- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Avery Johnson won the coach of the year award yesterday, in part because he’s direct with his players.

Johnson, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Utah’s Jerry Sloan probably are the best at clear communication because Popovich and Sloan have military backgrounds and Johnson was mentored by Popovich.

Johnson doesn’t suffer nonsense or play favorites, and his players are never confused on where they stand with him. His only agenda is winning games.

But Detroit’s Flip Saunders should have won the award. He took over a team that won 50 games — a team one win from a championship — and made it 14 games better.

Detroit Pistons vs. Milwaukee Bucks

The Pistons easily accomplished their primary Game 1 goal: Win.

Their second — keeping everyone healthy — didn’t go as well, as shooting guard Rip Hamilton sprained his left ankle.

But the Pistons aren’t overly concerned. They have strength and conditioning coach Arnie Kander, who earned a traditional degree in physical therapy but also uses naturopathic, homeopathic, holistic, energetic and Eastern medical approaches.

When Grant Hill forced a sign-and-trade to the Magic six years ago, he tried to hire Kander away to work with him exclusively.

Point guard Chauncey Billups said of Kander: “He’s the best I’ve ever worked with.”

Kander said he expects Hamilton to play tonight.

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers

If Suns forward Tim Thomas looks like he’s in mid-season form — 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting and 15 rebounds in Game 1 — it may be because he had 3 months off in the middle of the season.

Thomas began the season with the Chicago Bulls but was sent home after three games by coach Scott Skiles.

Thomas says, “I just wasn’t wanted” — which is true.

The Bulls only acquired Thomas and Michael Sweetney from the Knicks for Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis after Curry refused to take a DNA test to rule out a potentially fatal heart condition.

Thomas cleared waivers March 3, and the Suns signed him, thanks to Curry.

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