-- Could Tim Floyd possibly be NBA Coach of the Year? So far, you’d have to say the first-year New Orleans coach has a shot. And wouldn’t that be something, considering Floyd’s atrocious record with Chicago? Granted, it doesn’t hurt that the Hornets have some real talent in guys like guards Baron Davis and David Wesley. Plus, 35-year-old backup Darrell Armstrong has played more like he’s 25. But remember, the Hornets have been WITHOUT injured forward Jamal Mashburn, and aside from Mashburn, can you name a consistently productive member of the New Orleans frontcourt?
-- Obviously, Utah’s Jerry Sloan, Memphis’ Hubie Brown and Denver’s Jeff Bzdelik also merit early-season consideration, as all three have their teams playing a lot better than anyone thought they would. Or how about Phil Jackson? Yes, the Lakers are a modern-day Dream Team with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and so on and so on. But getting four large egos to mesh is a lot tougher than it seems.
-- ESPN.com ran an excellent piece on former Duke standout guard Bobby Hurley, who has been hired as a scout by Philadelphia. Hurley was a first-round pick of the Sacramento Kings in 1993, but his pro career was cut short following a car wreck that took place after a game. The accident occurred at an intersection about a mile from Arco Arena at night, when a station wagon without its lights on blew a red light, smashed into Hurley‘s car, and threw him 75 feet into a ditch. That was 10 years ago today, and although Hurley recovered from his severe injuries, he was never the same player and retired much too young. It’s good to see him back in basketball.
-- I find it hard to sympathize with Portland forward Rasheed Wallace, who recently bashed the NBA in an interview with The Oregonian. Wallace told the newspaper, “I’m not like a whole bunch of these young boys out there who get caught up and captivated into the league. … I see behind the false screens. … I know that the commissioner in this league makes more than three-quarters of the players in this league.” Sorry, but the commissioner SHOULD make more money than the players. Running an entire professional sports league is a heck of a lot more demanding than “working” two hours a day at putting a ball through a hoop. You’d never convince some players of that, though.
-- Wallace added, “That’s why they’re drafting all these high school cats, because they come into the league and they don’t know no better. They don’t know no better, and they don’t know the real business, and they don’t see behind the charade.” Yeah, Rasheed. I’m sure the sole reason the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James is because he isn’t on to them yet. It has nothing to do with whether or not he can play.
-- I agree with Charles Barkley. I feel sorry for the fans in Portland. They are among the best supporters of any team in any league, and THIS is what they get? It’s just not right. Wallace is an outstanding talent when motivated on offense, and arguably the league’s most underrated low-post defender. In fact, I’d put him in the top five in low-post defense (just watch him frustrate Tim Duncan for an entire game, and you’ll agree). But because of his poor attitude, I’d trade him to the league’s worst team for a future second-round draft pick, and wouldn’t lose any sleep in the process.
-- Wallace does have a point about drafting high school cats, though. It’s just the wrong point. For instance, I cannot fathom why, for any reason, Detroit took someone as not-NBA-ready as Darko Milicic with the second overall pick. Yes, the Pistons have enough talent to allow Milicic time to develop, but do they really think he’ll turn into a more productive player than even second-rounders like Luke Walton or Mo Williams? I sure don’t. Then again, I’m just some dweeb who writes free newsletters.
-- Do you ever wonder why swingman Ron Mercer isn’t getting more playing time off San Antonio’s bench? I loved watching Mercer when he was in Chicago two seasons ago, as he seemed to be developing into an all-around solid, and pretty athletic, starter. Then he got traded to Indiana, and slowly got lost in the shuffle. I thought he’d have a great chance to revive his career with the Spurs, but it now looks as if he’ll have to try someplace else.
-- This thought-provoking e-mail comes from reader David Thoeny (Pleasanton, Calif.): “Seeing Roy Tarpley's name on a CBA roster reminds me of the tragedy of wasted opportunity. ESPN's ‘Dennis Rodman on the Rebound’ was painful to watch, as one of the NBA's most accomplished and likable Bad Boys has degenerated into a pathetic caricature of himself. The reason you cite your ‘Five Reasons to Feel Good about the NBA’ is that these players are all taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded them. There's no second go-round in life; America's youth should learn to work hard, seize opportunity, and never have any regrets.” Well said, David.
-- Ben Flook (Cwmbran, Wales) writes: “Please put my question in your column! Who do you think is the NBA’s most underrated player?” Dear Ben, off the top of my head I would say Cavaliers forward Carlos Boozer. You could also make a case for 5-foot-5 Denver guard Earl Boykins. By the way, Ben, your hometown could use a few more vowels. All in fun, of course, and I’ll make a concentrated effort to print more of your questions.
-- Finally, Vladimir Fernandez (Chicago) writes: “The Bulls fired their head coach, traded two of their most productive players from last season, and have scrapped the triangle offense for the sake of their young, athletic personnel. Did they need to do all three? Also, in the last report you mentioned a deep rookie class from the draft, but you didn't mention Bulls rookie guard Kirk Hinrich. His shooting is woefully bad right now, but his defense and passing are incredibly underrated. He's had 29 assists and 7 turnovers since Scott Skiles took over as coach. That includes two games with no turnovers and a game where he had 12 assists.” Dear Vladimir, you’re right. Hinrich is indeed playing well. To answer your question, yes, the Bulls probably needed to do all three if they really wanted to start over.
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