we bust them every year.”

Phoenix won’t have to wait for the playoffs to avenge its Nov. 2 loss to the Lakers. The Suns are a remarkable 10-3 SU in their last 13 regular season meetings against the Lakers.

Pick: Suns

Seattle at Portland

No Greg Oden, no problem for the Blazers. Oden, selected as a freshman out of Ohio State, had microfracture surgery on his right knee in September.

Portland, though, is the hottest team in the NBA. It has won 10 straight and are a remarkable 9-1 ATS in that stretch.

“Who would have thought Portland would do that?” Blazers leading scorer Brandon Roy told reporters. “You’d think it would be Dallas or Phoenix.”

Roy, last season’s Rookie of the Year, has led the Blazers in scoring during the streak, averaging 23 points. He is leading Portland in assists (5.6) and steals (1.0).

“We’re a young team but we're growing up,” Roy continued. “We’re maturing a lot during this win streak. “If you watched [last Friday’s win over Denver] it wasn't just a young team that’s hot. We had to work for this and face adversity, but we came through.”

Seattle, meanwhile, is 2-6 SU in its last eight outside the Rainy City.

Pick: Trail Blazers

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Miami (8-19 SU, 13-14 ATS) at Cleveland (12-16 SU, 11-17 ATS)

The first meeting of the year between Eastern Conference superstars Dwyane Wade of Miami and the Cavaliers’ LeBron James comes on Christmas Day from the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Wade’s Heat have gotten the best of the Cavs lately, winning seven of the last 10 (5-5 ATS), including three of four last season. Miami went into Cleveland in April and scored a 94-90 OT win as six-point underdogs, snapping a seven-game winning streak by the home team in this rivalry. The straight-up winner is 8-2 ATS in the past 10 series battles.

Miami comes into this one off a 104-102 home win Saturday over Utah, cashing as a one-point favorite to snap a five-game ATS losing skid. Overall, the Heat have lost four of their last six, and they’ve won consecutive games just once all season.

The Heat have found their offense lately, topping the century mark in eight of their last 10 games. Miami has averaged 102.4 points a game over the last five, but still pours in just 94.8 on the season.

Cleveland dropped to 3-8 in its last 11 (4-7 ATS) following Sunday’s 105-96 loss to Golden State as a three-point home chalk. The Cavs are just 4-9 ATS in their last 13 home contests.

The problem for LeBron and Co. has been a lack of offense, as the Cavs are averaging just 94.2 ppg over the last five while giving up 99 ppg.

The under is 9-3 in the last 12 series clashes, however the over has cashed in nine of the Heat’s last 11 overall and six of the Cavaliers’ last nine overall.

ATS ADVANTAGE:            NONE


Phoenix (19-8 SU, 12-14 ATS) at L.A. Lakers (17-10 SU, 16-11 ATS)

The Suns travel to Hollywood today hoping to continue their recent dominance of the Lakers when the two meet in a Pacific Division showdown at the Staples Center.

Phoenix has alternated SU and ATS wins and losses in its last six outings, most recently topping Toronto 122-103 on Saturday. The Suns covered as a 10-point home chalk, and they’re 2-0-1 ATS in their last three after going 0-4 ATS in their previous four.

Los Angeles comes into this one off a 3-1 East Coast road swing (2-2 ATS) that saw the Lakers score wins at Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. They beat the Knicks 95-90 Sunday, but blew a big second-half lead and failed to cash as 6½-point favorites.

Mike D’Antoni’s Suns have won seven of the last 10 series clashes with L.A. dating to the start of the 2006-07 season, but they’re just 3-7 ATS during this stretch. The season’s first meeting between these two came back on Nov. 2 in Phoenix, and the Lakers delivered a 119-98 whipping as eight-point underdogs.

The last time these two met in Los Angeles was Game 5 of their opening-round playoff series last year when the Suns closed out the Lakers with a 113-100 win as six-point favorites. Phil Jackson’s squad lost the series 4-1, but went 3-2 ATS. Including the playoffs, the underdog is 7-3 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

The Suns average 109.2 points and shoot 50 percent from the floor when they take to the highway this season, where they’ve dropped three of their last four (1-2-1 ATS).

The Lakers have scored three straight home wins (2-1 ATS). For the season, they’re 8-5 ATS at Staples Center, where they put up 107.7 ppg and shoot almost 47 percent from the floor.

The under is 5-2 in the Lakers’ last seven overall and 4-1 in the Suns’ last five. However the over has been the play in the last three series meetings between these division rivals.

ATS ADVANTAGE: L.A. LAKERS


Seattle (8-19 SU, 13-14 ATS) at Portland (15-12 SU, 16-11 ATS)

The Trailblazers take the court with the NBA’s longest current winning streak when they host the Sonics in a Christmas Day showdown that was supposed to feature the first-ever pro meeting between the league’s top two draft picks – Seattle’s Kevin Durant and the Blazers’ Greg Oden.

Portland notched its 10th straight win Friday, outlasting Denver 99-96 at the Rose Garden, the eighth time during the winning streak that the Blazers scored at least 99 points. However, Nate McMillan’s squad barely failed to cover as a 4½-point favorite, snapping a 9-0 ATS roll.

Seattle scored a 123-115 upset win over the Raptors on Friday as five-point home underdogs. The Sonics have won three of their last five both SU and ATS, going 2-1 SU and ATS on the highway.

The Blazers are 12-3 SU and 10-5 ATS at home this season, but they haven’t had much success recently hosting their Northwest Division rivals. Seattle is 4-1 SU (3-2 ATS) in its last five trips to the Rose Garden dating back to 2005. Overall in this series, the favorite is 11-5 ATS in the last 16 overall.

The Sonics have trouble stopping teams when they hit the road, giving up 107.1 points per game while scoring only 98.1. Seattle is just 4-10 as a visitor (6-8 ATS) and 3-7 ATS as an underdog of eight points or more.

With Friday’s non-cover against the Nuggets, the Blazers dropped to 3-4 ATS as a favorite this season, including 0-3 ATS when laying four points or more.

The under is 5-2 in the Blazers’ last seven overall and 10-5 in the 15 games at the Rose Garden this year.

ATS ADVANTAGE: PORTLAND

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Re: NBA Today - December 25

Christmas Day Special
By Josh Jacobs

After a long evening of delivering presents and eating cookies (with milk of course), old Saint Nicholas will probably have his feet up on a recliner, enjoying the three-card action in the NBA. While the rest of professional sports will have an off-day on Christmas, Miami-Cleveland, Phoenix-L.A. Lakers and Seattle-Portland will all be working overtime.

With a full day to enjoy with the family, sit back, relax and load up a plate of those leftovers because its time to see which of the six teams will have the best chance to make this Christmas very profitable.

Miami at Cleveland

Coming off a hard fought win against Utah on Saturday (104-102), the Heat (8-19 SU, 13-14 ATS) are desperately looking to turn their season around after going 4-8 SU and 5-7 ATS in December so far.

It was this past Wednesday that Miami lost veteran center Alonzo Mourning to a torn patellar tendon in his right knee during the first quarter in a loss against Atlanta. While this might not be the straw that broke the camels back, it sure does take away a dynamic of play that the Heat so critically need.

Playing very skittish defense, Miami was holding down the opposition to just 92.4 PPG in November (although going 4-11 SU and 8-7 ATS). Since then, December has been putrid. The Heat are far from hot on ‘D’ this month, spiking its points against to 107.3 PPG. Overall this season, the boys from South Beach are in the red with a minus-4.9 point difference.

Miami is a retched 6-22-2 ATS in its last 30 versus Eastern Conference opponents.

Talking about playing skittish ball, Cleveland (12-15 SU, 11-16 ATS) has been far from predictable in the win column. The Cavaliers have lost to two of the leagues worst teams in its last five games, chalking up ‘Ls’ against the Nets (105-97) and the Knicks (108-90). About the only good news coming out of Cleveland is the team’s 3-1 SU record against clubs playing under .500 at home this season.

Beginning December without superstar LeBron James (29.7 PPG, 7.5 APG), the Cavs dropped four in a row (2-2 ATS), only to go 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS since “King James” returned into the starting lineup. Just from observation, Cleveland seems to be missing integral supporting players for James to dish the rock to. While James is just a fraction of a point shy of averaging 30 points on the season, the second highest scorer, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, is just touching upon 13.7 PPG. On the season, the Cavaliers are struggling to find the bottom of the bucket, scoring an average of 96.4 PPG (17th ranked in the league).

With a field goal percentage of 43.7 and shooting 72.3% from the charity stripe, it’s no wonder why Cleveland is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games versus a team with a losing record. Continuing this negative trend is an 0-4 ATS record in its last four games at home versus a team with a losing road record.

While I’m not going to stick my neck out in this contest, I will say I’m leaning a bit more on Miami. If the Heats’ Dwyane Wade can continue hitting shots from the corners while getting the aging Shaquille O’Neal involved in the low post then expect Cleveland to be staring at a team that they won’t be able to control defensively.

Phoenix at L.A. Lakers

Beginning at 5:00 p.m. EST on ABC, the high flying acrobatic act of Phoenix will enter the Staples Center with the hopes of leaping over an invigorated L.A. Lakers team.

Heading into L.A. with the best visiting record in the Western Conference at 11-5 SU and 7-8-1 ATS, the Suns are once again that team that can score in droves.  However, this club leaves lanes wide open on the opposite side of the court. Basically, Phoenix is drowning the ball for 109.5 PPG, but are leaking on defense, giving up 104.3 PPG.

If you’re a totals player, the Suns finally bucked a four-game ‘under’ streak on Saturday when Toronto was blown out of the US Airways Center 122-103 (total was set at 212.5). Throughout the first half of the season thus far, Phoenix has been extremely streaky in hitting the high West Coast totals.

The Suns have witnessed the total hit five separate streaks when either category (‘under/over’) hits three or more games in a row. Minus the most recent four-game ‘under’ streak, Phoenix murdered the ‘over’ five straight times from Nov. 30 through Dec. 7. While it might not be full proof, when you see the Suns in either side of this totals groove, try to ride it as far as it will take you.

And not just one guy on Phoenix is donating points to the score board. Six of the team’s 13 players posting numbers in the stats columns have registered double-digit points. Leading the pack of snipers from the field is Amare Stoudemire (21 PPG), Leandro Barbosa (17.9 PPG) and Steve Nash (17.3 PPG). Even newly acquired Grant Hill (during the off-season) has added 16 PPG.

Phoenix will enter Tuesday’s contest with a 7-3 ATS record in its last 10 versus a team with a wining SU record.

With all the talk that circulated around Kobe Bryant and his possible departure from L.A., a 16-10 SU record and in second place in the Pacific Division may come as a surprise to many. But with Derek Fisher (12.1 PPG, 3.2 APG), Lamar Odom (14.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and (surprise, surprise) Andrew Bynum (11.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG) providing some great cushioning around Bryant (26.3 PPG), the Lakers have some great pieces in place to make a run through the season.

Both teams are evenly matched when looking at division records, but L.A. trumps Phoenix with an 11-5 conference docket.

It should be noted that the Lakers have been backing bettors with a 7-3 ATS record in their last 10 (while it began the season 8-2 ATS in their first 10). L.A. has only been involved in one long streak (three or more games straight) without being able to cover this season.

Seattle at Portland

A contest which might rival the Phoenix-L.A. Lakers game in excitment has two young clubs in Portland and Seattle testing its skills against each other in a special 8:00 p.m. EST broadcast. ESPN will be providing coverage of this Christmas Day special.

Currently the hottest team in the NBA, Portland is on a 10-game tear (10 straight wins). Covering a 9-1 ATS record, the Trail Blazers are dominating their opponents by shooting a blistering 46.5% from the field, hitting three-pointers with a 37.8% success rate and are locking down on defense (holding opponents to 96.9 PPG).

With a 12-3 SU record at home this season, Brandon Roy (21.3 PG), LaMarcus Aldridge (19.4 PPG) and Travis Outlaw (13.3 PPG) have been the three wonders that pump adrenaline into the Blazers. Shooting an insane 47.1% from within the arc at home, Aldridge has been unstoppable from all over the court (shooting 56% from the field).

Just be wary that Portland is scoring 95 PPG when coming off three or more days of rest.

Seattle comes into this contest with a team playing earning ‘Ws’ hear and there. Coming off a surprise win against Toronto (123-115), rookie Kevin Durant and veteran Wally Szczerbiak combined for 50 points (41% of the total team’s scoring production). Durant, who’s playing absolutely no NBA experience, is having a successful season with Seattle. His 20 PPG, 27 steals and 4.3 RPG place Durant right up there as rookie of the year.

The biggest problem with the Sonics is on the defensive end of the court, where the squad is giving up 105.7 PPG (29th worst in the association) and a three-point percentage of 37.1. Starters Kurt Thomas and Chris Wilcox are just not enough to stop Western Conference teams from scoring at will. Loses against Golden State, Chicago, and New Orleans in December pulled the cover off the pitiful execution on ‘D’. In those three defeats, Seattle have up a combined 339 points (113 PPG).

So, for a game time prediction, I like the total to spill over in this contest. The main reason; Seattle blows up on defensive plays, allowing opponents to score at will. Get some production of the Sonics own Durant and company and we’re looking at a high flying contest that goes ‘over’ the total.

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Tuesday NBA Gameday

Miami Heat at Cleveland Cavaliers, 2:30pm ET

The Heat were expected to be back in contention by the end of December; instead they're as bad as ever, and battling the Knicks for the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Dwyane Wade continues to lead the team at around 25 points-per-game, but a declining Shaquille O'Neal and disappointing supporting cast has them floundering.

Cleveland has been a big disappointment this season as well, and having LeBron James out of the lineup for a stretch of games certainly didn't help them in the standings. The Cavs have a long way to go to catch the Pistons in the Central, but with James averaging around 30 points-per-game they are always a dangerous opponent.

Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Lakers, 5:00pm ET

Phoenix has had a hard time shaking their competition in the Pacific, but since they've been playing around .700 basketball this season they're probably not expecting their rivals to be able to keep up with them. The Suns, though, haven't been at their best in the past couple of weeks, so Nash and company will be looking to send out a message.

The Kobe Bryant soap opera was supposed to sink the Lakers, but instead they're right in the thick of things in the Western Conference. Los Angeles already has an impressive win over the Spurs this month, and they'll be looking for another one over the Suns. And Bryant will be looking to catch and pass James for the league lead in scoring average.

Seattle SuperSonics at Portland Trail Blazers, 8:00pm ET

The SuperSonics have shown some signs of life in December, winning five of their 10 contests this month. Rookie Kevin Durant continues to lead the way for Seattle, scoring at a pace of 19.9 points-per-game. Durant scored a game-high 27 points in the Sonics' 123-115 home win over the Raptors on Friday. Wally Sczerbiak pitched in with 23 points.

The Blazers might not have Greg Oden right now, but they do have the longest winning streak in the league. Portland has won 10 games in a row heading into this Christmas matchup, which has made them a contender in the Northwest Division. The Blazers knocked off the rival Nuggets 99-96 last time out, with Brandon Roy pouring in 18 points.

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Scouting the NBA's Christmas Day action

This has long been my little Christmas day challenge.

Every year the fam heads over to my grandparents' house for brunch and the goal is to grab quick control of the remote control during the how-ya-been time. It's not important to be in charge during that 45 minutes or so, but if I have it then, I can just mute the TV as we head to the dining table instead of having the tube turned off. See, because then when we come back to that room for presents time, I can watch the silent NBA game until someone notices the TV is on. Some years that happened after a few minutes, some years I got to see a good 40 minutes of the annual Shaq-Kobe showdown.

After all, it's the NBA ... where sneaky happens.

There's a good slate of games on this year, which I won't be watching now that my plan has been exposed. But I chatted with an NBA scout, and here's what he says you should be watching for.

Miami at Cleveland, 2:30 p.m. ET, ABC

The situation: Dwyane Wade is a superstar. LeBron James is a superstar. Let's assume they both go for 40 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists. That's a wash. What's the key to winning this game for each team, aside from the superstars?

Scout's take on Cleveland: "I think Zydrunas Ilgauskas is going to be one of the keys, and so is Larry Hughes. They've got to get something out of Hughes. They're paying him all this money, and -- I know this isn't necessarily his fault -- but he can't stay healthy and stay on the floor. He needs to be able to take some of the scoring load off LeBron. He's only shooting around 35 percent from the field, and they need to get better bang for their buck, so to speak, out of him. They've got to get Ilgauskas involved against Shaq. They've got to use him on the offensive end to bring Shaq out from under the rim and see if they can get Shaq into foul trouble. I think some of the other guys will cancel each other out, as far as Drew Gooden and Udonis Haslem, that's somewhat of a push."

Scout's take on Miami: "I've been kind of surprised, watching Shaq all year long. I think if Miami needs anybody to step up big, I think Shaq is one of those guys. I have a hard time believing he's dropped off this much physically. When I've seen him, scouting him, it seems like his intensity isn't there. He's seemed disinterested out there, and I'm not sure why that is. You've got to think games start mattering at some point. You can't get too far in a hole if you're Miami, because you're not going to make the playoffs. Miami's got to make a decision here pretty soon about which way they want to go. Do they want to blow it up and play some of the young guys�Daequan Cook, Dorell Wright and Chris Quinn, even�or try to get back in the mix in the East. They're reaching the point where they're getting so far behind that they have to make a decision about what they want to do. If they could somehow get into that seventh or eight spot, I don't know that teams would want to play them in a series. You never know, with Wade and Shaq because those two could win a series by themselves. Their supporting cast is not that strong."

Lakers at Suns, 5:15 p.m., ABC

The situation: Here's a shocking stat. The Lakers have won five games this year with Kobe Bryant scoring 20 or fewer points. Gone are the days when Kobe had to get 40 or 50 for the Lakers to even have a chance. What we have in this matchup are two teams who are playing well as a unit.

Scout's take on the Lakers: "As much of a distraction that Kobe stuff was in the offseason, I think for whatever reason, they have a pretty good chemistry right now. I don't know if that's winning that's helping the chemistry or what, but they're meshing and buying into Phil Jackson and Kobe. I think the other thing is you can't underestimate the addition of Derek Fisher to that team. That's another veteran guy who's won championships, and he brings a stability and professionalism to that team. The other thing is Andrew Bynum is playing a lot better basketball. He's averaging about a double-double, and you're starting to see why they were so hesitant to part with him in the offseason for Jason Kidd or Jermaine O'Neal or whatever. He's commanding attention down low, and that's opening things up on the perimeter for these other guys. I think the change is his maturity, his work ethic. Physically he's growing up and being a professional."

Scout's take on the Suns: "What you see is what you get. They're a fun, exciting team to watch and it is what it is. They're going to be good in the regular season, and it's going to boil down to whether they can win two or three rounds in the playoffs. I think Grant Hill has helped. He's eased right in and fit in with those guys pretty well. If you have him and Steve Nash as your leaders, those are two pretty good guys as far as professionalism because ... they have those other guys with chemistry issues or whatever with Shawn Marion or Amare Stoudemire, and having Grant and Steve helps that. They lead by example."

Seattle at Portland, 8 p.m., ESPN

The situation: Here we have a battle between last year's rookie of the year -- Brandon Roy -- and this year's likely rookie of the year -- Kevin Durant.

What do they mean to their teams?

Scout's take on Brandon Roy: "You're seeing Roy become more of a focal point of their offense now that Zach Randolph is in New York. Their offense was kind of built around playing through Zach on the post, and a lot of times he was the first, second and third option for that team, for better or worse. Roy deferred to him, and I don't think he got the opportunity to show what he could do, even though he was successful when given the opportunity. Now that Randolph's gone, they've changed their focus and are giving the younger guys big minutes, and Roy handles the ball more in crunch time. When you play Portland, you're going to see pick-and-rolls all night long with Roy. He's a tough cover -- he can get to the rim whenever he wants, basically. I think you've seen him put his stamp on the team. He's a scorer, he can handle the ball and he can finish.

"I don't see a ton of weaknesses. Defensively, maybe, he might have some matchup problems, but on the offensive end, he's as good as there is out there in the West."

Scout's take on Kevin Durant: "It's the opposite of what Roy had last year. Durant's the focal point of their team. Obviously with getting rid of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, they've kind of retooled that team, for better or worse. He is the first and second option that teams are trying to stop. He is the most-hyped rookie since LeBron, for good reason. I think the difference between Roy and Durant is you know what you're getting with Roy. He's going to be probably an All-Star in this league -- what you see is what you get. He's going to be a very good player. But with Durant, I don't think we've seen the tip of the iceberg yet. He's going to be a special player, the potential to be a Hall of Famer.

"He needs to continue to develop defensively, and with his length and athleticism, he can. He's got to learn how to take better shots. I think he feels like he has to score for them to have a chance to win. I think as that team evolves and gets better players around him, he'll get even better."

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