Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 Injuries not involving the Milwaukee Bucks
3. Elton Brand out for the season (shoulder). While many in the league now believe Philadelphia never should have signed Brand -- that he couldn't keep up with the fast-break offense -- the 76ers are convinced they can integrate him next year as a more active power forward trailing on the break and scoring on the move or in pick-and-roll situations. The early-season mistake, they say, was to load him down in the low post and wait for double teams to arrive, which bogged their entire half-court offense.
Mark me down as believing they were smart to sign Brand, because I've never thought of him as a traditional low-post power forward. The Sixers already have one of the league's fastest centers in Samuel Dalembert, so they can accept Brand trailing on the break. When they go half-court, it's entirely possible they can realize helpful production from Brand by turning him into a scorer on the move, provided he has recovered from his injuries of the last two years
2. Jameer Nelson likely out for the season (shoulder). "From what I've heard about his medical condition - and he'll take some time and get some other opinions -- I do not expect him back [this season],'' Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy told me Thursday. "And in our planning, we do not expect him back.''
This is a big loss to the league, as Nelson's All-Star improvement had raised the Magic into contention. The Eastern playoffs will be far less interesting without him. Though the Magic have traded Keith Bogans to acquire Tyronn Lue as a second point guard to join Anthony Johnson, Van Gundy will spend the rest of the season devising new ways to score.
"I think that it will involve a real change for us offensively because we really try to run a lot of early pick-and-rolls for Jameer to attack the basket quickly,'' Van Gundy said. "Anthony Johnson is a different type of player, so that involves a change in the way we've played for a year and half. Maybe we'll develop some different ways to play offensively, and that will give us some more versatility whenever it is we get him back.''
1. Andrew Bynum out for two to three months (knee). The Lakers showed in their 110-109 OT victory at Boston on Thursday that they're not going to surrender the hopes they'd developed during Bynum's half-season of improvement. At times he had overtaken Pau Gasol as their No. 2 scoring option while clogging the paint defensively, but in stopping another Celtics winning streak, the Lakers demonstrated that they'll find other ways to win until he comes back. After all, the same roster made it to the Finals last year while Bynum was out.
2 More names for the draft
2. Brandon Jennings, 19-year-old point guard of Lottomatica Roma (Italy). No one on my draft panel named the 6-2 Jennings as a top five pick. Jennings, who skipped college to play overseas, is averaging 7.3 points and 1.2 assists in 18.2 Euroleague minutes. A couple of GMs admit they needed to do further investigation of Jennings before reaching a conclusion.
"I'm not a big fan,'' another GM said. "He's a talented kid, but he's a showman. More show than substance. He doesn't shoot it real well. He passes it OK but he turns it over a lot.''
1. Wake Forest sophomore point guard Jeff Teague. Two personnel men mentioned the 6-2 Teague as a riser in the draft and a potential star.
"He has played terrific basketball this year,'' one executive said. "He's a very interesting kid, explosive.''
Said another executive: "He's got unbelievable quickness and the ability to score over bigger people. He's got long arms, unbelievable body control and a soft touch. He's a pretty good athlete -- not a great athlete, but he's going to be able to break players down, he has that innate ability. He's a scoring point guard. Teague has a chance to be a star.''
1 Thing less important than sports
1. Video games. Last weekend my daughter competed in a middle school "quiz bowl,'' a team contest in which students answered questions on a variety of subjects. A few of the questions dealt with sports, including: Which team has won the most NBA championships?
One kid raised his hand and answered, "The Chicago Bulls.'' In another classroom came the answer, "The New York Yankees.'' This was received with some incredulity as the contest took place in the suburbs of Boston, where the Celtics last June won their NBA-record 17th title.
I've got to say that I view it as a healthy sign when kids know little or nothing about sports. Not that there is anything wrong with remembering that Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games or that Joe Montana won four Super Bowls, but if a kid is going to have a blind spot in his education, let it be in his or her knowledge of sports, rather than in school subjects or the more important current events.
What surprised me about this contest was that every fifth question seemed to have something to do with video games. Which character is not in Nintendo was one multiple choice query from which the contestants could choose Mario, Luigi, Bowser or Spiro. (I am told the answer is Spiro.)
I learned the name of Princess Zelda's alter ego (Sheik), and that Sonic is a hedgehog capable of running faster than the speed of sound.