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文章阅读:Re: 谁来贴一下这个insider?
[版面: 篮球] [作者:Parker] , 2005年02月10日23:05:41
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发信人: Parker (TonyParker), 信区: Basketball
标  题: Re: 谁来贴一下这个insider?
发信站: Unknown Space - 未名空间 (Thu Feb 10 23:05:41 2005) WWW-POST

Updated: Feb. 10, 2005, 9:27 AM ET

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

New Raptors GM Rob Babcock took over a team in shambles this summer.

He's finding out, the hard way, that rebuilding the only NBA franchise north
of the border is about as easy as getting the NHL season back on track.

Tuesday night, the latest in a long line of blowups occurred when Rafer Alston
left Gund Arena during the Raptors' 104-91 loss to the Cavaliers after coach
Sam Mitchell pulled him in the first quarter.

James: Getting the point Our scout Brian James breaks down Rafer Alston's game
and explains the need for good point guard-coach relations.
Mitchell's season-long simmering feud with Alston has been well documented. In
early December, Mitchell benched Alston for the fourth quarter of a loss at
the Celtics for picking up a costly technical foul, then questioned Alston's
maturity and held him out of the starting lineup the next night at Cleveland.
Alston was so upset about the incident he threatened to leave the team and
even said he might quit the NBA. More recently, Mitchell suspended Alston for
two games for "conduct detrimental" to the team after the veteran guard walked
out of practice.

In the latest incident, according to various accounts, Alston became upset
that Mitchell refused to put him back in the game after pulling him with four
minutes remaining in the first quarter. At halftime, a locker-room
confrontation grew heated after Mitchell told Alston he would not be playing
in the second half. What happened next depends on to whom you listen.


Rafer Alston
Point Guard
Toronto Raptors
Profile


2004-2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
47 13.8 3.5 7.0 .390 .762

While several reports out of Toronto claim a "fist fight" ensued between
Alston and Mitchell, the Raptors and Mitchell have publicly denied it, and
league sources told Insider on Wednesday that punches were not thrown.

"Without going into detail exactly what happened, I laugh at the fact that it
got away from shouting where I was actually rolling around on the floor with
my nice suit on," Mitchell told reporters Wednesday night. "I don't do that
any more, I'm a little too old.

"Now, what led up to those things, I'm not going to talk about. People can
speculate all they want to, and that's all it is. You can have fun with that.
We're not going to talk about in detail about what happened in my house."

Two agents who represent Raptors players told Insider that their clients claim
Mitchell started the argument. The players also claim, according to the
agents, that Mitchell challenged Alston to a fight. Babcock, according to
sources, was in the hallway and overheard the ruckus.

According to various newspaper accounts, Alston left Gund Arena teary-eyed
before the fourth quarter had ended.

Wednesday, Babcock refused to confirm whether Mitchell challenged Alston to a
fight. However, a Raptors source, when asked to verify whether Mitchell made
the challenge, told Insider, "I can't refute that."

That might explain why Babcock spent much of the second half consoling Alston.
Tuesday night, Babcock told the Toronto media, "Rafer did not do anything that
warrants a suspension. I don't think Rafer is letting down the team at all.…
Players and coaches have disagreements all the time. When you aren't playing
well, the worst in everybody comes out."

Rob Babcock and Sam Mitchell
First-year GM Rob Babcock and rookie coach Sam Mitchell have endured a rough
start in Toronto.
Wednesday, Babcock continued to support Alston.

"I don't think Rafer did anything wrong," Babcock told Insider. "He's a good
guy. I don't blame him for what happened. There was an emotional
confrontation. Obviously there are issues between the two of them. We are
working on getting both Rafer and Sam past them.

"Sam and Rafer are a lot alike. They are both emotional, passionate,
competitive and have high expectations for the team. They need to learn how to
support each other instead of constantly butting heads."

To that end, sources claim Raptors officials spent much of the day mediating
the issues between the two.

Babcock told Insider the talks were "productive."

However, Alston was still simmering before Wednesday's game, telling the
Associated Press, "When I walked out of practice the other day, I was man
enough to apologize, man enough to say I made a mistake. Somebody better be
man enough to say they made a mistake."

“ Sam and Rafer are a lot alike. They are both emotional, passionate,
competitive and have high expectations for the team. They need to learn how to
support each other instead of constantly butting heads. ”
— Raptors GM Rob Babcock

Babcock rejected any notion that Mitchell would be disciplined or fired for
his part in the incident. However, he didn't absolve his coach from some of
the blame.

"I think we all have a lot to learn here," Babcock told Insider. "Sam is a
rookie coach, and I think he has a lot to learn. He's got to learn to control
his emotions if he's going to be the lead guy on the bench. Rafer has a lot to
learn, too. This is his first year as a starting point guard. He's got to
learn to control his emotions, too.

"And I've got a lot to learn. I'm a rookie GM. I've made mistakes too.… We've
had a lot of problems here, something I think you've well documented."

The dustup couldn't come at a worse time for the Raptors. The last thing
Babcock wants is another controversy to force his hand on the trade front.


Vince Carter
Guard-Forward
New Jersey Nets
Profile


2004-2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
43 21.0 4.8 4.2 .441 .743

The team still is bristling from the Vince Carter trade. In December, the
Raptors shipped an unhappy Carter to the Nets for Eric Williams, Aaron
Williams, Alonzo Mourning and two future first-round picks.

While Carter is rounding back into superstar form in New Jersey, the three
players Babcock got in return are barely getting off the bench.

Carter clearly forced Babcock's hand with his sullen attitude and lackluster
play. But Mitchell's cantankerous relationship with Carter didn't help the
situation. According to one Raptors source, Mitchell lobbied hard for Babcock
to move Carter.

While Alston isn't the same caliber player as Carter, he's still considered an
important piece on a team that has been looking for a decent point guard ever
since it shipped Damon Stoudamire to Portland.

Alston, a streetball legend who goes by "Skip to My Lou" in "Street Ball: The
And 1 Mix Tape Tour" shows on ESPN, had his first real productive season last
year with the Heat. He signed a six-year, $26 million contract with the
Raptors this summer – a contract some skeptics wondered if his play could
justify.

Alston was Babcock's first major free-agent signing, and he has played well
for most of the season. The Raptors would prefer to hang onto Alston, though
sources claim a trade might be inevitable if the Raptors keep Mitchell.

Alston isn't the only player on edge. According to several sources around the
league, there is a growing concern within the locker room and within the
organization that Mitchell's confrontational style is wearing thin.

Said one agent who got an urgent call Tuesday night from a client who plays
for the Raptors, "It's really gotten out of control. I think the players are
losing respect for him and the way he's handled things with Rafer. If he's not
careful, he's going to lose the team."

The drama continued Wednesday night when forward Eric Williams told reporters
he was demanding a trade. Williams, who has a reputation around the league as
classy, locker-room leader, is upset that Mitchell hasn't played him much
lately. On Wednesday night, Williams, a guy Mitchell lobbied to get, got a
DNP-CD.

"I don't feel like I'm part of the team. Therefore I have to ask myself, what
the hell am I doing here?" Williams said. "If I ain't playing here … then I'm
wasting my time. I'm just trying to come to work and be mentally prepared.
Right now, I'm not mentally prepared. I don't know what's going on. Nobody
talked to me. No one said anything."


Jalen Rose
Guard-Forward
Toronto Raptors
Profile


2004-2005 SEASON STATISTICS
GM PPG RPG APG FG% FT%
48 16.4 3.1 2.1 .454 .851

Jalen Rose and Donyell Marshall have also been looking for the exit. The
Raptors have had trade discussions with the Heat, Knicks, 76ers and, to a
lesser extent, the Rockets, about dealing Rose and Marshall.

However, representatives from all three teams told Insider those talks
essentially were dead. Few teams are willing to absorb Rose's enormous
contract, and the Raptors are asking for a star-caliber prospect in return for
Marshall, who happens to be in the last year of his contract.

If it wasn't for Chris Bosh, who has been playing like an All-Star since
Carter was traded, the situation couldn't be much worse.

Despite all the setbacks, Babcock is trying to keep a stiff upper lip.

"I think, as an organization, we've made progress," Babcock said. "We still
have a long way to go. But we are working on things. We're learning. We're
trying to support each other."

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

--------------------

Thursday, February 10 Updated 1:22 PM EST
Jazz are open to offers on Boozer

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Carlos Boozer
Carlos Boozer
Jazz
? Feb. 10 - Several league sources told ESPN Insider Chad Ford the Jazz are
open to trading Boozer, who signed a six-year, $68 million contract last
summer. While a Jazz official brushed off the rumors to a certain extent, they
weren't totally dismissed. The Jazz are not shopping Boozer or holding a fire
sale. But would they consider trading him if the right deal came along? Yes.

The team feels that All-Star Andrei Kirilenko might be better suited to play
the four, where he can use his quickness and shot blocking to create
mismatches. With Boozer on the team, Kirilenko has been playing most of his
minutes at small forward. While he's been good, he hasn't been as effective as
he was last year.

For his part, Boozer wouldn't mind a trade, either. He hasn't meshed with head
coach Jerry Sloan. While he doesn't regret bolting the Cavs, one league source
told Insider Boozer wouldn't mind a change of scenery.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce
Celtics
Celtics Feb. 10 - ESPN Insider Chad Ford reports that the Celtics have decided
to hold on to Pierce for the rest of the season.

The team previously had floated the idea of trading Pierce as the centerpiece
to a major overhaul of its roster.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Steve Francis
Steve Francis
Magic
Nuggets?
Feb. 10 - Magic GM John Weisbrod is a no-nonsense guy who has been frustrated
with his team's lackluster play since he traded Cuttino Mobley to the Kings
for Doug Christie last month.

Sources tell ESPN Insider Chad Ford that Weisbrod feels Francis hasn't been
the same since the trade and might not be the guy to lead the team long term.
He's been especially frustrated with how poorly the team is playing on
defense.

If things don't get better, two things could happen One, the team could
attempt to trade Francis for a more traditional point guard. Or two, the team
could let head coach Johnny Davis go and bring in a coach who could better
control Francis.

Last month, the Magic declined a Nuggets' offer of Andre Miller, Nikoloz
Tskitishvili and Voshon Lenard in exchange for Francis.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Mike Dunleavy
Mike Dunleavy
Warriors
Grizzlies?
Feb. 10 - The Warriors are contemplating all types of deals, and there's a
split in the organization on whether the team should try to trade Dunleavy
Jr., sources tell Insider. Memphis has showed interest in Dunleavy in the past
and has pieces to offer in return, but given the team's future cap situation,
can the Grizzlies afford to re-sign Dunleavy? He's eligible for a six-year
extension this fall and becomes a restricted free agent in 2006.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard
Rockets
Trail Blazers?
Knicks?
Feb. 10 - The Rockets are trying hard to move either Howard or Maurice Taylor,
two players they feel are too much alike, league sources told Insider.
Ideally, the Rockets would like to get a mobile, shot-blocking, rebounding big
man in the mold of Kelvin Cato.

Cato, for all of his faults, was able to protect Yao Ming on the defensive
end. Howard and Taylor are not doing that.

The Rockets have talked to a number of teams about deals. The most serious
appears to be with the Knicks. The Rockets have been trying to pry Kurt Thomas
out of New York. According to source, the Knicks are only willing to give up
Jerome Williams at this point.

The Rockets did discuss a Taylor-for-Derek Anderson swap, as ESPN.com's Marc
Stein reported last week. However, that deal was contingent on the Blazers
finding a trading partner for Shareef Abdur-Rahim first. If the Blazers find a
deal for Abdur-Rahim (according to sources they are trying to find a top-level
shooting guard in return), then they would have some interest in Taylor as a
backup to Zach Randolph.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Toni Kukoc
Toni Kukoc
Bucks
Bucks Feb. 10 - One guy who won't be traded before the Feb. 24 trade deadline
is Kukoc, Insider has learned. Despite several published reports to the
contrary, Kukoc is ineligible to be traded this year. He signed a one-year
deal last summer. Because the Bucks used their Bird rights to sign him, he
can't be traded.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Antoine Walker
Antoine Walker
Hawks
Celtics?
Knicks?
Wolves? Feb. 10 - Walker might be popular fodder for trade rumors, but the
Hawks insist there are no deals in the works. GM Billy Knight told the Atlanta
Journal Constitution the Hawks "don't have anything on the front burner"
regarding Walker. Walker has indicated he'd like to stay in Atlanta, but
because his salary is huge ($14.6 million) and he's in the final year of his
contract, he's attractive to teams looking for a scorer for the stretch run
whom they can lop off the payroll come summer.

In December, the Celtics were rumored to be interested in re-acquiring Walker,
though a team source told Insider the rumor was unfounded. The Knicks had
shown interest in Walker last summer when he was still a Maverick.

The Oakland Tribune recently floated a possible four-team trade that would
send Walker to Minnesota, with Golden State sending Clifford Robinson and Dale
Davis, both of whom have expiring contracts, to Atlanta.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Dale Davis
Dale Davis
Warriors
Bucks?
Hawks? Feb. 10 - Teams continue to be interested in Davis and his expiring
contract, who has been languishing on the Warriors bench due to a bad back and
a run-in with head coach Mike Montgomery. The 35-year-old Davis is being paid
$10.1 million this season.

The Oakland Tribune speculates the Bucks, if they're convinced Michael Redd
won't re-sign in the offseason, could be interested in packaging Redd and
Keith Van Horn for the expiring contracts of Davis and Clifford Robinson,
along with Mike Dunleavy Jr. and a future draft pick. The deal would leave
Milwaukee more than $20 million under the cap in the offseason.

The paper also suggests a possible three-team deal that would send Davis and
Robinson to Atlanta, Antoine Walker and his expiring contract to Minnesota,
Latrell Sprewell to Dallas and Marquis Daniels or Devin Harris and the
expiring contract of Alan Henderson back to Golden State.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Cliff Robinson
Cliff Robinson
Warriors
Nets
Heat? Feb. 10 - New Jersey continues to try to pry Robinson away from the
Warriors, but so far Golden State has refused to deal. Last month, the Nets
reportedly offered their $5 million trade exception and a second-round pick
for Robinson, but Golden State is said to be seeking at least two
second-rounders, and possibly a first-round pick. Robinson will be a free
agent after the season and has a team option at $5.875 million.

According to the Oakland Tribune, the Heat would like Robinson to help defend
the front line alongside Shaquille O'Neal, but the Warriors don't want to take
back Eddie Jones in return. The paper suggests the deal could work if a third
team got involved.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Karl Malone
Karl Malone

Spurs? Feb. 9 - How much do the Spurs want Malone in their lineup? Tim Duncan
joined coach/executive Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford for a meeting with
the Mailman Feb. 5.

"He's one heck of a talent and would be a great addition to our team," Duncan
told the San Antonio Express-News. "But, again, it's just talk right now."

Malone told the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise that if he decides to play
this season, it will be for the Spurs.

"Me and my wife (Kay) will meet (Sunday) and have a decision by the end of the
week," Malone told the Press-Enterprise. "It was a good meeting with Tim and
Gregg and it's exactly what I thought it would be. There was no fakeness. I
got straight-up answers."

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Jamal Sampson
Jamal Sampson

Hawks? Feb. 9 - Sampson wore out his welcome with the Bobcats just as they
were discussing a trade with the Hawks, the Charlotte Observer reported.

The Bobcats cut Sampson on Feb. 8 because the forward-center had a
questionable work ethic and ability to play through pain, the newspaper
reported. The Hawks were supposed to scout Sampson during a recent
Bobcats-SuperSonics' game, but Sampson did not play because of back spasms.

The Hawks eventually decided not to send a second-round draft pick to the
Bobcats for Sampson. The Bobcats might keep the spare roster spot open to
become a factor in the final two weeks before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the
Observer reports.

WHO INTERESTED THE SKINNY
Sam Cassell
Sam Cassell
Timberwolves
? Feb. 8 - Columnist Charley Waters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes:
"There is an NBA team interested in trading for Cassell, but the exchange
offer hasn't been enough. Cassell, 35, is signed for $6.25 million this season
and guaranteed another $6.1 million next season. Cassell is the most likely
Wolves player to be dealt before the NBA trade deadline Feb. 24."

Cassell, a 12-year veteran, is playing on a surgically-repaired left hip.

WHO WHAT THE SKINNY
Richard Jefferson
Richard Jefferson
Nets
Early recovery from injury Feb. 8 - Jefferson claims he can make a Terrell
Owens-like unexpected comeback from what was previously thought to be a
season-ending injury.

"I will be back for the playoffs," Jefferson said in the New York Post. He's
recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his left wrist
suffered against the Pistons on Dec. 27.

Originally, his was diagnosed to be able to recover in late May at the
earliest. But Jefferson said he expects his cast to be removed March 20.

After that, "give me a month or so of rehab. I won't be 100 percent, but I
definitely will be capable of helping this team," he said.

WHO WHAT THE SKINNY
Allan Houston
Allan Houston
Knicks
Retirement? Feb. 8 - Allan Houston, who will be out until after the All-Star
break because of his arthritic knees, recently told Knicks owner James Dolan
that's he not ready to retire, the New York Post reports.

"I told him what I've told everybody else – I'll be back," Houston told The
Post.

If Houston retires because of medical reasons, insurance would pick up 80
percent of the 33-year-old shooting guard's contract minus a half-season
deductible.

"Allan's obviously concerned about it," Dolan recently told the newspaper. "I
hope he comes back fully, but I know he's got tough decisions to make."

----------------------

Updated: Feb. 9, 2005, 3:51 PM ET

By Chad Ford
ESPN Insider

MEMPHIS – Jerry West, president of the Memphis Grizzlies and an NBA icon,
joined the Grizzlies in April of 2002 after a 40-year career with the Los
Angeles Lakers as a player, coach and executive. West, 66, retired from the
Lakers in 2000 and then unretired to take on the challenge of building Memphis
into an NBA power.


The Grizzlies, coming off a 23-59 record in the first season in Memphis before
West's arrival, went 28-54 and 50-32 in their first two seasons on his watch.
This year, the team is 28-21 (through Feb. 8) after starting the season 5-11
and undergoing a coaching change after Hubie Brown resigned.

Last week, Insider sat down with West for a conversation that covered a wide
range of topics. The interview touched on everything from West's formula for
success, his departure from the Lakers, trends around the league, his plans
for the Grizzlies and his long-term future in Memphis. What follows is an
edited transcript.

On his formula for success …
"Sometimes we get lucky. I think you have to say that first."

"One thing I believe strongly in is character of players."

"I believe strongly in basketball IQ."

"In doing things, I'm willing to be more of a risk taker than some people."

"I go watch the games, [and] I watch them in a box. I don't want anyone to
talk to me. Just leave me alone. I pay attention to my team. I watch players.
I watch them come out of games, how they handle it."

"I think a lot of times people get excited about trades where a guy that's
traded averages 20 or 22 points a game on a team that hasn't had any success.
Most of the times those are real failures for you. ... Numbers lie a lot. Wins
and losses don't lie."

On the status of the Grizzlies …
"Winning is a real prescription for enthusiasm and positive thoughts.

"[Some people thought] last year was going to be a magical season and then it
was going to be over with. But I never believed that. I think we have enough
players that we can be competitive.

"For some reason we've righted our ship, and it looks pretty good right now."

On making more changes …
"We've got a lot of players that people would like to have, but we haven't
been in the mode to trade anyone. ...

"We have a lot of swing guys who are interchangeable. We have a team that has
a pretty damn high basketball IQ, which I thought was missing before, and
we've made a lot of changes.

"Would we like to make more changes? Sure we'd like to make changes. But I
don't like to make lateral changes. I just don't like doing that.

“ There's not a day that goes by that I don't kick [myself] and say, 'Why in
the hell didn't we either draft this player, or how did we miss this player?'
… I'm my own biggest critic.”
— Jerry West
"Our needs are pretty evident. … Obviously we need to rebound the ball
better. That's our biggest need. …

"We wanted another big body. Someone who could block a shot. Obviously, I'm
talking about Erick Dampier. We tried everything. We offered a lot more than
[the Warriors] got in return. But they chose not to do that, which is fine."

On West's draft selections in Memphis …
"One of the things when I first got here ... I got here late. With the [2002]
draft, we got a good player, a guy that's going to be a double-double guy
[Drew Gooden], but he was a four, and we had Pau [Gasol]. We turned him into
Mike Miller, who's been a real nice fit for us. Mike stretches the defense for
us and gives Pau an opportunity on the inside.

Dahntay Jones
Jones

Antonio Burks
Burks

"Last year [in the 2003 draft], we had two draft picks, and one of them
[Dahntay Jones] is going to be a long-term player. With Troy Bell [who was
released in November], we had a lot of competition [at point guard] this year,
and we think we got fortunate [in the 2004 draft] that we got two players
[Antonio Burks and Andre Emmett] in the second round that we absolutely love.

"We think that they're capable of playing right now. The Burks kid has gotten
an opportunity to play and has played extremely well for us. He has great
quickness, can really defend and [I] think he'll have a long career. And Andre
Emmett can just score the damn ball. Those two guys haven't had much of
chance. Our coaches like them."

On how he handles criticism …
"You do things sometimes and people question why you do it. It doesn't bother
me. I have no problem with people criticizing me. I really don't. As long as
people write the truth.

"I'll tell you why it doesn't bother me – because I'm my biggest critic.
There's not a day that goes by that I don't kick [myself] and say, 'Why in the
hell didn't we either draft this player, or how did we miss this player, or
why didn't we try to acquire that player when we maybe had a chance to acquire
him?' I'm my own biggest critic."

On leaving L.A. …
"There are some great features [to] playing in a big market as opposed to a
small market. My days in Los Angeles were incredible. I have the fondest
memories working with a great owner there [Jerry Buss]. Having some of the
all-time great players that you helped acquire. I was just fortunate to be a
part of that.

"I watched Rudy Tomjanovich [resign], and I knew how he felt. I knew how he
felt. When I stepped down there ... I may have not articulated it as well or
said some of the things that were going on in my body. But I know how he felt.

Jerry West (L) Kobe Bryant (C) and Del Harris
One of West's moves in building the Lakers was acquiring the draft rights to
Kobe.
"It's so personal out there. We had a small, intimate staff out there. I knew
we were going to win a minimum of 50 games every year, but that didn't matter.
What mattered was what we did toward the end of the season.…

"I think everyone had the misconception that there was some sort of feud going
on [between West and Phil Jackson]. Absolutely not true.

"I couldn't even watch the games, and I knew we were going to win a ton of
games. I couldn't watch the games. I could not. I traveled a lot watching
college games so I wouldn't have to watch. You sit there keeping your fingers
crossed that your best players don't get hurt. You're hoping in the playoffs
that guys can stay focused and not get hurt. ...

"It was the pressure I felt from playing there so long and working for an
owner that I was really committed to. He was someone who lets you work, and if
something went wrong, he was really encouraging. I felt tremendous loyalty.

"People talk about family – that was family for me. Those are days that I'll
cherish forever. I have friends that are still there. I worked there for
years. That's what you miss the most."

On whether he'd ever return to the Lakers …
"No way. It's over with."

On NBA trends …
"Things that come into vogue in the league are really interesting. If a team
wins a championship with an offensive game, every one wants to be like that.
If you win it with a defensive game, everyone wants to be like that.

"You can't change players that you have. They are going to be successful a
certain way. That's why I think you see certain coaches that are the right
coach for the right team at the right time.

"You've got some coaches that go into a place and ... oh my god, the team
isn't very good, and, really, you just don't have a good fit. Coaching is the
worst job in the league. The worst. As far as I'm concerned, they don't get
paid enough money. It's that hard.

"A great deal of it is an element of luck. There are certain types of coaches
that fit well. Behind good teams, there's someone sitting behind that bench
that is pretty damn good."

On the Phoenix Suns …
"Every year there is some team that really surfaces. I give you Phoenix for
example. I called [Suns' GM] Bryan Colangelo and told him what a good job he's
done. …

"Steve Nash, to me, is playing like the best player in the league."

On the San Antonio Spurs …
"The Spurs are a tremendous team. They can score a little bit more now. They
score easily. They can win any kind of game. They can win a physical game.
They can win an up-tempo game. Most teams are limited."

On the New York Knicks …
"I called Isiah Thomas. I commiserated with him and told him it wouldn't last
forever. You work too hard. Eventually things are going to get turned around."

On parity and superstars …
"The teams are getting closer together. I don't like parity. We need some
glamour teams. I just think it helps a lot. Wherever they may be. I don't care
what city they are in.

"Cleveland has been an incredible success story. Again, we're one [ping-pong]
ball away from getting LeBron James. Can you imagine if we had him on our
team? They sold the team for $375 million. Because he's there, they probably
got $100 million more.

"How many players are like that? Maybe four in the league? Not very many. They
come along very rarely. That rascal ... I don't know where he's going to go
with his career, but my god. A guy that big and that gifted? He might be the
fastest big guy in the league.

"Suddenly everyone wants to play in Cleveland. You can bring in players and
all the sudden they get better playing with a guy like LeBron. It's the
dynamic of having a player like that. What's a guy like that worth to a
franchise?"

Jerry West
West's only title as a player came with the 1971-72 Lakers.
On Hubie Brown's resignation …
"On Thanksgiving, I get a call and I'm shocked. I'm shocked."

"[It was tough] to lose someone I felt so impassioned about what he'd done for
the franchise – [he] brought a passion, a spirit, a discipline, and a
toughness to the table."

On his career in the NBA …
"I would have nothing if it wasn't for basketball. To stay in it for as long
as I have, I don't take things for granted. I know how tough this league is.

"We all kick ourselves. You only have one chance to do something. Sometimes it
works, sometimes it doesn't.

"I care deeply about the league. It troubles me when you see things that are
detrimental to the league. I don't like that.

"I would like to see all teams have some success, because I know how hard the
people work. It's not a feel-good league.

On how much longer he'll stay in Memphis …
"I know I'm not going to be around much longer. I know that.

"I want to enjoy, I hope, this year and one more year, and hopefully we can
continue to make some improvements. Instead of a team that might make the
playoffs into a team that when they get into playoffs, teams don't want to
play you. That would be my goal.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

---------------------

Updated: Feb. 9, 2005, 11:17 PM ET

By Brian James
ESPN Insider

It's been seven years since the Bulls have been in the playoffs.

Since Michael Jordan left the franchise, the team has not had one player in
the All-Star Game.

Scott Skiles
Skiles
Bulls fans are some of the most knowledgeable and loyal. Finally, they are
getting some reward for their patience.

After an 0-9 start, the Bulls have stampeded into the thick of the Central
Division race. If the season ended today, they would own the Eastern
Conference's No. 6 playoff seed.

Let's analyze what's changed in the past 37 games – the Bulls are 23-14 in
that stretch – and try to forecast whether the Bulls finally will return to
the postseason this spring.

On Feb. 8, the Bulls scored an impressive victory over the host Mavericks
107-100, but fell 105-92 the next night at Houston. Still, given how far
they've come, how are the Bulls suddenly winning, even on the road?

They play hard and now have taken on the personality, drive and understanding
of coach Scott Skiles, a 10-year NBA veteran as a player. They're turning
around a losing culture. General Manager John Paxson has made plenty of
personnel changes, moving out the non-believers in Skiles' system.

Everyone is on the same page. Now the Bulls' rotation features six very young,
hungry players, and six willing veterans who still have their passion. There
are some other keys:

# Skiles is coaching this squad like it's a good, old-fashioned team. The
Bulls practice very hard, with knowledge that demands must be met, and that
"If you can't get the job done, then maybe your substitute can." This team
features balanced scoring with no true superstar, and a second unit that
brings scoring, toughness and sometimes warrants playing as many minutes as
the starters.

# Defense matters: The Bulls recently posted a 26-game streak of holding foes
to fewer than 100 points. They were 18-8 in that span.

Vince Carter
Hinrich (left), Chandler and Nocioni (right) demonstrate help defense on Nets
star Vince Carter.
# The Bulls lead the league in field-goal percentage defense (.415) simply
because now this team is getting back in transition defense, not losing sight
of the ball as much, and extending its half-court man-to-man defense past the
half-court stripe.

The Bulls seem to spend a great deal of time in practice working different
elements of their defense every day with "4-on-4 shell" half-court tests,
disadvantage drills, close outs, fronting-the-post excercises when possible
and throwing in an effective 2-3 zone.

Skiles has six or seven color-coded different coverages in screen-roll
defense, and he isn't afraid to implement any of them to the Bulls' advantage.

There's a different key player for the Bulls' winning turnaround each night.

Second-year guard Kirk Hinrich has been the most steady. On any given night he
can excel as the team's best defender, or leading scorer, or best playmaker.
Plus, he has the ability to provide rebounding from either the one or the two.
He is subject to shooting slumps, hitting less than 40 percent from the floor
in recent games.

Rookie forward Luol Deng consistently has played well. The former Duke star
possibly had his best game as a pro with 30 points and 11 rebounds in 47
minutes in the victory over the Mavericks.

Rookie guard Ben Gordon has put up some huge offensive numbers coming off the
bench. He's doing it in a style similar to the Bad Boy Pistons' valuable sixth
man, Vinnie "The Microwave" Johnson.

Rookie forward Andres Nocioni brings the toughness and points off the bench
with Gordon. Veteran big man Othella Harrington has averaged in double figures
as a starter.

Young forward/center Tyson Chandler has shown flashes of the promise that
convinced the Bulls to trade Elton Brand to the Clippers for Chandler's draft
rights four years ago. Chandler's bringing the rebounding, shot blocking and
defense the Bulls expect from him.

Rookie guard Chris Duhon, another former Duke star, starts now. He brings the
energy and unselfishness the coaching staff is looking for and gives Hinrich a
break from playing too many minutes at the point.

Veterans Antonio Davis, Adrian Griffin, and Eric Piatkowski have been major
helpers, too.

But you can't win without someone holding down the middle. You have to credit
the continued improvement of Chandler's 2001 draft classmate, Eddy Curry.

Listed at 285 pounds, the 6-foot-11 Curry has worked harder on keeping his
weight down and improving his conditioning and the results have been
favorable.

The Bulls make a concentrated effort on getting the ball to him down low on
the move. Curry used to be accused of being an offense's "black hole" --
passes would enter his hands and disappear into the void, never to return.

The Bulls' success ratio of completing scoring plays after timeouts is higher
than many teams'. One key is that they have multiple options to resort to if
the first option is covered.

Now he has improved his passing out of double teams. He fights to get better
position. His screen roll defense is better, but he still needs to become a
better rebounder at his position.

Something an average fan or even a journalist might not see is how organized
this team is during the games.

The Bulls' success ratio of completing scoring plays after timeouts is higher
than many teams'. One key is that they have multiple options to resort to if
the first option is covered.

The Bulls disguise the start of many of their sets. That confuses foes and
keeps teams off guard. The offense is fitted to their personnel and varies
from the pro sets that the majority of NBA teams run. The Bulls might have at
least 50 plays in their playbook, which is standard, but they excel at being
unpredictable.

What's in their future?

The Bulls must do a better job of keeping their turnovers down. Those have
been a problem at times.

On the personnel front, there's a big question looming. Do the Bulls try to
re-sign pending free agents Chandler and Curry, or do they trade one or both
if they're convinced they cannot extend the contracts?

The Bulls need to improve rebounding to help Curry inside. Eventually, they'll
need a bigger two guard who can add to the depth.

But this team is more than competitive on the road and gaining confidence with
every victory. Their 23 victories to date equals what the Bulls had all of
last season. If they can finish with a .500 record at season's end, it would
mean an 18-game improvement over last season.

The players and city are excited. The Bulls' cup might not be overflowing yet,
but it's much better than half empty.

Brian James, a former assistant coach with the Pistons, Raptors and Wizards,
is a regular contributor to Insider.

-----------------------

Ask Bill Walton!
Welcome to The Show! On Wednesday, NBA Hall-of-Famer, Deadhead, and ESPN
basketball analyst, Bill Walton, will drop by to take your questions.

Walton, the number one overall pick in the 1974 draft by the Portland
Trailblazers, played with the Blazers until 1979, then headed to the Clippers
for six years. Walton eventually wrapped up his NBA career in Boston where he
earned his second championship title.

In 1993, Walton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In June of
2001, Bill was named as the inaugural inductee into the Grateful Dead Hall of
Honor.

Send your questions for Bill now and join him in The Show on Wednesday at 1
p.m. ET.

SportsNation The ShowGirl: Welcome to The Show! Bill Walton is up next to talk
hoops. Send in your questions to the big man now!

SportsNation Bill Walton: Happy summertime everybody and welcome to our first
Wednesday chat in a long time. I remember the days when we would chat everyday
-- the way I prefer it. The blossoms are bloomin'. RatDog is on tour! The
All-Star votes are in and oh what a travesty. The ball is in the air, what
could be better, who wants to play? Just remember to keep your eye on Amare
with one second left!

celstin chando (miami , fl): eddie jones is back to his best , do you see
miami as a strong contender ? also your thoughts on dwane wade, is he as
awsome as lebron?

SportsNation Bill Walton: D Wade has the ulimtate privlege of the NBA -- as
does every other member of the Heat -- nobody guards them!! But, i love him, I
love his talent and professionalism, and enthusiasm, but I'd like to see him
evolve his game away from that which is just get to the rim and throw it down.
He is at that level where they are going to start coming after him now. He'll
now be the recipient of cheap hits, he'll have to learn to pull up for that
little shot. You don't ever want to shy away from going to the hoop, but I
think back to Rick Barry and how his game changed from a high flying guy to a
more practical player. The beautiful thing abou the Heat is that they are
playing such a team game. Shaq can draw attention while spot up shooters are
wide open -- kudos to Eddie Jones for his HUGE improvements. Miami is getting
close to being a great team. They are winning all the games that they should
win. Stats at this point become nearly meaningless. The team is really what
it's all about. With Miami, you have a team that IS the class of the East.
Detroit, Cleveland, Washington -- they will present competition for the Heat.

Sean (Los Angeles): Bill, you are my hero. I make it a point of watching every
second of your telecasts! Anyway, speak on Rashard Lewis. He finally is an
All-Star... will he continue to improve?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Thank you for the kind words, but I really suggest
you set your standards higher. I am so happy that Lewis made the team, it
gives great creedence to the fact that the coaches are finally voting what
they preach. When I picked my team, I have three differences from the actual
roster. I had Steve Francis and Rip Hamilton on my East side roster. What
these two have down and the leadership they provide warrants a spot for them,
to me. IN the west, I personally did not have Rashard Lewis, I had Chris
Webber. But, that said, I just love the way Seattle plays. They are so much
like Phoenix to me.

Josh (Cleveland): Bill, Will Ray Ray be back in Seattle?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Well, we have not seen Howard Schultz start throwing
the money around YET! But that always happens. This was the team nobody
thought was going to do anything this year, they lost their first game TO THE
CLIPPERS by 30 points. But they all got themselves in great shape, including
Ray Allen who passed on the Olympics to get married and get in shape. Ridnour,
Radmanovic, Lewis, Rames, Fortson, all those guys, you name it. How DO you
like your coffee?

Mark (Phoenix): Bill, please tell me you watched the Suns/Kings game last
night? Wow, what a game. Do you see any playoff indication with that Suns win?
and what do you think of Walter McCarty trade?

SportsNation Bill Walton: I'm watching this game last night I'm jumping up and
down, airborne, yeah! Why can't every game be like that! I had dreams, visions
of Brad Miller throwing his headbands! Pure bliss! They were never calling
time out, they were never looking at the coaches, they were JUST PLAYING BALL.
Bibby vs. Nash. Peja vs. Quentin. Chris Webber, Amare, Joe Jonshon, Mobley!
Wow! This is the kind of basketball I grew up with! What could be better??

SportsNation Bill Walton: I was just hoping that game would go into three or
four OTs! Get the DVD!!!

Ray (San Antonio, TX): Love your Work Bill!! You will always be "One of the
Greats!" What do you think of the situation in San Antonio? I am really glad
that the NATIONAL Market is finally taking notice. Did you catch that terrible
article Peter Vescey wrote, bashing Pop and Duncan in the New York Post?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Nice job by the Spurs in managing Duncan's injuries.
Rumors are that he will not paly tonight in Wash after sitting out last night
in Charlotte. You don't want to push and wear out Tim Duncan. It goes back to
this team game we keep talking about. Washington is 5-6 since Larry Hughes
went down. They really miss him, but this is a real team, this Washington
squad. Gilbert Arenas! I had him as a starter on my All-Star team. But back to
San An, the continued speculation about Karl Malone, Karl was stopped in town
driving back from ARkansas to Cali. He wanted to talk about the future. You
have to assume, a week away from the All-Star break, that he still can't play!
While we all hope he is healthy and feeling good, my sense is that he's just
not ready to play in the NBA against the healthiest and yougest and most
physcially fit guys in the world.

casey (ind): Whats wrong with the pacers? Is Tinsley quietly the mvp of that
team cuz they struggle without him.

SportsNation Bill Walton: Big chance for the Pacers to get back on track.
First, they gotta beat Charlotte.

Drew (Parkland, FL): Bill, what do you think about the Bulls improvement this
yr? Is this finally the turnaround Chicago fans have been hoping for? We try
not to talk about these things but do you think we can maybe begin to whisper
the P word?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Big victory last night for the Bulls, they've
already matched last game's win total. They hadn't won against Dallas ANYWHERE
in eight years. Very nice job by Chicago. They just pounded the Mavs on the
boards. 30 pts and 11 rebounds from Deng. Wow. As we look at the Bulls as a
team that WILL make the playoffs, we consider their team game, they share teh
ball, no individual superstars demand the spotlight. This is a truly
egalitarian system in Chicago. If somebody is down, someone else is up. Ben
Gordon -- he's the third highest scoring sub! Kirk Heinrich! Eddy Curry! Tyson
Chandler! We used to spend our lives around basketball in Chicago, great
museums and fountains and music out there. The place to be in the East is the
6th seed. We hope to be back in Chicago this spring!

SportsNation Bill Walton: I'm off to lunch with Bob Weir! Then I get to spend
the afternoon with What could be better than this? Thanks for having me
everybody! See you next time!

SportsNation Bill Walton: p.s. check out the article on the Blazers in The
Oregonian today, 2/9. Jason Quick covers everything. As a proud Blazer,
there's nothing I can add to this.

--

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