By Tim Legler
After first quarter, score is . . .
One-quarter of the NBA season is over. Let's hand out some awards based on the 20-odd games in the books:
Rookie of the Quarter: Chris Paul, Hornets guard. He's playing the most demanding position in the NBA, requiring the biggest transition from college, and he's doing it very well for a team coming off a horrendous year. He's extremely tough, and has an NBA body now. Runners-up: Channing Frye, Knicks; Andrew Bogut, Bucks.
Coach of the Quarter: Mike D'Antoni, Suns. He lost my preseason MVP, Amare Stoudemire as well as Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. Yet they still get off to a 12-5 start. Hardest team in the league to defend, most relentless. Everybody on that roster is getting better looks, and players like Eddie House, Leandro Barbosa benefit. Runners-up: Mike Dunleavy, Clippers; Byron Scott, Hornets.
Most Improved Player of the Quarter: Mo Williams Bucks guard. Coming in, he was generally regarded as backup point guard who brought a change of pace because he's so quick. But he's been so good, coach Terry Stotts is starting both T.J. Ford and him together. Stotts can't keep him on the bench. His fourth-quarter point production has been impressive. Runner-up: Alonzo Mourning, Heat.
Defensive Player of the Quarter: Mourning, Heat center. His performance was the reason the team wasn't 6-15 when Shaq came back. I didn't know he had this much left in the tank. Runner-up: Andrei Kirilenko, Jazz, despite time missed.
Best Sixth Man of the Quarter: Ben Gordon, Bulls. There aren't a lot of sixth men who are guaranteed to play for the entire fourth quarter. He's their certain go-to guy in the fourth. Not a lot of sixth men can say that. Runner-up: Donyell Marshall, Cavs.
Quarter MVP: Steve Nash, Suns. He's had to pick up his scoring, and he's been dominant as scorer, and he's still the best at always making the right decision, getting the ball to right guy. They have six guys averaging in double figures, two guys in 8-10 ppg range, and they lost 60 percent of last year's starting lineup. Amazing. Runners-up: Allen Iverson, Elton Brand.
Biggest Disappointment of the Quarter, Team: The Nets, based on last year's success, should be better. I thought they improved their bench with Marc Jackson and Jeff McInnis, but instead they're a sub.-500 team in the worst division in basketball. They DO NOT play hard. Just too casual out there.
Biggest Disappointment of the Quarter, Player: Ron Artest, Pacers. As dumb as it sounds, I thought a year being taken away from him would change his perspective. It hasn't.
Worst Haircut of the Quarter: Chris Kaman, Clippers. That 'do just plain scares me.
Worst Throwback Uniform of the Quarter: Bulls. Those red and blue outfits looked exactly like the Harlem Globetrotters'. At first I thought it was an NBDL team when I turned on the game.
Best Throwback Uniform of the Quarter: None. I hate throwbacks.
Best Upset of the Quarter: Hawks over Spurs. You can't just show up and beat the bottom feeders of the NBA. No mail-it-in games.
Best Moment of the Quarter: The dunk by Vince Carter on Mourning (Nov. 7) was one of the top five in NBA history.
Best Shooter of the Quarter: As long as Ray Allen is playing, there should be no discussion. (He ranks 25th in FG percentage among shooting guards; statistically, Gerald Wallace leads the way). But I will say that Dirk Nowitzki is the greatest 7-foot shooter, ever.
Tim Legler, an NBA analyst for ESPN and former NBA 3-point champion, is a regular contributor to Insider.
Carmelo Anthony (23 points, 23 FG attempts) finds a King in his way. LeBron James (26 points, nine assists) had the edge in a 94-85 win for Cleveland. Denver leads Cleveland 3-2 in the Carmelo vs. LeBron era.
Charles (San Jose): Paul, is the opportunity there to play in the D-League or the CBA if you wanted to?
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Jackson Takes A Swipe At Cuban
Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett (24 points, 21 rebounds) prepares his next move against Spurs forward Tim Duncan. Despite an off night by Duncan (13 points, nine rebounds), the Spurs won, 90-88.
Quote of the Night
-- Andrew Ayres
Scouts can complain all they want about Ronnie Brewer's unsightly shot. The bottom line is that, for the second straight year, it's going in the basket.
Brewer's shot evokes memories of Shawn Marion's ugly J every time he lets it fly. But Brewer, for the second straight year, is shooting 39 percent from 3-point country. He's no J.J. Redick, but I think it's time to stop saying the kid can't shoot unless you're referring to his dismal free-throw percentage.
The Timberwolves lost by one point at Philadelphia on Monday, by two points to the Kings on Tuesday, and by two points to the Spurs on Thursday. Minnesota is the first NBA team in nearly three years to lose three consecutive games, each by one point or two points. The last NBA team to suffer three straight defeats of that nature was Seattle in December 2002.
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Donnie Walsh and Larry Bird have spent vast amounts of their own personal capital, credibility and integrity to convince all of us that Ron Artest and all the rest of this is so worth it. They have now come to the same conclusion that a lot of others have when it comes to not only Artest, but those of the same cloth: Latrell Sprewell, Terrell Owens, Shawn Kemp, Isaiah Rider, Bonzi Wells, the list goes on and on.
And yet there will always be the next sucker who thinks that they can be the one who will get through to these lost souls. They feel that as soon as Artest or any of these other slackers gets on their team that everything will be cool.
Paul Lukas, Page 2's Uni Watch columnist, writes on behalf of the beloved sweat sock. His demands, er, recommendations:
1. Ban the quarter-sock. Yes, Uni Watch is well aware that MJ himself helped popularize the low-sock look, but that doesn't make it sacrosanct.