by Lang Whitaker

So I went to that Knicks/Wizards barnburner last night, as much to see the Wiz play as to catch up with SLAM columnist Etan Thomas. Jake was there, too, but I didn’t want to interrupt the man-love Jake and Russ are so succesfully building, so neither of us took notes. I can tell you that as the game droned on, and as the fans began chanting “Fire Isiah,” “Fire Thomas,” “Fire Dolan” and “We Want Nate,” Madison Square Garden was a pretty depressing place to be.

But all was not lost. I got home and turned on the Hawks/Nuggets game, and the Hawks were down 17 in the fourth. Oh well, I figured, the Hawks were playing without Zaza Pachulia, Marvin Williams and Josh Childress, so they probably weren’t supposed to win this one. But then they started making shots, and they kept making shots, and they kept making shots, and they were defending, and all of a sudden they were in the game.

Next thing I knew, the Hawks had Shelden Williams at the line with the chance to take the lead. Denver announcer Chris Marlowe said the good thing about this for Denver was that Shelden Williams is a bad free throw shooter. He’s a bad shooter from the floor, but he’s shooting 81 percent from the line on the season, and last season at Duke he shot 74 percent on free throws. He drilled both freebies and the Hawks went on to win the game.

As the Hawks left the floor, pumped from the win, the Denver broadcasters said that Josh Smith appeared to be yelling at someone. And Scott Hastings, the former Hawks reserve who now does color commentary for the Nuggets, said Josh Smith “is showing how stupid he is.”

Wait, did he really say that?

Yes, he did. Funny that someone who mistakenly called Josh Smith “Joe Smith” for most of the fourth quarter would label a player “stupid,” but Hastings did.

Worse, he didn’t say it was a stupid decision or stupid behavior (which it probably was), he said Josh Smith was stupid.

Hopefully he misspoke. If not, really classy.

Let’s hit The Links…

QUOTES OF THE DAY
“It’s fool’s gold. The first couple of times you use it, it feels great. But the more you play with it, it starts peeling your nails off your fingertips.” — Al Harrington, on the new ball.

“It’s like brussel sprouts. No one likes it.” — Gregg Popovich, on the new ball.

“We’ve lost 12 of 14 games. Something obviously has to be done. There needs to be a change somehow. Something needs to be scrambled up.” — Allen Iverson, on the Sixers.

THE LINKS…
• So not only has Dwight Howard announced he wants to be in the Slam Dunk Contest, but now Damon Jones says he wants to take part in the Three Point Shootout, and he swears he’ll win if he takes part.

• Mark Jackson says if the players don’t like the new ball, they should blame Steve Kerr, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller. Mark’s joking, but I’m blaming Reggie. If a ball gets stuck between the rim and the backboard twice in one quarter, do you blame the ball or the players?

• The Magic have a naming-rights deal for their new arena: Amway Arena. If the arena isn’t shaped like a pyramid I’m going to be really angry.

DISASTER! Links favorite Dan Dickau is back in the Blazers line-up!

• Think Carmelo was upset about losing the game to the Hawks? Check out the picture of him here.

• Stephon Marbury is giving a free pair of shoes to every varsity basketball player in New York City.

• I love that they’re worried about the Mavs in Dallas — they’ve won 13 of 14, right?

• The NY Times says the Nets are lacking something, but what? How about a power forward? Or what if they traded for Collins The Lesser and started both Collins brothers at power forward?

• Love that Yao Ming decided to walk from the hotel to the arena in Minnesota even though it was 7 degrees outside.

• The Sixers held a team meeting last night…then went out and got drilled again.

• Tyrus Thomas is kicking it with Scottie Pippen.

• Finally, Larry Bird turns 50 today. Happy birthday, legend.