Someday the Kobe Bryant-LeBron James rivalry may reach Magic Johnson-Larry Bird proportions.
Of course their teams, the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers, first need to improve to approach the level of those Lakers and Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s. Neither the Lakers nor Cavaliers made the playoffs last season but they both may qualify this spring.
King James had a chance to thrust a dagger into Kobe's heart when he rose for an 18-foot jump shot at the buzzer when the teams last met, Jan. 12 at L.A.'s Staples Center. But while being guarded by Kobe, James missed the shot and the Lakers escaped with a 99-98 win.
"The shot felt great, I didn't hesitate," said James, who outscored Bryant, 28-27. "It was short. They won and we lost."
The rematch comes this afternoon at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.
Bryant, who averages nearly 24 points over his 10-year career, hasn't done nearly as well in head-to-head meetings against James. He scored just 10 points in their first meeting, Jan. 12, 2004, and was held to two points on Jan. 13, 2005, when he suffered a severely sprained right ankle in the first quarter.
In four career matchups against James, Bryant averages 16.3 points, 3.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals, while shooting just 37.8 percent. James averages 24.3 points, 8.5 assists, seven rebounds and 1.2 steals, while shooting 42 percent from the floor. The Lakers have won three of the four games.
Wolves seem to 'own' Vince
New Jersey's Vince Carter has outscored Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, 23.1 to 21.5, in their 11 previous head-to-heads, but the Timberwolves have won nine, including six when Carter was with the Toronto Raptors. Minnesota visits the Meadowlands to face the Nets on Thursday.
The Timberwolves beat the Nets, 100-90, in Minneapolis on March 1, though Carter got the best of Garnett, 29-26. Carter also averages four rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals and shoots 41.9 percent against Garnett, who averages 9.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.4 blocked shots and shoots 52.2 percent.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Sam Cassell is playing for his seventh NBA organization but it all began when he spent three seasons with the Rockets. Houston won championships in 1993-94 and 1994-95 with Cassell on the roster. The Clippers are in Houston on Monday night.
In the first three games of this season's series, Cassell has averaged 20 points, 7.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals but the Rockets have won the last two.
Avs' Hejduk crowns Kings
Right wing Milan Hejduk and his Colorado Avalanche visit Los Angeles on Monday night. He has nine goals and 31 points in 24 career games against the Kings, including three points in two games this season.
Flyers center Peter Forsberg has six goals and 22 points in 17 career games against the New Jersey Devils, who visit Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens finish their season series with games Thursday and Saturday at Montreal. Habs center Saku Koivu (2-6-8 in six games) and right wing Alexei Kovalev (3-4-7 in five games) have enjoyed the rivalry far this season.