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Observation Deck (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday January 9, 2007 2:43PM; Updated: Tuesday January 9, 2007 3:14PM
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Kirk Hinrich (left) shot 6-of-31 from the field in his first three games this month after struggling offensively in December.
Kirk Hinrich (left) shot 6-of-31 from the field in his first three games this month after struggling offensively in December.
AP
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• The latest casualty of Team USA's lovely little trek to Japan late last summer is Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, who has been playing some pretty lousy basketball of late. He has long been one of the league's worst at finishing around the rim, and his jump shot has always been more streaky than sound, but his play over the last five weeks has to worry the Bulls.

Hinrich averaged just 12.4 points (on 41.4 percent shooting) and 5.5 assists in 33.3 minutes in December, and has seen the wheels come off completely in January. Three games, two losses, 6-of-31 shooting (19 percent), seven points and 6.3 assists in 33 minutes a contest in 2007.

• My All-Defensive Teams, thus far (second team in parenthesis):

PG: Earl Watson (Deron Williams)
SG: Hinrich (Trenton Hassell)
SF: Shane Battier (Bruce Bowen)
PF: Kevin Garnett (Elton Brand)
C: Tim Duncan (Ben Wallace)

• Heading back to the Atlantic (sorry), it's hard to see the Nets doing anything of note even with a healthy Jefferson and Kidd and Nenad Krstic back on board. The Nets, despite their reputation as a running team, usually aren't. They're 15th in possessions per game, up from 18th last season. They ranked 21st in 2004-05, and 18th the season before. And though Carter is probably looking to stay in New Jersey past this summer (he can make more money with the Nets than anywhere else, after all), GM Rod Thorn needs to take a long look at his guard-heavy roster. Then he needs to look at Golden State, and trade for a guard.

The Warriors like to run now, which is bad news for Jason Richardson. The sixth-year guard plays the right way, but he needs a slow-down offense and the ball to be effective. Despite his fabulous jumping ability, his game just isn't made for the fast break. Even before breaking his shooting hand Dec. 31, Richardson was struggling through an injury-plagued month in which he shot 29.4 percent and averaged 8.8 points. His per-game scoring average has dropped nearly 11 points under Don Nelson, and he'll probably never be a good fit with Nellie on board, which is why Thorn needs to try to grab the 25-year-old guard while his value appears low.

Swap Carter, rookie Josh Boone and 7-foot-1 project Mile Ilic for Richardson, Troy Murphy and Ike Diogu. The Nets pick up some depth and scoring up front -- Murphy is perfect to space the floor and Diogu can do things with the ball down low -- while the Warriors drop Richardson's and Murphy's contracts. Diogu doesn't play much (for some reason), and the Warriors get a chance to win Carter over for a few months. If Carter passes on staying in Oakland this summer, then they simply plug his wing position with Mickael Pietrus and Monta Ellis (which is what they're doing already, even with Richardson healthy) and enjoy a little cap flexibility.

• Hoops fans who has suffered through a season with their favorite team habitually underachieving can understand what Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog.com is dealing with. After bashing your head trying to come up with easy answers behind a team's lousy play (a coach who should know better, a knucklehead scorer who doesn't know a thing, a GM who refuses to get to know some other team's All-Star trade bait a little better), you start to step back after a while. Your team is 16-19, it recently lost to the Hawks and the simple answers just aren't making any sense. They rarely do.

Enervated, you realize that maybe the talent on hand isn't as hot as you once thought; the falloff from the venerated vets has been steeper than expected; the uptick from the young talent hasn't been decisive enough; and perhaps your favorite team isn't underachieving at all. That they are what they are, and where they are ain't where you want to be. Bummer.

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