Iverson trade, Yao
injury may tilt lines

Dec 25, 2006 5:40 AM

Two major pieces of news surround the NBA as they break for the Christmas Holiday.

Late last week Allen Iverson was traded to Denver in a multi player swap that most notably sent guard Andre Miller to Philly. For Iverson the trade ends a rather tempestuous relationship he and the Sixers had established over the past few seasons.

In Denver it will be worth watching to see how Iverson co-exists with current Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. We’ll have to wait the better part of a month to see how, or if, these starts feed off of one another. Anthony has just begun serving a 15-game suspension for his part in that ugly brawl between his Nuggets and the New York Knicks a week ago Saturday.

Denver should be an improved team once Anthony is back in the lineup, but the Nuggets will be far from an elite team in the loaded Western Conference. It will be worth playing close attention to how the Nuggets play with Iverson and without Anthony in the next few weeks. Perhaps some edges will be gained over the linesmaker when the two are united, especially in terms of the impact on the posted totals. They could initially be set a bit too high.

The other bit of breaking news occurred literally hours before press time when Yao Ming injured his knee and will be lost to the Houston Rockets for at least six weeks. It could well be longer, depending on how the injury heals. Surgery has been ruled out as an option at this time. It’s likely Yao won’t play much, if at all, before the All Star break in February.

Yao was having an MVP-like season and his loss will be felt significantly. The Rockets have gotten off to a strong early start this season at 16-11 in the tough Southwest Division. Houston sits third behind San Antonio and Dallas. The Rockets other elite starter Tracy McGrady is also sidelined, though his return is imminent.

The Spurs and Mavericks are separated by a half game for the best records in the NBA as the disparity between East and West teams continues to grow. Although four of the five teams in the Central have winning records and a pair in the Southeast, the Atlantic Division remains a joke. Toronto, at 12-16, is taking its turn atop the woeful division.

Here’s a look at three games this weekend.

Pacers at Pistons (Fri): Two of the better teams in the East, but neither would be much of a factor in the West. Indiana won the first meeting of the season at home by 11 points earlier this month. Since then Detroit has fashioned the best record (17-8) in the East and has been displaying better balance than the season’s first few weeks when still adjusting to the loss of Ben Wallace. In what could be a fast paced game, Detroit has the more reliable scoring options. PISTONS.

Hornets at Mavs (Sat): These division rivals have already met twice with Dallas winning both by small double digits. Both games also went well under the posted total. New Orleans has not shown much improvement this season and has lost 7-of-10 prior to the Christmas holiday. Conversely, Dallas has won 8-of-10 and has needed every win to keep pace with archrival San Antonio. MAVERICKS.

Knicks at Clippers (Sun): New York has played surprisingly well following the suspension of several players in the aftermath of their ugly brawl with Denver. The Clippers have been an early season disappointment with their 11-15 record and last place position in the Pacific Division. That despite playing 15 of their first 26 games at home. Still, this is an East vs. West matchup. Given the recent woes of the Clippers, there should actually be some value in backing the home team here. CLIPPERS.