by Lang Whitaker

So…SLAM 130 is out the door. Whew. Heck of an issue, with a classic cover shot. Should be out in about two weeks. And we just got out of a meeting to figure out our issue that drops after the Finals. Luckily we got the email from the The Sternbot that let us know the Finals would be over in 6 games and the Cavs would…whoops! Sorry, Sternbot! Almost spilled the beans.

• Let’s start today with an email from Linkstigator Joe B, who writes…

As I’ve read the Links daily over the years, I remember you (at least I always thought it was you) witnessing Melo warm up prior to a game with an assistant coach. You stated something along the lines that you’d never seen such a pre-game warmup. Something about the way the coach would be all over Melo and he’d only use a dribble or two max, or just use his body to get his shot up. These were all mid-range jumpers or so. I think after watching Game One against LA, you should grave dig that post as you’ve done things like that in the past. I feel your observations would be especially true in this series and it’s worth re-visiting given this is the farthest the Nuggets have been in a long time.

Oh, beg me to be self-referential, why don’t you! Actually, I remember writing about that, but I just went and searched the SLAMonline archives and couldn’t find it anywhere. Which is awesome.

melolakersBasically, what I wrote about was going to a Nuggets/Knicks (or maybe it was Nuggets/Nets) game and watching Melo go through his pregame workout. I’ve seen hundreds of NBA guys practice shooting jumpers around the perimeter before a game, but they almost all practice wide-open jumpers, or maybe they’ll have a guy half-heartedly run at them as they shoot.

But Melo was doing something I’d never seen before. He was standing at the three-point line and practicing shooting threes without a dribble and with assistant coach Tim Grgurich right in his face. Grguric would hand Melo the ball then get right up on him, almost like how Melo was guarding Kobe last night. Melo would hold the ball, then jump straight up, without a dribble, and drain jumper after jumper.

And yep, Joe, it was pretty similar to what Melo’s been doing in these Playoffs. His jumper is so solid and so pure that it’s opened up chances for Melo to drive the lane. And he’s strong enough inside to push Kobe or Ariza around and get boards. I’ve been one of the few members of the media who hasn’t completely ignored Melo the last few years, and even I haven’t been giving him the credit he was due.

If there’s one player who is having a breakout postseason thus far, it’s Carmelo Anthony.

• I also want to re-iterate what I wrote here last weekend — I haven’t seen an NBA player playing as complete a game as LeBron is playing right now since Michael Jordan was in his prime. Not Duncan, not Shaq, not Kobe. I know people were mildly surprised by his performance in Game 1 (41 minutes, 49 points, 20-30 from the floor, 3-6 on threes, 6 boards, 8 assists, 3 blocked shots, just 2 turnovers), and that doesn’t even count all the blown assists he had where he hit open guys who missed open jumpers (specifically Z and Mo Williams).

I’m assuming a lot of people didn’t watch the Cleveland/Atlanta series in its entirety, because so many of the games were over early. But I watched every minute of all four games and was just blown away by Bron, how complete he is and how easy he makes it look. And he’s carried that right over into the Conference Finals.

• I’m sticking with my Lakers in 7/Cavs in 5 predictions. The LA/Denver series is going to be awesome, two great, evenly-matched teams. But to me, Cleveland is a much better team than Orlando. They lost Game 1 because a) they ran out of gas down the stretch, which I understand because they hadn’t played a close Playoff game and weren’t sure how to pace themselves; b) the Cavs missed so many open jumpers in the second half. Two relatively easy things to fix.

• Wouldn’t it be great if someone re-released Kobe Doin’ Work but took off Kobe’s voiceover and replaced it with a voiceover from Shaq?

• I mentioned Ricky Rubio in passing on Twitter yesterday and got a ton of questions about him, asking where he’s getting drafted, what he’s going to do, etcetera and so on.

The truth is, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to anyone in the Rubio camp since the Draft Lottery happened, so any headlines that dropped this week, particularly the one about Ricky supposedly not wanting to play in Memphis and only wanting to go to L.A., are as much news to me as they are news to you. That said…

When I talked to Pau Gasol back at the All-Star Game, I asked him about Ricky possibly coming to the NBA next season. Here’s a transcript of one relevant passage…

SLAM: Do you think Ricky could play in the NBA now? I mean, next year. Is he good enough to play now?

PG: Probably to play, yes. But to be what people expect him to be, that’s a different story. Once the pressure is on and you jump on here and you compete for eighty-two nights a year, a season, it’s a different story. So you got make sure that you get yourself ready for it, you know, at the right time. So you know hopefully he’ll make a good decision as far as the timing.

SLAM:  How hard is the cultural adjustment?

PG: It’s hard. And also depending on the city that you end up. So, you…some cities the cultural change is a lot harsher and different. So if you go to a more cosmopolitan, international city, then it’s a lot easier, I think.

“A lot easier,” Pau said. This coming from a guy who was born and raised in Barcelona, like Ricky, and then spent the first few years of his NBA career playing in Memphis.

I don’t know for certain how Ricky feels about the possibility of playing Memphis or Oklahoma City. (After all, his buddy from Barcelona and the Spanish National Team, Marc Gasol, could be chilling with him in Memphis.) But I know Ricky spent time in the U.S. last June…in Los Angeles. And having been to Barcelona many times the few years, I’m always struck by how similar the city is (the climate, the proximity of the beaches and mountains) to…Los Angeles.

The other thing worth remembering is that Ricky is one of the few guys in the Draft with leverage (and I’m not talking about the TNT original series that nobody wants to watch). If he doesn’t like the way things are playing out, he can still opt out of the Draft and return to Spain, play another season and rejoin the Draft next summer, where he wouldn’t have to pay a buyout and would be able to play an entire season with a healthy right wrist.

• And I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Brandon Jennings go fifth to the Wizards.

• If Kenyon Martin didn’t have anyone to beef with in the Lakers series, he might now. Trina is now saying that she doesn’t know Kobe, that she just “said his name in a song.”

Oh, OK. Well, I’m sure Kobe (and Vanessa) will appreciate being name-checked in that way.

Have a great weekend everybody…see you all here on Tuesday.