View Full Version : 5.17.2004 - Suddenly the Lakers look... dominant

Kid Minneapolis
05-17-2004, 11:31 AM
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider

Monday, May 17
Updated: May 17
10:37 AM ET

Kings or Queens? Would Stu Jackson, the NBA's lord of discipline, suspend Kevin Garnett for Game 7? That's the chatter after the Kings' very physical win over the Wolves in Game 6 on Sunday. It was KG's forearm shiver (which resulted in a flagrant foul) that caused Anthony Peeler to throw an elbow at KG's jaw.
There's no question Peeler is going to be out. He was ejected for the blow, and it was absolutely clear he was swinging to knock off KG's head. But what about the guy who started it? The Kings were lobbying for KG to join Peeler on the sidelines Wednesday, but don't hold you're breath. The league would be loath to bench KG and essentially hand Game 7 to the Kings. However, Sacramento's gritty effort Sunday may be enough to change the team's image for good.

"You can get rid of all that 'Kings are soft' junk," Jabari Smith said after the game. "That stuff has ended. We've got guys who'll come off the bench and hit you in the jaw."

The bottom line is that when the Kings play like they did Sunday, I believe they're the best team in the NBA. Why they don't play with that passion, aggressiveness and teamwork every game is a mystery. If the team that beat the Wolves on Sunday shows up on Wednesday, the Wolves are going down. If the Queens make another appearance, the Wolves will roll to the Finals.

Road woes: Miami is 0-6 on the road in the playoffs and 6-0 at home. The Lakers, Kings, Wolves, Pistons, Pacers and Nets all have won at least one road game during the playoffs, leaving only Miami without a victory in hostile territory. Even if the Heat win Game 6 in Miami on Tuesday, don't count on them beating the Pacers in Indianapolis in Game 7 on Thursday. The Heat won just 13 road games all year, and none of them were against a team with a winning record. Their road wins came against the Magic, Bulls, Wizards, Clippers, Raptors, Knicks and Sonics.
Offseason Blues

Tony Parker
Point Guard
San Antonio Spurs

75 14.7 3.2 5.5 .447 .702

Kidd-for-Parker, the sequel: Last week the conventional wisdom said Tony Parker was the story of the playoffs. He still is, but in a very different way. After playing absolutely stunning basketball through the Spurs' first six playoff games, the Lakers got physical with him, and he utterly collapsed. Over the last four games, all losses, Parker's game went into the toilet. He averaged 12.3 points and shot just 31 percent. In Game 6, he made just four of 18 shots, including three airballs, and had six turnovers. He missed his last 10 shots of the game.
Now you know why San Antonio was so in love with Jason Kidd last summer. Parker disappeared in the playoffs last year, too. Luckily, the Spurs had Speedy Claxton to back him up. This year, they had nothing.

"He's 21 years old, so there is going to be some inconsistency, so I have to be patient with that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game. "He is not going to play like a 32-year-old veteran every night. He has a lot of heart; he is a competitive young man; he is going to have a great career; and he is going to be a wonderful player for us as the years go by. But he has been inconsistent."

Manu Ginobili
Shooting Guard
San Antonio Spurs

77 12.8 4.5 3.8 .418 .802

Parker's inconsistency is to be expected for someone his age, but with the team facing yet another major crossroads, how much patience will the Spurs have? The team needs more help -- especially shooters who can knock down open jumpers when Tim Duncan is double-teamed.

San Antonio could be as much as $12 million under the cap this summer. But that number is really much smaller than it appears, because much of it already is earmarked to re-sign Emmanuel Ginobili and Hedo Turkoglu. There's been talk the Spurs could make a run at Kobe, but landing Bryant, or anyone else of any significance, means possibly losing Ginobili and Turkoglu. The Spurs don't want to lose either, but they are especially determined to lock-up Ginobili. Both players are restricted free agents, but if San Antonio uses its cap room on free agent, it will be able to match an offer for Ginobili only up to the mid-level exception.

Jason Kidd
Point Guard
New Jersey Nets

67 15.5 6.4 9.2 .384 .827

That could lead the team again to consider trading Parker. Watch the Nets' situation closely. If New Jersey is eliminated Thursday, don't be surprised if Rod Thorn revisits talk of a Kidd-for-Parker swap. Parker is 10 years younger and makes much less than Kidd, and trading Kidd could clear up the room the Nets need to re-sign Kenyon Martin to a long term deal.

With a combo of Parker, Martin, Richard Jefferson and incoming big man Nenad Kristic, New Jersey would remain one of the best young teams in the league. Kidd, meanwhile, would give the Spurs the veteran presence in the backcourt they long for. It's a long shot ... but it's a possibility.

Second things first ... How stunning is it that both the Raptors and Hornets are interviewing coaching candidates without having GMs in place? There isn't a quality GM candidate in the league who would want to take on a struggling franchise with a brand-new coach that he didn't choose. That may explain why Toronto and New Orleans are having a hard time finding someone interested in the job.
If the Raptors want a quality candidate (and the papers all claim they do), Richard Peddie & Co. are going to have to give him real control. That would start, I would assume, with hiring his own coach. Given how bad they messed up on hiring Kevin O'Neill, you'd think they'd want someone else making the decision, anyway. Besides, it isn't like there's a major candidate out there they have to woo now or risk losing. Most of the people they've contacted are assistants with few other opportunities.

In New Orleans, the word from several front office types who've inquired about the GM vacancy, is there might not be a job to be had. Bob Bass, who retired as GM several weeks ago, is said to be running the coaching search. The team plans to keep him in New Orleans through the draft as a "consultant," and many people in the league believe he'll remain in that role for a long time. Given the problems the team is facing, the person who takes over is going to want the authority to make the changes he deems necessary. If Bass is still around looking over the new guy's shoulder, how possible is that?

Scott's hot: With that said, the Hornets are set to talk to Byron Scott today about their head coaching vacancy. Mike Fratello, Brian Hill and George Karl also are on owner George Shinn's short list. Would Scott really sign on in New Orleans while the Lakers' job still could come open? It's widely rumored Jerry Buss wants Scott to replace Jackson in Los Angeles next year. It would be a great fit and an obvious contrast to the dysfunctional Hornets at this point.
The Draft

An amazing 94 underclassmen declared for the NBA draft, according to the official list released Friday. There were no major surprises, though a few names did raise eyebrows.

Two more interesting high school players were on the list -- LaMarcus Aldridge and Robert Rothbart. Aldridge had previously stated he wouldn't be in the draft and would, instead, attend the University of Texas. Rothbart, a 7-foot-1 center from California, had committed to Indiana.
Aldridge likely would be a late-first-round pick if he stays in, but he's telling folks he'll stay in only if he can somehow work his way into the lottery. Given how crowded the field is at the moment, that seems like a stretch. Aldridge hasn't been able to work out for six weeks because of what he termed a "semi-stress fracture" in his back. He told the Dallas Morning News he has no plans to attend any predraft camps. "I don't think I'll be top 10, top 15," Aldridge he told the News. "Not going to the camps, I don't think that's going to help me any."

The rumor around the league is that Rothbart is receiving heavy interest from one team late in the first round. That was enough to get him to enter his name in the draft. Will it be enough to keep him in? Chances are both players will withdraw and attend college next year.

Internationally, there were no major surprises. Ivan Chiriaev was on the list, but that's because his final decision to withdraw was made after the deadline to apply. Unless something dramatic happens in the next few week, he won't be in the draft.
There's been a little buzz about Iran's first draft entries -- Jaber Rouzbahani and Hamid Haddadi. Both are taller than 7 feet and neither is yet 20 years old. Rouzbahani is considered the best prospect of the two. He's 7-foot-5, 265-pound big man with an 8-foot wingspan and a 10-foot standing reach.

"I've never seen anyone do that," Drew Gooden told the Contra Costa Times after watching him workout. "But I've never seen anyone dunk without having to jump, and he can do that, too. I think he has a lot of upside and potential. His size is a gift in itself, that and his length. He has that 8-foot wingspan. Without a question somebody is going to draft him. Those guys don't come around too often."

If any more guys like this come out of the woodwork, we may have to call in Ripley's to host the draft. Rouzbahani joins a draft that already includes a record number of physical wonders, including Pavel Podkolzine (7-5, 300), Ha Seung Jin (7-4, 300), Peter John Ramos (7-3, 280) and Jerry Sokoloski (7-5, 320). Now you know why everyone thinks Jameer Nelson may be too short to play in the league.

Can someone get the Charlotte Observer to quit referring to Jameer Nelson as a potential No. 4 pick in the draft? I know the paper hasn't had to cover the league in a couple of years, but c'mon. If Nelson is the best Bernie Bickerstaff & Co. can do with the No. 4 pick, they might as well start looking for a new home now before the fans run them out of town.