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OutletPass
04-22-2003, 11:43 AM
Lottery questions: Can these 13 unlucky teams turn it around this summer?

Michael Jordan and the Wizards are dead and buried.

The Cavaliers ended their horrendous season true to form. They won their last game, wrecking their chance to have the worst record in the league and the most pingpong balls in the draft lottery . . .Donald "Sugar Daddy" Sterling was last seen burning green in his luxury box . . . For the first time in 15 years, there are scraps left over at the dinner table in Chicago now that Jerry Krause has left the Bulls . . .

On Monday Insider talked about the ramifications of losing in the first round of the playoffs. Today, Insider digs through the mailbag and takes a look back at the fallen . . .

Q: Please tell me that the Rockets will make the playoffs next year. With Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, Yao Ming and Eddie Griffin that's a playoff team, right? -- R. Tomjanovich, Houston.

FORD: That's a tough call. I like the Rockets, but they are in the same boat with the Sonics, Warriors, Grizzlies, Clippers and Nuggets. All of them figure to get better next season, but who are they going to knock out of the playoffs?

Seriously. The eighth seed, the Suns, are on the rise. If Amare Stoudemire keeps up the learning curve, they'll be fighting for a fifth or sixth seed next season. The Jazz are on the decline a bit, but if they can land Andre Miller this summer, my guess is that they're still in the playoffs next season when the smoke clears. The Blazers are always a grand jury away from implosion, but they have too much talent. The Lakers are the Lakers. And the T-Wolves will always have a shot as long as Kevin Garnett still wears a uniform. In other words, barring a catastrophic injury to one of the current eight playoff teams in the West, it's hard to see it happening.

The Rockets have other issues. They don't have a first-round pick this year. And owner Les Alexander isn't anxious for the team to use its mid-level exception because of luxury-tax issues. At some point, the Rockets are going to have to either cross their fingers that Griffin and Bostjan Nachbar start playing up to their potential, or they're going to have to look for a trade. I like the Rockets, but they still seem to be a piece away.

Q: Is there any way we can pry the Seattle native Jamal Crawford away from the Bulls? And while your at it, any draft recommendations? -- N. McMillan, Seattle.


FORD: It's possible. If you're Chicago, you'd have to listen to an offer of Vladimir Radmanovic for Crawford. Radmanovic is the type of big, sweet shooting small forward the team has been looking for. It's pretty clear that new GM John Paxson isn't sold on the idea of Crawford and Jay Williams playing together in the backcourt. I don't think a trade like that is out of the question. While you're at it, the Sonics should see what it would take to get Marcus Fizer as part of the package.

As far as draft recommendations, the Sonics are looking at, most likely, a 12th and 15th pick in the draft. One of those they'll likely use on a legit power forward. Someone like Georgetown's Michael Sweetney would be great if he was still available. The other will probably be used on a point guard. Kirk Hinrich, Luke Ridnour, Reece Gaines or Brazil's Leandrinho Barbosa should be available. After watching Barbosa's highlight tape, I'd be inclined to go for the young Brazilian. He reminded me of a young Gary Payton.

Q: Are the Warriors screwed if Gilbert Arenas decides to sign in Denver? -- R. Barry, Oakland.


FORD: Pretty much. They have a lot of talent, but he's the guy who could be a superstar. I'm not sure what they can do to stop it. Sign-and-trades are out of the question. The chances that they're able to clear $20 million in cap room this summer are slim to none. Pleas for Arenas to take considerably less to stay in Golden State will likely fall on deaf ears.

Losing Arenas without compensation hurts. It leaves the Warriors with three options. First, they can try to lure Gary Payton or Jason Kidd back to Bay via free agency. The one thing the Warriors have going in their favor is that they have some expendable young talent. If Payton or Kidd demanded a sign-and-trade to the Warriors, the team could probably put together a decent deal in return.

Second, the team can try to draft a point guard to replace him. Hinrich, Ridnour, Gaines and Barbosa are all possibilities, but none of them will have the impact that Arenas did last year. Finally, they can try to package Mike Dunleavy and their first-round pick for someone like Jamal Crawford or Jay Williams. If none of that works, the Warriors will find it hard to duplicate the success they enjoyed this season.

Q: I'm still in shock over how pathetic the Wizards were down the stretch this season. I'm even more shocked at how Doug Collins can't seem to control a handful of teenagers who should still be in college. Or how Abe Pollin is already trying to push Michael Jordan out the back door. Or how Jerry Stackhouse is predicting the Wizards will be better next season without MJ. I could go on . . . -- C. Oakley, Washington D.C.


FORD: Apparently, you didn't get the memo that Wizards fans were happy this season because MJ played. There's no question that there are more question marks than answers in D.C. right now. First, it's still unclear what role Jordan will play with the team next season. There are ongoing reports, including a doozy in the Washington Post today, that Jordan and owner Abe Pollin are not on the same page. Jordan wants control, Pollin wants Wes Unseld to remain in charge. What seemed unfathomable a month ago -- the Wizards would actually push Jordan out the door -- now seems possible. I still think, at the end of the day, Pollin will relent and hand the reigns over to Michael. The Wizards were nobodys three years ago without Michael. They'll be nobodys again if they let him flee for Charlotte or Chicago.

If Jordan goes, you can bet Doug Collins will follow him out the door. Even if Jordan stays, it's tough to see how Collins can coach this team. He's not fond of any of the players and apparently they aren't fond of him. The Wizards, barring some draft and free-agent magic, are going in the wrong direction. Why would Collins want to coach this team?

After that, everything depends on Stackhouse. His camp has been maintaining for some time that he's probably not going to opt out given the market. However, given the direction of the Wizards, does he really want to play there next season? If he opts out of his contract, the Wizards will likely renounce him and use the money they saved (they'd be around $12 million under the cap) to try to add a dynamic young piece like Gilbert Arenas to the puzzle. If Stackhouse stays, the Wizards won't have much more than a late lottery pick and the mid-level exception to work with. Look for them to try to trade Stackhouse for a more traditional point guard.

Q: Is Antonio McDyess ever going to be the same? Are the Knicks ever going to find a real center? Or a real point guard? -- S. Lee, New York


FORD: It doesn't look good. The second surgery on McDyess' knee isn't good news no matter what the spin is coming out of New York. I'm not saying that he won't come back and play next season, but if he loses his explosiveness, what's the point?

There aren't any "real" centers out there worth the Knicks' trouble. If they had cap room, they could make a pitch at guys like Brad Miller or Rasho Nesterovic, but they'll get deals for more than the mid-level exception. The best center in the draft is probably Central Michigan's Chris Kaman. However, if the Knicks end up drafting either ninth or 10th, he'll probably be off the board.

As far as point guards go, they have one. He'll just be playing in Spain next season. Before you go and beat the tar out of GM Scott Layden for screwing up the negotiations with Milos Vujanic, hear me out. Several international sources told Insider last week that the Knicks offered Vujanic a contract starting at more than $2 million a year. They didn't lowball him. His agent just convinced him that he was better off being a star in Spain than sitting on the bench in New York. However, a recent ankle injury should give Vujanic pause. He's got more to lose than to gain by playing in Europe next season.

Q: Should the Hawks re-sign Jason Terry this summer? Call me crazy, but I think he's the most valuable player on the team. -- J. Terry, Atlanta

FORD: OK. . . No one's clear what's going to happen to the Hawks this summer. New owners? New coach? New GM? New philosophy? They had the talent to make the playoffs this year, but the chemistry just wasn't there.

In hindsight, the Glenn Robinson trade was big mistake. The Hawks actually played better without Robinson than they did with him. They'd love to trade him, and there may be a deal out there that makes sense. Don't be shocked if the Rockets entertain swapping Glen Rice for Robinson. While Rice wouldn't be an upgrade for the team, his contract expires at the end of next season, meaning the Hawks could get his contract off the books in a year.

The team's other big problem is its backcourt. Terry played well this season, but Terry Stotts (and Lon Kruger before him) still doesn't believe he's a point guard. The Hawks will likely let Terry play the free-agent market. He's a restricted free agent and it's unlikely that he'll get a huge offer this summer. The should be able to re-sign him cheap or work out a sign-and-trade for a more traditional two guard. Dan Dickau didn't look like the answer at point guard either, but I think they're willing to give him another year to adjust.

The draft won't be much of help. If the Hawks do not get one of the top-three picks (they have a 3.37 percent chance at No. 2 and a 4.02 percent chance at No. 3), they must send their pick to Bucks to complete the Robinson-for-Toni Kukoc trade.

Q: Kevin Garnett to the Bulls? Don't you think new GM John Paxson should set his sights a little lower? He doesn't need to show up the old regime in year one does he? -- J. Sleuth, Chicago


FORD: Paxson will be a major disappointment if he doesn't make a major move this summer. Garnett is the ultimate dream. Adding someone a notch or two below would work too. The Bulls have all the pieces, too many pieces actually, to turn this team into a playoff contender.

His first decision will come on draft day. No matter where the Bulls land, Paxson has to decide whether this team needs more young, raw players. He should be able to parlay the pick and one of the Bulls other young pieces (Jay Williams, Jamal Crawford, Marcus Fizer) into a solid veteran. If the pick ends up being LeBron, or Darko, they should be able to land an all-star. If it's Carmelo, they should seriously think about holding on to him. He's the perfect fit in their system.

Q: The Grizzlies made a big improvement this year. What does Jerry West have up his sleeve for this summer? Please tell us that this Kobe-to-the-Grizz stuff is just nonsense --M. Kupchak, Los Angeles


FORD: Unless the Grizzlies strike gold and get the No. 1 pick, they'll have to send their lottery pick to the Pistons to complete an old trade. They will, however, get a lottery pick (likely No. 13) from the Rockets this year. West once landed Kobe Bryant with the No. 13 pick in 1996. Can lightening strike twice?

Don't count on it. West will be patient. The team would like to add some size over the summer and get rid of a couple of bad contracts to free up cap space for the summer of 2004. They'll shop a combination of Lorenzen Wright and a much-improved Stromile Swift around the league this year. Surely a team like the Knicks would be willing to part with spare parts with expiring contracts to make it happen. So would a team like the Sonics, who desperately need some size in the middle.

Hold on for one more years Grizzlies fans. If West doesn't land Kobe, he'll nab someone with his cap room 2004. When he does, the Grizzlies will have finally arrived.

Q: Is Donald Sterling going to pay anyone or should they all start looking for new jobs? -- M. Olowokandi, E. Brand, A. Miller, L. Odom, C. Maggette, Los Angeles

FORD: You don't need an Insider to answer that question. A Magic Eight Ball will do just fine. It has about as much of a chance of getting into Donald Sterling's head as I do. I ran upstairs and borrowed my daughter's to answer the question. Two shakes reveals the answer.

"It is decidedly so."

Great, that clears things up.

Q: If the Heat land a top-three draft pick, land a decent free agent this summer and get a healthy Alonzo Mourning back for cheap, will they be in the playoffs next season? -- M. Arison, Miami


FORD: That's a lot of ifs. The draft pick will come first. LeBron would be a godsend. Coach Pat Riley is trying to teach Caron Butler how to play the point this summer. If the Heat got James, they could forget about moving Butler and put LeBron in place. Ditto for Carmelo Anthony.

Second, they'll need some sort of agreement from Zo to sign on the cheap. That won't be easy. While Mourning won't make huge dollars in the free-agent market, a team like Dallas or Portland probably would be willing to throw its $4.5 mid level exception Zo's way. They can afford to gamble.

The Heat won't have any money unless they release Zo. If they do that, they'll only be able to re-sign him for the veteran's exception. If they can figure out how to get Anthony Carter out of his contract, the team is looking at $10 million and a real shot at a center like Michael Olowokandi or Brad Miller. In other words, they wouldn't need Zo. If they have more like $5 million, they aren't going to find anyone better than Zo on the market anyway.

Q: Can the Raptors lure another big-time coach to Toronto after ruining Lenny Wilkens' credibility this year? -- L. Wilkens, Toronto

FORD: Sure. I think it's a job that Jeff Van Gundy will seriously have to consider. The Raptors will have a big-time lottery pick this summer. Adding someone like LeBron, Carmelo or Darko to the puzzle will be huge.

What the team needs is health and toughness. If they get those two things back (Van Gundy can bring the toughness, the health is up to God), the Raptors are right back in the hunt in the East. I think a job like that would appeal to Van Gundy. It's one thing to rebuild from scratch. Another to come in and change the philosophy of an organization. Van Gundy can do that, reap a lot of the credit and watch the Raptors devour the competition again next year.

Q: Even if the Nuggets get LeBron, add Gilbert Arenas and Corey Maggette, keep Juwan Howard and Marcus Camby and see Nene Hilario, Nikoloz Tskitshvili and Rodney White develop, they're still years away from the playoffs, right? -- D. Issel, Denver



FORD: No. I think they're the terror of the West if that happens. There are a lot of ifs there, but none of them is implausible. Chances are, the Nuggets will get either LeBron, Darko or Carmelo. That's step one. I think adding Arenas to the team is a slam dunk. I'm not sure about Maggette. My guess is that they'll have to choose between him or a veteran like Howard. Given how young the team is, Howard may be a better option. He really mentored the young players this year and he's willing to fit into any role you ask him.

A healthy Camby would give the Nuggets one of the better centers in the NBA. Of course, we know that's a big if. Nene looks like he's ready to bust out next year. Skita and White are still probably another year or two away.

The x-factor is coach Jeff Bzdelik. He had his team playing harder than anyone in the NBA this season. If he could get the same effort out of this group, they'd have a shot at the playoffs. More likely, they are another year away. Either way, the future is bright in Denver.

Q: Please stop picking on the Cavs. Between your digs on management, Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm, DeSagana Diop and our new uniforms, it's getting a bit old. When will you give us a break? -- J. Paxson, Cleveland

FORD: Tell you what. Figure out a way to get LeBron James in the draft, turn Darius Miles into the superstar he's supposed to be, trade Ricky Davis for a real point guard and use your free-agent dollars to land some more help for Carlos Boozer in the paint and I'll ignore the uniforms. Deal?

MavsFanFinley
04-22-2003, 01:32 PM
<< While Mourning won't make huge dollars in the free-agent market, a team like Dallas or Portland probably would be willing to throw its $4.5 mid level exception Zo's way. They can afford to gamble. >>



Would Zo come to Dallas for the mid level exception? Or any team for that matter?

His health concerns me, it's why I've always been against a trade with Miami for him.

However, if we can't lure Oggy or another foreign player, or even a free agent like Maggette or Malone, would it be worth going after Zo for the excetption?

I don't think it would hurt, but I don't want to see the Mavs waste the entire summer chasing Zo when they could pursue others.

grbh
04-22-2003, 01:45 PM
I would love to see the Mavs go after Zo in the off season. Granted it is risky, and who knows if he would even be interested or healthy for that matter.

So long as they don't string us along. Make an offer give him one week to take it. If he does, great. if not the Mavs have plenty of time to look elsewhere for help.

In the 01-02 season he was still pretty effective when he was healthy enough to be on the court.

Dooby
04-22-2003, 02:37 PM
To paraphrase David Letterman, &quot;Mutombo-Alonzo; Alonzo-Mutombo.&quot;

jayC
04-22-2003, 04:25 PM
Here is the thing anyone you would bring in here would be playing out of position. ZO can help you even at 80 percent raef is one of the worst rebound per game centers in the NBA. What a waste of talent.Zo gives you a second post option similarly to vlade divac inn sacramento. If you want out of position players add pj brown, dale davis, antonio davis, etc. But if you want a true center you take the risk with ZO.

aexchange
04-22-2003, 04:30 PM
zo is good for the vet minimum.

otherwise, i look elsewhere to try to tie up my midlevel exception. i thin raewn labradley is doing an adequate job. if i really want to tie up my money, i try to sign a jamal magloire or somebody along those lines.

Drbio
04-22-2003, 04:42 PM
I'd much rather have Malone if we are spending the exception.

madape
04-22-2003, 04:52 PM
I don't think Maglore will be a free agent next year. I'm pretty sure the Hornets have an option on him... I think they'll keep him. In any case, Between Morning and Malone, Malone is certainly the less risky of the two. You know you are going to get production out of him. Who knows if Morning will even play next year, much less be as dominant as he was three years ago. If we are only looking for a vet to come in for a year or two to get us over the hump, Malone is the better choice. If we are looking three or four years down the line... well Morning probably won't even be in the league.

Hoopsmeister
04-22-2003, 05:00 PM
<< I'd much rather have Malone if we are spending the exception. >>



I don't want either. Dirk isn't 25 yet. Mavs need to use their resources adding pieces that can go with him for the long haul (i.e., guys either in their prime now or young with potential), not adding guys that we are going to spend our time praying last just 82 more games + the playoffs. If the last couple of years have proved anything (Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, Steve Smith, etc) its that NBA players almost alway stay a year too long. And you don't want to be the team that picks up that guy in the last year.

mavsfanforever
04-22-2003, 09:52 PM
I would rather have malone and PJ Brown. Do not wanna have injured players in here.