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12-30-2003, 01:50 PM
Starting over is Thomas' last resort

Last week, upon word that Isiah Thomas had taken over as president of the Knicks, Insider's advice was simple -- burn the entire team down.

Apparently, we weren't the only ones telling Thomas the obvious. Thomas told reporters this weekend that he talked to four NBA people whom he respects, and all gave him the same advice. "They are all in agreement that the best way to do it is to blow it up," Thomas told the N.Y. Times. "Everyone I've talked to about this situation has given me the advice to start all over and get under the salary cap."

Why such a dour prediction? Because the Knicks aren't close to making the Finals with the group they have. The guys who aren't contributing anything but take up an enormous amount of cap space -- Shandon Anderson, Howard Eisley and Clarence Weatherspoon -- can't be moved. Other players, like Allan Houston and Keith Van Horn, are contributing, but they, too, take up a lot of cap space. Combined, Houston and Van Horn make a little over $29 million this year.

Thomas' only tradeable pieces at the moment are good players with short-term contracts. If he could move guys like Antonio McDyess, Kurt Thomas or Charlie Ward, he might be able to acquire young players and draft picks in return. Thomas then could start rebuilding with a couple of veterans (Houston, Van Horn) and several promising young players (Frank Williams, Michael Sweetney and Maciej Lampe) already in place.

Despite the advice, Thomas claims he won't go in that direction. At least not yet, anyway. "I'm stubborn," Thomas said. "I can't think of an organization that has been saddled with this kind of debt structure that hasn't blown it up and started it all over. I want that to be my last resort, not necessarily my first result."

Thomas already has made a few moves that appear to have paid some dividends. He convinced coach Don Chaney to let Williams take over the point guard duties. Since that decision, the Knicks are 3-0, and Williams is averaging 16.7 ppg and 5 apg on 63 percent shooting from the field.

He cut second-round pick Slavko Vranes, claiming the team doesn't have the patience to develop him. He is working on buying out Weatherspoon's contract; he activated Sweetney (to see what he has); he ripped second-round pick Lampe's work ethic (to light a fire under him, according to Lampe's agent); and he made a hard push to sign troubled forward Eddie Griffin.

Thomas isn't done.

Several NBA GMs told Insider on Monday that Thomas' primary trade bait will be McDyess. McDyess is just now recovering from several knee surgeries. He's averaging 8.9 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 23.7 mpg in 15 games since his return. He's had occasional soreness in his knee, but for the most part he looks like he's playing his way back into shape.

Antonio McDyess
Power Forward
New York Knicks

15 8.9 6.7 1.1 .471 .576

McDyess makes a lot of money ($13.5 million), but he's in the last year of his contract, making him very attractive to a team trying to get further under the luxury tax. Thomas is looking for a younger, long, athletic center or forward in return (that pretty much counts out Zydrunas Ilgauskas for those of you still in Scott Layden mode).

The Hawks' Theo Ratliff, the Blazers' Rasheed Wallace, the Mavericks' Antawn Jamison and the Bucks' Tim Thomas are Thomas' most likely targets.

Ratliff ranks second in the league in blocks and has just two years left on his contract, making him an attractive fit. The Hawks are in cap-dump mode right now, and Ratliff is expendable.

To get Wallace, Thomas would have to throw Kurt Thomas or Ward into the deal to make the salaries work. The Blazers are desperate to move Wallace but won't take back anything that hurts their cap long term. Would James Dolan, who claims he wanted to clean up the Knicks, really take on Wallace?

Antawn Jamison
Dallas Mavericks

29 15.6 6.8 1.1 .508 .774

Jamison is an interesting option. He's locked into a long-term deal and may duplicate what Van Horn does on the court, but Thomas is a fan. The Mavs would insist on getting the draft rights to young point guard Milos Vujanic as part of any deal for Jamison. Given that Thomas hasn't shown any real fondness for international players, will that be a big loss?

Tim Thomas is the most questionable of the group. He's never quite fit into a position with the Bucks, though he is putting up the best numbers of his career this season. The problem for the Knicks is that he's locked in for two more seasons at numbers he just doesn't merit. Moving Thomas for McDyess would put the Bucks well under the cap for next season.

Isiah also is willing to trade Ward now that Williams looks ready to take over, though he's just as willing to cut him by Jan. 15 and get $4 million in cap relief for the team.

Big trades like these don't happen overnight, and most GMs think nothing will happen until next week at the earliest. Thomas is still trying to get a feel for how his players are valued around the league. He's still smarting over the Nets landing Griffin and vows that his most important task is changing the image of the franchise.

"We've got to get our franchise back to the point where players want to come play for the New York Knicks and don't give it a second thought," Thomas told the Times. "There was a time when we would have gotten the phone call, 'Can we come play for you,' as opposed to us having to search and find and beat (the bushes). We've got to get ourselves back to the point as a franchise where people want to come here and play and see this and view this as a very good situation, and that's what we're working on."

Around the League

Knicks chasing Leon?

In the meantime, Isiah Thomas is looking under rocks for forgotten players who could help his team. The word out of New York is that Isiah is on the verge of signing the only free agent even more messed up than Eddie Griffin -- Leon Smith -- to a 10-day contract. Smith, a 23-year-old, 6-10, athletic big man, has been playing for the Gary Steelheads in the CBA (14.4 ppg, 10.1 rpg).

Given Smith's history -- he once swallowed a bottle of aspirin, painted his face green, and told police he was an Indian fighting Columbus -- you think Isiah may be reaching a little bit with this one? Makes you wonder if Dennis Rodman and Roy Tarpley aren't far behind.

Artest on the block?

One popular theory floating around the league has Thomas doing everything in his power to get his hands on some of his former Pacers -- mainly Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest and Jamaal Tinsley. O'Neal is untouchable. Artest was believed to be as well, but his questionable behavior is raising eyebrows again, and there's talk Rick Carlisle might be happier with Artest playing somewhere else.
Ron Artest
Small Forward
Indiana Pacers

30 17.3 5.5 3.9 .437 .708

Artest was benched for the second half of Saturday night's loss to the Nets for what Carlisle called "conduct detrimental to winning." Artest responded by "sleeping in" for Monday's shoot around. Artest met with Carlisle, Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird on Monday to get the situation under control.

After the meeting, Carlisle and Artest both claimed the incident was behind them, and Carlisle did his best to quash the trade rumors swirling around Artest.

"I think Ron's here. I think Ron's here for the year. I'll put it that way," Carlisle told the Indianapolis Star. "He's too valuable a player. He's an essential part to what we're doing. Much of our system is built around his abilities at both ends of the court. So I don't see us trading him. But I'm not the official word on that. You'd have to talk to Larry Bird or Donnie Walsh. My feeling would be no, and I think we pretty much told him that today."

The problem Thomas faces, if he wants Artest and Tinsley, is coming up with a trade package the Pacers would bite on. Artest and Tinsley are probably available, but they'd come at a high price. Putting together a package of Charlie Ward or Kurt Thomas and Frank Williams won't be enough to get either one.

Silas ready to bench Ilgauskas:

The Cavs are still denying they're shopping Zydrunas Ilgauskas about as vehemently as teams are claiming he's being made available at almost any price. Ilgauskas' relationship with coach Paul Silas continues to go downhill, and there's a definite push from the bench for GM Jim Paxson to move Z now while he still has some trade value.
Silas is frustrated by Ilgauskas' lack of quickness and effort on the defensive end. "He has to (play good defense) or he won't play," Silas told the Morning Journal. "It's that simple."

Opposing teams are putting quicker, smaller players on Ilgauskas, creating defensive nightmares for the Cavs. On Sunday, Silas played Z just 10 minutes against the Blazers.

"He's long," Silas said. "He's 7-3. He plays straight up. If he bends his knees, he's quicker. It's hard for him to move and react when guarding players 6-9, 6-10. He's working on it. If he continues to do so, he'll be all right. I've got to win games. I've got to put guys out there to defend their bigs. He's helped us a lot this year. We're looking for guys who are going to be aggressive and get it done. ... With the quickness of the centers we were playing (Sunday), we needed to be quicker."

The Pacers wouldn't mind getting their hands on Ilgauskas, but the players they're willing to give up for him (Scot Pollard, Austin Croshere, Tinsley) won't be enough to convince the Cavs to pull the trigger.

Watson's days in Memphis numbered?

After an encouraging start, the Grizzlies continue to descend into hell. The team has lost six straight, coach Hubie Brown experienced a dizzy spell while coaching Sunday night, and point guard Earl Watson is rebelling over being excluded from Brown's new three-guard rotation.
Is a trade involving Watson imminent? He thinks so.

"I've gone from being talented enough to start to not being talented enough to back up Jason (Williams)," Watson told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I just have to keep working until I do get put in a different situation, whether it's here or somewhere else. But looking at it, I don't know how long I'll be here. ... Luckily I play for a (general manger) who'll put me in a good situation somewhere else. I just hope he sticks to his past. Until then, I'll keep working to help this team win."

The irony for Watson is that the Grizzlies went 8-2 when Watson was in the starting lineup subbing for an injured Williams. Since Williams' return to regular duty, the team is 0-6. Still, Brown is adamant the combination of Williams, Mike Miller and Bonzi Wells makes more sense for the Grizzlies.

Brown called Williams "a better, talented player" and said the demotion isn't a slight on Watson. "We knew that we'd eventually have to get to this to see if it's going to be a part of how we'll eventually play," Brown said. "We're doing this because of the minutes that are needed for Miller, Wells and Jason Williams. Only time will tell whether that will be a successful part our development as a young team. But we have to look at it."

The Good, the Bad, the Kitchen Sink

New Year's Resolution No. 35: Stop underestimating San Antonio Spurs, even if only two of their 13 wins in a row are against teams with winning records (the best being Houston at 16-13, the other being Toronto at 15-14). Their next game is against the 14-16 Sixers without Allen Iverson at the SBC Center on six days rest.

The Good

Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
Week's work: 3-0 record, 19.3 ppg, 8 rpg, 12 apg, 2.3 spg, 7 triples, 40% shooting

KiddHas anyone noticed that as Kidd has slowly slipped into the No. 3 scoring slot for the Nets, he's also tallied triple-doubles in his last two games, double-digit assists in his last five and New Jersey has won five of its last six games. The one loss came after Kidd took 22 shots (second-highest total all season), with nine of them coming from long distance (single-highest total all season), against the Bucks on Dec. 20. It might also help to mention that his first triple-double of the month, he has a total of six on the season, started a 9-2 run for the Nets in the standings.

Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Week's work: 2-1 record, 25.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 5.6 apg, 2.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 52% shooting
The very scary part is that you need a magnifying glass to tell the difference between the stat line above and his averages on the season.

Jeff McInnis, Portland Trail Blazers
Week's work: 2-1 record, 16.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 7.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 59% shooting
Who needs Bonzi? For that matter, with these numbers, who needs Damon Stoudamire? On second thought, after McInnis shot 65 percent in the two games prior to this week (putting him at 62 percent in last five games), why don't we just release Wesley Person, Derek Anderson and Ruben Patterson while we're at it.

Jamal Crawford, Chicago Bulls
Week's work: 2-0 record, 36 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 1.5 bpg, 9 triples, 60% shooting
On Friday, Dr. Crawford scored 30 points on 12-for-20 shooting followed by a career-high 42 on Saturday on 16-for-27 shooting (see below) . . .

The Bad

Jamal Crawford, Chicago Bulls
Half weak's work: 0-2 record, 8.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4 apg, 1/3 spg, 0 bpg, 0 triples, 26% shooting

Crawford. . . (see above) But not before Monday and Tuesday, when Mr. Jamal scored a total of 17 points on 7-for-27 shooting.

Mike Miller, Memphis Grizzlies
Weak work: 0-4 record, 4.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1 spg, 32% shooting
He is now officially shooting worse now than at any other time in is career. Since Dec. 20, he has yet to score in double-digits, even put up a goose egg against the Knicks on Friday, has yet to go to the free-throw line and is 2-for-11 from distance.

Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
Weak work: 1-2 record, 13.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4 apg, 1.3 spg, 31% shooting
For a shooting guard, 48 shots to get 41 points is bad. For a point guard, it's sin. Especially when your 12 assists on the week came toe-tagged with nine turnovers as your team already averaging a pitiful 88 points per game could muster only 81 in the last three.

Marcus Fizer, Chicago Bulls
Weak work: 2-1 record, 1.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0 bpg, 12% shooting
Add in his 19 minutes on Tuesday, nine minutes on Friday and three minutes on Saturday and that stat line reads like an obituary for the 25-year-old being given by 34-year-old journeyman Corie Blount, who played 23 minutes on Tuesday, 28 on Friday and 29 on Saturday.

Rasheed Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers
Weak work: 2-1 record, 12.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 30% shooting
Last week, Paul Allen paid 'Sheed about $312,000 to miss 28 of his 40 shots. You tell me who's getting exploited.

The Ugly

Golden State Warrior Cliff Robinson is in his 15th NBA season, so we can cut him some slack when his scoring average has dipped to 11.3 per game, his lowest since his rookie year in 1990, and even applaud him when he's lifted his shooting percentage and rebound totals above last year's pace while still averaging more than a block per game after celebrating his 37th birthday last week.

But what gives when, in the last 11 games, he gets to the free-throw line a total of one time? Over his career, he's averaged 4.28 free throws a game. Last year, he was at 2.9. This year, he's at 1.4. This month, he's down to 0.41 per contest and shooting 61 percent when he does get there, meaning that in 28 starts this year, playing a hearty 950 minutes, he's shot a total of 39 free throws and made only 24.

The Kitchen Sink

San Antonio guard Emanuel Ginobili can drive, spot up from distance or hit the open man. Now, he's also playing a little defense. Last month, he totaled 32 steals in 15 games. This month, he totaled 32 steals in 14 games. Overall, he's second in the league with 66 steals, fourth in steals per game with 2.1 and fourth in steals per 48 minutes at 3.04.

In Milwaukee's two big wins last week, a five-point win over the Pacers on Friday and five-point win over Detroit on Tuesday, starting forward Tim Thomas and starting center Daniel Santiago combined for a total of 25 points of the team's 184.

Last year, Zach Randolph played 1,301 minutes for Portland and scored 650 points. This year, Randolph has played 1,107 minutes and scored 652 points. The biggest difference is that he still has 54 games to play this season. But even during is rookie season, he averaged a healthy point every two minutes, the biggest difference being that he played a total of only 238 minutes all year.


WilliamsJason is back for the Memphis Grizzlies and the nightmare continues. After missing nine games due to injury, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 19, point guard Jason Williams returned to active duty against the Heat and went 1-for-5 from the field. What made it worse was that he was also 1-for-5 from long range.
Last Friday, he returned to the starting lineup and quickly went 2-for-10 long range. What made it worse was that he went 1-for-6 the night before from 3-point range and 0-for-2 the following game. In all last week, he totaled zero rebounds in his last two games while compiling 15 assists to go along with 11 turnovers. What makes it really worse is when you realize that he'd be shooting a very respectable 48 percent from the field if he had never taken a 3-pointer this year.

Mike Miller, former Rookie of the Year winner
2001 Season: 11.9 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.7 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.2 bpg, 43% shooting

Dwyane Wade, future Rookie of the Year third or fourth runner-up
2004 Season: 16.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 0.7 bpg, 45% shooting

Atlanta Hawks (8-24) versus Washington Wizards (8-20)
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2003 in The District at 7 p.m. EST on NBATV

The Hawks have the worst record in the league after losing nine of their last 10 games. The Wizards have the third-worst record in the league after losing eight of their last 10 games, including the last four. Come Jan. 1, one of these teams will begin the New Year on a winning streak and, well, the other one won't.

The End

"I thought he already was 19."

Portland coach Maurice Cheeks on LeBron James Sunday night as the 18-year-old tallied 32 points, 10 boards and nine assists on 65 percent shooting with three steals for good measure for his birthday tomorrow.

Peep Show

Los Angeles Lakers: Gary Payton is returning to Seattle for the first time in his career as the opponent, and he has a special message for his old bosses."It's not a big week for me," he says in the Seattle Times. "I want to see the fans. It will be big for me with the fans. But the rest of them, they can kiss my ass." As Payton sees it, his old bosses wouldn't give him the contract extension he wanted because they felt he wasn't good enough anymore, but they wouldn't hesitate a second to use his name to sell tickets. "My agent (Aaron Goodwin) saw their advertisements. I didn't want to see it. I knew they'd do some stuff like that, and that's crazy," Payton said. "They're going to use me to sell tickets, but that's just what that organization's about. That's what those people are about. I wouldn't put nothing past them. They don't surprise me with nothing they do. I'm not worried about them. I'm just worried about the fans. If they want to come out and see me, that's great. If they give me an ovation, that's going to be really good for me. I'm really just dedicated to them."

Orlando Magic: Maybe March, maybe April, but February is definitely out for the latest Grant Hill return. "I'll say this: I still want to play this season," said Hill in the Orlando Sentinel. "At what time, I just don't know. I can do everything except dunk right now. I can run and I can move laterally. I feel good." And with all the trouble the franchise has had this season, even general manager John Gabriel isn't putting up a fuss about it depending "how Grant feels. That's always been the issue."

Indiana Pacers: Artest has been a bad, bad boy. But at least it sounds like he's taking his punishment like a man. "The one thing that was made clear in that meeting is that you have to put the team first," Artest said to the Indianapolis Star a few days after opnely arguing with coach rick Carlisle and being benched in the process. "Any issues that you have during or after a game need to be handled later, after you've calmed down and gotten your composure. A lot of what happened was my mistake. Definitely. But now everybody now is on the same page and it's time to move on." His coach agreed. "I thought it was productive and upbeat, honest and forthright. We're looking to get by it and move on," Carlisle said. "I view this as an isolated incident that's over with. In my mind, it's in the past and we have to move on."

Philadelphia 76ers: Head coach Randy Ayers wouldn't go into details except to say that he and power forward Kenny Thomas had "a philosophical difference," which resulted in Thomas riding some extra pine on the current road trip. "We got some things put on the table and talked about them," Ayers said in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I think we both came out of the meeting feeling good. At least I did. We're trying to define roles and how to play and all. Those are just some of the things we talked about. So I hope, coming out of there, he had a better understanding of what we want to try to do as a team. It was good." Thomas wasn't saying much, either. "Everything is cool," he said. "It did help because we talked about everything and now we're both on the same page. It was kind of like a mutual thing. It's over and done with. Now we've just got to try to get a win."

Suns have no relief in sight

That smell coming out of the Pacific Division could very well be the Phoenix Suns going out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Last month, we told you that they had the toughest December schedule of any NBA team having to play 17 games in 31 days with 10 of them on the road and 10 of them in back-to-back scenarios with games stretched out between Boston, Miami, Seattle and L.A.. In all, 11 different airports would be required.

As a result, a struggling 7-8 team that nearly upset the Spurs in the first round in last year's playoffs finished a miserable 12-20.

Well, this month, we're telling you the same thing.

The Suns are again playing 17 games in 31 days, but this time it's 12 on the road, 13 against teams with winning records and 10 of them in back-to-back situations. They start out the month with a four-game road trip to as far away as Toronto and, as if that weren't enough, end the month on a five-game road trip to as far away as New York and D.C. In between, they got home games against the Spurs and Kings with another road game against the Lakers.

And if you think it's going to get much easier in February or March or April you're wrong because, well, Phoenix is still in Arizona and Arizona is still, geographically, west. The Suns may be able to cut down on their travel, but they can't change the fact that their division opponents are still the Lakers and Kings while their conference opponents include the Spurs, Timberwolves and Mavericks.

Today, it could be a game against the seventh-seeded Jazz at 17-12. Tomorrow it could be a game against the 10th-seeded Sonics at 14-14. While in the East, the Sixers lose three in a row and seven of their last 10 to just squeeze in to the eight spot in that conference at 14-17.

Take a look below.

All five of the toughest schedules belong to Western Conference teams while all five of the easiest schedules belong to Eastern Conference teams.

That's no coincidence.

That's because the East stinks and the Suns are starting to smell just as bad.

Easiest 5 January schedules

1. New York Knicks
Strength of Schedule: 12 (5 road, 7 quality)
Sure, Isiah Thomas has cap problems in New York, a demanding, unforgiving fan base and itchy bosses. But he's also got seven games in Madison Square Garden before the 16th of January with no back-to-back contests and only one road trip in between and that's to Cleveland against the 9-21 Cavs. After that, they've got road dates with the Hawks (the worst team in the league), the Bulls (the only team better than the Hawks in the Central) and the Celtics (who are only 8-8 at home). And we haven't even gotten to the home games against those very same Bulls not to mention the Magic and Heat. In all, they've got 11 home games in the next 31 days and are only four games from leading the Atlantic Division and, believe it or not at 13-19, only one game from being playoff qualified.

2. Milwaukee Bucks
Strength of Schedule: 12 (6 road, 6 quality)
Don't be surprised if Michael Redd isn't tugging on Tracy McGrady's cape come February and Allen Iverson's cornrows by All-Star break. Currently, the surprising Bucks are 15-15 without Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, Sam Cassell and Gary Payton and are looking at the New Year with five of their six road games in January against teams with a combined record of 51-91 with home games against six teams with a combined road record of 24-70. The best Buck could very well be the best shooting guard with the best record in the East if Vince Carter isn't careful on Jan. 23.

3. Toronto Raptors
Strength of Schedule: 13 (6 road, 7 quality)
The Raptors have won more than two games in a row only once so far this season, but could very well do it again when they play the Suns, Cavs and Clippers consecutively at the Air Canada Centre between the fourth and ninth of January. Win. Rest. Win. Rest. Win. Rest. Raptors fans hope they can say it three times fast. This could be key for a team that borders on .500 with three of its wins coming in overtime with one loss to Spurs last week in San Antonio by only three and another loss last week to the Magic in Toronto by 11. Huh? Maybe they'll have it all figured out by the 10th to pick up future road wins against the Hawks and Bulls later in the month.

4. New Jersey Nets
Strength of Schedule: 14 (9 road, 5 quality)
Jason Kidd and Co. have a lot of traveling to do this month, but who can really tell the difference when you're 8-7 at home and 8-7 away? Of course, that could all change with home dates against the Cavs, Clippers and Wizards (a combined 9-35 on the road). Or it could all stay the same with road dates with the Heat and Magic (a combined 21-42 on the season). Or, it could be the difference between life and death with the two-time defending Eastern Conference Champs who have won nine of their last 12 games to scratch their way to 16-14 playing each and every one of their Atlantic Division rivals this month at least once in a race that could come down to rock, paper, scissors.

5. Indiana Pacers
Strength of Schedule: 14 (7 road, 7 quality)
The Pacers like to play at home. After all, they've got the best home record in the Eastern Conference. And it seems they don't mind too much playing on the road. After all, they've got the best road record in the Eastern Conference, too. Then can somebody explain to me why they've gone 8-8 in their last 16 games, with nearly half of them at home and nearly half against good teams. Hopefully, we'll know more this month with home-and-home matchups with both the Spurs ( the hottest team in the league having won 13 in a row) and the Hawks (the coldest team in the league having lost 9 of 10), with all four games between the 10th and 17th.

Toughest 5 January schedules

25. Denver Nuggets
Strength of Schedule: 19 (8 road, 11 quality)
The upstart Nuggets have lost only three games at home all year with each one of Carmelo Anthony's 30-point games coming at the PepsiCenter. But you'll have a hard time convincing the Spurs, Lakers, Mavs and Timberwolves of that this month. After compiling a 19-11 record to start the season, standing only a half-game away from home court in the first round, the Nuggets aren't going to surprise anyone anymore. It took them all 82 games last season to win 13 at home. With three and a half months to go in this season, they've already won 13 with victories over San Antonio, Sacramento, Dallas and New Orleans. It's just too bad they've got to go on the road at all where the Kings, Mavs and Hornets will be looking for a little payback.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves
Strength of Schedule: 20 (8 road, 12 quality)
They are currently the best road team in the NBA with a record of 12-5 away from the Target Center. If they can say that at the beginning of February, we'll add an exclamation point at the end of the sentence along with fireworks and a marching band. That's because every one of their eight road games will come against playoff contending teams in January. They'll finish December off will most likely only two losses to 11 wins but will be hard pressed to do half that well in January with trips to Dallas, New Orleans, San Antonio and Los Angeles.

27. San Antonio Spurs
Strength of Schedule: 20 (9 road, 11 quality)
Last month, the Spurs faced maybe five teams that will eventually make the playoffs and turned a 9-8 record into a 13-game win streak and counting. This month, they'll face up to 11 teams that could eventually make the postseason and will do so on six back-to-back sets (with a current record of 7-5 in such situations) after a six-game rest period to start the month. And these aren't just any playoff contenders. They'll play division leaders New Jersey and Indiana as well as Sacramento. Even more interesting could be their three matchups with Midwest foes Minnesota, Denver and Utah. The Spurs may have the longest win streak in the NBA this year, but they're only 4-4 in their own division.

28. Dallas Mavericks
Strength of Schedule: 22 (9 road, 13 quality)
Not only will the Mavs face the team with best record in the league in the Lakers this month, they'll also face the team with the second-best record in the Kings, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference in the Pacers, the team that had the best record in the East last year in the Pistons and the second-hottest team in the league running in the Timberwolves. What makes it worse is that in the few games that they do have against non-playoff teams come on back-to-back nights. The Knicks game in New York is less than 24 hours after a trip to Detroit. The Bulls game in Chicago is less than 24 hours after a game against the Lakers. The Sonics game in Seattle is less than 48 hours after the Kings and less than 24 hours before a game against the Jazz in Utah.

29. Phoenix Suns
Strength of Schedule: 25 (12 road, 13 quality)
See above.

Max Power
12-30-2003, 07:35 PM
Silas is frustrated by Ilgauskas' lack of quickness and effort on the defensive end. "He has to (play good defense) or he won't play," Silas told the Morning Journal. "It's that simple."

Opposing teams are putting quicker, smaller players on Ilgauskas, creating defensive nightmares for the Cavs

This is why I don't want Z unless it is a package of non-rotation players. Delk? Goodbye! Najera? See you! Any of the big 6? No chance!

12-31-2003, 10:23 AM
Originally posted by: thebac
28. Dallas Mavericks
Strength of Schedule: 22 (9 road, 13 quality)
Not only will the Mavs face the team with best record in the league in the Lakers this month, they'll also face the team with the second-best record in the Kings, the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference in the Pacers, the team that had the best record in the East last year in the Pistons and the second-hottest team in the league running in the Timberwolves. What makes it worse is that in the few games that they do have against non-playoff teams come on back-to-back nights. The Knicks game in New York is less than 24 hours after a trip to Detroit. The Bulls game in Chicago is less than 24 hours after a game against the Lakers. The Sonics game in Seattle is less than 48 hours after the Kings and less than 24 hours before a game against the Jazz in Utah.

makes for exciting viewing for us Mavs fans this January. i/expressions/face-icon-small-happy.gif