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thebac
01-06-2004, 05:22 PM
More trades coming for Suns and Knicks?

Stunned. That's the only way to describe my reaction when sources told me on Monday morning that the Suns had sent Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski to the Knicks for Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, Howard Eisley, Maciej Lampe, the draft rights to Milos Vujanic, two first-rounders, including an unprotected Knicks' first this year, and cash.

The trade meant many things that were essentially inconceivable two weeks ago.

Within a space of two weeks, Isiah Thomas found a way to trade two players who were thought to be virtually untradeable -- Clarence Weatherspoon and Howard Eisley -- and a number of spare parts -- Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward, Maciej Lampe -- and somehow parlayed them into the all-star point guard for whom Knicks fans had been clamoring the last few years and two of the better backup guards in the league in Hardaway and Moochie Norris.

Within a span of roughly 100 games, the Suns have gone from being the popular pick in the 2002 preseason as the worst team in the West to earning the title of best up-and-coming team in the league after pushing the Spurs to the brink in the first round of the playoffs last spring back to where we all thought they would be -- at the bottom of the well in the West.

In a league where things like the luxury tax, salary cap and long-term financial obligations really matter, the Knicks agreed to send roughly $16.8 million in guaranteed contracts to Phoenix while agreeing to take on roughly $123 million in salaries from two players. When Suns GM Bryan Colangelo calls those numbers "staggering," he's not kidding. I did a quick search through trades over the past five years and could not find a trade even close to that $100+ million disparity.

That also means that the Suns are on the verge of one of the biggest cap-clearing jobs in NBA history. Before Monday's trade, their payroll stood at around $66 million this year and was projected to fall at around $58 million in 2004. Currently their cap number is $61 million (once they dump Charlie Ward), and in the summer of 2004 it could be as low as $36 million. Add in the cash the Knicks threw in, and the Suns netted roughly $10 million extra from the trade this season, and slashed $22 million from payroll next year.

Say what you will about Isiah Thomas, but he did more in two weeks than Scott Layden was able to get done in two-plus years. The difference? Sources claim Layden had numerous offers on the table but was paralyzed with fear about ever pulling the trigger. He felt his leash was short and he couldn't afford to make another big mistake via trade. He also was under pressure from owner James Dolan to start cutting costs, which would've made a deal like the one Thomas pulled off impossible.

Thomas feels no such pressure. Dolan empowered him to go out and remake the team in his image, at whatever the cost. Thomas hasn't hesitated. Whatever you think about the huge amount of salaries the Knicks swallowed ($92.8 million in guaranteed salaries in '04-05; $83.98 million in guaranteed salaries in '05-06) or the fact that Thomas mortgaged the future to make this trade, there's no question Thomas has made this team much more talented -- on paper anyway.


With that said, Isiah better be right. Having an owner with unlimited funds is both a blessing and a curse. Only two other owners in the league, Mark Cuban and Paul Allen, probably had the wherewithal to pull the trigger on a trade like this. The ability to transcend the salary cap obviously creates jealousy among other GMs. But Thomas is quickly painting himself into a corner. He was able to make the trade he did because he had two players (McDyess and Ward) with expiring contracts.

Now that the trade is complete, the Knicks' flexibility has virtually vanished. Word is Thomas wants to give Kurt Thomas an extension, meaning Michael Doleac, Frank Williams, Michael Sweetney, Othella Harrington and Cezary Trybanski are the only guys left on the Knicks' roster who could be trade bait to a team looking to reduce its payroll. Combined, those five are due $8.8 million this year and $7.8 million next season. If Thomas tries to package them in a deal to get another big-time player (and word is that's exactly what he's trying to do) virtually every player on his team will be locked into a long-term deal. If this team fails to jel or compete for an championship, Thomas' wiggle room is gone, and he'll be stuck with very few options, much like Layden was the past few seasons.

The Suns better hope Kobe loves the desert. As I wrote on Monday, the Suns, with a little more maneuvering, should be able to make a strong push for Bryant next summer when he hits free agency. Before this trade, Kobe could talk about leaving the Lakers all he wanted, but where were the viable alternatives?
The Clippers? They have a nice core with Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, but if Kobe really wanted to flee the limelight, changing locker rooms in the Staples Center probably doesn't get it done. The Jazz? They have the cash, but somehow I don't think they'd have the stomach to bring in Kobe, even if he is acquitted of all charges. The Nuggets? Again, Kiki would love to have him, but it's a bit of PR nightmare considering Kobe's legal problems occurred in Colorado. The Spurs? They're not close to having enough cap room to pursue him. Kobe would have to take a $10 million a year pay cut to play for any team over the cap.

That leaves the Suns as, in my mind at least, the best alternative to the Lakers if Kobe decides to bolt. No, the Suns won't sign him if he's still enmeshed in his legal woes. But if his name is cleared by then, I think the Colangelo's won't balk. Kobe had a spotless past before the latest incident. If he can prove he was set up, I think it's pretty safe to say that he won't be causing in more problems.

If Kobe doesn't come to Phoenix, the other free-agent options out there aren't nearly as attractive. The Suns made this move with the idea that it would give them the flexibility to make a move or two to put them in contention for an NBA title. If they can't land a player of Kobe's caliber, however, I'm not sure that a core of Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion and a number of nice role players will be enough to get them there anytime soon.

The Suns are quickly catching up to the Mavericks and Pistons as the NBA's premiere embassy for international players. With Zarko Cabarkapa, Leandrinho Barbosa and Maciej Lampe in the fold, Milos Vujanic on the way and Italian coach Mike D'Antoni at the helm, expect the Suns to start resembling the Mavs and Kings offensively.

By the way, having D'Antoni as the coach of the Suns certainly doesn't hurt the team's chances of landing Kobe. Rumor has it Kobe wears No. 8 in honor of D'Antoni, who was a superstar in Italy when Kobe lived there as a kid. "I don't know," D'Antoni told the Sacramento Bee. "It sounds good. It's a great story. Kobe grew up there. We were killing people (on the basketball floor), killing his dad. We had a lot of fun. I've known Kobe forever. ... Maybe if he ever goes with a retro jersey from Italy, I can get some royalties."

Colangelo: "This was a fantasy deal"

Suns GM Bryan Colangelo could see the writing on the wall, and he didn't like what he saw.

"Basically we were a team with very few options," Colangelo told Insider on Monday. "We had so much long term money committed to Stephon, Penny and Shawn that we didn't have the flexibility to reshape the team the way we needed to. Now, we have lots of options."

Colangelo was nearing the end of his rope with the 12-22 Suns. He had already fired coach Frank Johnson, but the firing hadn't done much to stem the losing. The difficult decision before him was to either ride this thing out with the guys he had and hope they turned into a championship team or to take a once-in-a-lifetime deal -- move Marbury and Hardaway, clear $20 plus million off the books, go under the cap for the first time in awhile, pick up two draft picks and two top international prospects, and start fresh while keeping your two best young players -- Marion and Stoudemire -- together.

"It was really a fantasy trade for us," Colangelo said. "Losing Stephon is hard and means will likely take a step back this year, but when you look at the numbers and the financial flexability the trade really gave us, it was staggering. Combine that with all of the young prospects we received and it was a once in a lifetime deal. I honestly believe that our future is now brighter than it has ever been."

How can that be, considering the Suns gave away a 26-year-old all-star point guard and got nothing but Howard Eisley, expiring contracts, two young prospects and draft picks in return?

Start with the money. There has been serious pressure from owner Jerry Colangelo to get under the tax threshold for some time. The Suns payroll now stands at around $61 million, still $4 million over the projected $57 million threshold for the luxury tax. If possible, the Suns would like to make another move that allowed them to get below the threshold. They'd also like to get a little further under the cap for next summer, to give them more money to pursue a top-flight free agent. Even if they can't make a deal, the team netted nearly $10 million this season and saved $20 million next year by making the trade.

Then figure in Colangelo's love affairs with Lampe and Vujanic. "We really liked him in this year's draft," Colangelo said of Lampe. "I think he has the potential to be a very good center in the league. He's only 18, so you have to be patient, but we think he's got a bright future." Considering the Suns' other options at center are Jahidi White and Jake Voskuhl, expect Lampe to get the playing time he didn't receive in New York.

Colangelo, who visits Italy frequently, also is high on Vujanic, who happens to be playing in Bologna. "I'm really intrigued by his talent," Colangelo said. "He's got all the tools to be a really good point guard."

Colangelo said that he hasn't explored what it will take to get Vujanic to the Suns next season. Vujanic turned down a contract from the Knicks last season to play in Bologna and has hinted that he'll stay in Italy next season as well. However, Vujanic's biggest concern with the Knicks was playing time. He saw a logjam there at point guard and didn't want to mired at the end of the bench. Given the Suns' need, it appears that the opportunity is there for him to get significant playing time next season.

Don't count out Barbosa either as the possible point guard of the future for the Suns. Colangelo said that Barbosa would get the opportunity to win the starting point guard position this season. He had 27 points Monday night in his first start of the season, which could bode well for his future with the team. "We've seen enough of him to believe that he's got a bright future and has the talent to be a player in the league," Colangelo said. "I think we'll use the rest of the season to see what he can bring us."

Colangelo also didn't rule out re-signing McDyess when he hits the free-agent market this summer. "We've obviously always liked him and think, if he's healthy he could be a nice player for us," Colangelo told Insider. "I think we're going into the situation with Antonio with an open mind. We want to see how his knee holds up and whether he can regain the All-Star form he's played in the past."

Will Gugliotta be the next Sun to go?

Just hours before the Knicks, Suns trade went down, more rumors were flying that the Jazz and Suns were talking about a deal that would send Tom Gugliotta and draft picks to the Jazz. In return, the Suns would net more cap space. Now with the Suns within four million of getting under the $57 million luxury tax and two more first-round draft picks to work with, you have to believe that the Suns will be even more motivated to make this deal happen.

Tom Gugliotta
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
20 2.8 2.2 0.9 .316 .750

The Jazz are roughly $8.7 million under the salary cap right now, meaning they can absorb a lot more salary than they have to send out in return. Since Gugliotta is in the last year of his contract, there are no long-term financial ramifications for the Jazz making the trade. They are essentially paying for draft picks.

Two different scenarios have been flying around. One has the Suns swapping Gugliotta ($11.9 million this year), the Knicks first-rounder and a Cavs first-round pick (top 13 protected) owned by the Suns to Utah for Keon Clark ($5 million this year). That move would shave seven million off the Suns' books immediately and get them well under the luxury-tax threshold for the season. Considering that teams that are under the threshold get substantial rebates from the league as well, the move could end up netting the Suns somewhere between $15 and $20 million.

The other scenario has the Suns sending Gugliotta, Jake Voskuhl ($1.5 million), Casey Jacobsen ($1 million) and the Knicks first-rounder to Utah for Clark and DeShawn Stevenson ($1.6 million). That trade gives Utah a couple of young players in Jacobsen and Voskuhl who could actually help the team without cutting deeply into their cap space for next season. What's the advantage for the Suns in the second scenario? Stevenson also becomes a free agent this summer. If the Suns waive him, they clear another $2.5 million under the cap, which they could use to help them lure a player like Kobe to Phoenix.

Knicks may not be done dealing yet either

Isiah Thomas has likely made the biggest trade he's going to make, but don't be surprised if a few smaller trades follow. Thomas tried to pry away Darius Miles from the Cavs last weekend, offering Charlie Ward in return. Cavs GM Jim Paxson wanted Frank Williams instead and Thomas balked. Now with Marbury and Norris in the fold, that deal probably sounds very appealing to Thomas. A Williams-and-Othella Harrington-for-Miles trade works under the cap and may make some sense for both parties.

Darius Miles
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
29 9.7 4.7 2.6 .420 .583

The Cavs have essentially given up on Miles. He's recorded four DNPs in as many games at the end of December and is clearly out of favor with coach Paul Silas. While snagging Williams for a player once considered the most promising in the draft class of 2000 seems a bit underwhelming, the Cavs need a young starting point guard and Williams has looked great the past week. On the Knicks' end, there isn't much to lose. Your point guards are now in place and Isiah's next goal is to get more athletic in the frontcourt. Miles would give the Knicks that. He's in the last year of his rookie contract, meaning the Knicks have no long-term obligation to him, but also own his Bird Rights if they do choose to re-sign him.

The other big trade that Thomas was pursing was for Rasheed Wallace. Sources claim that Thomas was in heated talks with the Blazers, but that Blazers GM John Nash felt that he could get more for Wallace than just McDyess and Ward. Nash is still concerned about winning this season and felt that McDyess and Ward couldn't match the contributions on the court of Wallace. Now that Thomas has moved both players, the chances of Thomas getting Wallace are pretty slim.

His one long shot may be to offer to take a couple of Nash's long-term contracts in return for Wallace, much like he did with Phoenix. If Isiah was willing to swallow the contracts of Wallace, Ruben Patterson and Derek Anderson, would the Blazers bite?

Nash has been trying hard to get Patterson and Anderson out of Portland. Both are signed to long-term deals that run through the 2006-07 season and both have had issues with coach Maurice Cheeks. The problem is that the only way the Knicks could afford to take on those contracts would be to ship two of their biggest contracts back in return. Thomas would give up good citizens like Allan Houston and Keith Van Horn in a heart beat to make that trade, but the long-term effects would hurt the Blazers.

As it stands, Wallace and his $17 million salary are set to come off the books this summer. Van Horn is signed through the 2005-06 season. Houston's deal runs through he 2006-07 season. The big salary hit for the Blazers would come in the summer of 2005. As it stands right now, the Blazers are looking at around $20 million in cap room in 2005 assuming they don't re-sign any of their free agents. If Nash pulled a trigger on the deal, the Blazers would only be around seven million under the cap. That's probably enough to scare them away.


Ward on his way to the Spurs?

Suns GM Bryan Colangelo confirmed that the Suns will waive Charlie Ward this week. Ward has a buyout clause in his contract that must be evoked by Jan. 10th. The Suns will save roughly $3.5 million by waiving him and another $3.5 million in luxury tax penalties.

Where will he end up? Sources claim that Thomas was working on a deal, before the Suns trade on Monday, that would've sent Ward to San Antonio as part of a three-team deal that would sent Ron Mercer to Detroit and Bob Sura to New York. Now that Ward will be a free agent, he can choose where he wants to play. However, there are strong indications that he'll still land in San Antonio. The Spurs are desperate for a veteran point guard to back up Tony Parker. Other teams, including the Mavericks, Nets and Pacers, have also shown interest in him.

Wade generating some Heat

Happy New Year to all those basketball fans out there. With the end of the college football season -- and a split national championship no less -- do you think that would ever work anywhere else in sports? I mean, whatever happen to letting the players and coaches decide who is the champ? It's the only way to really decide who is the best team. But I've digressed enough. Let's get to the e-mail bag and see what's in store for your team or player in '04.

Mr. Anthony,
I'm a Miami Heat fan, and I may be a little biased toward Mr. Wade of Miami, but it seems like all the media is giving love to Mr. Anthony and King James and forgetting about Dwyane Wade (aka A.I. Jr.). I've been watching this young man all season long, and I haven't seen a rookie attack the basket like Wade does since Allen Iverson.

Can you please give this young brother some love when you guys are talking about rookies? His stats are right up there with Mr. Anthony and King James. And he's the reason Miami is winning now. He's the go-to person on that team now! Thanks for taking my e-mail, and have a Happy New Year!
Patrick Owens,
Henderson, Nev.

Dwyane Wade
Point Guard
Miami Heat
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
29 16.2 4.2 4.4 .453 .727


A: Well Patrick, there is no question Dwyane Wade is the truth and is having a huge impact on the Miami Heat. He's a silky smooth scorer, solid defender(leads them in steals) and also the best playmaker on the team. As great as he has been, I think you will see him flourish even more when he is given more freedom, much as LeBron did with the trade of Ricky Davis (are you listening, Miami?).

This guy has superstar potential and a passion to compete, which is an important trait to have if you truly want to be the best. His talent takes a back seat to no one, and while he gets every bit the credit from people within the game, if he conitinues to will his team to victories, the media coverage will come. And I have no doubt this kid has what it takes to do just that.

Matt Currey, Washington: Now that Ray Allen is back, do you think Seattle can be a playoff team?

Ray Allen
Shooting Guard
Seattle SuperSonics
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
7 24.9 4.4 5.3 .471 .839


A: Having a player of Ray Allen's caliber can't do anything but help, but the problem for this team remains defense. Their inability to guard the paint, as well as the perimeter, forces them to have to outscore their opponents, and while they are solid offensively, they are not quite good enough to win consistently with that formula. Look for this team to try and improve its roster and get some guys who can have an impact on the defensive end. This is a young and talented team that if it were in the East would certainly make the playoffs. But all is not lost in the Emerald City. Nate McMillan is a fine coach with a defensive personality, which also will have an impact.

Jeff Powell, Garland, Texas: Congratulations on a wonderful career, and you are doing a great job for ESPN as an analyst. Its hard to believe you have already retired. It seems like just yesterday when you were at UNLV. Anyway, here is my question for you -- The Mavericks' lack of defensive personnel is troublesome to watch. They are getting hammered inside. Don Nelson is a great offensive coach, but they will not be able to get to the finals until they learn to defend better. The two trades Dallas made -- for Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison -- were good trades, but the Mavs need a center. Why did they not try to get Tony Battie or Erick Dampier in either one of those deals? Also, last question -- What do you think if they try to get Scot Pollard from Indiana? Pollard is getting a lot of DNPs lately; he knows the Western Conference already; and he can rebound and defend better than Shawn Bradley. Thanks for your time, and Happy New Year!!

Josh Howard
Guard-Forward
Dallas Mavericks
Profile


2003-2004 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
28 8.4 5.7 1.3 .413 .695


A: Jeff, I agree that Dallas is challenged defensively, and they did make a play for Dampier before the start of the season. Tony Battie is solid, but not a true center in the sense that he can defend the paint against Shaq, Duncan , etc. This team has to commit to defending better individually, because there is no cavalry coming over the mountain to save them.

I really like what Josh Howard does on the floor in terms of effort and energy, those are the types of players that can make a difference. But I still maintain that it starts with your best players. They have to be really good and committed to defending the basketball if they want to achieve their goal and win a world championship. Right now that is Dirk, Steve, and Antoine. They have to commit to defend better if they hope to improve their fortunes.

The Good, the Bad, the Kitchen Sink

On the day college football crowns two national champions, Utah Jazz fans lobby to keep margin of victory out of the NBA playoff formula as their underdog team moves to 17-16 on the season while being outscored 91.5 to 90.9 on average.

The Good

Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons

Week's work: 4-0 record, 11.5 ppg, 15.7 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 3 bpg, 48% shooting
When the Pistons win, Big Ben averages nine points per game on 39 percent shooting. When they lose, he averages 10 points per game on 42 percent shooting. So you probably had a pretty good idea that it was the 63 rebounds and 12 blocks (while committing only 6 fouls) in four games that got him to the top of this list this week.

Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
Week's work: 3-1 record, 24.2 ppg, 7 rpg, 9.2 apg, 1.7 spg, 9 triples, 45% shooting
Three rebounds shy of two more triple-doubles and another three rebounds shy of three triple-doubles this week. For the record, there have been a total of 13 triple-doubles recorded this season. Kidd has six of them.

Ray Allen, Seattle SuperSonics
Week's work: 3-1 record, 23.2 ppg, 4 rpg, 4.7 apg, 1.7 spg, 10 triples, 47% shooting
Mr. Shuttlesworth has played a total of six games this year. The Sonics have won four of them, including that two-point win over the Lakers on Friday night after he sank that lay-up with six seconds remaining. And the 40 percent career shooter from distance hasn't even reached simmer yet.

Jermaine O'Neal, Indiana Pacers
Week's work: 4-0 record, 22 ppg, 13 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 3.7 bpg, 43% shooting
On a tough shooting night, during a tough shooting season, the other O'Neal finds a way to get to the line 11 times and hit each and everyone of them to preserve a three-point win on the road, which may have been even spunkier than the 48 points, 29 rebounds and nine blocks he had in the following two wins.

The Bad

Jason Terry, Atlanta Hawks

Weak work: 2-1 record, 7.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.3 spg, 26% shooting
Coming into the month of December, the Hawks had won only six games all season. Coming into last week, they had won only two games all month. So when the worst team in basketball wins two games in one week to climb to the third worst team in the NBA, you'd expect their second-leading scorer playing the second-most minutes to score more than nine points combined in the last two games.

Nick Van Exel, Golden State Warriors
Weak work: 0-4 record, 8.7 ppg, 2 rpg, 7 apg, 0.5 spg, 26% shooting
You expect Tricky Nick to shoot 3-for- 9 from long range one game, miss all six 3-point attempts in the next game and call for the ball from a full foot behind the arc on the next time down the floor. But 11 turnovers in two games and four free throws in the last four games are completely unacceptable for a point guard who has averaged only 2.2 turnovers per game for 10-plus seasons while going to the free throw line three times a game in that same span because opponents are completely afraid of his next shot from distance.

Devean George, Los Angeles Lakers
Weak work: 0-2 record, 4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1 spg, 0.5 bpg, 18% shooting
With the Lakers needing a grand total of seven more points to turn back-to-back losses into extended vacations for Shaq and the Mailman, George comes up 14 points below his season average while missing 13 of his 16 shots. For the week, he tallied eight points, eight personal fouls and eight more reasons for Kobe to keep shooting.

Tyronn Lue and Rod Strickland, Orlando Magic
Weak work: 0-3 record, 12.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 5 apg, 0.3 spg, 40% shooting
This is what 133 minutes in three games at point guard currently gets you in the Magic Kingdom. And get this. On Jan. 2, 2004, Lue and Strickland combined for 48 minutes and ZERO assists.

The Ugly

Tim Duncan can score, rebound, pass and defend. Just don't ask him to shoot free throws anymore. He began the season by hitting 11 of his first 13 freebies in October. By November, he had missed 36 of 96. By December, he was down to 60 percent. Last game, his first of the new year, he went 3-for-13 after shooting 6-for-16 in is last game of 2003. For the season, he's at a career-low 60 percent after shooting 71 percent last year and 79 percent the year before that. And it's spreading. In those two most recent games, he also shot a miserable 7-for-27 from the field.

The Kitchen Sink

BRAND NAME

Elton Brand hasn't won the last two MVP awards like Tim Duncan. He doesn't shoot 3-pointers like Dirk Nowitzki. He's not about to break the NBA's all-time scoring record like Karl Malone. But so far this season, he's averaging 19.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks on 54 percent shooting in 17 games after spending the entire month of November on injured reserve. Against the Lakers, he tallied 30 points, 15 boards and five blocks on 60 percent shooting. Against the Mavericks, he's averaging 20 points, 15 boards and three blocks on 63 percent shooting. Against the Spurs, he put up 22 points, 13 boards and four blocks on 81 percent shooting. Now, if he could only figure out that tall, skinny kid in Minnesota, where he tallied only 13 points, eight boards and two blocks on 26 percent shooting against Kevin Garnett in Elton's first start after injury.
SIXER THREES
We knew the Kings could shoot 3-pointers. We knew the Sonics had to shoot 3-pointers. But who knew the Sixers would be the third-best 3-point shooting team at this point with a 37.1 percent mark behind only Sacramento (40.5%) and Seattle (37.7%)?

That's due in large part to Aaron McKie who, prior to this year, had never hit more than 53 triples in any season while shooting 35 percent from long range. This season, he's shooting 53.8 percent from long range (best in the NBA) while having drilled 43 of them in 30 games so far. Helping him out is rookie Kyle Korver, who is shooting 46.2 percent from long range (fourth-best in NBA). He may have made only 39 baskets all season so far but 30 of them have been from distance.

THE CAMBY MAN
Denver Nugget big man Marcus Camby went from scoring 4.6 points per game in November on 32 percent shooting to scoring 10.8 points per game in December on 55 percent shooting, which bodes very well for mile high fans since the Nuggets are 7-2 in games Camby reaches double digits.

LAKER KILLER
Allen Iverson may not have been able to beat the Lakers as a team in the 2001 NBA Finals, but he's about to take down another one individually in the statistics category. Currently, Shaquille O'Neal is No. 4 on the NBA's all-time scoring average at 27.3. Allen Iverson is right behind him at 27.1 after recently overtaking Laker great Jerry West, who finished his career at 27.0.

Iverson has scored 13,776 points in 508 games and will supposedly return to action tonight against the Bucks after taking 10 days off to rehab his knee. He's still leading the league at 28.9 points per game and, if he continues, will have scored 15,250 points in 559 games at season's end to push him to a career average 27.28 points per game.

Meanwhile, Shaq is averaging 20 points per game. If he continues at that pace, he'll finish the season with about 22,016 career points in 846 games for an average of 26.02. And next on the list for Iverson is West's teammate Elgin Baylor, who finished his career at 27.4 points per game.

TRADING PLACES
So far, almost every player dealt between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls this season is doing better for their new clubs. Donyell Marshall, Jalen Rose and Lonny Baxter went from scoring 26.3 points per game for the Bulls to scoring 37.5 points per game for the Raptors. Meanwhile, Antonio Daniels, Jerome Williams and Rick Brunson went from scoring 15 points per game for the Raptors to scoring 23.3 points per game for the Bulls.

KG'S SIDEKICKS
Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell
2004 Season: 38.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 11.5 apg, 2.4 spg, 46% shooting

Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson
2003 Season: 31.8 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 8.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 45% shooting

RON ARTEST SPECIAL
Orlando Magic (8-26) versus Indiana Pacers (25-10)
Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2004 in Indianapolis, 7 p.m. EST on NBALP

This has nothing to do with the best team in the East playing against the worst team in the East. This has nothing to do with the Pacers having won four games in a row while the Magic have lost four in a row. However, this does have everything to do with the Magic giving up 338 points in their last three games while Ron Artest complains about the boring Pacer offense scoring only 88.9 a contest.

The End
"I don't know how we do it because nobody talks."

Mums the word from Steve Francis on why the Rockets have been able to hold opponents to an NBA-low 39 percent shooting from the field and only 84.3 points per game.

Peep Show

Orlando Magic: The reason it feels like the Magic haven't won since last Christmas is because, well, they haven't. "We definitely thought the team was going to start taking strides forward," Tracy McGrady said in the Daytona Beach News Journal. "But obviously we took a couple steps forward and now we're taking a huge step backward. It's bad." Head coach Johnny Davis has tried to motivate his team by changing the rotation and switching to a zone defense, but they just can't seem to stop opponents from scoring at will. "It's hard to stay focused, especially when you come out and you're ready to play and you're giving up 40 points in the first quarter," McGrady said.

Seattle SuperSonics: If Sonic players want to get in the game, they're going to have to do it the old fashioned way. They're going to have to earn it. "The way you do that is probably go with a rotation that would have been at the beginning, and if guys play (well) then you work them into the rotations," head coach Nate McMillan said in the Tacoma News Tribune. "Then you have things laid out, and you don't have players who are (angry) about why is this guy playing or this guy. It is right there in black and white. I think everybody during this season ... has looked at (Vladimir) Radmanovic and said, 'What the hell is he doing on the floor?' So I have to make sure they understand, and understand what you are doing to them."

New York Knicks: Yesterday's big trade came as no surprise to Antonio McDyess. "It was like they were making everything out to be my fault," McDyess told the New York Daily News. "Dolan used to always talk to me, telling me he was excited to watch me play. But once Isiah came he wouldn't even look me in the eye. Isiah never said a word to me. He slapped my hand but that was it. I said, 'Something ain't right.' If I was part of the plan he would probably talk to me, but it was obvious that I wasn't in their plans. Isiah, I think, wanted to get rid of all of Scott Layden's players." McDyess went so far as to say that Thomas instructed head coach Don Chaney to remove him from the starting lineup prior tot he trade. "It leaves a sour taste in my mouth," McDyess said. "Anybody can get traded but that doesn't mean you have to change your personality toward me. It was like it was my fault. I was always good to them. I worked hard to come back. But then Isiah came and everyone started acting funny. It made it miserable to go to work."

Golden State Warriors: Cliff Robinson wants to end his team's six-game losing streak, and if that means ending his starting streak, then so be it. "I think we can still turn this thing around," said Robinson in the Contra Costa Times. "But I think something has to be done. Maybe shake it up a little bit. Maybe change the lineup. Maybe do something. We've got to do something to get us going in the right direction. It's always a tough one, but it could be the smallest little thing that could get us going." Robinson believes that putting Troy Murphy into his place might help. "I don't have a problem with that," Robinson said. "If that's something they want to do, I don't have a problem with that. When I get out there, I'm going to play hard whether it's coming off the bench or starting."

Boston Celtics: Vin Baker will tell you he needs a doctor, not the mortician. "I don't think I've played as well as I did the first half of the season," said Baker in the Boston Globe. "Every player goes through that. Every player goes through slumps. I've got to get it back. It's just about getting on the floor and getting back to doing the things I do best. It's a gift and a curse when you do well so early. When you go through a slump like every player in this league goes through, it's magnified, obviously." His coach just hopes he's right. "It's pretty much up to him to produce on the court, to do the things that he might be struggling with," said coach Jim O'Brien. "In our defensive schemes, if our big guys are not mobile, we struggle. I'm hoping he can get it back to where he gets back in the starting lineup and gets 25-30 minutes."

Miami Heat: Rookie Dwyane Wade is a pretty good basketball player. He's just no doctor, so don't believe him when he says he'll be back sooner than expected with the injured right wrist. "It was basically two weeks at the minimum is what was said," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He gets reevaluated on Thursday. With a miracle, that would put you at another week and a day and put him back for the Sacramento game [Jan. 13]. We pretty much planned that he would probably be out for these [home] games, and unfortunately for the entire West Coast trip. Hopefully we get him back sometime on that trip, but there's a probability he won't."

sike
01-06-2004, 07:18 PM
if you read this you win a gold star.....and a left over cookie....

wow that was long!

Chicago JK
01-06-2004, 11:01 PM
I like the Frank Williams and Othella Harrington for Darious Miles trade that is speculated in the article. It makes sense for both teams. Frank and Marbury can play together but it doesn't really make sense to keep Frank with Marbury aboard now. Darius seems like an Isiah type player-long and athletic. Darius is a type of player Isiah will gamble on. Plus he is the type of player Knick fans want....all flash. I have been very disappointed in darius' development. I knew he wasn't KG good, but he was so good in high school. He should be all NBA on defense but is only average.

This trade wouldn't surprise me at all.