I dont have Insider but I got this from hawsquak.net

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider


It's exactly 104 days until Charlotte Bobcats GM Bernie Bickerstaff gets to do something ... official.

The team already has an office, staff, head coach, scouts, marketers, ticket salespeople and a web site. It even has a bright orange Bobcats logo to get your attention. But nothing in Charlotte really happens until June 22. That's when the Bobcats add the real bricks and mortar of any NBA franchise -- players -- in the upcoming expansion draft.

Two days later, June 24, the Bobcats will make their first-ever lottery selection with the fourth pick in the NBA draft. Exactly one week after the draft, they officially can begin wooing the free-agent class of 2004.

"You get a little stir crazy waiting around," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be patient and make sure you're prepared."

Bickerstaff has hardly been waiting. He and his staff have been cavorting through the league, college basketball arenas and Europe for six months searching for the right 15 players who will eventually become the Bobcats.

The process began in training camp in October and has extended through the season. Bickerstaff and a slew of scouts and front-office types have a major task ahead of them.

Not only do they need to evaluate the 100 or so prospects who will become available in the NBA draft and the 150 or so free agents who will flood the NBA market this summer, the Bobcats also have to be well versed on every player in the league in order to be ready for the expansion draft.

That's a lot of players to track.

"What we've done is, we ranked all of the players on every team in order of preference to us," Bickerstaff said. "Then we go through the rankings looking at restricted, unrestricted, early termination options and the like. We wanted to get a good handle on just who will be available to us."

The Bobcats have very little choice but to do that kind of homework. Teams can wait until June 12 to reveal their expansion rosters, giving the Bobcats only 10 days to plot a draft strategy.

Why doesn't Bickerstaff just pick up the phone and call the league's 29 other GMs and jump start the process a little? Because NBA rules prohibit Bickerstaff from even talking to other teams about players or potential deals until May 5. Until then, all he can do is project hypotheticals on dry-erase boards.

Every time there's a trade, injury or sudden shift in the balance of power in the league, the Bobcats have to react.

"We just have to try to map out all of the different scenarios out there," Bickerstaff said. "Things have changed since the trade deadline, which means we'll probably have to make another round of visits to make sure we've seen everyone on our list."

Such uncertainty makes it tough to predict what the Bobcats are going to do in June. But Bickerstaff claims there are a number of core principles that will inform the decisions the Bobcats make this summer.

# Build through the draft: Bickerstaff said his team is least concerned with free agency right now. The team is looking for young players and thinks the best place to get them is in the expansion and amateur drafts. Bickerstaff said he doesn't expect to be a big player in free agency this year unless something special comes around. That means that, unlike previous expansion drafts, the Bobcats will be looking for core players they can begin building around.

# A young core: Bickerstaff said the team will focus on developing a core group of young players. "We want to go with youth," Bickerstaff told Insider. "We want a young group of core players. We don't feel there are going to be any dominant players out there [in the expansion draft or free agency]. Therefore you focus on a core group of young players and build."

# Veteran support: Much like the Nuggets did this year, Bickerstaff wants to make sure his young core is surrounded by a handful of patient, unselfish veterans who can show the rookies how to win and be professionals. "It's also important to find veteran players who understand their role, who are there to be positive in your locker room, to show professionalism, work ethic, to build those young players," Bickerstaff said. "You've got to be very selective. They have to understand why they're there."

# Cap flexibility: Don't expect owner Robert Johnson to break the bank on draft night. The Bobcats will be given the flexibility to select players in the expansion draft regardless of the size of the players' contracts. An owner like Mark Cuban could easily spend $50 million to $75 million in the expansion draft and come away with an impressive veteran core. Bickerstaff said he would resist that temptation. "Cap management is really important. We've got to be very careful who we give our money to." Bickerstaff understands most teams get in trouble when they lose their cap flexibility. He's trying to maintain it early on (despite being limited to only two-thirds of the salary cap this season and three-fourths next season) so the Bobcats can capitalize on an opportunity if one presents itself.

# Let's make a deal: The Bobcats can expect to hear from several teams looking to enrich them if they're willing to select an undesirable player or two in the expansion draft. Teams like the Suns, Wizards and Pistons are looking for major cap room and might be willing to offer cash and draft picks if the Bobcats take a troublesome contract off their hands. Bickerstaff said that the idea, in theory, was interesting, but claimed he hasn't been able to talk with GMs around the league about it, so he couldn't really comment. "We're good listeners," Bickerstaff said. "I think we're going to be open to hearing what people want to offer."

# Patience: The Bobcats know the fans in Charlotte aren't normal expansion fans. The Hornets' team that left two seasons ago was a playoff team. The city's NFL team just went to the Super Bowl and previously made it to the NFC Championship Game in only its second year in the league. Will Bickerstaff & Co. feel pressure to put a good team out on the floor right away? "No," Bickerstaff said bluntly. "We've got to be patient. Do the right things for the basketball team. It's important to have a young team. ... We want to build a product that has sustaining value."

Bickerstaff realizes that some attractive players will be put on the expansion list. He claims Charlotte can resist the temptation, unless, that is, someone dangles a star in their direction. "I know teams are going to put players on list with big salaries. If there's a player that makes a difference, you consider taking them. If that player makes a difference." What is a difference-maker? Bickerstaff said only a handful of players in the league qualify. In other words, you won't be seeing a difference-maker in this year's expansion draft.

Can the fans be that patient? Rebuilding in the NBA sometimes takes years. The Grizzlies, the league's last expansion team, have never been to the playoffs (though it looks like that will change this season). Before the Hornets finally left Charlotte, fans were staying away in droves. Most of their issues were with team owner George Shinn. Now that new management is in town, Bickerstaff says the response from the fans has been "very positive."

The Bobcats' plan is generally endorsed by GMs around the league. Insider talked to several about Bickestaff's blueprint, and all of them agreed that going young and maintaining cap flexibility is the way to go.

"The biggest problem that teams have right now is a lack of financial flexibility," one NBA GM said. "I think many of us would give our right leg to start with a fresh slate like Charlotte has. The temptation will be there to go grab an established player or two, because you do need stars in this league to win a championship. Having said that, I don't see any reason why the Bobcats can't be successful on the court doing what they're doing. Milwaukee and Utah have proved that you can be a playoff team with a collection of mid-priced veterans and young people. If I'm Bernie, I follow the same path they did."

Fortunately, the Bobcats should be in a better position than the Bucks or Jazz when it comes to recruiting free agents. Players are generally interested in playing in Charlotte. The team should have a broad appeal for the numerous former ACC players in the NBA.

"The weather's pretty good, Charlotte is a great city, we're going to have a new arena and we have a great fan base," Bobcats P.R. director Scott Leightman said. "I think we won't have a hard time at all finding players who want to be here. When I go around the league and introduce myself as a member the Bobcats, they really light up. I think it's a great place to play basketball."

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN.com's Insider.

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider


How do teams go about deciding who to protect for the expansion draft?

It's an emerging science that many teams are still wrestling with. Insider talked to numerous team sources to try to get insight into that process, and from those conversations we have made our first attempt at projecting who will and won't be protected for the expansion draft.

The rules are pretty simple. Teams are allowed to protected a maximum of eight players for the expansion draft. Since unrestricted free agents are ineligible to be drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats, they don't count. If a team has fewer than eight players under contract, they still must leave at least one player unprotected.

That's the bad news. The good news is the Bobcats are only allowed to select one player from each NBA team. If a team has one of its players selected, the team receives a trade exception equal to the player's 2004-05 salary. This allows teams to replace a player lost in the expansion draft with another player of comparable salary.

So how do teams go about making the list? The general rule is for teams to put players on the unprotected list who make huge salaries. The Bobcats are unlikely to select players with onerous contracts, which is why players like Keith Van Horn, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Penny Hardaway, Raef LaFrentz, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel could be left unprotected.

Teams also try to keep young players with reasonable contracts off the list. That's why it's likely you'll see a team like Washington leave a better player, like Larry Hughes, unprotected in order to protect a cheap, young player like Steve Blake.

Finally, teams are allowed to entice the Bobcats to take, or refrain from taking, a player on the list. Teams can offer draft picks, cash or future trades to incent Charlotte one way or the other. Several teams, including the Suns, Wizards and Pistons, may go this route.

With that said, some teams have no choice but to leave players they value unprotected. The Grizzlies are the best example. They have a very deep team, and almost all of their players are under contract. They'll have to leave as many as five or six very serviceable players unprotected. They could offer the Bobcats money or a pick not to pick someone, but if he's on the list, he's fair game.

ATLANTA HAWKS
Protected players Unprotected players
Boris Diaw, Travis Hansen, Stephen Jackson, Joel Przybilla and Jason Terry. Chris Crawford and Alan Henderson.

BOSTON CELTICS
Protected players Unprotected players
Marcus Banks, Mark Blount, Ricky Davis, Brandon Hunter, Chris Mihm, Kendrick Perkins, Paul Pierce and Jiri Welsch. Jumaine Jones, Raef LaFrentz, Walter McCarty and Michael Stewart.

CHICAGO BULLS
Protected players Unprotected players
Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Ronald Dupree, Marcus Fizer, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Jefferies and Linton Johnson. Antonio Davis, Scottie Pippen, Eddie Robinson and Jerome Williams.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Tony Battie, Carlos Boozer, Kedrick Brown, DeSagana Diop, LeBron James, Jason Kapono, Jeff McInnis and Dajuan Wagner. Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ira Newble and Kevin Ollie.

DALLAS MAVERICKS
Protected players Unprotected players
Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Josh Howard, Antawn Jamison, Eduardo Najera, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Antoine Walker. Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Shawn Bradley, Tony Delk, Danny Fortson and Jon Stefansson.

DENVER NUGGETS
Protected players Unprotected players
Chris Andersen, Carmelo Anthony, Earl Boykins, Marcus Camby, Nene Hilario, Voshon Lenard, Andre Miller and Nikoloz Tskitishvili. Ryan Bowen, Francisco Elson and Jeff Trepagnier.

DETROIT PISTONS
Protected players Unprotected players
Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Darko Milicic, Mehmet Okur, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Corliss Williamson. Elden Campbell.

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Protected players Unprotected players
Speedy Claxton, Erick Dampier, Mike Dunleavy, Popeye Jones, Troy Murphy, Mickael Pietrus, Jason Richardson and Cliff Robinson. Evan Eschmeyer and Nick Van Exel.

HOUSTON ROCKETS
Protected players Unprotected players
Steve Francis, Adrian Griffin, Jim Jackson, Yao Ming, Cuttino Mobley, Bostjan Nachbar, Eric Piatkowski and Mike Wilks. Kelvin Cato, Maurice Taylor and Clarence Weatherspoon.

INDIANA PACERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Ron Artest, Jonathan Bender, Jeff Foster, Al Harrington, Fred Jones, Reggie Miller, Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley. Jamison Brewer, Primoz Brezec, Austin Croshere, Anthony Johnson, James Jones and Scot Pollard.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Elton Brand, Keyon Dooling, Eddie House, Marko Jaric, Chris Kaman, Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson and Chris Wilcox. Matt Barnes, Peja Drobnjak, Melvin Ely, Josh Moore and Bobby Simmons.

LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Kobe Bryant, Brian Cook, Devean George, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, Gary Payton, Kareem Rush and Luke Walton. Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Jamal Sampson.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
Protected players Unprotected players
Shane Battier, Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, James Posey, Stromile Swift, Earl Watson, Bonzi Wells and Jason Williams. Troy Bell, Ryan Humphrey, Dahntay Jones, Bo Outlaw, Theron Smith, Jake Tsakalidis and Lorenzen Wright.

MIAMI HEAT
Protected players Unprotected players
Malik Allen, Jerome Beasley, Caron Butler, Rasual Butler, Udonis Haslem, Lamar Odom, Dwyane Wade and Loren Woods. Brian Grant and Eddie Jones.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Protected players Unprotected players
T.J. Ford, Dan Gadzuric, Marcus Haislip, Desmond Mason, Michael Redd, Daniel Santiago, Brian Skinner and Joe Smith. Erick Strickland and Keith Van Horn.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Protected players Unprotected players
Sam Cassell, Ndudi Ebi, Kevin Garnett, Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson, Mark Madsen, Michael Olowokandi and Wally Szczerbiak. Ervin Johnson and Latrell Sprewell.

NEW JERSEY NETS
Protected players Unprotected players
Jason Collins, Lucious Harris, Richard Jefferson, Jason Kidd, Kerry Kittles, Kenyon Martin, Zoran Planinic and Aaron Williams. Alonzo Mourning, Rodney Rogers, Brian Scalabrine and Tamar Slay.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Protected players Unprotected players
Courtney Alexander, Darrell Armstrong, P.J. Brown, Baron Davis, George Lynch, Jamaal Magloire, Jamal Mashburn and David West. David Wesley.

NEW YORK KNICKS
Protected players Unprotected players
Othella Harrington, Allan Houston, Stephon Marbury, Nazr Mohammed, Mike Sweetney, Kurt Thomas, Tim Thomas and Frank Williams. Shandon Anderson, Penny Hardaway, Dikembe Mutombo, Moochie Norris and Cezary Trybanski.

ORLANDO MAGIC
Protected players Unprotected players
Keith Bogans, Andrew DeClercq, Reece Gaines, Drew Gooden, Juwan Howard, Tyronn Lue, Tracy McGrady and Zaza Pachulia. Pat Garrity and Grant Hill.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Samuel Dalembert, Willie Green, Allen Iverson, Kyle Korver, Glenn Robinson, John Salmons, Eric Snow and Kenny Thomas. Greg Buckner, Derrick Coleman, Marc Jackson, Todd MacCulloch and Aaron McKie.

PHOENIX SUNS
Protected players Unprotected players
Leandro Barbosa, Zarko Cabarkapa, Casey Jacobsen, Joe Johnson, Maciej Lampe, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire and Jake Voskuhl. Howard Eisley and Jahidi White.

PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Protected players Unprotected players
Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Dale Davis, Darius Miles, Travis Outlaw, Zach Randolph, Theo Ratliff and Qyntel Woods. Derek Anderson, Omar Cook, Eddie Gill, Ruben Patterson, Vladimir Stepania and Damon Stoudamire.

SACRAMENTO KINGS
Protected players Unprotected players
Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, Brad Miller, Anthony Peeler, Darius Songaila, Peja Stojakovic, Gerald Wallace and Chris Webber. Doug Christie.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Protected players Unprotected players
Bruce Bowen, Devin Brown, Tim Duncan, Alex Garcia, Manu Ginobili, Rasho Nesterovic, Tony Parker and Hedo Turkoglu. Robert Horry and Malik Rose.

SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
Protected players Unprotected players
Ray Allen, Nick Collison, Antonio Daniels, Reggie Evans, Rashard Lewis, Ronald Murray, Vladimir Radmanovic and Luke Ridnour. Calvin Booth, Richie Frahm, Jerome James and Vitaly Potapenko.

TORONTO RAPTORS
Protected players Unprotected players
Robert Archibald, Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, Donyell Marshall, Roger Mason Jr., Jerome Moiso, Milt Palacio and Morris Peterson. Lamond Murray, Jalen Rose and Alvin Williams.

UTAH JAZZ
Protected players Unprotected players
Carlos Arroyo, Curtis Borchardt, Gordan Giricek, Matt Harpring, Andrei Kirilenko, Raul Lopez, Aleksandar Pavlovic and Maurice Williams. Raja Bell and Jarron Collins.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Protected players Unprotected players
Gilbert Arenas, Steve Blake, Kwame Brown, Juan Dixon, Jarvis Hayes, Brendan Haywood, Jared Jeffries and Etan Thomas. Larry Hughes, Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN.com's Insider.

Peep Show

NBA Insider
Wednesday, March 10
Updated: March 10
9:52 AM ET

Chicago Bulls: Head coach Scott Skiles needs all the help he can get with Eddy Curry. "I wish, frankly, that everyone would stop focusing so much on Eddy's scoring, because that makes my job very difficult," Skiles said in the Daily Herald. "I'm trying to convince him to play defense and block shots, and that's how we'll win. Everybody keeps asking me, 'Has Eddy arrived now? He's got 15 double-digit (scoring) games in a row.' It becomes difficult, because players can buy into that. He needs a lot of work on his defense and his rebounding."


Walker
Dallas Mavericks: To know Antoine Walker is to love Antoine Walker. "My role will be the same," Walker said in the Dallas Morning News after complaining about playing only 18 minutes in his last game. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to win games. I've never won like this. I'm happy as hell. The last thing I want is to be a distraction. I'm not concerned with my play. The goal is to be on top of your game at the playoffs. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be consistent. But I've never shot the ball for a high percentage. That's just not my game." And the Mavs understand. "He's one of the best players on this team," said assistant coach Donn Nelson. "And without him playing well, plain and simple, we're not going to be able to go as far as we want to. So it's in everyone's best interest, especially the Mavericks, that he get his game back together. This is a 'we' thing. We will work through this together. But we will not drop games in the process. That's the same as with any of our other guys."

New York Knicks: Vin Baker wants to be a Knick. And, apparently, the Knicks wants Vin Baker."This is a person who's battling a disease," Isiah Thomas told the New York Post. "You're not talking about, quote, a bad person. If you're going to take a risk on anyone, this is the kind of guy you take a risk on. There's nothing in his family or background that would say he's a bad risk in terms of his person. If given the opportunity, we'll take the risk and try to support him and try to help him."

Detroit Pistons: Richard Hamilton wants to play basketball. But to do so , he has to wear a plastic mask to protect his surgically repaired nose. "Who knows? It could be for a couple of minutes and I'll throw it off or maybe it will stay on," Hamilton said in the Detroit News. "I'll be fine . . . It's still clogged up, but I'm OK. (Tuesday) was the first time running. I felt a little light-headed at times, just minor things." His coach just wants him back any way he can. "I don't know what kind of shape he's in, but he looks fine," Larry Brown said. "We'll see. Fortunately, the guys who have come in and played for the injured guys are good teammates -- we'll figure it out."


Sprewell
Minnesota Timberwolves: Silence was the best medicine for a slumping Latrell Sprewell, who broke out for 31 points Tuesday night. "I didn't think anybody wanted to talk to me. I'm there if people want to talk," Sprewell said in the Pioneer Press. "You go through periods where you're really not playing well, and your scoring may go down. It's part of the season, but with a team like ours we have a lot of different guys that can score." But that doesn't mean he wants less attention. "If anything, I'm not getting enough attempts and minutes," he said. "But I'm not pressing. I love to play. I'd rather be out on the court staying loose and being in the game."

Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson is stuck between a bone chip and a hard place. He can either play through some pain to help his team reach the playoffs and risk missing the postseason. Or he could undergo arthroscopic surgery to remove the bone chips in his right elbow and sit out five weeks, which could eliminate his team from the playoffs before they even start. "It's the player's decision," head coach Chris Ford said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "I talked to Glenn [yesterday morning], and as he told you, he's still weighing his options. Concerning injuries, I always leave it to the player and the medical people. He's been bothered most of the year [by the elbow]. He's been complaining, and visually you could see it; the arm was not straight. He couldn't get it straight; he played through it." Robinson has already missed 20 games this season. "The bottom line is, I'm probably going to end up having to get [the elbow] scoped," he said. "But that's a difficult situation, because I hate to have surgery in the middle of the season. At the same time, I don't want to keep being in and out, out and in. If I do it, I think about the playoffs - it would take about 3 to 5 weeks to heal. I definitely would like to be around for the playoffs. We still have a shot at being there. I don't want to waste too much time, either. I don't want to wait, and we get in the playoffs and I'm not around, either. It's a difficult decision for me...I want to play. I hate to be in and out the way I've been. We've been broken up all year. I've missed plenty of games already."

* Skiles' battles continue with Robinson, Curry
Mike McGraw / Arlington Heights Daily Herald
* Time not on his side, but Walker says he's happy
Eddie Sefko / Dallas Morning News
* Isiah: Baker's Worth Risk
Marc Berman / New York Post
* Masked Hamilton plans to face Bulls
Joanne C. Gerstner / Detroit News
* Sprewell breaks out of his slump
Mike Wells / St. Paul Pioneer Press
* Robinson has bone chips in elbow, mulls surgery
Phil Jasner / Philadelphia Daily News