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thebac
03-10-2004, 12:43 PM
Bickerstaff, Bobcats' staff already strategizing

It's exactly 104 days until Charlotte Bobcats GM Bernie Bickerstaff gets to do something ... official.
The team already has an office, staff, head coach, scouts, marketers, ticket salespeople and a web site. It even has a bright orange Bobcats logo to get your attention. But nothing in Charlotte really happens until June 22. That's when the Bobcats add the real bricks and mortar of any NBA franchise -- players -- in the upcoming expansion draft.

Two days later, June 24, the Bobcats will make their first-ever lottery selection with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. Exactly one week after the draft, they officially can begin wooing the free-agent class of 2004.

"You get a little stir crazy waiting around," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be patient and make sure you're prepared."

Bickerstaff has hardly been waiting. He and his staff have been cavorting through the league, college basketball arenas and Europe for six months searching for the right 15 players who will eventually become the Bobcats.

The process began in training camp in October and has extended through the season. Bickerstaff and a slew of scouts and front-office types have a major task ahead of them.

Not only do they need to evaluate the 100 or so prospects who will become available in the NBA draft and the 150 or so free agents who will flood the NBA market this summer, the Bobcats also have to be well versed on every player in the league in order to be ready for the expansion draft.

That's a lot of players to track.

"What we've done is, we ranked all of the players on every team in order of preference to us," Bickerstaff said. "Then we go through the rankings looking at restricted, unrestricted, early termination options and the like. We wanted to get a good handle on just who will be available to us."

The Bobcats have very little choice but to do that kind of homework. Teams can wait until June 12 to reveal their expansion rosters, giving the Bobcats only 10 days to plot a draft strategy.

Why doesn't Bickerstaff just pick up the phone and call the league's 29 other GMs and jump start the process a little? Because NBA rules prohibit Bickerstaff from even talking to other teams about players or potential deals until May 5. Until then, all he can do is project hypotheticals on dry-erase boards.

Every time there's a trade, injury or sudden shift in the balance of power in the league, the Bobcats have to react.

"We just have to try to map out all of the different scenarios out there," Bickerstaff said. "Things have changed since the trade deadline, which means we'll probably have to make another round of visits to make sure we've seen everyone on our list."

Such uncertainty makes it tough to predict what the Bobcats are going to do in June. But Bickerstaff claims there are a number of core principles that will inform the decisions the Bobcats make this summer.


Build through the draft: Bickerstaff said his team is least concerned with free agency right now. The team is looking for young players and thinks the best place to get them is in the expansion and amateur drafts. Bickerstaff said he doesn't expect to be a big player in free agency this year unless something special comes around. That means that, unlike previous expansion drafts, the Bobcats will be looking for core players they can begin building around.

A young core: Bickerstaff said the team will focus on developing a core group of young players. "We want to go with youth," Bickerstaff told Insider. "We want a young group of core players. We don't feel there are going to be any dominant players out there [in the expansion draft or free agency]. Therefore you focus on a core group of young players and build."

Veteran support: Much like the Nuggets did this year, Bickerstaff wants to make sure his young core is surrounded by a handful of patient, unselfish veterans who can show the rookies how to win and be professionals. "It's also important to find veteran players who understand their role, who are there to be positive in your locker room, to show professionalism, work ethic, to build those young players," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be very selective. They have to understand why they're there."

Cap flexibility: Don't expect owner Robert Johnson to break the bank on draft night. The Bobcats will be given the flexibility to select players in the expansion draft regardless of the size of the players' contracts. An owner like Mark Cuban could easily spend $50 million to $75 million in the expansion draft and come away with an impressive veteran core. Bickerstaff said he would resist that temptation. "Cap management is really important. We've got to be very careful who we give our money to." Bickerstaff understands most teams get in trouble when they lose their cap flexibility. He's trying to maintain it early on (despite being limited to only two-thirds of the salary cap this season and three-fourths next season) so the Bobcats can capitalize on an opportunity if one presents itself.

Let's make a deal: The Bobcats can expect to hear from several teams looking to enrich them if they're willing to select an undesirable player or two in the expansion draft. Teams like the Suns, Wizards and Pistons are looking for major cap room and might be willing to offer cash and draft picks if the Bobcats take a troublesome contract off their hands. Bickerstaff said that the idea, in theory, was interesting, but claimed he hasn't been able to talk with GMs around the league about it, so he couldn't really comment. "We're good listeners," Bickerstaff said. "I think we're going to be open to hearing what people want to offer."

Patience: The Bobcats know the fans in Charlotte aren't normal expansion fans. The Hornets' team that left two seasons ago was a playoff team. The city's NFL team just went to the Super Bowl and previously made it to the NFC Championship Game in only its second year in the league. Will Bickerstaff & Co. feel pressure to put a good team out on the floor right away? "No," Bickerstaff said bluntly. "We've got to be patient. Do the right things for the basketball team. It's important to have a young team. ... We want to build a product that has sustaining value."
Bickerstaff realizes that some attractive players will be put on the expansion list. He claims Charlotte can resist the temptation, unless, that is, someone dangles a star in their direction. "I know teams are going to put players on list with big salaries. If there's a player that makes a difference, you consider taking them. If that player makes a difference." What is a difference-maker? Bickerstaff said only a handful of players in the league qualify. In other words, you won't be seeing a difference-maker in this year's expansion draft.

Can the fans be that patient? Rebuilding in the NBA sometimes takes years. The Grizzlies, the league's last expansion team, have never been to the playoffs (though it looks like that will change this season). Before the Hornets finally left Charlotte, fans were staying away in droves. Most of their issues were with team owner George Shinn. Now that new management is in town, Bickerstaff says the response from the fans has been "very positive."

The Bobcats' plan is generally endorsed by GMs around the league. Insider talked to several about Bickestaff's blueprint, and all of them agreed that going young and maintaining cap flexibility is the way to go.

"The biggest problem that teams have right now is a lack of financial flexibility," one NBA GM said. "I think many of us would give our right leg to start with a fresh slate like Charlotte has. The temptation will be there to go grab an established player or two, because you do need stars in this league to win a championship. Having said that, I don't see any reason why the Bobcats can't be successful on the court doing what they're doing. Milwaukee and Utah have proved that you can be a playoff team with a collection of mid-priced veterans and young people. If I'm Bernie, I follow the same path they did."

Fortunately, the Bobcats should be in a better position than the Bucks or Jazz when it comes to recruiting free agents. Players are generally interested in playing in Charlotte. The team should have a broad appeal for the numerous former ACC players in the NBA.

"The weather's pretty good, Charlotte is a great city, we're going to have a new arena and we have a great fan base," Bobcats P.R. director Scott Leightman said. "I think we won't have a hard time at all finding players who want to be here. When I go around the league and introduce myself as a member the Bobcats, they really light up. I think it's a great place to play basketball."

Expanding and contracting

Given the parameters Charlotte Bobcats general manager and head coach Bernie Bickerstaff has set up, what might the expansion draft look like in June?

Bickerstaff isn't talking, but Insider, drawing on several interviews with Bernie B. and other GMs around the league, is willing to take a shot.

Bickerstaff made it clear that the team is looking for young, athletic players. It will shy away from veterans in the expansion draft, especially those with huge contracts. While, theoretically, the team could nab high-priced veterans like Keith Van Horn, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Penny Hardaway, Raef LaFrentz, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel in this draft, Bickerstaff has made it clear the team would only spend that kind of money on a player that "makes a real difference."

When asked to clarify, Bickerstaff stated that only a handful of players in the league (read: Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett) qualify as "difference-makers."

That means the Bobcats are going to be looking for deals that land them draft picks, young players with a chance to develop, and/or players with low-priced contracts or team options that Charlotte can quickly clear off the books to make room for free agency.

Before we begin, just a quick reminder on the rules of the expansion draft:


Unrestricted free agents are ineligible for the expansion draft.

Each team can protect up to eight players. If a team has less than eight players on its roster to protect, it still must leave a minimum of one player unprotected.

The Bobcats must select a minimum of 14 players and can select a maximum of 29 players overall.

The Bobcats can select only one player from any one NBA team.

The Bobcats are not bound to the salary cap during the draft. They can take on as many contracts as they like. However, once the draft is over, any players they've drafted and keep will count toward their cap (it should come in at around $31 million).

As long as the Bobcats waive a player selected in the expansion draft before the first day of the regular season, the player's remaining contract does not count against the team's salary cap.

Restricted free agents drafted in the expansion draft automatically become unrestricted free agents.

Teams are allowed to entice the Bobcats to select players by offering cash, draft picks or agreeing to additional trades in return.

If a team has a player selected by the Bobcats, the team receives a trade exception equal to the player's 2004-05 salary. This allows teams to replace a player lost in the expansion draft with another player of comparable salary.
Here's one opinion on how things might go down in June.

MOCK EXPANSION DRAFT FOR CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

Pick Pos./Name Team Contract Comment
1
C Jahidi White Suns 1 year, $6.2 million How do the Suns convince the Bobcats to swallow this contract? They offer $3 million in cash (the most a team can pay) and their first-round pick (currently the third pick in the draft). The Bobcats would jump at the chance to have another high lottery pick. Why does Phoenix do it? Getting White off the books gives them roughly $16 million in cap space to make a run at Kobe Bryant this summer. They know they're a little short right now.

2
C Elden Campbell Pistons 1 year, $4.4 million This is the second of three deals the Bobcats would have to consider. If the Pistons threw in $3 million in cash, Campbell would cost them just $1.4 million for the season. Throw in a future Pistons first-rounder (Detroit already traded this year's away), and the Bobcats may just bite. What's in it for Detroit? An extra $4.4 million in cap space should allow them to re-sign both Mehmet Okur and Rasheed Wallace this summer.

3
PG/SG Larry Hughes Wizards 1 year, $5.5 million This will be the other deal to look at. The Wizards also are interested in clearing cap space, and Hughes may tempt the Bobcats. He's a good, young talent with only one year left on his contract. Hughes can play multiple positions and gives the team someone who can score and pass the ball. If the Wizards threw in cash, would the Bobcats bite? Washington might be willing to throw in its lottery pick (currently No. 6) if the Bobcats took Christian Laettner (1 year, $6.2 million) instead. The Wizards, in return, clear enough room to throw $10 million or so at a free agent this summer.

4
PG Troy Bell Grizzlies 2 years, $2.8 million The Grizzlies are going to have to leave at least two interesting young prospects unprotected. Looking at their roster, it looks like Bell is the most promising. A lottery-pick point guard last year, Bell can score, handle the ball, is a great athlete and a four-year college star. Dahntay Jones and Theron Smith also are interesting options here, but Bell has the most upside.

5
PF Melvin Ely Clippers 1 year, $1.7 million The Clippers leave Ely unprotected knowing that the Bobcats will be tempted. The former lottery pick has struggled to crack a deep frontcourt in L.A. His ability to play the four or the five should be appealing to Charlotte. He's probably the best young four on the board. Clearing this cap space allows the Clippers to get roughly $16 million under the cap this summer to make a run at Kobe.

6
SG/SF Tamar Slay Nets Restricted free agent From here on out, the Bobcats probably switch gears and start looking for bargains or restricted free agents who immediately come off the books. Slay is a promising talent who could be re-signed, but mostly he allows the Bobcats to conserve their cap space.

7
C Jamal Sampson Lakers 1 year, $695,000 (team option) Sampson is young and very athletic. He may be worth a look at a minimum salary to see what they have. There aren't going to be very many young, athletic bigs in this draft or in free agency, so Sampson is worth the trouble.

8
PF Jarron Collins Jazz Restricted free agent Collins has been solid as a starting and reserve power forward for the Jazz. If he would agree to a small contract, he'd be a nice pick-up here. Otherwise, he becomes an unrestricted free agent, goes off the cap, and the Bobcats save money for the free-agent market.

9
F James Jones Pacers 1 year, $600,000 (team option) The Pacers would hate to lose him. Jones has great athleticism and shooting ability for a 6-foot-8 player. He's the type of guy that could make the team as a role player.


10
G Omar Cook Blazers 1 year, $400,000 (team option) Cook has the pedigree and has shown some maturity in the NBDL and with his recent stint with the Blazers. His salary is more attractive than anything else, but he's probably a guy who gets invited to training camp for a look.

11
G Richie Frahm Sonics 1 year, $600,000 (team option) Frahm has had a few nice moments in Seattle, but again, this is just about saving money at this point.

12
G Jeff Trepagnier Nuggets 1 year, $700,000 (team option) He's a high flyer, but if they take him, the Bobcats probably won't exercise his option.

13
C Ruben Boumtje Boumtje Cavaliers Restricted free agent Another cap casualty. He really doesn't fit, but he allows the team to save cash.

14
G Jon Stefansson Mavericks 4 years, $2.2 million (team option) Once again, the Bobcats draft him and promptly dump him.

Conclusion

If the draft followed this projection, you'd expect the Bobcats to keep Hughes, Bell, Ely, Sampson and possibly Jones, Slay and Collins (if they can work out reasonable deals with those three).
That's not a bad core. Bell can play the point; Hughes is a capable two; and Ely could start at either the four or five. Collins could start at the five in a pinch. And Slay, Jones and Collins could all be rotation players off the bench.

Chances are, under this scenario, they would waive White and Campbell for salary-cap reasons.

That would give the Bobcats a total salary cap hit of $11.8 million, assuming Hughes, Bell, Ely, Sampson, Jones, Slay and Collins were all on the roster opening day. Combine that with their $2.5 million cap hold for the No. 4 draft pick, a $2.8 million cap hold for the Suns' No. 3 (assuming they do the Suns trade), and two minimum cap holds to fill out their roster, and Charlotte would have used $17.8 million of its projected $31 million in cap space. (Remember, the Bobcats only get two-thirds of the regular cap in Year One).

The team also would be in great shape for the draft and free agency. In the draft, two lottery picks allows them to tap a proven college player with one and a high school or international project who can pan out down the road with the other. The team would need immediate help at the three and five, especially. If a player like Duke's Luol Deng was available, that would be an awesome hometown fit. The other pick could be used on a big international player with huge upside, like Andris Biedrins, Pavel Podkolzine or Kosta Perovic.

The Bobcats won't find everything they need in the draft, but given the extra cap space they'd save by drafting the way we've explained from the expansion pool, the team would have roughly $14 million left to fill in the holes via free agency.

With young players like Kenyon Martin, Mehmet Okur, Jamal Crawford, Quentin Richardson, Stromile Swift, Rodney White and Hedo Turkoglu available in free agency, Charlotte might be able to land one more big-time prospect in the free agent market and put a very decent team on the floor in November.

Protected list projections

How do teams go about deciding who to protect for the expansion draft?
It's an emerging science that many teams are still wrestling with. Insider talked to numerous team sources to try to get insight into that process, and from those conversations we have made our first attempt at projecting who will and won't be protected for the expansion draft.

The rules are pretty simple. Teams are allowed to protected a maximum of eight players for the expansion draft. Since unrestricted free agents are ineligible to be drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats, they don't count. If a team has fewer than eight players under contract, they still must leave at least one player unprotected.

That's the bad news. The good news is the Bobcats are only allowed to select one player from each NBA team. If a team has one of its players selected, the team receives a trade exception equal to the player's 2004-05 salary. This allows teams to replace a player lost in the expansion draft with another player of comparable salary.

So how do teams go about making the list? The general rule is for teams to put players on the unprotected list who make huge salaries. The Bobcats are unlikely to select players with onerous contracts, which is why players like Keith Van Horn, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Penny Hardaway, Raef LaFrentz, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel could be left unprotected.

Teams also try to keep young players with reasonable contracts off the list. That's why it's likely you'll see a team like Washington leave a better player, like Larry Hughes, unprotected in order to protect a cheap, young player like Steve Blake.

Finally, teams are allowed to entice the Bobcats to take, or refrain from taking, a player on the list. Teams can offer draft picks, cash or future trades to incent Charlotte one way or the other. Several teams, including the Suns, Wizards and Pistons, may go this route.

With that said, some teams have no choice but to leave players they value unprotected. The Grizzlies are the best example. They have a very deep team, and almost all of their players are under contract. They'll have to leave as many as five or six very serviceable players unprotected. They could offer the Bobcats money or a pick not to pick someone, but if he's on the list, he's fair game.

ATLANTA HAWKS
Protected players
Boris Diaw, Travis Hansen, Stephen Jackson, Joel Przybilla and Jason Terry. Unprotected players Chris Crawford and Alan Henderson.

BOSTON CELTICS
Protected players
Marcus Banks, Mark Blount, Ricky Davis, Brandon Hunter, Chris Mihm, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce and Jiri Welsch. Unprotected players Jumaine Jones, Raef LaFrentz, Walter McCarty and Michael Stewart.


CHICAGO BULLS
Protected players
Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Ronald Dupree, Marcus Fizer, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Jefferies and Linton Johnson. Unprotected players Antonio Davis, Scottie Pippen, Eddie Robinson and Jerome Williams.


CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Protected players
Tony Battie, Carlos Boozer, Kedrick Brown, DeSagana Diop, LeBron James, Jason Kapono, Jeff McInnis and Dajuan Wagner. Unprotected players Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie.


DALLAS MAVERICKS
Protected players
Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Josh Howard, Antawn Jamison, Eduardo Najera, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker. Unprotected players Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Shawn Bradley, Tony Delk, Danny Fortson and Jon Stefansson.


DENVER NUGGETS
Protected players
Chris Andersen, Carmelo Anthony, Earl Boykins, Marcus Camby, Nene Hilario, Voshon Lenard, Andre Miller and Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Unprotected players Ryan Bowen, Francisco Elson and Jeff Trepagnier.


DETROIT PISTONS
Protected players
Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Darko Milicic, Mehmet Okur, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Corliss Williamson. Unprotected players Elden Campbell.


GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Protected players
Speedy Claxton, Erick Dampier, Mike Dunleavy, Popeye Jones, Troy Murphy, Mickael Pietrus, Jason Richardson and Cliff Robinson. Unprotected players Evan Eschmeyer and Nick Van Exel.


HOUSTON ROCKETS
Protected players
Steve Francis, Adrian Griffin, Jim Jackson, Yao Ming, Cuttino Mobley, Bostjan Nachbar, Eric Piatkowski and Mike Wilks. Unprotected players Kelvin Cato, Maurice Taylor and Clarence Weatherspoon.


INDIANA PACERS
Protected players
Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender, Jeff Foster, Al Harrington, Fred Jones, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley. Unprotected players Jamison Brewer, Primoz Brezec, Austin Croshere, Anthony Johnson, James Jones and Scot Pollard.


LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Protected players
Elton Brand, Keyon Dooling, Eddie House, Marko Jaric, Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson and Chris Wilcox. Unprotected players Matt Barnes, Peja Drobnjak, Melvin Ely, Josh Moore and Bobby Simmons.


LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Protected players
Kobe Bryant, Brian Cook, Devean George, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Kareem Rush and Luke Walton. Unprotected players Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Jamal Sampson.


MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Protected players
Shane Battier, Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, James Posey, Stromile Swift, Earl Watson, Bonzi Wells and Jason Williams. Unprotected players Troy Bell, Ryan Humphrey, Dahntay Jones, Bo Outlaw, Theron Smith, Jake Tsakalidis and Lorenzen Wright.


MIAMI HEAT
Protected players
Malik Allen, Jerome Beasley, Caron Butler, Rasual Butler, Udonis Haslem, Lamar Odom, Dwyane Wade and Loren Woods. Unprotected players Brian Grant and Eddie Jones.


MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Protected players
T.J. Ford, Dan Gadzuric, Marcus Haislip, Desmond Mason, Michael Redd, Daniel Santiago, Brian Skinner and Joe Smith. Unprotected players Erick Strickland and Keith Van Horn.


MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Protected players
Sam Cassell, Ndudi Ebi, Kevin Garnett, Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson, Mark Madsen, Michael Olowokandi and Wally Szczerbiak. Unprotected players Ervin Johnson and Latrell Sprewell.


NEW JERSEY NETS
Protected players
Jason Collins, Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, Zoran Planinic and Aaron Williams. Unprotected players Alonzo Mourning, Rodney Rogers, Brian Scalabrine and Tamar Slay.


NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Protected players
Courtney Alexander, Darrell Armstrong, P.J. Brown, Baron Davis, George Lynch, Jamaal Magloire, Jamal Mashburn and David West. Unprotected players David Wesley.


NEW YORK KNICKS
Protected players
Othella Harrington, Allan Houston, Stephon Marbury, Nazr Mohammed, Mike Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, Tim Thomas and Frank Williams. Unprotected players Shandon Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Dikembe Mutombo, Moochie Norris and Cezary Trybanski.


ORLANDO MAGIC
Protected players
Keith Bogans, Andrew DeClercq, Reece Gaines, Drew Gooden, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, Tracy McGrady and Zaza Pachulia. Unprotected players Pat Garrity and Grant Hill.


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Protected players
Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, Allen Iverson, Kyle Korver, Glenn Robinson, John Salmons, Eric Snow and Kenny Thomas. Unprotected players Greg Buckner, Derrick Coleman, Marc Jackson, Todd MacCulloch and Aaron McKie.


PHOENIX SUNS
Protected players
Leandro Barbosa, Zarko Cabarkapa, Casey Jacobsen, Joe Johnson, Maciej Lampe, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Jake Voskuhl. Unprotected players Howard Eisley and Jahidi White.


PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Protected players
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Dale Davis, Darius Miles, Travis Outlaw, Zach Randolph, Theo Ratliff and Qyntel Woods. Unprotected players Derek Anderson, Omar Cook, Eddie Gill, Ruben Patterson, Vladimir Stepania and Damon Stoudamire.


SACRAMENTO KINGS
Protected players
Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, Brad Miller, Anthony Peeler, Darius Songaila, Peja Stojakovic, Gerald Wallace and Chris Webber. Unprotected players Doug Christie.


SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Protected players
Bruce Bowen, Devin Brown, Tim Duncan, Alex Garcia, Manu Ginobili, Rasho Nesterovic, Tony Parker and Hedo Turkoglu. Unprotected players Robert Horry and Malik Rose.


SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
Protected players
Ray Allen, Nick Collison, Antonio Daniels, Reggie Evans, Rashard Lewis, Ronald Murray, Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Ridnour. Unprotected players Calvin Booth, Richie Frahm, Jerome James and Vitaly Potapenko.


TORONTO RAPTORS
Protected players
Robert Archibald, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Donyell Marshall, Roger Mason Jr., Jerome Moiso, Milt Palacio and Morris Peterson. Unprotected players Lamond Murray, Jalen Rose and Alvin Williams.


UTAH JAZZ
Protected players
Carlos Arroyo, Curtis Borchardt, Gordan Giricek, Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko, Raul Lopez, Aleksandar Pavlovic and Maurice Williams. Unprotected players Raja Bell and Jarron Collins.


WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Protected players
Gilbert Arenas, Steve Blake, Kwame Brown, Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes, Brendan Haywood, Jared Jeffries and Etan Thomas. Unprotected players Larry Hughes, Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse.

Anthony-led Nuggets are aberration

Remember the good old days?

When Grant Hill re-injured his ankle before the All Star break, former Rookie of the Year Mike Miller was shipped out of town for Drew Gooden (since demoted) and Gordan Giricek (since traded) and Horace Grant nearly came to blows with then head coach Doc Rivers on an airplane?

That was when Tracy McGrady averaged 32.1 points per game.

Well, a year later, scoring is down across the league by just over four points a game as McGrady again leads the league in points per game but this time at 27.5.

Orlando got the free agent they wanted over the summer. The Magic's starting rotation has remained relatively healthy over the entire course of the season. McGrady, himself, is on pace to play more games this year for the Magic than he ever has before. But, as a team, they are scoring 3.4 points per game less than last year and their record has gone from 42-40 to a current NBA-worst 18-47.

McGrady blames the zone defenses. Everyone else blames Bruce Bowen. And the author of the new rules that were supposed to increase scoring, Jerry Colangelo, wants to up and sell his Phoenix Suns franchise as the team has gone from 95.5 points per game last year to 93.7 this year. Twenty of the league's 29 teams also show decreases in scoring.

And the latest headline in the Arizona Republic reads: Mavericks' Zone Frustrates Suns.

McGrady can only shake his head at the irony as we see how other teams across the league are doing in scoring compared to last year's output.

Top 5 Scoring Increases

1. Denver Nuggets
Difference: +12.5 (84.2 ppg. to 96.7 ppg)
At this rate, Carmelo Anthony will be averaging 37 points per game by June. Let me explain. In November, Melo was averaging 17.7 points per game on 38 percent shooting. In December, he boosted those numbers to 19.6 ppg on 40 percent shooting. By the end of January, he was shooting 45 percent, which brings us to February, when the rookie exploded for 27.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field, 43 percent from long range and 80 percent from the line. March? April? May? Points are up. Wins are up. And Nene Hilario, who was the second-leading scorer last year at 10.5, is now just Nene and the fourth-leading scorer on the team at 11.4.

2. Seattle SuperSonics
Difference: +4.5 (92.1 ppg. to 96.6 ppg)
Last year, the Sonics had four guys who could hit the 3-pointer. This year, with the addition of Flip Murray, they have five. The problem, though, is that they'd be much better served if that number were three or even two. As it stands now, all five of their top five scorers are perimeter players, and as a result, almost 30 percent of their shots come from distance. Rebounds are down. Assists are down. Defense is non-existent. But, hey, they're making 3.4 more 3-pointers a game than last year.

3. Sacramento Kings
Difference: +2.9 (101.7 ppg. to 104.6 ppg)
The good news for Kings' opponents is that after scoring 105 points per game in January on 47 percent shooting, the Kings went down to 103.8 in February on 45.9 percent shooting. The bad news is that those numbers would still lead the league in scoring and place them second in shooting. And here's the worse news of all. With Chris Webber back, the Kings are averaging 107.5 points per game in March with Bobby Jackson still in reserve.

4. Miami Heat
Difference: +2.8 (85.6 ppg. to 88.4 ppg)
Lamar Odom is about another 30-point game away from leading this team in scoring, rebounding and assists. This team was dead in the water before Pat Riley skipped out and Caron Butler went lame. Now, they're tied for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and Odom is posting career highs in points, boards and creative ways to get one of the worst shooting teams in the league into the win column. Who would have thought that a Heat team whose leading scorer, Eddie Jones, is shooting 41 percent from the field and whose third-leading scorer is a rookie while the fourth-leading scorer is shooting 38 percent from the field would actually be better than last year? Well, as a matter of fact, Odom did.

5. Los Angeles Clippers
Difference: +2.3 (93.8 ppg. to 96.1 ppg)
Elton Brand is scoring a career high and shooting better than he did last year. Corey Maggette is scoring a career high and shooting better than he did last year. Quentin Richardson is scoring a career high and shooting better than he did last year. That's the good news. The bad news is that after all of that, the Clippers have gone from being the second-worst team in the Western Conference to being the third-worst team and you can't expect your top three scorers to post career numbers every season.

Top 5 Scoring Decreases

25. New Jersey Nets
Difference: -5.8 (95.4 ppg. to 89.6 ppg)
The Nets may not be scoring more. But they are scoring better. Last year, Jason Kidd led them at 18.7 points per game but shot only 41 percent from the field. Heck, he's shot 40 percent for his career. This year, the Nets are led in scoring by Kenyon Martin (17.6 ppg) and Richard Jefferson (17.4 ppg) and they're shooting 48 percent and 49 percent, respectively. But this didn't happen overnight. In November, Kidd averaged 17.2 points per game and the team scored 88 a game while Martin and Jefferson combined for 31 and the team went 7-9. By February, Kidd was down to 14.5 points per game and the team scored 93.7 a game while Martin and Jefferson combined for 36.8 and the team went 11-2.

26. Indiana Pacers
Difference: -6.5 (96.8 ppg. to 90.3 ppg)
I can bust out my slide rule and calculator and pretend like I know how Rick Carlisle can turn your ordinary NBA team into a stingy defensive phenomenon almost overnight. But, bah humbug, it's a lot easier showing the results. Last year, the Pacers scored more and won less with an average margin of victory of 3.5. This year, the Pacers are scoring less and winning more with an average margin of victory of five. Yes, the Pacers seem less exciting. Yes, almost as boring as last year's Pistons. And, yes, they are the one team in the entire NBA that has already clinched a playoff spot by March 8. But don't ask me to explain.

27. Toronto Raptors
Difference: -6.6 (90.9 ppg. to 84.3 ppg)
This team was built around a healthy Vince Carter, circa 2001, when he averaged 27.6 points per game on 46 percent shooting and had missed only seven games in three seasons. The following year, he missed 22 games. The year after that, he missed 39 games. So far this year, he's missed nine games and his numbers have fallen to 21.5 points per game on 41 percent shooting and it took a flurry of trades just to get this team to 80 points a game. Let's not forget that it wasn't to long ago, November to be exact, that this team averaged only 76.8 points per game.

28. Philadelphia 76ers
Difference: -8.2 (96.8 ppg. to 88.6 ppg)
Philly loves Allen Iverson. Philly loves Allen Iverson not. The problem, though, isn't Allen Iverson. Last year's top five scorers averaged 76 points per game but had only 25 games missed to injuries. This year's top five scorers are averaging 76.4 points per game but have 96 games missed to injury and counting. Who knows how good they would have been and how many more points they would have scored if either Iverson and Glenn Robinson, the team's top two leading scorers at a combined 43.6 points per game, hadn't missed 40 of 64 games so far.

29. Golden State Warriors
Difference: -9.0 (102.4 ppg. to 93.4 ppg)
It isn't Jason Richardson's fault that the team, for whatever reasons, cut ties with Antawn Jamison (22.2 points per game) and Gilbert Arenas (18.3 points per game), but all of a sudden he's the leading scorer at 18.9 while the next guy in line, Nick Van Exel, has missed 22 games this year, and the guy behind him, Erick Dampier, had a career scoring average of 8.2 per game coming into the season. Either way, you're only going to squeeze so much out of Mike Dunleavy, Brian Cardinal and Speedy Claxton until you realize that you're on pace to win only 33 games this year and end up about eight games out of the playoffs after winning 38 last year and only six games out of the playoffs.

Peep Show

Chicago Bulls: Head coach Scott Skiles needs all the help he can get with Eddy Curry. "I wish, frankly, that everyone would stop focusing so much on Eddy's scoring, because that makes my job very difficult," Skiles said in the Daily Herald. "I'm trying to convince him to play defense and block shots, and that's how we'll win. Everybody keeps asking me, 'Has Eddy arrived now? He's got 15 double-digit (scoring) games in a row.' It becomes difficult, because players can buy into that. He needs a lot of work on his defense and his rebounding."

Dallas Mavericks: To know Antoine Walker is to love Antoine Walker. "My role will be the same," Walker said in the Dallas Morning News after complaining about playing only 18 minutes in his last game. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to win games. I've never won like this. I'm happy as hell. The last thing I want is to be a distraction. I'm not concerned with my play. The goal is to be on top of your game at the playoffs. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be consistent. But I've never shot the ball for a high percentage. That's just not my game." And the Mavs understand. "He's one of the best players on this team," said assistant coach Donn Nelson. "And without him playing well, plain and simple, we're not going to be able to go as far as we want to. So it's in everyone's best interest, especially the Mavericks, that he get his game back together. This is a 'we' thing. We will work through this together. But we will not drop games in the process. That's the same as with any of our other guys."

New York Knicks: Vin Baker wants to be a Knick. And, apparently, the Knicks wants Vin Baker."This is a person who's battling a disease," Isiah Thomas told the New York Post. "You're not talking about, quote, a bad person. If you're going to take a risk on anyone, this is the kind of guy you take a risk on. There's nothing in his family or background that would say he's a bad risk in terms of his person. If given the opportunity, we'll take the risk and try to support him and try to help him."

Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton wants to play basketball. But to do so , he has to wear a plastic mask to protect his surgically repaired nose. "Who knows? It could be for a couple of minutes and I'll throw it off or maybe it will stay on," Hamilton said in the Detroit News. "I'll be fine . . . It's still clogged up, but I'm OK. (Tuesday) was the first time running. I felt a little light-headed at times, just minor things." His coach just wants him back any way he can. "I don't know what kind of shape he's in, but he looks fine," Larry Brown said. "We'll see. Fortunately, the guys who have come in and played for the injured guys are good teammates -- we'll figure it out."

Minnesota Timberwolves: Silence was the best medicine for a slumping Latrell Sprewell, who broke out for 31 points Tuesday night. "I didn't think anybody wanted to talk to me. I'm there if people want to talk," Sprewell said in the Pioneer Press. "You go through periods where you're really not playing well, and your scoring may go down. It's part of the season, but with a team like ours we have a lot of different guys that can score." But that doesn't mean he wants less attention. "If anything, I'm not getting enough attempts and minutes," he said. "But I'm not pressing. I love to play. I'd rather be out on the court staying loose and being in the game."

Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson is stuck between a bone chip and a hard place. He can either play through some pain to help his team reach the playoffs and risk missing the postseason. Or he could undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove the bone chips in his right elbow and sit out five weeks, which could eliminate his team from the playoffs before they even start. "It's the player's decision," head coach Chris Ford said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "I talked to Glenn [yesterday morning], and as he told you, he's still weighing his options. Concerning injuries, I always leave it to the player and the medical people. He's been bothered most of the year [by the elbow]. He's been complaining, and visually you could see it; the arm was not straight. He couldn't get it straight; he played through it." Robinson has already missed 20 games this season. "The bottom line is, I'm probably going to end up having to get [the elbow] scoped," he said. "But that's a difficult situation, because I hate to have surgery in the middle of the season. At the same time, I don't want to keep being in and out, out and in. If I do it, I think about the playoffs - it would take about 3 to 5 weeks to heal. I definitely would like to be around for the playoffs. We still have a shot at being there. I don't want to waste too much time, either. I don't want to wait, and we get in the playoffs and I'm not around, either. It's a difficult decision for me...I want to play. I hate to be in and out the way I've been. We've been broken up all year. I've missed plenty of games already."

grndmstr_c
03-10-2004, 12:50 PM
Forgive me, but, since Marquis only has a one year deal and Steve is going to opt out, why would we need to protect them? I've been under the impression that wasn't going to be necessary.

MightyToine
03-10-2004, 12:57 PM
DALLAS MAVERICKS
Protected players
Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Josh Howard, Antawn Jamison, Eduardo Najera, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker. Unprotected players Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Shawn Bradley, Tony Delk, Danny Fortson and Jon Stefansson.


WHAT?????????? i/expressions/face-icon-small-shocked.gif


That better not be true. i/expressions/face-icon-small-frown.gif





Dallas Mavericks: To know Antoine Walker is to love Antoine Walker. "My role will be the same," Walker said in the Dallas Morning News after complaining about playing only 18 minutes in his last game. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to win games. I've never won like this. I'm happy as hell. The last thing I want is to be a distraction. I'm not concerned with my play. The goal is to be on top of your game at the playoffs. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be consistent. But I've never shot the ball for a high percentage. That's just not my game." And the Mavs understand. "He's one of the best players on this team," said assistant coach Donn Nelson. "And without him playing well, plain and simple, we're not going to be able to go as far as we want to. So it's in everyone's best interest, especially the Mavericks, that he get his game back together. This is a 'we' thing. We will work through this together. But we will not drop games in the process. That's the same as with any of our other guys."


Antoine, just shut up and play. If I'm correct, you will suddenly become a smarter player come playoff time(ala Robert Horry) and be the ROLE PLAYER we expected you to be all season long, Mr.I-am-not-an-18-minute-player. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

dalmations202
03-10-2004, 01:07 PM
Originally posted by: grndmstr_c
Forgive me, but, since Marquis only has a one year deal and Steve is going to opt out, why would we need to protect them? I've been under the impression that wasn't going to be necessary.

From my understanding, you are correct sir. They will not need to protect them, provided Steve has opted out, and neither have been resigned yet. Why would you protect Walker as well? Would Charlotte take his 14M for one year? I doubt it.

jayC
03-10-2004, 01:30 PM
Shawn Bradly and Fortson they might be more productive else where. This team needs roster spots for guys like marcus camby, chris anderson, Wallace or Ostertag or even Dampier. Even though Im not sold on the latter two both would be upgrades from fortson or bradley. I like the Jamison for the fourth pick in the draft. Jamison is undersized, doesn't rebound consistently, and isn't a presence. The mavs need a defensive presence and that guy might be in the NBA draft.

Dooby
03-10-2004, 01:41 PM
Originally posted by: grndmstr_c
Forgive me, but, since Marquis only has a one year deal and Steve is going to opt out, why would we need to protect them? I've been under the impression that wasn't going to be necessary.

It is all screwed up. Daniels is free; Nash will exercise his option and be free; Stefanson has a 5 year minimum unguaranteed deal, so why would the Bobcats bother to pick him and cut him?

grndmstr_c
03-10-2004, 01:48 PM
I like Jamison. He's a good, not great rebounder at the SF spot, has improved his defense on the perimeter from earlier in the year, doesn't dominate the ball, scores efficiently, and can back up Dirk at the PF spot. All I've heard about this draft is that it's going to be a weak one. If we could get the right kind of guy out of a fourth pick it's probably worth looking at, but only if the team also trades Walker. I wouldn't want to see AJ go just to make room for Toine.

EricaLubarsky
03-10-2004, 01:49 PM
Originally posted by: dalmations202

Originally posted by: grndmstr_c
Forgive me, but, since Marquis only has a one year deal and Steve is going to opt out, why would we need to protect them? I've been under the impression that wasn't going to be necessary.

From my understanding, you are correct sir. They will not need to protect them, provided Steve has opted out, and neither have been resigned yet. Why would you protect Walker as well? Would Charlotte take his 14M for one year? I doubt it.

I like everything there especially if Walker steps up and plays like an NBA player. If we dont have to protect Nash I'd protect Bradley. I have a sinking feeling that we arent going to have any comparable center coming our way any time soon.

Either the writer is a stinker for facts or there is something going on with Marquis. I'd love to keep the kid, but how could we protect him from going elsewhere? His deal is up after this season and then he becomes a restricted or unrestricted FA? How would that work out with the expansion draft or would that change anything?

ddh33
03-10-2004, 02:21 PM
Like everyone else said, this list got butchered. This isn't even close to correct...