ONE: As an Aussie NBA blog, you’d be forgiven lately for thinking Bogut is the only Australian playing in the league at the moment. And you wouldn’t be far from the truth. The three players who make up the remainder of the Aussie NBA Quartet have all gone through rough patches and struggled to get court time, for various reasons. David Andersen missed the Rocket’s last three games because of a back injury, but returned to the court tonight against the Nets. Remarkably, DA played in 58 of the Rocket’s first 59 games before missing those three and has proven to be one of their most durable and reliable performers. As I write this he has turned in a 4-point, 5-rebound first half against the Nets, so it looks like he’s picking up where he left off two weeks ago.

Up in Portland things have been pretty quiet on the Patrick Mills front, the Aussie guard having played zero minutes of the Blazers last four games. Something is up. I’m not sure if Patty is injured, or if he’s going to be sent back to the D-League, or if he’s fallen out of favor with Coach McMillan? Obviously signing Travis Diener didn’t help Patty’s cause (I still don’t get that signing, and I now really hate Travis Diener) but it’s not like Travis has been setting the world on fire. So what is going on? I’ve been searching the Interweb far and wide and haven’t been able to get any good answers as to why Patty hasn’t been suiting up, or why he’s not even appearing in box-scores anymore. The only thing I’ve read that’s encouraging is this quote from Patty himself: “Everyone talks about me getting no playing time and no practice time, but I’m dealing with it very well and it’s made me stronger mentally.” Good to know. Maybe we should stop talking about it then?

Out Minnesota way, Nathan Jawai is back on the court after missing several games with an ankle injury. With Big Nate’s minutes having plummeted over the last couple of months, it was good to see him get a 12-minute run in the T-Wolves loss to San Antonio yesterday. It’s only the fourth game he’s played since January 20th (about the time when Jefferson and Love got healthy again). In those 12 minutes he had 2 points (off free-throws), 2 rebounds a 1 assist (and 3 turnovers). I’m hoping the Wolves decide to give Jawai some minutes as the season winds down – they would seemingly have the league’s second-worst record wrapped up, and they’ll need to assess exactly what they want to do with Nate come next season. No better way to asset it than to let him loose over these last 15-20 games.

TWO: If you don’t subscribe to the idea that Charles Barkley is an idiot, then you’ll surely admit he’s prone to saying idiotic things. Such as stating the Orlando Magic cannot win the title. This is especially amusing coming from a guy who never won one himself, but I’ll put that aside for now. I take extreme offense to the notion Orlando cannot win the title this season. I’ve spent considerable time lately weighing up my opinions on this team, and really, there is absolutely no reason they can’t win it all. What I love is how they – notably Dwight – have paced themselves this season. You remember everyone jumping on Howard’s back for averaging only 17-11 and 1.7 blocks over the first month of the season? He wasn’t playing poorly, just slightly more passive, as if saving energy for the long season ahead. He’s kicked into another gear each and every month since, and so has his team.

The game against the Lakers last week epitomized everything about how Orlando has grown since losing the Finals and Hedo Turkoglu. They tried to bully LA and they succeeded. They would not have tried that last year. They are tougher, more athletic, they have a chip on their shoulder bigger than anyone in the league, and their best player is better than ever. This season they’ve split the Lakers series 1-1, smacked Boston 3-1, beat the Cavs once and pushed them twice in two losses (with their fourth encounter still to come). What’s more, I think Orlando are just starting to peak, right now. I think you’d have to be complete and utter moron to write them off at this point of the season – exhibit A, Charles Barkley.

THREE: I watched yesterday’s Suns-Lakers game and I may have found a new favorite player. Lou Amundson played 28 of the most impressive bench minutes I have EVER seen in my life. My jaw literally dropped, several times. On one epic play he emphatically swatted Bynum and Gasol (remember this guy is only 6-9), only to then dive on the loose ball and win the subsequent jump ball. I’m a fan of hard-working hustle guys. Guys like Ben Wallace and Charles Oakley will always endear themselves to me far more than flashy or fancy players. So watching Amundson last night was a real treat for me. 11 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in just 28 minutes is phenomenal. You absolutely want a guy like that on your team if you’re trying to win a championship. And the thing I loved most about his game last night, was the way he responded to practically getting his head knocked off by Gasol. It should have been a flagrant – Gasol’s hand whacked Amundson right in the side of the head and sent him flying. And you know what happened next? Amundson got up, shook himself off, and went to the line to shoot his three-throws. I guarantee you if Anderson Varejao had been fouled like that he would have faked a two-minute seizure and Gasol would have been ejected. As it was, nothing happened. When Coach Gentry realised a flagrant hadn’t been called he went ape-shit. Like, really ape-shit (see below video). It took Thunder Dan Majerle to restrain him from murdering the referee, and he was promptly ejected. Anyway, my point is that it was extremely refreshing to see someone take a hard foul like that and not milk it for all it’s worth. It’s how basketball should be played. Luke Hodge would be proud of you, Mr. Amundson.

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FOUR: I read this thought-provoking post over at Dime Magazine earlier in the week: Where does Chauncey Billups rank amongst the greatest NBA Point Guards? This is a more topical question than you think, and here’s why: Chauncey Billups is already in a very exclusive group of “great” NBA players with decorated careers (i.e. rings), but he might be on the cusp of making that legacy even greater. He wasn’t supposed to be. His prime was between 2003-2006 when he lead Detroit to two Finals, nabbed a Finals MVP, and stamped himself as a legitimate All-Star. He was supposed to go to Denver and be a floor-general and help the others guys on his team. At 32 years old, he wasn’t supposed to raise his game, to win playoff-series off his own back (see Hornets series last year), to keep churning out All-Star appearances. Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have been getting a lot of credit lately for remaining so effective this late in their careers, but what about Chauncey? You forget about Chauncey, didn’t you?

I can guarantee you did. I guarantee you didn’t realise he was averaging a career high 20.1 points per game (he’s only topped 18ppg in one other season back in 05-06). That’s not one of those statistically meaningless jumps – that is the kind of leap you expect from a rookie or a sophomore, especially when you consider Chauncey already plays alongside one of the best scorers in the game  But when you look into how his scoring has increased, you really get a shock. I guarantee you didn’t know he was averaging a career-high 7.2 free-throw attempts per game – that’s two more attempts per game than last year, and one more than any other season of Chauncey’s career. This defies logic. Old players, especially old point guards, are not supposed to start driving to the hoop more. Their free-throw attempts are supposed to decline as they lose speed, hops, and start deferring to their younger scorers more and more while settling for three-pointers. Chauncey obviously didn’t get this memo, and as a result he is arguably turning in the best season of his 13-year NBA career.

So where does Chauncey rank? He’s rarely been mentioned in the same breath as Kidd and Nash, no doubt because Chauncey has seemingly been surrounded by more talent through his career – some people would probably argue Chauncey’s been more “lucky” than those two. But you look at what’s happened to Detroit since he left and you start thinking, maybe this guy really was the stand-out from this supposedly superstar-less team? And you look at what’s happened to Denver since he went there and you start thinking, maybe this guy is making his own luck? I’m not going to rank him just yet, because his career is not over. But I will say this: a second championship ring for Chauncey, on his second team this late in his career, would force everyone to seriously reevaluate his legacy amongst the all-time great guards. I’m talking above Nash and Kidd. Even if he doesn’t get another ring, and he just plays out another 2-3 quality seasons with Denver, you will have to digest the following fact when you’re ranking those all-time great PGs: Chauncey Billups’ teams were serious championship contenders for the last 10 years. Each and every single year. How many other point guards can you truly say that about throughout NBA history? I guarantee you, it’s very few.

FIVE: Congratulations to the Perth Wildcats on capturing their record fifth NBL title on Friday Night. The Bball Scoop has all the latest, including CEO Larry Sengstock’s thoughts, and the threat of the destructive Red Army. For anyone who keenly follows the NBL, you should make the Bball Scoop part of your regular reading. As well as the blog at Can’t Buy a Basket. Both these sites have got just the right mix of news, opinion and irreverent humor to keep you entertained. And when you’re writing about the NBL, that isn’t always easy.

SIX: Other links for your amusement:

- If you haven’t seen JR Smith’s candidate for Dunk of the Year, you should
- Loscy has the cure for the Celtics recent woes
- Forum Blue and Gold looks as the Lakers point guard problems
- Hardcourt Mayhem says Vince Carter doesn’t get it
- Hardwood Paroxysm has a really interesting breakdown on the value of assists
- Still struggling to figure out how the Knicks beat Dallas tonight? Mavs Moneyball tries to figure it out where it went wrong
- If this doesn’t get your pants bulging, nothing will – NBA Jam is back
- With Malice, now owner of my favorite blog-header-image, does his MVP/ROY rankings

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