View Full Version : espn.com NBA 101: What this season taught us

04-17-2006, 03:20 PM

Editor's note: To recap the season, we asked our writers and editors what they would remember. Here, then, is everything you need to know about the 2005-06 season (so far).

Andrei Kirilenko
ESPN The Magazine
AK-47 and his wife, Masha, have a special arrangement.

1. Real pressure?
In Salt Lake City? It's not trying to make the playoffs and keep hothead owner Larry Miller happy. For Andrei Kirilenko, it's picking the right companion for the evening when cashing in the ultimate once-a-season hall pass from the wife. -- Marc Stein

2. Flagrant stupidity
Here's why Kobe Bryant can't be MVP. On Dec. 28, he commits a premeditated flagrant foul on Mike Miller (elbow to the neck), Miller makes the two free throws and the Grizzlies win 100-99 in overtime. Then Bryant brags about the elbow and gets suspended two games, which become two losses to Utah. One elbow, three Ls. -- ESPN.com

3. Moneyball has come to the NBA
The Houston Rockets sent shock waves throughout the league when they announced that little-known Celtics exec Daryl Morey would be the team's next general manager. Morey has little traditional scouting/coaching experience but has expertise in statistical analysis, which wouldn't be shocking in baseball but was completely unheard of in pro hoops … until now. -- John Hollinger

4. Trade The Franchise to save the franchise
Do teams get better when Steve Francis leaves? The Orlando Magic are 13-4 in the last month, which is the second-best record in the league over that period. I guess Francis can commiserate with his new friend Starbury. -- ESPN.com

5. Stay where you are
Mike Montgomery is the latest coach to end a illustrious college career to go pro -- and fail. Coach K clearly knew what he was doing when he turned down the Lakers' job. -- Ric Bucher

6. Oh, Bosh
The Toronto Raps star got his props with an All-Star appearance, but, sad to say, it looks like he's on the KG career path. Like Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh seems destined to be an underappreciated superstar stuck in a northern NBA outpost. Great city, weak spotlight. -- ESPN.com

Paul Pierce
Kent Horner/Getty Images
Paul Pierce made the most of this season in green.

7. OK, we get it
Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics are not trading Paul Pierce! Never mind that 10 months ago, they worked out a deal to exile him to Portland. And never mind that he can opt out of his contract in 2007 and might not want to re-sign with a team that's 32 games behind the Detroit Pistons in the East.
-- ESPN.com

8. The NBA ... It's Ban-tastic!
No more dressing like a bum on the bench. No more wearing women's clothing on the court. And no more Chris Andersen for two years. Style and substance abuse … the league has spoken. -- ESPN.com

9. Detroit devil deal
The Detroit Pistons have either the greatest fitness staff in history or a deal with the devil. Their top six guys have missed zero games because of injury, not counting Rasheed's brain cramps. -- ESPN.com

10. "Reg-gie, Reg-gie"
The newest member of TNT's broadcasting crew hit it on the head early in the season when he pointed out how the Pacers' chemistry problems were going to be a serious issue. Too bad Reggie didn't share his insight more when he was a player. -- Chris Sheridan

11. Taking the bullet
They weren't seriously hurt, but two NBA rookies were shot this season. Andray Blatche was shot in the chest while getting carjacked near his home in Virginia, and Julius Hodge was hit in the legs while driving on the interstate in Denver. What are the odds that two of the top 40 picks get shot in the same season? -- ESPN.com

12. Careful what you wish for
Larry Brown called it his dream job. It ended up being a nightmare. He left the helm of the Detroit Pistons to take over in New York, and then watched the Pistons roll to the league's best record while his Knicks sunk toward the bottom. -- J.H.

13. Psych!
Larry Bird wasn't walking through that door, so the Celtics signed Brian Scalabrine to a five-year, $15 million contract, in part because he supposedly has Bird's "brain type." Boston fans, more interested in his 2.7 PPG than his EEG, have a nickname for the dead meat at the end of the bench: "Veal." -- ESPN.com

14. Jerry's kids
New Team USA czar Jerry Colangelo managed to find 24 players willing to try out for the national team, but size and ballhandling are already concerns for the U.S. team that will go to Japan this summer for the World Championship. -- C.S.

15. Mom doesn't always know best
Hawks forward Al Harrington was quoted saying Clippers guard Corey Maggette would be traded to the Pacers for Ron Artest. Harrington heard the news from his mom, an Indy real estate agent who got a call from Maggette's mom about finding a place to live. Maggette then scared off the Pacers by suggesting his injured foot might not allow him to play this season, leaving Harrington to tell his mom he was cutting her off as a source. -- R.B.

Dwyane Wade
David Sherman/Getty Images
D-Wade's game is pretty. His leggings? That's your call.

16. That's tight
When asked about the tights craze sweeping the NBA, Marcus Camby said, "I don't wear pantyhose." But Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, and T-Mac put their fashion reputations on the line by donning the stockings. Then AI went way out on a limb when he broke out the white tights under the home white unis. Yikes! -- ESPN.com

17. The Family Guy
Stan Van Gundy quit one of the great jobs in sports to spend more time with his family. So, when he takes the reins of another team, will he announce that he's decided he wants to spend less time with his family? -- ESPN.com

18. Ray of hopelessness
Nine months ago, Sonics fans were handing out hugs when told Ray Allen was returning. Now, even as Ray-Ray posts another All-Star season, and threatens the single-season record for 3s, Seattle fans are ready to move Ray's contract and move on without him. In the NBA, things change fast.
-- ESPN.com

19. Bandwagon ***-cats
No players -- or fans -- carry a chip on their shoulder quite as well as those in Detroit. Even when the media showed the Pistons some love, Rasheed Wallace spat back, not ready to forget and forgive the lack of respect he'd been feeling: "We'll see them bandwagon ***-cats come May and June."
-- ESPN.com

20. Disrespecting the Kwame
When Kwame Brown joined the Lakers, and even his coach called him something unprintable (a word for kitten), his status was downgraded from big bust to bad joke. But if next season he can continue his solid D and late-season surge (including a 15-point, 15-rebound game), he might finally get in a few grins himself. -- ESPN.com

21. 14 is the magic number
Just when the ground under Lawrence Frank seemed a little shaky, his Nets went on a 14-game run. With Jason Kidd on his side and two 14-game winning streaks to bookend his coaching career (so far), things are looking up for LaFra. -- ESPN.com

22. Mystery Mike
He can post a triple-double, go for 41 or put up 21 and 14 in any given Grizzlies game. Which makes Mike Miller's mediocre numbers and passive play all the more mysterious, his likely Sixth Man of the Year award notwithstanding. -- ESPN.com

23. The Busboy
Mike Dunleavy can't play. OK, that's unfair. But is he worth the $44 million the Warriors just gave him? Not when you consider that he is, as ESPN.com editor Chris Ramsay calls him, "the poor man's Toni Kukoc." If Kukoc is The Waiter, that makes Dunleavy The Busboy. -- ESPN.com

24. Tony the Teacher?
Tony Parker schooled opposing point guards for layup after layup this season on his way to his first All-Star Game, but in romance he's the student -- or is he? First, girlfriend Eva Longoria said, "I'm the experienced one. I'm the teacher, especially about love." When she realized that made Tony look bad, she issued a correction: "When the lights are out, he's the teacher … and I'm the student." -- ESPN.com

25. Bogut not bogus
But not a superstar in the making, either. When the Bucks drafted the world's greatest Croatian-Australian hoopster, Andrew Bogut, at No. 1, they worked to temper expectations. They were smart. With a 15.4 PER (league average is 15.0), the 21-year-old Bogut has been solid, not stellar. -- ESPN.com

26. Foot fault
When shopping Ron Artest, the Pacers rejected the opportunity to acquire Corey Maggette because of a foot injury, and they settled for Peja Stojakovic. But Maggette is younger, better … and now his foot is fine. Meanwhile, the Pacers are stumbling. -- ESPN.com

27. Gettin' it
One was the eighth pick in 2000 … the other the eighth pick in 2002. Both are thought to be the kind of player who "doesn't get it." But last week Knicks guard Jamal Crawford and Sonics forward Chris Wilcox were named the Players of the Week. Flashes in the pan, or flashes of the future? We'll see. -- ESPN.com

28. Even expansion teams have studs
Gerald Wallace isn't exactly a household name, but the Charlotte forward had a remarkable season. Wallace became just the third player in league history to average at least two blocks and two steals in a season, joining David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon in that esteemed club, while shooting 53.9 percent and throwing down several highlight-film dunks. -- J.H.

Andres Nocioni
Another Argentine, Andres Nocioni, has become a huge player for the Bulls.

29. This is Bull
No team has less talent than Chicago. Check out John Hollinger's PER standings and you won't find a single Bull in the Top 50. Every other team (including the 14 non-playoff teams) has at least one guy ahead of Andres Nocioni (No. 63), yet the Bulls are in the playoffs. Nice job, Scott Skiles. -- ESPN.com

30. NYC still ridden with crime
Indecent exposure, robbery, murder … it's all at the Garden. The Knicks have lost 11 home games by double-digits -- five of those by 15-plus points. All this, while the fans spend an average of $70 per ticket to watch a roster with the highest payroll in the league. No fun, no refund. -- ESPN.com

31. Make the obvious choice sometimes
When the most NBA-ready draft prospect, who happens to be an All-American point guard, has a great workout for you and says he wants to be an Atlanta Hawk, don't get cute and go for another swingman. Take Chris Paul. -- M.S.

32. Eternal Uncle Cliffy
When Nets reserve Cliff Robinson first suited up for Portland in 1989, the Berlin Wall still stood. While the German barrier is now just souvenirs and dust, Cliff remains a solid wall down low and brings it nightly at age 39 as a key reserve for Jersey. -- ESPN.com

33. Superstars can't do it by themselves
Despite the usual banner years from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, neither Minnesota nor Boston came close to earning a playoff spot. They even tried exchanging supporting casts halfway during the season, but shockingly, Michael Olowokandi and Mark Blount couldn't raise the fortunes of either team. Despite insisting they want to stay put, both now can prepare for a summer of trade rumors. -- J.H.

34. Reef at last, Reef at last!
Finally, in his 10th NBA season, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, broken jaw and all, is headed to the playoffs in Sacto. He's not the reason, you say? Well, if he's not going to be credited for his solid efforts with lousy teammates in the past, he can't be discredited because he has better teammates this season. Fair is fair. -- ESPN.com

Ron Artest
Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Ron Artest and the Kings have been squashing other teams.

35. What I meant to say was …
Take Ron Artest at his word at your own risk. First he wanted out of Indiana. Then he didn't. Then he didn't want to go to Sacramento. Then he did. Now that he's there, he can see the Kings winning a championship. Until, of course, he can't. -- R.B.

36. What I meant to do was …
The best move GM Billy King made this season was the one he couldn't. The Sixers announced in early February that they had dealt Steven Hunter to the NO/OK City Hornets for two future second-round picks, but the Hornets reneged after examining Hunter's knees. Hunter returned to Philadelphia, promptly took C Sam Dalembert's starting job and doubled his career averages in March and April. -- R.B.

37. Blowout!
Small-market Portland thinks mighty big when it comes to losing. This season, the Blazers have lost games by 24, 24, 29, 29, 31, 32, 32, 33, 39, 39 and 45 points. And they've lost 48 other games, too. -- ESPN.com

38. The Suns never set
Phoenix lost Amare Stoudemire to a knee injury, Joe Johnson and Steven Hunter to free agency and Quentin Richardson to a trade . . . and then kept right on winning as though nothing had happened. Newcomers Boris Diaw, Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell, James Jones, Tim Thomas and Eddie House ably filled the voids while Steve Nash and Shawn Marion kept the pedal pushed to the metal as Phoenix won the Pacific Division with surprising ease.
-- J.H.

39. Spurious
Why are the Spurs more vulnerable than expected? (Remember when San Antonio was a nearly unanimous pick to win it all, and some were predicting 70 wins?) Because their vaunted front office picked up some cubic zirconia when it signed Michael Finley (12.5 PER), Nick Van Exel (10.2) and Fabricio Oberto (10.2). Suddenly the Spurs are barely five deep and banged up to boot. For real. -- ESPN.com

40. Money can't make a mediocre center good
What is it about 7-footers that makes general managers lose their senses? Dalembert, Jerome James, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler signed contracts totaling over $200 million in the offseason … and proceeded to give exactly the same inconsistent performances that had marked their entire careers. -- J.H.

41. Ka-Pau!
New, grizzly beard. New game. New reputation, too. Whether or not Pau Gasol was trying to make himself look tougher, his undeniable improvement -- stepping up in all areas to become the first All-Star in Grizzlies history -- erased any doubt. -- M.S.

42. Feelin' Felton
Last year, Emeka Okafor won Rookie of the Year. This year, no one is paying attention to Charlotte's top draft pick. But guess which Bobcat looks to be on track for a better career? With his averages at 16.7 points and 7.1 assists in the last three calendar months, everybody better love Raymond. -- ESPN.com

LeBron James
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
Way to go, Cavs. LeBron is in a comfortable posiition.

43. Supporting castoffs
Don't overlook LeBron's new sidekick(s). During the Cavs' late-season surge, Seattle discard Flip Murray shot 55 percent from the field. Turns out Flip's scripted the kind of role Damon Jones was supposed to play -- and now Damon's red-hot too. -- ESPN.com

44. Where to find Diddy
The house is almost never full at the Meadowlands, where the New Jersey Nets have sold out only four games all season. But the celebrity sightings have increased considerably as Manhattan's biggest moguls have increasingly made the 8-mile trek to the swamp. -- C.S.

45. Speaking of empty seats
Remember when the argument against trading Allen Iverson included the truism that he sells tickets. Well, it ain't true anymore. The 76ers are 21st in the NBA in attendance with just three home sellouts. -- C.S.

46. The price ain't right
Latrell Sprewell had a half-dozen teams who would've given him what they could to put him in their uniform, but because it wasn't the amount he wanted -- $5 million or above -- he sat out the entire season. Some guys love to play, and some guys love to get paid. No need to ask which group Spree is in. -- R.B.

47. Parlez vous basketball?
The land that gave us the Statue of Liberty, The Coneheads and Gerard Depardieu provided another gift in 2005-06: The league's two most improved players. Frenchmen Tony Parker and Boris Diaw both raised their games to new levels to help the Spurs and Suns to division titles … and a possible showdown in the Western Conference finals. -- J.H.

48. Can you define "best"?
This is one fact the Knicks won't be bringing up to other teams in their forthcoming attempts to trade Stephon Marbury: With two games to go in the season, New York is 39-94 since Steph proclaimed himself to be the league's best point guard. -- M.S.

49. Drugs make you stupid
As if we didn't know already. But when Hornets forward Chris Andersen failed an NBA drug test, he flushed almost all of his $14 million contract down the toilet. Andersen's banned from the NBA and from playing pro ball in the 212 FIBA countries for another two years. That's really stupid. -- ESPN.com

50. Reverse Migration
You don't see many people pulling up stakes and moving from Arizona to Canada, especially in the dead of winter. But on Feb. 28, Phoenix GM Bryan Colangelo traded in his job in the sun to run the Raptors. How's that exchange rate working out, Bryan? -- ESPN.com

Pastor James Redd
Pete Kiehart/for ESPN.com
Pastor Redd with two of his essentials: a basketball and the Good Book.

51. Amen to that
Props to Milwaukee Bucks sharpshooter Michael Redd. With part of the money he earned from a new long-term contract, Redd bought his father, Pastor James Redd, a church in Columbus, Ohio. -- ESPN.com

52. Don't bury those Leastern Conference jokes just yet
Remember back in October when you heard all those references to the "new" Eastern Conference, with its three legit title contenders -- Detroit, Miami and Indiana -- and improving middle class? It didn't quite pan out that way, did it? The East is instead threatening to present us with four playoff teams with losing records, which has never happened before. -- M.S.

53. Impossible to predict
In the NBA, the biggest losers are winners and the biggest winners are losers. This season the lowly Knicks beat the mighty Pistons, Suns, Mavs and Cavs (twice). On the other hand, the reigning NBA champion Spurs lost to the horrible Hawks, Hornets, Sonics and Sixers. -- ESPN.com [Does not excuse our season, but something to keep in mind should it happen again.]

54. 81 is better than 100
After Kobe exploded against the Raptors, some pundits said his 81-point game was better than Wilt's 100-point game. Next time you get a $100 dinner bill, try settling up by giving the waiter $81. See if he thinks 81 is better than 100. -- ESPN.com

55. Sometimes it's OK to fall short
The Hornets, in the midst of uncertainty and crisis, should've been the worst team in the NBA this season. And everyone would've understood. Instead, they were a playoff contender for much of the season and are the feel-good story of the year. Even though they missed the playoffs in the end. -- ESPN.com

56. Small fracture, big problem
The San Antonio Spurs had no answer for Amare Stoudemire in last spring's Western Conference finals, but sadly now we know that Amare can be stopped. Two knee surgeries in a span of six months did it to the 23-year-old, starting with the most dreaded medical procedure in the NBA: microfracture surgery on Amare's left knee during training camp. -- M.S.

57. Reinventing training wheels
It took the Celtics 51 days to register their first two-game winning streak, and they never did win three in a row. Boston's grand total of five two-game winning streaks might be one reason Danny Ainge criticized coach Doc Rivers for his ever-changing rotations and philosophies. -- ESPN.com

58. Coming up short
Like Moses, Chris Webber has had a very good look at the promised land -- a lot of looks, actually -- but he never quite gets there. Another season, another disappointment. Despite standing just six boards short of averaging 20 and 10 for the seventh time, C-Webb's (and AI's) Sixers somehow managed to slide out of the playoffs. -- ESPN.com

59. Charlie rose
To many analysts, Charlie Villanueva looked like another Rafael Araujo -- in other words, a wasted lottery pick for the Raptors. But the best rookie not called CP3 has teamed with CB4 to give Toronto its frontcourt of the future. Just call him CV, 'cause he's building a résumé. -- ESPN.com

60. Swagger
Swagger, swagger, swagger. Suddenly we heard about swagger everywhere. Suddenly it was more important to strut than to shoot. But here's all you need to know about the value of swagger -- Baron Davis does it, and Ricky Davis does, too … and the Spurs don't. -- ESPN.com

61. Still Vinsane after all these years
At age 29, Vince Carter rehabbed his rep and made the "SportsCenter" Top 10 his personal showcase with a series of stupendous slams and spin moves. As the original Human Highlight Film was elected to the Hall of Fame, VC remade his claim to fame as well. -- ESPN.com

Baron Davis
Andrew D Bernstein/Getty Images
B-Davis still has fans despite the disappointing season.

62. Still gold in dem hills
They didn't pull the trigger on a Ron Artest trade. They did extend the league's longest playoff drought to 12 seasons. Add it up, and you won't believe what else the Golden State Warriors did: establish a club attendance record for the fourth successive season. Can you say Best Fans In The NBA? -- M.S.

63. Who says Americans can't shoot?
The reigning Sixth Man of the Year hasn't had the kind of sophomore season he expected -- he's had trouble holding down his spot in the lineup, for starters. But Ben Gordon's 9-for-9 extravaganza from 3-point range to beat the Wizards and practically lock up a playoff spot for the Bulls was as good as it gets. -- ESPN.com

64. Playoff seeding matters
The NBA won this year's Horse Out of the Barn award by belatedly reconsidering its playoff seeding approach -- after it was too late to stop a Dallas-San Antonio showdown in the Western Conference semis. Although any semi-rational 5-year-old could have seen this coming from a mile away, it apparently didn't occur to the league (until now) that two of its best teams could meet in an early round if they were in the same division. -- J.H.

65. Peja Vu
Indiana got rid of Ron-Ron, but it sure seems like it's the same team with the same problems. Before they acquired Peja Stokakovic for the inactivated Artest, the Pacers were 21-20. Since the trade, they are 18-21 and "team chemistry" remains Topics A, B and C3H5(NO3)3. -- ESPN.com

66. Dancing Fatties
One popular in-arena entertainment trend is something the Mavericks started and everyone else is ripping off -- groups of overweight men in ripped T-shirts doing dance numbers at center court. Can we ban this? It gets real old real fast. -- C.S.

67. Dallas' other 'Boys
Josh, Josh, Jason and Jerry. Devin, Darrell, D.J. and Desagana. Erick, Adrian, Keith and Marquis. These semi-anonymous types hardly sound like the makings of an NBA powerhouse, but with Coach of the Year Avery Johnson and MVP candidate Dirk Nowitzki leading the Dallas Dozen, the Mavs made a serious run at winning the West. -- ESPN.com

Carmelo Anthony
Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images
Melo's clutch shooting helped the Nuggets win the division.

68. Party like it's 1988
At least they are in Washington and Denver. That's because 1988 is the last time the Wiz were a playoff team in back-to-back seasons ... except they were called the Bullets back then. And it's also because 1988 is the last time the Nuggets were division champions ... except that their division (the Northwest) didn't exist in the old four-division format. -- M.S.

69. Do we get a vote?
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the first game played in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina, and the NBA's vowing to send the Hornets back once the city is on its feet, is the fact that the players and coaches are privately saying they'd rather stay in Oklahoma City. -- R.B.

70. Stern's sidekick
Stepping down after 30 years in the league office is deputy commissioner Russ Granik, a class act whose wit and wisdom will be missed. He deserves a big cheer when he announces the first pick of the second round on draft night June 28. -- C.S.

71. The Curse of Chris
It was a bad year to be a high draft pick named Williams. Based on their early returns, it will take Marvin (No. 2, Hawks) and Deron (No. 3, Jazz) years to live down the fact that they're not Chris Paul. If they ever do. -- ESPN.com

72. Nate and Bassy
When he played, Portland coach Nate McMillan was the kind of big point guard who played defense first and moved the ball. Sebastian Telfair is the kind of small point guard for whom getting to the hole is the goal. That's one reason the young Blazer is coming off the bench and seems destined to have rocky times and/or get traded. -- ESPN.com

73. Get into my Car
With game-winner after game-winner, Carmelo Anthony became a superstar without being an All-Star. During Denver's wreck of a regular season, 'Melo was a steady pair of headlights, leading the Nuggets to a division title. -- ESPN.com

74. The B.C. era
When is a season successful for a team that starts 1-15 and fails to reach the 30-win mark? When it unexpectedly lands the first big-name GM in franchise history (Bryan Colangelo) and prompts its superstar-in-training and free agent-to-be (Chris Bosh) to say: "That convinced me a lot." -- M.S.

75. The Class of '03 is one for the ages
We already knew the 2003 draft class was good. But this year they took it to another level. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade challenged for MVP honors, Carmelo Anthony led Denver to a division crown by making several game-winning shots, and Chris Bosh rose to prominence as an All-Star in Toronto. Even human victory cigar Darko Milicic got in on the act, showing flashes of brilliance after a midseason trade to Orlando. -- J.H.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe's killer instinct is second to none in the NBA these days.

76. Another Hollywood remake
Who knew Kobe idolized Uma Thurman? The world did after it was revealed that Bryant is known as Black Mamba in his inner circle. That, of course, was the character Thurman played in Tarantino's "Kill Bill" martial-arts movies. -- R.B.

77.Offense is only half the game
Two of the league's best offensive teams, Seattle and Toronto, were nonetheless horrible thanks to their complete and total inability to stop the opponent from scoring. Seattle was fourth in the league in offensive efficiency while Toronto ranked fifth, but the two clubs both finished well out the money thanks to the two worst defenses in basketball. Fittingly, neither team has a D anywhere in its name. -- J.H.

78. Every dog has his day
Those lovable doormats called the L.A. Clippers forgot to follow the script this year. With a career year from Elton Brand and the acquisition of Sam Cassell, L.A. had its first winning season in 14 years, won its most games since it won 49 as the Buffalo Braves in 1974-75, and even started drawing a few celebs to the crowd. -- J.H.

79. Not built for prosperity
After he survived eight seasons on non-guaranteed contracts, the Sonics handed Rick Brunson a $1 million guaranteed deal last summer. Four minutes into his Seattle career, he tore the fascia in his left foot and missed the next three months before being waived and picked up by Houston. -- R.B.

80. Mellow Red? Not yet
Looks like Red Auerbach will need another 88 years to soften. After surviving a week in September when he was thought to be near death, Red returned to the Celtics' home opener on Nov. 2 and resumed his jabs at Phil Jackson, his rival in the record books: "Phil obviously is a good coach; you don't win that many games without being a good coach. One thing, though. He's been very fortunate. He picks his spots. That's all I can say. Larry Brown doesn't pick his spots. He's a great coach." -- ESPN.com

81. The Wiz
Gilbert Arenas gets no respect because he plays like he's in a pickup game, with his pull-up-from-anywhere J and his one-on-five drives to the hoop -- and because of his quirky behavior. But he's so damn good he's expanding the definition of "point guard," like it or not. -- ESPN.com

82. Domi-Matrix
If so many folks keep referring to Shawn Marion as the NBA's most underrated player, is he still underrated? Phoenix hopes so because Marion, at his best when he feels disrespected, just stepped into the void created by Amare Stoudemire's absence with the best season of his career: 21.7 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. -- M.S.

83. T.J.'s troubles
The return of T.J. Ford from a career-threatening spine injury was one of the great stories of the early season. But the Milwaukee point guard has a 41.1 FG percentage and an abysmal 48.3 true shooting percentage. Guess those initials stand for Terrible Jumper. -- ESPN.com

84. Treasure trove
The world's best hoops history site is the only place in the world you can learn all of the following facts . . . Damon Stoudamire's middle name is Lamon . . . Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Boris Diaw and Luol Deng each celebrated a birthday on Sunday . . . and the highest career assist ratio (percentage of possessions that end in an assist) belongs to Muggsy Bogues. -- ESPN.com

85. One-horse towns
We've seen the NBA's success as a solo act in San Antonio, Sacramento and Salt Lake City, but we still were amazed by the reception the Hornets received in Oklahoma City. Now OKC is on the NBA map (and is expected by many to keep the Hornets) -- and its support points out one reason the league doesn't want to see the Blazers leave Rip City. -- ESPN.com

86. The Silas touch
Baron Davis, seemingly, has had issues with every NBA coach he's ever played for, whether it be Tim Floyd in New Orleans, George Karl on the 2002 World Championship team or Mike Montgomery with the Warriors -- except for Paul Silas, which has started rumors that Baron is pulling for him to replace Montgomery. -- R.B.

87. Poser
If there was one place the Heat were supposed to improve as a result of last summer's moves it was defensively at small forward with James Posey replacing Eddie Jones. Now, going into the playoffs with Posey's Achilles tendon bothering him and Antoine Walker covering for him, defending 3s is the Heat's biggest Achilles' heel. -- R.B.

Vince Carter
Fernando Medina/Getty Images
Who knew you could get a superstar for free in the NBA?

88. Bad trades can get you fired
After a series of nightmarish personnel decisions that included the giveaway of Vince Carter to New Jersey and the drafting of uberbust center Rafael Araujo, the Raptors showed general manager Rob Babcock the door after just a year and half on the job. -- J.H.

89. Bad trades don't always get you fired
After a series of nightmarish personnel decisions that included the giveaway of a high lottery pick (or two) to Chicago and the signing of uberbust center Jerome James … the Knicks decided they'd like some more of that, please, and gave general manager Isiah Thomas a vote of confidence. -- J.H.

90. De-troit Bas-ket-ball
There remains no better place in the Eastern Conference to enjoy a crowd's getting into the game than The Palace of Auburn Hills, where the mighty Pistons are 35-3. Public address announcer John Mason needs some new material, but he's still far better than his imitator in Cleveland. -- C.S.

91. It wasn't just Larry
The notion that Larry Brown's vaunted disdain for playing rookies is what kept Darko Milicic out of the Pistons' rotation was blown away when Flip Saunders replaced Brown, took a long look at Darko in preseason … and kept him at the end of the bench until the Pistons mercifully dealt him to Orlando. -- R.B.

92. It wasn't just Larry II
The Pistons have been on a mission to disprove the widely held belief that Brown was responsible for pushing all the right buttons to make a good-but-not-great collection of players into champions. They haven't won a title yet, but flirting with the season's best record -- and early on, the best of all-time -- makes a strong opening argument. -- R.B.

93. Stare at this
Gotta love Ron Artest. When he went to the Kings, he chose 93 for his number. Ninety-three? It represents "infinite intensity," says Ron-Ron. "Just stare at it for two hours, you'll see what I'm talking about." -- ESPN.com

94. Nate was not great
Nate Robinson missed 14 attempts -- yes, 14, and it was beyond excruciating to witness -- before finally making one to win the slam dunk contest title at All-Star Weekend over Andre Iguodala, whose under-the-backboard alley-oop dunk in the opening round was brilliant. Iggy got robbed. -- ESPN.com

Boris Diaw
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Boris Diaw has been hanging with the big boys all season.

95. Surprise inside
Boris Diaw was supposed to be a throw-in with two first-round picks in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Joe Johnson to Atlanta. Instead, he's practically been a replacement, averaging 13.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and six assists as a point-center. Johnson's stats last year as a Sun: 17.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists. -- R.B.

96. Dumarred
Soon he'll be a Hall of Famer and maybe a champ again, but 2006 also will be remembered as the year Joe Dumars gave up on Darko Milicic. Looks like the great Joe D. botched this twice -- first by drafting Darko over 'Melo, Bosh and D-Wade, and then by trading away a 20-year-old talent. Hard to say whether Dumars should root for or against the development of Darko. -- ESPN.com

97. Knick-knocks
Setting an NBA record for the most starting lineups is no way to inspire your team or your fans. Larry Brown got a free ride at MSG this season, but the honeymoon is over. "Fi-re-Larr-ry" might be the Chant of The Month in December. -- C.S.

98. Don't buy this Brand
To get Ron Artest, the Warriors wouldn't trade rookie Ike Diogu, called by many analysts "another Elton Brand." But Diogu, at age 22, is averaging 6 and 3. When he turned 22, Brand was deep into his second straight season of 20 and 10. I like Ike, but he's generic Brand. -- ESPN.com

99. No more oww for Yao
A healthy Yao Ming was a sight to behold. After toe surgery cleaned up a problem he's endured since he arrived from China four years ago, he went on a tear with a heretofore unseen aggression until a broken bone in his left foot ended his season. Assuming the bone heals with no lingering issues, this disaster of a season will have been worth it if Yao maintains that attitude. -- R.B.

100. Maybe Weisbrod had a clue after all
Former Magic general manager John Weisbrod left the Magic a mess with a series of misdeeds, most notably the Tracy McGrady trade. But in his absence, Weisbrod-era acquisitions such Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu fueled a late-season renaissance that leaves the Magic with high hopes for next season. -- J.H.

101. Please, please, please stay
LeBron James made a lot of people in Ohio feel better when he said, "I can't wait to sign my extension. I'm very happy here." They'll sleep even easier if and when he actually does, as Blake says in "Glengarry Glen Ross," sign on the line that is dotted. -- ESPN.com

04-17-2006, 03:29 PM
93. Stare at this
Gotta love Ron Artest. When he went to the Kings, he chose 93 for his number. Ninety-three? It represents "infinite intensity," says Ron-Ron. "Just stare at it for two hours, you'll see what I'm talking about." -- ESPN.com


So cool.

04-17-2006, 03:35 PM
26. Foot fault
When shopping Ron Artest, the Pacers rejected the opportunity to acquire Corey Maggette because of a foot injury, and they settled for Peja Stojakovic. But Maggette is younger, better … and now his foot is fine. Meanwhile, the Pacers are stumbling. -- ESPN.com


65. Peja Vu
Indiana got rid of Ron-Ron, but it sure seems like it's the same team with the same problems. Before they acquired Peja Stokakovic for the inactivated Artest, the Pacers were 21-20. Since the trade, they are 18-21 and "team chemistry" remains Topics A, B and C3H5(NO3)3. -- ESPN.com

Double AARRGH.

I don't bust these out often, but Larry Bird = Worst. GM. EVER.

Is a ferret

04-17-2006, 03:58 PM
I don't bust these out often, but Larry Bird = Worst. GM. EVER.

Please. :rolleyes:

04-17-2006, 04:00 PM
^ (IndyToad) If we had gotten Mags, you'd be complaining about picking up another injury prone player. Also, we would have lost a lot more games while waiting for him to heal.

Will Galen
04-17-2006, 04:01 PM
Mags is injured again.

04-17-2006, 04:06 PM
^ (IndyToad) If we had gotten Mags, you'd be complaining about picking up another injury prone player. Also, we would have lost a lot more games while waiting for him to heal.

He is always complaining about something.

He really is Debbie Downer.

04-17-2006, 04:30 PM
^ (IndyToad) If we had gotten Mags, you'd be complaining about picking up another injury prone player. Also, we would have lost a lot more games while waiting for him to heal.

At least we wouldn't have to be concerned about him getting the max over the summer.

Could go for some breadsticks