More cause for Lakers' concern
|THE WEEK IN PREVIEW|
Karl Malone will be in the building, whether he plays or not, for Lakers vs. Jazz at the Delta Center. So it's a game that must be watched, because inevitably something newsy will happen. There will also be a full building in Atlanta, of all places, but that's because Cavaliers at Hawks puts LeBron James on the Philips Arena marquee. Milwaukee at Philadelphia, meanwhile, sends Keith Van Horn into a hostile arena against one of his (many) former teams.
Boston at New York wouldn't have generated much anticipation a week or so ago. But with the Celtics suddenly rolling, they could pass the Knicks in the East standings with a victory ... and bring us one step closer to our dream first-round pairing of Knicks vs. Nets. San Antonio at Memphis is another good selection, in the wake of the Grizzlies' one-point escape at SBC Center last week, and Philadelphia at Chicago, if nothing else, gives Aaron McKie and Jerome Williams an up-close opportunity to see what they're missing out on after the teams discussed exchanging those players before the Feb. 19 deadline.
Denver at New Jersey could mark the return of Jason Kidd, which is the last thing the reeling Nuggets want to see. Clippers at Spurs could also mark the return of Tim Duncan, although San Antonio management undoubtedly prefers to hold Duncan out a little longer. Cleveland at Toronto pits LeBron against Vince Carter and also carries playoff implications, so it's a must-see matchup, and we can't ignore at least a mention of Lakers at Celtics, simply because it's the Lakers and Celtics.
Only two games on the schedule and TNT has them both: New Orleans at Houston finds the Hornets praying that a rare national TV appearance can spark them out of their recent funk, followed by Dallas at Sacramento in the nightcap. It's a rematch of the Mavericks' Christmas Day comeback at Arco Arena, but you shouldn't bank on a repeat the way Dallas is playing on the road these days.
Even if Kobe Bryant and Mailman don't play, Lakers at Timberwolves is always a must-watch. On a typically busy Friday, the other standouts are Denver at Milwaukee -- two surprise teams headed in opposite directions -- and New York at Philadelphia, in yet another game of great importance for the six clubs vying for the East's final three playoff slots.
Saturday's fare is on the tame side, apart from Memphis at Houston. Things perk up Sunday with an ABC doubleheader: Philadelphia at Detroit, followed by San Antonio at Sacramento in a battle of West heavyweights. There are actually lots of good games Sunday, as seen often this time of year, with Indiana at Cleveland and New Jersey at Miami providing two examples of an established East contender visiting an East fast-riser. Utah at Denver is a face-to-face confrontation in the race to secure the No. 8 in the West, and New York at Milwaukee is the Knicks' first look at Keith Van Horn since trading him away.
|How much of a grudge will Malone hold against the Jazz?|
Just because baseball needs a salary cap doesn't mean those guys have it all wrong. You have to like what they do with their Hall of Fame entrants, mandating that they choose a cap on the way in so that they're identified with one of their former teams.
It's too bad the Basketball Hall of Fame doesn't have a similar mandate, to add a little intrigue.
If it did, Karl Malone would someday be forced to decide if he wants to enter the Hall as a representative of the Utah Jazz, with whom he spent 18 seasons. This hypothetical comes to mind Monday, with Malone returning to the Delta Center as a visitor for the first time, and after Mailman said he'll "never, ever forgive" the Jazz for an in-game skit in January that made a thinly veiled reference to Kobe Bryant's legal travails.
When it's his turn, Malone will simply enter basketball's Hall as a player, even if he did want to go in specifically as a Jazzman. Or as a Laker. Someone in Salt Lake City is bound to ask Monday what the choice would be if he did have to make it.
Of course, the Lakers have more pressing concerns than hypotheticals. With Malone still not quite convinced his knee is ready for a comeback, and with Bryant potentially sidelined for a month with a reaggravated shoulder injury, L.A. has to worry about several issues.
The Lakers, you can be sure, will be one of the discussion topics during my weekly chat Monday at 3:30 p.m. We'll also dissect ESPN.com's NBA Power Rankings if the questions are good, with Indiana moving up to No. 2 representing the big story there.
Indiana Pacers. Make no mistake: Indy's season will be rather meaningless if it loses in the first or even the second round of the playoffs. But make no mistake: The Pacers have been unerringly consistent and resilient all season, to the point that they might clinch the No. 1 seed in the East by the end of March. Team O' Week honors were earned in this instance by sweeping roadies at Golden State, L.A. (Clippers), Utah and Denver. That's not the best the West has to offer, but those wins also coincided with the earlier-than-expected return of Ron Artest. Now you know why the Pacers rose to No. 2.
- I know you're an unabashed Cal State Fullerton booster, but come on. Please explain to me why you think the Big West in 1991 -- when UNLV ran the table -- was a more of a "real conference" than the current version of the Atlantic-10, as you claimed recently in bashing St. Joe's.
San Francisco, Calif.
STEIN: I think you know the answer, David. It's right there in your question.
"It might. It might not. God only knows."
— Philadelphia's Allen Iverson, speaking to ESPN's Jim Gray in response to Gray's suggestion that a trade away from the 76ers, at this point, might be better for both parties.
|Wednesday, March 3, Milwaukee at Orlando|
Most Points, Season Debut After Break Points Player, Team (Date) 28 Dan Finn, Philadelphia (1/22/53) 26 Derek Fisher, Lakers (3/13/01) 26 Chris Webber, Sacramento (3/2/04) 24 Cazzie Russell, Lakers (1/21/75) 23 Lenny Wilkens, St. Louis (1/17/62)
Worst Field-Goal Percentage, Single Game (Minimum 20 Attempts, Shot-Clock Era) Pct. Player, FG-FGA (Date) .045 Mike Newlin, 1-22 (1/31/73) .087 Truck Robinson, 2-23 (1/6/79) .091 Bob Cousy, 2-22 (12/4/60) .091 Kenny Sears, 2-22 (10/20/60) .095 Allen Iverson, 2-21 (3/3/04)