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Fresh off reporting a story on Carlos Boozer for this week's Sports Illustrated, I bring you random NBA thoughts, some more lucid than others. ...
Karl Malone isn't likely to return this season. Unless, that is, one of two things happen. First, if a star forward on a championship contender -- say, Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan -- were to go down during the season, Malone might be tempted to ride to the rescue. Second, Malone is the type of player who feeds off attention, and if he begins to miss the media spotlight too much, he may get itchy. For now, though, I hear he's happily retired, working the 6,000-odd acre timber farm he owns in Arkansas.
Last week, Jim Gray reported that Jazz owner Larry Miller was talking about the possibility of a Malone return in Utah. When I spoke to him, Miller went to great lengths to say this was not the case -- he and Malone did meet to clear the air, he said, but didn't plan a return visit. Regardless, I wouldn't be surprised that if Malone decides to return, he calls the Jazz. Utah is one of the top teams in the West, it could benefit from Malone's physical defense, and he's comfortable with the coach and the offense. His agent has talked of contract negotiations with the Lakers, but L.A. isn't a contender and Malone reportedly wasn't pleased with the way Jerry Buss handled the Kobe-Shaq situation last season. ...
The Raptors no longer rely on Vince Carter. As reader Rich Burdett of Toronto wrote last week, this is a beautiful thing for Toronto fans. Rich is absolutely right. I saw the Raptors play on Wednesday and it was the rest of the team -- Chris Bosh, Rafer Alston -- who carried them down the stretch. Carter fired up 15-20 shots, at least five of which were ludicrously ill-advised, and the rest of the team went on its merry way. Sam Mitchell has his guys playing hard. As Burdett wrote in his e-mail, "When it was all about V.C. the Raptors played with fear, and that's not how you win games."
It's great to see Grant Hill back and playing so well. He's a classy guy who fought through a Groundhog Day-like rehab experience -- every October brought an annual "Hill Ready for Return" story followed by the inevitable "Hill to Have Ankle Surgery Again" a month later. Here's hoping he avoids that fate this time. Because as long as Hill's playing, the Magic are one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. What's not to love about Orlando? Steve Francis dunking on guys nightly, final scores in the 120s, rookie Dwight Howard blocking shots, Pat Garrity skying for tip dunks ... OK, I got a little carried away with the Garrity thing. But he does win the Matt Bullard Award for the best tall white guy who does nothing but shoot 3s (though Kyle Korver is gaining fast).
Speaking of Orlando, if I were to pick five NBA teams to watch right now they'd be (in no particular order): Orlando, Phoenix, Seattle (Luke Ridnour to Ray Allen is a great combo), San Antonio and Charlotte. The reason I mention the Bobcats: They play with the intensity of a college team. Which, if you think about it, they essentially are (Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace and Jason Hart -- sounds like Final Four talent to me!)
Have a question or opinion for Chris? He might answer or address it in his next blog.
Lots of mail about the NBA. Jesse Turner in Memphis, Tenn., sent in an entry for what he termed "Insignificant Stat of the Week."
"Did you notice how every NBA champion of the past 16 years has had Dennis Rodman on the squad at some time or other? With the Spurs and Pistons the top contenders for the title in 2004-05, this disturbing trend may continue ..."
Great stat, Jesse. Unfortunately, it's wrong -- the Houston Rockets never employed Rodman. But the Pistons, Spurs, Lakers and Bulls all did.
A reader calling himself "Padre Pat" wrote in from Madison, Wis. He was unhappy that in the SI NBA preview issue I made some jokes at the Clippers' expense.
"As a Clippers fan," Pat wrote, "we are immune to unoriginal insults (such as the ones you've thrown down) and nobody else really cares. So how about something new and fresh? It could go like this ... 'The Clippers ... aren't that bad.' "
Pat, thanks for writing in and providing a much-needed dose of both newness and freshness; it now smells like the interior of a 2005 Toyota Camry around here. What's more, I would agree with you: the Clippers aren't that bad. Unfortunately, they aren't that good either. Chris Wilcox has been a nice surprise, Elton Brand is steady and Corey Maggette a huge talent. Put them down for 28 wins. And remember: nothing breeds mediocrity like mediocrity (believe me, as a Warriors fan I'm overly familiar with the concept).
Someone named Dave L. from Washington, D.C., wrote in, not with an NBA question, but with a more personal query. "For your female readers," Dave wrote, "Who was that hot guy you used to live with in NYC?"
Well, Dave, it turns out that was you! And, ladies, if I may add, Dave L. was getting his MBA from Columbia at the time he was my roommate (yup, he's one smart cookie). He's also tall and very, very good at billiards.
Allow me to be the 150th member of the media to pass along this opinion: Sideways is an excellent movie. Much funnier than I expected and as well-observed as all Alexander Payne's stuff.
If you're looking for a sports read, check out the newly released The All-Americans by SI staffer (and onetime Steve Kerr of the SI hoops squad) Lars Anderson. It has Army-Navy, WWII and football.
Important Sports Thought from Owen
Finally, your moment of zen ... whoops, I mean Owen.
On Sunday night, my favorite cranky late-night sports e-mailer wrote the following:
"I'm not a molecular geneticist, but on their behalf, I'd like to ask Chris Berman to knock off describing Craig Krenzel, on first and every reference, as a molecular genetics major. It's every bit as much a patronizing cliché as making a big deal out of a player from an Ivy League school. (Toggle on Goofy voice.) 'Gawrsh! You went to Dartmouth and you play pro football? I thought only stupid people played pro football.'
"But I'm sure this act will go on for several years, considering the lifespan of the Man-Named-Brady cliche, and the fact Berman thinks it's funny and original every single time he hums 'If I only had a brain,' for Mark Bulger (making a reach to compare him to Ray Bolger)."