- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Duff Durkin of The Washington Times ranks the week's most talked-about stories:

1
MAVS START 10-0

What's this, defense? Mavs heading toward big Saturday showdown against Pacific-leading Seattle.

2
YAO LIGHTS UP LAKERS

9-for-9 shooting? And if Shaq had played, Yao would have scored how many?

3
LARRY BROWN WILLING TO COACH TEAM USA

Larry, please get a handle on this and bring back some dignity.

4
SPREWELL RETURNS


Latrell Ne'er-do-well is back with the Knicks, but for how long? Trade rumors swirl.

5
SHAQ DUE BACK

Hurry back, Shaq. Watching Stanislav Medvedenko has been unbearable. Though watching coach Zen squirm is entertaining.

6
HUBIE BROWN HIRED AS GRIZZLIES COACH

Suddenly, Jerry West's reputation is squarely on the line. Then again, when you're 0-8, there's no place to go but up.

7
INDIANA OFF TO 8-1 START

Pacers' young core O'Neal, Tinsley, Harrington, etc. suddenly looking very formidable and should be for years to come.

8
'ZO WEIGHS COMEBACK

It would be an incredible story, but Riles isn't too sold on it.

9
MANUTE'S HOCKEY DEBUT

Celebrity boxing? Check. Minor-league hockey? Check. What's next for Bol, Busch Series racing?

10
SCORE ONE FOR INCOMPETENCE

Denver and Detroit combine for lowest-scoring first half in NBA history and to think nearly 20 years ago the same franchises scored a combined 370 points in the highest-scoring NBA game ever.

AROUND THE NBA
EASTERN CONFERENCE
Knicks

Getting Latrell Sprewell back would figure to uplift the sagging spirits of the New York Knicks, who managed just one win in their first nine games. But as if the horrendous start following the serious knee injury to Antonio McDyess in the preseason didn't add enough insult to injury, the Knicks can't even get their best player on the court without a problem. Seems that small forward Lee Nailon thinks he deserves the minutes he got while filling in for Sprewell.
"If I averaged 35 minutes a night I'd probably be an All-Star here," Nailon told the salivating New York media recently. "Hopefully one day I'll be playing 35 minutes."
OK, Lee. You did average 10.9 points in your first eight games with the Knicks but your team lost seven of those games. And did you forget that you were released by New Orleans on Oct. 23?

BULLS
The names change, but the story lines seem to remain the same. In the past and these are only a few names coach Tim Floyd, Ron Artest and Charles Oakley couldn't stay happy for long in Chicago, and now the Bulls' circus involves Eddie Robinson, Jamal Crawford and Marcus Fizer. The three players have had their playing time cut under coach Bill Cartwright, leaving them itching to get out of Chi-town. Lonny Baxter's emergence has relegated Fizer to the bench, while prized rookie Jay Williams has rendered Crawford a few-minutes-a-game backup as well. Of course, all of this is not sitting well with the benchees, who are raking in the loot while not logging court time. That's not a good combination when a player is concerned about his trade value. All this after Chicago's leading scorer, Jalen Rose, has had his name floated in at least a couple trade scenarios in recent weeks.

MAGIC
There's being cursed, and then there's Grant Hill. Hill missed 146 of 164 games for the Magic during the last two seasons and has looked all but 100 percent recovered in playing 10 games this season. Well, you obviously didn't keep your fingers crossed, because Hill missed his first game of the season Sunday in a two-point loss to Sacramento. Hill was in uniform but wanted to err on the side of caution by resting his left ankle, saying "it was the safe thing to do." Hill has averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds and is expected to play tonight against Seattle.

WESTERN CONFERENCESONICS

Gary Payton entered this season concerned about getting a contract extension from the Sonics, the team that drafted him in 1990. His contract situation threatened to become a sticking point after Sonics management said they would allow Payton to play this season out before considering an extension. The Sonics aren't playing distracted. They have roared to a surprising 8-2 start and the lead in the Pacific.
It's easy to see why: The Sonics are third in field-goal shooting in the NBA and lead the league in 3-point shooting at 41.1 percent, with Brent Barry hitting more than 50 percent and emerging 23-year-old star Rashard Lewis making better than 40 percent. Payton is averaging his usual 21.4 points and 10.4 assists, and 21-year-old Yugoslavian Vladimir Radmanovic is contributing 11.1 points in his first season as a starter.

MAVERICKS

He's the ringleader of his team's uptempo, freewheeling scoring machine and is one of the players that has personified the NBA's shift in emphasis to a more international-friendly approach. And the Dallas Mavericks can thank Charles Barkley for helping influence them to land German wunderkind Dirk Nowitzki.
In the summer of '96, when he was still with the Suns, Barkley played on a European tour and returned marveling about Nowitzki, who was just 18 at the time. Current Mavericks assistant Donnie Nelson was an assistant at Phoenix and took note of Sir Charles' scouting report. Two years later, the Mavericks worked a prearranged deal in which they drafted Robert Traylor at No. 6 and traded him to Milwaukee for the Bucks' choice at No. 9, Nowitzki.
"Charles Barkley played against Dirk when Nike took a team overseas one summer," said Nelson in the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. "So Charles was actually the first person to tell me that this guy named Nowitzki is pretty good."

TRAIL BLAZERS
It's not Rasheed Wallace blowing his top. It's not Bonzi Wells showing off his saliva projection skills on an opponent. Now it's Damon Stoudamire who has a problem in Trail Blazerland.
Stoudamire reacted sourly to his demotion from the starting lineup and benching by coach Maurice Cheeks for Friday night's rout of the L.A. Clippers. The benching followed a blowup that Stoudamire, who had started 312 of his 316 career games before Friday, had with Cheeks last Tuesday.
Stoudamire walked out of the Blazers' shootaround on Friday after learning he wouldn't start and has since refused to comment on the situation. Cheeks said Stoudamire would not start but would play tomorrow night against Orlando, with Scottie Pippen assuming point-guard duties and Derek Anderson starting at shooting guard.

QUOTABLE
"Once the black [Gen. George] Patton returns, it'll be all over. When I do come back, it will be with a vengeance. A lot of people are taking shots. So, when I come back, I'll be motivated to play. Even though I'm a superhero, I can't be a superhero all the time."
Shaquille O'Neal on his return to the court after recovering from toe surgery. He's expected to play his first game Thursday against Chicago.

"Larry Brown's the coach? There's a pain on the outside of my knee in 2004."
O'Neal on preferring to play for Phil Jackson in the 2004 Olympics than fellow coaching candidate Larry Brown.

"I learned not to go play USA basketball if George Karl is the coach. I don't think he's a players coach, straight up. It wasn't only me, but a number of the players didn't respond to what he was saying or understand what he was trying to do."
- Paul Pierce on what he learned from the United States' sixth-place finish in this summer's World Championships.

"You can't teach 7-6. This is an individual who can clearly play the game he's no circus act. He's going to have more and more nights like this. He can speak clear English, too, which surprised me. I heard him talking to his teammates."
L.A. Lakers' Rick Fox on Yao Ming, who scored 20 points in the Rockets' defeat of the Lakers on Sunday.
John Stockton is averaging just 6.9 assists through 11 games for the 4-7 Utah Jazz. Though his assists-per-game average is his lowest since his rookie year, Stockton still holds five of the top seven season-best averages since 1969-70. (Note: This list does not include players who did not finish with the best average in the league for one season):

Player, team / year / assist average
John Stockton, Utah / 1989-90 / 14.5
John Stockton, Utah / 1990-91 / 14.2
Isiah Thomas, Detroit / 1984-85 / 13.98
John Stockton, Utah / 1987-88 / 13.8
John Stockton, Utah / 1991-92 / 13.7
John Stockton, Utah / 1988-89 / 13.6
Kevin Porter, Detroit / 1978-79 / 13.4


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