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Observation Deck (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday April 17, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Tuesday April 17, 2007 6:06PM
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Los Angeles Clippers

Corey Maggette has averaged more than 20 points a game since the All-Star break.
Corey Maggette has averaged more than 20 points a game since the All-Star break.
AP
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It was a pretty disappointing year for the Clippers, who entered Tuesday's play with an outside chance of making the playoffs. Without much of an offseason makeover, they had to rely on just about everything going right to hold serve in the West. When things fell apart (Sam Cassell had his every-other-year drop-off, Shaun Livingston suffered a gruesome knee injury, Elton Brand couldn't match his 2005-06 output), Mike Dunleavy's crew had to fight just to stay in playoff contention. Dunleavy didn't have his best season, especially regarding Corey Maggette: The coach took too long to realize that Maggette's limitations (like his iffy long-range stroke) are more than made up by his ability to get to the line (8.5 a game in just 30.5 minutes) and hit his free throws (82 percent). You have to love Dunleavy's way with transition defense, though; that man knows how to stop a break.

Memphis Grizzlies

All of the whispers we heard regarding Rudy Gay and his commitment to the pro game turned out to be hogwash (hogwash, I say!), which is a good enough start, we reckon. The 20-year-old played his tail off in 2006-07, and there's little reason to expect him to slack off a bit should Memphis start winning again and the shot attempts dry up. The lithe scoring forward knows how to work, and he's learning how to contribute: 11 points in 27 minutes, with 4.5 boards and only 1.8 turnovers. Gay needs to rebound better and get to the line more (just 209 attempts in 78 games), but he'll improve.

Milwaukee Bucks

Nobody likes to see a good guy lose a great job, but it was the right call for the Bucks to fire Terry Stotts when they did. Stotts showed no interest in holding his team's feet to the fire when it came to enthused defense play -- even former defensive stalwart Ruben Patterson has been reaching and failing to rotate all season -- and Milwaukee's offense (especially when injuries hit) wasn't nearly good enough to overcome what was for long stretches the NBA's worst-ranked defense. New coach Larry Krystkowiak, who took over as coach in mid-March, will at least hold his players accountable for stretches of one-sided play. This should extend to the offensive end as well: A veteran like Michael Redd has no excuse for averaging just six combined rebounds and assists.

Minnesota Timberwolves

It's difficult to watch them play or look at their roster without wanting to run to the nearest laptop and carp endlessly about the series of miserable moves Kevin McHale made en route to a third straight lottery appearance despite Kevin Garnett's continued brilliance on both ends.

It's hard to find something good here. Because anytime coach Randy Wittman runs a solid set out of a timeout, you still just recall his shaky tenure (12-28) so far as Wolves coach, as compared to Dwane Casey's .500 run through the season's first 40 games. Because it's hard to think of Mark Madsen's must-read blog without thinking of his stats prorated to 40 minutes a game (4.9 points, 7.3 rebounds), and the fact that he's on the team's payroll for three more seasons. Then you watch Randy Foye dash to his right, again, and throw up a righty floater in the lane with the panache of an audacious rookie and the touch of a 10-year vet ... and you wonder if things might turn up.

(And then it starts again. With Foye on board, why did they sign 31-year-old Mike James? Did Rashad McCants return too early from knee surgery? What undersized shooting guard will McHale draft this year? ...)

New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets

Tyson Chandler per 40 minutes this season: 3.9 fouls, two turnovers. Last season per 40 minutes: 5.6 fouls, 2.3 turnovers. Want to know about points and rebounds per game? Go here. I'm enjoying how the 24-year-old center has become reliable for his new employers, how they can keep him on the court for huge gobs of minutes without worry (34 a game, up more than seven minutes from last season). Is it a pity that Chandler couldn't get to this point earlier in his career? Certainly. But at least he's gotten the bloody point.

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