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thebac
11-19-2003, 11:15 AM
NBA Insider...Nov 19: Orlando could get worse... Laker cheaters? Top 5 def. improve


Magic have tough road ahead

Maybe the Orlando Magic should have beaten the New York Knicks on Nov. 3.

Even with Grant Hill going through four ankle operations and unable to play this season, even with players like Ben Wallace and Troy Hudson having been let go due to Hill's burdening salary, even with eight new players on this year's team, five of them rookies, even with injuries to Gordan Giricek and Pat Garrity, maybe the Magic should have beaten the Chicago Bulls on Nov. 5.

After all, those were two games against non-playoff teams taking place at home.

But even so, maybe the Magic should have beaten either the Nuggets in Denver on Friday, or the Clippers in Los Angeles on Saturday or the Jazz in Salt Lake on Monday.

Because after finishing last season by losing their final three playoff games, the Magic went on to win only one of eight preseason games and are now 1-10 during the regular season with possibly the worst yet to come one day after firing head coach Doc Rivers.

"First and foremost, this was a 1-10 team," John Weisbrod, the Magic's chief operating officer, said in the New York Times. "We don't have any illusions about our status, or believe we should be lapping the field, but we're not a 1-10 team."

Well, Mr. Weisbrod maybe right. This isn't going to be a 1-10 team for long. The Magic could, with rejuvenated spirits by the promoting of assistant Johnny Davis, quickly go to 2-10. Or, if they were to simply look at the schedule with their current 2-20 mindset, they could be 1-20 before this thing is all over because their next 10 opponents have a combined record of 62-43.


Magic fans shouldn't expect a quick turnaround from Tracy McGrady and the Magic.
"We have some work to do, but we're not out of it by any stretch of the imagination. The season is still early," said Johnny Davis in the Orlando Sentinel. "There certainly is enough time to get this thing going. Let's start with tomorrow, and let's start winning."

Well, their next game is against the Phoenix Suns as their fourth consecutive road game followed immediately the next night by the Kings in Sacramento. Both of those teams plan on going to the playoffs even if they do play in the much tougher Western Conference.

And it doesn't get any easier after that.

They play the Indiana Pacers, the team with the best record in the entire Eastern Conference, in their first home game under their new head coach on Monday. Then comes the Boston Celtics, the team with the best record in the Atlantic Division. Next are the Toronto Raptors, who have the same record as the Celtics.

"You have to take it one step at a time," Davis said. "We are going to do things that I deem best for the team now. I'm thrilled about this opportunity, and I want to make basketball fun again for everyone. And you do that by winning."

Sure, Boston and Toronto can be beaten and the Magic better hope so because directly following those games are a home-and-home swap with the New Orleans Hornets, who have the second-best record in the entire Eastern Conference.

"I think when you get into a losing streak like we did, a lot of it is more mental than physical," Davis said. "I just want to create an atmosphere that is more conducive to winning, to put our players in position to be successful, and forget about what happened previously."

Well, that isn't going to be too easy because right after that, the World Champion San Antonio Spurs come into town followed by a road trip to Dallas to play the Mavericks, who had the best record in the league last season, and then another game against the Suns.

"Yes, that's right," Weisbrod said. "You've got a team of a mind-set that thinks it's not going to win, and that becomes contagious. We were hoping we'd break out of it, but we didn't. It was a difficult thing to do, but it's best for the team. They needed to hear a new voice."

Magic fans may be circling Wednesday, Dec. 10 on their calenders because that's when their team faces the Washington Wizards, the first team that, on paper, they are possibly superior to.

"Hopefully, we'll come out with more energy, have more fun and can look like professionals out there," Tracy McGrady said in Florida Today. "At times, we've been out there just running around like chickens with their heads cut off, not knowing our spots on the court and looking lost. Hopefully, we can move forward and finally get on the same page."

Of course, the law of averages says the Magic will win at least one of those games. But, then again, no one expected this team to start 1-10 in the first place. But will 2-18 do it? Is 3-17 good enough? Can Davis be satisfied if his team is 4-16? Is 5-15 really as bad as it sounds, though that might be the coaching feat of the season considering these circumstances.

"I always felt like I was coaching with one arm tied behind my back," Rivers said. "We were set up bad. . . . eight new guys; it's tough. I felt this was an inevitability . . . There was a lot of pressure on these guys but I wish they would have looked at four years instead of 11 games."

And maybe, just maybe, the Magic should have looked at the next 10 games on the schedule instead of just the last 11.

"When you have eight new faces like we do this season, it's like starting all over again," McGrady said in Florida Today. "He was in such a tough situation. When you make that many changes, it's either going to go really good or really bad for you."

Or, with one more familiar face as the new head coach, really, really bad.

Laker cheaters?

As far as we know, Los Angeles Laker general manager Mitch Kupchak isn't paying officials to change their calls in favor of the Lakers. To the best of our knowledge, no Laker players has tested positive for THG. We have yet to hear that Phil Jackson has once placed a bet for or against his team from the locker room. Karl Malone
Power Forward
Los Angeles Lakers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
11 14.7 9.5 4.0 .459 .685



But even so, Rob Parker in the Detroit News is claiming these very same Lakers are cheating.

"That's because the Lakers, who had won three straight titles before the San Antonio Spurs won last season, let players sign contracts below their market value in order to put together a squad that the NBA has never seen," he wrote in today's edition. "In the end, it circumvents the salary cap."

Of course, he's talking about the offseason signings of Karl Malone and Gary Payton. And he didn't have to look far to get support.

"It's won't be real," said Pistons broadcaster Rick Mahorn, who won a title with the Bad Boys in 1989, in the same article. "They're paying for it. It's like getting a championship on somebody's back."

Gary Payton
Point Guard
Los Angeles Lakers
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
11 14.8 4.3 7.0 .486 .700



Parker continued: "In essence, they are paying big dollars in order to buy a ring. Malone, who earned $19 million last season and will be paid $1.5 million this season, is paying $17.5 million for his ring. Payton, who earned $12.5 million last season and is getting $4.9 million this season, is forking over $8.6 million . . . In the case of the Lakers, NBA Commissioner David Stern let down the rest of NBA America by not blocking these out-of-whack deals."

Parker notes that in 1976, MLB commissioner Bowie Kuhn blocked a deal that would have dealt star players for reasons other than competition stating that it wasn't in the best interest of baseball.

"The cap is still an experimental thing," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I imagine if we are fortunate enough to win, there would be some discussion in the vein of players purposely circumventing to get a ring."

Here's the full article: http://www.detnews.com/2003/pistons.../e01-329621.htm

Carlisle has preached defense to Pacers

Rick Carlisle made Ben Wallace.

I'm not saying the piano playing graduate of the University of Virginia, Class of 1984, contributed anything to a gene pool that produced 11 children of which Wallace was the 10th. But he did turn an offseason sign-and-trade throw in into a two-time defensive player of the year.

But as we looked over this year's boxscores in search of the best and worst teams in terms of defensive improvements as determined by scoring, we noticed that what Carlisle giveth he can also taketh away and give to someone else.

Ben Wallace
Power Forward
Detroit Pistons
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
9 10.7 13.3 1.6 .402 .595



Before coming to the Pistons in 2000, Wallace spent the first three seasons of his career in Washington, averaging 3.5 points per game while shooting 35 percent from the free-throw line and not winning a single rebounding title. The following season he was traded to Orlando along with Tim Legler, Terry Davis and Jeff McInnis for Isaac Austin. That was a four-for-one swap of which Wallace, who had never been drafted in the first place, was, again, the throw in.

In Orlando, he got a full-time gig as a starter even though his scoring, rebounding, steals, blocks and shooting percentage fell from the previous year.

A year later, he was traded to the Detroit Pistons along with Chucky Atkins for Grant Hill and the rest is history. In his first season in Detroit with an additional 10 minutes more a game, Wallace went from averaging 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game to 13.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. The following year, under Rick Carlisle's scheme that saw the Pistons hold opponents to 92.2 ppg after they scored 97.3 the year before, he was up to 3.4 blocks per game and the year after that, 15.4 rebounds per game. He made the All-Star team. He made an All- NBA team. He made it look like a guy who had never scored more than 17 points in a single game could lead a team to the NBA Finals.

This year, with Rick Carlisle gone to Indiana, Ben Wallace is averaging 9.3 defensive rebounds per game after grabbing 11.4 last year. He is blocking three shots per game after rejecting 3.4 last year. The two-time defensive player of the year is now fifth in blocks and, if this is any indication, about to lose his two-year headlock on the rebounding title.

Instead, the Pistons have decided to have him shoot more, upping his scoring from 6.9 a game to 10.7, as his shooting percentage has fallen from 50 percent over his career to 40 percent this season.

Meanwhile in Indiana, Carlisle is hard at work on one Jermaine O'Neal who, prior to the head coaching change, had averaged 1.6 blocks and 0.4 steals per game. This year, O'Neal is averaging a career-high 2.7 blocks per game and a career-high 1.2 steals per game and, well, the Pacers are one of the most improved defensive teams in the league, giving up only 83.4 points per game after opponents scored 93.3 against them last year for a 9.9 point per game improved.

But back in Detroit, the Pistons are giving up 89.5 points per game after surrendering only 87.7 last year for a decline of 1.8 points despite a league-wide scoring drought. They are one of only eight teams in the entire league giving up more points than they did last year.

And as a result, the Pistons, so far, have compiled a 6-4 record and third-place standing in the Central Division after going 50-32 the previous season and winning division under Carlisle while the Pacers are now 8-2 with the best record in the league after going 48-34 the previous season.

A lot can change in a year. A lot can change after three weeks. But these are the best and worst teams in the league as far as defensive improvements are concerned.

Top 5

1. Toronto Raptors
Difference: -12.8 (84 ppg. from 96.9 ppg)
A typical Raptors game consists of 152 shots, mostly missed, with sagging attendance and little television audience. Compare that to the 175 shots taken Monday night in the game between the Blazers and the Mavs or, better yet, compare it to the 140 shots taken last night between Big 12 favorite Texas and Ivy League rep Brown. The Raptors are holding opponents down by putting them to sleep and giving nightmares to those of us required to watch them. Their opponents have more steals, more blocks and more defensive rebounds. The Raptors, apparently, just have more tolerance for pain.

2. Golden State Warriors
Difference: -11.7 (91.9 ppg. from 103.6 ppg)
Four of last year's top five scorers have yet to score a single point for the Warriors thus far in the season and I wouldn't be expecting too much contribution from Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas or Earl Boykins in the near future. Head coach Eric Musselman had to change the context of his game plan, and he has by turning his 102-point per game offensive weapon into a 94-point per game defensive squad. The results, though, are still forthcoming. Last year's team, with all the supposed talent, won 46 percent of their games. This year's team, rebuilding once again, have won 44 percent of their games so far.

3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Difference: -10 (86 ppg. from 96 ppg)
The Timberwolves surely didn't expect to be 5-5 at this point, but four players averaging more than a steal per game with Kevin Garnett and Michael Olowkandi blocking just as many shots by themselves as their opponents all together has to give them hope. Or at least something to justify the boost in payroll. Holding opponents to 41 percent shooting (7th best in the league) ain't too bad, either, but we'll see if this whole thing changes once Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson return with their offensive games.

4. Indiana Pacers
Difference: -9.9 (83.4 ppg. from 93.3 ppg)
See above.

5. Houston Rockets
Difference: -9.6 (82.7 ppg. from 92.3 ppg)
Yao Ming is sixth in the league in blocked shots at 2.5 per game. Kelvin Cato is right behind him at two even. That's 14 feet, 5 inches all together which, when prodded by Jeff Van Gundy, has resulted in the league's best defense, holding opponents to a league-low 82 points per game on a league low 37 percent shooting from the field and 24 percent shooting from long distance (second best in NBA). Ooops. This just in. The Rockets held the Sixers to 66 points Monday night, meaning that 82 just fell to 81, which is at least 2.4 points lower than anyone else in the league.

Bottom 5

25. Detroit Pistons
Difference: +1.8 (89.5 ppg. from 87.7 ppg)
See above.

26. Seattle SuperSonics
Difference: +2.1 (94.4 ppg. from 92.3 ppg)
The Sonics have played only eight games so far this season but have already taken 36 more 3-pointers than their opponents. For now, those shots are falling on a consistent basis even without Ray Allen in the lineup. But live by the 3-pointer, die by the . . . Of course, they were 6-2 on the preseason, are 6-2 now, so who are we to say that they can't keep shooting 45 percent from the field when they finished at 43 last year with their opponents at 44.

27. Sacramento Kings
Difference: +3.5 (98.7 ppg. from 95.2 ppg)
Chris Webber isn't going to win any defensive awards in this lifetime, but over his 10-year career spanning three different teams, he's nonetheless averaged 7.2 defensive rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 steals per game. Take those kind of numbers out of anyone's boxscore and you're going to end up somewhere on the bottom of this list with or without Brad Miller putting up career numbers in those same categories.

28. New Orleans Hornets
Difference: +3.9 (95.7 ppg. from 91.8 ppg)
Let's not let this ranking take away from what Baron Davis is doing right now. At his current pace of 3.7 steals per game, he would break Alvin Robertson's all-time season record of 301 set in 1986 while playing for the San Antonio Spurs with 303 of his own this season. Other than that, though, opponents are having their way with the Hornet defense, shooting 45.2 percent from the field to New Orleans' 45.3 percent despite the fact that Davis and Co. have played more home games than everyone but the Bulls and Warriors.

29. Los Angeles Clippers
Difference: +6.8 (104.7 ppg. from 97.9 ppg)
Smoke, mirrors and lots and lots of easy lay-ups. The Clippers lead the league in scoring at 103.8 and also lead the league in giving up points at 104.7. So far, it's worked. But let's remember that those four wins a row that constitute that 4-2 start have come against the Nuggets, Hawks, Warriors and Magic, who have a combined record of 13-27 while their two losses against the 6-2 Sonics were by a combined 28 points.

Peep Show

Philadelphia 76ers: All of the Sixers making the road trip to Toronto to play the Raptors please take one step forward. Not so fast Derrick Coleman, Glenn Robinson and, yes, Allen Iverson. Coach Randy Ayers is officially down to nine players for tonight's game after Iverson's bruised right knee continued to trouble him. "I guess guys are kind of worn down...it's just tough on us right now, knowing we're going into games without guys," Iverson said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "It's always going to be a problem when I'm the leader in rebounding, or second...It just doesn't sit well with me. That really lets me know we're shorthanded."

Seattle SuperSonics: Dec. 7 can't come fast enough for head coach Nate McMillan. That's when Ray Allen will supposedly return to the team after ankle surgery has kept him sidelined so far this season. "It has crossed my mind once," McMillan said in the Tacoma News Tribune, "but it is so far from now, I can't even really think about that. My main thing right now is to continue to figure a way for these guys to play, develop and get opportunities. It will only be a better team when Ray comes back. Then it will work itself out."

New York Knicks: The Knicks won't have Keith Van Horn to kick around anymore. At least not for the next game or so after the forward popped his ankle in Tuesday's practice. "I think he just came down on someone's foot, I'm not too sure," Kurt Thomas said in the N.Y. Post. "It looked bad and it sounded bad." He listed as questionable for tonight's game against the Clippers.

San Antonio Spurs: The San Antonio Express News is reporting that both Anthony Carter and Ron Mercer may soon be able to rejoin the team after each finishes healing up. Carter was experiencing tendinitis in his left knee while Mercer had tendon problems in his left foot. Mercer should return on two games while Carter is on day to day basis. "Not only do we want to see what he can give us," Popovich said, "we need to know whether he can depend on that knee."



Los Angeles Lakers: Rain, snow, sleet and even dead of night. Now, they can add left hamstring pull to the Mailman's list after the forward re-injured it Tuesday night but continued to play. "He's got to go back in simply because he can't sit and tighten up," coach Phil Jackson said in the L.A. Daily News. "It's a matter of staying warm when you're loose and dealing with the injury after the fact, after the game. ... We needed some help." Karl Malone does not plan on missing any games due to the injury.

Detroit Pistons: Zeljko Rebraca was placed on the injured reserve list for back spasms, but ask anyone in Detroit and they'll tell you it has more to do with the irregular heartbeat that sidelined him last season. The center has been slowly coming off medication to treat the problem and the team is taking precautionary measures at the time. "Hopefully it's just a five-game deal," coach Larry Brown said in the Detroit Free Press. "I was feeling more and more confident that he would be able to get back and make a contribution, but that's the way things are in this league."

thebac
11-19-2003, 11:20 AM
The comment on the Lakers seems just like sour grapes to me. I don't like the Lakers and I don't like that they got so much talent for so cheap, but they played by the rules of the game.

The comment on Rick Carlisle's impact on a team's (or player's) defense is a bit overblown, too, imo. It's still early in the season.

I like the fact that the Mavs just dominated the Rockets despite their outside shot not falling. I had not realized the Rox had been so solid defensively this season.

Shaq Attack2
11-19-2003, 11:42 AM
My god, how illogical can you get? Gary Payton and Karl Malone took less money to come to a team. The problem is that team is a championship caliber one, and their name is the Lakers. If Karl Malone and Gary Payton went to the Heat for the same low pay, but for different reasons (say to pad their stats), would these same people be claiming that the CBA should have not let these trades go through?

Yikes, it's almost as if these guys want to make sure the world knows they are partisan pansies.

dirno2000
11-19-2003, 01:40 PM
If nothing else, this guy is overestimating the amount of money Malone and Payton are "paying" for the chance at a ring. I seriously doubt that the aging players could have approached the salaries they made last year. I know the players and their agents would have us believe otherwise, but I don't see why a team would have given him more than the MLE to Malone. The man is 40! Granted he did take a cut of about 4 mil. Payton probably could have gotten more then the MLE, but not much more. I believe he has an opt out clause and I expect him to use it after this year. Itíll be interesting to see what kind of deal he can get.

Bookit
11-19-2003, 03:08 PM
Juwan signs with the Magic and everything falls apart. Coincidence?

sike
11-19-2003, 05:09 PM
mavs fans know better.....

Max Power
11-19-2003, 09:47 PM
Originally posted by: Shaq Attack2
My god, how illogical can you get? Gary Payton and Karl Malone took less money to come to a team. The problem is that team is a championship caliber one, and their name is the Lakers. If Karl Malone and Gary Payton went to the Heat for the same low pay, but for different reasons (say to pad their stats), would these same people be claiming that the CBA should have not let these trades go through?

Yikes, it's almost as if these guys want to make sure the world knows they are partisan pansies.

As long as there isn't any "side" deals involved with Payton and Malone then there isn't any problem. If they win a title then good for them. If they don't then they lost money for no reason.

kingrex
11-20-2003, 09:04 AM
If Mark Cuban were able to convince 2 All-Stars to come to Dallas for less, then I don't see anything wrong with that. So, I don't see anything wrong with the Lakers convincing Payton & Malone to sign for less either.

The theory on Rick Carlisle is an interesting one to track. Let's see where Wallac is at years end. As for J. O'Neal, this could just be his year to do well (or maybe it is Carlisle's scheme).