View Full Version : NBA Insider...Nov 10: Orlando ran out of magic? Bulls whinin again? Artest>>>J.Oneal?

11-11-2003, 08:06 PM
NBA Insider...Nov 10: Orlando ran out of magic? Bulls whinin again? Artest>>>J.Oneal?

Has Orlando run out of Magic?

Two weeks into the NBA regular season and the NBA fireworks are already bursting in air. Will T-Mac call it quits? Can anyone shut those crying Baby Bulls up? Has Ron Artest grown up?

Insider breaks down the most intriguing story lines from Week 2.

Tracy McGrady is talking about retiring in Orlando? A 1-6 start has everyone speculating on the future of Doc Rivers and GM John Gabriel, but when T-Mac talks about quitting, everyone stops and listens.
"Over the last five games, I've had some crazy thoughts, man," McGrady told the Orlando Sentinel. "I was thinking that after this year, I'm done with basketball. Done with basketball, period. That's how frustrated I've been."

McGrady said he even had questioned whether he had lost his "passion for it. ... if I lost my love for the game."

Six straight losses with a 15 ppg average on 29 percent shooting in his last four games will do that to last year's NBA scoring champion.

Tracy McGrady
Shooting Guard
Orlando Magic

7 21.4 6.0 5.3 .352 .844

What happened to the confident T-Mac who once told a reporter that "being an elite player in this league, being one of the top players, you can't help but to be a little bit cocky."

A plethora of zone defenses seems to be the kryptonite that transforms T-Mac from Superman into Keith Van Horn. McGrady has admitted it publicly, claiming that playing against the zone "is in my head. I know that."

So does the rest of the league. "The minute McGrady said he can't score against the zone, every coach in the league took notice," one rival Eastern Conference coach told Insider. "Our advance guys might have caught it. But when a player announces what gives him fits, you run it into the ground. The great thing is, the Magic are so short-handed, they don't have the guys to burn you. If you stop T-Mac, you stop the Magic."

The zone isn't the only problem in Orlando. Once again T-Mac is playing a one-man show. Grant Hill is in his usual spot on the end of the bench. Pat Garrity and Gordan Giricek have been wounded. Juwan Howard, who was supposed to take much of the offensive load off of T-Mac, is off to a slow start. Second-year forward Drew Gooden still can't find a position. The Magic don't have a point guard or a center.

On Friday, both T-Mac and Rivers were playing "what if?" with T-Wolves center Michael Olowokandi. According to Rivers, the team was set to sign Olowokandi at the same time it inked Howard, but the league nixed the team's injury exception application and the Kandi Man had to look for work somewhere else.

"Watching film of them the other night, yeah, I thought of that again and it just (ticked) me off," Rivers said. "We had a really good shot."

Wistfully yearning for Michael Olowokandi? Things must be bad.

Now you know why there's so much speculation that T-Mac may opt out of his deal in the summer of 2005 and bolt the Magic. If Rivers and Gabriel sound tired, how must T-Mac feel?

Before, McGrady was happy to carry the extra load -- to prove he was capable of single handedly carrying a team. Four years into that routine, it's starting to get old.

"Other teams have two max [maximum salary] players. Well, we do, but unfortunately, Grant's not here," McGrady told the Sentinel.

"Before, I always used to say, 'I don't feel pressure.' ... There's pressure now. I have to put this team on my back again and carry them and try to get over this latest hump. I've been frustrated, and then I think, 'Four more years of this?' ... Mentally, it's tough."

It's only going to get tougher. The Magic face the Grizzlies at home on Wednesday. And then they're off on a five-game West Coast swing against the Nuggets, Clippers, Jazz, Suns and Kings. The only good news is that it appears the team will have a healthy Garrity and Giricek for the swing.

"You look down the road, and it doesn't get easier," Rivers told the Sentinel. "We're going to break through. I believe that. We're going to find one of those breakthrough games. But then when you break through, you've got to keep it going."

Can T-Mac suck it up?

"I realize I have too much pride for this to be going on," he said. "I'm taking it day to day. I'll do my best and put this team on my back."

Rivers brushed off the whole T-Mac quitting angle. "Yeah, T-Mac told me that. When you're struggling, you think the world's coming to an end. We forget he's 24. This is probably the best lesson for him in his young career."

The Acting-Like-Babies Bulls crying louder over winning than losing?

Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford get benched for a game, the Bulls win, and the weeping and wailing from the Bulls' locker room actually goes up a few decibels?
That was the scene on Saturday and Sunday after Chicago pulled off a big win against the red-hot Hornets.

Coach Bill Cartwright, who seems like he's lost total control of his team, was incredulous.

"Did we achieve our goal?" Cartwright told the Chicago Sun Times. "If we achieved our goal, shouldn't you be happy? I don't know, maybe it's just me. What would you rather have, the starts we were having and a 21-point loss? Or would you rather have the start we had and a win? It's pretty simple to me."

Jalen Rose
Chicago Bulls

7 15.0 3.9 3.4 .396 .733

Rose and Crawford wouldn't stop complaining after Eddie Robinson and rookie Kirk Hinrich replaced them in the starting lineup. Rose and Crawford were on the floor in the fourth quarter and helped the Bulls earn the victory, but that was beside the point.

Rose and Crawford want to be the starters. Winning is secondary.

"I feel I'm a starter in this league," Rose said. "And at this point in my career, I don't want to settle for mediocrity. It's better for this team, and it gives us the best chance to win, when you have your best players on the court."

Crawford claimed that the move could lead to mutiny among the Bulls players. "It sure is a possibility," Crawford said. "I don't know if players will come out and say it, but they definitely look at it as something needs to happen. Are we really putting our best people on the floor to try to win games? They look at it like that. They see what's going on. Nobody's blind."

Really? Right now Crawford looks a lot like Ray Charles.

Crawford is especially sensitive. Last summer he thought he had earned the right to be the starting point guard, only to be replaced in training camp with rookie Jay Williams. He was unable to work out an extension with the team last summer (sources say he wanted a contract starting at about $8 million per season) and feels like the Bulls are once again looking for someone else to steer the ship.

"I bust my butt this summer being here, and there's been a point guard drafted the last two years," Crawford told the Chicago Tribune. "I never had a chance here, it doesn't seem like. Especially with the way I played at the end of the year, I knew it was my job. But I guess I was wrong. I couldn't have been more wrong."

Caught in the middle of all this is GM John Paxson. Paxson tried to explain to Crawford and Rose that these things happen for a reason. But it appears his message fell on deaf ears. Paxson got a call from Rose and Crawford's agent, Arn Tellem, on Sunday, and apparently got an earful.

"I told [Jamal] there is no writing on the wall," Paxson said. "I haven't made a determination that he's gone or staying. We're just seven games into the season."

If Crawford keeps it up, he's going to make the decision a pretty easy one for Paxson.

Is Ron Artest the best player on the Pacers?

There's a reason the Pacers are 6-1 and it doesn't have to do with Jermaine O'Neal.
Through the first seven games of the season, Artest, not O'Neal, has been the team's leading scorer and the go-to guy in the fourth. Through Sunday night's victory against the Sixers (a 30-point, 10-rebound outburst) Artest is averaging 20.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.4 spg on 44 percent shooting from the field.

Ron Artest
Indiana Pacers

7 20.9 5.9 3.6 .433 .633

Even more importantly, Artest has played under total control. Is it possible that the defensive stopper has matured both offensively and mentally?

Artest has clearly become more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. He's somehow found a way to channel that tough defensive energy into baskets. He's putting the ball on the floor and taking to the basket consistently, giving the Pacers a much needed scoring boost.

But the real evidence of the new Artest came with about four minutes left in the game Sunday night in Philly. Sixers forward Derrick Coleman knocked Artest to the floor, knocking out a tooth. Artest kept his temper under control, hit both free throws and stayed on the floor to help the Pacers get their sixth win.

Reggie Miller, who has become somewhat of a mentor to Artest, thinks he's a changed man.

"I was telling him, 'Kill 'em where it hurts. Kill 'em at the line and with your play,' " Miller told the Indianapolis Star. "That's exactly what he's been doing. Tonight was a great indication of the new and improved Ron. Last year's Ron probably would have taken out a couple of fans in the front row and gone after (Coleman). He doesn't have a technical this year. He's not getting any credit for that."

Well, he is with some opposing players.

"The dude's an All-Star," Sixers guard Eric Snow said. "If you take away the things he's done over the last couple of years, he's one of the top small forwards in the East, maybe the league. Just standing here, I can't name five small forwards who are better."

Me neither.

Earl Boykins for Sixthman of the Year?

Andre Miller may have been the prize offseason recruit and Carmelo Anthony is supposed to be the savior, but the diminutive Boykins has already become the heart and soul of the Denver Nuggets.
Earl Boykins
Point Guard
Denver Nuggets

7 14.1 2.3 2.7 .419 .875

Boykins is the Nuggets' second-leading scorer at 14.1 ppg despite playing just 26 minutes a game. Like the Kings' Bobby Jackson, Boykins is the type of energetic offensive player who seems to be able to step in in the fourth quarter and score at will.

While Anthony has the spotlight, Boykins has routinely stolen the show in the fourth. He did the same thing in Golden State last year, causing one Golden State official to comment this summer that losing Boykins in free agency was a bigger blow than losing Gilbert Arenas.

"Arenas got it done for three quarters," the official told Insider. "But Boykins was the closer. He was the guy who could bring it home."

What's his secret?

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder, but not because other teams have passed me by," Boykins said. "That's just the way I am. It's never personal. My goal is to win. I've always felt that wherever I was, if I got the opportunity, I would win."

Andrei Kirilenko for Most Improved of the Year?

So much for the Jazz being the worst team ever. How can the Jazz be 4-2 to start the season? Kirilenko's big summer was a sign of things to come.
Andrei Kirilenko
Small Forward
Utah Jazz

6 18.5 7.0 2.0 .561 1.000

Kirilenko dominated the competition this summer at the European Championships, causing some NBA international scouts to predict that Kirilenko was in for a major coming out party this season. With John Stockton fishing and Karl Malone trying to win a ring in L.A., the Jazz have become the Matt Harpring-Andrei Kirilenko show.

So far, both players are off to strong starts. But it's been Kirilenko's all-around game that has made the biggest difference in Utah. So far Kirilenko's stats are a dream. He's averaging 18.5 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.7 bpg and 1.4 spg on 56 percent shooting from the field.

Combine that with Harpring's career-high 18.2 ppg, Greg Ostertag's shocking 10.5 rpg, Carlos Arroyo's stunning 8.3 apg and a quiet 13.3 ppg from DeShawn Stevenson and the Jazz suddenly aren't a joke anymore.

Baron Davis a steal:

For all of Baron Davis' impressive numbers at the start of the season (26 ppg, 8.6 apg, 44 percent shooting from three) nothing tops his gaudy 4.6 spg average. Davis has had five steals in five of the Hornets' first seven games.

What's the difference? Davis came into camp about 20 pounds lighter than he did in years past. It's helped with his quickness getting to the ball.

"It's just a matter of being healthy, coming to practice and working every day," said Davis. "It's not taking any days off."

And staying away from those Krispy Kremes.

DeSagana Diop resurrected from the dead?

The Weekly World News picked this up over the weekend and we thought it was worth a mention.

An eight-point game against the Pacers and two-point, four-rebound effort against the Wizards may not be enough to warrant a big mention here. But when it's Diop, and those stat lines each include five blocks, there's reason to celebrate in Cleveland. Diop's defense against Jermaine O'Neal was so good on Friday night that Paul Silas elected to keep him in the game and Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the bench in the fourth quarter.

"I thought 'Gana was going pretty good," Silas told the Morning Journal. "It was a group that was contending and keeping us in the game. I wasn't going to mess with that. 'Gana had a real good look. I liked the fact that he took (the last-second shot). I'm looking for production. He's doing a great job blocking shots, rebounding and running the court. He started making some big shots, which is big moment for us."

Diop, who has done basically nothing his first two years in the league, says he knew it all along.

"If I get the minutes," Diop said, "I can lead the league (in blocked shots)."

Can Tyrone Hill stop the Heat's slide?

Tyrone Hill became the last significant free agent to sign on Friday. Hill, a rebounding machine who turned down several veteran minimum offers looking for a bigger deal, finally got the call from the Heat after both Malik Allen and Samaki Walker went down with injuries.
With the Heat off to a worst-ever 0-6 start and with coach Stan Van Gundy complaining about a general malaise on the club, can Hill give them a little spark?

It's going to take some time.

"I'm a little rusty," Hill said. "I haven't played since the playoffs. It's going to take me a few weeks to get back into game shape, get my timing back and get my strength back."

News of the Weird

If you predicted the following before the start of the regular season, you must be a witch.

Ronald Murray would be the seventh-leading scorer in the league at 23.5 ppg.

Erick Dampier would lead the league in rebounding at 15.8 rpg.

Greg Ostertag would be averaging 10.5 rpg.

Marcus Camby would play in seven straight games without getting injured.

Vin Baker would be second in the league in field goal percentage at 59.7 percent.

Charlie Ward would be fourth in the league in assists at 8.3 apg.

Ron Artest would go seven straight games without a technical or flagrant foul.

The name Calbert Cheaney and "go-to-guy" would be used in the same sentence.

Kirk Hinrich would be the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls.

The Utah Jazz would be eighth in the league in scoring. The Nets would be 25th in the league in scoring.

Peep Show

Seattle SuperSonics: Ray Allen's mind was willing but the flesh was weak. "Initially I thought I'd be out for five games and Milwaukee was the sixth game and that's how I set my mind up, but then I went down (to Los Angeles) and I heard otherwise," Allen said of the rehab on his surgically repaired right ankle in the Seattle Times. "It's disappointing. We only go there one time. I was looking forward to being back there as much as I know the fans were looking forward for me to come back." The prognosis now requires six to eight weeks to fully recover. "You always see guys on the injured list come back too early, and some guys take their time and make sure they don't strain themselves," Allen said. "I've never really been hurt. I've always jumped in the lineup. I've twisted my ankle before and bruised my knee and I'll be right back in the lineup. Half of it is mentality. You can't think that you're hurt."

Washington Wizards: It's official. Gilbert Arenas and head coach Eddie Jordan have kissed and made up. "Oh, he definitely let me know, and now I understand," said Arenas in the Washington Times. "It has a lot to do with me being a leader on this team. There are some things that you have to do as a leader, and he wanted to make sure that I understood it. He didn't want to leave it hanging in the air so that it becomes a problem later in the season." Arenas was benched in third quarter of the Wizards latest game for disciplinary reasons. "Honestly, he cleared everything up. I know why he benched me," Arenas said. "The bottom line is that you have to treat everyone fair. I have no problem with that. There are rules that you have to follow. ... I understand why I got disciplined. It's over."

Denver Nuggets: The good news is that Marcus Camby isn't injured. The bad news is that no one's really saying why he only played 14 minutes in the Nuggets latest loss. "He was 100 percent," agent Rock Kaplan said in the Rocky Mountain News. "I saw (Camby) after the game and I asked him, 'Why didn't you say something at halftime (about being healthy enough to play)?' He said, 'I didn't want it to seem unprofessional because the second unit was playing well. And I thought it would be perceived like I'm a baby.' " Head coach Jeff Bzdelik claimed that Camby was sick before the game. Camby denies it. "I feel fine," said Camby. "I've got nothing to say. I don't want to say the wrong things. I was fine. I was ready to play."

New York Knicks: Either Dikembe Mutombo is mad about not playing enough minutes and is hiding it very well or he isn't mad at all and local sportswriters have it all wrong. "I'm not going to put Dikembe in a situation where it's to his disadvantage," said head coach Don Chaney in the New York Daily News. "It will hurt the team. I'm not going to put him in a situation where he has to guard a guy he can't guard." The latest argument, depending on who you believe, arose after the Knicks lost to the Bucks with Mutombo on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. "I like to keep (Mutombo) around the basket," Chaney said. "... If you're playing well and moving well and getting things done on the floor, you play."

Phoenix Suns: By all indications, the Suns wouldn't know a zone defense if it hit them in the face. "We definitely have times when we're fumbling around a little bit. We tend to hold the ball too long," forward Tom Gugliotta said in the Arizona Republic. "Zones are kind of boggling our minds a little bit." As a result, the Suns are currently ranked 27th in assists as a team out of 29. "What we have to understand is we're still a young team compared to where we were even last year," Johnson said. "And we've added someone else (center Jahidi White), which is going to slow us down for a little while. We have to keep things very simple."

Los Angeles Clippers: Elton Brand says that he'll be back from his foot injury in 3 to 4 weeks. An X-ray on Tuesday will determine if he is a liar. "Right now there's no pain," said Brand in the Orange County Register. "The next step is for me to start doing weight-bearing exercises, but I don't know when that will be."

11-11-2003, 08:39 PM
Thanks a lot for posting this TheBac.

11-12-2003, 01:31 PM
Orlando hasn't run out of "magic", rather McGrady has run out of patience. He needs reinfocements fast. Is Grant Hill still stealing money over there? Dang, that team has the worst luck in injuries.