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Can't take Horace-to-Lakers for granted yet

12/16/2002

Editor's note: As part of "The Stein Line" every Monday, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein takes you around the league for the latest news in "Coast to Coast."

Because the NBA's waiver period is 48 business hours from the time of the notice, thereby precluding players from clearing waivers on a weekend, Horace Grant remained ineligible to clear and then sign with a new team until Monday morning. Not even the Los Angeles Lakers, mind you, have made a clear declaration of interest, since health isn't the only concern with HoGrant.

Grant left the Lakers on not-so-amicable terms to join Orlando for the second time in the summer of 2001. Fact is, he has always been outspoken. Another locker-room rebel is hardly what the sniping Lakers need, much as Grant's ability to defend down low and stick jumpers would be appealing, provided his knees and back heal sufficiently to allow the 37-year-old to play sometime soon.

The manner of Grant's Orlando departure would also have to be a worry. Since he's the first guy on record to complain about Doc Rivers' handling of players, and since relating to players is widely regarded as one of the key factors in Doc's immediate success as a coach, you're strongly inclined to side with Rivers' contention that Grant was at the heart of Orlando's turmoil and had to be released.

So the likelihood of a second Grant stint with L.A., and third with Phil Jackson, apparently depends on whether the Lakers, at 10-15, have bottomed out. The Magic, meanwhile, play on without him, perpetually fearful about the threat of long-term injury to Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill and thus convinced that it doesn't need the strain of a third player shuffling in and out of the lineup.

As for Hill's progress, Magic general manager John Gabriel feels secure enough to say that "as long as we watch ourselves on the minutes, I think he's going to be OK for the lion's share of the season." Hill certainly deserves that, and the Magic could do with a little quiet after the HoGrant saga and Sunday's loss of McGrady after T-Mac took an elbow to the back.

Two problems Houston didn't expect: Grizzlies, Clippers
That theory about team meetings and how they never work? The Houston Rockets just proved it in the worst possible fashion.

Steve Francis and Glen Rice convened a players-only dialogue in the midst of a hot streak in which Houston won three of four -- comfortable victories over San Antonio, Philadelphia and Sacramento, with only a two-point overtime loss at New Orleans mixed in. The Rockets duly emerged from the chat to drop the first two games of a much cushier three-game stretch: Memphis away, home to Clippers, at Miami.

The loss to the Clips ended Houston's seven-game home winning streak, narrowly halted a run of five straight double-doubles from Yao Ming and, worst of all, yanked the Rockets back down a peg or three just as they were establishing themselves as the biggest West surprise. At this very moment, excluding the Lakers' shockingly bad start, that's Phoenix.

Don't fret too much about Yao, though. His 16 points and nine boards against the Clips left everybody's Rookie of the Year favorite averaging 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in December. Plus, the first batch of All-Star voting returns are due out Thursday, which should confirm the widely held suspicion that Internet votes from China will make Yao the West's starter at center on Feb. 9.

Going's still slow for Pollard
When healthy, Sacramento's Scot Pollard -- whatever you think of the contrived jokes and funky hairstyles -- is arguably the league's top backup center. Which is why the Kings, as well as they've started in the face of several injuries, miss Pollard greatly and worry about his limited progress from a stress fracture in his lower back.

Amid widespread good news on the injury front, with Peja Stojakovic and Hedo Turkoglu returning to the lineup and Mike Bibby due back on the practice floor for full-contact drills Wednesday, Pollard has shown no progress in more than a month. Jim Jackson is a quality fill-in for Peja and Hedo, but there obviously aren't any big men as good as Pollard waiting to be signed.

Pau! Just like that, Gasol scoring again
Congrats to the Grizz and Hubie Brown for their four-game win streak, the franchise's longest since it moved to Memphis. Even more hearty congrats for finally heeding the suggestion to get more touches for Pau Gasol.

During the streak, Gasol averaged 23 points, 11.2 rebounds and, most importantly, 14.5 shots per game. That's in addition to the 10.3 free throws per game Gasol earned. It probably didn't hurt that Hubie moved shoot-on-contact Gordan Giricek to the five-man bench platoon. The ball is moving better among the starters now.

Logan's winter just got longer
By December, Warriors insiders figured, rookie point guard Steve Logan would finally be signed after holding out for a guaranteed contract. That was back when Logan, the 30th overall pick in June out of Cincinnati, had some leverage.

Now? Logan suddenly has none. Not after Golden State signed Earl Boykins just before Thanksgiving. Boykins has emerged as the Warriors' most exciting player not named Jason Richardson. Golden State appears content now to hang on to Logan's rights, although teams are calling to inquire about his availability.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.