Losers of their last 9 contests against the Los Angeles Lakers, including four straight in last season’s playoffs, the Denver Nuggets finally found some solace in the comforts of their home arena, The Pepsi Center. They defeated the Lakers 90-79 in a game poorly played by both teams. The Lakers’ struggles started the previous night, where after scorching the Phoenix Suns in the first game of a back-to-back, saw them arriving in Denver shortly after 4AM the following morning. The lethargy and sleepiness continued into the game as the Lakers fought against the effects of the high altitude as well as a rejuvenated Denver club who is currently situated one game behind San Antonio for the second spot in the Western Conference. Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith led the way with 22 points apiece, followed by Chris Anderson with a spirited 11 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocked shots off the bench. Kobe Bryant provided 29 points on a dismal 10-31 shooting night, followed by Pau Gasol with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Lamar Odom with 12 and 19 boards.
Although the statistics from the starters reflected in the box score would normally point to a Lakers victory, it was the Bench Mob that failed to provide any support in this contest. They were outscored by their Nuggets counterparts, 47-7, combining on only 3 of 19 shot attempts. Both Trevor Ariza and Sasha Vujacic were goose-egged while Jordan Farmer was out-produced by DJ Mbenga, 3-2. All said, the Denver Nuggets allowed the Lakers to stay within striking distance throughout the game. But as the contest entered the 4th quarter, it was the Nuggets who were able to hold the Lakers at bay and eke out the victory. The weary Lakers must now fly down to Phoenix for another contest with Shaq and the Suns in a nationally televised Sunday afternoon matinee. Let’s all hope that the Lakers get some much needed rest today and arise Sunday morning refreshed, alert and up for the challenge that awaits them in the Valley of the Sun.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
In a calculated move on Friday, the Boston Celtics picked up Stephon Marbury off waivers and promptly signed him to the veteran’s minimum for the remainder of the season and playoffs. Marbury entered his first game of the season last night and was greeted with a standing ovation from the Boston faithful. Will this move secure Boston’s 18th championship, or will this experiment explode in their faces? Marbury, no stranger to turmoil and controversy, reunites with Kevin Garnett, although I recall hearing him discern of his days in Minnesota, that the team wasn’t big enough for two superstars to operate effectively in the same offense, especially if the first option was not him. His request to be traded was initiated through him by his agent, David Falk. Stops in New Jersey, followed by a stint in Phoenix as the Suns shed themselves of Jason Kidd, left the rest of the NBA scratching their heads.
Finally in 2004, Marbury was traded yet again, this time to the New York Knicks. It was here that Marbury really stood out, not on the court, but rather in the press through the chaos he created in the locker room. His feud with Larry Brown was widely publicized and eventually led to Brown’s firing. Matters did not improve as Isiah Thomas took over head coaching duties. It was reported that Marbury and Thomas came to blows aboard the team plane and also were involved in an incident where Marbury threatened Thomas with blackmail for taking him out of the starting line-up. Both altercations were witnessed in full view by teammates and other team personnel.
The dysfunctional Knicks were losing games, constantly booed by fans calling for both Thomas and Marbury’s ouster. In 2008, Thomas was fired first as President, replaced by Donnie Walsh, then as head coach, replaced by Mike D’Antoni. Marbury’s saga with the team lingered as D’Antoni pushed Marbury to the end of the depth chart eventually placing him on the inactive list. Marbury’s reaction to the crossroads he now faced with the Knicks was his refusal to D’Antoni’s request to enter a game. On December 1st, Marbury was banned from all Knicks games and practices and told to stay home. He defied this order by purchasing courtside seats to a Knicks road contest with the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, hobnobbing with several celebrities while spending the majority of the game on his cellphone. None of the Knicks players or staff acknowledged his actions or his presence. Finally last week, he came to terms to a buyout of his contract with the Knicks and was promptly picked up by Danny Ainge and the Celtics. He brings a 19.7 points per game career scoring average to the Celtics along with his other widely publicized baggage and excessive deadweight.