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03-07-2006, 01:16 PM
Chat with John Hollinger

Welcome to The Show! On Monday, NBA columnist John Hollinger will stop by to chat about the season.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Greetings everyone, lots of question already so let's get talking.

Jeremy Mayland: How can they not put Allen Iverson on the Olympic team after all that he has done for the NBA?

SportsNation John Hollinger: That's probably the most common question I've heard asked this week -- the announcers during the Wizards-Sixers game wouldn't shut up about it. I think a couple things are at play here First, for all the things he does under NBA rules, Iverson is a much less effective player internationally, which was obvious for all to see in Athens, because five defenders are waiting for him at the rim. Because of that, there was a real risk that he wasn't going to make the team, and Coach K would have to be The Guy Who Cut Iverson. So part of me wonders if Colangelo's decision wasn't partly made to help spare his coach the agony.

Joel, Phoenix: Is the Most Improved Player award in the bag? Diaw seems to flirt with a triple-double every game!

SportsNation John Hollinger: As somebody who saw how bad he was in Atlanta, I can't even imagine voting for somebody else for this award.

Chris, Miami, Fl: Couldn't Alonzo Mourning be considered a legitimate 6th Man of the Year candidate?

SportsNation John Hollinger: What makes it hard for him is the reduced minutes. He's going against players who will have 500 or more minutes more than he does, which is the same reason nobody voted for Donyell Marshall a year ago. In terms of per-minute effectiveness, yes, he's been the best, but playing time probably will prevent him from winning.

Jeff: (Salt Lake City, UT): Is Jerry Sloan's offense the problem for the Jazz or is it players lack of whatever?

SportsNation John Hollinger: The problem in Utah is that it's become a guard-oriented league, but they're still trying to pound the ball inside on every play. Or rather, they're forced to pound it inside on every play, because their guards aren't any good. Utah badly needs to invest in a shooter over the summer, because these Gordan Giricek/Devin Brown discount models they've been importing of late aren't getting it done.

Keith (San Antonio, TX): The Spurs almost pulled off a trade for J.R. Smith before the deadline. Would it have been a good move stats-wise?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Based on the deal as I was told, it would have been an absolute fleecing. Smith shouldn't have been starting last year, but based on both the numbers and the visuals he has the ability to be a big-time scorer.

CK: McLean, VA: Should the Wiz want to play the Nets or the Cavs in the first round of the playoffs?

SportsNation John Hollinger: If I was Washington, I would much rather play New Jersey. Cleveland can play LeBron all 48 in a playoff game if they need to, plus they might have Hughes back.

Willie (Long Island, NY): John, this has been troubling me for a while. Everyone always talks about needing a big man to take them to the next level, and here KG is about to miss the playoffs for the second straight year. Perhaps it's not as simple as people make it out to be, eh?

SportsNation John Hollinger: The issue here is that because it's a superstar driven league, people tend to focus all the credit or all the blame for a team's success on a team's best player. This is taking things way, way too far, however. Garnett is still one of the very best players in the league, but he's surrounded by a garbage dump (and his team has been a bit unlucky in terms of wins/losses as well), so they're heading to the lottery. But anyone who thinks Garnett isn't better than say, Chauncey Billups, just because his team wins less, is kidding themselves.

Alex (Manhattan Beach, CA): Would you trade Marion for Garnett in the off season? As good as Garnett is - does Marion fit in too perfectly with D'Antoni's system?

SportsNation John Hollinger: If I won the title I wouldn't do it, because there's no need to mess with that kind of success. Otherwise, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Jay (Burke, VA): John, the LA Times is the only one to report Jimmy Jackson to the Lakers...is it not finalized yet? And if it does, how much will he help? Thanks.

SportsNation John Hollinger: When I saw JJ with Phoenix earlier this year he looked D-U-N done. I'd be surprised if he has much to offer the Lakers.

Antony (Tempe, AZ): Do you think the SUNS have a shot at the title? Even without Amare, they are playing out of their minds right now and they have gotten a deeper bench.

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think the Suns absolutely have a shot at the title, even without Amare. But the smart money is still on San Antonio -- their two best players have been hurt all year and they're 46-12.

Drew (Atlanta, GA): How much do you keep up with the stats hounds in the other sports (in particularly baseball)? What do you think the NBA could learn from them?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Not much during the season, but I try to do a lot of catch-up reading in the summer. In general, I think basketball could learn a lot from them, although there's a danger of taking baseball methods off the shelf and not adjusting them to the very different realities of this sport.

Dave (Flagstaff, AZ): Hey John. I guess this is a Suns chat. Although Tim Thomas is a great athlete and all, I'm still confused why the Suns went out and got him. They already have a deep bench (with Stoudemire coming back soon) and great chemistry, why would you go messing around with that? Do you agree with this move?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I didn't see their bench as being that deep -- effective, yes, but with a fairly short rotation. And now that Kurt Thomas is out and now it looks like James Jones will be on the shelf for a while too, their hand was forced. It was either sign Tim Thomas or start preparing for the Tskitishvili Era.

Mike (Chicago): How is it that a system makes such a difference to a player? Boris Diaw goes from a stiff to a dominant player. Why don't other teams try the system the Suns are using?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I'm not sure it was "system" as much as "position" in Diaw's case -- Phoenix moved him from shooting guard to power forward. There certainly are other teams that could benefit from playing the Suns' style because of all the freedom it allows, but if you're saying it benefits everybody who goes there, I'd ask Jim Jackson and Walter McCarty for a second opinion.

Tim (Toledo): Hollinger, Sheridan likes Parker as the MVP--a giant stretch, methinks. However, all the reason he likes Parker seem a strong case do give Pop Coach of the Year. This is especially the case if San Antonio winds up with the league's best record, quite a definite possibility. What do you think?

SportsNation John Hollinger: It's funny how three people can watch the same games and see things completely differently -- both Sheridan and Stein nominated MVPs that I wouldn't put in the top five on my ballot. My scorecard still has a razor-thin four-way race between LeBron, Wade, Dirk and Elton Brand, and of the four I'm really not sure which one I'd pick right now.

George , Columbus OH: John, love your stuff...My Cavs have just picked up 2 wins after a bad losing streak....do you see us going into the dumps like the last 2 years or do you think we can hold onto the 4th spot until Hughes gets back???

SportsNation John Hollinger: I don't see a collapse being imminent, especially with the Flip addition -- a nice save by Ferry after Damon Jones flamed out. Cavs will probably play .500 the rest of the way, so I don't know if they can hold off Indy and Washington for No. 4, but they'll make the playoffs.

Oong (Riverside): Any chance the Lakers or Hornets dropping out of a playoff spot? I still think Rockets and Kings have a legit shot at making the playoffs. what do you think?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think both teams still are very vulnerable-- the Hornets because they aren't as good as their record, the Lakers because if Kobe pulls a hammy or turns an ankle they're looking at a prolonged slump. Sacramento will make a run at one of those spots, but I think the others may have too much ground to make up.

Joey (Port St. Lucie): If you had to have one guy be the 'shooter' on Team USA, who would it be? Ray Allen? Mike Redd? Redick?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think Ray was their first choice but he won't be making the trip. Redd is their second choice, and Billups their third, but they aren't coming either. That's why I wouldn't be shocked to see Joe Johnson make the team -- he showed in Phoenix last year what he can do on catch-and-shoot set-ups, and he'll get a ton of those in Japan.

Willie (Long Island, NY): John, the point guard options for the US team this summer seem a little thin, especially with Billups not being there. Do Paul AND Ridnour make it? I like Arenas, but is he the "true" role-playing PG the US needs?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I think people are vastly overrating the importance of having a pass-first point guard on the team. LeBron and Kobe are doing all the heavy lifting, folks, our point guard just needs to be able to shoot when he's left wide open. That was the problem with Marbury last year, not his passing. Arenas will be just fine.

Nikki (Minny, MN): John- The Clips lost two in a row. While they seem pretty set for the playoffs... they are the Clips, so a complete tank at the end of the season wouldn't be THAT suprising (plus it would be great to see Chris Sheridan cry). Of all the teams in the lottery so far in the West, who do you see sneaking in at the last minute (if anyone)?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Not sure if a collapse would elicit tears from Sheridan -- hey, he's tougher than you think -- but he does like that gang in L.A. I think LA will rebound a bit now that Maggette is back and they have a few more guys who can get them buckets, but if they were to collapse Sacramento would be the main beneficiary.

Mat (Scottsdale, AZ): Nash isn't in your top 4 for MVP? What? Nearly everyone on the Suns are having career years thanks to Nash, not to mention Amare's been out. Like Stein said, where would the Suns record be if it was Nash that was out all season. All that Rogaine is making you loopy.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Not buying it -- The "Where would we be if Player X was out all season" argument can be used convincingly for just about every major star in the league. And if Rogaine was the problem I'd look like Luke Schensher in my photo.

Mark (Hampton VA): Why wasn't Kirk Hinrich considered to be on team USA???

SportsNation John Hollinger: He was, quite seriously. Our Chris Sheridan reported Colangelo met with him earlier this year, and the two apparently decided it wouldn't work.

Danielle, Sedona AZ: Hi John, I was wondering if you took into consideration the fact that the PER statistics over value role players and undervalue superstars because fatigue should come into play with many superstars playing bigger minutes?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Many people think that and, in fact, when I started doing this type of research I thought that. But in general, the opposite tends to be true -- the more minutes a player gets, the better he tends to perform, even on a per-minute basis. There are exceptions -- Michael Sweetney, for instance, might have a heart attack if he played 40 minutes -- but in general it holds.

John (San Antonio): If you're not buying the "where would they be without Nash" argument, then what's your argument for Dirk, LeBron, Wade, and Brand?

SportsNation John Hollinger: That's my whole point. The 'where would they be" argument does nothing to separate the top candidates, unless you want to split hairs over who's backup is less pathetic.

Patrick(Indianapolis): I think Brand is a great player but how can he be an MVP candidate when he is not who made the Clippers better...The addition of Sam Cassell and Mobley are what made the Clips better.

SportsNation John Hollinger: I know that the temptation is strong to say "Clips got Cassell, Clips got better, so Sam made Clips better." But the third part of the argument is a huge leap. To me, the biggest difference is that Brand is in much better shape, raining in jumners all over the place and is killing people with that running hook shot -- all things he didn't do a year ago.

Willhouse (Chucktown, SC): How about a Pistons question Hollinger?? Should I be worried that they are getting weary? Will there be enough in the tank if they hold on to homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I wouldn't worry too much about that -- they were bound to hit a lull at some point in an 82-game schedule. The bigger worry is that, after being healthy all year, somebody will roll an ankle in April and force them to rely on the bench in the playoffs. It's an improved unit, but Detroit still needs all five starters healthy to win in June.

Brandon Phx AZ: Why is it every time MVP comes up it is so much about the team's record? These guys are not GM's, they don't decide who plays with them. All they can do is play there best. That brings guys like Kobe, Bosh, Pierce back into the conversation.

SportsNation John Hollinger: You're preaching to the choir. I still don't have those guys on my MVP ballot -- I don't think Pierce and Bosh have quite been good enough, and it's hard to vote for Kobe after he forced out Shaq -- but given a bad enough GM, it's perfectly possible for a player to play at an MVP level and still have his team go something like 40-42. For some reason, nobody seems to believe this.

Ryan, Edinburgh: Why did Kobe get suspended for two games for elbowing Mike Miller and Rasheed only get a fine for elbowing 'Z? They both made it clear by theiir comments afterwards that it was intentional...

SportsNation John Hollinger: If we're comparing, Kobe's elbow was much more vicious, but I though 'Sheed's still merited a one-game vist to the penalty box.

Ben (Williamsburg, Brooklyn): John - you're amazing. Tell me what you think of Darko now, post-trade? Seems his per-minute production has skyrocketed now that he's got some minutes. Why is no one talking about this yet?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I want to see a few more games before I weigh in -- the 6-for-7 game was nice, but some other games less so. The one thing that's immediately apparent is that his shot-block rate in Detroit was no fluke -- if he starts he'll be right near the league lead in blocks.

Mat (Scottsdale, AZ): So you're keeping Kobe off your ballot bc you don't like his personality. And Nash isn't in your top 5, ESPN needs to run a criminal background check on you. This is crazy talk.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Wow ... The posts from Arizona and Southern California just went through the roof, but yours is the first to combine the venom of both audiences.

P (NYC): What about Redick for Team USA? Scouts have said he'd already be one of the 5 best shooters in the NBA. Aside from Allen and Redd, isn't he the best pure shooter invited to tryouts?

SportsNation John Hollinger: Redick will make the trip, but he'll probably be on the three-man taxi squad along with Morrison and either Dwight Howard or Greg Oden. Unless 10 more guys bail, that is.

David (NYC): Since Phoenix and So Cal are disrespecting you, take a question from NYC...now that the Nets couldn't land Ely, Wilcox or Tim Thomas, does it have a chance to go deep into the playoffs?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I don't think so. I've been really disappointed with the Nets all year -- the big three are doing well but the bench has let them down and the bigs aren't pulling their weight. Any night Vince doesn't score 30 they're very beatable.

matt (atl): John, please answer a question about my beloved Hawks, even though you trashed them in the rookie and sophomore reviews, I think that deep down you like J. Smith, J. Childress, and Marvin Williams. How are their games coming along and what does the future hold for Al Harrington and the hawks?

SportsNation John Hollinger: I'm very impressed with Childress actually -- not only because of his high TS%, but because he contributes across the board, kind of like a very-very-very-poor man's Shawn Marion. Wiliams is coming around, I still think he'll be a deadly pick-and-pop guy in two years once he starts shooting 3s instead of long 2s, but it's too early to say what else will develop. As for Smith, one thing people don't realize about him is he's a really good passer. But the J still needs work and more importantly he needs to keep his head in the game -- he tends to drift at times. Needless to say, with those three all looking like decent pros at worst, Harrington is sign-and-trade bait this summer.

SportsNation John Hollinger: Folks, that's all the time I have, but we'll do this again same time next week. Thanks again for all the great questions.

Chat with Marc Stein

Welcome to The Show! On Tuesday, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein will drop by to talk about the NBA season at hand.

Send your questions now and join Marc in The Show, Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET!

Stein Archive: Chats | Columns

SportsNation Marc Stein: Hello, all. We come to you today from New Orleans. I'll stay as long as I can, but lots of people to talk to and lots of things to see as the NBA returns for the first time post-Katrina. Big week down here.

Keith (San Antonio, TX): Tony got the All-Star nod, so Diaw can have the Most Improved trophy. My question is which Frenchman is more important to their team's success?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Good start. I'd say Parker shades that because, with Duncan and Ginobili not all there, he has become a primary offensive weapon for the Spurs. But the Diaw we're seeing regularly now is closing that gap, because he gives the Suns another playmaker who's hard to match up with.

Anthony (Detroit): Marc, will the Pistons cut back the minutes of their starters at the expense of getting the league's best record? Best record would be nice, but if the starters are exhausted come playoff time, it might not be worth it.

SportsNation Marc Stein: That's what they're pondering as we speak. The good news for the Pistons is that they're pretty much done with the tough travel.

Daryl (Richmond): Is the city of New Orleans really ready to host an NBA game tomorrow night? What is the vibe around town like? Are people excited?

SportsNation Marc Stein: From what I've seen so far, yes. Haven't been to the arena yet, but they've just started holding events there and the tickets for three games here are selling well. I get the feeling that the Hornets will have a bigger home-court advantage against the Lakers than they expect.

Ryan (Norman): Marc- Do you see Chicago catching up with Milwuakee for the 8th spot in the East? If they don't, do you think it was a mistake by Chicago to not go after some size at the trade deadline?

SportsNation Marc Stein: No mistake. The smart move is saving that cap flexibility until the summertime when there are more trade options. No sense rushing under deadline pressure to get obliterated by Detroit in the first round.

carmel, IN: How do you think the Pacers will do once Tinsley and O'Neal get back into action. I think that they can be real winners come playoff time. Even possibly beat Detroit........

SportsNation Marc Stein: Can't agree with you if they're the eighth seed. I give them a puncher's chance to beat Miami in the first round and then I'd probably pick them against anyone else they could see in Round 1 . . . including Jersey if the Nets don't wake up here. I'm that big of Carlisle fan.

Craig (Bensalem, Pa.): Despite Sunday's heartbreaker, I'm very optimistic about what the 76ers are doing right now. Based on the current play of the Nets and the remaining schedules of both teams, which favors Philly, what do you think of the Sixers shot of grabbing the division title and staying away from the Heat and Pistons?

SportsNation Marc Stein: I want to agree with you. But I'm not there yet. The way AI and Webber started the season, complimenting each other so well, I thought that Philly had sorted those two out and could now focus on getting the pieces around them right. But this team is still so up and down that such declarations are best withheld. I do know that Webber badly wants to make this work. I had a good chat with him recently and you can check the Midweek Dime late tonight (or tomorrow) to hear his take.

Joseph (Detroit, Mi): Hi Marc; now that you've had a chance to see Darko actually play extended minutes for a few games, what are your current thoughts on the trade?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Same thing I thought when it happened. Great gamble by the Magic and something the Pistons had to do because they can't break up the five starters and can't afford to pay them all and pay Darko. In a few years, I won't be surprised if Piston fans regret Darko's departure and miss Okur, too. But they'd be unhappier if one of the five starters were shipped out instead.

Andy - SacTown: Marc- Kings have been surging lately with some impressive wins on the road. Do they make they playoffs and make some noise while there?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Surging is a bit strong. They're only 12-7 with Artest. But the Lakers, Hornets and even the Grizz have shown some signs of vulnerability. If the Kings can win a few more on the road, they can sneak in. But I don't see them winning a round even if they drew Denver.

Brad (Dallas, TX): Dirk struggled in the playoffs last year. This past week Bruce Bowen made him look human again. Is it Dirk's fault or is Avery not making the right adjustments to get Dirk going in the big games?

SportsNation Marc Stein: "Fault" is the wrong word. The problem is personnel. Nowitzki has been chewing up smaller guys this season after his playoff struggles, but there is always going to be a defender or two who gives even the best of the best problems . . . and Bowen and Marion are those guys for Nowitzki. In those rare cases, even Nowitzki could use some help. But the Mavs have no one who can create an easy shot for him. No one.

Mike (Houston): hi, Marc, do you think Yao's recent strong play is a fluke?

SportsNation Marc Stein: I think someone told him about that recent player poll in a national magazine that had him first or second on the list of Most Overrated Players in the league. He's been rolling ever since.

Alex (Miami, FL): Hi Marc, do you see the Heat as an elite team down the stretch, or did they hit the sweet spot in their schedule?

SportsNation Marc Stein: You tell me? Have you really been impressed by Miami's play since the Detroit game? Or are they simply doing just enough to beat these cupcakes? Can't ignore the fact that Wade has missed the last couple games, but the Heat's remaining schedule is so favorable that they can't really be punished.

kj (kent, oh): once again, hollinger proves he's the smartest nba'er in the espn crew because he ACCURATELY states that the MVP arguement used so frequently that "where would team A be without player X" could be used for nearly ANY team, yet people of your ilk continue to use it for nash while dissin', say LBJ, when everyone knows the cavs would be the worst team in the league with out LBJ. care to comment?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Sure. Hollinger is my favorite professor this side of Cal State Fullerton but he's never going to sway me (or the majority of voters) on this subject. Why? Because LeBron leading the Cavs to a fourth-place finish in the East or AI getting the Sixers to seventh or eighth or Kobe carrying the Lakers to a playoff berth all by himself isn't all that VALUABLE in the grand scheme of things. Winning holds the greatest value. Which is why MVPs almost always come from teams that win the most. If memory serves, the average win total for MVPs in the last 20 years is around 55.

Majeed: Actually, the Lakers would be by far the worst team in the league without their superstar! 10 wins max!

SportsNation Marc Stein: Right. If you use the Take Player X Off His Team formula, Kobe would be the favorite over LeBron anyway.

dan (milwaukee): How much longer does Coach Stotts last in Milwaukee? The team's talent level is too good to be a .500 team and they might even miss the playoffs.

SportsNation Marc Stein: I agree with you on Milwaukee's talent. They should be closer to fourth or fifth in the East than the lottery. This is only Stotts' first year and the team has been redone, but there will be a search for scapegoats if this group -- with all its frontcourt depth -- doesn't at least finish eighth.

Jeremy (Phoenix, AZ): Morning Marc. In your honest opinion with the news of Amare having fluid in his other knee, do you believe he will be back to playing this season?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Haven't changed my opinion from Day 1. Amare should sit out the season. Fluid or no fluid.

Keith (Atlanta, Ga): What about Coach Woodson, or MOST IMPORTANTLY Billy Knight, how long do they last? If Colangelo could land in Toronto, that means R.C. Buford could land in Atlanta, right?

SportsNation Marc Stein: I'd definitely make the call if Atlanta gets to that point, but I don't see R.C. leaving the Spurs. Bryan Colangelo's father sold the team. That should have been a signal to everyone that the Colangelos' involvement with the Suns was not going to last forever. San Antonio is different.

Ryan,Boston,MA: Are the Celtics a title contender 1-2 years from right now?

SportsNation Marc Stein: The kids are still closer to PROMISING than DEVELOPED. West, Perkins and Jefferson have all shown flashes. Gomes, too. The four of them, with Wally, are a good start for a supporting cast around Pierce but not enough to talk about contention.

Cathal, Limerick,Ireland: Marc,is the Spurs v Pistons rematch the mortal lock everyone is talking about or can Dallas,Phoenix or Miami actually crash the party? Also, how impressed are you with Stuart Pierce for his stewardship of your beloved Manchester City?

SportsNation Marc Stein: Thankfully it's not a mortal lock. The uncertainty is mostly in the West, but thankfully it's not a done deal. I would still pick San Antonio to beat Dallas and then Phoenix (with or without Amare) in Rounds 2 and 3, but slugging it out with the Mavs and then dealing with a switch to the Suns' tempo won't be so simple, Especially since even Duncan admits that he's not going to be 100 percent for the rest of the season.

SportsNation Marc Stein: It's still much more of a lock in the East, no matter how weary Detroit has looked lately. I still don't want to hear about the Heat turning it on in the playoffs because we still don't know if this team has an ON switch. They're literally submitted one impressive performance all season. One. You could get away saying Shaq's Lakers had an ON-and-OFF switch because we had proof that LA had another gear. Until the Heat prove it in the playoffs, we can't talk about it.

SportsNation Marc Stein: And thanks for mentioning Psycho. Manager of every trimester in the Premiership.

SportsNation Marc Stein: We'll do it again next week everyone. Thanks for all the questions. Check back tonight for the Midweek Dime with Webb and check back Wednesday for lots of New Orleans coverage from me and others.

03-07-2006, 01:21 PM
NBA Rumor Central: Hoiberg To Meet With Pistons

Tuesday, March 7


Hoiberg To Meet With Pistons
Mar 7 - Fred Hoiberg will head to Detroit today to meet with the Pistons, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I'm going to meet with Flip Saunders and Pistons president Joe Dumars," Hoiberg told the newspaper. "Nothing's for sure. I want to find out if it's a situation that would make sense."

Monday, March 6


Bulls 'Luking' for a big man
Mar 6 - "I just figured I'd stick around here and hopefully get a call-up like this,'' Luke Schenscher told the Chicago Sun-Times. The Bulls signed him to a 10-day contract Sunday. "Just stay in the eyes of NBA people and be in the middle of it.

Friday, March 3

Howard Eisley

Nuggets To Sign Eisley
Mar 3 - The Denver Post reports the Nuggets will sign Howard Eisley to a 10-day contract today. "I feel good about the situation," Eisley told the newspaper. "They've made a couple of deals I think that's helped improve their team."

The Nuggets are still open to signing Jon Barry, who may retire, reports the Rocky Mountain News. The Houston Rockets waived him Wednesday. According to the newspaper, Wesley Person also is a candidate to sign with the team, but agent Herb Rudoy has said his client will not agree to a 10-day contract.

Jim Jackson

Lakers Contact Jackson
Mar 3 - The Lakers contacted the representatives of Jim Jackson, who was waived by Phoenix on Wednesday, reports the Riverside Press-Enterprise. According to the newspaper, the Lakers would like to add another backcourt player and have talked about Penny Hardaway as well. Phil Jackson told the newspaper that a new player wouldn't have a hard time learning the triangle offense because "it's not rocket science

Awards, e-mails and links
posted: Friday, March 3, 2006
filed under: NBA
Chris Sheridan

After a one-month hiatus, it's time for an early-each-month update on the leaders for individual awards. There's a much larger body of evidence to work with this month, and I'm sure to get plenty of outraged e-mails after you read my current choice for MVP. So without further ado …

Most Valuable Player: Tony Parker, Spurs. He's the best player on his team with Tim Duncan operating below 100 percent all season with a foot injury, and the prediction here is he'll lead San Antonio to the league's best record when all is said and done. Runners-up: Steve Nash, Suns; Dirk Nowitzki, Mavs.

Rookie of the Year: Chris Paul, Hornets. This race was over a long time ago, so now it's time for Paul to prove he can continue to keep New Orleans/Oklahoma City among the top eight in the West. Runners-up: Ray Felton, Bobcats; Charlie Villanueva, Raptors.

Coach of the Year: Avery Johnson, Mavericks. We never liked him that much as a player, but he always got the job done. He's much more likeable as a coach, and he's still getting the job done. Watch to see whether he keeps his team surging after its disheartening loss Thursday night at San Antonio. Runners up: Flip Saunders, Pistons; Mike D'Antoni, Suns.

Most Improved: Boris Diaw, Suns. We're running out of superlatives to describe this guy, who landed in the perfect system to utilize his talents. So we'll make a bold prediction: He'll be as big of an impact player in the playoffs as anyone in the West. Runners-up: Mike James, Raptors; Kevin Martin, Kings.

Defensive Player of the Year: Bruce Bowen, Spurs. The job he did against Dirk Nowitzki on Thursday night was masterful, and he does it every night. Oh, he's also leading the league in 3-point accuracy, too, and he'll be named Sunday to the U.S. national team. Runners-up: Rasheed Wallace, Pistons; Kobe Bryant, Lakers.

Sixth Man Award: Speedy Claxton, Hornets. There is no clear-cut leader of the pack here, but one player who will qualify because of his lack of starts before February is Villanueva. Check out the numbers he has been putting up over the past five weeks. Runner-up: Mo Williams, Bucks.

Executive of the Year: Otis Smith, Magic. It's really too soon to tell, but for now we'll tab Smith for ridding the franchise of Steve Francis' contract and for picking up Carlos Arroyo and Darko Milicic on the cheap. If Trevor Ariza ever plays to his potential, he'll be a keeper for someone. Runners-up: Jeff Bower, Hornets; Kiki Vandeweghe, Nuggets.

A few other items:

• Michael Redd and Rashard Lewis are out of the mix for Team USA. Both have declined invites, according to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal-Times. Read all about it.

• Apologies to all the folks in Greece who castigated me for leaving their country off the list of top national teams heading into this summer's World Championship. They won the Euro '05 tournament, and lot of people forget that they almost knocked off the U.S. in the Olympics. Also got a lot of e-mail from Down Under for my mention of New Zealand but not Australia, but I'll take Sean Marks over Andrew Bogut in a head-to-head matchup of their national teams any day.

• Many thanks for all the nice e-mails on the Dick Bavetta story. The only column that's ever generated more e-mails was my call for Antonio Davis to be suspended for eight games for going into the stands in Chicago. There's some humorous commentary on Davis' better half, Kendra, in today's Deadspin. You'll also like Phil Miller's take on AK47's wife's special once-a-year rule for her husband.

• Anybody remember all the hubbub a couple years ago about the Greek teenager Sofoklis Schortsianitis? He dropped all the way to the second round in 2003, the Clippers grabbing him at No. 34. Well, he was the MVP of the Greek League All-Star Game, which ended in a tie (did Bud Selig move to Piraeus?), and he's the best big man for Olympiakos, which is off to a 2-0 start in Euroleague Top 16 play. He averaged 11.0 points and 4.5 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the field in the Euroleague regular season.

• Sarunas Jasikevicius plans to marry his sweetie from his days of playing in Israel, and one Jewish politician is not happy about it.

'True' shooters not usual suspects

by: John Hollinger
posted: Monday, March 6, 2006 | Feedback

When it comes to shooting accuracy, what names immediately come to mind? Nash and Nowitzki? D-Wade and LeBron? Shaq and KG?

Guess again. Despite shooting form you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, Sacramento's Kevin Martin and Atlanta's Josh Childress have been the league's two most efficient shooters this year.

They're first and second in the league in True Shooting Percentage, which measures what a player's field goal percentage would be if we accounted for free throws and 3-pointers.

At first glance, it's hard to imagine Childress being anywhere near the top of this list. His stroke is reminiscent of Shawn Marion's -- he tucks the ball under his chin, sticks his elbow way out to the side, then snaps the wrist in one quick fling.

Although he doesn't have quite the arc or long-range accuracy Marion does, Childress' approach has been plenty effective. He's shooting 55.7 percent from the floor this season, and it hasn't all been on dunks and layups. Childress has become very comfortable shooting from 15-20 feet, especially from the corners.

As a result, his effective field goal percentage on jump shots is a healthy 50.7 percent, according to 82games.com. Throw in all the free throws he has earned by pounding the offensive glass, and his TS% is 62.4 percent, second-best in the league.

Childress has nothing on Martin, however. The Kings guard shoots while leaning farther to the left than Al Franken, yet still has managed to drain 49.5 percent of his shots. Additionally, Martin gets to the line nearly once for every two field goal attempts, and he's hitting at a stellar 85.9 percent clip from there. Throw in his 39.2 percent mark on 3-pointers, and it's easy to see that the Kings get serious bang for their buck whenever Martin attempts a shot. Thus, although Martin's 49.5 percent field goal shooting doesn't crack the league's top 10, it leaps to a league-leading TS% of 62.8 percent once we account for all his 3-pointers and free throws.

It's ironic that these two are first and second when one considers how similar they are. In addition to their funky jump shots, both are second-year wing players. Physically, they're both long, skinny guys who sport retro haircuts -- Childress goes with the 'fro, while Martin is single-handedly attempting to revive the fade. [Editors Note: Long Live the Fade!] http://www.nba.com/playerfile/images/tony_dumas.jpghttp://img502.imageshack.us/img502/9162/images6vr.jpghttp://www.completeplayercamps.com/images/hall_of_fame/thumb_nails/Reggie_Theus_thumb.jpg
Both players were regarded as disappointments during their rookie seasons, and both started slowly this year but picked up steam as the season went on -- even as their teams had disappointing results. Each left college a year early, and each plays a couple of hours' drive from where the other went to school.

And each is showing that, when it comes to shooting, there's more than one way to skin a cat. The delivery might not be pretty, but when Martin and Childress shoot the rock, it's hard to argue with the results.

KG's rep goes up and down

posted: Monday, March 6, 2006 | Feedback
filed under: Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett
Chris Broussard

I've been trying to figure out Kevin Garnett for quite some time now. What's obvious and undeniable is that he's a great player, one of the best in the game.

But my opinion on just how great has fluctuated. A few years back, I thought he was better than Tim Duncan. Duncan had the benefit of playing next to David Robinson, I reasoned; who does Garnett have?

But when Robinson retired, Duncan made it clear that he is a notch above KG. Duncan is, simply put, the best power forward ever to play.

When I sat down to write this, I was essentially going to say KG is overrated. Still outstanding, just not as outstanding as we've all thought.

I figured if he's as legendary as touted, he should be able to at least get his team into the playoffs (which appears to be a pipe dream right now). I'm thinking, "How good is Pau Gasol's supporting cast?"

Then I decided to look at the careers of some other great power forwards. I felt it unfair to compare his playoff run to those of Karl Malone and Kevin McHale, both of whom made the postseason every year of their careers -- because Malone had John Stockton and McHale had Bird and Co.

But I found the perfect comparison in Sir Charles. And what I found led me to cut KG some slack.

Barkley failed to make the playoffs twice during his prime, both times in Philadelphia. In 1987-88, he averaged a career-high 28.3 points, plus 11.9 boards, but the Sixers managed only 36 wins. Barkley's second-leading scorer was Cliff Robinson (19 ppg) -- not a good sign -- but he did have a 31-year-old Mo Cheeks (13.7 ppg, 8.0 apg) running the point.

Barkley also missed the postseason in 1991-92. That squad had Hersey Hawkins (19 ppg) and Armon Gilliam (16.9) so it probably should've been better than its 35 wins suggests.

That season Barkley seemed to go through what KG might be going through now. Beat down by the losing and wondering if he'll ever get near a title, Barkley watched his scoring average drop more than four points from the previous season to 23.1, his lowest output in five years.

That was his last season in Philly. The next season, Barkley won the MVP award and led Phoenix to the Finals, where they lost in six to MJ and the Bulls.

It'll be interesting to see if the same thing (a trade, rejuvenation and happier endings) happens to KG.

But if he isn't traded this summer and Minnesota's roster doesn't improve, there are some things KG can do to help himself and the Wolves.

Mainly, he can stop floating around 20 feet from the basket so much, especially in the fourth quarter. He's 7 feet tall, for crying out loud. Get on the block!

It's nice when a big man can step out and hit the 3 to keep the defense off balance, but if you're that tall, your bread and butter should be near the rim. The one exception is Dirk Nowitzki.

Dirk clearly belongs on the perimeter because he's such a great shooter. KG is not nearly as smooth as Dirk outside.

Hanging around the arc so much nullifies KG's height. He might as well be 6-8. When it's crunch time and I need a bucket, I don't want him taking a 20-footer. I want him in the post, either scoring or drawing a foul. That's what separates Duncan from him.

I know KG is slight of build, so he could have trouble posting, but Pau isn't exactly Charles Atlas, and neither is Rasheed (who also floats outside a little too much for my liking).

If KG perfected the jump hook from six feet out or a turnaround J (with no fadeaway), he'd be unstoppable down low.

McHale, who had some of the greatest post moves of all time, should spend this summer teaching KG his moves instead of working on another insignificant trade.

If KG added that to his game, it would solve the other problem folks have with him -- that he isn't a go-to guy down the stretch.

Then there'd be no question as to how great he is.

03-07-2006, 03:43 PM
Evilmav, thanks for posting. There is a new insider article commenting on the coaches, is it possible for you to post that as well? Thx.

03-07-2006, 04:13 PM
You got it...

NBA Coach Approval Ratings - February

This NBA season, we’re giving you, SportsNation, the opportunity to cast your vote of approval, or disapproval, of the job your favorite team’s head coach is doing. Is he molding a winning team and inspiring championship-level play from his team? Or is he constantly tinkering with the offense and defense resulting in sloppy, erratic play? Is he making good decisions on the court and saying all the right things off the court? Or is he making crucial mistakes that cost the team games and then deflecting the blame?

The following are the latest results from the 2005-06 SportsNation NBA Head Coach Approval Ratings:

NBA Coach Approval Ratings - February

Mike D'Antoni
Team: Phoenix Suns
Record: 42-17
Votes: 451
Suns continue to rise in the West, Marion shines brightest
Shawn Marion and Steve Nash continue to take the Suns higher in the Western Conference. They are in command in the Pacific Division after a 9-1 February in which their only loss came by 2 points to Minnesota. The average score in those 10 games was 112-99, which reinforces how well they've adjusted without Amare Stoudemire this season. Amare is back for 5-on-5 drills and could return sometime this month if there are no setbacks. Vote

Flip Saunders
Team: Detroit Pistons
Record: 48-11
Votes: 374
No let up as Pistons continue dominance
Detroit's three February losses are the most losses the Pistons have had in any month this season. But since those losses came by a total of 11 points, it's hard to find anything wrong with this club. Detroit allowed 80 points or fewer six times and won their final six games of the month. Vote

Gregg Popovich
Team: San Antonio Spurs
Record: 47-12
Votes: 257
Spurs survive long road stretch to remain among elite
The Spurs went 9-2 in February, despite playing a majority of their games on the road. San Antonio started the month with seven straight road games and finished with a four-game win streak. San Antonio's only losses came on the road versus Cleveland and Philadelphia. All of this success despite Tim Duncan's second lowest-scoring month in his career (14.3 ppg). Vote

Avery Johnson
Team: Dallas Mavericks
Record: 46-13
Votes: 195
Mavericks continue to stifle opponents on both ends
Dallas improved to 23-3 in the new year and shows no signs of letting up. The Mavericks have made themselves legitimate title contenders with their improved defense. In their 10-1 February, Dallas took advantage of a home-heavy schedule, including a 36-point win over Miami. They allowed 80 points or fewer three times in the month. Vote

Byron Scott
Team: NO/Oklahoma City Hornets
Record: 31-28
Votes: 77
Hornets continue to be NBA's biggest surprise
The new digs in Oklahoma City have been kind to the Hornets, who are 19-9 in 2006. Their 9-4 mark in February was tainted at the end when they dropped three of five, as little nicks caught up with them. Rookie of the Year shoo-in, Chris Paul, has been outstanding in leading this team. And the Hornets were active in the trade market, acquiring veteran Marc Jackson to shore things up in the middle. Vote

Eddie Jordan
Team: Washington Wizards
Record: 30-28
Votes: 130
Wizards continue charge up the Eastern Conference standings
Washington enjoyed its second consecutive strong month, 8-4 in February, to leap into the race for homecourt in the first round of the playoffs. Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler have been instrumental in the Wizards' success in 2006. Washington averaged 102.8 points per game in February, and defeated Cleveland twice. Vote

Rick Carlisle
Team: Indiana Pacers
Record: 30-26
Votes: 117
Pacers enjoy best month of season
Indiana went 7-3 in February to offer hope that homecourt in the first round isn't so far-fetched. Two of those three losses came against San Antonio and Detroit. The Pacers entered March just two games behind slumping Cleveland for the No. 4 seed in the East. Defense was the key in February, as the Pacers allowed just 86.8 points per game. Vote

Rick Adelman
Team: Sacramento Kings
Record: 29-31
Votes: 181
Kings battle back into playoff contention
Despite an injury-depleted roster, the Kings have played their way back into the Western Conference playoff race since trading for Ron Artest. The Kings went 7-4 in February; their first winning month this season. They did it by protecting their home court (6-0) and allowed just 90.7 points per game in the month. Vote

Pat Riley
Team: Miami Heat
Record: 39-20
Votes: 137
Heat slowly starting to look more like title contender
Miami went 8-2 in February, including victories over Detroit and Cleveland. The Heat won their last six games in the month, albeit mostly against middling competition. Dwyane Wade won Player of the Month honors. Miami is in total control of the Southeast Division, so Pat Riley still has plenty of time to get his roles defined as he'd like them for the playoffs. Vote

George Karl
Team: Denver Nuggets
Record: 33-28
Votes: 101
Nuggets level out, but remain class of Northwest Division
Denver went just 5-5 in February, including the distinction of being the only team to defeat Dallas. Carmelo Anthony is playing extremely well, Marcus Camby has returned and Kenyon Martin is playing his best ball of the season. In addition, the team acquired Ruben Patterson and rebound monster, Reggie Evans in trades prior to the deadline. Vote

Mike Dunleavy
Team: Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 33-25
Votes: 69
Clippers stagger a little, but Brand keeps them in gear
February started off great for the Clippers, as they won four straight road games. However, a five-game losing streak mid-month erase any momentum they had going. But Elton Brand's MVP-caliber season has kept the Clippers afloat when the waters have gotten choppy. They also traded Chris Wilcox, who had fallen out of favor, to Seattle in exchange for Vladimir Radmanovic. And Corey Maggette has returned to the practice court in hopes of returning in the near future. Vote

Sam Mitchell
Team: Toronto Raptors
Record: 21-38
Votes: 138
Raptors remain around .500 for third straight month
Toronto went 5-6 in February, which is the third consecutive month finishing within one game of the .500 mark, following that miserable 1-15 November. Chris Bosh earned his first All-Star nod, but the Raptors' relative inexperience showed in three overtime losses and another by two points. Vote

Scott Skiles
Team: Chicago Bulls
Record: 26-33
Votes: 105
Bulls running out of time to make playoff push
Chicago went 5-7 in February against a tough schedule. The Bulls defeated playoff-bound squads in Denver and the L.A. Clippers, but are running out of time in their quest to return to the playoffs. They entered March 3 1/2 games out of the final spot, so Chicago will need to put together a couple winning months to even have an outside chance. Ben Gordon enjoyed a spectacular month (21.3 ppg), but he'll need more help. Vote

Phil Jackson
Team: Los Angeles Lakers
Record: 31-30
Votes: 226
Lakers trip up a bit after strong January
After an encouraging January, in which the Lakers climbed easily into the playoff race, the team stumbled to a 5-8 February. Even more disappointing than the record was the fact that all five victories came against teams with losing records. In addition, they were just 1-5 on the road and now find themselves in a fight for that final playoff spot. Vote

Jerry Sloan
Team: Utah Jazz
Record: 29-31
Votes: 103
Jazz prepare for playoff push with Boozer back
Utah is quietly hanging around in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Jazz went 6-5 in February, and entered the month just 1 1/2 games behind the eight place Lakers. Carlos Boozer finally returned from his troublesome hamstring to offer much-needed punch and rebounding off the bench as Utah starts its second-half push. Vote

Nate McMillan
Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 19-40
Votes: 75
McMillan turns to youngsters in disappointing season
Portland is well out of the playoff race, but Nate McMillan wants to see which of his young players will get big minutes by the time the Trail Blazers are ready to make the postseason. In doing so, the Blazers lost 10 of their final 11 in February (the only win came against injury-depleted Charlotte). Vote

Mike Brown
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Record: 34-26
Votes: 166
Cavaliers struggles reminiscent of 2005 post-All Star swoon
Cleveland fans are experiencing a little deja vu, as the Cavaliers have struggled mightily since returning from the All-Star break. The Cavs lost their final four games in February, which is their second-longest losing streak this season. In addition, they couldn't even hold it down at home. Cleveland lost four games at The Q in February and LeBron James couldn't get consistent help from his supporting cast. Cleveland traded for Flip Murray just before the deadline in hopes of changing that. Vote

Maurice Cheeks
Team: Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 30-29
Votes: 93
Sixers continue to hover around .500 mark
Philadelphia went 5-6 in February, but the team's erratic nature is what has to be most puzzling to Maurice Cheeks. The 76ers played a fairly tough schedule, but beat Cleveland twice and San Antonio once. And while Philadelphia did play four games against sub-.500 teams, it lost three of those four games. Vote

Jeff Van Gundy
Team: Houston Rockets
Record: 27-33
Votes: 115
Rockets make lots of noise with Yao and T-Mac back together
Houston got Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady back on the court at the same time, which hasn't been easy this season. The result was not only the Rockets' first winning month of the season, but a big 10-3 February to get them back into the discussion, at least, for the final playoff spot. There's still plenty of work to do, but since two of those three losses came to Phoenix, the Rockets may be the team to watch down the stretch. Vote

Mike Fratello
Team: Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 33-27
Votes: 40
Grizzlies suffer second straight losing month
Memphis had difficulty standing up against the best in the NBA, losing to San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas twice. The Grizzlies' best wins in February came against Washington and the Lakers. Maybe that explains where the Grizzlies stand in the NBA food chain, but after a great start, Memphis is just 12-16 in the first two months of 2006. Despite All-Star Pau Gasol's great play throughout the season, more consistency is needed from his supporting cast if the Grizzlies are going to pose any threat in the playoffs. Vote

Lawrence Frank
Team: New Jersey Nets
Record: 32-27
Votes: 73
Nets take over ordinary Atlantic Division
New Jersey went 8-5 in February to take over possession of first place in the mediocre Atlantic Division. The Nets had only one high-quality victory (Miami), but at least many of their losses came against good competition. As long as Kidd, Carter and Jefferson stay healthy, it's hard to imagine the Nets not getting the No. 3 seed in the playoffs. Vote

Bernie Bickerstaff
Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Record: 16-45
Votes: 43
Bobcats continue to struggle with health
The Bobcats continue to be riddled with injuries to their best players, although Gerald Wallace returned at the end of the month. Charlotte started February by winning three of four, but lost seven of their final eight to finish it off. The defense that appeared improved in November has softened greatly and has allowed opponents to shoot almost 49 percent since the calendar turned to 2006. Vote

Mike Woodson
Team: Atlanta Hawks
Record: 19-39
Votes: 53
Hawks enjoy first .500 month in nearly two years
Atlanta's 6-6 February was its first .500 or better month since April of 2004. And the Hawks didn't just beat up on fellow cellar dwellers, either. They defeated Detroit and New Jersey at home, and won at Indiana and the Lakers. Joe Johnson has looked more and more like the player that the Hawks paid big money to in the offseason. And Mike Woodson continues to increase the playing time of his many young players. Vote

Doc Rivers
Team: Boston Celtics
Record: 24-35
Votes: 127
Celtics shake things up, finish February on positive note
Boston has experienced growing pains with many of its young players this season. But there has been joy with the pain, particularly of late. The Celtics traded Ricky Davis along with youngsters Marcus Banks and Justin Reed to Minnesota. In return, Boston got back Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi. Boston responded by winning five of its final seven in February and saw rookie Ryan Gomes emerge as a capable rebounder. Vote

Bob Hill
Team: Seattle SuperSonics
Record: 23-37
Votes: 62
Sonics shake things up in hopes of a turnaround
The Sonics completed a 4-10 February by exhibiting the same porous defense that has plagued them all season long. Two of those four wins came against lowly Atlanta. In Seattle's defense, 10 of their 14 games were on the road. The team worked to address their roster concerns by dealing Vladimir Radmanovic and Reggie Evans, and receiving the promising Chris Wilcox and Earl Watson in return. Vote

Terry Stotts
Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 29-30
Votes: 80
Bucks staying afloat, holding down final playoff spot
Milwaukee is hanging onto the final spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs - for now. The Bucks are just 13-17 in 2006, after two consecutive losing months. But since they aren't being challenged by anyone - Chicago is the closest, 3 1/2 games back - Terry Stotts has time to right the ship and improve their seed over the next two months. Vote

Brian Hill
Team: Orlando Magic
Record: 20-40
Votes: 61
Magic falters in February: Hill returns, Francis dealt
Orlando's 2-12 mark in February was the second-worst in the NBA. While the schedule wasn't easy, either is Brian Hill's job in search of consistency from his players. The team finally succeeded in dealing Steve Francis to the Knicks, and while Grant Hill returned from his sports hernia, the team appears simply overmatched on many nights. Vote

Dwane Casey
Team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Record: 26-32
Votes: 87
Timberwolves stumble in February, trade Wally & Olowokandi
Minnesota took a big step backward in its hopes for a playoff berth by going just 3-10 in February. The Wolves actually won in Phoenix, but also lost at Portland and at home to the Raptors. In hopes of turning things around, Kevin McHale traded Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi in exchange for Ricky Davis, Marcus Banks and Justin Reed. Early returns are that these players will help in the long run, but Minnesota could be running out of time. Vote

Larry Brown
Team: New York Knicks
Record: 16-43
Votes: 350
Knicks continue downward spiral, make moves to stop bleeding
New York played a pretty tough February schedule, but wasn't competitive on many nights on its way to an NBA-worst 1-11 record. Isiah Thomas continued to make changes in hopes of turning things around. He traded for Steve Francis, which was considered questionable because of the Knicks' glut of shoot-first point guard types. Vote

Mike Montgomery
Team: Golden State Warriors
Record: 25-34
Votes: 109
Warriors continue to disappoint in 2006
Golden State continued its free-fall to the basement of the Pacific Division by following a 3-9 January with a 4-9 February. While an injury to Baron Davis has something to do with the Warriors' difficulties, the offense just hasn't been the same, either. Golden State scored fewer than 90 points in five of their last six games, and went 1-6 on the road in February. This disappointing stretch, combined with the coaching vacancy at Indiana University, has brought about the name of Mike Montgomery as someone of interest. Vote

03-07-2006, 04:16 PM
Jim O'Brien's Team by Team Assessments:

Chicago Bulls

Team Strengths
This team has excellent guard and perimeter play. Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon and Luol Deng are hard to guard. Gordon, last year's sixth man of the year, is an especially explosive offensive player. The team is excellent from the 3-point line at .380 (fourth in the NBA). The Bulls are one of the best rebounding teams in the league, especially at the defensive end of the floor.

Team Weaknesses
The loss of Eddy Curry by trade has left the Bulls without a true center. They have tried valiantly all year to use power forwards at the center position. Therefore, with no power game inside, the Bulls rely too much on their outside game, and thus they do not get to the free throw line, attempting only 23.1 free throws per game (28th in the NBA).

Coaching Style
Scott Skiles is a perfect match for this team. They are one year away from being a good playoff team. Skiles looks like he truly likes his team. He demands that his players improve and play the game the right way, both offensively and defensively, and he has them playing hard every night. A testament to this coach and staff is that they have 12 victories on the road so far; only Detroit, Miami, and New Jersey have more road victories in the Eastern Conference.

Coaching Challenges
This team took a big hit just before the beginning of the season with the Curry trade. It was something that they needed to do, but because of its timing they are missing a large piece of the NBA puzzle: a legitimate big man who can defend the low post, rebound and score on a consistent basis. Thus they have had to scrap and claw their way to 26 wins. They will have money in the offseason to go out and get someone to fill that role. If they can get that big body this team will be in the playoffs next year.

Looking Ahead
Scott Skiles and his staff have worked hard to develop their young talent: Gordon, Hinrich, Deng. They are one of the most prepared coaching staffs in the NBA and because of it they find themselves still in the playoff hunt, just three games behind Milwaukee.

Boston Celtics

Team Strengths
Doc Rivers has done a very good job with the Celtics offensively. They are averaging 98.1 ppg (12th in the NBA) with a .467 field-goal percentage (fourth in the NBA). Paul Pierce is having his best year as a pro and should have been the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February, scoring 33.5 ppg in 11 games. He is scoring efficiently and effortlessly.

Team Weaknesses
The Celtics' biggest problem all year has been the inability to defend on a night-in, night-out basis. They allow opponents 99.5 ppg (22nd in the NBA) and a .453 field-goal percentage (17th in the NBA). As their young players grow and develop, defense must become a focal point for them to become a legitimate playoff contender. They also need to improve their running game and get some easier baskets, and to get a pure point guard to make better decisions.

Coaching Style
Rivers is a very good offensive coach who has orchestrated a team that puts up a lot of points on a nightly basis. He's a good communicator who finally has a team that is more in his image -- good guys who work hard and listen to him. The Celtics may be young and not completely ready to make the playoffs, but he will have fun with this group in the last 25 games.

Coaching Challenges
The Celtics currently stand at 23-34. They have had enough talent in a very weak Eastern Conference to have a better record than this. They really need to commit to the defensive end of the floor over the next 25 games and next preseason to be a legitimate playoff team next year.

Give Doc credit for a couple of things this year: (A) helping Pierce post the best offensive season of his career and (B) taking a roster that has been changed and tweaked several times and making the correct adjustments to keep the team on track. He and his staff have done a marvelous job developing young players such as Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins.

Looking Ahead
The Celtics have 25 regular-season games left. It is possible for them to make the playoffs, but they must take quick advantage of the momentum they gained from their West Coast road trip. If the Celtics could go on a tear similar to that of last year (after acquiring Antoine Walker) and get 10 wins over the course of 15 games, it will be interesting in Beantown.

Philadelphia 76ers

Team Strengths
They can score. Allen Iverson is second in the NBA in scoring at 33.4 ppg and the team is currently tied for third in points per game at 100.6. Philly is also a dangerous 3-point shooting team ranked fourth in the NBA at .379, led by Kyle Korver at .430. They're a big steals team at 7.8 per game, led by Iverson at 2.0 per game.

Team Weaknesses
Conversely, this team does not defend. They rank 28th in the NBA in points allowed per game at 101.8 and 22nd in field-goal percentage defense at .459. This is the main reason the Sixers find themselves at one game over .500 at 30-29.

Coaching Style
Everyone loves Mo Cheeks. He is a players' coach and has a tremendous relationship with his two stars, Iverson and Chris Webber. That being said, this team is not much different than lasts year's team record-wise. They are one game above .500 and will probably sneak into the seventh or eighth playoff spot. Cheeks has Iverson, who can will this team to victories. In addition, Cheeks has Webber playing better this year. Currently, Webber is averaging 19.8 ppg and 9.8 rpg.

Coaching Challenges
This team has talent with Iverson, Webber and Andre Iguodala but they must commit themselves to the defensive end of the floor if they want to get a good seed and get out of the first round of the playoffs. With Iverson, Iguodala's athleticism and Samuel Dalembert's shot-blocking (No. 2 in the NBA at 3.1 per game) there is no reason this team should be almost dead last in defense in the NBA. Scoring comes easy to them but they need to improve on the area that will make them a dangerous playoff team.

Looking Ahead
The Sixers are right behind the Nets, two games out of first place. They have two big games with the Nets in the last two weeks of the season. They must stay on track, win those head-to-head games and keep their eye on first place in the Atlantic Division. Home court for the first-place winner is at stake.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Team Strengths
Cleveland is currently 33-26 and on course to improve on last season's 42-40 record. The Cavs have a good home record at 20-10. Mike Brown and his staff have begun to improve the team's defense. Under Brown, Cleveland continues to be one of the top rebounding teams in the NBA, currently eighth in the NBA in overall rebounding.

Team Weaknesses
The Cavs have not performed up to their potential on the road, where they are only 13-16. Although the Cavs have improved defensively, one of their problems is that they are not physical enough and have trouble with physical teams. They are currently 21st in the NBA in field-goal-percentage defense at .458. They must improve this statistic if they want to advance deep into the playoffs. They're a poor 3-point shooting team, ranked 27th in the NBA at .333.

Coaching Style
New owner, new general manager, new coach, star player, high expectations. That sums up the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mike Brown in his first year as a head coach has done a wonderful job in one of the top pressure cookers in the NBA. This was a team in turmoil last year and Brown and his staff have brought a calm, reassuring attitude to this year's team. Danny Ferry went out and got Mike some help in the offseason with the addition of Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones, though they haven't performed to expectations.

Coaching Challenges
Being the leader of a team requires a head coach to make tough decisions. Mike showed his ability to do this earlier in the season when he made Eric Snow the starting point guard. This decision did not sit well with his new free agent Damon Jones, but Brown knew Snow would run the team, get the ball to Zydrunas Ilgauskas and LeBron James, not need shots for himself and bring a tougher defensive presence. His choice was a difficult but smart one.

Brown must continue to work with his team defensively, making them tougher mentally as they approach the playoffs. In order for them to win a playoff round or two, they must be able to defend better and deal with the physicality that the playoffs bring.

Looking Ahead
The most important part of Mike Brown's job in Cleveland is not Xs and Os. It is the relationship he has developed with LeBron James and his ability to build confidence and trust with his star player. This may be the most difficult dilemma for a first-year head coach. It appears that he has handled this task very well. LeBron is having a marvelous season, third in the league in scoring at 30.9 ppg. Mike's ability to navigate this path of leading and coaching his star will determine not only his team's success this year but his own success in the years to come.

Detroit Pistons

Team Strengths
Flip Saunders and his staff have helped improve Detroit's ability to score. They are averaging 97.8 ppg on .445 field-goal shooting, while maintaining a strong defensive presence that allows opponents only 89.4 ppg (third in the NBA). The point margin of plus-8.5 between their offense and defense is No. 1 in the NBA. This is an unselfish and well-oiled team, averaging only 11.2 turnovers a game (best in the league) and 24.2 assists (second best).

Team Weaknesses
You tell me, because I am not sure. This team has not had any complacency. In fact, they appear to be on a mission to prove to the world that it was the players that have been responsible for their back-to-back Finals appearances. They win at home, they win on the road. They win the big games, and they win vs. the lowlier teams. They are going to approach 70 wins this season.

Coaching Style
Saunders and his staff have been the perfect match for this team of professionals who know how to play the game the correct way. The Pistons play great team defense, rebound the ball, play unselfishly on offense and know how to win. Saunders has been around a long time, in the CBA and in Minnesota. He understands that less is more. He did not come into Detroit bringing a big ego and trying to change things drastically. He understands better than most NBA coaches how to manage a team and to get the most out of a team on a game-to-game basis.

Coaching Challenges
Saunders has done a wonderful job leading his Pistons to a league-high 48 wins. His biggest challenge will come in the playoffs, where the expectations will be extremely high. His team will be expected to make it to the Finals and win. He has met all the expectations so far, so it would be no surprise to find Flip and his team playing in June.

Looking Ahead
In my opinion there are approximately 10 teams in the NBA that truly get it. From top to bottom, their owners, general managers, coaches and players are all on the same page. This is one of those teams. The Pistons have put together a team, one of the best the NBA has seen in recent years. Joe Dumars and John Hammond have given Larry Brown and now Saunders all the tools to work with. This team is on a mission this year to regain the NBA championship trophy in June.

03-07-2006, 04:19 PM
Miami Heat

Team Strengths
Simple equation: Shaq plus Wade plus Riley equals wins. The Heat are currently the No. 3 scoring team in the NBA at 100.5 ppg, and they are the No. 1 field-goal percentage team, shooting a league best .477. The Heat are a tough defensive unit, ranked seventh in the NBA with a .435 average field-goal defense. In addition, they are an excellent defensive rebounding team, ranked third in the NBA.

Team Weaknesses
The Heat do not have the killer instinct to put opponents away in games. They allow weaker teams to hang around. Coach Pat Riley has been on them about playing hard for 48 minutes. In a recent game vs. the Sonics, the Heat were up 27 points in the second half -- and then with one minute to go, they were up three and Seattle's Ray Allen had the ball. Riley is trying to break them of this habit. They also need to improve their free-throw shooting, which could kill them in the playoffs. They are currently ranked 29th in the NBA at .693.

Coaching Style
Since Riley has taken over again, the Heat have gone 27-10. He brings a lot of clout to the head coach position and with a businesslike approach, he is molding this team in his image. Getting Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade to do what they need to do is the easy part. But Riley has inserted James Posey in the starting lineup to get the defense he wants and brings Antoine Walker off the bench. He has Gary Payton back playing winning basketball, moving the ball and defending at a high level. In addition, he has Jason Williams playing his tail off.

Coaching Challenges
Riley knows his team is good -- but how good? They are talented enough, but are they cohesive and tough enough to beat Detroit in May? When and if that playoff matchup comes, they cannot have any major flaws. Thus, Riley and his staff will continue to work on improving their defense, getting their substitution rotations fixed and improving their ability to play consistently for 48 minutes.

Looking Ahead
In the last few games, Riley will continue to get his team ready for the playoffs. He knows what is necessary to beat the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, and although he will not talk to his team about that now, every move he makes has a long-term goal: getting his team ready to beat the best.

Boston Celtics

Team Strengths
Doc Rivers has done a very good job with the Celtics offensively. They are averaging 98.1 ppg (12th in the NBA) with a .467 field-goal percentage (fourth in the NBA). Paul Pierce is having his best year as a pro and should have been the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for February, scoring 33.5 ppg in 11 games. He is scoring efficiently and effortlessly.

Team Weaknesses
The Celtics' biggest problem all year has been the inability to defend on a night-in, night-out basis. They allow opponents 99.5 ppg (22nd in the NBA) and a .453 field-goal percentage (17th in the NBA). As their young players grow and develop, defense must become a focal point for them to become a legitimate playoff contender. They also need to improve their running game and get some easier baskets, and to get a pure point guard to make better decisions.

Coaching Style
Rivers is a very good offensive coach who has orchestrated a team that puts up a lot of points on a nightly basis. He's a good communicator who finally has a team that is more in his image -- good guys who work hard and listen to him. The Celtics may be young and not completely ready to make the playoffs, but he will have fun with this group in the last 25 games.

Coaching Challenges
The Celtics currently stand at 23-34. They have had enough talent in a very weak Eastern Conference to have a better record than this. They really need to commit to the defensive end of the floor over the next 25 games and next preseason to be a legitimate playoff team next year.

Give Doc credit for a couple of things this year: (A) helping Pierce post the best offensive season of his career and (B) taking a roster that has been changed and tweaked several times and making the correct adjustments to keep the team on track. He and his staff have done a marvelous job developing young players such as Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins.

Looking Ahead
The Celtics have 25 regular-season games left. It is possible for them to make the playoffs, but they must take quick advantage of the momentum they gained from their West Coast road trip. If the Celtics could go on a tear similar to that of last year (after acquiring Antoine Walker) and get 10 wins over the course of 15 games, it will be interesting in Beantown.

Toronto Raptors

Team Strengths
Toronto is a team that can put points up on the board. The Raptors are currently tied for third in the NBA in points per game with 100.6, seventh in field-goal percentage with .461 and eighth in 3-point field-goal percentage at .370. Chris Bosh is showing the NBA how good he is. Bosh is averaging 22.6 ppg and 9.2 rpg. In addition, the Raptors are getting big-time production from Mike James. He is a leader for this team and is averaging 18.2 ppg.

Team Weaknesses
Defense, defense and less defense. The Raptors are ranked 29th and 30th in the two most important defensive categories: points allowed and field-goal percentage defense, respectively. They allow opponents to score 102.9 ppg and shoot an incredible .490. That is a team that plays no defense.

Coaching Style
Sam Mitchell is now in his second year at the helm in Toronto. His team has gotten 20 wins and finds itself probably out of the playoff picture. Mitchell has worked hard in the past year or so, doing things his own way and has earned the respect of his players, most importantly Bosh.

Coaching Challenges
This team is athletic enough to defend but they don't. James, Bosh, Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham are athletic enough to defend better. Mitchell must get this group to improve in this area. They score so well that if they could just get to the middle of the pack in the NBA by next year, they would win a lot more games and be a fringe playoff team.

Looking Ahead
Everything changed in Toronto when Rob Babcock got fired and now Bryan Colangelo has become the new leader. Everyone will be evaluated under a new microscope. The players, the coaches and front office people have a new sheriff in town, and Colangelo will want to put his own imprint on this team. This team has 23 games left this season and it is imperative for everyone to put their best foot forward. Colangelo is watching and evaluating.

Phoenix Suns

Team Strengths
If anyone had any questions about how good a coach Mike D'Antoni is or whether Steve Nash was a legitimate MVP, they have been answered. No one expected the Suns to be dominating their divison without Amare Stoudemire in the lineup. D'Antoni has done a brilliant job coaching a new group and Nash could be the MVP again.

The Suns lead the league in scoring (108.1 ppg), 3-point shots attempted and made (9.7-25.0), they are second in accuracy from behind the arc (38.8 percent), and first from the foul line (81.5 percent).

They have a renewed interest is defense and have given up the third-fewest points per possession at 1.15. This defensive emphasis is what has taken D'Antoni's reputation to the next level.

They have seven players who average double figures led by Shawn Marion. They spread you out and let Nash create for everyone. The Suns have three players who shoot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line and two more at 38 percent. Both Nash (19.4 ppg, 10.8 apg) and Marion (22.0 ppg, 12.3 rpg) average double-doubles.

Team Weaknesses
They go to the foul line the least amount of times (18.8) because they space and live on the perimeter. They are last in the NBA in offensive rebounding at 9.4, and next to last in allowing their opponents to offensive rebound (12.4 per game). When Stoudemire rejoins them, he will help in all three areas.

Coaching Style
D'Antoni has won in Europe and he is showing he can get it done in a big way stateside. With the Suns, it's run and space the court and get the heck out of Nash's way. Fire at will from the 3 because if you could not shoot you would not be in the game.

They play a sagging man-to-man and invite you to shoot from the outside with a hand in your face. They try to expend the least amount of energy that they can on defense so they can run, run, run on offense.

Coaching Challenges
Should have no problem acclimating Stoudemire back into the scheme of things by the playoffs because everything revolves around Nash.

Looking Ahead
It is very important that they get Kurt Thomas back in time for the playoffs. Thomas, Boris Diaw, a major surprise, and Stoudemire are keys to their inside defense and all must be healthy if they are going to make some noise.

It is also important that they handle this month's tough road schedule to build momentum going into the playoffs.

Dallas Mavericks

Team Strengths
Nobody has better depth than the Mavs. Their second team would make a run at the playoffs. Avery Johnson has done a great job in making them a more physical team and has transformed them into a team that has gone from being pushed around to one that is doing the pushing.

They are in the top 10 in field-goal defense (44.1 percent) and are third in rebounding, pulling down 52.2% of all posssible rebounds, with a plus 3.9 rebounding margin. They are also second in total blocked shots.

This new attitude is the reason they have the best record on the road in the Westerm Conference at 19-8.

Offensively, they have great weapons to back up Dirk Nowitzki (25.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and are second in points per possession. They have six double-figure scorers and have a seventh just under 10 a game.

The Mavs are tops in the league in 3-point accuracy (38.9 percent) and are sixth overall from the floor (46.3 percent). They get to the line over 28 times a game (5th) and make them (6th).

All this adds up to a team that is 10-1 in the next game after a loss.

Team Weaknesses
They are weak at the center spot from a scoring standpoint. DeSagana Diop replaced Erick Dampier a few weeks back and they have only lost once since then. Neither big will give them much scoring.

Coaching Style
The "Little General" is a confident leader who saw that defense was separating the Mavs from the Pistons and Spurs and did something about it. He is an in-your-face coach that has the respect of the players so he can be tough on them. He gets plenty of help from Del Harris, an experienced bench coach.

Coaching Challenges
The stretch run is going to be a challenge. The Mavs still have 14 of their remaining 23 games on the road. Everyone always says the NBA season is a marathon and they are right.

Looking Ahead
The real challenge might be if they fall short of edging the Spurs for home court and have to face the Clippers in the first round, in a very physical confrontation. If they win ... here come the Spurs in the second round with home court advantage.

Houston Rockets

Team Strengths
The Rockets are 20-10 when Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming play in the same game. They are relatively healthy now and are starting to put up the type of wins expected of them.

You can throw out all of their team stats because they are a totally different team when their two stars are on the court. The exception to the rule is their typically low defensive field goal percentage (42.8 percent) which is tops in the league, despite their season-long injury woes.

The Rockets have a nice combination of young and old in the backkcourt. Rafer Alston and David Wesley are a dangerous pair when hitting the deep ball and recently acquired Keith Bogans and rookie Luther Head are not guys you can take lightly coming in off the bench.

Juwan Howard gives them experience and usually double-figure scoring. They have good depth at the big spots with Dikembe Mutombo and Stromile Swift backing up the bigs.

Team Weaknesses
They have the third worst field-goal percentage in the league (42.9 percent). They do not get many easy baskets because of their tempo control and also due to McGrady's injuries.

They are 24th in defending the 3 ball. But if they have Yao on the court, the perimeter can push out and defend the arc better.

Coaching Style
We all know that grind it out defense is a thing of beauty come the playoffs. Well, beautiful in Van Gundy's eyes, at least. He is accustomed to playoff basketball which favors his style of play.

He loves to make teams play against his half-court defense which is thoroughly prepared. He will only run when he has an advantage on the break. If not, he will wait for Yao to get down and post.

Coaching Challenges
Just win enough to get into a best-of-seven series. Van Gundy must tell his players that under no circumstance are they allowed to get injured.

Looking Ahead
If they make the playoffs they will have momentum on their side entering the first round and they will need every advantage they can get. That being said, they could be a nightmare for the Spurs or Mavs who are locked in a fierce struggle for the best record in the league and Western Conference and could be a bit beat up as a result.

Still on the outside looking in at the playoff race (3 1/2) Jeff Van Gundy's team is starting to hit their stride with a relatively healthy McGrady and Yao.

They finished 10-3 in February and are clearly one of the top eight teams in the West, which means absolutely nothing if they can't earn a spot with their end of the year surge.

03-07-2006, 04:21 PM
Denver Nuggets

Team Strengths
You hate to read too much into one game but if the huge win over Detroit is a sign of things to come, well things look pretty good down the stretch for the Nuggets.

When they traded for Ruben Patterson and Reggie Evans it was clear they would immediately become the most physical team in the Western Conference.

They manhandled a very tough Pistons team, outrebounding them 59-35. Kenyon Martin, Andre Miller and Carmelo Anthony are all very physical players. Marcus Camby is just flat-out long -- long enough to pull down 20 rebounds against Detroit. Karl inserted Patterson into the starting lineup and their front line has quickly become intimidating now that Martin seems healthy.

The best thing that has happened to the Nuggets recently is the trade deadline is over and they have their team set. No more hearing Martin is getting traded stuff, which will translate into a more focused group.

They are 6th in the league in getting to the foul line (28.2 attempts per game), and block almost 6 shots per game (tied for 4th). Both are signs that they are not afraid of action near the hoop.

Team Weaknesses
The Nuggets struggle away from the perimeter. They got no relief at the trading deadline, shipping out a deep threat in Earl Watson and bringing in two more non-shooters in Patterson and Evans. This is a major problem.

They only take 13 3s a game and shoot only 31 percent, which is dead last in the league. They do not have one starter that can make enough 3s to keep an opponent honest. This is a huge advantage to how opponents defend. They will just load all five players near the lane and clog up Denver's offense. Ironically, opponents shoot 36.4 percent against the Nuggets from the arc which is also troublesome for Karl.

Coaching Style
Karl is an excelllent offensive coach who will get the maximum out of his players. The fact that his team is 11th overall from the field (45.8%) is proof of how good he is. In Milwaukee his teams were always difficult to guard but he had more diverse weapons and was more perimeter oriented. He does not have a system per say but adjusts according to his players' skill levels at the offensive end.

He has had conflicts with players this year and in the past because he is not hesitant to tell them when he is not happy with their game. When his teams have harmony look out. Last year the Nuggets went 32-8 after he took over, which is still the best record by a replacement in the history of the league.

Coaching Challenges
Karl must make them the nastiest team in the league to overcome their perimeter deficiencies. They are in the midst of a slew of road games and he must get them to hit the road with a chip on their shoulder.

Looking Ahead
They have to play better than .500 on the road to secure the division championship and give them momentum going into the playoffs. The Nuggets have 13 of their last 21 on the road and still have a six-game Eastern swing.

Los Angeles Lakers

Team Strengths
You do not have to go any further than Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson to talk about the Lakers' strengths. Kobe can play and Phil can coach.

Bryant has the highest Player Efficiency Rating in the NBA. He did not have to drop 81 points for people to come to the conclusion that he is the best in the game. He is also the only perimeter player among the stars who is a superior defender.

Jackson's teams always make the playoffs. All 14 of his teams have made the playoffs.

Team Weaknesses
Bryant's supporting cast is inconsistent and Lamar Odom has not proven he can be the sidekick that Scottie Pippen was to Michael Jordan.

For all the talk about Bryant being selfish, take into account that the Lakers were 9-4 in January when Bryant averaged 43.4 ppg and 4-8 when he averaged only 31.8 in February.

In addition Odom, Smush Parker and Chris Mihm struggle from the foul line.

Coaching Style
Clearly, Jackson understands the mental side of the game. He understands relationships and never misses a chance to tweak the minds of his team.

The triangle offense is a thing of beauty when it is executed with skilled players and it seems to be improving down the stretch. Bryant seems to be sharing the ball more, which is a good news/bad news story on this team.

Coaching Challenges
Jackson always will be trying to balance Bryant's great offensive skills and the triangle offense. He probably will have to let his superstar determine the balance himself.

Jackson also must get into the head of Odom and get him to be a more consistent performer.

Looking Ahead
The Lakers have the most favorable schedule of anyone locked in the battle for the last playoff spots. They have 12 of their last 23 at home. They finish the season with their last five games at the Staples Center. A huge advantage.

Portland Trail Blazers

Team Strengths
Nate McMillan has proven he can coach. He did a terrific job in Seattle and he is not going to back down from the challenge, nor from any player that is slacking off. The latter is an absolute must for any team in a rebuilding situation.

Zach Randolph can flat out score the ball and is capable of double-digit rebounds any time out. Joel Przybilla and Theo Ratliff are a good center tandem when healthy. Darius Miles, their most explosive player, has been hurt most of the year and is just coming back. Their back court is young and undersized but will scrap. Sebastian Telfair is only two years out of high school and could be pretty darn good especially if he becomes a consistent outside threat.

Team Weaknesses
On the court the Blazers are dead last overall in scoring (88.8 ppg), scoring differential (8.3 ppg), percentage of missed shots rebounded per game (one of three teams that get under 70 percent of their opponents' missed shots) and foul shooting percentage (68.2 percent).

They are 26th in defensive field goal percent (46.3) and 28th in defending the 3 ball. They are 20th in 3-point shooting percentage where they only take 11.7 per game and are shooting 34.4 percent.

Coaching Style
On the other side of the league, Dwyane Wade has said it is unrealistic for a coach to expect his players to give 100 percent every game for 82 games. From most of his post-game interviews, it is clear McMillan would disagree with Wade's opinion.

Coaching Challenges
McMillan knew he had his hands full when he traveled down last summer from Seattle to Portland. The Blazers are flat-out struggling on and off the court. Their owner, Paul Allen, admits they are losing money hand over fist. Telfair was suspended because he was caught on the team plane with a loaded gun. Their two centers, Przybilla and Ratliff, are out with injuries. McMillan is chiding his team constantly about their will to win. You get the picture.

Looking Ahead
The biggest challenge McMillan has for the rest of the year is to continue building a culture that will work hard and compete every time out, no matter what their record is at any given point. This team must come out of this year with some hope if they are going to start taking steps forward.

McMillan is capable of giving them this hope because he has the full backing of management. Clearly, what they do with their high lottery pick is of the utmost importance as McMillan takes them into his second year.

Sacramento Kings

Team Strengths
Geoff Petrie won the Ron Artest sweepstakes and it is paying off handsomely for the Kings who have won 10 out of their last 14. Artest has brought a new attitude at the defensive end.

Adelman's teams have always been efficient offensively and are still tough to guard although they are only 12th in the league in field-goal percentage (45.5 percent). Expect that to go up as Artest becomes more comfortable with the Kings' scheme.

The Kings are also second in the league in foul shooting (79.6 percent) which is key down the stretch.

Team Weaknesses
They are only 4-7 on the road since the trade and are a poor 10-20 overall. That could prove to be a road block in the Kings' quest for a playoff spot because 11 of their remaining 22 games are away from Arco Arena.

Coaching Style
Adelman relies heavily on Pete Carril's Princeton offensive concepts and variations of them. He has not had much of a low-post threat from his bigs and uses them often in face-up rolls. Artest and Wells can be tough in the low post and Adelman is more than happy to have these additonal weapons. If he gets them out together they will be very difficult to match up against.

Coaching Challenges
The challenge for the coaching staff is to get a key player like Artest hitting on all cylinders including the offensive end. Artest has struggled with his shooting since coming to Sacramento. From the field he is shooting 40.3% and only 27.3% from the 3-point line. Adelman is going to have to get better offensive production from Artest to turn around their fortunes on the road.

Looking Ahead
Adelman has averaged 56 wins a year over the last five years, so it is clear that he knows how to get teams to win down the stretch.

The additional toughness that Artest brings should start to pay off on the road. Toughness will also pay dividends in the dogfight for the last playoff spot.

03-07-2006, 05:02 PM
Evilmav, thank you.

03-07-2006, 10:08 PM
I love any props but our second team would get their ass kicked. They would be probably the worst starting lineup in the nba. Especially if you consider diop the backup which is basically what he is.

Devin-average pg right now (think he will be awesome but he aint there yet)
Stack-ball hog volume shooter that isnt what he used to be
Quis-very very very poor mans gilbert arenas i like him so he helps this out.
Damp/diop much better with damp but neither is enough to make up for the rest of the lineup.

03-07-2006, 11:04 PM
We'd still be better than the Knicks...;)

03-08-2006, 01:39 AM

Evilmav2, I confess I'm VERY disappointed that you (once again) didn't get your question answered. ;)

Thanks for posting.

03-08-2006, 02:04 AM
Jeff Van Gundy sucks.

03-08-2006, 02:16 AM
Jeff Van Gundy sucks.

The guy looks like he hasn't slept since 1995.