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TheKid
08-08-2001, 11:07 AM
Booth, Vaughn could help new teams

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By Dr. Jack Ramsay
Special to ESPN.com



Vaughn


Jacque Vaughn going to Atlanta was a huge move for the Hawks. Each year he has gotten a little better and has expanded his game as he has gotten more playing time. Last year he had some outstanding games for Utah. The Hawks needed a point guard who can lead the offense, something Vaughn can do. He's not John Stockton, but Vaughn had a great tutor in Stockton and has learned a lot. Before Vaughn arrived, the Hawks didn't have a legitimate point guard. Matt Maloney wasn't the answer, and neither is Emanual Davis. Davis can back up at point guard and off guard, but he doesn't have the capacity to be a lead guard. Jason Terry, at the two guard, can defend point guards; he's undersized to defend two guards, though. So he and Vaughn lack size in the backcourt. But Vaughn is a playmaker who should work out well in Atlanta.

Boston is very pleased with its rookies, especially Joe Johnson. He has the ability to step in to the starting lineup by December or January at the latest. Kedrick Brown has looked solid as well, but Joseph Forte has been a little bit of a disappointment. He should recover and make a contribution at some point. Boston seems to have taken a step forward.

It's interesting that Seattle signed Calvin Booth to an offer sheet. I like Booth, who has the potential to be a starting center. He's not a prime-time player yet, but he's pretty good. The Dallas Mavericks are over the salary cap. So to re-sign him, the Mavs may have to do it only if they can make a trade. They may have to part with more than one player. However, the Mavericks have a lot of quality players, so maybe a trade could work. Booth would be a big loss for Dallas and a major acquisition for the Sonics.


Patterson


With Ruben Patterson joining the mix, the Blazers continue to add players with troubled off-the-court personas, going back to Isaiah Rider, Shawn Kemp and Rod Strickland. It's not that these players don't have or have not had ability, but I'm not sure how they help the franchise's community image. I like Patterson as a player. He's energetic, runs the floor hard, dives for loose balls and works hard on the offensive boards. But he's also another player to figure into Portland's rotation. What do they do with the logjam at forward? The Blazers drafted Zach Randolph, who was the MVP at the Rocky Mountain Revue, averaging 26 points and nine rebounds a game. That's not completely definitive about his abilities, but he's another forward. So they have to fit Randolph in with Patterson and Scottie Pippen at small forward and Rasheed Wallace and Dale Davis at big forward. Meanwhile, in the backcourt, the Blazers have Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Derek Anderson, Erick Barkley and maybe Rod Strickland. In a four-guard rotation, everyone will get reduced minutes. The Blazers are back to the same situation they had with Mike Dunleavy. They have too many players who want big minutes. For Maurice Cheeks, a first-year head coach at any level, it's an impediment to him getting off to a good start.

I like what Orlando has done, picking up Patrick Ewing and Horace Grant and then signing Andrew DeClercq and Don Reid. Rather than gambling with rookies Steven Hunter and Brendan Haywood, who has since been traded to Washington, the Magic have the flexibility of playing several players, many of them veterans, in the middle. If Grant Hill comes back at or near 100 percent, the Magic can be a team to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.


Kittles


The Nets have great hopes for Kerry Kittles. He had a knee condition that 20 years ago would have ended his NBA career. He had holes in the bony surface of his knee and had worn out the cartilage in the same knee. But Dr. Craig Morgan, the orthopedic specialist from Wilmington, Del., who worked on Kittles, filled in the holes in his knee. There is a procedure now where cartilage can be regrown. The doctor thinks Kittles could have played last year and is very optimistic. Morgan is the same doctor who worked on Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling's shoulder, and Schilling has made a major comeback. The Nets can pair Kittles with Jason Kidd in the backcourt and then have a front line with Kenyon Martin and Keith Van Horn. If the Nets get Todd MacCulloch, then they have Aaron Williams to come off the bench. They need to avoid the injury hex that has plagued them more than any team in the league. If they can, the Nets could be vying for a playoff spot.

The Timberwolves have bolstered their front line with the return of Joe Smith. They have also signed rookie Loren Woods, who performed well in the three-game summer series in Orlando. If Woods can play along with Radoslav Nesterovic, who has improved in marginal positive increments, they could have players to play center. And if the Wolves want to play without a center, they can go with a good frontcourt of Kevin Garnett, Smith and Wally Szczerbiak. Flip Saunders is the only coach I've spoken to who has said ahead of time he will play some kind of matchup zone. When he coached in college, he had good success with a matchup 1-2-2 zone. He thinks he can do the same thing in the NBA. It remains to be seen, but he has a lot of flexibility with players he can move in and out, and a lot of size along the front line that could make the defense a troublesome defense for opponents. I'm not sold that his matchup zone will work. But if a team is good at what it does defensively, no matter what the defense is, a team can make it work. I'm skeptical, though, that any team can play an effective matchup zone with the rules that won't allow a defender in the lane unless he is guarding somebody.