Malone's flagrant could've been risky business

Updated: May 24, 2004, 10:48 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Quick. Pick the worst decision of the weekend.

Sheed being Sheed?

Or Mailman plowing through a pick as reliably as ever?

Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone
Thanks to Bryant, left, Malone vows not to return to the Lakers.
Nope. You're most assuredly wrong if you went with Sheed's guarantee.

Silly as it is to hear Rasheed Wallace make promises when his left foot isn't sturdy enough to assure anything, it's not exactly a sin. You could just as easily praise Sheed for thrusting even more pressure on his under-strength self as you can pan him for needlessly riling the Pacers. It's also fairly clear by now that Sheed doesn't care what any of us think.

On the Flip (Saunders) side ...

Karl Malone took a real risk Sunday night. Even though he was only fined $7,500 and not suspended -- and even though the Lakers believe Wally Szczerbiak cracked Derek Fisher moments before with an equally questionable hit -- Mailman made a seriously unwise gambit when he steamrolled Darrick Martin, forearm first.

It pains me to say so, because I've found myself rooting for Malone in these playoffs -- not only because of his lifelong quest to finally win a ring, but because he's the one big-name Laker who has been consistently team-first all season. In this case, though, the flagrant foul and the ejection and Martin's reaction -- grabbing his neck and falling face-first -- guaranteed that the incident would be reviewed.

Giving the league office any reason to even consider a suspension, if only for a few minutes, is a major gaffe from a vet like Mail. Especially when your team is down 20 and the game's almost over. Malone knows it, too, as confirmed by his postgame admission that "we didn't handle the situation good."

Malone missing a game would've made it worlds easier for the Wolves to get by without Sam Cassell for one more game, and Minnesota could've certainly used the help. Don't believe that winning one home game on adrenaline, with the Lakers content to cruise, means Minny can survive without Sam I Am for the whole series.

  • Of all the superstars purportedly on the trading block -- Chris Webber, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, etc. -- the consensus remains that none of them is more likely to actually move than Orlando's Tracy McGrady.

    Tracy McGrady
    McGrady

    Houston is said to be making a hard push, peddling Steve Francis for starters.

    In talks with Phoenix, the Magic have pushed for Orlando's own Amare Stoudemire and Joe Johnson, but the Suns would only be willing to part with Shawn Marion and Johnson ... if that.

    The Clippers have also been mentioned as a possible T-Mac destination, should the Clips' dreams of signing Kobe Bryant away from the Lakers collapse, but it's tough to see T-Mac considering Clipperdom as a place to sign long-term as strongly as Kobe would.

  • The Hornets' chances of actually landing Byron Scott as their coach increased marginally over the weekend when Sacramento's Geoff Petrie announced that the Kings intend to bring Rick Adelman back next season.

    Byron Scott
    Scott

    Yet there remains two other jobs to tempt Scott far more than New Orleans -- Lakers and Grizzlies -- that could still open. Scott is considered an overwhelming favorite to replace Phil Jackson in L.A., assuming Jackson walks after this season or Bryant asks owner Jerry Buss to give him a new coach. And Memphis boss Jerry West might wind up needing a replacement for Hubie Brown if the reigning Coach of the Year is forced to step aside as a seventysomething because of health concerns.

    From the Hornets, according to sources, Scott wants both the head coach and GM titles to take over a perennial playoff underachiever headed for the mighty West. Both jobs are available because general manager Bob Bass is retiring to consultancy after the draft.

  • Jermaine O'Neal, sadly, can't help us when it comes to forecasting Sheed's free-agent intentions this summer. JO tried, actually, asking Sheed at their postgame dinner Saturday night. No luck, though.

    "He brushed me off," O'Neal said. "I was like, 'Sheed, what are you going to do next year?' He went into talking about his son. He's going to keep it secret."

    Detroit remains quietly confident that it will be able to convince Sheed to re-sign a long-term deal this summer, and the Pistons are willing, even if it means they have to sacrifice Mehmet Okur.

  • The news from O'Neal isn't all bleak. Even though he was among the first players to voice concerns about the state of security in Greece, O'Neal says he still considers himself part of the Olympic team.

    He won't make a final decision until after the playoffs, and admits that seeing "what kind of team we have" after all the recent pullouts will factor into his decision, but it's apparently premature to presume that O'Neal is going to take the summer off to rest his bones and be safe.

    Until something drastic happens, I'm going to play in Athens.
    Jermaine O'Neal confirming his commitment to Team USA
    "Until something drastic happens," he told ESPN.com on Sunday, "I'm going to play in Athens."

    Mike Bibby, another player thought to be headed for the long list of withdrawals, said after Sacramento's elimination that he, too, still plans to play. Of the original nine players selected by USA Basketball, only three have guaranteed their participation: Tim Duncan, Iverson and Bibby. Bryant, Jason Kidd, Ray Allen and Malone have all pulled out; O'Neal and McGrady are deliberating. Other stars to decline invitations include Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett, Carter, Kenyon Martin and Elton Brand.

  • As ugly as their Game 7 was, it would have been too fairy tale for even Lawrence Frank to expect a Nets victory on the road after they had squandered the opportunity to close out Detroit in Game 6. Frank is the 12th rookie coach in NBA history to bid for a Game 7 victory on the road ... and all 12 have failed.

  • It does not make up for one of the most unforgivable trades in NBA history: Vancouver for Memphis.

    But it's a start.

    It's one of the most welcomed swaps in NBA history: Boston sending its annual summer league to Las Vegas starting this July.

    I've never been more excited to watch Marcus Banks and Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

    Male of the Week

    Kevin Garnett
    Garnett
    Kevin Garnett. On his 28th birthday, facing more scrutiny than he ever has before, Garnett answered everyone with 32 points and 21 rebounds in Minnesota's Game 7 triumph over Sacramento. He became just the sixth player in league history to post a 30-20 game in a Game 7, and the first to do so since Charles Barkley rumbled for 44 points and 24 boards in Phoenix's 1993 triumph over Seattle. Garnett and Boston's Tommy Heinsohn are the only players to go for 30 and 20 in their first Game 7, and KG delivered again Sunday by posting his ninth straight double-double in the playoffs -- including nine points in the fourth quarter -- to help Minnesota even its series with the Lakers despite the absence of the injured Sam Cassell.

    E-Mail of the Week

      I've heard that there's some whining on the East Coast about West playoff games ending after midnight. Poor New Yorkers. They're going to be at work late. They should try turning on the TV at 4 a.m. to watch the Lakers and Spurs just starting.
      Tomek Szymanski
      Poland

    STEIN: Fair point, Tomek. Your devotion is impressive. But when you single out New Yorkers, I'm wondering if you're just bitter about the Knicks trading Maciej Lampe to Phoenix.

    Wally Szczerbiak
    Szczerbiak
    Speak of the Week

    "I'm glad he didn't bite me."
     Minnesota's Wally Szczerbiak, on his heated Game 2 exchange with the Lakers' Gary Payton and apparently referring to Payton's supposed fangs-bearing encounter with Golden State's Speedy Claxton earlier this season.

    Stat of the Week

    1
    Before Detroit won its second-round series against New Jersey despite shooting just 39.6 percent as a team, only one other club in the past 40 years had won a playoff series of any length with a worse success rate from the field. That would be Portland, which won its second-round matchup with Utah in six games in 1999 despite shooting 39.5 percent.

    Stat of the Weak

    2
    Only two players in league history have ever played more minutes in a playoff game without scoring a single point than Jason Kidd did in his scoreless 43 minutes in Game 7 at Detroit. Those two are Danny Ainge in 1988, and Norm Van Lier in 1977. New Jersey's 69 points on Thursday, incidentally, were the fewest points scored by any team in the 84 Game 7s played in the shot-clock era.

    Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

    Marc Stein | email

    Senior Writer, ESPN.com
    • Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
    • Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
    • Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics
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