by Lang Whitaker

In case you kids haven’t noticed, your main man Sam is out this week. He went down to Spring Training to see the Yankees play. Seriously. This kid’s claimed to be a Mets fan for as long as I’ve known him, but he finally goes to Spring Training and he sees…the Yanks? Yes, the Yanks. Hmm.

Anyway, it’s been nuts here the last two days as we finished off SLAM issue 118. Without giving too much away, the cover is ridiculous. We came up with sort of an outlandish concept, and then we somehow pulled it off.

• I love how competitive the Western Conference is turning out to be. In SLAM 118, we each made our picks for the NBA champs, and there’s a good chance that any team in the West that we pick now could even miss the entire Playoffs. Seriously. The Hornets are in first, but the 9th place team, Denver, is only 7 losses behind them in the standings. So if any of those teams currently in the top eight hit a skid down the stretch, and they all have a lot of games left against each other, there’s a very possibility that a team in the top four right now doesn’t even make the Playoffs.

I’m still rolling with the Spurs, but I can’t get the Hornets out of my mind. They’re really good, and watching them play, they seem to have a little something extra, some spunk that most of the other teams aren’t playing with. The one thing that scares me about the Hornets is that they’re so reliant on Chris Paul, so seeing nights like last night where a guy like Bonzi Wells comes in and starts scoring make me think they’re going to be reckoned with in the postseason. If they make it, of course.

• Gary Sussman, here’s something for The Sez: I would like to know if the Nets have the most Presidential names in the NBA. Carter, Jefferson, Harris (Harry Truman’s actual first name). Put Aaron Harris to work over there researching this.

• I don’t understand why everyone in New York is so revved up about the possibility of Donnie Walsh taking over the Knicks. Isn’t he the same man who’s been in charge in Indy the last few years as their franchise has collapsed? Or is Isiah really that bad?

And we all thought Scott Layden was beyond help.

• Sorry, but I can’t talk about the Hawks losing to the Nets. I wrote about it today over at Hawks.com. Enough.

• I’ve got something planned for The Links tomorrow, and I want to go watch some NCAA hoops today, so I thought we’d run NBA Friday one day early. Each Friday, Joel Kimmel, the official illustrator of The Links, gives us a new illustration of a player from an NBA team. This week’s team is the Miami Heat, and this week’s drawing is Dwyane Wade.

“I’m a big fan of the Flash comic books,” says Joel, “and with Wade’s nickname being ‘Flash,’ I had to run with it. I did some research into old Flash covers (the majority are horrible) and some Flash artwork and decided on a classic action pose, running towards the viewer. I altered the Heat uniform a bit to make it a bit more superhero-ish without actually putting Wade in boots and tights. The Miami skyline is on the horizon and I added the seagulls to make it a bit more like Miami. I also wanted to incorporate Wade’s number 3 into the painting, so I painted it in a few different places.”

As always, dope.

Next week’s team? The Washington Wizards. If you guys have suggestions for Joel, leave them in the comments section below.