By Holly MacKenzie

So, today is the day that the Phoenix Suns and Canada’s true golden boy come to town to face the Durant-less Sonics. Yes, this girl is excited. The fact that it is a Suns game is awesome, but the fact that it is being played in Canada, in Vancouver so close to Steve’s hometown and also that it is sold out, makes it even more exciting. And yeah, after writing the recap from last night’s game, I hope I see their offense in full tilt. Good thing I don’t mind a blow out. Of course, D’Antoni might go soft and sit most of his starters since it is the last game of preseason. I am beyond thrilled that Stoudemire will play, even in limited minutes. It is safe to say that I am the envy of all of Nova Scotia today and I like it.
Kobe…Not playing in the final preseason game for the Lakers. Not traveling with the team. Can’t wait to not read all of the trade rumors that come along after the latest development in Kobe Byrant’s life. Hopefully once season starts we can start hearing about likely destinations weekly rather than daily. Somehow, I doubt even that.

Happy to see that the Raps played well. I didn’t get the game but soon all of theirs will be shown on TV. I was a little alarmed to hear that Bosh wore a brace in the game? The pictures I saw showed a “normal” looking brace/sleeve, but nothing too serious looking. When I think of brace I always think of those horribly huge post-ACL-surgery monsters. After encountering 5 ACL tears in one season and 10 over 3 seasons, that’s what happens. I guess I am just a nervous Canadian. He has been out, but all we have been told is that he “tweaked” his knee. I wonder what, exactly that means? Tweaking the medial meniscus? Tweaking the MCL? I hate when teams are vague about the injuries of their players. Did the Raps announce this injury and I just missed it?

As for the rest of the NBA… This whole ref/gambling disaster is ticking me off. I find out that over HALF of the referees in the NBA are guilty of violating the anti-gambling rules of the league? Then I hear that Stern is not going to punish them because he feels the rules are outdated? Okay, you know what, Great. The rules suck, they don’t reflect our society today, and you change them. I have absolutely no problem with that. I do, however, have a problem with not penalizing employees who violate rules when they are in effect. Especially those employees whose honesty, integrity and respect for the game is absolutely integral to that job. If these lies have come to the surface, what else is lurking below it? Outdated or not, until those rules were changed, whether Stern made the decision on his own accord (of course, not very likely to happen), or the referees’ association brought them up to Stern and his crew, they needed to be respected and followed. Having over half of your staff violating your policies may indeed show that the policies themselves needed to be changed, but it also shows that you do not have control over those employees, especially alarming in the wake of Donaghy-gate. I know many people will say what the refs did was not a big deal, but to me, a lie is a lie is a lie.

Had I been caught in a lie to my employer (especially one so blatantly against company policy), I would expect to be punished accordingly. I know that some of the rules (such as stepping foot inside a casino), are pretty ridiculous, but rules are rules. Maybe I am a huge stickler and the only one who feels this way but what an ugly offseason. While I doubt that there will be another Donaghy disaster, it appears control needs to be regained. What do you guys think? Am I being too harsh? Also, on this final weekend of mental clarity before the season begins, tell me your thoughts for season ahead.

Toronto 111 Cleveland 78

Fans at the Air Canada Center not only got to watch their Raptors blow out Cleveland 111-78, most importantly they got to see their superstar Chris Bosh back in action after being sidelined since Oct. 7th with a “tweaked” knee. Although he played only 15 minutes, Bosh finished with 12 points and looked active, getting steals, going hard to the basket and getting up contesting shots. This was a relief for Raptor fans. New Raptor Carlos Delfino had a great game leading Toronto with 18 points and 9 rebounds. There was not much suspense towards the outcome of the game with Toronto up by 19 at the start of the 4th quarter and cruising from there. TJ Ford scored only 6 points, but added 13 assists and newly signed sharp-shooter Jason Kapano scored 12 points and connected on both of his 3-point attempts. LeBron James was tops for Cleveland with 17 points and 9 assists and Damon Jones was right behind him with 16. Larry Hughes had 14 and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 9 and 9 for the Cavs who finished with more turnovers (20) than they did assists (16). In comparison, the Raptors executed their offense much better, finishing with 31 assists on 40 field goals. The Raptors also shot 50% from the 3-point line, going 9-18 for the game.

Orlando 99 San Antonio 90

Behind the return of Rashard Lewis the Orlando Magic defeated the San Antonio Spurs 99-90. In his first game back since injuring his ankle Lewis finished with 16 points while Dwight Howard added 11 points and 13 boards. The Magic are counting on Lewis to be consistent in his scoring from the perimeter, forcing their opponents not to double-team and leaving Howard free to play his man one-on-one. With both teams playing their starters, the Spurs led for most of the first half until Orlando went on a scoring run in the final minute of the 2nd quarter to take a one point lead (48-47), into the break. In the 2nd half the Magic were up by as many as 13 but the Spurs, led by Manu Ginobili’s 21 points, came back to take the lead briefly before Orlando pulled ahead for good. During that Spurs run, they kept the Magic scoreless for over 3 minutes before Lewis hit consecutive shots to jumpstart the Magic offense. Both Lewis and Howard sat out the 4th quarter for Orlando, while Tim Duncan sat out for San Antonio. Tony Parker added 18 and 8 for the Spurs while Duncan had 10 on a rough shooting night of 4-14 from the floor. Carlos Arroyo had 16 points on 8-10 field goals for the Magic. The Magic are expected to lose Tony Battie for the season after he underwent surgery to repair a tear in his rotator cuff, and they are expected to apply for relief of “medical exception” in order to replace him.

Philadelphia 91 New Jersey 83

The 76ers got scoring from Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Willie Green to pace themselves in a victory over New Jersey on Thursday evening. After being down by 3 at the end of the 1st quarter, Philadelphia outscored New Jersey by 10 in the 2nd and 11 in the 3rd to build a big enough lead to last them the rest of the game. New Jersey played without Jason Kidd again, but the team says he should be available for their final preseason game versus New York this evening. While Iguodala and Green scored 15 apiece for Philly they were led by Miller’s 18. Bostjan Nachbar was the high-scorer for New Jersey with 17, Richard Jefferson had 15 and Jamaal Magloire added 14 ad 10 rebounds for the Nets. Nenad Krstic sat the game out for the Nets. He is working his way back from offseason surgery for a torn ACL and had the night off although he is expected to be back for the start of season, playing limited minutes.

Chicago 97 Milwaukee 81

In their win against the Milwaukee Thursday night, the Bulls would have rather escaped unscathed with a loss instead of having 3 players go down along their way to victory. In the 97-81 decision, Ben Wallace left the game in the 2nd quarter with a sprained ankle, Tyrus Thomas left in the 3rd after a foot injury and Joakim Noah in the 4th with a presumed ankle sprain. The Bulls led 52-43 at the half and then went on a 14-6 run in the beginning of the 3rd and did not look back from there. At one point in the 3rd, the Bulls led Milwaukee by 17. While the Bulls had 3 guys go down, there were some good things that did happen for them. Ben Gordon played in his second game back after an ankle injury as well as Luol Deng who had been out with a wrist contusion. The Bucks played without regular Andrew Bogut who was out with a wrist sprain and fellow starters Michael Redd and Mo Williams were given the night off. Kirk Hinrich was the leading scorer in the game with 20 points, Luol Deng had 12 and Ben Gordon finished with 11 for the Bulls. Milwaukee got a great game from Charlie Villanueva with 19 points and 8 rebounds. In the absence of regular starters, both Desmond Mason and Charlie Bell chipped in with 11 apiece and Dan Gadzuric finished with 10. More information on the status of Wallace, Noah and Thomas should be announced today. Bogut is listed at day-to-day and his status is undetermined for the Bucks regular season opener.

Phoenix 116 Denver 113

It is widely thought that one of the biggest keys to the season for the Phoenix Suns will be Coach D’Antoni lengthening his rotation to give more guys minutes and most importantly, give his starters adequate rest. The game Thursday night was a perfect example for D’Antoni with a picture perfect result to go with it. With 3.3 seconds left in the game, not only was a rookie on the floor but that rookie, D.J. Strawberry, rose up and hit the game winning three-pointer. Hopefully, once season starts, that poise will be remembered and the kid will get some playing time. In the first game back for Amare Stoudemire after arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the Suns won against Denver 116-113. After being up for most of the 4th quarter the Suns barely escaped with the victory after Denver rallied back from a 12 point deficit and tied the game 113-113 with just over a minute left in the game. While each team traded high scoring quarters, Denver was unable to recover after being outscored 39-15 by the Suns in the 3rd. Despite the loss, Denver’s 1-2 punch of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony appear poised for the regular season. They combined for 23 points in the 1st quarter, outscoring the entire Suns team by one. Iverson finished with 24 points and Anthony with 22. J.R. Smith finished with 17 points for the Nuggets. Smith will miss the first 3 games of the regular season because of a team suspension resulting from an altercation in a nightclub. The game brought a lot of positives for Phoenix besides the victory. Stoudemire played only 18 minutes, but looked good and scored his 10 points on 4-5 shooting from the floor. Grant Hill continued to mesh with his new team and was their leading scorer with 17 points as the Suns had a balanced scoring attack with seven players in double-figures. The biggest positive though, was the play of rookies Strawberry and Alando Tucker. In addition to hitting the game winning three, Strawberry played 19 minutes and finished with 14 points on 6-9 shooting. Tucker came in and scored 12 points in his 17 minutes of play. Steve Nash added 14 points and 10 assists for the Suns. Guard Leandro Barbosa did not play in the game as a result of bruised ribs. He will not travel with the team to Vancouver, Canada for the teams final preseason game tonight. Marcus Camby did not play for the Nuggets.