View Full Version : ESPN article request 12/16/04

12-16-2004, 08:19 AM



12-16-2004, 10:50 AM
Well here is the monday one.

Miami has the chance to get a little hotter

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider
The Good, the Bad, the Upside
Insider's Chad Ford rounds up the state of the NBA every Monday, looking at The Good and The Bad and offering a little dose of optimism in The Upside.
The Bad

The Hornets are considering a fire sale. Big mistake.

What's wrong with Detroit's D? Look at the team's O.

Can Kobe put the drama aside and just play ball?
The Upside

Trading Kwame Brown might help him and the Wizards.

Allan Houston to Toronto? Sorry. Not gonna happen.

Are the 76ers showcasing Samuel Dalembert?

Divisions in the NBA are pretty meaningless unless they're used to show just how wrong we were about the league this fall. Before the season, we said the Southeast Division was the weakest in the NBA. Six weeks into the season, the three top teams in the East the Heat, Magic and Wizards all play there.

We also said the Southwest Division would be the best in the NBA. Statistically, it's the worst in the West.

Overall, the best division in the league is the Northwest. The worst? The Atlantic. The disparity? The five teams in the Northwest have a combined 60 wins. The five teams in the Atlantic have 40.

So it should come as no surprise that the top team in the Good and Upside categories this week, the Heat and Wizards, come from the Southeast. And the leader of the Bad, the Hornets, comes from the Southwest.

The Good
Miami Heat: The conventional wisdom coming into the season was that Shaquille O'Neal would give the Heat a shot at being the best team in the East.
Who would've thought it would be a combo of Dwyane Wade and some pitiful competition that would actually get them there?

The Heat have won four straight despite Shaq contining to have just a so-so season. Not only are his numbers down across the board (17.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg in his last five) but he ranks behind Wade, Christian Laettner, Udonis Haslem and Damon Jones on the team's plus/minus chart.

Still, it's tough to measure two things about the Heat's searing start. First, when you look at their opponents of late, maybe the Heat should be doing better than 15-7. They've played the Bulls, Raptors, Bucks, Grizzlies and Jazz in December, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Nuggets in Denver.

Second, Shaq's presence has opened things up tremendously for everyone else. Wade and Damon Jones have been the biggest recipients. Jones is shooting an impressive 46 percent from 3 and ranks first in the league in 3-pointers made. Wade doesn't really shoot 3s, but he's shooting 52 percent from the field this year up from 46 percent last season. That improved field-goal percentage is primarily coming from jumpers.

Eddie Jones
Miami Heat

22 10.0 4.5 2.8 .335 .789

However, one guy hasn't seen the same halo effect that Jones and Wade have. Eddie Jones has been awful. He's shooting just 30 percent from 3, down from 37 percent last year and 41 percent in 2002-03. Overall he's shooting just 34 percent from the field and seems out of synch.

That's why the Heat have been flirting with the idea of trading Jones to the Raptors for Jalen Rose.

Rose isn't much of a cure-all (he's shooting just 33 percent from 3 and 40 percent from the field) but the Heat believe he may be a better fit in the team's new offense. Rose is two years younger than Jones, is a better passer and can still take over a game in ways that Jones no longer can.

With that said, head coach Stan Van Gundy has concerns. Jones is a better defender and a better teammate. Everywhere Rose has gone, his popularity has quickly wilted.

Jalen Rose
Toronto Raptors

22 15.0 3.4 2.3 .410 .911

As far as bad contracts go, both are awful. Jones and Rose both make more than $13 million per season and both have two years left on their contracts after this season. But with the Raptors desperate to start shaking up their terrible chemistry, a 33-year-old Jones would be a godsend at this point.

Trading Rose to the Heat also would greatly open up the Raptors' options in trading Vince Carter. With Rose out of the picture, Toronto will have more suitors for Carter. Several teams that are interested in Vince have backed out because of an insistence that Rose be included in the deal. The Raptors could use the Heat as part of a three-way trade sending Rose to Miami and moving Jones and Carter off a separate teams. This would be an acceptable solution to a team like Portland, which has balked at accepting Rose's contract.

Phoenix Suns: Every week it's a different Sun making the news. That's how it is when your team has the best record in the league (17-3), leads the league in scoring at 109 ppg and is blowing out teams by an impressive 11.4 ppg.

Joe Johnson
Phoenix Suns

20 15.6 4.4 3.1 .447 .788

Week 2 we raved about Steve Nash. Week 3 it was Amare Stoudemire. Week 4 we couldn't get enough of Shawn Marion. Last week the love went to Quentin Richardson.

This week, Joe Johnson stepped to the forefront. Johnson averaged 18 ppg, 4 apg and shot an amazing 72 percent from behind the arc (13-for-17 from 3) in the Suns' four wins. For the season he's shooting 54 percent from downtown. Only Fred Hoiberg is shooting better, and he's taken only half as many 3s.

New Jersey Nets: How much did Richard Jefferson miss Jason Kidd? The Nets' second-best player was off to a decent start without Kidd, but look what he's doing since Kidd returned.

Jefferson is averaging 24.5 ppg, 6 rpg, 5 apg while shooting 52 percent from the field. Before Kidd returned, Jefferson was shooting just 41 percent from the field and averaging five turnovers per game.

The Nets are 3-1 since Kidd came back and have very winnable games against the Knicks, Raptors and Hornets in the next week.

"Let's put things in perspective," head coach Lawrence Frank told the N.Y. Daily News. "He's had two or three practices, and he's played in a couple of games. This is his preseason. But the guy's such a high-level guy, for him to step in as he has, he's as good as it gets."

Sacramento Kings: It looks like that window that is supposed to keep closing on the Kings remains stubbornly open. Through Sunday's games, the Kings look like a clone of last year's squad, statistically.

They are averaging virtually identical numbers in points per game, points allowed per game, rebounds per game, assists per game and field goal percentage.

And ... it's the usual suspects getting it done. We've already talked about Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby. After a pretty slow start to the season, Brad Miller has been the latest King to come alive. Over his last five he's averaging 19 ppg, 10.6 rpg and 4.4 apg on 51 percent shooting from the field. The team is 4-1 during that stretch.

Seattle SuperSonics: As long as the Sonics don't have to play the Celtics, they look like they own the NBA right now. The Sonics scored impressive road wins against both the Spurs and Mavericks this week before getting walloped, for a second straight time, by the Celtics.

What do the Celtics know that the rest of the league doesn't? Doc Rivers has played small ball against the Sonics both times.

"We match up well with them," Paul Pierce told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "They have guys that are versatile and can play a lot of positions, and I think we are the same thing."

The Celtics also have good perimeter defenders who have harassed the Sonics into poor shooting nights. The Sonics shot just 32 percent from the field and 19 percent from 3 during Saturday's loss.

Still, head coach Nate McMillan doesn't seem concerned that the rest of the league will start playing them the same way the Celtics do.

"I don't think so," McMillan said. "All teams can't do this. All teams can't put those types of players out there."

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies are 4-2 since head coach Mike Fratello took over. While the team's offense has slipped a bit, the defense has been dramatically better. In the Grizzlies first 16 games, the team allowed 95.4 points on 44 percent shooting. Since Fratello took over, opponents are averaging 86.5 ppg on 41 percent shooting.

Earl Watson
Memphis Grizzlies

22 9.2 1.8 5.5 .432 .710

But don't give Fratello all the credit just yet. It has helped tremendously that Fratello has had two of the team's top defenders, James Posey and Stromile Swift, healthy for that stretch. Both were injured for significant periods during the team's 5-11 start.

The team also is getting a boost from point guard Earl Watson, who's seen heavy minutes at the point since Jason Williams went down with an injury. Though not as offensively gifted as Williams, Watson is a much better perimeter defender and more heady offensive player. His numbers 14.8 ppg, 8 apg, 2.2 spg on 48 percent shooting dwarf what Williams had been doing.

Look for Watson to keep starting even after Williams returns. His defensive upside combined with his pass-first mindset are a better fit in Fratello's system. It could be just a matter of time now before Williams is sent packing.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

12-16-2004, 11:31 AM
I told everyone in the preseason that Eddie Jones was done. Tading him for Jalen would be a big upgrade for the Heat, IMO. I hope it doesn't happen.