NBA Notes: Stoudemire to be limited in return

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NBA Notes: Stoudemire to be limited in return

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Knicks coach Mike Woodson says Amare Stoudemire would be limited to about 10 to 15 minutes per game if he is able to return during New York's playoff series against the Indiana Pacers.

Stoudemire worked out again Thursday as he nears his return from right knee surgery. He played in 4-on-4 scrimmages and says he felt better than he did after playing 3-on-3 Monday.

The Knicks will wait to see how the veteran forward feels Friday before determining whether he will be in uniform Saturday for Game 3 in Indianapolis.

Stoudemire averaged 14.2 points in 29 games off the bench before surgery March 11 to clean up and remove tissue from his knee (see full story).

Ujiri named top executive
DENVER -- Even as Masai Ujiri accepted the NBA's executive of the year trophy from club President Josh Kroenke on Thursday, the Denver Nuggets general manager said he would have given it up gladly in exchange for a deep playoff run.

"It's a little bittersweet for me," Ujiri said at a news conference a day after the Nuggets' George Karl took the trophy for coach of the year. "I would trade that to be playing right now."

Ujiri, the first African-born GM in major American sports, built the Nuggets team that won an NBA franchise-record 57 games and went an NBA-best 38-3 at home before going down in the first round.

"There was an unbelievable energy in this city and that's why we had kind of a little disappointment when we lost to the Golden State Warriors, who's not such a bad team from what they are doing right now," Ujiri said. "We hope to kick their butts next year but they're not too bad right now. We understand we are a growing team. We knew there were going to be pains. This is part of the process and we'll continue to grow."

Ujiri assembled a team that had nine players average between 8 and 16.7 points and the city, the Nuggets' fans and the organization embraced the club's persona as a team without a superstar that nevertheless got the job done (see full story).

Kobe suit against his mother proceeds
CAMDEN, New Jersey -- Basketball star Kobe Bryant is playing some of his toughest defense yet, demanding his mother keeps her hands off his merchandise.

Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers guard, said in a court filing that he never gave his mother permission to sell mementos from his high school days and early professional basketball career.

Bryant is in a court battle over whether hundreds of items -- from high school jerseys to trophies and championship rings -- can be auctioned off.

Pamela Bryant said the NBA star told her the memorabilia was hers. She arranged earlier this year to auction it off through New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions and received a $450,000 advance.

Last week, lawyers for the son wrote to the auction house demanding it cease the June sale. Goldin is suing to assert its right to sell.

In a filing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Camden, Kobe Bryant says his mother acknowledged to him recently that she did not have permission to sell the items. The suit was filed there because the auction house is located in southern New Jersey (see full story).

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

Sixers' '66-'67 team reflects on success of 'best team ever'

As part of their “Salute Saturday” series, the Sixers honored the 1966-67 championship team at halftime of their 107-106 loss the Celtics on Saturday.

Fifty years after winning the title, the success of the squad (which went 68-13 in the regular season) still resonates with those representing the Sixers today. After all, they are the group Wilt Chamberlain described as “the best team ever.” 

“It’s just part of the history of this city and the organization,” said Brett Brown, who has established a relationship with Billy Cunningham through practice visits and emails. “There was a toughness with that team that he personified and the city sort of reflects. It’s stuff you hear me talk about all the time how you want our team to reflect the spirit of the city. That team did it.”

Prior to their tribute ceremony, members of the team reflected on their run in which they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the title. 

On Wilt Chamberlain
“Wilt was such a dominant figure, not only as a basketball player, but he’s almost bigger than the game,” Matt Goukas said. “He played so well, he was such a good team player – he started really passing the ball right around that time --and that enabled great scorers like Hal (Greer) and Billy and Chet Walker to do their thing, and Wilt was very happy to give them that leeway.”.

On fond memories
“It was a team that we played well together and we lived as a family and that’s what made it so good for us," Greer said. "A lot of fun, a lot of fun. We missed the next year, but 68-13 is not bad at all.”

“It’s hard to forget a situation like that where we had such a terrific team and the season went so quickly, we won so many games and then of course winning a championship,” Goukas said. “As a first year player I said, ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be, I guess.’ But of course I never won another championship as a player, but we had such a terrific group of guys and true professionals that for me as a rookie, Billy Melchionni as a rookie, we really benefited from guys like Hal Greer, Wally Jones and Harry Costello, they really showed us the way.”

On team chemistry
“It was very difficult times when you look at the sixties from a social aspect,” Cunningham said. “Martin Luther King was killed the following year we won the championship. Race relationships weren’t the best. And this time, which was just about half black-half white, I’m not even sure, it was never an issue. That’s the beauty I think of being on a team you know getting to know people, you judge them as an individual and nothing more than that.”

“I think it was our coach Alex Hannum, for one (that kept the team together),” Greer said. “And of course the big guy. He held us together most of the time, he could rebound, play defense, do it all.”

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver.