American Express returns as NBA sponsor, a sign of the league’s surging popularity

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There was a time when American Express commercials were as much a part of NBA telecasts as Marv Albert. But five years ago, after the Jordan era and the Laker three-peat were history, the company walked away.

Monday they will announce they are back in — American Express is returning as a league sponsor, the New York Times reported.

Mark Tatum, the executive vice president for global marketing partnerships at the N.B.A, said, “The resurgence of the Knicks, the Heat, the Spurs, the Lakers, the Celtics: there are very exciting story lines and people want to be associated with the N.B.A. right now.”

This is good news on one level — we once again may get to see the likes of  Phil Jackson buying lottery scratchers or Don Nelson buying German dictionaries (to communicate with Dirk Nowitizki) with their Amex cards. It’s a sign — along with boosts in television rating — that the league is having resurgence.

It also makes you think that for all the posturing going on right now about a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a lockout that costs the league even one game would be a bigger setback than even the hardline owners and players realize. That a lockout would come at a time of the highest levels of popularity for the league since the Jordan era. That a lockout would have millionaires and billionaires battling over to split up the public’s money during the worst recession in generations. That the setback would be more than just the usual five years (how long on average it takes a sport to recover television ratings and game attendance after a lockout).

Amex returning reminds us that a lockout would be just plain stupid.

Dwight Howard played through torn MCL and meniscus in playoffs

Dwight Howard
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Dwight Howard hasn’t exactly been healthy in recent years. He missed half of last season with various injuries, including a two-month stretch from January to March after undergoing a knee procedure. On Thursday, he told a Houston radio station that the knee problems continued after that, and he had torn ligaments and cartilage during the Rockets’ Western Conference Finals series against the Warriors:

It’s a little alarming that we didn’t hear about this until now. Sometimes these injuries can heal without surgery, but Howard can become a free agent next summer, so you would think he would want to get any lingering issues addressed ahead of time. Considering his age (he’ll be 30 in December) and his injury history, this isn’t a great sign. A healthy Howard is the difference between the Rockets being a legitimate title contender and an als0-ran, so hopefully these problems are behind him and he can stay healthy this season.

Report: Trevor Booker suspended one game for Hibbert altercation

Trevor Booker
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On Tuesday night, Jazz big man Trevor Booker was ejected from a preseason game against the Lakers for taking a swing at Roy Hibbert during a scrap.

Now, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Booker will be suspended one game for the hit, meaning he’ll miss the Jazz’ October 28 season opener against the Pistons:

Considering he was already ejected, a one-game suspension seems about right.