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    Pacers go from bad to good overnight

    By Chad Ford
    ESPN Insider


    David Stern, meet Rod Serling. Every time you think you have a handle on what's going on, something really weird happens that throws the NBA world into disarray.

    Last week, it was the Ron Artest basket-brawl in Detroit. This week, Hubie Brown, last year's Coach of the Year recipient, claims he's lost his passion for basketball and steps down.

    If things follow form, the Grizzlies are about to go on a 10-game winning streak. Don't believe us? Did you get a good look at the Pacers this week?

    Was there anyone who predicted that a month into the season

    * The Pacers would have the best record in the East despite playing without both Jermaine O'Neal and Artest for the majority of their games.
    * That Hubie Brown would realize, one month into the season, that coaching in the NBA these days isn't all it's cracked up to be.
    * The Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns, two teams most analysts predicted would miss the playoffs, would have the best record in the NBA.
    * The Suns and Sonics would get to the top of the mountain by shooting 3s. That's right. The two teams with the best records in the league also are averaging the most 3-point shots made and attempted.
    * Bobcats guard Brevin Knight would be averaging more assists than all but one point guard in the league Steve Nash.

    Yet all of those are true, making this Monday's look at the week that was the good, the bad and the upside another peek into what is shaping up as a Twighlight Zone season.

    THE GOOD

    # Indiana Pacers: How messed up has this season been? Exhibit A, the Pacers. They've been in either the good or bad category every week. No in between.

    Last week, the conventional wisdom was the Pacers were toast. When Insider wrote Sunday that the Pacers were still in this even without O'Neal, Artest and Stephen Jackson a flood of Insider cancellations came in. Our worst-case scenario had them winning seven of their next 30 and still being in reach of a playoff spot.

    Our best-case scenario looked a lot like this week. The team won home games against the Celtics, Timberwolves and Bobcats before succumbing on the road to the Sonics on Sunday night.

    We broke down how they'd do it last week, but here are two other factors we should've added into the equation.

    Rick Carlisle is proving once again he may be the most underrated coach in the league. Two years removed from Coach of the Year honors and one year removed from being unceremoniously dumped by the Pistons, Carlisle is proving he has what it takes to be a special coach in the league.

    With just one player on his roster who has any business starting in the league, and with just five healthy bodies who have any business playing in the league, somehow the Pacers are managing to score 97.4 ppg while holding opponents to 94 ppg. To put that into perspective, there are 17 teams whose season averages are better than 97.4 points for and 94 points against.

    The other factor is point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who is putting up the best numbers of his career in the absence of the Pacers' starting four. Tinsley has gotten a bad rap in both college and the pros, but he's made Pacers president Donnie Walsh look like a genius for signing him to that six-year, $40-million extension this summer.

    Tinsley averaged 21.8 ppg, 7.5 apg, 5.5 rpg and 3 steals on 49 percent shooting this week. If that isn't enough to get him Player of the Week honors, in the midst of everything else surrounding the team, I don't know what is.

    Other stars have emerged as well. Fred Jones has turned into a consistent scoring threat. James Jones, last year's second-round pick, has put up remarkable numbers, including 27 points and six boards against the Sonics. And with Reggie Miller, Jeff Foster and Anthony Johnson all close to being ready for their returns, the Pacers are about to get some much needed help.

    "It was kind of like when John Wayne got cancer and they had to take out both of his lungs," center Scot Pollard said this week. "He said, 'Take 'em both out, Doc. I don't need 'em. I'll grow gills and breathe like a fish.' Take away our three best players and we'll just pray."

    Somebody's listening.

    # Phoenix Suns: Another week, another dominant Suns player in the news. Two weeks ago we couldn't stop raving about Steve Nash. Last week, we called Amare Stoudemire the next Moses Malone. This week? The love goes out to Shawn Marion, who is averaging 25.2 ppg and 14.4 rpg on 49.5 percent shooting over the past five games.

    In many ways, defenders are in the same boat with Marion they are with Stoudemire. He's playing the four for the first time in his career and is creating enormous mismatches. Bigger power forwards don't have his quickness and must play off him. When they do, Marion turns into a pretty lethal jumpshooter. If they try to come out and contest his jumper, he explodes to the basket.

    Either way, defenders are screwed.

    # Seattle Supersonics: It appears teams haven't figured out how to stop the Sonics from making 3s. After their loss last week to the Celtics, former Sonic Gary Payton boldly predicted the Celtics had figured out the key to stopping his former team.

    Apparently, the Celtics didn't share the secret with anyone. Seattle shot 40 percent from beyond the arc this week. Even when the Sonics weren't shooting well from 3 (like the 19 percent against the Grizzlies), they still knocked down enough mid-range shots to win.

    We've already documented how well Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis have played (and shot the ball) this season. But there are two other factors that have to be mentioned.

    Vladimir Radmanovic is putting together his best season as a pro. The past two years, he has played out of position at the four. This year, he is coming off the bench behind Lewis at the three and has been another consistent 3-point threat. His numbers don't jump off the page, but in limited minutes, he leads the Sonics in the plus/minus category. In other words, the team is scoring more points with Radmanovic on the floor than with any other combination of players.

    Now for the pessimistic part. If the Sonics are smart, they'll trade him now while his value is as high as it's ever been. Long-term, it's tough to believe this will continue. He has value. They should cash in before it's too late.

    The second factor is toughness. Head coach Nate McMillan has been begging GM Rick Sund for years to get him some tough players. This year, he has two Danny Fortson and Nick Collison. You can't call Fortson a thug, but he is averaging 14.4 personal fouls per 48 minutes played second in the league. Collison ranks third (12.1). And surprisingly, Jerome James is fourth (11.7). Fouls don't necessarily equal toughness, but watch the Sonics play and you'll see that all three of these guys are playing with a grit that few Sonics fans have seen over the past five years.

    # San Antonio Spurs: Everyone keeps claiming the new defensive rules are unfairly wiping out the league's best defensive teams. Someone needs to inform the Spurs. This week, San Antonio put on one of the most impressive defensive spectacles we've seen this season.

    After losing a couple of shockers on the road in Toronto and Memphis, the Spurs decided it was time to start playing some defense. The result? They held the Mavs to a season-low 80 points on 38 percent shooting. Then, they clamped down on the Nuggets, holding them to a season-low 75 points on 34 percent shooting. Finally, they routed the Jazz, holding them to just 28 points at the half and 76 for the game.

    Said Jazz coach Jerry Sloan after his team was annihilated 109-76: "They came out and tried to destroy us. (Spurs coach Gregg Popovich) was kind in not playing their frontline players, or they would have had 200 points tonight."

    # Sacramento Kings: The Kings' seven-game win streak ended Sunday night at home against the Timberwolves. However, don't expect them to slip back into their early-season funk. They play two very winnable road games this week in Memphis and New Orleans, before going back home to host the Pacers, Celtics and Bobcats.

    If the Kings continue to play the way they have, there's no reason to believe they won't rattle off another five-game streak. They currently rank last in the league in turnovers, and their assist-to-turnover ratio is by far the best in the league.

    People predicted the ball would stop moving on offense once Vlade Divac was out of the picture, but so far, there doesn't seem to be any truth to that. Mike Bibby is averaging 6 assists. Doug Christie is averaging 5.8 apg over his last five games. Chris Webber ranks second among all big men with 5.1 apg. Brad Miller, over the past five games, has found his passing groove too, averaging 4.8 apg.

    # Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are over .500 in November for only the second time in the history of the franchise. More importantly, by almost every quantifiable statistic, the Clippers are better than the Lakers at this point in the season.

    They're averaging more points per game and give up fewer than the Lakers. They lead the league in field goal percentage, shooting a sizzling 48 percent from the field. They lead the league in assists at 24.2 apg. They get more steals and even shoot it better from 3.

    Both teams may be 8-6 at this point, but it's difficult not to get the feeling the Clippers may just be the better team.

    Kobe may be the best player on either team, but at every other position, the Clips are better. Elton Brand is a better power forward than Lamar Odom so far. Marko Jaric, the Clippers' point guard, has been amazing lately, averaging 17.3 ppg, 8.5 apg and 4 spg over his last four. Corey Maggette has been better than Caron Butler at the three. Chris Wilcox has outplayed Chris Mihm in the middle.

    And while Bobby Simmons is no Kobe, he does rank fifth in the league in field goal percentage (54 percent) and first in the league in free throws (96 percent).

    # Charlotte Bobcats: It's official. The Bobcats are no longer the worst team in basketball. On a sheer record basis, that distinction still belongs to the Bulls and Hornets, who each have won just one game this season.

    But the real test came this week in the NBA's version of the turkey bowl between the Hawks and Bobcats. We kind of had a clue early in the season that maybe the Hawks, not the Bobcats, would be holding the most lottery tickets in April. Now, we're pretty sure that's going to be the case.

    Not only did the Bobcats easily handle the Hawks, 107-92, they also defeated the Pistons this week, 91-89. Factor in the games the team should've won, and the Bobcats should be over .500 this season.

    How is that possible on an expansion team that admittedly kept it's roster young and inexperienced, in part, to secure a top draft position next year?

    Start with the play of veteran point guard Brevin Knight. There was a time this summer when it looked like Knight would fall out of the league. The Bobcats seriously debated whether to keep him on their roster after a so-so training camp. What has he done? Only average 11.6 apg in his last five, including 34 assists against the Pistons in back-to-back games.

    Knight now ranks second in the league in assists behind Steve Nash. He's doing this while averaging less than 30 mpg this season.

    The other big wow factor has come from Emeka Okafor. His 18.6 ppg, 12 rpg have given him back the edge for Rookie of the Year honors over the Magic's Dwight Howard. And for those of you who claimed Okafor had no offensive upside, he ranks second among rookies in points per game.

    While it's still too early to figure out exactly how many games the Bobcats will win this season, it sure looks to me like they'll be able to get close to, if not exceed, 20 wins.

    The only downside to that? The Bobcats desperately want to land the No. 1 pick in the draft so they can get their hands on Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul. Not only is Paul one of the best point guard prospects to come out of college since Jason Kidd, he's also a local kid who will fill the seats.

    Unfortunately, the Hawks, Warriors and Nets are all looking for point guards too. Is it time for the Bobcats to start taking it easy on some of the weaker teams in the East?

    THE BAD

    # Memphis Grizzlies: Can anyone really replace Hubie? That's the problem confronting Jerry West & Co. at the moment. By now you know they've had substantial talks with Mike Fratello, a Hubie disciple, about taking over. Fratello has a history of asking for the moon in talks, and that's why the negotiations have dragged on through the weekend. As of Sunday night, Fratello still didn't have a contract.

    League sources told Insider over the weekend the Grizzlies' backup plan is former Warriors head coach Eric Musselman. He's a young Hubie energetic and intense. In fact, given the current dynamics of the team, he may be a better pick than Fratello.

    Does Fratello really want this job anyway? Brown's decision to walk away will remove much of the hope that has been fostered in Memphis these past two seasons.

    If West decides to join him this summer the Grizzlies could be in trouble. At Hubie's press conference Friday, West sure sounded as if he was considering retirement. Maybe he was just depressed the Grizzlies' best weapon just walked out the door. Or maybe he knows the Grizzlies are going to take longer to fix than it appeared at the end of last season.

    Fratello would have his work cut out for him. Over the past few weeks, several key players including Jason Williams and Bonzi Wells were starting to bristle over Hubie's insistence on a 10-man rotation.

    Gripes about playing time were inevitable. Last year, the players bought in, partly because they were underdogs who were winning. With more expectations (and a few bigger contracts, to boot), the players started to turn when they got off to a slow start.

    As we reported here last week, some players were especially uncomfortable with the growing role of Brendan Brown as an assistant coach.

    So what will Fratello inherit? A team that has grown weary of a style of coaching that Fratello advocates. And everyone on the Grizzlies liked Hubie. That may not be true with Mike.

    He also will inherit a team without a center and with, perhaps, too much depth. If he scraps the 10-man rotation, guys like Williams, Gasol and Wells will be happy. But there will be a lot of good players who will see their significant roles essentially eliminated.

    The only way that works is if West agrees to make some changes. He needs to thin out the backcourt a bit and add one significant frontcourt player. This isn't news to West, who tried to do exactly that all summer, but there's never been a greater urgency to get it done.

    If West can't get it done (he believes many teams won't trade with him because of his reputation), the frustration of the whole thing might push him out the door too. If West is gone, his philosophy is going to leave with him. If that happens, Fratello's jump suddenly isn't all that secure.

    # Houston Rockets: Who do you blame for the Rockets miserable 6-9 start. Do you blame Yao Ming, who has had an up-and-down season so far? Do you blame Tracy McGrady, who has struggled to adapt his game to Jeff Van Gundy's principles?

    Do you blame Van Gundy for not being flexible enough to adapt his style to McGrady's talents? Or, do you blame the front office for not having a real plan to fill this team with adequate role players after they gutted it to land T-Mac?

    Whomever you blame, it appears things may be coming to a head in Houston. The Rockets are bad in just about every category imaginable.

    They rank 29th in scoring, averaging a mere 87.7 ppg. They are the worst offensive rebounding team in the league and rank 28th overall on the boards. The team isn't getting any penetration to the basket, which explains why only the Hornets have taken fewer free throws this season.

    Van Gundy called his team mediocre Sunday. Given the way the Rockets have played lately, that may be optimistic.

    "We're mediocre," Van Gundy said two losses ago. "We're just a mediocre team, because we don't make the plays that make you good consistently. We've made some improvements, but we don't fit together like I'd like to. Our chemistry is not the chemistry of a really good team.

    "I don't think you can say any one guy has done well enough. We've done well enough as a group to be mediocre. And I think myself and each one of the players is to blame.

    "Certainly if the results don't change, we'll need to change either who plays or who's here. Because one thing you don't want to get used to is mediocrity."

    The team hopes to get a boost from the return of Bob Sura, who was activated off the injured list earlier this week. But Sura won't change everything.

    The team needs to make some trades but with what? Yao and McGrady are untouchable. No one else on the roster has any real trade value at the moment.

    Van Gundy may be stuck with a team that sounds eerily familiar to the one McGrady left in Orlando. It's tough to blame McGrady for this whole thing. He's been trying to adjust. But when you read Magic GM John Weisbrod's words, they sure seem to hit home.

    "One of the things we had last year and one of the reason we lost so often was because people left the building feeling fine with themselves," Magic GM John Weisbrod told Insider in training camp. "Tracy would say, you know, 'I had my 35, what else did you want me to do?' The other guys would say 'Hey, I'm just a role player, this is Tracy's team.'

    "So everyone's putting the head on the pillow at night, and no one feels responsible. You're not going to break down many walls with that type of attitude."

    The Rockets have got to be freaking out right now.

    # Utah Jazz: The Jazz went 1-3 this week while giving up the first wins of the season to both the Hornets and the Bulls. Utah's scoring has dropped off dramatically from the start of the season, while its defense has become more vulnerable. That isn't a great recipe for success.

    Coach Jerry Sloan believes his team has gotten away from what made it successful in the first place, precisely executed team ball.

    "We got a little bit greedy in a couple games, because we felt we could do it on our own," Sloan said. "Each guy thought he could. But we're not as good a team that way."

    To make matters worse, the team's best player, Andrei Kirilenko, sprained his ACL and likely will have to go on the injured list for the next 10 days.

    With upcoming games against the red-hot Suns, Sonics and Mavs, the Jazz could fall to .500 by the end of the week. So much for red-hot fast starts.

    # Toronto Raptors: It's not a question of if Vince Carter gets traded at this point just when. Sources in Toronto told Insider over the weekend they've determined it's in the best interests of both the team and the player to make a trade. Right now, the Raptors are in the process of figuring out what the best deal would be.

    In a perfect world, they'd be able to dump Carter and Jalen Rose in the same trade. Both players rank among the five worst in the league in plus/minus. They haven't bought into head coach Sam Mitchell's system, and he doesn't believe they will.

    The problem with peddling both is that no one wants Rose or the last three years of his outrageous contract. Making a trade straight up for Carter would be easier but wouldn't remove all the Raptors' problems. They know the only way to get rid of Rose is to pin him to VC. If they hold firm, there are really only three teams the Blazers, Mavs and Knicks who have the personnel and willingness to eat those salaries.

    The Blazers' deal has already been discussed: Shareef Abdur Rahim and Nick Van Exel (who both are in the last year of their contracts) for Carter and Rose. That deal gives the Raptors some needed salary relief, but does little to address any problems with their roster. Abdur-Rahim plays the same position as Chris Bosh and likely wouldn't re-sign with the team next summer.

    The Knicks also could try to make something happen, but their backcourt already has Stephon Marbury, Allan Houston and Jamal Crawford. The Knicks don't want to trade Marbury, and both Houston and Crawford are signed to deals that would be tough to trade. The Knicks would have to get a three-way trade going with someone to make this work.

    The Mavs have a number of players they might be willing to move for Carter and Rose. If I were the Raptors, I'd try to get Michael Finley, Alan Henderson (who's in the last year of his contract), and either Josh Howard or Marquis Daniels. It still doesn't give them a center, but it clears cap, replaces an All-Star with a good veteran and gives them a young player to build with.

    # Detroit Pistons: Who would've thought losing Ben Wallace would be more devastating to the Pistons than losing Jermaine O'Neal, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson would be to the Pacers. So much for the theories that Wallace isn't a legit MVP candidate.

    The Pistons have looked awful the past week losing to the Bobcats, Cavs and Bucks on the road. Their win against the Heat at home was impressive, but overall, the team just isn't playing well.

    When the Pistons have Wallace, teams shoot 41 percent against them this season. With Wallace out the lineup, that number rises to 48 percent.

    What's even more unbelievable is Larry Brown hasn't taken the opportunity to steal some minutes for Darko Milicic. Instead, Brown is playing veteran Derrick Coleman, even though Coleman hasn't shown he can be productive. Milicic did get in during the second quarter against the Heat and played well.

    If Darko can't get in a game against an expansion team like the Bobcats with other players in foul trouble, when can he play?

    Brown is still non-committal. "I still want to put Darko in a good position," Brown said. "It's a possibility that an opportunity (for him to play) could present itself. He's gotten better in practice, and he's working a little harder. We'll see."

    # Atlanta Hawks: Well, it's official. The Hawks are worse than the Bobcats. They were blown out 107-92 on Saturday. The team has lost six straight, and with the exception of a close game against the Heat, they haven't been close.

    Teams are shooting 49 percent from the field against the Hawks. The Hawks are also being outrebounded by teams to the tune of 5.1 rpg. That's tops in the league.

    And if that isn't enough to persuade you, Antoine Walker, the team's most productive player (by far), has the worst plus/minus rating of any player in the league.

    THE UPSIDE

    # Portland Trail Blazers: The good news is the Blazers went 3-1 this week with impressive road wins against the Heat and Magic and an understandable loss to the Mavericks in Dallas.

    The bad news is it may not be enough to stop the growing rumors that Portland could be in for a major shakeup soon. That may come in the form of a trade. The Vince Carter thing was on the table (both sides seem to disagree over to what extent). There are other teams including Minnesota, New Jersey and Boston who also are interested in Abdur-Rahim.

    But that may not be where the change occurs. There's been talk that Mo Cheeks, who has openly feuded with management, may be gone soon. Team president Steve Patterson's response to inquiries that Cheeks might be fired: "I've never been a fan of doing that," Patterson said. "We're not headed in that direction."

    Not the most overwhelming vote of support is it?

    GM John Nash also might be in trouble. There's talk of discord in the front office between Nash and Patterson. Nash has an option year on his contract at the end of the season, and it sounds like there's a chance the team might not exercise it.

    Nash's record to this point has been rocky, to say the least. He's made a number of changes, yet the bad boy image of the Blazers continues. He got rid of some of the elements that gave the team problems, but there's plenty of cancer left that hasn't been rooted out.

    Don't be surprised if the Blazers make another run at Pistons Vice President John Hammond again this summer. They wanted him the first time, but Hammond balked at the job when he learned just how much control Patterson intended on exercising over basketball-related matters.

    With all the mistakes Nash and Patterson have made, Hammond may get Paul Allen's blessing this time for full control over basketball-related decisions. Whatever the course, it's clear the Blazers are still riddled with problems and need a clear voice and vision to lead them out of it.

    # Milwaukee Bucks/Cleveland Cavaliers: The Bucks are off to a disappointing 4-7 start, but Michael Redd continues to improve. He's averaging career highs of 23.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 3 apg. He's also shooting a career-high 44 percent from 3 this season.

    The bad news is Redd will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and one league source claims he's seriously considering bolting to Cleveland to play with LeBron James. The Cavs are in desperate need of a 3-point shooter, and Redd, who was born in Columbus and played college ball at Ohio State, is itching to return.

    The Cavs should have the money to pay him. Assuming they can get Zydrunas Ilgauskas to re-up for a reasonable amount, they should have enough cash under the cap to offer Redd the max. The way he's played the past two seasons, that's what he's worth especially to a team like the Cavs, who desperately want to show LeBron they'll do whatever it takes to make the team a contender.

    With the way the Cavs have been playing lately, you've got to believe a player like Redd would put them among the elite in the East.

    # Washington Wizards: The Wizards may be facing one of the easiest portions of their schedule right now, but there's still a lot to like.

    Larry Hughes has been flat-out amazing over the past five games, averaging 23.2 pgg, 8.8 rpg, 6.6 apg and 2.6 spg. The Wizards are 4-1 over that stretch.

    He's also getting big-time help from Antawn Jamison (24.8 ppg and 10.6 rpg) and Gilbert Arenas (21.6 ppg and 5.1 apg) over the same five games.

    So, it should come as no surprise that the Wizards rank second in the league in scoring at 101.9 ppg. The team is also the best offensive rebounding team in the league.

    Unfortunately, the Wizards are also giving up 102.2 ppg tops in the league. That may explain why they haven't moved from "Upside" to "Good" just yet.

    # Miami Heat: It was a so-so week for the Heat. After dominating early, the team has struggled to find any consistency. They beat both the Hawks and Celtics and lost to the Blazers and Pistons.

    The frustrating part, from head coach Stan Van Gundy's perspective, is the team isn't getting the ball consistently to Shaquille O'Neal.

    O'Neal got just one shot in the fourth quarter of the Heat's victory over the Celtics on Sunday, prompting this response from Van Gundy.

    ''The decision-making tonight was ridiculous," Van Gundy said. "There were people open all over the place. All you have to do is see the weak-side defender on Shaq and move the ball to the open man. We couldn't do it. Guys wanted to try to do stuff on their own. It was a horrible fourth quarter."

    Shaq is averaging just 12.7 shots per game a career low. That's pretty ridiculous considering Shaq is shooting 59 percent from the field.

    # New York Knicks: The Knicks continue to lead the Atlantic division, going 2-1 for the week. The X-factor continues to be Jamal Crawford. When he plays well, the Knicks win. When he stinks, so do the Knicks. The numbers don't lie here.

    In the Knicks' six victories this season, Crawford has averaged 21.8 ppg on 43 percent shooting. In their six losses? He's averaging 13.8 ppg on 37 percent shooting. That's a big, big difference.

    The one steadying influence on the team has been Stephon Marbury. Marbury is averaging 19 ppg and 10.4 rpg on 51 percent shooting in his last five.

    # Minnesota Timberwolves: The Wolves played a whopping five games this week and went 3-2. Kevin Garnett shows no signs of slowing down, averaging career highs in rebounds (15 rpg), assists (6.2 apg) and shooting percentage (51 percent from the field).

    His teammates, however, are going through down years. Sam Cassell is averaging just 13.8 ppg and 4.8 apg. Those numbers are way down from his 19.8 ppg and 7.4 apg last season . Latrell Sprewell is averaging 12.2 ppg, 2 rpg and 2 apg down from 16.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg and 3 apg last season.

    Wally Szczerbiak's numbers are up slightly this season compared to last, but he, too, can't seem to regain his All-Star form.

    If it wasn't for Eddie Griffin, who has looked great at times for the Wolves (especially his 20-point, 9-rebound, 5-block performance against the Kings on Sunday), it's tough to figure out how this team can achieve what last year's did.

    # Philadelphia 76ers: People raised their eyebrows in training camp when head coach Jim O'Brien benched Samuel Dalembert in favor of center Marc Jackson. So far, Jackson is making O'Brien look like a genius. He averaged 18.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg on 51 percent shooting for the week, and he did all of that while averaging less than 30 minutes per game.

    Those numbers prove that maybe Jackson will live up to his promise after all. Remember, he put up impressive numbers of 13.2 ppg and 7.4 rpg during his rookie season at Golden State and hasn't done much since.

    If things continue, don't be surprised if GM Billy King starts returning some of the calls he's getting on Dalembert right now. Teams want a shot at him before he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. The Sixers seem to be balking at offering him a big contract, especially because O'Brien isn't convinced he fits into their defensive schemes.

    We mentioned several Raptors trade scenarios before, but this might be a perfect one. A package of Dalembert and Glenn Robinson for Vince Carter would give the Sixers a ton of firepower, while the Raptors would get both cap relief (Robinson comes off the books after this season) and the big man they need in the middle. It doesn't rid Toronto of Rose, but it could be a deal the Raptors can't pass on.

    THE REST

    # It looks like the nationally televised match-up between Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James on Thursday may not happen. Anthony has a sprained right ankle and Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe sounds like the team wants to hold him out of the marquee matchup. "You have to do the right thing. Regardless of the situation, you have to do the right thing. He's a warrior. But at some point you have to be smart about it."

    # How much do the Nets miss Jason Kidd? The team is last in the league in assists and tops in the league in the turnovers. That's a volatile combination if there was ever one.

    # Speaking of point guards, do the Mavericks miss Steve Nash? They rank second-to-last in the league in assists right now. But Dallas has gotten better defensively. They lead the league in steals per game.

    # Not only are the Hornets off to the worst start in franchise history, but now Jamaal Magloire joins Baron Davis on the injured list. Magloire is out a month with a broken hand. To make matters worse, the Hornets have been trying to get into the Vince Carter sweepstakes, but with their two best players hobbled, their attractiveness isn't what it normally would be.

    # Lost in all of the Kobe watching is the play of the Lakers' Lamar Odom this season. Remember when Odom was considered the biggest point guard in the league? Now, he's one of the biggest rebounders. He's averaged 12.8 rpg over his last five games and ranks seventh in the league overall (10.9 rpg).

    # Bulls head coach Scott Skiles did something that should've been done years ago he benched Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry last week. The Bulls responded with their first win of the season. "I feel bad for our two big kids because [of the draft pressure] and asking them to do certain things," GM John Paxson said. "But I think [Skiles] taking them out of the lineup the other night probably helped them in some ways. It sure seemed to help the team."

    # Magic free agent pick-up Hedo Turkoglu has been impressive filling in for the injured Cuttino Mobley. He's averaging 15.4 ppg over the last five.

    # After putting up impressive numbers in the second half of last season, Celtics center Mark Blount has cooled considerably since signing a six-year deal. Over the last four games, all losses for Boston, he's averaging just 3.5 rpg.

    # The Warriors remain the only team in the league shooting less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from 3.

    Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

  3. #3
    Cheeseburger in Paradise Los Angeles's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can someone please cut & paste this article?

    Rock.

  4. #4
    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can someone please cut & paste this article?

    That is a great article.


    This is interesting:

    If things continue, don't be surprised if GM Billy King starts returning some of the calls he's getting on Dalembert right now. Teams want a shot at him before he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. The Sixers seem to be balking at offering him a big contract, especially because O'Brien isn't convinced he fits into their defensive schemes.

  5. #5
    Boom Baby'er ABADays's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can someone please cut & paste this article?

    Rick may end up being one of the most underrated coaches in NBA history.
    The best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone else up.

  6. #6
    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can someone please cut & paste this article?

    I don't know id Rick is underrated, overrated, or X-rated, but I know he is one of the very best NBA coaches each and every season he is a head coach. He will be a guy who will never be without a job if he wants one.

    In fact I don't think their is a better coach in the NBA than Rick Carlisle. Just watch his teams play and you just know they are well coached. I am not saying that Rick is the best, but he is at least tied with any coach you want to name

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