View Full Version : NBA prepares for a big dose of reality

10-27-2003, 07:34 PM
1) Published report documenting Fortson's lack of stature.

2) No mention of WZZ's being cut by the Clips in an article published today.

NBA prepares for a big dose of reality
By Scott Howard-Cooper -- Bee Staff Writer
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Monday, October 27, 2003
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This is the season that real life intrudes on the NBA, or vice versa, in ways like never before. There's a trial, many tribulations, a serious health issue that plays out with a potential championship at stake, and a debate over the shelf life of coaches that still hasn't stopped.
Reality TV, how boring. The Association is trey chic now for the can't-turn-away crowd, and the regular season hasn't even started.

"Fear Factor"? Have you seen the look on Kobe Bryant's face as he walks into that Colorado courtroom?
"The Restaurant"? Stanley Roberts is back in the league, as a Toronto Raptor.

"Joe Millionaire"? Big deal. Try Joe and Gavin millionaire.

And that doesn't even get us to the real American idle, Grant Hill. The season begins Tuesday with the usual assortment of subplots and crackpots, plus the entirely unusual. Plus the games and questions, like the game of 20 Questions.

1. How will Alonzo Mourning hold up?

He missed all of last season and most of 2000-01 because of a serious kidney ailment that had people wondering about his future in ways far more pressing than basketball, but the Nets spent a reported $20 million that Zo is healthy and finally the answer at center. If Mourning does return on the investment, he teams with Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson on a very good front line and the best point guard, Jason Kidd, to make New Jersey the popular choice to reach the Finals for the third consecutive season, and maybe beyond.

2. Who is Michael Olowokandi?

The league can't wait to find out. A year ago at this time, he was potentially that rare opportunity of a young, talented center about to hit the free-agent market. After a disappointing 2002-03, the mega-offers disappeared, and he got three seasons from the Timberwolves. His success, or lack thereof, now becomes a pivotal part of the buildup in hopeful Minnesota.

3. When do Knicks fans start booing general manager Scott Layden?

What time is tipoff?

4. Can the Trail Blazers really become good guys?

Absolutely. Without a doubt. Here, have some swampland. Management in Portland is pushing for a better citizenship grade on the report card, and the preseason wasn't even over before Rasheed Wallace blew off a meeting with sponsors. And the team's owner.

5. What is Tony Parker's mind-set?

With so much of San Antonio's future in his hands, the third-year point guard said he is past the hurt of the Spurs' hard offseason push for Kidd, a near miss for the defending champions. If not, coach Gregg Popovich will not hesitate with the tough love. Parker might be a pouter, but he can also harness enough toughness to play aggressive defense and run the offense through the playoffs, including a good showing against Kidd in the Finals.

6. Is too much expected of LeBron James?

Of course, but that just means it's his turn. Yao Ming got the hype last year and more than survived. James, who grew up in the United States and spent all last season in the tornado, will actually be better prepared for it. Plus, one thing the Cavaliers are most excited about in the early days of a very promising career is that his emotional development is as far advanced as his basketball.

7. Is too much expected of Larry Brown?

No. While the bar is set very high -- the Pistons just reached the East finals under Rick Carlisle -- Detroit has a veteran team that will be adding No. 2 overall pick Darko Milicic, and Brown has a history of developing kids and pushing his stars. Usually to the point of a blowup, but also with results.

8. Is too much expected of the Timberwolves?

Yes. The potential is there, but Minnesota has to first prove it belongs among the West elite. Getting out of the first round would be a good step in that direction.

9. Why is Byron Scott sweating?

He has back-to-back East titles as coach of the Nets ... and no contract extension. A slow start will fuel speculation about his future, but summertime reports about a poor relationship with Kidd already got the momentum going against Scott, even if both sides deny a rift. Add in the potential ownership change, and it becomes another unsettling aspect for the former Kings assistant.

10. What is the next step for Golden State?

Let's just hope someone has cleared a path behind them so no Warrior trips and falls backward on his aspirations. It's (probably) not a disaster for now. Nick Van Exel and Jason Richardson will score from the backcourt, the package of centers and power forwards will rebound, and Mike Dunleavy might develop in his second season. But that can't avoid the setback for the big-picture plan, with young players like Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison out and replaced by veterans, Van Exel and Clifford Robinson, who won't be around when things are supposed to get good.

11. Why can the average fan continue to hope?

Because being 6-foot-1 means you are employable. While centers remain the toughest find, the transitions at point guard are nonstop. The Clippers, Warriors, Wizards, Bulls, Bucks, Magic, Jazz, Celtics, Heat, Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Lakers and Nuggets either will have or could have new starters, and the Grizzlies also addressed that position in the first round of the draft. Teams are even using long-term deals to sign backups.

12. How long before Ron Arrest appears?

Too late. Ron Artest already had a moment with his new coach, Carlisle, never known for being an easygoing guy himself. Artest got a technical during a preseason game, Carlisle yanked him as a follow-through to Indiana's plan to bring structure and discipline, and Artest said he'd rather be on another team if that was always going to happen. Pacers management may help him get his wish.

13. Why will Sacramento be experts of the East?

In the first seven weeks alone, prime contenders Detroit, New Jersey and Indiana come to Arco Arena, along with hopefuls Philadelphia, Toronto and Orlando and the top two picks in the draft, James and the Cavaliers and Milicic and the Pistons.

14. What is Phil Jackson's future with the Lakers?

Recent speculation that your favorite coach was close to an extension has faded, or at least been drowned out by louder contract demands from Shaquille O'Neal. The important thing, though, is that Jackson is willing, the bigger question than whether L.A. wants him back. After the health scares of last season, he said he is feeling up to thinking long term again.

15. What is Bryant's future with the Lakers?

In terms of the impending basketball decisions in his life, Bryant said he will become a free agent after the season. What shape the rest of his life will be in by then is impossible to predict, but the Lakers aspect will be interesting in its own right. The likelihood at this point is that he will remain a Laker, the team that can pay the most and in an area he likes. But it is not difficult to imagine him at least considering a move, if not seriously contemplating the opportunity to get a fresh start.

16. Who is the most unique team?

What a shock. The Mavericks. Just when it seemed as if coach Don Nelson was going to pull something bizarre and play it straight, out comes the talk of Danny Fortson, listed at 6-8, but more like 6-6 1/2, starting at center. Getting Antoine Walker made it officially Nellie. Dallas will play Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Dirk Nowitzki, Jamison and Walker together a lot and dare opponents to try and outscore them.

17. Who is the Jazz?

Like nothing seen in the last 18 years. From John Stockton to Carlos Arroyo. From Karl Malone to Jarron Collins and Keon Clark. At least Jerry Sloan stayed on as coach. Presumably the Great Salt Lake is also still there.

18. Are the Clippers back to being a farce to be reckoned with?

Maybe not to that extreme. But, yes. They have Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson, a promising beginning, but also a likely opening-night roster in which Predrag Drobnjak and Wang Zhizhi are the only players older than 25. Glen Rice and Olden Polynice are expected to begin on the injured list.

19. Will the coaching turnover continue?

Only for forever and beyond. And maybe at close to the record rate compared to last season. Too many teams are expected to do well, so too many coaches reach this week with greater pressures than ever and too few of those have untouchable security. Especially with Pat Riley and Rudy Tomjanovich as potential hires next summer.

20. Who really, truly, honestly will play 82 games during the regular season?

The Kings. Even if you can't see half of them.