NBA: Week in Review: OJ Can Play

November 16th, 2008
By: Travis Heath
It's Sunday which means it's time to take a look at what the wonderful world of the NBA taught us this week.

Fool Me Once Shame on Me, Fool Me Twice...

Al Harrington and Don Nelson aren't exactly on the best of terms these days, and it's only a matter of time until Harrington gets traded.  Last week, Harrington complained of back spasms and said he would miss around two weeks.  This prompted Nelson to call Harrington's agent, Dan Fegan, "Dr. Fegan" earlier this week.  The implication being that Fegan was the driving force behind Harrington's decision to shut it down.

Well, Fegan fired back at Nelson this week.

"I'm not surprised that president/general manager (Don) Nelson made light of Al's condition," Fegan told the San Jose Mercury News. "The only thing that surprises me is, since he's grabbed every other important position in the organization, Nelson hasn't made himself team physician and examined Al's back himself."

Gotta say, that's a pretty darned good comeback by Fegan.  And it's also a classic power play by Nelson dating back to his Dallas days.  

Remember, Nelson is the snake-oil salesman that had media in Dallas believing Steve Nash was all washed up right before he left the Mavs in free agency in the summer of 2004.  That was, of course, right before Nash proceeded to win back-to-back MVP awards.

Point is, Nellie is definitely a fun guy to listen to, but you shouldn't always take everything that comes out of his mouth all that seriously.

Classic Sloan

The Utah Jazz has just been hammered by injuries this season.  Deron Williams played in just a couple of ballgames this week until realizing his ankle was quite right yet, Andrei Kirilenko is now out with an injury to his finger and Matt Harping played in his first game earlier this week.  Mehmet Okur has also been away from the team for awhile now and is back home in Turkey tending to his ailing father.

Some coaches might hop on the good old "Excuse Express" after being dealt a hand like the one Utah has been dealt this season.  However, that's not a train Jerry Sloan has ever considered taking a ride on.

"It's a great opportunity for some guys who haven't played to get a chance to play and hopefully help your team on your own," Sloan said prior to Saturday night's game in Cleveland.  "But you can't worry about (injuries).  I mean, those are things that you start off the season knowing that's always a possibility.  And heck, some of them could be career-ending sometimes.  So what do you do about it?  Nothing, you've got to go out and try and play with who you have.  That's the way life is."

I'm pretty sure if you look up the term "Old School" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Sloan's mug plastered next to it.

O.J. Can Play

Some fans have been skeptical about how good of a pro player O.J. Mayo will become.  Well, I'm sold on the kid after seeing him play last week in Denver.  

Everyone is probably aware Mayo scored 20 points in the first quarter last Sunday in Denver and finished the game with 31.  Everyone is probably also aware Mayo dropped 33 points the next night in Phoenix.  However, most people probably aren't aware just how professional this kid is behind the scenes.  

As I talked to him last week, I felt like I was talking to a guy who had played in the league four or five seasons already.  Simply put, the kid is wise beyond his years.

"It's been a pretty easy transition," a cool and collected Mayo told HOOPSWORLD.  "I'm really having a lot of fun.  I'm just going out and trying to compete every night I play.

"We feel pretty confident as a team.  We got off to a pretty good start, but we feel like we could have got off to a even better start if we didn't let a few games slip away.  You know, we're a young team and we just want to work at playing a complete 48 minutes right from the start of the game."

Were those really the words of a rookie?  Really!?!

Sounds like a veteran talking about trying to help his young teammates along.  Simply put, the longer you talk to Mayo, the easier it is to forget he just turned 21 on the 5th of this month.

Truth be told, we probably spend way too much time talking about talent and not quite enough time talking about maturity and professionalism around draft time.  Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they've found themselves a true professional who also happens to have a lot of talent.

A Travelin' Man

The travel in the NBA is no joke.  Last season, I traveled as much as I ever have covering NBA games.  There were times on the second night of back-to-back where I got home and felt like I could sleep for 14 hours... and I was just covering the game.

The life of a NBA player sounds glorious at first, right?  Play basketball, get paid millions and travel the country.  While you won't hear too many players complaining about the first two, the last one can be tough.  And remember, it's not like players have time to go sightseeing or really check out the cities they travel to.  In fact, often times teams are in one city for less than 24 hours before hopping on a plane en-route to their next destination.

The amount of travel undoubtedly takes its toll on NBA players and coaches, but it takes a particular toll on older coaches like Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Traveling is part of our job in this business," Jackson told the LA Times.  "You go out on the road... and that takes some effort and takes some energy.  This conference is especially difficult for teams.  When you're on the West Coast and you have to travel to New Orleans, Memphis, across the Mississippi and across two-thirds of the country and two time zones, it makes a big difference."

I feels Phil's pain, there's no doubt about that.  But then I got to thinking, the Lakers technically only play 39 road games a year. 

Why you ask?  Simple.  Two of the team's "road" games every season are in their home building when they play the Los Angeles Clippers.  The flipside to that is since the Lakers are buried on the far left coast, it means they have have a longer commute out East than most other teams in the league.

Still, no matter what team we're talking about, the travel is at times almost unbearable.  And based on all the years Phil has been in the league as both a coach and a player, I'm sure my man has racked up his fair share of frequent flyer miles.

Anthony Who?

If you haven't yet heard of Anthony Morrow, you should probably check the kid out.  The Golden State Warriors picked Morrow up as an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Tech.  The Dubs were hopeful he might develop into a NBA player over time.  However, nobody -- at least not anybody who's honest -- saw what happened on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles coming.

The 23-year-old Morrow scored 37 points for the Warriors on 15-20 shooting.  Just in case you're keeping track, dude also grabbed 11 boards.

Last season at Georgia Tech, Morrow never scored more than 31 points in a game.  That happened on November 11th, 2007 against Tennessee State.  Not sure what that says about the Clippers defense this year, but I digress.

Who knows how good Morrow will be in the future.  That said, you've got to have some serious skills to score 37 points in any basketball game.  Heck, it's hard enough to score 37 points down at your local YMCA, yet alone in a NBA game against the best athletes in the world.

Keep your eye on this kid.