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I guess you can be a little sarcastic when your team is off to its best start in franchise history, and your best player is putting up Malone-like numbers.

Carlos Boozer scored 35 points in 33 minutes Monday, sure, but where was his pro-forma double-double? Undone by a mere nine rebounds, the slacker. And is it too nitpicky to point out he missed two of his 16 shots? Give him a pass this time – it was his 25th birthday.

Boozer’s having as good a start to 2006-07 as anyone in the league. Wouldn’t it be funny if he were somehow able to beat out LeBron James for the MVP award, and if his Jazz took out the Cavs in the playoffs?

Long way off…but fun to dabble in the possibilities, nonetheless.

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Originally posted in the Hoops Forum:

This is just from ONE article… ESPN’s Daily Dime for today.

On Grant Hill

Grant Hill has experienced devastating injuries, having appeared in more than 30 games only once in his first five seasons in Orlando.
Most would have retired long ago.

But it’s a testament to his strength of will, and sense of loyalty to his team, that he’s back again, giving his top effort for the Magic.

Now 34 and healthy again, he’s shown shades of the Hill of old, sending Orlando off to a 7-4 mark, including Monday night’s 95-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s leading the team in scoring at 16.1 ppg, out on the court for about 30 minutes per game.

I wish more young guys would have watched Hill’s example in this case. He could have just taken the money; instead, he gave them more than what they could have reasonably expected.

Of course, when you’re talking about the Magic, you’re talking about the game’s next great big man. And Dwight Howard is their best player — that was 24 points and 23 boards he put up against Memphis. He’s got the fierce will like we saw with a young Tim Duncan in San Antonio.

But I see Hill as their leader, totally irreplaceable. I think his tenacity has led this young Orlando team that had been struggling much of last year. The team’s start is direct result of his example. To weather as much as he did, I think his teammates owe him their best effort every night.

Often, teams struggle with considerations of whether to take a team in a younger direction, or rely on veterans. But I think Brian Hill has done tremendous job blending these elements in Orlando — too often we forget the coach is vital to making this all work. I thought the Magic were smart in bringing him back — sometimes, a team makes a coaching change because it needs a new voice. His voice is welcome once again.

His team’s interior defense is tremendous. Heck, they even have Hedo Turkoglu playing D. In the game against Memphis, you saw Darko Milicic have one of his lesser outings.

He’s had some good ones, too. Milicic is a guy who has been through the ringer — the pressures of the NBA can be a shock to system for a lot of players. I think it’s going to take a while to recover, and learn where his place is in the league. He’s a good player, but he needs to be strong-willled about these adjustments. Very difficult.

I see the Magic becoming a playoff team this year. They’re still some players away from becoming a championship team, and in going for those players, they’ve got to keep the identity of a tough-minded team.

Much has been made about the kind of salary cap room the Magic will have when Hill’s number comes off the books. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. I’d love to see Grant Hill have, finally, at long last, a positive outcome in Orlando.

His basketball story won’t stop when his playing days are over. Grant Hill would be a great coach — he’s a leader, with a strong understanding of the game. On the court now, he’s obviously not player he was in Detroit, but he still has a lot to offer.

The Magic are getting that rare chance to see it. It’s a great thing to see.

On Carlos Boozer

On his 25th birthday, Carlos Boozer had 35 in Utah’s win over Toronto. “We’re having fun. I think you could see that out there in the fourth quarter with the fans going crazy,” said Boozer.

Monday’s Best
Jazz forward Carlos Boozer: Sinks 14 of 16 shots en route to 35 points in Utah’s 101-96 win over Toronto. Had nine boards too. That’s a 10-1 start for your Utah Jazz.

On Shane Battier

Even Shane Battier noticed [David] Lee’s fight, singling him out as the young Knick he was most impressed with — a high compliment coming from Mr. Intangible himself, a player Lee says he looked up to in college. “At one point in the game,” Lee said. “I went up to (Battier) and I was like, ‘You have zero points and your team is still winning.’ He found other ways to impact the game.”

• Shane Battier’s final line: 6 points on 2 of 4 shooting (one of those buckets coming on an accidental tip-in by Quentin Richardson), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal, three blocks. Not to mention the three charges he took, the crosscourt passes he made when he was double teamed in the post and the reckless dive he took to recover a loose ball that may well have been an Eli Manning fumble.

Then, of course there’s this week’s ESPN Power Rankings. That’s FIVE of the top TEN teams, folks.

Man, this is a fun season so far… both on the NBA and college side!

Slow night in the NBA, but it got the Duke Clippers on national television.

> Elton Brand (Clippers) – 8 points, 6 boards, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 96-95 win over Denver

> Daniel Ewing (Clippers) – 0 points, 1 board and 1 steal in 7 minutes in 96-95 win over Denver

> Corey Maggette (Clippers) – 13 points, 7 boards and 2 assists in 96-95 win over Denver

> Shane Battier (Houston) – 11 points, 1 board, 2 assists and 1 block in 107-97 loss to Utah

> Carlos Boozer (Utah) – 24 points, 19 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block in 107-97 win over Houston

> Elton Brand (LA Clippers) – 28 points, 13 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks in 112-104 loss to Phoenix

> Luol Deng (Chicago) – 12 points, 2 boards and 1 steal in 109-94 loss to Orlando

> Chris Duhon (Chicago) – 10 points, 3 boards, 3 assists and 1 steal in 109-94 loss to Orlando

> Mike Dunleavy (Golden State) – 4 points, 2 boards and 3 assists in 110-98 loss to LA Lakers

> Daniel Ewing (LA Clippers) – DNP, coach’s decision

> Grant Hill (Orlando) – 19 points, 4 boards, 1 assist and 2 steals in 109-94 win over Chicago

> Dahntay Jones (Memphis) – 2 points, 1 board, 1 assist and 1 block in 118-117 loss to New York

> Corey Maggette (LA Clippers) – 0 points, 1 rebound in seven minutes in 112-104 loss to Phoenix

> Shavlik Randolph (Philadelphia) – 0 points and 2 boards in 88-75 win over Atlanta

> J.J. Redick (Orlando) – On injured reserve

> Shelden Williams (Atlanta) – 0 points, 3 boards and 1 block in 88-75 loss to Philadelphia

Sheesh.

In a quick hitter on ESPN.com regarding Chris Duhon’s dazzling performance last night against the Heat:

Duhon looked more like his old high school self than I have seen since those days. He was “Coach K’d” for four years at Duke, filling a role, but coming in to Duke he was considered to be a truly special shooter and scorer. The small run Miami was trying to mount midway thru the third quarter was snuffed out by back to back 3’s from him — the second coming from serious range (the first one was a gift to him by Shaq’s poor hedge on a ball screen).

duhon.jpg

Here’s how former Blue Devils fared in last night’s action:

Luol Deng (Chicago) – 12 points, 2 boards, 1 assist, 1 steal in 108-66 win over Miami
Chris Duhon (Chicago) – 20 points, 2 boards, 3 assists, 0 steals in 108-66 win over Miami

Duhon’s game is made all the more impressive when considering that all of his scoring production came in a very efficient manner. He was 7-of-8 from the field (including 3-of-3 from behind the arc), and he played only 17 minutes in the trouncing of the defending NBA champs.

Made by DukieinFL from DBR. Enjoy:

Sad news for J-Will, but he has overcome greater setbacks in his life.

There are those who never believed Jay Williams had a shot to make the Nets roster. Their opinions had less to do with the fact the Nets are carrying the maximum 15 guaranteed contracts and more with their refusal to believe he would rediscover his game after a devastating motorcycle accident nearly took his life three and a half years ago.

Those naysayers may believe his journey back to the NBA is now over with the Nets waiving the former star point guard yesterday. But they may want to consult his family, friends and former Nets teammates who disagree.

“Oh no, this is just another step in the next direction. There’s one more to go. He’s almost there,” Williams’ father, David, said from his home in Plainfield, N.J. “This was a victory because everyone that didn’t get a chance to see him play full court — because all of those tryouts (Williams had) were three players in a half-court setting — saw him.

“I told him that before Friday’s game (against the 76ers). This is a chance to show what you can do. It’s not just the Nets. It’s the whole world that is watching.”

My, how history repeats itself:

While walking out of the Rockets’ locker room at Toyota Center after Wednesday night’s exhibition victory over Milwaukee in which he never got off the bench, Battier turned to teammate Bonzi Wells and cracked, “You know, I scored just as many points tonight as I did in Dallas.”

On Tuesday night against the Mavericks, Battier played 25 minutes and took just one shot.

Which is the problem. The good kind, at least, for coach Jeff Van Gundy.

“I think Shane is better than I expected,” Van Gundy said of the 6-8 forward, who was obtained in the draft-night trade from Memphis for first-round pick Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift. “You’re always happy when you get more than what you expected. Most times in life, you get less. So I’m happy about that.”

What it will take for Van Gundy to be blissfully exultant is for Battier to stop working at merely being a facilitator for Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady and start thinking about carrying more of the offensive load himself.

“I think he hurts us by passing up open shots,” Van Gundy said. “He’s one of our best shooters. When the ball comes to him and he’s open, he needs to shoot it every single time, and I should be the one pulling the reins back versus him passing up shots to do what he’s been conditioned to do — hit the open man.

“It’s just as bad for a good shooter to pass up an open shot to throw it to a more guarded guy. Unfortunately, I think I think he’s a better shooter than he thinks he is.

During Shane’s sophomore year at Duke, Sports Illustrated published a story on some motivational tools Coach K used to get Shane to…shoot the ball more.

“I had this talk before my sophomore year at Duke, when I averaged seven points and was a banger, rebounder and screen-setter,” Battier said. “Coach K (Mike Krzyewski) brought me into his office and said, ‘That’s not gonna cut it anymore.’

“Then he really got on me my junior year after Elton Brand, William Avery, Corey Maggette and Trajan Langdon left. Coach K used to call me every day in Chicago, where I was interning in the summer. He’d say, ‘Can you picture yourself as a 20-point scorer?’ I’d say, ‘Well, coach,’ and he’d hang up on me. He called me every day, and the second that I hemmed and hawed, he’d hang up on me.

“It took me a few days. When I finally said, ‘Yes, coach, I can see myself being that guy,’ then we had a normal conversa- tion.”

As a senior, Battier averaged 19.9 points, was named the National College Player of the Year and helped Duke win the NCAA championship.

Hill hasn’t finished a season in seven years thanks to his body’s inability to keep up.

No one deserves to thrive healthily more than Hill.

So far so good in ’06.

Hill could have retired long ago and started his next profession as a real-estate mogul or possibly even an NBA owner, but he’s not ready to give up on his basketball career just yet.

“I’ve fought through a lot just to get back to this point, and I think that kind of shows how much I love to play the game,” Hill said. “I feel great now, and I want to stay healthy for an entire season. I want to play as long as I can stay healthy. But if anything, I’ve learned that you take it one day at a time.”

Hill has looked magnificent throughout training camp, blowing by defenders with that cat-quick first step that made him a seven-time All-Star in a previous basketball life. He’ll play three different positions for the Magic, sliding over to point guard at times so Nelson can get up some shots from the shooting guard slot.