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What impeachment? Wizards the Washington mess
Posted: Tuesday March 09, 1999 04:52 PM
Click here to send a question to Phil Taylor's NBA Mailbag.
There have been a lot of changes in the NBA this season -- who ever thought the day would come when you'd rather watch the Sacramento Kings than the Chicago Bulls? -- but at least one thing remains the same. The Washington Wizards are still the most talented mediocre team in the league. The Wizards thought trading Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond would fix things, but it turns out that maybe Webber wasn't the problem. He's playing like an MVP candidate in Sack Town, while the Wizards are still making their fans crazy. Take point guard Rod Strickland . He holds out for more money and more years on his contract, which the Wizards are leery about giving him because he's 32, injury-prone and notoriously bad about taking care of his body. Strickland's agent, David Falk , says that was the old Rod. The new Rod is a changed man. Strickland finally signs, and he immediately admits that the "new Rod" stuff was a bunch of nonsense. Then he goes out and proves it last week with a pulled groin muscle that has him on the sidelines again. Bernie Bickerstaff questions his players' toughness, his players question his strategy, everybody, including Bickerstaff, is making mental errors, and someone named Randell Jackson is complaining about playing time. Poor Richmond. He must be longing for the good old days in Sacramento. The Wiz will probably scramble at the end to just make or just miss the playoffs. Either way, there probably won't be a team in the league that gets less out of its talent.
And now, we reach into the mailbag:
Can you put Dave Cowens' resignation in perspective? Was it a losing
situation from the start? Was it the team? Was it him? Will he land on his feet,
or is Cowens' coaching career over?
Cowens will definitely be a head coach again in the NBA. I think his decision to resign earned him even more respect around the league. The Charlotte owner, George Shinn , has made such a mess of things and showed so little regard for his players and coaching staff that I think Cowens is to be commended for refusing to be associated with Shinn any longer, even though it means he forfeits the rest of his $625,000 salary. Hornets fans can only hope that Shinn sells the team before he turns them into the Clippers. He obviously doesn't want to pay the market rate to keep his top players, or his coaches, for that matter, and no coach is going to win in Charlotte as long as that's the case. As for Cowens, people aren't going to forget that he won 54 and 51 games the last two seasons and that he lost Glen Rice and Anthony Mason to injuries this year. He'll be a coach in this league long after Shinn is gone.
To what do you credit the Trail Blazers' fast
I think depth has been one of the keys for the Blazers. They're at least two deep at every position, with several guys who are versatile enough to play different spots. Having Damon Stoudamire at the point for the entire season also helps, since I don't think Stoudamire ever really got comfortable with the team when he came over from Toronto at midseason last year. And don't forget about Brian Grant . I think he's one of the most underrated players in the league, and he's turning into one of the top rebounders in the NBA. If Mike Dunleavy can keep everybody satisfied with their playing time -- and that's a big "if" -- the Blazers will continue to surprise people. But this is a team that's been an underachiever in the playoffs for a long time. They have a lot more proving to do before I'd put my money on them over the Lakers or Jazz in a seven-game series.
Do you think Portland would be open to trading one of their talented power
forwards? If so, which one do you think they would part with: Brian Grant or
If they were going to trade one of their forwards, I think it would be Wallace because he'd bring more in return, but I don't see that kind of deal happening this season. Things are going so well for the Blazers right now that I think they'd be hesitant to break up this group, and it's not like there are a lot of glaring holes they need to fill. Like a lot of teams, they would like to have a consistent outside shooter.
Do you think Iverson would have been a nice selection for the Olympic
basketball team? He is the best guard out there other than Gary
If the selections were based on talent alone, there's no question that Iverson would have been on the team. But let's face it, the selection committee takes image and off-the-court behavior into account, and Iverson doesn't measure up very well in those areas. Is that fair? I think it is. Players can behave however they choose, but they have to live with the consequences of their choices. Iverson has made some bad choices, both in the things he's done and the people he has hung out with, and the consequence is that he's probably not going to have the privilege of playing in the Olympics next year. Having spent some time with him for a story in SI this week, I think he realizes all this. He very much wants to play in the Olympics, and although I don't think there's much chance he'll be picked this time around, he's a lock for 2004, if he stays out of trouble, and I really think he will.
Do you have any picks for the NCAA Final
I'll save my big upset for last. In the South, I just don't believe in Auburn. I think Ohio State will knock them off in the Sweet 16, if Syracuse doesn't get them in the second round first. My Cinderella in the West is Gonzaga. They're playing close to home in Seattle, and that could get them over the hump against a so-so Minnesota team. I think they'll scare Stanford (my personal favorite, since I went to school there) in the second round, but the Cardinal's experience should be enough to survive. Still, Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 wouldn't shock me. Also, I'll take Penn over Florida in the first round. The Quakers have a guard named Michael Jordan, and everyone knows you don't pick against an MJ in the postseason. I don't see any major surprises in the East, where Duke is just too good. In the Midwest, something tells me Arizona. The Wildcats tend to do better in the tourney when not much is expected of them, and this is one of those years. Their point guard, Jason Terry, is the kind of player who can carry a team if he gets rolling. If it's not 'Zona, it will be the other Wildcats, Kentucky. So my Final Four is: Maryland, Connecticut, Duke and Arizona , with -- and here's where I probably blow my office pool -- UConn to surprise the Dookies and take the whole thing.
So far, the Knicks look like a better team without Latrell Sprewell. Did they
acquire him just to keep Indiana from getting
The Knicks got Spree for two reasons. One, Jeff Van Gundy really wanted him. He thought the Knicks needed to get more athletic to compete with teams like Indiana, and I think he's right. And two, New York didn't want to see Sprewell end up in Miami or Indiana, for obvious reasons. Even though they've played better without Sprewell so far, I think Spree will end up being a very important player for the Knicks. His injury might have been a blessing in disguise, because now Van Gundy can work him in gradually as he gets back in game condition. He could wind up being the best sixth man in the league. In the playoffs, when matchups mean so much, Sprewell could be even more valuable. He gives the Knicks someone who can guard Reggie Miller and maybe even Tim Hardaway . So don't be fooled by the early results. The Knicks will be better with Spree than they would have been without him.
Click here to send a question to Phil Taylor's NBA Mailbag.
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