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thebac
12-16-2003, 12:46 PM
Trade-mania grips the NBA

Is the NBA in for the biggest in-season trading frenzy ever? The trade deadline isn't until Feb. 19, but in the space of three weeks we've had three major deals go down, two coaches fired and a lot more talk about player movement than I can ever remember at this stage in the season.

Six teams already have pulled the trigger on trades, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. Two weeks ago we talked about why that is -- parity, luxury-tax concerns and an unusual amount of rebuilding jobs in the works. Even teams that are winning (Boston, Memphis) don't seem hesitant to make something happen.

Now that Dec. 15 has passed, teams will be much freer to make trades than they were before. Before Monday, free agents and first-round draft picks who had signed last summer were ineligible to be traded. That's more than 100 players in total. With those restrictions now lifted, the silly season can officially begin.

Today Insider sifts through the group of players who just became eligible to be traded and highlights a few guys who may end up being thrown onto the trading block.

Juwan Howard, F, Magic
Juwan Howard
Forward
Orlando Magic
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
24 14.9 6.9 1.9 .432 .843


Contract: 6 years, $37 million
The Skinny: The Magic signed Howard because they believed he would be the piece of the puzzle that made them a contender. The team is 4-20 now and has no chance at contending for an Eastern Conference title. Howard didn't fit in the front court with Drew Gooden the way GM John Gabriel and then-coach Doc Rivers had hoped, and there's no sense in keeping him around.

If the Magic are going to shake things up, Howard is one of their most valuable assets in a trade. His contract is pretty reasonable, and several teams -- including the Pistons, Timberwolves and Bulls -- showed a lot of interest in him this summer. If the Magic can get a point guard or a big man back, they'd have to pull the trigger.

What about a package of Howard, Andrew DeClerq, Tyronn Lue and Steven Hunter for Brent Barry and Jerome James? The move addresses both of the Magic's needs without taking on any long-term deals. It also gives the Sonics a veteran power forward to help anchor their front line.


Mike Sweetney, F, Knicks
Contract: 3 years, $5.9 million
The Skinny: So much for the Knicks' youth movement. Sweetney is sitting on the injured list, along with the team's two second-round draft choices, Maciej Lampe and Slavko Vranes. With so many front-line players -- Antonio McDyess, Kurt Thomas, Keith Van Horn, Othella Harrington and Clarence Weatherspoon -- Sweetney won't see the light of day this year, or next if the Knicks re-sign McDyess. Scott Layden has been working the phones diligently, and he might be able to improve his chances of making a deal if he sweetens it with Sweetney -- one of the more-coveted low-post players in last summer's draft.


James Posey, F, Grizzlies
James Posey
Guard-Forward
Memphis Grizzlies
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
23 9.5 3.8 1.3 .443 .844


Contract: 4 years, $22.6 million
The Skinny: The Grizzlies just signed him, but with the trade for Bonzi Wells, Posey becomes expendable. There's no rush to trade him, as he's still the team's best perimeter defender, but if including Posey in a larger deal gives Jerry West the all-star or big man he has been coveting, he wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger.

This may be blasphemy to Kings' fans, but a package of Posey, Stromile Swift and Jake Tsakalidis for Vlade Divac makes some sense for both teams. With the way Brad Miller is playing, this may be the Kings' best chance to restock on some talent while Divac is still under contract. Divac's expiring contract may be of some concern to the Grizz, but West really wants to make the playoffs this season, and adding Divac to the mix would probably guarantee it.


Zoran Planinic, PG, Nets
Contract: 3 years, $3.1 million
The Skinny: Planinic was supposed to come in and play a major role on the Nets this year, and his performance in the summer league and the preseason seemed to confirm that. But since then, he has had a falling out with coach Byron Scott and has played just seven minutes since Nov. 22. Scott has complained about Planinic's work ethic, but one source close to the situation claims Scott just doesn't like the rookie's game. The Nets need help in a lot of places, and Planinic is coveted by a number of teams. He may turn into the sweetener that helps the Nets pull off a bigger deal.


Michael Olowokandi, C, Timberwolves
Contract: 3 years, $16 million
The Skinny: Injuries have stalled Olowokandi's season once again, but there's enough frustration in Minnesota already over the Kandiman that the T-Wolves might be looking to deal. GM Kevin McHale feels an enormous amount of pressure to win this season after making a number of offseason deals. Could a Howard-for-Olowokandi swap satisfy both teams' needs?

The T-Wolves pursued Howard hard this summer, and the Magic were on the verge of getting Olowokandi before the league denied them their medical exception for Grant Hill. Howard helps Minnesota immediately. Olowokandi may turn out to be a wash for the season, but given the Magic's current state, that's not a big deal. Kandi is still young enough that they can afford to wait on a legit big man. The other team to watch for here is the Grizzlies, who also made a nice offer for Olowokandi this summer.

Cavs, Celtics fallout
Ricky Davis
Guard-Forward
Boston Celtics
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
22 15.3 5.5 5.0 .431 .680



-Three for Paul Silas: The Cavs traded away Silas' mortal enemy, Ricky Davis, on Monday and in exchange got three players cut out of the Silas mold. Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown are tough and defensive minded and won't make waves in Cleveland. While none of them can score at anywhere near the clip Davis could, that wasn't the point.

Silas wanted to change the losing culture in Cleveland before it infected LeBron James too much, and this trade accomplished just that. GM Jim Paxson is under heavy fire in the Cleveland media today for getting so little in return for Davis and Mihm, but given the current state of the team, he had little choice.

Had he seen the writing on the wall the way the rest of us did this summer, Paxson could've gotten much more for Davis. But at this point in the season, and given the Cavs' needs, he probably got the best deal out there. Insider talked to several GMs Monday night who had discussed a Davis trade with Paxson. All of them claimed they wouldn't have given up any more for Davis than Danny Ainge did.

This trade doesn't mean, however, that the Cavs are done dealing. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Darius Miles and Ira Newble (who's being showcased right now) are all available, according to several GMs who have had trade discussions with the Cavs. With Battie, Williams and Brown in place, Silas would prefer to go all the way and toughen up this roster even more. Paxson is more hesitant -- he doesn't want to strip-mine the team too much -- and likely will wait and see what type of impact Williams and Battie have. The team is also crossing its fingers that a healthy Dajuan Wagner will fill the scoring void left by Davis. In other words, don't expect Paxson to give away Ilgauskas and Miles the way he did with Davis.


-Internal disagreements: The Celtics may have gotten the second scorer in Ricky Davis that lost when they traded Antoine Walker, but that doesn't mean that Jim O'Brien and his coaching staff were happy about it. O'Brien told Ainge not to pull the trigger on the deal, but Ainge, largely on the advice of brain-typing guru Jonathan Niednagel and some encouragement from T-Wolves GM Kevin McHale, made the trade anyway.
O'Brien loved Eric Williams, because he was a natural locker-room leader and a tough, defensive minded player on the floor. Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown were essentially expendable, but losing Williams stung.

At the press conference, O'Brien waffled when asked about the trade and deferred to Ainge, claiming he had told Ainge what he thought but that Ainge had final authority to make a trade. O'Brien did add this, however, for those of you who weren't getting the signal: "We're losing three guys, two veterans in Eric Williams and Tony Battie, and it's very painful."

Could this be yet another chapter in what appears to be a straining relationship between Ainge and O'Brien. After ripping the team apart once, O'Brien found a way to put together a squad that had a chance to win (albeit not to compete for a title). Tearing apart a team that was averaging more than 100 points a game during a five-game winning streak under the theory that they couldn't score enough had to chafe O'Brien. So does Ainge's statements that he doesn't expect his team to win in the short term.

When asked whether he made the trade because of Raef LaFrentz's season ending injury, Ainge countered by saying, "Absolutely not. That would mean that I'm looking at short-term results. And I'm not."

That just can't be music to a coaches ears.

Paul Pierce
Shooting Guard
Boston Celtics
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
25 23.9 7.6 5.7 .423 .852



-Pierce on board: There are still lots of questions about how well Paul Pierce and Davis will mesh together, but you can ignore suggestions that Pierce was unhappy with the trade. Davis left his agent, Dan Fegan and hired Pierce's agent, Jeff Schwartz, about a month ago. According to NBA sources, Schwartz was instrumental in getting Davis out of Cleveland and onto the Celtics and cleared the trade with Pierce before pursuing it with Ainge.

-Shared history: One thing the Cavs and Celtics have in common is that they're both in their predicaments because of terrible drafts and bad trades in the past. Hindsight is 20-20, but it can be pretty damn frightening when you look back at how many times these two teams screwed up in the past few years. Ironically, there's a link between the two that goes even deeper than that.

The Celtics woes started when they traded a future first-rounder to the Cavs for Vitaly Potapenko. That first-rounder turned out to be Andre Miller -- a guy you have to believe would've been the answer to all the Celtics point-guard woes over the years.

The Cavs got it right when they drafted Miller at No. 8 in 1999, but they screwed it up when they passed on Corey Maggette and Ron Artest to take Trajan Langdon at No. 11. In 2000, they passed on Desmond Mason, Quentin Richardson and Jamaal Magloire to take Chris Mihm. In 2001 they drafted DeSagana Diop ahead of Vladimir Radmanovic, Richard Jefferson, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas and Tony Parker. The run of bad decisions continued when they traded Miller for Darius Miles so they could turn the point guard job over to 2002 lottery pick Dajuan Wagner. While Miller had an off year with the Clippers last year, there's no question that had the Cavs kept Miller and drafted either Amare Stoudemire or Nene Hilario instead of Wagner, they'd be a playoff team right now -- with or without LeBron.

The Celtics compounded their problems by royally screwing up the 2001 draft. They had three picks that year and drafted Joe Johnson, Kedrick Brown and Joe Forte -- none of whom are still with the team. The Celtics gave up on Johnson during his rookie season and traded him, along with another first-rounder, for Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers, who also are no longer with the team. Brown has never been able to make the jump from JUCO to the pros, and Forte already is out of the league. Had the Celtics taken Radmanovic, Randolph, Jefferson, Troy Murphy, Arenas and/or Parker with their three picks, Ainge never would have had to blow up the roster in the first place.

Around the league
Kurt Thomas
Forward-Center
New York Knicks
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
24 11.3 9.7 2.1 .432 .778



-Here's a shocker: Kurt Thomas is on the trading block for seemingly the 100th time in the past few seasons. With Antonio McDyess securing the starting power forward job, Thomas has been sent to the bench, and he's not happy about it.
The Knicks have refused to discuss an extension with Thomas or his agent, Jerry Hicks, and Thomas is threatening to opt out of his contract at the end of the season and explore the free-agent market.

Considering that the Knicks are running out of time to trade Charlie Ward before his contract becomes fully guaranteed this season, the pressure is going to be on Layden to move the two before Jan. 15 (when Ward's contract locks in).

Given the Cavs' desire to add more toughness and cap flexibility, maybe this is Layden's chance to pry Ilgauskas and Miles from the Cavs in return for Ward, Thomas, Othella Harrington and a pick.


-One more item that may be fueling the recent trading frenzy. The league has quietly let teams know there's a good chance there won't be a luxury tax after the 2004-05 season because of increased revenue and falling contract prices on free agents. Without the luxury tax looming, some GMs and owners might be emboldened to start opening their wallets again. Couple that with the fact there's some talk the NBPA may be willing to reduce the number of years a contract can be guaranteed if the league is willing to drop the tax altogether (something most GMs support, because of how difficult it is to calculate) and the fiscal handcuffs that have created a lot of trade gridlock over the past few season may finally be coming off.

The Good, the Bad, the Kitchen Sink

Here's hoping the next time referee Steve Javie calls a lane violation and four technicals on three different players on the same team in the span of 2:18 like he did in the Lakers-Mavericks game Friday night, he just takes his ball and goes home.

The Good

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics

Week's work: 4-0 record, 31 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4 apg, 2.2 spg, 1.5 bpg, 48% shooting
Of course, Pierce can't take all the credit for the Celtics going from 91.5 points per game and underwater in the Atlantic to 111.7 points per game and on top of the division since Mike James did boost his scoring from 11.4 to 19 and Jiri Welsh did the same from 5.8 to 11.7 during the week. But with 110 points in the last three games, he can take most of it.

Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers
Week's work: 2-1 record, 18 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.6 spg, 2.6 bpg, 53% shooting
Elton has averaged 20 points per game before. He's averaged more than 11 rebounds per game before. But in case you haven't noticed, in the last four seasons, he's also boosted his blocked shot total from 1.6 per game to 2 to 2.5 to 3.6 this year. And just as soon as he gets enough games under his belt, he'll be leading the league, supplanting Theo Ratliff at 3.2 per game.

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Week's work: 4-0 record, 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.7 apg, 10 triples, 47% shooting
In the first game of the week, he went for 26 points. The next game, he nabbed six steals. The following game, he grabbed 10 boards and then finished the week by drilling four 3-pointers. Oh yeah, and the Spurs have won six games in a row and counting with Tim Duncan only having to log 73 minutes in their two toughest games of the week.

Earl Watson, Memphis Grizzlies
Week's work: 2-1 record, 15.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 6.6 apg, 3.6 spg, 4 triples, 43% shooting
On Dec. 1, Earl Watson got his first start of the year and the Grizzlies went from 7-8 to 13-9 and one game from leading the entire Midwest Division. He replaced Jason Williams, who is out with a strained back and still statistically superior to Watson in almost every category except the standings.

The Bad

Eddie Jones, Miami Heat

Weak work: 3-0 record, 12.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1 spg, 0 bpg, 29% shooting
In the first game of last week, Jones, leading scorer for the Heat, shot 26 percent from the field and was only the fourth-leading scorer on the team. In the second game, he shot 18 percent and was the fifth-leading scorer. In the third game, he peaked at 40 percent from the field but still scored only the fourth-most points on the team. Interestingly enough, the Heat went on to defeat the Suns, Grizzlies and Raptors without him.

Derek Fisher, Los Angeles Lakers
Weak work: 1-2 record, 1.3 ppg, 1 rpg, 3 apg, 1.6 spg, 0 bpg, 5% shooting
At this point, after logging 62 minutes last week and making one bucket in 19 tries, he could fall down and miss the floor.

Steve Francis, Houston Rockets
Weak work: 1-2 record, 16.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1 spg, 1 bpg, 33% shooting
Came into the week shooting 28 percent from the field in his last two games and improved, so to speak, to 33 percent in the three most recent. For the month, he's shooting 20 percent from 3-point range and 70 percent from the line after shooting 80 percent for his career. Usually, we'd look the other way once we've tallied this kid's boards and assists, but you can see for yourself. What you probably can't see is the fact that he's also fourth in the league in both total turnovers and turnovers per game.

Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
Weak work: 2-1 record, 10.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 10.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0 bpg, 26% shooting
Rumor has it that Kidd really laid into his teammates following that nasty 47-point loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday, which must be a pretty nice way to unwind after he, himself, missed 26 shots during the week while making only nine.

The Ugly

The Portland Trail Blazers, who have shot a miserable 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from distance while away from the Rose Garden, are the only winless road team in the NBA left and have only one chance this week to change that after losing by an average of 12.6 points per away game. But, believe it for not, it gets worse. That one chance is against the Sacramento Kings, who are 13-1 at home and win by an average of 12.9 points per game at Arco Arena.

The Kitchen Sink

ALL THAT JAZZ
What you don't know could hurt you up in Salt Lake City or wherever the Jazz are playing these days. A simple look at their roster or statistics would hide the fact they are killing teams on the boards. On the surface, they are 18th in the league in rebounding at 41.7 without single player in double-digits. In fact, their best rebounder is Greg Ostertag at nine even for 17th in the league. But look over two columns. That's Ostertag averaging 3.7 offensive boards per game for fourth in the league. Right behind him is Matt Harpring at 3.2 for seventh in the league. And right behind him is Andrei Kirilenko at 2.9 per game for 20th in the league. That's three players in the Top 20 from the same team, which makes it easy to see why they're holding opponents to a league-low 36.1 rebounds per game. That's a whopping 5.6 rebound margin surplus.

Compare that to the Mavs, who are second in the league in rebounding but have a margin of only 1.3. Or the Spurs, who are third in the league in rebounding but have a margin of only 2.5. Or the Nuggets, who are fourth in the league in rebounding but have only a margin of 0.5. Or the . . . you get the idea.

NO BULL



CrawfordSince his move to shooting guard, with Kirk Hinrich taking over point duties, Jamal Crawford has averaged 23 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game on 44 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from distance in the month of December. Even more impressive is that he's also averaging 5.4 assists per game since November after averaging 5.2 per game before as the oft-starting point guard.
MARBURY'S MINUTES
Hate to put salt in Stephon Marbury's wounds (after all, Phoenix has lost six in a row and 9 of its last 10) but if he's not careful, he could very well be joining Amare Stoudemire and Zarjo Cabarkapa on injured reserve. He's already second in the league in minutes per game, his 41.6 to Allen Iverson's 43.7, and already second in the league in total minutes played, his 956 to Baron Davis' 987. But in the month of December, where the Suns have already played eight games in 13 days in six different cities, Marbury has totaled 343 minutes. Compare that to Iverson's 176 in the month of December or Davis' 297.

VIN, VIDDI, VICCI
Boston Celtic Vin Baker, currently second in the league at 52.6 percent shooting from the field behind only Shaq's 54.6 percent, has had only one stretch of more than two games where he's shot less than 50 percent from the field in each game. During that three-game span he went 16-for-35 for 45.7 percent. For the season, he's also shooting a career-high 76 percent from the line after shooting 67 percent last year and 63 on his career.

SPUR OF TIME
The longest win streak in the NBA currently belongs to the San Antonio Spurs at six games. But aside from their recent back-to-back wins against the Rockets, their first four victories came against teams with a combined record of 29-61. And just to make sure they got a good jump start after beginning the season 9-10, San Antonio started the current streak against the Magic, Heat and Bulls, who are a combined 18-51.

KING FOR A GAME
LeBron James and everything good about the Cavs
Stats per 48 min.: 21 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.4 spg, 0.7 bpg, 40% shooting

Ricky Davis and everything bad about the Cavs
Stats per 48 min.: 20.1 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.6 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.4 bpg, 43% shooting

MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS SPECIAL
Dallas Mavericks (14-8) versus Boston Celtics (12-12)
Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 in Boston, 8 p.m. EST

This has very little to do with Paul Pierce and the streaking Celtics, who have won five in a row. This has even littler to do with Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley and the Mavs, who are coming off an historical win over the Lakers in Los Angeles. This has everything to do with Antoine Walker trying to score triple-digits by himself against the man he claims tried to ruin his career and now is in charge of the only other team 'Toine has ever played for. Uh, that would be you, Danny Ainge, in case you missed the last verbal assault in the newspapers.

THE END

"We played 40 minutes tonight. We're getting better, but it's not exactly where we want to be."

Suns point guard Stephon Marbury stopping short of volunteering for a 17 percent paycut after missing nine shots in a row in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's loss.

Spurs prove defense wins titles

The two hottest teams in the West this past week are the Sacramento Kings and the San Antonio Spurs, two franchises that have been successful through the years with different philosophies and very different results.
Let's be honest, the Spurs are not as good as they were a year ago, though they still have Tim Duncan, who makes everyone on the floor better, and a defense which has been pretty consistent all year. Look, they didn't (and couldn't) replace David Robinson. You're talking about one of the 50 greatest players ever, a guy who could carry them when Duncan got in foul trouble (the Admiral's 13-point, 17-rebound performance in the clincher against the Nets comes to mind). He also had the ability to change a game with his defense, and that's the concern this team will have going forward.

Rasho Nesterovic
Center
San Antonio Spurs
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
25 9.4 8.2 1.1 .473 .489


And while he won't make anyone forget Mr. Robinson, the real reason this team has won six in a row is Rasho Nesterovic, who is averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds during this stretch and has taken some of the pressure off Duncan. The real test comes on the defensive end. Rasho will have to develop a tougher defensive mentality, especially against the Kings and Lakers, who have pretty good players at that position (need I mention Shaq, Vlade and Brad Miller?).

The Spurs are a team built on defense, and Rasho has to continue to play at this level if the Spurs have any thoughts of repeating as champs.

I have gotten a lot of feedback from people who think I dislike the Spurs for some reason. That is not the case. Last season, I was the first guy to say San Antonio had its best team since winning the title in 1999, and while I did not pick them to win it all last year, I was not surprised at all when they did. That team had a deep roster and could hurt you in many ways.

This season's version doesn't seem to have the same depth. Hedu Turkoglu has not been the difference-maker off the bench that Manu Ginobili was last season, and that is a huge void to fill. Anthony Carter and Jason Hart haven't had the impact that Speedy Claxton did last season, and losing the likes of Stephen Jackson (and the Admiral) has also impacted the play of Malik Rose and Bruce Bowen. This is still a very good team, but it's not what it was a season ago. But Gregg Popovich is a guy who knows how to get the most out of his team, and it will be interesting to see if that's enough to earn another trip to the Finals.

Brad Miller
Forward-Center
Sacramento Kings
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
21 15.0 9.8 4.9 .511 .784


The other team that has been rolling right along is the Sacramento Kings, and while everyone waits for Chris Webber's return, the two guys who have had the biggest impact on this team are Peja Stojakovic and Brad Miller. Peja, who is averaging more minutes, points and assists, is also shooting at a higher percentage from the field, 3-point, and free throw line. He has truly risen to the level of superstar, in my mind, as his overall game has improved. He is such a tough guy to guard, with his great range and his tremendous ability to move without the ball.

The other guy who has really helped elevate this team is Miller, one of the great swaps this past offseason when you consider he was an all-star a year ago and has improved in almost every statistical category -- scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, minutes, and, most impressively, blocks and assists. He fits right in with what this team does offensively, and you don't lose the toughness in the paint that Scot Pollard used to bring.

All seems to be great with the Kings, until you look at their opponents' field goal percentage. Teams shoot a whopping 46 percent against Sacramento. Only the Portland Trail Blazers rank below them.

Two teams with entirely different approaches to the game  one defensive, one offensive -- and you look up and see the Spurs with two NBA titles and the Kings with only hope to show for all their great offensive firepower.


Peep Show

Minnesota Timberwolves: Point guard Troy Hudson can finally run and jump after severely injuring his ankle before the season started. The Timberwolves just want to make sure he knows that he can run and jump. "They want me to be confident," Hudson said in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I'm thinking about two or three days from being able to play. We'll see how it feels during the workouts. I've got several days of practices and workouts in there. I want to have the confidence to the point where I'm not limping. I don't want to be out on the court limping because if it doesn't look good and it's not good for the team, it's not good for me." Flip Saunders has not decided if Hudson will play this week or not. "He's making progress, but he's still not totally coming down on it," Saunders said. "He's still limping a little bit. He needs to get a few more practices under his belt."

Detroit Pistons: Is it me or are the rims in Detroit getting smaller and smaller? "The ball is not moving and we're taking a lot of quick shots," coach Larry Brown said in the Detroit News. "I don't think as a staff we've put them in a position to make them successful. They're all struggling because we're asking them to do different things." Currently, the Pistons are shooting a miserable 41.8 percent from the field and can't seem to grasp Brown's new system. "If you look at Larry's history, he usually takes control of a losing team," Ben Wallace said. "We're not a losing team. We've been winning before he got here. We should be able to adjust to anything. Everybody who gets used to winning games should be able to get used to anything the coach throws at him."

Seattle SuperSonics: The X-rays from Rashard Lewis' shoulder were a negative, which would make it a positive for the Sonics. But one more pull or push could put him right into surgery. "I'm still confident that it's OK," Lewis said in the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "Right now, I'm feeling fine. It just depends on how many more times it slips out. As long as it hasn't slipped all the way out of place, then it should be fine," Lewis said. "If it continues to do it, or if it comes all the way out, that's when we have to worry. But just kind of moving around right now, it should be OK."

Chicago Bulls: Eddy Curry has missed games because of his inability to grasp certain elements of the game. He has missed games because of his inability to motivate himself correctly. But with pain coming from his left knee, he may now miss his first game because of injury. When asked if he could play in the next contest by the Chicago Tribune, he said: "I don't think so. It's painful when I make certain movements."

San Antonio Spurs: Malik Rose knows that his team departs for Seattle on Thursday and he hopes he not only makes the flight but is able to play again since tearing a tendon in his right leg. "It's still a little weak," Rose said in the San Antonio Express News. "I go to make a move and I don't have that same explosiveness, but it's gotten a lot better." If not then, he hopes to play Thursday in Toronto.

Los Angeles Lakers: Shooting 54 percent from the field may be good enough for some people, and good enough to lead the entire league in that category. But it isn't good enough for Shaquille O'Neal. "He's just not shooting the ball well," coach Phil Jackson said in the Los Angeles Daily News. "I'm trying to get him to catch and shoot the ball a little bit. ... Some of his favorite shots, it looks like they're low off the backboard."

Rod1975
12-17-2003, 06:53 AM
Los Angeles Lakers: Shooting 54 percent from the field may be good enough for some people, and good enough to lead the entire league in that category. But it isn't good enough for Shaquille O'Neal. "He's just not shooting the ball well," coach Phil Jackson said in the Los Angeles Daily News. "I'm trying to get him to catch and shoot the ball a little bit. ... Some of his favorite shots, it looks like they're low off the backboard."

!Newsflash Phil!: Shaquille O'Neal can not shoot a basketball well.