View Full Version : NBA Insider...Nov 21: 2004 NBA draft notes... Zo vs K-Mart... T-Mac is mad... Baron Davis

11-21-2003, 01:03 PM
NBA Insider...Nov 21: 2004 NBA draft notes... Zo vs K-Mart... T-Mac is mad... Baron Davis

NBA Draft: Seniors running on empty

The college basketball season is finally under way ... have you seen your collegiate senior lately? NBA scouts are looking, but so far the search is coming up pretty empty.

"It's going to be ugly this year," one veteran NBA scout begins. "Nothing," another chimes in. "I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that this may be the worst senior class in the history of the NBA draft," a prominent GM said.

Here we go again.

In a perfect world, college seniors all would be driving Pintos, scrounging for lunch money in the cushions of their dorm-room sofas and strutting around campus, ready to lead their teams to the coveted Big Dance. A few months from now, they'd stroll across a podium somewhere, grab a diploma and begin preparing for the 2004 NBA draft.

Imagine if Zach Randolph, the Trail Blazers' leading scorer, had stayed in school four years?
In the real world, the talented high school class of 2000 has all but defected to the NBA. Can you imagine a draft that had Zach Randolph, Caron Butler, Dwyane Wade, Jared Jeffries, Chris Wilcox, Eddie Griffin, Darius Miles, DeShawn Stevenson, Rodney White, Chris Kaman, Qyntel Woods, Michael Sweetney, Jarvis Hayes and Luke Ridnour playing the roles of savvy four-year veterans?

Since Kevin Garnett broke the college barrier in 1995 and declared for the NBA draft directly from high school, the number of college seniors in the first round has dwindled at an alarming rate. In 1995, there were 20 seniors taken in the first round, six in the lottery. In 1998, the number dipped to 14 seniors, with five in the lottery. In 1999, the number slipped again: 13 seniors first-round seniors, only four in the lottery. The 2000 draft saw an even lower low -- 11 taken in the first round, just three in the lottery. In 2002, only one senior, Melvin Ely, made it into the lottery out of eight first-round seniors.

Last season nine seniors were taken in the first round, three in the lottery.

While some try to claim that college seniors are losing in what is becoming an increasingly brutal war of expectations and fortune-telling, something more simple and more insidious appears to be taking place.

"The NBA has been strip-mining the college game for years," one scout said. "It's finally coming back to haunt us. The only guys worth taking in the lottery any more are the young ones. The older players that are left usually don't have enough talent to contribute in a meaningful way. Experience is a great, but if you're not going to be able to come in and average 18 a night, then I'm going with the kid who could turn into Kobe or KG down the road."

He's got a point. Only one college senior drafted in the first round this summer, Kirk Hinrich, ranks in the top 10 among rookies in scoring or assists. Keith Bogans, drafted in the second round, is the only 2003 senior in the top 10 in rebounds.

The categories are dominated by a high school senior, LeBron James, and two college freshmen, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. And this year was actually considered a good draft for college seniors.

This season, several top NBA scouts and personnel directors could identify only one college senior -- Missouri's Rickey Paulding -- with a shot of being drafted in this year's lottery.

Here's a quick look at 10 seniors the scouts will be watching this season.

Rickey Paulding, SG, Missouri

Rickey Paulding can take it to the rack, but his outside shot is a question mark.
The facts: 6-foot-5, 200 pounds; 17.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg on 45 percent shooting
The skinny: Scouts are still buzzing about Paulding's last performance, a 37-point outburst vs. Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. Paulding hit nine 3-pointers in that game and generally outplayed Dwyane Wade, who went No. 5 in this year's draft. Paulding has NBA athleticism and is an above average rebounder for his position. He's very effective when he takes the ball to the basket, but he spends too much time on the perimeter. His problem in the past has been a streaky outside jumper. He improved on that last year, upping his 3-point percentage to just under 40 percent. If he can take it up another few notches, take eight free throws a game (he shoots 80 percent from the line) and lead MU deep into the tournament, he's got a shot at sneaking into the lottery.

Jameer Nelson, PG, St. Joseph's
The facts: 6-0, 190; 19.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg on 44 percent shooting
The skinny: Nelson's ability to get to the basket and finish in traffic is extraordinary. He's got the speed, lateral quickness and strength to play in the league. He's a good athlete, a great leaper and has the court vision and handle to play point in the league. He impressed a lot of scouts at the Chicago pre-draft camp last season. However, he couldn't get a first-round guarantee, so he returned to school. What's not to like? His perimeter shot is just OK, and his measurements in Chicago put him under six feet without shoes. Said one scout, "If he was 6-2 or 6-3, he'd be in the lottery." As it stands now, Nelson is still fighting to get into the first round.

Marcus Moore, PG, Washington State
The facts: 6-6, 210; 18.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.7 apg on 35 percent shooting
The skinny: Moore has the size teams love in a point guard, but does he have the head? Last season Moore played through injuries and put on an inconsistent performance. When he's on, he can score on just about anyone. But what scouts wanted to see at the Chicago pre-draft camp last spring was whether Moore can run the point full time. The results were inconclusive after a lackluster performance, and Moore went back to school. If new head coach **** Bennett can turn him into a full-time point, he's got the potential to be a mid-first round pick.

Darius Rice, SF, Miami
The facts: 6-10, 222; 18.8 pg, 5.8 rpg on 43 percent shooting
The skinny: Rice may be the best 6-10 shooter in the country. His uncle is Jerry, not Glen, but you'd never know it from his skinny frame. Rice weighs just 220 pounds. He was dominant at times last year. He dropped 43 on UConn and 32 on Florida and Virginia Tech, but scouts still can't understand why Rice hasn't developed any inside game. "If he got stronger and mixed it up a little inside, people would be going crazy for him," one scout said. "But right now, he's still too one dimensional." In Rice's defense, an international scout who saw him play saw something different. "In Europe this kid would be a star," the scout said. "He'd be a lottery pick if he was playing in Serbia or something. With the NBA adopting zones, Rice seems like the perfect player. He can shoot over anyone and he has NBA athleticism. I don't get the problem."

Romain Sato, SG, Xavier
The facts: 6-5, 205; 18.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg on 41 percent shooting
The skinny: Sato is a big-time NBA athlete who does a little bit of everything well. He runs the floor, can take his man off the dribble, is a fantastic rebounder for his size and is a pretty good perimeter shooter, to boot. He also is an above average defender. His 38-inch vertical wows scouts. He's a little undersized at the two, and some teams believe his shot selection needs a lot of work. But at least one scout believes he could be a Quentin Richardson type player in the league as he matures and understands the game better.

Arthur Johnson, PF, Missouri
The facts: 6-9, 268; 16 ppg, 9.5 rpg on 49 percent shooting
The skinny: Johnson reminds some scouts of a poor-man's Elton Brand. He uses his long wing span and big frame to create a lot of high percentage shots around the basket. He has the ability to be a good rebounder, shot blocker and even scorer in the league. However, his lack of size (scouts think he's closer to 6-7 or 6-8), athleticism, perimeter game and conditioning probably push him into the late first or second round in the draft.

Chris Duhon, PG, Duke
The facts: 6-1, 190; 9.2 ppg, 6.5 apg on 38 percent shooting
The skinny: Remember when Duhon was considered a lottery pick by NBA scouts? A disastrous junior season pushed him from the lottery all the way to the second round last season. Can Duhon rebound? He's considered one of the better "pure" point guards in the draft, but he seemed to lose his confidence last season with Jay Williams off the team. Some scouts believe he just tried to do too much. Scouts still contend that he has the athleticism, intelligence and court vision to be a good pro, but he's going to have to have one hell of a year to get back into the first round.

Rafael Araujo, C, BYU
The facts: 6-11, 265; 12 ppg, 8.9 rpg on 56 percent shooting
The skinny: The Brazilian big man will get a long, hard look from scouts this season. Araujo, who is considered one of the best players in Brazil, really came on late last season dropping 31 points and nine boards on Air Force and 22 points and 15 boards at UNLV. But a disastrous performance against Emeka Okafor in the tournament set him back a bit. This year the Cougars will make Araujo the centerpiece of their offense. It's conceivable he could average 20 and 10. If he does, he'll get a long look in the first round despite his lack of athleticism or quickness.

Herve Lamizana, F, Rutgers
The facts: 6-10, 215; 10.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg on 43 percent shooting
The skinny: Lamizana is a sleeper who several scouts believe could be on the verge of a breakout season. A native of the Ivory Coast, Lamizana has that lethal combination of athleticism, shooting prowess and an excellent handle for someone his size. His only problem has been assertiveness. Lamizana is the type of player that won't take over a game, even though he's capable. If he steps up this year, he could easily sneak into the first round based on his skills. If he's content to step back and be a role player again next year, teams will shy away from him.

Chris Garnett, C, Indiana Southeast (NAIA)
The facts: 6-11, 275; 16.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg on 64 percent shooting
The skinny: Garnett makes this list on the imploring of a couple of trusted scouts, including one who has followed his career since high school. Garnett showed up on the national radar after he went to the Nike camp this year as a counselor and held his own against Emeka Okafor in some scrimmages there. Garnett has an NBA body and good athleticism for a big man. However, his lack of consistent effort, his conditioning and the general lack of competition in the NAIA make him suspect. He's going to have to have a great year, then follow it up with some strong play in Chicago and in individual workouts to get a shot. NBA scouts love big guys with bodies like his, but if he's not going to play hard, what's the point?

The best of the rest: Pape Sow, F, Cal State Fullerton; Andre Emmett, G, Texas Tech; Bernard Robinson, G, Michigan; James Thomas, F, Texas; Brandon Mouton, G, Texas; Luis Flores, G, Manhattan; Jason Parker, G, Tulsa; Michael Morandais, G, Colorado; Luke Jackson, F, Oregon.

Draft Cards

-Two games do not a college season make, especially when you're playing games against Yale and Nevada, but scouts are still smiling at Emeka Okafor's numbers. His 17 ppg, 13.5 rpg and all at or exceeding career highs.

Meanwhile, teammate Ben Gordon has more than picked it up from his end. His 25 ppg, 4 rpg and 4.5 apg on 53 percent shooting aren't surprising anyone. While some scouts believe Gordon would be better off toning down the scoring and upping the assists, one scout tried to put Gordon's scoring abilities into perspective.

"Just because he's a point guard and he scores doesn't mean he can't play the point in the NBA," he said. "Everyone wants their point guards to be able to score. If they can't, they become Jamaal Tinsley or Jacque Vaughn. The question is whether the player can adjust and run an offense and find his open teammates if the coach asks him to. I think that with Gordon, the answer is yes. I think he's going to be really good."

How good? Almost every scout Insider has talked to the last few weeks has Gordon penciled into the lottery if he decides to bolt for the NBA with Okafor this summer.

-Is Utes freshman Andrew Bogut for real? He got a lot of hype this summer after taking home MVP honors at the Junior World Championships in Greece. And if his first game vs. Minnesota is any indication, he'll be playing in the NBA next season. Bogut's 19 points and 18 boards against the Gophers and a 15-point, 16-rebound effort against Georgia State had scouts drooling.
Some scouts have wondered whether Bogut really will make the jump to the pros this summer given that he turned down millions from several European clubs to play at Utah. Bogut, however, seemed to clear up any misconception about where his future lies on Wednesday.

"I don't know how long I will stay there," Bogut told the Salt Lake Tribune. "I could stay for one year, I could stay for four years. It's entirely up to me. ... If I have an excellent year, I might throw my name in the NBA Draft and see how the media gives attention to my name. I can pull out three days before the draft and still be at college, or I could declare fully, stay in, and get drafted. And I could always go to Europe.

"But the NBA, that's the main goal for my career, and that's why I'm going to college in America, because you're there, right there, under the noses of the scouts."

-Speaking of freshman, Minnesota's Kris Humphries is off to a hot start, too. The former McDonald's All-American is averaging 23 ppg and 12.5 rpg in his first two for the Gophers.
Humphries, a 6-foot-8 forward from Minnesota, flirted with declaring for the NBA Draft last spring before ultimately deciding to play for the Gophers.

-Agent Marc Cornstein, who represented three international first rounders this summer -- Darko Milicic, Alexsandar Pavlovic and Zoran Planinic -- looks like he's got at least three more first round prospects for the 2004 draft.
Cornstein's top clients this year look like Macedonia's Predrag Samardziski (Partizan), Bosnia's Damir Omerhodzic (Cibona) and Serbian point guard Ivan Koljevic.

Samardziski is considered by many international scouts to be the top European prospect in the draft. He's a 7-footer with the full range of skills. He can handle, shoot the three and go into the paint and score in the post. He also has a nice frame that can handle more weight and muscle. Samardziski is just 17 years old right now and is still on Partizan's junior team, but those who've seen him play say he's the real deal.

Omerhodzic is playing in Croatia for Cibona. The 6-10 small forward is another young, versatile player who can do some of everything. He is a swing forward, who pops jumpers, is a good athlete and knows how to put it on the floor. In other words, he's the prototypical European forward. Of course, that also means that he doesn't play great defense and needs to get more physical. Scouts also claim he has a bit of a wild streak in him. Like Samardziski, he isn't getting much playing time right now. But scouts were impressed with his performance in the junior World Championships.

Koljevic dominated at the Global Games in Dallas this year. Unlike the other two, he gets major playing time for Buducnost, another Euroleague team. So far this season Koljevic is averaging 18.8 ppg on 66 percent shooting from the field. He's also shooting 41 percent from 3-point range and handing out 2.3 assists. He's doing all of this in just under 23 minutes per game. Koljevic is an explosive scorer and an excellent athlete. The only knock on him is his size. He's just 6-foot-2 and has yet to show the court vision scouts think he'll have to have to be a point guard in the league.

Martin, Mourning exchange insults

Kenyon Martin is right.

Alonzo Mourning can't rebound anymore. At 2.3 per game, he is ranked eighth on a team that is ranked last in the league in that particular category. In the Nets' last game, Mourning had one rebound in 14 minutes as New Jersey lost to New Orleans, 88-85, after being outrebounded 50 to 38, including a 19 to 9 disadvantage on the offensive glass.

But that didn't give Martin any right to look over at a struggling teammate and ridicule him over the fact that not only was he not rebounding this year but that he suffered from focal glomerulosclerosis, a disease that could have killed Mourning a few years ago and nearly ended his career.

Alonzo Mourning
New Jersey Nets

11 7.4 2.3 0.7 .435 .871

"My kidney, My kidney," Martin retorted to Mourning during Thursday's practice as reported in the N.Y. Times.

But Mourning was right, too. And perhaps just as wrong.

Martin has yet to make an All-NBA team much less an all-star squad, has never been named Defensive Player of the Year and we'll let you know when they call his name for any All-Defensive team because that will be the first time it's happened.

But did that give Mourning any right to walk up on Martin and remind him of the fact that the younger, healthier of the two was also the one who had already missed five games this season as their team struggled to a 5-6 start while the older of the two, the one who had been named a perennial all-star, All-NBAer, multiple All-Defensive teamer and Defensive Player fo the Year in 1999 and 2000, hadn't missed any games despite the fact that he suffered from focal glomerulosclerosis.

"My ankle, my ankle," Mourning said to Martin after he heard the fourth-year player laughing at him during sprint drills.

"You refuse to be a team leader," Mourning shouted at Martin, reports the N.Y. Post. "You ain't done [bleep] in this league, how the [bleep] you gonna be a team leader?"

Kenyon Martin
Power Forward
New Jersey Nets

6 17.2 9.7 2.0 .462 .625

For the record, no punches were thrown, practice went on as usual and several teammates, including Aaron Williams and Rodney Rogers, who helped keep the two teammates physically restrained from each other, noted that this sort of thing sometimes happens during practice.

"Hopefully, it starts a little bit of a fire in our team," guard Kerry Kittles said in the Newark Star Ledger. "We need something to try to get us going ... and (there's) nothing wrong with a little competition, nothing wrong with a little spirited challenges. We've had 'em before, where guys get into it, and it's all good. It's a competitive battle between both players, and hopefully it rubs off on the team and we go out and we play with more fire on the court."

But "my kidney, my kidney" . . . ?

"Obviously some subjects are more sensitive than others," Richard Jefferson, the player laughing loudest alongside Martin during the verbal sparring, said Newark Star Ledger. "But who am I to judge the rules on talking trash? (Trash-talking) goes back to before I was born."

For the record, Mourning averaged 21 points, 10 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game for the eight years prior to being diagnosed with the kidney ailment but never made it to the NBA Finals while Martin, with career averages of 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, has been there twice.

"I didn't expect it to be like this," Mourning told the N.Y. Times of joining the Nets this season. "I thought we'd come out strong and give more effort. Some guys work their whole careers and never get a chance to go to the finals."

But on Saturday, the New Jersey Nets play the Toronto Raptors, a team they have already lost to once this season, before beginning a five-game road trip through the much tougher Western Conference, a half game away from being ranked the ninth-best team in the Eastern Conference standings.

If the playoffs started tonight, the Nets might not even be invited.

"I've come too far for that," Mourning said of the ridiculing, the practice and maybe even the season.

McGrady mad at everyone

Tracy McGrady is mad. Mad enough, you could say, for two people which is, perhaps, why he was referring to himself in the third person Thursday.

"You just knew when Doc got fired there would be some comments that T-Mac had something to do with it," McGrady said in the Orlando Sentinel, stating that he and his former coach had only one altercation in their four-year relationship. "I ain't had nothing at all to do with [the firing] . . . It was just a game. It was last year. I had a bad game and we bumped heads. But after that we were two professional guys and we dropped that and moved on. We didn't even talk about it anymore. Everybody is bringing up now that we didn't get along and that I had something to do with him getting fired, that's [expletive]. People outside don't know what they are talking about."

McGrady then lashed out at analyst and former coach John Thompson, current coach Paul Silas and former player and current analyst Tim Legler, three of whom have criticized McGrady for, among other things, his perceived selfish play, lack of defensive commitment and crunch time failings.

"That surprised me. I heard it was just one guy who said it, but once one guy says it, it spreads. But you know what, it really doesn't matter what anybody says about me, especially those so-called NBA analysts. They think they know me, but what really matters are the people who are around me every day," McGrady said. "The people who have this uniform on, my coaches and my family -- what anybody outside of that circle thinks about me it really doesn't matter . . . if I don't do what I do, we don't make the playoffs and probably don't even win 30 games."

For the franchise's part, COO John Weisbrod said in Florida Today: "Sometimes players are good resources to talk to about players around the league and acquisitions in free agency, but this wasn't one of those circumstances. But when it comes to decisions like the one we made players play, coaches coach and managers manage."

Davis has improved in all areas

I don't want to guard Baron Davis. You guard Baron Davis.

"If you crowd him up top, he's just going around you," said one NBA scout. "It's as simple as that. But nowadays, you can't give him that open look, either. He's hitting it. And when he's doing that, there really isn't anything you can do but maybe double-team him. Can you imagine double-teaming a point guard?"

Can you imagine someone, anyone, starting out the season as the starting point guard for the New Orleans Hornets with a nice and tidy 15-point, 10-assist game followed by a 5-for-8 shooting night from 3-point range less than 24 hours later followed by a 6-for-7 shooting night from long range the very next game?

Baron Davis
Point Guard
New Orleans Hornets

12 24.6 4.3 8.2 .416 .606

"You've got to make him give up the ball early in the offense," said another scout. "Then do everything you can to deny him the ball after that."

But what do you do when that very same point guard tallies 33 steals in the first seven games of the season to create his very own open court situations with nothing but a back-peddling defender between him and another re-run on SportsCenter?

"I would put a bigger body on him," said one of the scouts. "Even if you give up that first step, I would use a two-guard to defend him and hope he gets help."

Well, the Sixers didn't have a big two guard and Davis drilled them for 37 points on 50 percent shooting, including 6-for-11 from 3-point range. That was just two games after he hung 37 points on the Celtics on 62 percent shooting.

"He's like a muscled-up Allen Iverson right now," a scout said. "There isn't a point guard in the league that he can't back down in the paint and score on."

But did you see the offensive rebound he snatched off the rim the other night with the oppossing center draped over his back while still snap-dunking it back in? Or the game against the Lakers, immediately following the one in Philly, when he handed out 12 assists followed by 13 assists the very next night? Forget the 24.6 points per game (third in the NBA) and the 3.2 steals (2nd in the NBA) and the 38 percent shooting from long range (career high). Davis is second in the league in assists at 8.2 per game.

"He's like any other superstar in the league," continued one of the scouts. "When he's hot, there really isn't anything that you can do but wait it out and hope he cools down."


You mean the guy who averaged 5.9 points per game as a rookie after being taken with the third overall pick in the 1999 draft. The guy who has yet to shoot better than 43 percent on a season. The guy who once shot 58 percent from the free-throw line in 2002 and lasted through only 50 regular-season games last year.


"If the season ended right now, he'd be the MVP," said a scout. "Through all the knee problems, he's still just as fast as anyone, can still outjump most forwards and, maybe because of those knee problems, he can shoot. That's the way good players become great. The develop their games as they go along and obviously something happened over the summer because this guy is killing everyone."

But this is the real problem facing anyone trying to guard Davis.

The Hornets are currently riding a four-game win streak, which has pushed their record to a 9-3, which is second best in the entire league (despite eight of those games being back-to-back sequences), and Davis hasn't scored 37, he's stolen the ball only six times in the last seven games and has actually shot 24 percent from distance in that span.

But they beat the Jazz by seven after Davis tallied 23 points and nine assists. They hammered the Blazers by 22 points after Davis tallied 23 points and eight assists. They traveled to New Jersey and beat the Nets by three points after Davis tallied 25 points, 12 assists and nine assists.

And then they went to Boston the very next night, where the Celtics "held" him to 17 points but still lost to the Hornets by eight.

Davis, a guy who has never averaged more than 18.1 points a game in a season, is now being "held" to 17 and, well, the Hornets are still winning. David Wesley is scoring a career-high 17.5 points per game. Jamaal Magloire is scoring a career-high 10.8 per game. Back-up guard Darrell Armstrong is shooting 45 percent after shooting 40 percent last year, 41 percent the year before that and 41 percent the year before that. And, well, Steve Smith is shooting 46 percent from 3-point range while all-star Jamal Mashburn has yet to play a single game.

"The only one who can stop Baron Davis now is Baron Davis," concluded one of the scouts. "I guess we can wait for him to get hurt again, and I hope it doesn't happen, because he's playing a lot of minutes as usual, but's that's all we'll be doing is waiting."

And wondering who's guarding Davis tonight?

Peep Show

Miami Heat: Just to make sure his new superstar doesn't get lost out there on the court, Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy wants to keep Lamar Odom busy by keeping the ball in his hands. "I don't know if it's something he wanted, but I know it's something he is handling very well and accepting very well and seems to not be shying away from it all," Van Gundy said in the Miami Herald. "In fact, I think it's made him more aggressive. You have to play through him, it seems to me. When he's sort of out there on his own if you're not running stuff for him, or at least through him, you can lose him in a game, and we don't want to do that. So we're trying to get the ball in his hands as much as we can."

Dallas Mavericks: And now starting at center for the Dallas Mavericks . . . Antoine Walker. "The question is: Can we defensively do better with our guys than they can with a mismatch? And I think we can," Mavs owner Mark Cuban said in the Dallas Morning News. "Having Antoine Walker being guarded by a 'big' like that, a center, we exploit it every time." Even opposing coaches are agreeing. "He gives them some size," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "It's not just that he's out there on the floor. He's inside, he's going to the offensive board, he's taking it to the hole, he's posting up. It's another dimension they didn't have. I thought he did a real good job."

Orlando Magic: This isn't exactly what the Doc ordered, which is why Tyronn Lue sees Johnny Davis as a healthy change. "JD is going to let us play freer, and I really think that will help guys relax," Lue said in Florida Today. "He's letting me call a few more of the plays when things break down. Johnny told me, 'You are our point guard and I want you running the offense. When stuff happens, call a play and get us in the right set.' "

Indiana Pacers: Kenny Anderson has made a lot of money at this NBA thing. But he wants something more now. "My contracts have been lovely," he said in the Indianapolis Star. "I just want to play for a ring now. I couldn't make a million dollars anywhere else. There are times you just have to look in the mirror and understand what's going on. There's no market for a big contract for me now. This is a good place for me to be. If it was up to me, I'd like to finish it out here, period." The veteran point guard is playing for his seventh team in 13 years.

Seattle SuperSonics: Like it or not, Antonio Daniels is out as the starting point guard in Seattle and rookie Luke Ridnour is in. "I have to make a decision," head coach Nate McMillan said in the Tacoma Tribune. "Not everybody is going to be happy." The change is being made despite the fact that Daniels is playing better but the team would rather identify personnel for the future and needs to give the rookie substantial minutes to evaluate him.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz may not be more talented than other teams, but coach Jerry Sloan wants to make sure they're at least tougher with a few rebuking words. "I hope it's not that we're afraid," Sloan told the Salt Lake Tribune. "That's always a concern -- Are you tough enough to play at this level?" But a few of the veterans knew what he was already doing. "That's coach trying to motivate us," center Greg Ostertag said. "I don't think we were really that soft, but that's Jerry. That's the way he coaches. He expects you to go out there and be . . . more physical than the other team every night. And [Wednesday], he thought we weren't being as physical as we needed to be."