It's been a while since I've done one of these because, well, I've either been out of town or just really busy. I'll try to be more consistent but sometimes there's days I don't have the cycles to spare And away we go!

Hamilton's nose is broken again

The elbow slammed squarely into the nose of Pistons guard Richard Hamilton during Wednesday’s game in Chicago, triggering a sick gut feeling.

Not again.

Not another broken nose.

Hamilton’s nose is indeed broken for the second time this season. But this time around, he’s not going to get away with resting and letting it heal on its own.

He will undergo surgery Tuesday, resetting the displaced septum (the flexible cartilage that divides the chambers of the nose). It is not known when he will be able to return to play.

“The way it is now, my septum is blocking the whole left side of my nose, my breathing,” he said. “I can’t wait to let it heal that way. They’re just going to pop it (septum) back over. Hopefully, it will go well like it did last time.”

O'Neal has tendinitis

Boston therapist Dan Dyrek was in Indianapolis on Saturday to examine the tendinitis in Jermaine O'Neal's right knee.

O'Neal, who was bothered by the condition early in the season, is experiencing pain again. He doesn't plan to miss any upcoming games but hopes the Pacers can build a comfortable lead in the Eastern Conference so he can sit out some games at the end of the regular season.

"It's bugging me," he said after scoring 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds against the Sixers. "If I feel I can help my team, I want to be out there playing. I don't want to deal with it going into the playoffs, though, so hopefully we handle our business and solidify our positioning.

"Hopefully when we get to five or six games left in the season I can take some games off and get the knee better."

Spurs put Duncan on injured list

Tim Duncan was put on the injured list by the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, two days after the two-time NBA MVP injured his leg in a loss to Dallas.

The team said Duncan had an irritation of the left patellofemoral joint, where the thigh bone meets the knee.

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said his team would be ready for Saturday night’s game against Denver.

“They played without him and Tony (Parker) both at the beginning of the season,” Popovich said. “If they play as well as they did then, I’ll be thrilled.”

Duncan still hurt, can return any day

The Spurs placed Tim Duncan on the injured list prior to Saturday's game, but can activate him at any time because he was not replaced on the active roster.

Should the Spurs later decide to activate forward Sean Marks or another player, Duncan would have to miss at least five games. Saturday's game would count as the first of the five.

Though swelling has not been a problem, Duncan still has stiffness in his left knee and was walking with a slight limp.

He spent Saturday's shootaround doing exercises to strengthen his quadriceps muscles. The Spurs hope the exercises will help prevent a recurrence of the inflammation Duncan has in his left patellofemoral joint.

Wizards' Stackhouse Plans to Sit Out Year

Wizards swingman Jerry Stackhouse plans to sit out the remainder of the year to rest his ailing left knee.

Stackhouse's latest injury was caused by overcompensating for his injured right knee, which kept him out for most of the season and never fully healed.

He talked with Coach Eddie Jordan and his teammates after he scored 20 points in 31 minutes of play in Saturday's 122-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, and that they support his decision.

"They see me laboring out on the floor," Stackhouse said. "It takes a toll on my whole body. ... I've got to get back to being Jerry Stackhouse."

Bad news, then loss for Warriors

Without Claxton, Calbert Cheaney (out with tonsillitis) and Troy Murphy, who has missed most of the season because of right-foot and ankle injuries, the Warriors (25-32) put together one of their grittiest efforts of the season.

No one was grittier than Van Exel, who slogged around the court at what seemed to be half-speed. He still found a way to put together a 10-point, seven-assist, six-rebound night, which went a long way toward keeping his team competitive.

Van Exel had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee before the season and has never gotten back to 100 percent. He has missed 19 of 57 games this season because of the injury. Van Exel said he will try to play tonight in Chicago, then have more debris cleaned out of the knee next week.

``I just never let it heal the way it was supposed to,'' said Van Exel, who returned from Oct. 20 surgery only 16 days later. ``I don't like the pain I'm experiencing every day. There's not a day goes by I don't experience pain.''

The injuries to Van Exel and Claxton leave 15-year veteran Avery Johnson as the only pure point guard on the roster.

Glover signs with Raptors

Dion Glover has found a home. A day after clearing waivers, the former Hawks guard signed a contract with the Toronto Raptors for the rest of the season.

Glover asked for his release from the Hawks Wednesday with the intent of joining a contender.

"They're going to make the playoffs, and I've never had the chance at the playoffs in Atlanta," Glover told reporters in Toronto.

Payton experiences regret about signing with Lakers

The Los Angeles Times reported that Payton called his agent Aaron Goodwin on Friday, saying he longed to play his trademark aggressive game, but that in 56 games as a Laker he'd been boxed in by Phil Jackson's rigid system, shortened playing time and the organization's unalterable reliance on Bryant and O'Neal.

Goodwin told The Times there are moments when Payton "regrets" his decision to sign last summer with the Lakers, an organization Payton believed would adjust as much to his game as he would to it. Instead, Goodwin said, Payton has become a cog in the system, unable to affect games for long periods, if at all.

"He's not happy," Goodwin told The Times. "To be quite honest, he's tired of it. If they're not listening, it's crazy. All L.A. has seen is a shell of Gary Payton. He's gone out of his way to defer, and he's getting nothing back from Phil.

"He was told he could come in there and be Gary Payton, not be some point guard in the triangle offense…. I would like for them to allow Gary Payton, for at least the last few games, to be Gary Payton."

Payton airs out frustrations

A sacrifice was implied when Gary Payton joined the Lakers last summer, taking less money than he could earn elsewhere, to play on a team flush with superstars. The tradeoff felt right, given the promise of playing into June.

But 57 games into his Lakers career, the sacrifice has become too great, and the frustration too overwhelming to contain. So Payton took his displeasure public Saturday, in a calm but pointed five-minute monologue after the Lakers' 122-110 rout of the Washington Wizards.

He is unhappy with his playing time, feels constrained by an offense that doesn't maximize his skills and made it very clear that if nothing changes, he'll probably leave as a free agent this summer.

"I didn't come here to sit on the bench," Payton said. "So it's a problem for me right now. I've been trying to hold it in, but it's a problem. I want to play. I don't know what we're trying to do. I don't know what it is. What I'm trying to do is stay away from controversy, but controversy's going to come if I keep sitting on the bench.",1...986949,00.html

Riley speaks with Vin Baker

Although a Heat spokesman declined to comment on Baker's situation, it was confirmed before Saturday's game that discussions had taken place.

Baker had been in limbo while the players' union determined the forward's status in light of its claim that Boston did not have the right to cancel the remaining $36 million on Baker's contract.

But as Baker spoke with the Heat, the union informed agent Aaron Goodwin that the forward's grievance would not be impacted by signing with another team.

Heat President Pat Riley said at the Feb. 19 trading deadline that his team had interest. Riley has had success in his nine years in South Florida turning around players with tarnished reputations, with Tim Hardaway, Rod Strickland and Lamar Odom among his success stories.

Baker is expected to join a team this week. He would be eligible for a postseason roster because he was waived before March 1.

A contract with the Heat would have to be at a prorated share of the $1.07 million veteran's minimum, with the remaining amount on Baker's Celtics contract having no bearing on a new team's payroll or salary cap.

Baxter Available

The Bulls could add Lonny Baxter to the team after he was released by the Raptors on Saturday to make room for free-agent shooting guard Dion Glover.

The 6-8 Baxter was part of the six-player trade in which the Bulls sent him, Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall to the Raptors for forwards Antonio Davis, Jerome Williams and Chris Jefferies. A source said Baxter simply had trouble picking up the offense, and with injuries to Rose and Vince Carter, the Raptors needed a scorer desperately to help snap an eight-game losing streak.

Baxter apparently was released after the Bulls re-signed Johnson, who had started the season with the Bulls and played 18 games. Johnson was averaging 15.6 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Lightning.

"Linton is a guy we're familiar with,'' Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "He played well in the CBA, he's familiar with what we're trying to do here and we like him. So we'll see what he can do. Linton makes his shots all the time in practice. He just needs some seasoning and some confidence [to become] a very effective NBA player.''

But Skiles added that they're also interested in Baxter.

"Lonny was not included in that trade because the Chicago Bulls wanted to include him,'' Skiles said. "It was just necessary to get the deal done.''

Dikembe cut down to size

The biggest concern measures 7-feet-2 inches, when he's playing that is. Dikembe Mutombo, for reasons unbeknown to him and his teammates, is buried on Wilkens' bench at a time when the Knicks are desperate for a defensive presence.

"My own observation from the sideline is I realize after 50-something games my teammates got used to having somebody who is an intimidator in the back," Mutombo said, trying to sound diplomatic. "I think they're kinda confused defensively because we didn't practice all of this."

Mutombo was referring to Wilkens' decision to start newcomer Nazr Mohammed at center against Sacramento and Phoenix. Kurt Thomas started Friday against the Clippers with Mohammed serving as the backup.

The sudden switch fueled speculation that Knicks president Isiah Thomas is behind Mutombo's reduced role. Mutombo, a proud veteran who as recently as Tuesday said he was tired of "this crap," is not about to accuse his boss of ordering his benching.

But it is clear that Thomas is not enamored of Mutombo, who has two major strikes against him. For one, Mutombo was signed by former team president Scott Layden and Thomas has made no secret that he is trying to purge the roster of Layden's players.

Moreover, Mutombo is represented by David Falk, who has engaged in a long, bitter feud with Thomas. Those bad feelings resurfaced two weeks ago when Keith Van Horn - yes, another Layden-Falk connection - was traded to Milwaukee. Thomas also tried to trade Mutombo, who made threats to retire had he landed in any place other than New Jersey or Philadelphia.

Thomas, though, may have one more bullet to fire. The Knicks are still very much in the running for free agent power forward Vin Baker. If Baker is signed, there is an outside chance that Thomas would release Mutombo and eat the final year of his contract. Cutting Mutombo after tomorrow would be especially cruel since it would prohibit Mutombo from qualifying for a postseason roster.

Tom Enlund: Celtics fall on hard luck

It's begging time in Boston, where personnel moves have become more frequent than victories.

When the referees converged on the scorers' table after the final buzzer of last week's game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Fleet Center to determine whether Walter McCarty's three-point shot should count, there was one thing running through the mind of Boston interim coach John Carroll.

"I was ready to beg for anything," said Carroll, who took over when Jim O'Brien resigned on Jan. 27.

Doubting Thomas

When New York visited Denver last week, Nuggets forward Antonio McDyess - formerly of the Knicks - said Isiah Thomas' decision to trade Keith Van Horn to Milwaukee only proved his theory that Thomas is trying to clear out all the players from the regime of previous general manager Scott Layden.

"I couldn't believe it," said McDyess. "I wouldn't put it past him for anybody getting traded on that team but I was surprised it was Keith. I really think he's trying to get rid of all Layden guys. I like Keith. He'll have a great year. I'm surprised they traded him. He was really playing well. To see him go, I was definitely shocked."

Fast breaks

Jason Kidd on Charles Barkley referring to Lawrence Frank as Barney Fife: "It was probably after he had a couple Coronas and a burrito." . . .

Sacramento guard Mike Bibby on Barkley's claim that the Lakers would beat the Kings 100 times in 100 playoff series: "We're in the same boat he's in, no rings."

At the Williams Trial, a Tangled String of Contradictions

Five friends and four Harlem Globetrotters were in various parts of Jayson Williams's country home in Alexandria Township, N.J., when a chauffeur, Costas Christofi, was killed two years ago by a blast from a shotgun held by Mr. Williams. Last week, three of the friends, who did not witness the shooting but rushed into the bedroom where it had occurred, testified for prosecutors trying to prove that Mr. Williams, a former New Jersey Nets basketball star, covered up his role in the shooting.

They agreed on one major point: Mr. Williams, 36, wiped the double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun used in the shooting with a towel, apparently to remove his fingerprints.

On many other points, the three offered varying recollections of what they had seen and heard after entering the bedroom and seeing the body of Mr. Christofi, 55, lying beside a polished round table. They disagreed on Mr. Williams's demeanor. They disagreed on his comments in the minutes after the shooting. They disagreed on whether he had orchestrated a cover-up.

Consequently, a jury at New Jersey Superior Court in Somerville will have to sort out strings of inconsistencies and contradictions when it comes time to deliberate on the four cover-up charges against Mr. Williams.

The most incriminating testimony came from Dean Bumbaco, a 37-year-old landscaper who said he has come to dislike Mr. Williams since the shooting. Mr. Bumbaco testified that he saw Mr. Christofi kneeling and then topple over, gasping for breath, after he was shot. Mr. Williams was also on his knees, he said. Mr. Bumbaco quoted him as saying: "My God, my life is over. Did I kill him? Is he dead?"