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05-06-2004, 10:22 AM
Opponents can't afford to overlook Cassell

By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Wednesday, May 5
Updated: May 5
12:21 PM ET

On the night the NBA honored Kevin Garnett as the Most Valuable Player of the 2004 season, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Sam Cassell scored 40 points in a playoff game for the second time in two weeks.

"He was really starting to get on my nerves at the end," Kings coach Rick Adelman said of Cassell in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "A couple of those 3s should've been fours. You knew it wasn't going to be easy after he made a couple of them."

And we are left to wonder how a guy who has played for six different teams in 11 NBA seasons has not only participated in 93 playoff games but won two NBA titles.

Or maybe it's the other way around. Maybe he's a major reason his teams have had success.

Prior to this season, he was never an all-star, never made any All-NBA teams, and never stuck around in one place long enough to form any broad base of fan appeal.

After being drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1993, he was traded, along with Robert Horry, Mark Bryant and Chucky Brown, to the Phoenix Suns for Charles Barkley.

Sam Cassell
Point Guard
Minnesota Timberwolves

81 19.8 3.3 7.3 .488 .873

In 1996, he was traded by the Suns, along with Michael Finley, A.C. Green and a draft pick, to the Dallas Mavericks for, among others, Jason Kidd.

In 1997, he was part of a nine-player swap between the Mavs and New Jersey Nets.

In 1999, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, with two others, for Stephon Marbury and three others.

In 2003, he was traded to the Timberwolves in exchange for Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler.

He went from NBA city to NBA city while his scoring average rose from 14.5 points per game in Houston to 14.8 in Phoenix to 19.6 in New Jersey and 19.8 this year in Minnesota.

He is about to play his 838th game as a professional and is just peaking. This season he was named to his first all-star team and first All-NBA team.

Or maybe we're just getting our first good peek at him.

We know all about Barkley, Kidd and Marbury. How can we forget about Sam's teammate, Hakeem Olajuwon. We might have remembered that Cassell even played with Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson in Milwaukee.

But how many of us know that while Allen was making $11.2 million in 2002 (the last season all three were together) and Robinson was making $8.9 million, Sam was at $4.3 million.

He was the sixth-highest paid player on the team.

And now that he's with the Timberwolves and playing with another league MVP, little has changed. Garnett will make a whopping $28 million this year. Sam will make $5 million.

He is the fourth-highest paid player on the team.

In other words, there are 125 players in the NBA getting paid as much or more than Cassell.

By the way, Robinson failed to make the playoffs this year with the Philadelphia 76ers while Ray Allen failed to make it with the Seattle SuperSonics.

But Sam just became the sixth-highest scorer in this year's playoffs at 23.8 points per game, one spot ahead of the already eliminated Marbury, 23 spots ahead of Kidd and 39 spots ahead of Finley.

Did we mention that he has two more NBA titles than Barkley and, by all accounts, is simply happy to be mentioned in the same sentence as all of these other great players.

Or maybe it's the other way around.

* Bibby, Kings hold off Cassell
Brian Hamilton / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Peep Show

NBA Insider
Wednesday, May 5
Updated: May 5
11:19 AM ET

Detroit Pistons: There is no celebrating allowed in Larry Brown's locker room. "Everybody in our dressing room knows how good they (the Nets) are and how well-coached. They are a great team," Brown said in the Detroit News. "They aren't going to have games like that (the 22-point loss in Game 1). They aren't going to shoot 27 percent, no matter how good we defend. We have to understand that and expect their best." And he wasn't finished yet. "Second, we have to learn from what happened in the Milwaukee series," he said. "I read all the papers and I listened to all the stories about how we demolished them, and they came back in Game 2 and beat us. Listen, every team that goes on the road, all they talk about is stealing one game. That has to be obvious in our minds."

Philadelphia 76ers: New head coach Jim O'Brien and Allen Iverson sat down man-to-man to have a heart-to-heart just make sure that they were seeing eyeball-to-eyeball. "We basically talked about how we wanted to move this back to where we could be a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference championship, what kind of leadership role he would need to have in order to do that, and what his expectations of me as his coach were," O'Brien said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "He, like everyone else, is extremely disappointed in the type of year they had. He believes, as I do, that we can have a very open and direct relationship. I think he welcomes that. He welcomes being able to sit down eyeball-to-eyeball on a regular basis and discussing the expectations of him as a leader, and what he can do to get this to a level that it deserves to be. I've never found good relationships based on anything but that. You have to be able to sit down and talk one-on-one, and to listen and be able to articulate what your desires are. From a standpoint of developing that relationship, the best way to do it is to listen."

Miami Heat: Look who's back. "A lot of people were counting us out in the beginning and for a long time," Caron Butler said in the Miami Herald after a season of recovery from injury. "And it seemed like everybody was counting me out, too. It was motivation." And his coach was quick to use it. "Caron was absolutely tremendous," said Stan Van Gundy. "The thing I like is we've been telling him all the time that it doesn't matter what happened earlier in the year. Nobody's going to remember that now. Everybody's going to talk about his playoff series and Game 7."

Los Angeles Lakers: Have the Lakers hit rock bottom, yet? "As people, we always think when something happens that's the worst thing that can happen," Derek Fisher said in the Los Angeles Times. "Then, a week later something else happens, and that's the worst thing that can happen. That's what this year has been about for myself and for probably several of our guys. But, when you think the world is just over and everybody hates me & next week is coming." Then he began waxing philosophical. "There'll be something else that happens to make you feel like that again. It's all about picking yourself back up. That's what builds who you are. When we're 30 and then 40 and then 50, and look back on our lives that one year where you shot 35% or that one year you didn't win a championship becomes minuscule."

New Orleans Hornets: Heads are about to roll for the Hornets. "I expect there are going to be some changes made," said guard David Wesley in the Times Picayune. "From what has been the consensus of the talk, everyone knows that is going to happen." And head coach Tim Floyd's name keeps coming up. "I know we didn't accomplish all the things that we wanted to get accomplished, but you can't blame all of that on the coach," forward Robert Traylor said. "We still have a great group of guys who can still play, and I would like to see all of us back. I want to come back."

Chicago Bulls: Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is on hands and knees with Eddy Curry. "It made me feel real good that he thinks highly of me," Curry said in the Chicago Sun Times. "I have a lot of respect for Mr. Reinsdorf because he had enough confidence in me to draft me and try to build around me. The meeting went well. We got to know each other better. He let me know a lot of the pressure from the team is going to be on my shoulders this year. I already knew that and felt he thinks a lot of me. But it's always nice to hear that from the man on top. Even if I end up not being with the Bulls, I always will have a lot of respect for Mr. Reinsdorf."

* Brown expects Nets to rebound from defeat
Chris McCosky / Detroit News
* O'Brien, Iverson sit down for chat
Phil Jasner / Philadelphia Daily News
* Butler finds shot, swagger
Greg Cote / Miami Herald
* From Bench, Fisher Sees the Big Picture
Tim Brown / Los Angeles Times
* Hornets changes imminent
John Reid / New Orleans Times-Picayune
* Curry's critical conditioning
Lacy J. Banks / Chicago Sun-Times