NBA Playoffs, Lakers Suns Game 1: Robin Lopez will start (TNT's EJ can shoot and other notes)

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Thumbnail image for rlopez.jpgBe sure to come back at 9 p.m. (Eastern, 6 on the West Coast) for our live blog from tonight’s game.

Robin Lopez will start for the Phoenix Suns in the only real bit of pregame news from players and coaches before Game 1 at Staples Center.

Suns coach Alvin Gentry said he wasn’t expecting big minutes out of Lopez, who has not played in a game since March. If the Suns can get 15-20 out of him, they should be happy.

There also is a rumor here at Staples that Lopez will guard Pau Gasol, while Amare Stoudemire will by on Andrew Bynum. If Bynum were healthy that would be a big size advantage for the Lakers, but he is not. Watch to see if the Lakers can exploit that matchup.

With a week between series, there was little new to find out, no new angles to talk about before this game.

I his pregame press conference, Phil Jackson said he was not thinking about retirement and was not leaning either way.

“I’m leaning on this podium, that’s it,” Jackson said.

Jackson again dodged talking about the immigration issue as well, refusing to discuss the issue.

The coolest thing seen pregame: TNT studio host Ernie Johnson got a ball during warm-ups, walked to the corner three and — in full tie and dress shirt — missed the first shot. Lakers assistant Chuck Person challenged EJ with a “that’s all you got?”

Johnson coolly drained the next one, then went back to his set.

Chris Paul finds brilliant counter to hack-a-DeAndre Jordan (video)

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I originally favored allowing Hack-a-Shaq as the NBA currently does. I found the strategy fascinated – why and when teams would use it and how their opponents would counter.

But it just became too common. Far too many games featured a parade of trips to the line, a boring stretch that made games too long. I thought the intrigue had run its course.

Then, Chris Paul pulled this move last night.

The Clippers guard saw Jonas Jerebko charging toward DeAndre Jordan to commit an intentional foul, so Paul stepped in front of an unsuspecting Jerebko and took the foul himself. That’s sent a good free-throw shooter to the line instead of the dismal Jordan.

Just an awesome heady play by Paul.

PBT Podcast: NBA All-Star Weekend talk, predictions with Sean Highkin

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NBA All-Star weekend descends upon frigid Toronto starting Friday, with everything from the Rookie/Sophomore… er, Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, the Dunk Contest/Three-Point Contest on Saturday, and the main event on Sunday.

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin of NBC’s ProBasketballTalk break it all down, from Pau Gasol replacing Jimmy Butler to predictions on the Dunk Contest and if anyone can knock off Zach LaVine. Plus, there is plenty of “why Sting?” talk.

PBT will be in Toronto with reports from the event all weekend, so come back early and often for all the latest (plus trade talk, as all the GMs get together in one city where it’s too cold for them to go outside).

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Pistons retire Chauncey Billups’ jersey at halftime (VIDEO)

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Moments before his jersey went up to the rafters, Chauncey Billups spoke to the crowd about the night the Detroit Pistons wrapped up the 2004 NBA title by routing the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 of the Finals.

“We had one motivation,” he said. “We wanted to win it here at home.”

Billups was the most valuable player in the Finals that year, and he had his No. 1 jersey retired by the Pistons on Wednesday night at halftime of their game against Denver.

He was the second player from that 2004 team honored by the Pistons this year. The Pistons retired Ben Wallace’s jersey last month at a similar ceremony – in front of a packed house on a night Detroit beat Golden State.

There were some empty seats in the upper level Wednesday, but Billups wanted to be honored while the Pistons were playing the Nuggets. Billups is a Denver native and played for the Nuggets for two stints during his career.

“This was by design, only because there’s a lot of people that contributed to my success as a player and as a man, in Denver, my hometown,” Billups said before the game. “There were several dates that I could have chosen. This one obviously stuck out.”

Billups does have a mild regret about his run of success with the Pistons. He figures they could have won more titles.

“I felt like, two and maybe three championships – we were that good,” he said.

Ben Wallace was on hand Wednesday, and so were Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince from the 2004 champions. Pistons great Isiah Thomas was also at the Palace for the ceremony.

“This is what tradition looks like,” Thomas told the crowd. “This is what it feels like.”