by Lang Whitaker

Hey…wait a second…YOU’RE NOT HOLLY!

Busted. It’s me, Lang. A few weeks ago, after reading yet another gripping, 9,000-word edition of Holly’s Post Up column, I send her an email. I told her she’s been doing a great job, but when she was worn out to let me know and I’d be honored to sit in for her one morning. I think my email was two sentences long. Holly’s response was 6,000 words so I didn’t read the entire thing, but apparently she took me up on the offer.

So, I’m here, and let me tell you, I really like what you’ve done with the place. And thanks for allowing me in tonight, one of the busiest NBA nights in recent memory.

For tonight, I’m a luddite. No TV, no cable, no internet. (I aired my feelings about this situation earlier today.) HOWEVA, I’m lucky enough to live in one of the most crowded cities in the world, so I tonight will be scouring the wires and combing through box scores using an open wireless network that seems to belongs to two people named Matt and Jenny, or perhaps one person named Matt Jenny. Whichever, bless you Matt/Jenny, for not setting your wireless network’s password and thus allowing me to jack your signal for a while. I won’t download any porn, I swear.

On to the games…

Washington 105, Cleveland 86
LeBron hurt = Cavs suck. Somehow Brendan Haywood went for 17 and 10. No wonder my cable isn’t working — something must be askew with the earth’s magnetic plates when Haywood’s posting double-doubles. Since they were in the same arena, I wonder if Drew Gooden and DeShawn Stevenson took the time to officially measure their beards against one another.

One of the most interesting things I read yesterday was this post on Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Bog about Caron Butler drinking Mountain Dew. Caron, you see, used to drink a 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew before and during every basketball game he played. I enjoyed discovering this because I, too, used to be a Dew’er. The first year I wrote for a living full time, I made a total of about $15,000. (Obviously, back then my income was much more in line with my level of talent.) My roommate was one of my best friends, and he had a part time job delivering newspapers (while he was allegedly trying to find full-time work), so mostly we just sat around and played Madden and listened to music. Seeing as how our funds were limited, most of our grocery shopping was done at a nearby Sam’s Club warehouse store, that I had somehow scammed a membership card for. And pretty much all we bought was cases of Mountain Dew and cartons of Ramen noodles. To this day, I maintain that I am one of the world’s finest preparers of Ramen noodles. I get the water/noodle ratio just right, I know how to mix the seasoning packet in so that you don’t get clumps, I can really do it all.

Anyway, we drank so much Mountain Dew over about a two-year period that I’m a little surprised I didn’t go around shouting “Extreme!” and participating in outdoor sports. Mountain Dew is that crack music.

Good luck, Caron. The DTs aren’t as bad as they seem. You can lean on us.

Chicago 91, Charlotte 82
I’ve never been much a fan of these Bulls, as currently constructed. I think Ben Gordon shoots too much, Kirk Hinrich is an average point guard, Ben Wallace is too petulant and Luol Deng isn’t assertive enough. But last year they were pretty darn good, so it was hard for me to feel like I was correct. They had more conflicting agendas than the UN, but somehow they managed to make it work.

This year, it’s not that hard for me to feel like I was right. Ben Gordon is still shooting too much, Hinrich is in foul trouble every game I watch, Ben Wallace insists on firing up some hurricane-strength bricks, and I spend most of the games wondering why they don’t run more plays for Luol.

The Bulls seem trapped between identities. Are they a running team? A defensive juggernaut? A perimeter oriented team?

Maybe they’re an Argentian team? Because Nocioni went off for his second game in a row tonight (45 points in the last 2 games). He really needs a hairstylist, though.

And what’s the deal with Ty Thomas? He’s starting, he’s a key player off the bench, and then tonight he played a total of 6 minutes.

Speaking of amazing hair, Walter Hermann played 12 minutes and had 6 points for the BETcats.

Funny bit in the AP game notes:

Vincent recalled what he thought when he first saw Skiles at Michigan State. “I thought he was a little (expletive) who couldn’t play basketball,” Vincent joked. … Skiles said he didn’t think Vincent would end up a coach when he was leading the Spartans in scoring. “I thought he was going to end up being an actor,” Skiles said. “There is some acting in this business, though.”

Boston 113, Philadelphia 103
I’m not surprised the Celtics won, but I’m shocked the Sixers kept it this close. I watched the Philly/Atlanta game a few nights ago, and man are the Sixers bad. The Hawks weren’t even playing a good game, and the Sixers still couldn’t do anything. Even Andre Miller, who’s usually steady, was turning it over and seemed mostly concerned with trying to flop around and draw improbable fouls.

But Stefanski’s turning things around already! Tonight Mo Cheeks started Willie Green, shortened his rotation way down and let his guys run a little bit, and they responded. And check out my main man (and ATLien) Lou Wiliams, who dropped 18 points in 27 minutes. He’s gonna be special if he can learn to dribble the ball and not foul everyone driving in his vicinity.

The last line of the AP story reads:

King met with the media earlier in the day and said he was surprised at the timing of his firing. “I don’t regret rebuilding,” King said. “I think it was the right thing to do.”

Wait, he considers what he did to the Sixers “rebuilding”? Really? Hey, the man needs a job, someone call FEMA!

And let me make a prediction now: If any of the Celts end up contending for the MVP award, it’ll be Paul Pierce. People are loving KG right now, and he’s playing great, but by the end of the season, Pierce is going to be getting the attention, and rightfully so. And just wait until KG starts lobbying for Pierce to get the award. (Remember where you read it…)

Phoenix 136, Toronto 123
Holly was allegedly at this game, so I’m going to leave this one for her to tackle later. I just glanced at the box score and Phoenix shot 59 percent from the field FOR THE GAME and attempted 28 threes. Pete Carill was probably rolling over in his Florida vacation home.

I do love this quote from Sam Mitchell, though: “Our transition defense was just horrible. The first four threes Barbosa made, we weren’t near. It’s just lack of communication.”

Or a lack of defense.

New York 100, New Jersey 93
No Steph, no Curry, no J-Kidd, no Lang.

Think Isiah didn’t want this one desperately? The fewest minutes played by any starter was 37 by David Lee. Jamal Crawford started at the point and went for 29 and 7, presumably using a lot of crossover dribbles. Zach Randolph finally had himself a game, too, with 25 and 6 boards.

Kidd missed this game with a migrane. Named Joumana.

Actually, says here that Kidd sat out because he doesn’t like the way the Nets are going. Didn’t he just sign that huge contract with them a few years ago? I’d love it if Vince started criticizing Kidd for sitting out games.

Without Kidd or Marcus Williams, who’s still on the chilling list with a bum foot, the Nets started Eddie Gill, who played 23 minutes and fouled out. But keep an eye on Jamaal Magloire, who’s played two really strong games back-to-back. If they can get him going and scale back the playing time of Collins The Greater, the Nets might have finally found themselves a productive power forward.

Detroit 91, New Orleans 76
If you read The Links yesterday, I talked about how high I was on Detroit. The Celtics and the Magic are getting the headlines right now, but the Pistons are for real. They’ve played four games in five night in four different cities, and the still went to a good New Orleans team and took it to them.

Meanwhile, Tyson Chandler is beasting, posting 22 points and 17 rebounds tonight. Wait, I flipped that. He had 22 rebounds and 17 points. Which is more impressive? For Tyson Chandler, I say the former. Which is what he didn’t get. Still, great numbers.

Houston 105, Memphis 92
Nothing I tell you about this game is going to change your life in any appreciable way. T-Mac had a triple-double. Yao Ming had 24 and 13 without making any facial expressions. And Moochie Norris came off the bench for a huge three down the stretch. (I can dream, can’t I?)

Free Pau Gasol!

>>Just went to the kitchen, stood over the sink and ate some leftover delivery sesame chicken. I feel re-fortified. If I had a two-liter Mountain Dew, I’d drink it. Let’s get back to it!

San Antonio 97, Dallas 92
And the hits just keep on coming. A big game between two great teams. And I’m not surprised at all that San Antonio beat Dallas.

As the NBA season chugs along, I usually settle on a team I think has the best chance at winning a title late in the season, certainly after the All-Star break.

But this year San Antonio is going to win the championship. I’m positive. As sure as I am that Time Warner Cable has poor customer service, that’s how sure I am that, barring injury, the Spurs are going all the way. They’re so focused, everyone’s clicking, and Pop knows exactly what buttons to push to get them there.

You know that Ginobili guy who usually comes off the bench? Tonight, with Tim Duncan still injured, Pop gave Manu the start and he scored 37 points.

To be fair, Dallas, even though they’re still winning more than they’re losing, is still kind of in search mode, trying out different line-ups and rotations. Devean George and Eddie Jones, that means you’re on the bench for now. See you around Playoff time, fellas.

Los Angeles Lakers 111, Denver 107
Remember how everyone used to complain because he shot too much and he refused to involve his teammates, which led to great individual nights but a lot of losses?

Believe it or not, we’re not talking about Kobe. Allen Iverson, at least for this night, reverted to AI and went buck wild, scoring 51 points (49 though 3 quarters). But the Lakers managed to hold AI to 2 in the fourth, and Kobe went on a little run at the end to seal it for the Lakers.

I kind of miss that old AI. Remember how many nights he had games like this for the Sixers? They didn’t win many of them, but it was always fun to watch the smallest guy on the floor straight dominate everyone who came after him. Tonight Iverson seems to have done it by getting to the line — he shot 18 free throws, more than Kobe, Lamar, Luke Walton, Chris Mihm and Andrew Bynum combined.

The last Nuggets player to score 51 points in a game?

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf! Recognize, fools.

Seattle/Oklahoma City 95, Los Angeles Clippers 88
Linkstigator Nick Collison went down last week with a broken nose, which I took as a good opportunity to engage him in a round of text messaging about his beloved reality shows, including “The Hills.” Nick agrees with me that it’s time, even for us hardcore fans of the show, to admit that “The Hills” is fake. But, as I texted Nick, wouldn’t it be cool if the producers of “The Hills” come out and admit the show is all fake and always has been, and then, much like happened with professional wrestling, the ratings for “The Hills” go through the roof?

I also told Nick that he needs to start watching “Kid Nation” on CBS, which is my favorite new reality show. Basically, they took about 35 kids between the ages of 8 and 14 and put them all in an unsupervised Old West town and set them loose. It’s fascinating to watch. I particularly enjoy how most of the kids completely refuse to clean up after themselves. And they kind of gloss over it, but I’m curious to see how bed time works, because when I was a kid I never wanted to go to sleep, and they never show anyone telling these kids to get any sleep, they just all seem to go to bed and wake up early every day. All except for that girl Taylor, who is an unbelievable wench, considering she’s about 10 years old.

Anyway, Nick came back to the Sonics tonight, scored 18 and grabbed 17 boards. That’s what I’m talking about. According to the game notes, Nick played with a protective mask, which I guess means we’re going to have to get Sam a protective mask to wear around the office for the time being.

Golden State 120, Milwaukee 90
When I went to Hawaii to write the Kobe SLAM 115 cover story, I got to see the Lakers play the Warriors twice, and I came away thinking the Warriors that we saw in the Playoffs last season were for real. Both games I saw, they were flying around the court, playing that reckless, breathless ball they did against Dallas.

Then the season started, and they came out cooler than a polar bear’s toenail, not notching their first win until the middle of November, right when Stephen Jackson returned from his latest suspension. Since then, however, they’ve gone 10-2 and looked really impressive once again. I suppose the lesson we should learn here is how slim their margin of error is. And when your entire team’s chemistry hinges on Stephen Jackson being able to keep his mind right, I’m not so sure that’s a good situation to be in. Sure is fun to watch, though.

I really like what I’ve seen of Milwaukee this year, too, although they’re just too young.

That’s about it. 2,400 words. Good grief. Holly will be back tomorrow with a much simpler Post Up.

For now, you guys have it below…