Kobe Bryant and LeBron James love to perform at Madison Square Garden, and as they proved this week, nobody does it better.
The question is, how much are the New York fans supposed to enjoy those performances?
That became an issue after they treated Bryant like one of their own Monday night in his 61-point performance, the best scoring night ever at the present arena. Though there were brief boos early in the game, Bryant was mostly cheered before leaving for good in the closing minutes to a loud ovation.
Reggie Miller, always treated like a villain at Madison Square Garden during the height of the Knicks-Pacers rivalry, took issue with what he was seeing and hearing.
``Playing at the Garden is the No. 1 venue for any NBA player to play in. I was watching the game last night, and I was texting Spike (Lee) as the game was going on and saying how disappointed I was in the fans chanting 'MVP!' to Kobe, 'How the mighty have fallen,''' Miller said Tuesday during a TNT conference call.
r Kobe. (Spike Lee) kept texting back saying, 'Times have changed, the climate has changed.'''
James didn't get quite the same response two nights later while collecting 52 points, 9 rebounds and 11 assists in Cleveland's 107-102 victory. However, King James did get the royal treatment last season during his first 50-point game at the Garden, earning the same raucous chants and ovations.
Both superstars have talked about how much they enjoy playing in the building because of its history and the passion of its fans.
``This place is special. The fans, they'll boo you all game, but they appreciate the game,'' Bryant said. ``It felt great to get that reaction from the fans, it's just them saying we love what you do. It's a great performance and for them to celebrate that at that moment, I felt great.''
Bryant is one of the NBA's biggest fan favorites, so it's hardly unusual for him to hear applause on the road. Plus, as coach Mike D'Antoni noted, Knicks fans only get to see him once a season. The Knicks are expected to make a run at James in free agency in 2010, so New Yorkers have incentive to make him feel at home when he's in town.
uct that had become embarrassing on and off the court.
D'Antoni insists that will change and the crowd will get back behind the home team - no matter the opponent.
``We haven't given them something to really cheer about. We'll get there. We'll get them back and it just takes a little while,'' D'Antoni said. ``It's up to us to win the fans over. It's not the fans. It's us, so we'll do that.''
DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL: Mike Brown believes his coaching colleagues in the Eastern Conference should have sent Mo Williams to the All-Star game, but didn't plan to ask them about the way they voted.
That's because Brown didn't like being asked once himself.
``I'm not going to say a name, but a player one time came up to me,'' Cleveland's coach said. ``He goes, 'Coach, I hear you didn't vote for me.' I said, 'No, no, I voted for you.'
``It puts guys in an awkward spot. Guys are going to say, 'Yeah, I voted for your guy,' but you really don't know. So I'll never find out.''
Brown will coach the East next week in Phoenix, and the Cavaliers are angry that their point guard wasn't selected for the team as a reserve by the conference's head coaches. Despite a 39-9 record that is one of the best in the NBA, Cleveland is only sending LeBron James to the game, while all the other top teams have multiple All-Stars.
James called Williams' omission a ``total smack in the face.''
know that our team should have been well represented,'' Brown said. ``That's not to say this person should have been off and that person should have been off, but we should have had at least another guy on that team from the beginning.''
ON THE MONEY: The NBA Development League is adding a new twist to spice up its 3-point contest - one that could someday end up in the big league as well.
Like the NBA's contest, the first four racks of balls will feature four orange balls, worth one point, and one multicolored ``money ball'' worth two.
However, the final rack will feature only money balls, allowing competitors a chance to make up big deficits or build huge leads. The fifth station in the NBA competition is the same as the previous four, but the league is considering the change that is being tested in the NBA D-League competition.
The NBA D-League 3-point contest will take place during its ``Dream Factory'' on Friday night in Phoenix, the opening night of the All-Star weekend festivities. There is also a dunk contest and a game of H-O-R-S-E, which had its debut last year.
The NBA also is considering H-O-R-S-E for All-Star Saturday. Three pros will take part in an unofficial game outdoors televised by TNT.
The NBA D-League All-Star game is Saturday afternoon.
a shoulder injury.
In two games this week, the 20-year-old guard came off the Portland bench to average 16.5 points and five rebounds. He had 10 total assists in those games.
Earlier this week against the New Orleans Hornets, the rookie guard had 19 points and six assists in a come-from-behind 97-89 victory for the Trail Blazers.
``He was really the spark that turned everything around for us,'' Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge said.
In a 104-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, Bayless had 14 points. Over the last five games, he's averaged 10.6 points and five assists.
Sergio Rodriguez has started at point guard while Blake recovers from a right shoulder injury. Rodriguez, who is in his third NBA season, has averaged 6.4 points and five assists in his starts this season.
The Blazers were apparently staying with Rodriguez in the starter's role, despite Bayless' inspired play of late, because the team already is starting two other rookies, Greg Oden and Nicolas Batum.
The timing of Blake's return is uncertain, but it will ultimately mean less playing time for both Rodriguez and Bayless. The Blazers will have to find a way to juggle minutes, especially when it comes to Bayless' further development.
Blake did not make the Blazers' three-game road trip that concluded Friday night in Oklahoma City. Portland returned home to face the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.
ayless was the 11th overall pick in last year's NBA draft out of Arizona, where he played for a season and averaged 19.7 points.
AP Sports Writer Anne Peterson contributed to this report.

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