Our Eastern Conference rising power of the week is . . . the Celtics?
Apparently not completely out on their feet after losing seven of nine, they're 7-0 since, including Friday's impressive vintage victory in Orlando, where Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy noted, "Their defense locked us up."
Having professed faith in their bench, the Celtics are trying to find out if it will hold up.
In a surprise as big as he is, the reserve stepping up was Glen (Big Baby) Davis, who scored 16 points against the Magic, 12 in the fourth quarter.
"When those guys are like that, the starters love it," said Kevin Garnett. "The bench will be the reason why we win or why we lose."
In other words, they're still not home free.
I'll take hit,
for the moment
With the Bulls starting to re-enact last season's bummer, General Manager John Paxson said it's on him, at present.
Saying he'll only evaluate himself "right now," Paxson noted, "I obviously haven't done the job of putting the type of team that I want . . . in terms of competitiveness and effort."
Of course, when he does get around to evaluating others, Coach Vinny Del Negro may have to explain why they're not more competitive and don't play harder.
Meanwhile, players were being asked if they respect Del Negro, after Ben Gordon went off on him in front of the press.
Aside from that, it's going OK.
America, the diverse
Orlando's Dwight Howard, who attended the inauguration, said it was a thrill.
His memories included running into a little, older lady in the crowd, who turned out to be a celebrity, too.
"She's was like hitting my knee cap," said Howard. "And she said, 'I'm Dr. Ruth.' "
Howard said he was surprised that people recognized him, too.
Maybe it was because he's 6-11 and was wearing a Superman stocking cap.
Souls on ice
Is Memphis still in the league -- other than as a Lakers farm team?
With owner Michael Heisley still trying to sell, freezing costs and drawing flies, his young players moped around, sniping at coach Marc Iavaroni, who was finally fired last week.
Of course, if Heisley hadn't pulled the plug last season, they could have had something going with both Gasol brothers, Mike Miller, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo.
Instead, they remain just the Grizzlies.
Among great Lakers moments they kept to themselves, there's the prank that just surfaced from the 2004-2005 season involving rookie Tony Bobbitt.
Bobbitt teed himself up, telling teammates he'd made eye contact with actress Lucy Liu, who was sitting courtside.
Devean George and Vlade Divac then had a ball boy give Bobbitt a note, supposedly from Liu, with her cell phone number.
It was actually Divac's cell, on which a female Lakers official had recorded an outgoing message.
After several weeks of exchanging messages and laughing at Bobbitt's poems, his teammates set up a "dinner date." With hidden cameras recording Bobbitt as he waited for Liu, they showed up, instead.
With the word out, players from other teams began asking to see the DVD.
"We called it 'Bobbitt Gone Wild,' " George told Chris Thomasson of the Rocky Mountain News.
The Lakers went 34-48 that season so it could have been the highlight film too.
-- Mark Heisler