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2008, February 15: ESPN.com Daily Dime – Change Comes Quickly In The Dramatic West

June 24, 2008

February 15, 2008 — The news that Kobe Bryant was diagnosed with a
torn ligament in his right pinkie finger Thursday has the potential to
change the face of the West race. The Lakers’ star decided not to
undergo surgery that could sideline him for six weeks, and play through
the pain.

Timing is everything. If this is October or November, Bryant could take
those six weeks off to heal. But at this point, knowing the competitor
and warrior that he is, I can see why he’s going to try to play through
this. His team needs him in the West chase.

First off, I love the Pau Gasol move and what the Lakers have done this
season, hovering near the top of the West standings, aided by
underappreciated players like Trevor Ariza. Andrew Bynum should be
coming back, too.

But injured pinkie or not, the San Antonio Spurs remain the favorite,
and Manu Ginobili’s big game Wednesday (46 points, eight 3-pointes)
reminded us how tough it would be to beat the Spurs in a seven-game
series.

The challengers are doing everything they can to make that happen. The
West race is heating up with deals. All these trades make me believe
the games we have ahead are going to be great theater. I’m being paid
to watch, but the kind of games we’re going to see in the playoffs
makes me want to buy some tickets.

Come to the West, Jason Kidd! The West is waiting for you. I see the
proposed big deal with New Jersey that is currently held up by Devean
George should get done eventually. (My first question when I heard of
the deal: Who’s George’s agent?)

If for some reason a move wasn’t made, and at this point it’s about the
worst-kept secret in the game, then it’s like being at a pool party
with all your family and friends in the water and you’re the only one
not going in. Dallas still hasn’t jumped in to the dealing, but its
toes are right over the edge.

You can’t help but like a Dallas team with Kidd. The Mavs already have
been through the ups and downs of playoff basketball, getting to the
Finals against the Heat two years ago before last year’s disappointing
first-round exit.

While some question Kidd’s shooting accuracy (36.6 percent), I think
he’s going to find a way to get it done in Dallas. That’s the great
thing about basketball — players have strengths and weaknesses, but it
is how all the parts of the team come together that is the big thing.

Still, the team that I see as emerging as the main challenger in this
new-look West is the Suns. What also has emerged is this: I didn’t know
Shaquille O’Neal had so many haters. We’ll get to see Shaq after the
All-Star break. You can’t tell me that Phoenix is not one loaded team.
If this was fantasy all-star ball, this team would win it.

All the deals started with Utah solidifying its lineup by adding Kyle Korver. Denver could be in the market for a trade, too.

Who knows what other deals we might see get done by the trade deadline?
Mike Miller and Ron Artest are said to be out there. Where there’s
smoke, there’s fire.

All these moves are fun. It’s a great time to be a fan of the game.

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime. For more about Jalen, visit his Web site: JalenRose.com.

By Jalen Rose – ESPN.com