Malone's flagrant could've been risky business
Quick. Pick the worst decision of the weekend.
Sheed being Sheed?
Or Mailman plowing through a pick as reliably as ever?
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.
Houston is said to be making a hard push, peddling Steve Francis for starters.
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.
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.
"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.
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|
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.
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 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.
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.
"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.