Notes from TNT’s Coverage of the NBA – Thursday, December 25, 2008

(Photo: AP/Mark Duncan)

TNT’s NBA Coverage continues Thursday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. ET with the Cleveland Cavaliers @ Chicago Bulls followed by the Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets

Game #1:  Washington Wizards (89) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (93)

Announcers: Marv Albert and Mike Fratello; Craig Sager reporting

Fratello on teams being mentally prepared to play on Christmas Day: “A lot of it has to do with the maturity of the players.  It’s difficult because sometimes guys start to sulk and drop their heads because it’s a holiday they feel they should have off and celebrating with their relatives.  You hope that you have a mature team and that they come ready to play.  (If the game is) on the schedule, you have to play anyway, you might as well win it.”

Fratello on how the Cavaliers have gotten off to a better start to the season than last year: “(The Cavaliers) have guys like (Sasha) Pavlovich and (Anderson) Varejao who came to training camp and didn’t hold out like they did a year ago.  Then they got hurt once they finally did come back (last season) and settled on a contract.  Then the players acquired in the big trade (with Seattle and Chicago) last year had the chance to come to training camp instead of joining the team mid-season.  They are so far ahead of where they were last year and their play shows it.”

In the spirit of the holiday season, TNT’s Mike Fratello compiled a list of who has been “nice” in the past year:

Boston Celtics: “(The Celtics) got off to a great start and they aren’t satisfied with winning one (NBA) Championship.  Forget about just playing well, they are on a record-setting pace right now.”

Cleveland Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry: “(Danny Ferry) went out and acquired Mo Williams (in a trade) that puts them right up there with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Legendary basketball coach Pete Newell who passed away earlier this year: “For what (Pete Newell) has done for the game of basketball.  For front office people, player development, coaching development, Pete Newell is a basketball great.”

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Halftime

Johnson, Barkley and Smith

Smith on the 4-22 (entering Thursday night) Washington Wizards: “(The Wizards) are a scrub team.  When your (record is) 4-22, you’re a scrub team.”

Johnson: “Well (“scrub team) is your term.”

Barkley: “What would you call them? A juggernaut?”

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TNT’s Craig Sager interviewed injured Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas during the third quarter

Arenas on what might have held up his recovering from previous injuries in recent years: “I still go (to the arena).  I think that’s been the problem with me being out so long, I’m taking the full (amount of) time to recover.  I’m working out and trying to stay above the curve.  It has hurt me in the past.”

Arenas on when he plans on returning to the Wizards lineup: “If was up to me, I’d have been playing on December 1st.  The trainers are holding me out longer than I wanted to.  I want to come back now but it’s up to the trainers.  When they feel I’m ready and 100%, they’ll let me go.”

In the spirit of the holiday season, TNT’s Mike Fratello compiled a list of who has been “naughty” in the past year:

New York Knicks: “For the on-going saga with Stephon Marbury.  I’m not sure if anyone is to blame but it should have ended (by now).  Things have turned in a positive direction for the Knicks, that Marbury thing needs to be put behind them.”

Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis: “Bad judgement for Monta (Ellis).  He just signed a $67 million/six year contract and it says you cannot ride motorcycles.  He was suspended for 33 games following the surgery on his leg.  Bad idea.”

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Game #2:  Dallas Mavericks (102) @ Portland Trail Blazers (94)

Announcers: Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller; Cheryl Miller reporting

Miller on Trail Blazers young center Greg Oden: “(Greg Oden) was the number one overall pick (in the 2007 NBA Draft) and he missed all of last season with microfracture surgery.  Everyone is riding the hopes and pinning a NBA Championship to his shoulders and it’s not fair.  Offensively, he’s a little bit challenged.  The crowd wants him to be more offensive-minded and (Trail Blazers head coach) Nate McMillan wants him to be more defensive-minded.”

Miller on Blazers backup center Joel Przybilla: “(Joel Przybilla) is probably the best backup center in the league.  He could easily be starting for (a lot of teams).”

Miller on Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle adjusting his player rotation based on their performance: “What Coach (Rick) Carlisle does well is he monitors practice and a lot of the bench players’ practice habits.  He recognized that James Singleton and (Antoine) Wright have been practicing hard and guys who are struggling right now are out of the rotation like Brandon Bass.  You have to be able to make those adjustments.”

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Halftime

Johnson, Barkley and Smith

Barkley on who he thinks are the best teams in the NBA: “The two best teams in the West (Conference) are the Lakers and the Spurs.  That’s going to be a dogfight until the end.  In the East (Conference), clearly (the best teams are) Boston (Celtics) and Cleveland (Cavaliers).  Those are going to be the final four.”

Barkley on what would have happened if Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd would have joined the team five years ago: “If Jason Kidd would have gone to Dallas five years earlier, that combination (with Dirk Nowitzki) would have been deadly.  Obviously, Jason is on the downside of his career but if they would have played together from the beginning, that would have been one of the best combinations in NBA history.”

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Miller on the importance of young teams understanding that they have to play hard every game: “When you are a young team, (playing hard every night is) the hardest part to learn because you just want to show up and play and jack up shots.  (Trail Blazers head coach) Nate McMillan is trying to get his team to play (hard) each and every night.  It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the San Antonio Spurs, one of most seasoned teams, or a young team like the New Orleans Hornets.  Each team presents different challenges and you’ve got to rise to those challenges.”

TNT’s Cheryl Miller interviewed Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki following the game

Nowitzki on the Mavericks playing better in recent weeks: “We’ve got a lot of work to do.  We have to keep working.  In this Western Conference, you can’t afford to lose games.  While you’re improving you still have to find ways to win games and stay in games.  Over the last three weeks, we’ve been more comfortable with the sets that (Mavericks head coach) Rick (Carlisle) is running, we are executing a lot better and that definitely helps us.”

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Inside the NBA presented by Hyundai

Johnson, Barkley and Smith

Smith on what Trail Blazers center Greg Oden needs in his first NBA season: “(Greg Oden) needs experience.  When you start learning the league, you start learning guys’ tendencies.  I think Greg doesn’t know the tendencies of the guys he is playing against.”

Smith on Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo: “(Rajan Rondo) has a tricky, little, funny game and it works.”

Barkley: “He’s played very well and he’s close to becoming an All-Star.  It’s going to come down to him and (Nets point guard) Devin Harris.”

Barkley on Lakers head coach Phil Jackson becoming the quickest to 1000 wins in NBA history: “Is that a big deal?  He had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (with the Bulls) and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal (with the Lakers).  If we let (Ernie Johnson) coach those guys, he’d be the quickest to 1000 (wins) too.”

Smith: “(He would) be at least in the 800’s.”

Barkley: “If (Jackson is) that good of a coach, have him trade places with (Timberwolves head coach) Kevin McHale.  That would be impressive to me.”

Barkley on the importance of defense on great teams: “The three most important stats to me are turnovers, rebounding and defense.  If you look at those three stats, you can tell who is going to be the best team.  The “Showtime” Lakers were great defensively.  Michael Jordan’s Bulls were great defensively.  The “Bad Boy” Pistons were great defensively and the Celtics are a great defensive team.”

Barkley on what he thinks Cavaliers guard LeBron James will do in 2010 when his current contract expires: “(I think) LeBron James is going to do the right thing.  He’s going to sign a lifetime contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  He’s going to sign a long-term extension, that’d be the right thing to do.”

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