By Greg Anthony
How Cassell Fits Clips
Earlier this week, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Sam Cassell said of his former team, the Timberwolves, "There's no vendetta against Minnesota. I just don't like how it ended. There were differences there in the end. But they went on, and I'm going on. There are no hard feelings."
But if Cassell's not bitter, he is critical of the Wolves: "If I'm the GM, I'm not trading Marko Jaric for Sam Cassell. No way."
The part of his comments that resonates with me is the last part.
I don't think the Clippers' overtime win over the Wolves on Saturday and the 93-78 loss Monday night at Minnesota had a lot of special meaning to Sam. He might be disappointed about how he left the team, but Sam's been traded before, so he's used to that.
I think earlier in his career returning to Minnesota and trying to make a point might have meant a little bit more to Sam. When you're a younger player, you're trying to prove things to people.
Now I think what matters to Sam are the wins and losses.
As Sam said in the same interview, "We have a chance here [in Los Angeles] to do something special. Believe me, it's so much fun when you win."
One reason they can "do something special" is Sam.
I played with Sam, and played against him, and I know what a cagey veteran he is -- he just knows how to play.
For a team like the Clippers, he's exactly what the situation calls for. As Sam himself said, he's a better player than the man he replaced, Marko Jaric. He's much savvier, and he knows how to get, take and make big shots, which is hardly a specialty for Jaric.
Sam's so confident he thinks the Clippers are going to the playoffs, even though they haven't been there in nine seasons. And if Sam can stay healthy, they'll definitely have a chance.
The problem is, the Clippers' margin for error is a lot smaller than that of the other teams in the West.
The Clippers are exciting, and they can score.
But can they stop anybody? Cuttino Mobley isn't a strong defender, and Sam is slower afoot these days.
Furthermore, I'm just not sure they have the depth to hold off teams like Seattle and the Lakers for those final playoff spots in the West.
The Clippers have plenty going for them. Mike Dunleavy's done a great job of changing the tone with the team. Elton Brand remains a stalwart. Chris Kaman is pretty solid in the middle. Shaun Livingston will be a great player someday, and Sam will teach Livingston to be a better scorer.
Sam's as smart as any guard in the league. His decision-making and ability to compete and execute what the coach needs give the Clippers a chance in almost any game they play. His on-court leadership will make them competitive for a playoff spot. But unless everything plays out just right, I see them falling just short.
AP Photo/Jim Mone
So Clippers rookie James Singleton got his mitts on this pass. Now getting by Kevin Garnett, center, is the hard part. Mark Madsen helps, too! The Wolves handed the Clippers their first loss, 93-78.
Here is a sample of reactions to Marc Stein's most recent power rankings:
"Can you please drop the Lakers 5 or 6 points on your rankings ... I like how they're playing and don't need you jinxing 'em. Also, please don't mention Lamar Odom."
"How do the Celtics drop 2 spots by winning in OT, the Pistons needing a miracle to beat them, and losing in OT? They have a better record than Philly and Denver and the same record as Minny, Cleveland, Kings and Heat. The Heat without Shaq aren't 15 spots better."
"While I'm a big fan of the Milwaukee Bucks and an eternal Wisconsin sports optimist, I fear that the high ranking may jinx them. ... But I'm just waiting for the ineveitable 2-8 skid that this young team is almost bound to take. I'm hoping they have enought veteran leadership in Redd and Kukoc to get them past the eventual slide."
"Again the Grizz get no Love from the ESPN people. For the past 3 years ESPN has told me how bad the Grizz are going to be, and then never say anything when they are better than anyone gave them credit for. Let see they play Miami very close, tied with one minute left in the third quarter, for 3 quarters, beat up on the Magic in Orlando, then come home and the next day smack down LeBron and the Cavs. I am not saying they deserve to be number one in any rankings, but it would be nice if you even mention that they had a pretty good week."
"That's the lamest drop I've ever seen you make. You can't seriously tell me that teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, and Wiz are better than the Rockets just because T-Mac is out."
• Marc Stein | Complete Week 1 Power Rankings
Is Dunleavy Feeling The Pressure?
Mo Can Relate To Andy
Lights Turned On For Harris
AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
Nets guard Vince Carter says "at least two guys hit me" on this final play. His last-second, game-winning bid was thwarted by Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade, who said he got "all ball." The Heat won, 90-89.
Quote of the Night
T.J. Ford was named Monday as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his spectacular return to action as point guard of the 3-0 Bucks.
One of the most impressive facets of Ford's play has been his court sense, especially when one considers the long layoff.
Take the opener against Philadelphia, for instance. In Ford's first real competition in a year and a half, he was sharp enough to make one of the signature plays of the season's opening week.
With the Bucks needing a 3-pointer to tie in the final seconds, Ford had the epiphany that as a 20 percent career shooter, he was absolutely not the guy to take it. So when he found himself alone with the ball in the corner behind the line, he showed enough restraint to pass up the shot and keep dribbling until he found a far better shooter, Michael Redd, open behind the line. Redd nailed the shot, and the Bucks won in OT.
• John Hollinger | More on T.J. Ford
The Spurs won in overtime in Chicago 104-95. San Antonio has won its last seven road overtime games dating back to 2002, tying for the second-longest streak of that kind in NBA history. The last team with such a long streak was the Celtics, who won an NBA-record nine consecutive road overtime games between 1973 and 1976.
• Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias
When the Lakers face the Hawks tonight in Atlanta, they will be led by a red-hot Kobe Bryant, whose first three games of the season rank him among the best point-scoring starts in Lakers history.
• ESPN Research
LeBron James returned Monday to Toronto, scene of his career-and franchise-record 56 points in a loss on March 20. "It was very special. It was an unbelievable night for myself. Even though we took a loss it was unbelievable," James said.
Asked who the better 3-point shooter on the team -- Donyell Marshall or himself -- James said with a smile: "Me. Just look at the stats. It's self-explanatory."
• The Associated Press