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A push in the back proves costly for Trail Blazers' Andre Miller

By Tom Enlund

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Published: Saturday, Dec. 11 2010 9:18 p.m. MST

Iron Man's super streak fizzles out The National Basketball Association's ironman torch changed hands last week but not without some controversy.

Portland guard Andre Miller's league-high streak of 632 consecutive games played was broken when he was suspended for a game against Phoenix, leaving Los Angeles Lakers guard Derek Fisher — 435 consecutive games entering Friday — as the league's reigning ironman.

Miller was upset that he was suspended because of an incident involving Blake Griffin in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers. He said he did not think the penalty was justified.

The streak had been significant to Miller.

"It means a lot," he told reporters in Portland. "Obviously, it doesn't mean anything to the league. I take pride in it. I did what I did. I didn't think it was something that (warranted) a suspension.

"I was surprised (by the suspension). I actually wasn't even notified. I found out toward the evening when I was sleeping that there would be a suspension. It shows you how soft the league has gotten, protecting younger players. It's not like it was when I came into the league."

Moving up to second place on the active ironman list is New Orleans' Jarrett Jack with 310 consecutive games played. He is followed by Charlotte's Boris Diaw (288) and New Orleans' Emeka Okafor (278).

Guard Ray Allen holds the Milwaukee Bucks' record after playing in 400 straight from the beginning of his career (1996-'97) until missing a game at Houston on Dec. 21, 2001. He played in every game in his first five seasons. Second on the Bucks' list is Lee Mayberry with 329.

In Portland's game against the Clippers, Miller had twice been pushed in the back by Griffin during the course of a minute or so. Miller then retaliated, taking a running start across about three-quarters of the court and slamming into Griffin in the lane, sending Griffin sprawling to the court.

No foul was called on any of those three plays.

After reviewing a tape of the game, NBA vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson issued Miller a Flagrant 2 foul and suspended him for a game for "making excessive and unnecessary contact" with Griffin.

Miller also was frustrated that he had not been allowed to state his case to Jackson, who spoke to Portland general manager Rich Cho and coach Nate McMillan on the phone.

McMillan said he was surprised by the suspension and felt that Miller's streak should have remained intact since he did not miss a game due to injury.

"I took two shots (from Griffin)," said Miller. "The referees didn't call it. I took two shots, then I gave a shot. I told the ref, 'We can call that even now.' He didn't make the call and he was looking right at it."

Still rolling along

The Dallas Mavericks, who host the Bucks on Monday, are off to a great start, and forward Dirk Nowitzki — in his 13th season with the team — is seeing things that make him believe these Mavericks are built for a deep run into the playoffs.

"It's only December, but I really like what we're doing on both ends of the floor," he said. "We should get Roddy (Beaubois) back soon and we should be even better. I really like the rotation now and how the guys responded to some early losses. It's all about the defense right now.

"If we hold teams in the low 40s (field-goal percentage) consistently, that's a big step in the right direction."

A sensitive situation

Cleveland coach Byron Scott has shuffled his lineup, starting Antawn Jamison at power forward and putting J.J. Hickson on the bench, and starting Daniel Gibson at shooting guard and shifting Anthony Parker to small forward. Scott said the moves were warranted since what they were doing wasn't working.

Hickson, who scored 18 points in a 20-point loss to Philadelphia, found out about his demotion minutes before the next game (against Chicago) when the coaches were going over that night's matchups. Hickson said Scott wanted him to play hard and rebound.

"I thought I did that (against Philadelphia)," said Hickson.

Pearls of wisdom

Swingman Terrence Williams returned to the New Jersey Nets after a three-game stint with the D-League's Springfield Armor.

Williams received a wake-up call from a 12-year-old ball boy in Springfield who asked him why he would blow an NBA career with questionable behavior.

According to Williams, the ball boy asked him: "Why would you want to have an attitude and be late, the simplest things you can control? You get to be in the NBA. I would die (for) that.

"So don't blow it."

Said Williams: "It's a 12-year-old telling me that."

Roy's a driven man

Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, who has improved in every statistical category this season, makes no secret about the fact he has his eye on the league's most improved player award. It was something he used as inspiration during his off-season workouts.

"During the summer, that was one thing I was working toward," said Hibbert. "That award was on my mind. But throughout the season, it's on the backburner."

Hibbert was guarding the inbounds pass of Milwaukee's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute when Mbah a Moute delivered that perfect, game-winning toss to Andrew Bogut at the Bradley Center on Wednesday.

Ho-ho-ho

The Cavaliers got their white Christmas a bit early when a blizzard hit downtown Cleveland on the night of their game against Chicago, bringing traffic to a standstill and causing eight of the Cavaliers players to arrive late at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Center Ryan Hollins was seen running through the downtown streets to get to the arena, while Mo Williams and Leon Powe parked on city streets and walked the rest of the way. Coach Byron Scott lives 5 minutes from the arena, but it took him about 40 minutes to get there.

"I was able to make it, so I don't have to fine myself," said Scott.

Passing the whistle

Nets coach Avery Johnson returned to Dallas for the first time since being fired in 2008 and admitted it wasn't just another game since he had so many fond memories in that city.

Most notable, he said, was the day he took over from Don Nelson as Mavericks coach.

"That whole day was kind of surreal," said Johnson. "Nellie, at 9 a.m., informed me that I was going to be the head coach and the next thing you know we had a shoot-around at 11 and he passed me a whistle and said, 'Boys, so long, here's the next coach.'

"Typical Nellie."

A tip from Chauncey

Denver forward Carmelo Anthony contends he's not concerned about the seven technical fouls — one was rescinded by the league — he's received already.

Veteran teammate Chauncey Billups said he hadn't felt the need yet to offer Anthony any advice regarding the technicals.

"I don't think it's out of control," said Billups. "All his techs have really been emotional plays. It's not really been nothing crazy, most of them. He knows (how many he has). Trust me, he knows."

French connection

San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker looks to be back on track after admitting his game had been affected by "some things" off the court.

Parker, who is going through a high-profile divorce from actress Eva Longoria, played so poorly in a recent two-point outing against the Clippers that coach Gregg Popovich benched him for most of the second half. Parker followed that with solid performances against Minnesota, New Orleans and Golden State.

"I've had a stretch of games not being myself," he said. "Obviously for some reasons, I was not playing good basketball. I just wanted to be aggressive and make stuff happen for myself and for my teammates and get back to how I was playing at the beginning of the season."

Fast breaks

Cleveland's Gibson, on speculation that some of the Cavaliers don't want to be in Cleveland: "If you don't want to be here, then go." . . .

Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said he would like all players — not just those in their first and seconds seasons — to be eligible to go to the D-League to rehab from injuries. . . .

The Nets' Johnson, on still being friends with Dallas owner Mark Cuban : "That's why he still gets one of my beautiful Christmas cards." . . .

Kevin Love's 22-point, 21-rebound game against Oklahoma City was his fifth 20-20 game of the season. . . .

Spurs forward Richard Jefferson on the team's recent 12-game winning streak: "There was nobody really talking about it."

DOWN THE LANE

THIS WEEK IN THE NBA

Dallas continues a six-game home stand that doesn't require it to play on consecutive nights against Milwaukee, Portland and Phoenix. "We've still got a lot to prove at home," said Dallas coach Rick Carlisle. "We've had some good games recently, but in the big picture, it's an area where we need to get better." Said guard Jason Kidd: "If you're going to be an elite team in this league, you've got to protect home." The Los Angeles Lakers, who continue their seven-game trip with stops in New Jersey, Washington, Indiana and Philadelphia, are hopeful that injured center Andrew Bynum will make his season debut Tuesday in Washington. "These are important times for us," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "Things are starting to matter." Orlando wraps up a four-game trip against the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver, while Portland concludes a four-game trip against San Antonio, Memphis and Dallas. Guard Jonny Flynn is expected to return when Minnesota plays four games in five nights on its six-game Western trip.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Who needs Barnum and Bailey? The New York Knicks will be staging their own media circus at Madison Square Garden this week as Carmelo Anthony — the subject of trade rumors involving the Knicks — and the Nuggets visit the Big Top on Sunday, followed by Boston's Big Three on Wednesday and Miami's Big Three on Friday.

BUCKS WEEK

The Bucks venture into two-thirds of the dreaded Texas Triangle to play San Antonio and Dallas, two of the hottest teams in the league and both enjoying six-game home stands. The Bucks have lost seven straight in Dallas. Visiting the Bradley Center on Saturday will be the Jazz, which beat the Bucks on Nov. 29 in Utah and is one of the better road teams.

QUOTE

"I'm breaking out in hives in here."

—Washington guard and former USC player Nick Young, joking with his teammates as he scratched himself vigorously while entering the court at UCLA's student activity center for practice on the day before their game with the Lakers.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

For the first time this season, chants of "MVP" directed at New York's Amare Stoudemire echoed through Madison Square Garden as Stoudemire was putting the finishing touches on a 34-point, 14-rebound effort against Toronto. Stoudemire led the Knicks' comeback victory with 18 fourth-quarter points. It was the Knicks' 11th victory in 12 games, their first such stretch since 1994-'95. "We feel like we can play with the best of them," said Stoudemire, who scored at least 30 points in the sixth straight game. "He's my league MVP so far," said Knicks guard Raymond Felton. "He's playing great. He's being a great leader." Or, as New York coach Mike D'Antoni said: "I challenge anyone to guard Amare."

NUMBERS GAME

When the Lakers' Pau Gasol played 40 minutes against the Clippers, it was the 13th time this season he had played at least 40 minutes.

Suns 38-year-old forward Grant Hill is on pace to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller and Robert Parish as the only players to average 14 points for a season at age 38 or older.

Jeff Foster played in his 700th game with Indiana, joining Reggie Miller (1,389), Rik Smits (867) and Vern Fleming (816) as the only other members of the Pacers' 700 club.

Washington's John Wall joined Oscar Robertson, Phil Ford, Damon Stoudamire and Brevin Knight as the only rookies to record 100 assists in their first 12 or fewer games.

Forward Travis Outlaw was benched in New Jersey after shooting 50 percent over 10 games, but then 33.3 percent over the next 12 games.

(c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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