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06-23-2002, 09:50 PM
Borrowed from "Chicago JK" at LMF

June 23, 2002 Talk about it E-mail story Print

Mark Heisler:
Draft Will Provide Few Solutions for Most Teams

So, as Shaquille O'Neal points his Jet Ski for the middle of the lake adjoining his palatial
Orlando summer home in an attempt to become the largest man to hit 100 mph on
water, we turn our attention to the rest of the league, which has all it can do to catch
up with him.

Not that Wednesday's draft figures to change the hierarchy (1. Lakers, 2. Sacramento,
3. San Antonio, 4. Dallas, 5. Minnesota, 6. tie among Utah, Seattle and East
champion). However, it kicks off what promises to be 15 months of frenetic player
movement, not to mention possible team movement, with the Timberwolves petitioning
to switch conferences with the New Orleans (ne Charlotte) Hornets.

This, of course, would be a dangerous precedent. If granted, 12 more West teams
might file similar petitions in an attempt to leave the Lakers out here by themselves.
Most of the movement probably will come later--next summer when the big '03
free-agent class reaches the market--rather than sooner, with teams worrying about
the luxury tax, but stay tuned.

At present, only the top four picks look as if they've been nailed down. Most of the
other teams have way bigger decisions to make than this one.

What (We Think) We Know

1. Houston--Yao Ming. The Houston Chronicle's Jon Feigen reports the Rockets have
been totally secretive, except for "their trip to Shanghai, the mayor's trip to Shanghai,
their trip to Beijing, [their] doctor's trip to Beijing where he gave Yao Ming a six-hour
examination, [their] lawyer's second trip to Shanghai, the video (in Mandarin) about
Houston and the Chinese community here [which the team made for him], or the
Rockets' Web site which includes a large picture of Yao Ming and daily updates of the
progress of negotiations [with the Chinese government.]"

2. Chicago--Jay (ne Jason) Williams. Done deal. He's so enthusiastic, he even says he
likes GM Jerry Krause, a sentiment rarely heard outside Krause's immediate family.

3. Golden State--Mike Dunleavy Jr. Presumed-outgoing GM Garry St. Jean is so
spooked by past mistakes (you take Vince Carter, we want Antawn Jamison), he'll
make the safe pick. Lots of GMs love this kid but a few skeptics see only a nice,
complementary player.

If St. Jean takes him, bet on the latter.

Miffed at bad reviews, St. Jean holed up, declining even to release the names of
players the Warriors worked out. In last week's get-it-out-of-the-way news
conference, he announced, "We haven't talked in quite some time and I'll begin this by
sharing with you that it will not be too informative for you. We're not going to talk
about the coaching situation [Brian Winters is still hanging on by his interim title],
specifics about the draft or any trades we might make."

We're going to miss you, big guy. If you hook on as an assistant coach again and
someone offers a better job, tell them, "I'm better off here."

4. Memphis--Drew Gooden. Kansas Coach Roy Williams says he's been told Gooden
won't go lower than four. Coincidentally or not, Williams is close to Jerry West.

Elsewhere, the Situation Is a Little Fluid

5. Denver--First, the Nuggets had a Larry Brown strategy. Now they have a Jason Kidd
strategy (fill coaching vacancy with New Jersey assistant Eddie Jordan, who's friendly
with Jason and Antonio McDyess). However, McDyess, an '03 free agent, has made it
clear he won't stay for what would be his third rebuilding project, and they're running
out of time to turn him around.

6. Cleveland--With the team up for sale, the Cavaliers won't max out '03 free agent
Andre Miller. Coach John Lucas actually pooh-poohed Miller's numbers, noting he had
the ball all the time. Of course, by the time Andre hits the market, Lucas may have hit
the street. People suspect they may unload everyone and go low in the hope of
getting next spring's No. 1 pick and ... drumroll please ... LeBron James.

Or, as one coach said, alluding to the fine the Cavaliers paid for working out James,
the prep junior from nearby Akron: "They've already got $150,000 invested in him."

7. New York--No worries about whom to get rid of. When you've got nothing, you've
got nothing to lose. Good news is a big-time prospect--Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Chris
Wilcox, Nene Hilario or Caron Butler--will fall to them. Bad news comes in the fall when
they, their fans and press corps learn rookies don't arrive fully developed.

8. Clippers--Upcoming negotiations with Michael Olowokandi and Elton Brand make this
the biggest summer in their history. They're so loaded, even players they'd take with
their two lottery picks wouldn't play. They've decided to let Jeff McInnis go and would
love to trade the picks plus whatever it takes for Miller or Baron Davis. The Hornets
said no way. The Cavaliers are still going through their options.

9. Phoenix--The Suns' Job 1 is getting Penny Hardaway and Tom Gugliotta's $21 million
a year off their salary cap. That should keep them busy the next two or three years.

10. Miami--Owner Mickey Arison, faced with the reality his no-tax edict meant melting
down what remained of his franchise, told Pat Riley he could go over the tax threshold,
so Riley could stop shopping Eddie Jones. The Heat won't move '03 free agent Alonzo
Mourning but won't max him out, either, this summer or next, so Mourning's future
there remains in doubt.

11. Washington--The Wizards hope Michael Jordan will return (he still hasn't said) for
one more season. After that, it's back under their rock.

12. Clippers--Whatever they do with their first pick, they're likely to move this one.

13. Milwaukee--Unfortunately for the Bucks, nothing's going on. George Karl and his
beloved Sam Cassell, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Anthony Mason will be together for
one more season. Unless it's better than the last one, then it'll be ... blooie!

14. Indiana--The Pacers already have everything they need, with the possible
exception of a coach. Anyone who'll take Austin Croshere's $6.5-million salary off their
hands can have this pick.

15. Houston--The Rockets need another forward because Glen Rice looks like he's now
a reserve, at best, and Mo Taylor, who sat out the season because of an Achilles'
injury, weighs 290.

16. Philadelphia--When Brown doesn't move himself, he moves someone else. Right
now, he's looking for a place for Dikembe Mutombo, who's 36 and makes $17 million a
year through age 39.

17. Charlotte/New Orleans--The Hornets better hope Davis, their new franchise player,
loves that French Quarter. He's another '03 free agent and his new agent, Jerome
Stanley, reportedly told the Hornets he won't re-up.

"I've talked to Bob [Bass, Hornet GM]," Stanley told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "
... but I'm not going to say what we talked about. At this time Baron ... has nothing to
talk about."

18. Orlando--The good news is the Magic has a $10-million slot next summer. The bad
news is, Tim Duncan no longer seems in play and Coach Doc Rivers wants to know
what GM John Gabriel can do for him this summer. They'd move Mike Miller and/or
Darrell Armstrong for one of the big prospects.

19. Utah--Aside from Karl Malone ('03 free agent) and owner Larry Miller going back
and forth in the local papers, and seven free agents, most of whom they don't want
back, all is peaceful.

20. Toronto--The big decision for the Raptors is re-signing their 6-11 energizer, Keon
Clark, which would take them into tax territory, where they say they don't wish to go.

21. Portland--Trader Bob Whitsitt is at it again, offering everyone but Rasheed Wallace
to move into the top 10 for one of the big prospects Hilario or 6-9 prep Amare
Stoudemire. Other targets of opportunity: Mourning and Mutombo.

22. Phoenix--And then the Suns have to see if they can introduce Stephon Marbury to
the other guys.

23. Detroit--Everything's cool, as long as they can go on monumentally overachieving,

24. New Jersey--Kidd's '03 free agency overhangs everything. This could be like that
of Chris Webber, who found there was no place like home, however small or
industrial-park-laden. The Nets will hold their breath until Kidd commits himself, which
he refuses to do. He wants a new arena, a new post-up threat (McDyess?) and a new
attitude, or home, for Keith Van Horn.

25. Denver--Oh, and Juwan Howard is an '03 free agent too, and the Nuggets started
George McCloud, Calbert Cheaney and Mengke Bateer at the end of last season. In
other words, another early favorite in the race for next spring's No. 1 pick.

26. San Antonio--This is David Robinson's swan song, after which the Spurs will have a
big slot to use to replace him (McDyess?)

27. Lakers--What, them worry?

28. Sacramento--The Maloofs are back on Earth after living out their dream (getting
on "The Tonight Show," not the epic battle with the Lakers.) Now they have to give
Mike Bibby $120 million, which means a big luxury-tax payout and a new austerity
program. On the other hand, with young players such as Bibby, Peja Stojakovic and
Hedo Turkoglu on the rise, they can still get better.

Sitting out the first round--Dallas (although Mark Cuban, who wants one of the big
guys, is working on it); Minnesota (again shopping Wally Szczerbiak, whose Little
Prince act gets old); Seattle (Gary Payton, '03 free agent, hasn't complained about
not getting an extension ... yet); Boston (trying to get Rodney Rogers to re-up so the
Celtics have something to show for the No. 1 pick they gave the Suns); and Atlanta
(are the Hawks still in this league?)