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01-19-2004, 05:01 PM
First-half surprises and disappointments

It's been the best of years. The worst of years.

Just as LeBron, Carmelo, Zach, Kirilenko and Ginobili are infusing new life into the league, guys like Kobe, T-Mac, Curry and Kwame are doing their damndest to stop the momentum.

The good news is that the league is enjoying unprecedented parity at the halfway mark of the 2003-04 season. The race for the NBA title is very much up for grabs.

The Lakers were supposed to run away with it, but injuries and controversy have tarnished their luster. Can they get healthy in time to make another serious run?

If they can't, who will emerge? The Kings? The Spurs? The T-Wolves? The Mavs? The Pacers? The Nuggets???

Insider's Chad Ford breaks down his biggest surprises, disappointments and awards in our first-half review.


LeBron James, G, Cavaliers: Surprised? A month before the season there was no way anyone could live up to the hype James was generating. Insider predicted that a 15 ppg, 6 rpg and 5 apg average would be a resounding success for a high school senior. Now? Some NBA scouts are already calling James one of the top 10 players in the league. His 21.1 ppg, 6.8 apg and 5.0 rpg in January are the best rookie numbers since Elton Brand in 1999.

Denver Nuggets: James may getting more individual props than his partner in crime, Carmelo Anthony. But what really matters in the NBA is wins and Carmelo and the Nuggets have a huge leg up over James' Cavs. Insider wrote before the season that the Nuggets could be a surprise playoff contender if Anthony and Andre Miller had big years and Marcus Camby stayed healthy. So far, that's exactly what they're doing. Anthony's 18.4 ppg and 6.3 rpg have matched our high expectations for the rookie. Miller has rebounded from an awful year in L.A. to average 15.8 ppg, 6.3 apg and 4.3 apg on a nice 45 percent clip. Camby has played in 38 of the Nuggets' 42 games this season. That's got to be some sort of record. The Nuggets' 24-18 record has them on pace for a seventh seed in the rough and tumble Western Conference. That's unbelievable for a team that won just 17 games and sported the worst record in the NBA last season.

Brad Miller
Sacramento Kings

37 14.9 10.7 4.8 .513 .791

Brad Miller, C/PF, Kings: We wrote in August that the Kings dramatically overpaid for the big guy. In October, we wondered whether the Kings could survive Miller's replacing Chris Webber at the four. In January, the Kings own the best record in the NBA and Miller's been a huge part of the reason why. Yes, he was an all-star in the East last season, but it was by default. There weren't any decent big men in the conference to give it to. Miller's 14.9 ppg average isn't even a career high. But the 10.7 rpg and unbelievable 4.8 apg for a guy some people thought couldn't really pass or rebound are astonishing. We'll see what happens when C-Webb returns in the next few weeks, but without Miller and Peja Stojakovic (see awards below) the Kings would've tanked the first half of the season.

Indiana Pacers: Admit it. When the Pacers replaced Brad Miller and Ron Mercer with Scot Pollard, and made Anthony Johnson their big free-agent signing, you thought the Pacers were going to take at least one step back. What a difference a coach makes. Under the leadership of Rick Carlisle (who, by the way, should be second to only Jerry Sloan in the coach of the year race) the Pacers are tougher, much better defensively and, most importantly, under control offensively. Carlisle has found a way to turn Jermaine O'Neal into a defensive nightmare, keep Ron Artest out of trouble, sell Al Harrington on his sixthman role and remake Jamaal Tinsley into a asset in the backcourt. The Pacers' 31-11 record is second best in the league, and there are no signs of them falling off the cliff like they did last season. They've gone from underdogs to the favorites to represent the East in the Finals. The Pacers are for real.

Sam Cassell, G, Timberwolves: He was an afterthought in the Wolves' big shake-up last summer. While the media focused on the additions of Latrell Sprewell and Michael Olowokandi, Cassell, finally out of the shadow of the Big Three, found himself demoted to the fifth wheel behind Spree, Kandi, Kevin Garnett and Wally Szczerbiak. Whatever. With Wally and Kandi ailing, however, Cassell has quietly put together the best season of his career. 20.4 ppg, 7.4 apg, 42 percent shooting from 3 and 50 percent shooting from the field have made him arguably the best point guard in the West and a big reason why the Timberwolves, at 26-12, have the third-best record in the league.

Milwaukee Bucks: Insider predicted that they'd be the worst team in the NBA. Halfway into the season, they've already eclipsed our projected 19-win total (they have 22) and currently have the fourth-best record in the East. What's made the difference? Michael Redd turning in the first all-star performance of his career, solid, if unspectacular, performances by Tim Thomas, Desmond Mason, Joe Smith and T.J. Ford and a rookie head coach, Terry Porter, who has brought the team a toughness and cohesiveness that the old Big Three lacked.

Zach Randolph
Power Forward
Portland Trail Blazers

39 21.6 11.2 2.4 .474 .790

Zach Randolph, F, Blazers: How does a guy go from averaging 8.4 ppg and 4.4 rpg to 21.1 ppg and 11.2 rpg in one season? An extra 22 minutes a night helps, but no one has made a bigger improvement this season than Randolph. Insider predicted he could be a 20 and 10 guy this year after watching him dominate Dallas in the playoffs. So far, he's been even more dominant in the paint and given the Blazers the courage to finally explore dumping Rasheed Wallace.

Utah Jazz: Including the Jazz on this list is almost cliche. Everyone thought that they'd be bad. The fact that the team is three games over .500 at the halfway mark is mind boggling. Even without their best player, Matt Harpring, and coach Jerry Sloan missing time to be with his ailing wife, the Jazz are still playing .500 ball. What's the explanation? Rigid execution, hard work and a lot of heart can still eclipse talent.

Andrei Kirilenko, F, Jazz: You can't mention the Jazz without recognizing Kirilenko. His stats (16.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) don't really jump out at you until you start digging deeper. When you throw in 3.3 apg, 2.9 bpg, 2.2 spg, a 3 every night and 46 percent shooting from the field from a kid who still can't shoot and you're talking about one of the three or four most complete players in the NBA. If you thought we'd be writing that about Kirilenko at the halfway point, you're a witch.

Memphis Grizzlies Take your shots at Jerry West, but in the space of a little over a season and half, he's transformed the cellar dwelling Grizzlies into a playoff contender. This year's team is on pace to win 44 games, exactly 16 more than any other Grizzlies team. West has done all of this without acquiring a superstar like he did in L.A. Instead, the Grizzlies went a different route, acquiring as much mid-level talent as they could get their hands on and then turning the team over into the capable hands of Hubie Brown, who's convinced players to swallow their pride and individual games for the good of the team. Right now everything's clicking. The team has won six of its last eight and is making a serious push for that eighth playoff spot in the West.


Eddy Curry, C, Bulls: Insider pegged Curry to rise to elite status this season based on a fantastic finish last year and coach Bill Cartwright's comments that Curry would be the No. 1 option for the Bulls this season. Forget about it. Curry's lack of conditioning, combined with a lackluster effort on defense, put him in a doghouse he's been unable to get out of. The talent's still there. But the head? It doesn't look good.

Chicago Bulls: Seventh in the East? What we're we thinking? Curry's failure this year has been a big part of the Bulls' problems. So has Tyson Chandler's constant back problems and Jamal Crawford's (another player Insider thought would have a breakout year) poor shot selection. While rookie Kirk Hinrich has been a revelation, the rest of the Bulls stink. Even a hard-nosed coach like Scott Skiles hasn't been able to get them turned around. You hate to say this Bulls fans, but is it just a matter of time before GM John Paxson has to blow this team up again?

Tracy McGrady, G/F, Magic: T-Mac's numbers are just fine. But the horrible play of the Magic this season rubs off on the guy Insider felt was the best player, pound for pound, in the NBA. His lackluster play at times, combined with his complaining about zone defenses, Doc Rivers and everything else, has grown old. Superstars find a way to motivate teammates and carry the team on their back when things go bad. McGrady, for most of the Magic's swoon, looked on like a disinterested bystander, shrugging his shoulders and pointing fingers. With the Magic facing the stark cold reality of the lottery and very little cap flexibility or tradable assets, is it time to begin seriously exploring a trade?

Phoenix Suns: Insider called them the best young team in the NBA, predicted a sixth-place finish in the West this season and future championships down the road. A slow start and a couple of injuries snowballed into disaster and ended with the Suns throwing in the towel, trading all-star Stephon Marbury and vowing to rebuild the team. I can't argue with GM Bryan Colangelo, I think he did the right thing and the future of the Suns still looks very bright. But for this season, at least, what a sad reversal for last season's surprise team.

Kwame Brown
Power Forward
Washington Wizards

39 9.4 6.6 1.5 .466 .731

Kwame Brown, F, Wizards: In October, Insider listed 10 players with whom we were running out of patience. All 10 had enormous potential and great opportunities to make a name for themselves this season. Unfortunately, all 10 have struggled yet again this year. Brown, Michael Olowokandi, Darius Miles, Keon Clark, Jonathan Bender, Stromile Swift, Tyson Chandler, Bonzi Wells, Jerome James and Hedo Turkoglu have all dropped duds on us this year. Injuries have derailed Olowokandi, Clark, Bender and Chandler. Inconsistent to uninspired play has haunted the rest. Brown remains the poster boy of this group -- an immensley talented former No. 1 pick who has all the skills but lacks the desire. Does a recent string of good games by Brown offer hope or is it just another false alarm in a disappointing career?

Dallas Mavericks: How can you knock a team that is 24-16 and just three games out of first place in the Midwest? Expectations. The Mavs added major firepower last summer when they traded for Antoine Walker and Antawn Jamison. Enough in fact, that Insider predicted that they'd walk away with the best record in the West (62-20) this season. Unless the Mavericks go 38-4 the rest of the way, they're going to fall short. Way short if you look at the trend. Their defense is the worst in the NBA, they struggle terribly on the road and the chemistry that Nellie was supposed to create has largely been sour. If the Mavs decide to shake things up even more and move Jamison, Walker or Finley, things may be put beyond repair this season.

Alonzo Mourning, C, Nets: Mourning's effort and his heart were there, but his body just wouldn't cooperate. News that Mourning would require a kidney transplant shattered the Nets' designs on an NBA title this season and ended, prematurely, Mourning's brilliant career.

Golden State Warriors: Under new head coach Eric Musselman, the Warriors were one of the surprise teams of 2003. The team of young up-and-coming stars led by Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Jason Richardson had the makings of a playoff team this year. Losing Arenas to free agency hurt. But the Warriors compounded the problem by shipping Jamison to Dallas for Nick Van Exel and letting Earl Boykins slip away in free agency. The outcome? The Warriors are back in the Western Conference cellar. Only the Suns have a worse record. Van Exel, who management touted as the spark plug that would push the Warriors into the playoffs, has been a bust. Mike Dunleavy, who was supposed to be the heir apparent to Jamison, has been ordinary, and injuries to Troy Murphy and Adonal Foyle have weakened their front line. Even breakout performances by Richardson and Erick Dampier haven't been enough to soften the blow of another miserable season in the Bay.

Antonio McDyess, F, Suns: Has one player's failure ever done so much to shake up a franchise? The excitement in New York surrounding McDyess' return from 18 months of injuries had many believing that Scott Layden and the Knicks were finally headed back to the playoffs and toward redemption. But McDyess struggled to regain his old form and the optimism was quickly replaced by disdain from the fans. Layden lost his job, Isiah Thomas took over and then swapped McDyess for Marbury in the biggest deal of the year. McDyess' return to the Suns hasn't been triumphant. His knee is hurting again and the word out of Phoenix is that he's headed to the injured list again. Another sad chapter in a tragic career?

Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterling finally forked over the cash and locked Elton Brand and Corey Maggette into long-term deals. However, the Clippers are still as bad as ever. If the losing continues, don't expect to see Sterling sign another big check for a long, long time.

Insider First-Half Awards

MVP: Peja Stojakovic, G/F, Kings. Kevin Garnett has better numbers. Tim Duncan may be the best player in the NBA. Jason Kidd leads all players in the league's plus/minus rating. Baron Davis is having a breakout year. So how does Stojakovic get the nod? There aren't any easy answers here, but I'll try to explain my thinking. Stojakovic's Kings have the best record in the NBA despite losing their best player, Chris Webber. In C-Webb's absence, Stojakovic has stepped up with career-high numbers. His 25.1 ppg ranks third in the league. But here's the amazing thing . . . the efficiency with which he is shooting the ball this season. Seventy-seven percent of Stojakovic's shots this season are jump shots. Despite that fact, he's shooting 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from the 3-point line while taking an average of 6.6 3-pointers a game. He takes 33 percent of shots with less than eight seconds left on the shot clock, and hits 54 percent of them. He's doing this without the benefit of defenses double teaming his teammates in the paint. In other words, he's making most of these shots with a hand in his face. In league where shooting has become a lost art, Stojakovic's performance this season has been phenomenal. Once Webber gets back, this will change. At the end of the season, my guess is that this will be a two-horse race between KG and TD. But for the first half? Peja deserves the nod.

Rookie of the Year: LeBron James, G, Cavs. I know there's been a popular movement for Carmelo the past week based, in large part, on the disparity between the Nuggets' record and the Cavs'. As I said above, I do believe that a team's record should play a big part in determining the MVP Award. I feel a little differently about the ROY. To me, the award should be based on who is having the better season. James is dominating the competition without any real help around him. His good numbers aren't just the product of lots of minutes on a bad team. He dominates. Not only is he scoring more points at a higher field goal percentage, the assists and steals LeBron gets are fantastic for a rookie. Carmelo is having an outstanding year, but I wouldn't say he's dominating just yet.

Sixthman Award: Earl Boykins, G, Nuggets. Antawn Jamison and Al Harrington may have better numbers, but in crunch times, no one has been more of a spark plug off the bench than Boykins. Of the top four five-man units that the Nuggets play, Boykins is the only Nugget in all four. He's on the floor 75 percent of the time in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets outscore their opponents by an average of 7.5 ppg when Boykins is on the floor in the fourth. Ask anyone on the Nuggets and they'll tell you that Boykins is the big reason that this team is 24-18 instead of 18-24 at this point in the season. In big games, he's money.

Michael Redd
Shooting Guard
Milwaukee Bucks

40 21.7 5.5 2.4 .445 .862

Most Improved: Michael Redd, G, Bucks. In a chat last week, I said I was leaning toward Erick Dampier of the Warriors. But I decided to reconsider. Dampier is having the best year of his career, but it's an incremental increase and, it's a contract year. You could make the argument that he's just finally playing hard. Redd, on the other hand, has shown steady improvement each of his four years in the league. This year, however, he's made the jump from sixth man to all-star, and it's been impressive. His 21.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg and 2.4 apg are all career highs by a long shot and rival the production Ray Allen had when he was there. He has benefited from more playing time, but it's not a huge increase. The thing that gives Redd the biggest edge is his leadership on the floor. After being a role player for several years, he's learned how to step up and carry this team on his back.

Defensive Player: Ron Artest, G, Pacers. Ben Wallace has had his due. Artest deserved the award last year and deserves it again this year. Unlike Wallace, Artest can guard four positions on the floor. Artest's ability to shut down anyone his coach wants him to gives him the edge .

Coach of the Year: Jerry Sloan, Jazz. Rick Carlisle has done amazing things with the Pacers and Terry Porter has completely changed the style and tenor of the Bucks, but no one has done more with less than Sloan. Sloan can go into any game, regardless of who is dressing that night, with two convictions. One, no one will out execute his team. Two, no one will out hustle them. When those two factors are givens, you're going to win more than you lose. Could you imagine what Sloan could do with the young talent on a team like the Suns or Clippers?

Executive of the Year: Kiki Vandeweghe, Nuggets. This was a two-man race with Mitch Kupchak before Shaq, Kobe and Karl Malone all went down with injuries. In all the hoopla over landing two Hall of Famers, Kupchak forget to find a bench. Vandeweghe, who blew his team to pieces just two years ago, didn't forget about the bench. After adding a ton of young talent the last two seasons, his ability to find wily veterans under rocks (Boykins, Voshon Lenard, Jon Barry) gave the Nuggets enough experience to do more than just improve -- now they compete. When you factor in the Nuggets' payroll and cap space next season without losing any major players, this is a no-brainer.

The Good, the Bad, the Kitchen Sink

As the Pacers hit their halfway point of the season with more wins than any other team in the NBA, let us note that while there is only one team in the Atlantic Division with a winning record, there are only two teams in the Pacific Division with winning records.

The Good

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Week's work: 4-0 record, 27.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1 spg, 1.5 bpg, 7 triples, 47.5% shooting
How about a warm round of applause for All-NBA power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who just recently decided to join us for the 2003-04 season. He had no 30-point games in October, only one in November (while averaging only 6.3 rebounds per game) and two in December (while shooting 37 percent from the field). So far in January, he's had three 30-point games, 103 rebounds in his last 10 games, is shooting 48.6 percent and his big German fingerprints all over the Mavs' four-game win streak.

Keith Van Horn, New York Knicks
Week's work: 3-0 record, 25.3 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 0.6 apg, 2 spg, 11 triples, 57.4% shooting
With all eyes on Isiah Thomas, Lenny Wilkens, Stephon Marbury and Allan Houston, you can hardly see Keith Van Horn sliding into his comfort zone, which is exactly the point.

Andrei Kirilenko, Utah Jazz
Week's work: 2-1 record, 21 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.3 spg, 5.3 bpg, 4 triples, 47.6% shooting
ESPN has this little gig going called Fantasy Basketball. Maybe you've heard of it. Well, in this game, they keep track of NBA players' statistics in various ways and have people like you and me create our own teams. I've even heard that other such entities host their own fantasy leagues, too. Well, in this ESPN version, the second-highest ranked player in the entire NBA is Andrei Kirilenko. Maybe you've heard of him by now, too.

Reggie Miller, Indiana Pacers
Week's work: 3-0 record, 16.6 ppg, 2 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1 spg, 11 triples, 60% shooting
In 41 games this season, Reggie Miller has scored 411 points. That means prior to this week, the NBA's most prolific 3-point shooter was averaging less than double-digits for the first time in his 17-season career. And let's just hope, for Pacer fans' sake, he builds more than a one-point cushion from here since Indiana is 14-1 in games in which he scores 10 or more points.

Mehmet Okur, Detroit Pistons
Week's work: 4-0 record, 14.2 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 1 bpg, 61.3% shooting
Turkish big man was going, going, almost gone after watching his scoring go from 10 points per game in October to 9.3 in November to 8.9 in December while his shooting went from 53 percent to 42 percent to 40 percent in that same amount of time. But after hitting 27 of his last 29 free throws and all that that entails, Piston fans in the greater Detroit area are finding out how to say Happy New Year in Turkish.

The Bad

Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
Weak work: 0-4 record, 16.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5 apg, 1.5 spg, 1 bpg, 28% shooting
Our favorite leprechaun scored a total of four points on 1-for-10 shooting last Wednesday against the Rockets and most made the mistake of calling this the exception to his rule. But the best swingman in the NBA shot 35 percent from the field the game before, 27 percent from the field the game after and only 33 percent from the field Sunday night on national television against the Spurs.

Rashard Lewis, Seattle SuperSonics
Weak work: 0-3 record, 11 ppg, 8.6 apg, 4.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg, 29.5% shooting
Usually, you've got to do more than just shoot this badly to get on this list. But considering that Mr. Lewis rebounded well, handed out more than his fair share of assists and played fine defense, then it must have been the fact that instead of attacking the rim during aforementioned shooting slump he kept hoisting them up from long range to the tune of 3-for-17 or 17 percent. That's 5.6 long-range attempts per game when, on the season, he was averaging 4.5 on 38 percent. On second count, that's actually 25 3-point attempts in the Sonics' four-game losing streak that extends to the previous week's action.

Dajuan Wagner, Cleveland Cavaliers
Weak work: 2-2 record, 5.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1 apg, 0.2 spg, 0.2 bpg, 32.3% shooting
If he's still hurt, then how does he take 23 shots in two games in only 55 minutes to start the week? If he isn't hurt, then how does he tally eight personal fouls but not a single rebound, assist, steal or block in the final two games of the week?

Derek Anderson, Portland Trail Blazers
Weak work: 4-0 record, 10.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 4 apg, 0.2 spg, 0 bpg, 37.8% shooting
Look, I know it's kinda unfair since this guy is coming off an injury, too, but somebody's got to get blamed for that stench coming out of Rip City. Since returning to the lineup, he's shooting 29 percent. On the season, he's shooting 28 percent. Take away his grudge night against the Clippers on Tuesday and he shoots 22 percent for the week.

The Ugly

If you thought the four turnovers Saturday night against the Grizzlies were bad, then you didn't see the six turnovers Allen Iverson had against the Mavericks on Wednesday night or the six he had on Monday night against the Magic or the nine he had last Saturday against the Wizards. For the season, Iverson is averaging a career-high and NBA-worst 4.71 turnovers per game, which includes the six turnovers per game he's currently registering nightly in January.

The Kitchen Sink

Despite being without the services of Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone, the Los Angeles Lakers have won three of their last four games by getting it done on the defensive end despite playing three of the most explosive offensive teams in the league. On the season, the Lakers are giving up an average of 94.8 points per game while opponents shot 43.4 percent and 31.3 percent from three. In their last four games against the Kings (No. 1 in scoring), Nuggets (No. 6 in scoring), Clippers (no. 7 in scoring) and Cavs, the Lakers have held their opponents to 85.5 points on 39.8 percent shooting and 27.5 percent from the long distance. Those numbers stretched out over the season would have them ranked No. 5, No. 3 and No. 1 in the league in those respective categories.

Last year, there were 25 players who finished the season averaging 20 or more points per game. So far this year, those number shave dwindled to 18. Of course, that number could swell once Shaq, Chris Webber and Ray Allen get enough games in to qualify. But at least six mainstays have little or no chance of reaching that level this season. They are:

Karl Malone (now averaging 14 ppg after 17 years above 20 ppg)
Glenn Robinson (at 17 after averaging more than 20 in 8 of last 9 years)
Gary Payton (averaging 14.3 after 8 of last 10 years above 20)
Antoine Walker (at 16.1 after scoring 20 or more in 5 of last 6 years)
Jalen Rose (fallen to 14.3 after 3 years above 20)
Michael Jordan (the 25th member last year at an even 20 and currently retired)

But the biggest decline has come from Ricky Davis, who is now averaging only 13.6 points per game. Others kicked out of the club are Shawn Marion (at 18.4), Steve Francis (17) and Antawn Jamison (15.8). And we haven't even included the injured Jamal Mashburn or Jerry Stackhouse.

That obviously means there are several new or returning members in the club. They are, in order of scoring rank, Peja Stojakovic, Baron Davis, Michael Redd, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Sam Cassell, LeBron James and Corey Maggette. Members who made it last year and still qualify are: Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnet, Paul Pierce, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Allan Houston and Stephon Marbury.

Since 1999, the year after Michael Jordan led the Bulls to their sixth NBA title and abruptly left the franchise with artistic differences with ownership and management, the Bulls have finished the season in last place twice, second to last once and third to last once. Last year, they showed marked improvement by finishing as the seventh-worst team in the league. So much for that. After losing their last three and seven of their last 10, the Bulls are only half a game from being the second-worst team in the league and only 2 losses away from being the worst. Again.

After averaging a nice 94.9 through the month of December, the Memphis Grizzlies have jumped to a whopping 107.1 points per game in January to boost their overall average to 97.2 on the season, which would place them fifth overall. And in those seven games in January, the Grizzlies have won six of them after finishing up December on a seven-game losing streak in which they never broke triple digits. On the season, the Grizzlies have averaged 101.5 points per game in wins and 92 points per game in losses.

Prior to January, Milwaukee Buck power forward Brian Skinner had a grand total of only five offensive rebounds in the six games he played. Since then, he's grabbed 31 offensive boards in nine January games for an average of 3.4 per game (only four players in the league have a better average than that over the season). As a result, the Bucks have gone from grabbing only 11.7 offensive rebounds per game to 12.8 and won seven of nine games in the month.

Yao Ming with 1,091,997 all-star votes at center
2004 season: 15.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 apg, 0.2 spg, 1.9 bpg, 52% shooting

Brad Miller with 175,973 all-star votes at center
2004 season: 14.9 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 4.8 apg, 0.8 spg, 1.3 bpg, 51% shooting

San Antonio Spurs (26-14) versus Detroit Pistons (28-13)
Monday, Jan. 19, 2004 in Detroit at 3 p.m. EST on NBALP

Detroit Pistons (28-13) versus Indiana Pacers (31-11)
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 in Indianapolis at 7 p.m. EST on NBALP

Detroit Pistons (28-13) versus Minnesota Timberwolves (26-12)
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004 in Minneapolis 8 p.m. EST on NBALP

The Detroit Pistons have won 12 games in a row, but only four of them have been on the road and only four of them have been against teams with a winning record and none of them on the road against a team with a winning record. If, next week, we're talking about a 15-game win streak then we'll also be talking about the only chance the Eastern Conference has in the Finals when there wasn't one last week.

The End
"I'm not a great player. I'm middle-of-the-pack. I have good nights, I have bad nights. And I probably wouldn't be half the player I am if I wasn't in Utah."

Jazz free-agent-to-be Greg Ostertag on the importance of math.

Rumor Central


Jamal Crawford


Jan. 19 - The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that Bulls GM John Paxson and Knicks president Isiah Thomas had spoken about a Crawford-to-the-Knicks trade. The report did not mention who the Knicks would be sending back in return. According to the New York Post, for Thomas to pull off a Crawford trade, he'd have to send back Kurt Thomas in return and be willing to take a bad Bulls contract (like Jerome Williams, Antonio Davis or Eddie Robinson) off Chicago's books.


Rasheed Wallace


Jan. 19 - Don Nelson and Blazers GM John Nash met Saturday to discuss a trade that would send Wallace to Dallas for Antawn Jamison and Tariq Abdul-Wahad. The meeting lasted about 20 minutes and ended without a deal. Nelson told the Dallas Morning News on Monday that the talks with the Blazers are "dead" and "it never really was alive." ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported this weekend that owner Paul Allen told Nelson he wanted to keep Wallace. Does that mean that 'Sheed is officially off the trading block?


Antawn Jamison


Jan. 19 - He's safe for now. Trade talks with the Blazers broke off over the weekend, meaning Jamison can breathe a little easier for now. The Cavs also have shown some interest, and the Mavs have pursued Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the past, but Mavs owner Mark Cuban continues to claim he's happy with the team and isn't inclined to make a trade.


Juwan Howard


Jan. 19 - GM John Gabriel has been shopping Howard, along with swingman Gordan Giricek, since mid December. Howard's agent, David Falk, told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday he doesn't know if the Magic will trade his client, but he thinks having both "Juwan and Drew Gooden is redundant. ... The Magic need to make a trade to get a big guy," Falk said.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Jalen Rose has been pushing the Raptors to make a trade for Howard. The Cavs, Sonics, Nuggets and Pistons have also reportedly shown interest.


Shareef Abdur-Rahim


Jan. 19 - The interest in Abdur-Rahim around the league is enormous. The Akron Beacon Journal reported Sunday that Abdur-Rahim wants out and the Cavs wouldn't mind taking him off the Hawks' hands. The New York Post reported the Blazers are trying to send Rasheed Wallace to Atlanta for Abdur-Rahim and Chris Crawford.
The question is whether the Hawks actually will trade him. Don't count on it, unless two things happen. One, the sale of the team finally is approved by the league sometime in January. And two, the Hawks find takers for Theo Ratliff and Jason Terry. If they can get those guys off the books, trading Abdur-Rahim gives them lots of cap flexibility.

Peep Show

Boston Celtics: The mind seems willing for Paul Pierce, but the body remains weak. "I'm not really bothered by the way I'm shooting. I think I got good looks. I missed a couple of layups,'' Pierce said in the Boston Herald despite an injured finger and career-low 40 percent shooting. "I'm never going to be worried about my shooting touch because I know in the long run it's going to be there for me. I feel good. Whenever I feel good mentally then all these other things just go out the window. Right now I'm feeling about as good as I have mentally all year. The physical things, I can work through those things."

Seattle SuperSonics: These are usually the words they inscribe on the tombstones of old coaches. "Right now, I'm not reaching these guys," Sonics head coach Nate McMillan said in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But he wasn't finished after his team lost their fourth in a row. "You've got to play with some heart," McMillan said. "This is the third game I've seen a loose ball, and we've had guys to reach for it, and they've had guys dive for it. For whatever reason why we're playing this way, I certainly have to take responsibility for that. Because you've got to come up with something to say, something to do to get them fired up, and they haven't responded to that." That wasn't the end of it, either. "I know what I'm giving it, that I'm giving it my all," McMillan said. "I've got to figure out what to do. Which are the right buttons to push, because I feel that this is the team where the right buttons have to be pushed."

New York Knicks: Once upon a time, Allan Houston called himself the best shooting guard in the NBA. Well, now he has another bold statement. "We're going to make the playoffs," Houston said in the New York Times. "Whatever happens, I don't care, we want to make the playoffs." And he wasn't the only one sounding so optimistic after the Knicks won their third game in a row. "This is probably as talented a team on paper as I had in New Jersey since we reached the finals," Keith Van Horn said.

Phoenix Suns: Amare Stoudemire and Antonio McDyess have more than their uniforms in common. "My toe hurts more than my ankle right now," Stoudemire said in the Arizona Republic as the team announced that he would miss at least the next two games. "I've got to take it day by day. I might not play on this trip, though . . . I've got to take my time and let my ankle heal. I can't let anybody force me to come back and play or tell me it's OK when I know it's not. So I'm going to take my time and take it day by day. Go by my inner feeling." McDyess will miss even more. "We'll spend however long it takes to get him back to where he can be efficient and strong," Suns trainer Aaron Nelson said. "With so many games right now, it's hard for him to do both (play and strengthen the leg). It's enough (of a deficiency) to limit him. He's not fully comfortable, and you can see he compensates. He uses his right leg as much as he can. He's been working on it for a couple of days, and things are going good. We'll get it stronger and he'll be ready to roll. But we're not going to put a time limit on it."

New Jersey Nets: The Nets are about to hit the road for seven of their next eight games and hope not to shoot themselves in the foot. "For the last two years, we haven't had that much success for who knows why," said Jason Kidd in the New York Post. "But for us to be an elite team, we have to find a way to win on the road." His coach agreed. "We need to stay positive. We know we've got a good team. We just need to keep our heads up as we get on the road," Byron Scott said. "It's a place you can get well very quickly. We've got three very tough opponents, so we've got to have our 'A' game, and be ready to play all three games."

01-19-2004, 05:54 PM
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Week's work: 4-0 record, 27.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1 spg, 1.5 bpg, 7 triples, 47.5% shooting
How about a warm round of applause for All-NBA power forward Dirk Nowitzki, who just recently decided to join us for the 2003-04 season. He had no 30-point games in October, only one in November (while averaging only 6.3 rebounds per game) and two in December (while shooting 37 percent from the field). So far in January, he's had three 30-point games, 103 rebounds in his last 10 games, is shooting 48.6 percent and his big German fingerprints all over the Mavs' four-game win streak.

Great quote.

01-19-2004, 08:44 PM
So because the Mavericks are not 40-0 right now, they are a disappointment?? i/expressions/rolleye.gif


What matters in the end are two things :

The Playoffs and the Championship.

And Mavs will be in the former....