Next season's big stories ... now
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Sean Deveney /
Posted: 1 day ago
The past few weeks certainly have shown that, in the NBA, there is no offseason. Even as the saga of the Lakers dominated the headlines, every other team in the league went about its business, signing players, hiring coaches, making trades. Similarly, the lowly scribes among us continue working, already getting started on the columns that will fill this space in the upcoming season. This might not exactly jibe with company policy, but I've put together a sneak peek at some of the things I'm already working on for next season. Have a look.
November 15, 2004: Steve Nash and his new crew (cut)
Point guard Steve Nash has been a perfect fit for Phoenix -- a little too perfect, say some friends of Nash, who signed a six-year deal with the Suns in the offseason. Nash's ability to run the fast break has boosted the play of the young, athletic Suns. That has helped the Suns move ahead of the Lakers in the Pacific Division and has Phoenix challenging the Kings for the division's top spot.
But what strikes friends as odd is the way Nash has adapted to his very conservative surroundings in Arizona. He now sports a crew cut, after years of maintaining a floppy, hippie-style coiffure. He no longer courts actresses and singers -- he looks for dates at Daughters of the American Revolution meetings. Once a vocal critic of globalization, Nash now says, "Free enterprise is the only force for moral good in the world."
December 10, 2004: Kidd is feeling sandwiched
Just when the Nets thought they finally had pleased the team's star, Jason Kidd, the finicky point guard became ticked off with management last week when he noted that the sandwiches in the team's postgame meal were soggy. "They let them sit around too long," Kidd said. "I like them with oil and vinegar, but if you put it on too early and let them sit, the oil soaks through the bottom of the bread. How can I work in these conditions?"
Kidd, of course, complained about the coaching style of Byron Scott last season and, eventually, Scott was fired and replaced by Lawrence Frank. Sources also noted that Kidd was upset over the summer when the Nets traded All-Star power forward Kenyon Martin for draft picks, in order to preserve payroll room. When the season got under way, Kidd got tired of Frank, and had him fired, too. In the last two months, he had the Nets hire and fire Phil Jackson, Mike Fratello, Lou Campanelli, Kidd's teenage cousin Sydney, the exhumed body of Jim Naismith and former presidential candidate Walter Mondale. The team is now being coached by Big Blue, the IBM supercomputer, but word is, Kidd is unhappy with Blue's sideline temperament.
Meanwhile, the Nets, no longer the top team in the East, are behind the Knicks and the 76ers in their division. They have been unable to rebound and defend the middle with Martin gone, and with an unhappy Kidd running the team, heir once-feared fast break has stalled. "When I can get a sandwich with dry bread, I will play better," Kidd noted.
January 22, 2005: Buy that man a comb
Armed with the best inside-out combo in the league (Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming), Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy has stunned doctors, who report that the shiny-pated coach has been regrowing hair. McGrady's versatility and outside scoring have balanced Yao's increasing effectiveness on the inside. That has the young Houston squad on a 55-win pace and apparently has allowed Van Gundy to relax for the first time in his professional life.
Doctors say the reduced stress on Van Gundy led to the follicular miracle. As for the coach, he is excited about hairstyle prospects and even says he is considering "a Billy Ray Cyrus thing."
March 18, 2005: Odom is stunned by Bryant's passing fancy
Lakers forward Lamar Odom was stunned into a turnover last week when a season-first took place during a victory in Los Angeles. Odom started the Lakers' offense by passing to Kobe Bryant at the top of the key and, to Odom's shock, Bryant passed the ball back. Unsure of what had just happened, Odom held the ball, staring at it until the 24-second clock elapsed. "I did not know what to do," Odom said. "There's nothing in our playbook that covers him passing it back."
April 1, 2005: Shaq attacks
In one fateful possession, Shaquille O'Neal showed why he is so valuable to the Heat and why his mere presence in Miami has boosted the Heat past Indiana to just below Detroit in the East. With 4 minutes to play in the second quarter in a game at Conseco Fieldhouse, O'Neal took a pass from Dwyane Wade and immediately backed in against the double-team of Jermaine O'Neal and Jeff Foster. Foster, absorbing the initial blow, landed on his derriere, bruised it, and will be out two to four weeks. Jermaine O'Neal's head flew back when he took on the secondary force, causing him to suffer whiplash. He'll be out for five weeks.
Shaq, when told of the injuries he'd just caused, pointed out that, "Any way you look at it, trying to guard me is either a pain in the neck or a pain in the (posterior)."