After the Lakers and Mavericks lost their respective games on Thursday, the Jazz will look to take advantage tonight in Portland against a Trail Blazers team that's expected to be without LaMarcus Aldridge. If Utah can get a victory, the club will pull even in the standings with the 37-36 Lakers, tied for the eighth playoff spot in the West with just nine games to go. While we wait for the Jazz/Blazers game, which will be the last on tonight's schedule to tip off, let's check in on a few items from around the Western Conference….
- Appearing on the Dan Patrick Show, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson expressed plenty of confidence in his city's chances of keeping the Kings, as Chris Fedor of Sports Radio Interviews writes. Asked about the chances of Sacramento's bid succeeding, Johnson likened the city's odds to "Steve Nash on the free throw line": 90%.
- Restricted free-agent-to-be Nikola Pekovic is also speaking in percentages, telling Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link) that he "100%" wants to remain with the Timberwolves beyond this season. Pekovic has said in the past that he likes "everything about Minnesota," so his latest comments don't come as a surprise.
- Zach Lowe of Grantland has published an entertaining interview with Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, a conversation that touched on January's Rudy Gay trade. According to Hollins, while he wasn't on board with trading Gay, he was looped in during the process, having discussed the Tayshaun Prince/Ed Davis return with the front office before the deal was agreed upon.
- More Hollins on the Gay trade: "They asked me my opinion, and I'd say, 'I'd rather take this over that,' or, 'I'd rather not do this until the end of the season.' But that's what they get paid to do — to make those decisions. And I'm not sure that if I were in their shoes, I wouldn't have made the same trade…. But as a coach, you're thinking about right now, and so your mind-set is different."