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Observation Deck (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday January 30, 2007 2:49PM; Updated: Wednesday January 31, 2007 12:52AM
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Mavs No. 2 scorer Josh Howard is facing stiff competition for a backup forward spot on the Western Conference All-Star team.
Mavs No. 2 scorer Josh Howard is facing stiff competition for a backup forward spot on the Western Conference All-Star team.
Greg Nelson/SI

The Nets then need to top this by shipping Kidd to Orlando for Grant Hill and Darko Milicic, followed quickly with a buyout of Hill's contract to allow the 12-year veteran to latch on with a playoff squad. Grant's expiring deal would then give the Nets a huge chunk of cap space to work with this summer, more or far less depending on what they decide to do with Darko. With Marcus Williams, Jefferson, Kirilenko, Krstic, Milicic and Hassan Adams, the Nets would field a longer, more athletic, up-tempo team that wouldn't boast two players with max contracts on the wrong side of 30. Best of all, they'd have cap flexibility, and wouldn't consider a 45-win season (with a $65 million payroll) a smashing success.

We admire, to no end, Kidd's ability to turn back the clock and have his best season in years, but this is a Nets team that is capped out and with no trading pieces beyond the Big Three. If it wants to do anything besides act as a no-bench also-ran in the East, it will have to develop some depth and flexibility by breaking up this well-compensated triptych.

• Are we really this bored with the season that we've spent this long dissecting whether Dallas' Josh Howard (19.4 points, 7.2 rebounds) deserves a token seven or eight minutes in the All-Star Game? Howard's a fine player, the second option on one of the best teams, and probably one of the top 25 players in the league right now (when injured stars like Yao Ming, Paul Pierce, Michael Redd, et. al are taken out of consideration). But should the Mavs' superior depth at all positions be rewarded with a token All-Star appearance from a pretty good player? At the expense of reserve candidates like Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Carmelo Anthony or Dirk Nowitzki? Come on.

• As for the team that snapped Dallas' recent eight-game winning streak: The Chicago Bulls might not have an All-Star on their roster, and that's OK.

At times we've seen the Bulls play better than any other team in the Eastern Conference. Even without a major (or minor) trade-deadline deal, they have as good a chance as any to make it to Finals. But does that mean they get a token participant in Las Vegas?

Ben Gordon has been brilliant since a rough start, but it bears mentioning that he was a detriment at times during the season's first four weeks, unable to contribute when his jumper wasn't on. Since then he's played brilliantly, and with injuries to Redd and Pierce thinning out an already weak East talent corps, Gordon would be an inspired wild-card choice.

But he shouldn't be handed a spot just because of Chicago's success. The Bulls take down teams with stifling defense, a flexible rotation and ball movement. Gordon (21.6 points in just 31.5 minutes) is owed consideration, but little else.

Al Harrington in Indiana? Quite mediocre. In Golden State? A scoring machine, now that he's making his moves quickly and without deliberation. He averaged 25.3 points in 36.5 minutes in his first four games with the Warriors, shooting 55.4 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent from behind the arc. Harrington's rebounding (5.5 a game) still stinks, but we've just about given up on that.

Meanwhile, in Indiana, the participants in a trade that sent Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell to Golden State, aren't faring as well. Troy Murphy is coming through with nearly a double-double in just (just!) under 30 minutes a game, but Mike Dunleavy is shooting 39.3 percent and Ike Diogu is disappointing -- 12 points and 10 rebounds in 33 combined minutes is nice, but he's missed nine of 13 shots, and Rick Carlisle won't play him with the big boys.

• Has anyone played a better game this season than Kevin Garnett did Monday night against Phoenix? In snapping Phoenix's 17-game win streak, KG hit 18-of-29 shots on his way to 44 points. He pulled down 11 rebounds (a phenomenal mark, considering both teams combined to shoot 55 percent from the floor), added three steals and didn't commit a turnover in 39 minutes. Of course, this is the last we'll hear from the Timberwolves until Kevin McHale trades a draft pick for Luther Head, and tells the assembled press throng, "Fifty wins, here we come!"

• Overheard: Sometimes Chicago Bulls play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee, after a ferocious dunk from Alonzo Mourning, says "Vintage Mo!" I'm sure Zo loves to hear that. About as much as Bill Russell likes to be called "Wilt" or John Lydon enjoys being referred to as "Sid."

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