Wolstat's NBA Courtside

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:07 PM ET

With the threat of a lockout looming on the horizon, Kobe Bryant is sick of owners blaming players for all that ails the NBA. Commissioner David Stern has bandied around options like contraction and significantly reducing player salaries, similar to the way the NHL did after its most recent lockout.

Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, says the owners should be more careful about how they spend their money instead of taking cash from players.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com. “The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do. They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments.”

Bryant has a point. Yes, players are paid way too much, but that’s how things go in professional sports. All-stars getting paid is not the issue, it’s the overpaying of lesser players that gets teams and owners into trouble and as Bryant points out, that’s not the fault of the players. The owners are the ones who sign the cheques and the executives make the decisions of who to pay.

The league has already announced that basketball related revenue is going up, but some owners are still crying poor. This after a handful of awful contracts were signed last summer that teams will be dying to get out of in two years or less.

A solution for both sides that doesn’t involve contraction or the dreaded hard cap? Why not just make the last year of all contracts longer than three years unguaranteed or only partially guaranteed? That way, when teams make a mistake, they can get out of it, but players still get most of their money.

Right now, there is a lot of rhetoric being bandied about on both sides. Expect the griping to get worse as the season wears on.

On a positive note, Stern and his deputy, Adam Silver, will meet with union head Billy Hunter and NBAPA president Derek Fisher later this week. The current collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30, 2011.

ELITE COMPANY

Washington rookie John Wall joined an impressive group on Wednesday. Wall became the third-youngest player ever to notch a triple double (20 years, 65 days) behind only LeBron James (20 years, 20 days) and Lamar Odom (20 years, 54 days).

Wall did it 10 days faster than Magic Johnson, who happened to be in attendance on Wednesday and did it in six games. Only four players — including Johnson — managed a triple double in fewer games. Wall did set a record for most assists (61) through his first six games. Rookie of the year is Wall’s to lose, though Blake Griffin (16.4 points, 10.1 rebounds) is having the best freshman season for a big man in almost a decade.

AROUND THE RIM

Phoenix shot 22-for-40 from three in knocking off the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. The total was a franchise high for Phoenix, and one off of Orlando’s NBA record ... Lakers forward Odom will undergo an MRI on his right foot for a bone bruise. Odom is having an all-star calibre season ... Sacramento big man Jason Thompson appears to be on the trading block. The Kings were high on Thompson for a couple of years, but now Thompson is only playing 15 minutes a night because Sacramento has a very deep frontcourt. According to ESPN, Sacramento offered Thompson to Atlanta for guard Jeff Teague, but the Hawks turned them down ... Bobcats centre Kwame Brown is expected to make his season debut sometime this week ... According to the Orlando Sentinel, it is not a foregone conclusion that Dwight Howard will sign an extension with the team. With the Miami Heat’s Big 3 a major threat, Howard wants to make sure the Magic can build a superteam of their own around him before he commits ... Crazy stat from Elias Sports Bureau: Houston centre Yao Ming played in the first 193 games of his career and 266 of 268 (plus Chinese national team commitments). Since then, Yao has only played in 220 of a possible 395 games.

THE OLD SPURS ARE NOT

Hands up everybody who expected the old, tired San Antonio Spurs to get off to an 8-1 start.

Not even the most diehard of Spurs backers saw this franchise-best beginning to a campaign coming. Despite the worst numbers of future hall of famer Tim Duncan’s career (13.4 points per game, 8.9 rebounds), the Spurs are winning and winning easily. And the perennially strong defensive outfit is doing it with offence for a change.

The Spurs currently sit third in the NBA in points per game (108.9).

The defence isn’t too shabby either, since San Antonio is 16th in points against per game (101.1) but eighth in the more accurate defensive rating ranking.

Forward Richard Jefferson, thought to be finished as an impact player, is having a career year, while guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been devastatingly efficient.

Add arguably the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich to the mix, and it is easy to see why the Spurs have a better record than even the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Wednesday

DALLAS at NEW ORLEANS

Finale of home-and-home set between West’s surprises.

Friday

OKLAHOMA CITY at BOSTON

NBA’s best scoring duo (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) against league’s best defence.

Saturday

Chicago at Boston

Excellent home team meets strong road performer.

LOVE THOSE BOARD HOGS

Baseball had its year of the pitcher. Is this the NBA’s year of the rebounder? Minnesota forward Kevin Love’s remarkable 31 point-31 rebound game last week — the first time 30-30 has been done since Moses Malone pulled it off in 1982 — was a clear sign of as much and Nazr Mohammed’s 22 point-20 rebound effort on Saturday just confirmed it. After all, Charlotte’s Mohammed is arguably the most underwhelming starting centre in the NBA so a 20 rebound effort by him is surely a sign that we are poised to see some significant exploits on the boards this season.

Toronto’s Reggie Evans has also been posting some unbelievable rebounding totals so far. Love and Evans are doing something pretty much unheard of since Dennis Rodman’s heyday, grabbing 25% of all available rebounds when they are on the court.

By way of comparison, Chris Bosh is grabbing just 10.9% of available rebounds, Brook Lopez 10.2%, Amare Stoudemire 12.9% and the much maligned Andrea Bargnani sits at 8.8%, 0.8% ahead of much smaller point guard Jarrett Jack.

WE DARE YOU TO COUNT THE JAZZ OUT

Just call them the comeback kids. The Utah Jazz have won five games in a row — four on the road - and that doesn’t even tell the whole story.

What makes the stretch spectacular is the fact that Utah has erased deficits of 18, 22, 18, 11 and 19 points to come back and win those games.

Star point guard Deron Williams has been the key performer in most of the comebacks and sealed Saturday’s win against Charlotte with a tough shot with under a second left.

During the stretch, Utah also beat LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, the impressive Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Clippers in double overtime.

Coming back as the Jazz has repeatedly done takes a toll. Usually if you erase a 15-20 point deficit once, it will take a few weeks or months to do it again. Not so for the Jazz.

STUCKEY STICKS WITH IT

Rarely has a benching worked out as well as Detroit Pistons head coach John Kuester’s sit-down of point guard Rodney Stuckey on Nov. 5. Detroit was 0-5 at that point and used Stuckey’s benching as motivation to get a win without him.

Since his return to the lineup, the team is 3-1, including Sunday’s 100-94 win over Sacramento, where Stuckey outplayed rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, compiling 17 points, seven assists and three rebounds.

“I don’t even think about it ... that’s the past. That (stuff’s) over,” Stuckey told the Detroit Free Press of his improved play since being punished.

The Pistons were so confident Stuckey was going to be a star that they foolishly dealt away star point guard Chauncey Billups to make room for him a few years ago. Detroit has never recovered from the loss of Billups, but at least Stuckey is finally starting to reward the team’s patience.

RYAN WOLSTAT'S Power rankings (Not including Monday' games) Follow Ryan On Twitter: Twitter.Com/Torsuncourtside

1. New Orleans Hornets (8-0) NBA‚s only unbeaten team, doing it with defence. 2. Boston Celtics (8-2) They‚re good and they let opponents know about it. 3. San Antonio Spurs (8-1) Richard Jefferson is playing better than ever. 4. L.A. Lakers (8-2) Have lost two of three (Denver, Phoenix). 5. Orlando Magic (6-3) Embarrassing loss to Raptors aside, playing well. 6. Utah Jazz (7-3) Impressively pulled off a 4-0 week. 7. Dallas Mavericks (6-2) Classic offensive team winning with defence. 8. Atlanta Hawks (7-4) Need to be better than .500 at home 9. Miami Heat (6-4) Vaunted defence is falling apart, but it‚s early. 10. Chicago Bulls (5-3) 3-0 week is a sign they are finding groove. 11. Denver Nuggets (5-4) Were humiliated by Indiana. Wheels falling off 12. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-4) Must shore up awful defence. 13. Phoenix Suns (5-4) Stunned Lakers by nailing 22 threes in win Sunday. 14. Portland Trail Blazers (6-5) Star guard Brandon Roy‚s knees are failing him. 15. Golden State Warriors (6-4) Surprisingly, Warriors offence has stalled. 16. Memphis Grizzlies (4-6) No shame in losing to Celtics and Mavericks. 17. Milwaukee Bucks (5-5) Second-best defence in the league. 18. Indiana Pacers (4-4) Putting up some spectacular offensive numbers. 19. Houston Rockets (3-6) Starting to find way, but now Yao is hurt again. 20. Detroit Pistons (4-6) Four wins in five games after 0-5 start. 21. Charlotte Bobcats (3-7) These Cats can‚t win at home. 22. New Jersey Nets (3-6) Kris Humphries starting at power forward. Enough said. 23. Toronto Raptors (2-8) Stunning win in Orlando. Hung with Heat. 24. New York Knicks (3-7) Bombing away from three, but can‚t hit anything. 25. Sacramento Kings (3-6) Lost five straight. Problems in the locker room. 26. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-5) Injuries piling up and so are losses. 27. Philadelphia 76ers (2-8) Quick start just a memory now after tough week. 28. Minnesota Timberwolves (3-8) Kevin Love/Michael Beasley playing spectacular basketball. 29. Washington Wizards (2-6) John Wall got hurt, Gilbert Arenas got hot. 30. L.A. Clippers (1-9) Horrific. The Clippers curse continues.


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