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Posted: Friday December 11, 2009 12:17PM; Updated: Friday December 11, 2009 2:26PM
Ian Thomsen
Ian Thomsen>INSIDE THE NBA

Weekly Countdown (cont.)

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Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans is already favored by one scout for Rookie of the Year.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

On to the rest of the Countdown ...

4 Questions rescued from the spam

I've been a Steve Nash fan since his days in Dallas with Dirk Nowitzki. His departure from Dallas, a team that I've never liked, only made me like him more. And after winning back-to-back MVPs with Phoenix, he went out and had the best year of his career ... only to watch Dirk steal the MVP because of a number of wins. That MVP theft absolutely peeved me off, and ever since then, Steve Nash has been one of the most underappreciated and underrated players in the NBA. This year is going to bring Nash's name back to the top of the MVP list where it belongs. My only question is: Will anyone come within two assists of his leading average?
-- Sean Flood, Wauwatosa, Wis.

Deron Williams and Chris Paul (averaging 10.1 and 10.2 assists, respectively), as well as Rajon Rondo (9.3), are within your margin of Nash's league-leading 11.0 assists. Maybe Nash will finish as the only player to average double-figures in that category.

Nash has been the best point guard in the league so far based on his stats, as well as with his positive impact on a team that wasn't expected to be 15-7. As far as the MVP race, you might want to look at LeBron James, who ranks fourth in scoring (28.0 points) and sixth in assists (8.2) to go with 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 steals.

How did the Clippers manage to miss out on Greg Oden? Really, though, the guy is still so young that in five years he could still be the most dominant player in the game. I just hope he's not out of the league in two.
-- Matt, New Jersey

He could still become a dominant player. But we should be realistic. Oden will have been injured for two of his first three years of the league. Terrific for him if he overcomes this start to become an All-Star, but first thing first: He needs to be healthy for an extended period of time before bearing the burden of a franchise player.

Did Rod Thorn let Lawrence Frank go now so he wouldn't be saddled with a record losing streak? And am I wrong in my opinion that Frank did really well over the years? He adapted to the players he had, and even though he didn't do great in the playoffs, his teams weren't championship material.
-- Kurt, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Frank is a very good coach. You're right that he adapted the team to Vince Carter and then to Devin Harris, creating an offense that enabled Harris to fulfill his strengths by creating off the dribble. But it was clear the franchise needed to try something new after an 0-17 start, regardless of Frank's ability. That was the main consideration.

The Nets' key players are back on the court and they appear to be playing harder for Kiki Vandeweghe, who has won two of his first three. His job is to develop the young players, especially Yi Jianlian, Courtney Lee and rookie Terrence Williams -- along with Brook Lopez and Harris -- to prepare them for a run at the playoffs next season, when the Nets will seek a major free agent as well as their high draft pick.

Since the Knicks are so bad, and are scraping for the eighth playoff seed in the East, why wouldn't they try to see what Jordan Hill can do after spending a first-round draft pick on him?
-- Jordan J., New York

He is too raw to play, and playing him too much would hurt his confidence more than help him. If a team like the Knicks can't afford to play a rookie like Hill, that means he simply isn't ready to handle big minutes.

3 Thoughts from Dirk Nowitzki

On whether Dallas feels like home after 12 years with the Mavericks:

"That's a tough question. I really love both places -- I love to go home (to Wurzburg, Germany) in the summer. My family's there and my sister moved back there with her two kids, so everytime I go back I see them. I love going back to Dallas -- to my house, to my friends, to basketball. So I really don't know yet where I'm going to end up when it's all said and done. I think I have a couple of great years left and we'll see what happens when I call it quits."

On his enduring gratitude to Steve Nash and Michael Finley for their friendship when Nowitzki arrived as a rookie in Dallas:

"I was lucky to have some good guys -- Steve and Mike -- on and off the floor. They took care of me and they showed me the ropes, and they always took me out and really made me feel warm and welcome and comfortable. Without them, it might have been a big struggle. To this day, I have great friendship with them. I went to dinner the other day with Mike when we were playing San Antonio, and, obviously, [he sees] Steve all the time. So they're my guys and they really took me under their wings early."

On Don Nelson's role in his development:

"Who knows, maybe in a different system they would have bulked me up and put me under the hoop. But Nellie gave me all the freedom in the world. Even in my rookie year he was like, 'Whenever you're open I want you to shoot the ball.' So I owe Nellie a lot, too, the way he let me do my things.

"Nellie was the perfect coach for me. It's all about mismatches, and I'll never forget my first year. My defense in the paint was ridiculous. I remember my second game in the league; I was guarding Muggsy Bogues. Nellie was like, 'Just space him!' So Muggsy would bring the ball up to the three-point line and I'm in the paint trying to zone up. I was lucky to be around Nellie, that's for sure."

That's why Nowitzki is surprised to hear of the problems Nelson has been having with the Warriors players at Golden State. "I always considered him a players' coach," Nowitzki said. "He's tough on the rookies, but I think about how he treated us and the freedom in practice. He was like, 'Hey, when you guys win, have a spa day,' so we would never practice. It's tough to see."

2 Things you might hear over a cup of coffee

An Eastern team executive on Tim Donaghy: "Tiger Woods has helped the NBA avert a major problem with Donaghy. Think about it: The Holy Grail is 60 Minutes -- prime time, Sunday evening, millions of people watching. But nobody has really focused on what Donaghy has had to say because it's all Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. I was listening to some of the clips from Donaghy and thinking, this is ugly, this guy is really trying to strangle the NBA. And I can understand it from his point of view, he's resentful and all of that. But he is gaining no traction on it. Tiger should get a Christmas card from the NBA offices."

A Western scout on Sacramento rookie point guard Tyreke Evans: "He should be the favorite for Rookie of the Year. They don't have their key player in Kevin Martin, but Evans has stepped up in a big way and kept them relevant. Defensively, he's a cut above, and offensively, he makes everybody around him better. And I'm not sure you can say either of those things quite so much about Brandon Jennings [in Milwaukee]. The biggest surprise is how well his game has transferred over to the NBA, and his feel for the game is better than what anyone could have expected."

1 Idea invented accidentally by Mark Cuban

Instead of fines, throw offenders through a table. Cuban, the Mavericks' owner, appeared to survive without major injury when he was body-slammed through a table recently at a WWE Raw event in Dallas. It got me to thinking about how passť it has to become to fine members of the NBA. Instead of demanding money from loudmouths and misbehavers, why not turn the punishment into publicity? When a coach or a player or Cuban complains too much about the officiating, throw him through a table. As always, this penalty could be tested in the D-League, with the first sentence carried out against Utah Flash owner Brandt Andersen for tricking ticket buyers into believing Michael Jordan would appear at halftime to play one-on-one against Bryon Russell. Fans would appreciate the gesture.

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