- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

BROWN BACK TO HIS OLD TRICKS

Larry Brown’s 23-59 season in New York in 2005-06 was the curse of Isiah Thomas, not a lost touch by Brown. Michael Jordan knew that. That’s why after Brown turned down the Charlotte Bobcats job before the 2008 season, Jordan came back at him following the season. This time Brown said yes, and Jordan pulled off the best acquisition of his executive career.

With nine games left, the Bobcats have set a franchise record for wins in a season (34) and remain in the hunt for their first playoff appearance. Brown is one of the top candidates to capture coach of the year honors. He first claimed the award in 2000-01 when he guided Philadelphia to an Eastern Conference-best 56-26 record.

Brown has such a good success rate because he does it his way. He gave the roster a long look before handing his wish list to Jordan. Brown knew Emeka Okafor couldn’t hack it as an undersized center and Jason Richardson wasn’t the right kind of scorer for his system. He got rid of Matt Carroll, Jared Dudley and Adam Morrison.

In came Boris Diaw, Raja Bell, DeSagana Diop, Vladimir Radmanovic and Juwan Howard.

The results have spoken for themselves. Holdover point guard Raymond Felton and Okafor again are having solid seasons, and Diop has allowed Okafor to spend more time at power forward. Meanwhile, Diaw, Bell and Radmanovic have given Felton additional targets. The latter three in particular are enjoying resurgences, while Diaw is having a career year.

After opening the season with a 7-18 record, the Bobcats have gone 27-22 entering Tuesday’s games. Strong contributions from the newcomers helped the Bobcats overcome a three-week absence of forward Gerald Wallace because of injury.

One of Brown’s principles is defense; after allowing 101.4 points a game last season, the Bobcats now limit foes to 94.5 points - good for fifth in the league.

Charlotte stands two games back of Chicago for the eighth playoff spot. But playoffs or no playoffs, there’s no denying when it comes to this coach, the answer to the question “What can Brown do for you?” remains “Turn your franchise around.”

TEAM OF THE WEEK

ORLANDO MAGIC

The Magic have been trying to overtake the Boston Celtics, and their chances seemed less likely when Kevin Garnett returned to the lineup for Boston last week. Turns out KG still is hobbled and that it doesn’t matter anyway.

By going on a six-game winning streak the last two weeks, the Magic hurdled the Celtics and moved into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. Going a long way toward making that happen was an 84-82 home win over the Celtics last Wednesday in which Dwight Howard had 24 points and 21 rebounds.

In Orlando’s win against Miami on Monday, Howard became the youngest player in league history to record 5,000 career rebounds. At 23 years and 112 days old, he beat out Wilt Chamberlain’s mark of 25 years, 128 days. No other active player has racked up at least 5,000 rebounds in his first five seasons in the league.

POWER RANKINGS

1. CAVALIERS (60-13)

LBJ and Co. continue their strong sprint to the finish, extending winning streak to 12 games.

2. LAKERS (58-15)

First word that Bynum isn’t close to returning, now a bum ankle for Kobe. Not a good week for the Lakers.

3. MAGIC (54-18)

Can Stan Van Whiner’s bunch hang on to a half-game edge over Boston for the East’s second spot?

4. CELTICS (56-19)

Celtics should benefit from playing five of their final seven games at home.

5. SPURS (48-25)

As injuries linger, it looks as if this odd year isn’t the Spurs’ for the taking.

6. NUGGETS (48-26)

‘Melo averages 33 in his last four games, and the Nuggets pull into a tie for third place in the West.

7. ROCKETS (48-26)

Improved play without Tracy McInjured is nice, but will the Rockets win a playoff series?

8. TRAIL BLAZERS (46-27)

If they can hold on to the fifth spot, a date with Houston isn’t a bad draw.

9. HORNETS (45-27)

Maintaining health seems impossible for CP3’s banged up entourage, but they remain in the mix.

10. HAWKS (43-31)

Hawks get redemption against Lakers after losing to Duncan-less Spurs and Garnett-less Celtics.

LOTTERY WATCH

SIXTH MAN TO TOP-10 PICK?

A month ago, North Carolina freshman Ed Davis was considered a year or two away from being NBA-ready. But after a strong showing in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, scouts are calling him the best NBA prospect on the North Carolina roster, and he doesn’t even start.

The 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward has averaged 6.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 18.9 minutes this season. But NBA teams are always looking for young big men with potential, and Davis - who has yet to declare for the draft - seems like a prime candidate.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Team Record L 10 Pct.*

Sacramento 16-56 3-7 25.0

Washington 17-58 2-8 19.9

L.A. Clippers 18-56 3-7 15.6

Memphis 19-54 3-7 11.9

Oklahoma 20-53 3-7 8.8

* Chances of landing No. 1 pick

TROPHY TRACKER

MVP

1. LeBron James - Leading a 12-game winning streak, he has Cavaliers poised to lock up homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. Kobe Bryant - Averaging 27.2 ppg, 5.0 apg and 5.4 rpg for the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

3. Dwyane Wade - He has heated up in March with 505 points in 15 games (33.7 ppg).

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

1. Derrick Rose - He continues to produce - 16.5 ppg and 6.2 apg - despite the pressure of a playoff race.

2. Brook Lopez - With 12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 1.8 bpg, he’s making his presence felt in New Jersey.

3. Russell Westbrook - Averaging 15.7 ppg and 5.1 apg, he cracks the top three with savvy play.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide