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On Pro Basketball
Hornets turning on Floyd
March 8, 2004, 10:10 AM CST
Oh, there's trouble with a capital "T" out there in many cities, and not just this one. No, there's trouble in a lot of places besides Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, Phoenix and Orlando. Those teams know nothing but trouble, but it's showing its face in previously happy places like New Orleans, Minneapolis, Dallas, Toronto and Golden State.
You knew this was coming. ESPN analyst Greg Anthony, who played for Tim Floyd with the Bulls, said he has heard talk in New Orleans of unrest between players and Floyd. Players are saying both Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn are seriously at odds with Floyd, in part because his game plans and philosophy confuse them. And on Sunday, Davis blew off a breakfast meeting and was benched, further enhancing his distaste for Floyd.
Many around the league wonder just what Floyd believes in after he ran the triangle offense with the Bulls, supposedly at the demands of Jerry Krause, which Krause denied, and now uses another unfamiliar offense, the Princeton style Floyd didn't use in college. Has anyone done a worse coaching job this season? The Hornets are probably the East's best team on paper with two current All-Stars, Davis and Jamal Magloire, former All-Star Mashburn, arguably the game's best frontcourt role player in P.J. Brown and perennial top sixth man Darrell Armstrong. But all is not lost yet (until they move to the Western Conference next season) because the Hornets appear locked into a first-round playoff matchup with Milwaukee, which is much smaller inside.
"All that talk about us being a contender in the East . . . we're nothing," Davis said. "We're not assured of a playoff spot. We're going to be fighting for a playoff spot once we get our West Coast trip (late this month)."
Sunday's loss at Toronto was the 15th time this season the Hornets have lost to a team with a losing record. It came after their third loss in four games Friday to Paul Silas' Cavaliers, and they're six games behind last season's pace that cost Silas his job. It was sweet for Silas, who privately felt Floyd was one of those who undermined him with management last season.
And you thought Kevin Garnett was sure to get out of the first round of the playoffs, finally? He'll be the league's MVP for the first time, especially with Tim Duncan out and the Spurs still winning. And Garnett's Timberwolves should get their first Midwest Division title and No. 2 seed after beating up on the Spurs recently.
But No. 2 gets you No. 7 in the first round, and with Denver staggering, that's looking more like the Houston Rockets, who will find it hard to move up with 11 of their last 16 on the road. But Houston gives the perimeter-oriented Timberwolves the most trouble, thanks to Yao Ming, who is averaging 20 points the last 25 games and scored 27 in last week's win over Minnesota. The Rockets split with Minnesota this season and have won seven of the last 12 between the teams.
"We know this was a tough team," Garnett said. "They are probably one of the most underrated teams in the league."
Toronto got a rare win Sunday thanks to slumping New Orleans, but the Raptors are now in a five-team taffy pull for the last three Eastern playoff spots. Clucking at one time about how they were big winners in the trade with the Bulls, the Raptors have been headed down since Jalen Rose was hurt, and Vince Carter has been in and out of the lineup. They've trolled the wires for released players like Rod Strickland and Corie Blount amid what insiders say is a management feud that rivals the Doc Rivers-John Gabriel affair in Orlando. The latest, say insiders, was coach Kevin O'Neill's lack of support for the release of Lonny Baxter.
General manager Glen Grunwald is said to be upset at O'Neill's lack of loyalty after he gave him his first NBA job. Grunwald is in the final year of his contract, and the speculation in Toronto is he will be retained. But Grunwald associates say O'Neill has been active with ownership behind Grunwald's back and supposedly is maneuvering to push out Grunwald to assure his own contract extension as he heads into the final season of his contract with a team that rarely seems to play hard.
It wasn't too long ago Golden State coach Eric Musselman was the hot new variety in the NBA, last season's Lawrence Frank. He was small, single-minded and studious. The Warriors responded like they hadn't in a decade. But that was last season, and last week one Bay Area columnist was suggesting management, with special assistant Chris Mullin playing a big role, might want to bring in an NBA-type like former player Rod Higgins to settle down the disappointing team.
You may remember it was Erick Dampier who called Musselman "Musselhead" last year. Dampier, one of eight NBA players averaging a double-double, has been talking all season of exercising his free-agent option. Wonder why he'd walk away from $17 million? Jason Richardson has feuded constantly with Musselman and supposedly even blew off a practice last season in protest. Now Mullin favorite Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Musselman have gotten into it. It comes at a time when Dunleavy has made an emergency move to point guard and is averaging 22 points and 12.5 rebounds in two games since.
It was reported last week at practice Musselman was blaming Dunleavy for getting beaten numerous times on a play. Dunleavy said he wasn't, allegedly prompting Musselman to condemn Dunleavy's defense and Dunleavy to question Musselman's coaching.
"It's the same thing I went through," Richardson said, "getting pointed out for [problems on] defense, playing but not really playing as much you'd like, scoring but not scoring as much as you'd like, not being in at the end of games."
And then there's slumping Dallas, 11-19 on the road after a loss in Houston on Sunday. You had to love Garnett at the end of a 24-point Timberwolves win over Dallas last week grabbing a courtside media phone and acting like he was having a conversation. "[President] Bush called and said he's sending some reinforcements for Dallas, but I told him it's too late, it's over," Garnett said. Owner Mark Cuban promised retribution. Also struggling in Dallas is Antawn Jamison, averaging less than nine points per game the last 14 games in what he says has been the worst season of his career.
Anger management: Good for Isiah Thomas. He got David Falk mad. The once-powerful agent of Michael Jordan has just a few NBA clients left. One, Dikembe Mutombo, was benched by the Knicks, and Falk blamed Thomas, though substitute Nazr Mohammed from Kenwood High School is playing the best basketball of his career at center, averaging 15.7 points and 13.3 rebounds since becoming the starting center three games ago. But because Falk believes he should run every team where he has a client, he went after Thomas.
"All [Thomas is] doing now is showing his immaturity as an executive," Falk told New York media in predicting "tremendous repercussions." Said Falk: "Some people, you give them enough rope and they hang themselves."
It was Thomas as players association president who fought for lower agent commissions and to take money out of the salary cap in the late 1980s for a fund to help retired players in financial need. Falk wanted the money to stay in to go to his high-profile clients, and many believe it was payback from Falk and those clients that kept Thomas off the 1992 Dream Team.
Setting the pace: While you were watching all those great Western Conference matchups, the Indiana Pacers quietly have taken over the best record in the NBA and were 16-6 before Sunday against Western Conference teams. But the Finals might be their easy test. They got hammered the last two times they played the Hornets and struggled against the Pistons before Detroit got Rasheed Wallace. You do have to hand it to Ron Artest, though. The high-strung forward sat out only five games after thumb surgery. He was told to stay away from basketball for 72 hours after surgery, but was on the practice court one minute after 72 hours, taking several hundred shots.
The NBA, meanwhile, agreed to an extension of the All-Star break from four to five days next year. It is the final tradeoff for the extension of the first round of the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-seven with veterans and rookies also reporting the same time next season for training camp. This year, with only one day off between Sunday's late game in Los Angeles and the resumption of the schedule Tuesday, Artest was among several players late for practice Monday. For Artest, it was that darn commercial travel. Accustomed to team charter flights his NBA career, Artest didn't know you couldn't just walk into an airport the morning of a flight and buy a ticket.
Layups: The Knicks hired former Pistons assistant Brendan Suhr, a longtime friend of Thomas', as a personnel advisor. . . . Former Knicks assistant Brendan Malone has been working with coach Jeff Van Gundy in Houston as an adviser. . . . The Nets are 10-15 against Western Conference teams and 3-10 against the current top eight in the West.
Family dinner: Another reason the Jazz isn't your ordinary NBA team. To celebrate its victory in Seattle last week and re-entry into the playoff race, the entire team went for an impromptu dinner after the game. It was noted by free-agent-to-be Gordan Giricek, who said: "I don't want to say anything bad about Orlando (which traded him for DeShawn Stevenson), but the guys never went out to dinner together, and they do that here all the time."
I have been saying the whole season that the Hornets will not be a problem. They have played maybe two good games since January 20th I'll let you figure out which two games those were.
Terrible coaching, horrible shot selection and terrible coaching. Thank goodness they did not hire Mike Fratello or Rick Carlisle before the Pacers did. If either of them were the coach the The Hornets would be sitting near the top of the east.
All you had to do is watch the Hornets play for about 20 minutes and it is obvious.
They are very talented and they have experienced players, but they won't beat the Pacers 4 out of 7.
I am not basing any of these comments on this Sam Smith column