With the draft looming, teams eye missing pieces
Updated: Monday June 25, 2001 12:37 AM
Three years after his "retirement," Michael Jordan can still fill it up -- a mailbag, that is. This week's sack was full of questions about the Wizards president, ranging from how those two cracked ribs he suffered in a pickup game might affect his comeback to what he might do with the No. 1 overall pick in Wednesday's draft.
It's as if old No. 23 has the ball in his hands one more time, and everybody is holding their breath to see what he's going to do. Regarding MJ's comeback, all indications are that he still intends to play next season. While those two broken ribs might suggest he's becoming brittle in his old age, Jordan insists he hasn't suddenly turned into that that Samuel L. Jackson character in "Unbreakable". He says he intends to continue his workouts as soon as he's cleared by doctors.
Jordan's draft strategy is less clear. Sources say the Wizards are shopping the No. 1 pick for a proven player and a lower lottery pick. One possible deal has the Grizzlies sending point guard Mike Bibby and the No. 6 pick to Washington for the top choice and Richard Hamilton. The theory is that the Grizzlies want to create a buzz in their new Memphis home, while Jordan wants to get a player who can help immediately along with a future talent.
Don't be surprised if Jordan pulls off this trade or some other last-second swap. After all, he's always been good with the clock running out.
Now onto the rest of the `bag:
The Lakers won the NBA title at First Union Center in Philadelphia. How come they were not accorded the respect due of champions and given their trophy at center court? What kind of sportsmanship is that? Perhaps in the future if the Sixers were to win a championship in another city's court they would not mind accepting their trophy out on the parking lot. --Tony Serbian, Calgary
The decision to give the Lakers the trophy off court was made by the NBA, not the Sixers. Apparently the league feared that fans in the City of Brotherly Love might not react too kindly to Shaq and Kobe toting the bling-bling on their home floor. Given the bloody fistfight I witnessed in the stands after Game 3, and the boos that rained down on halftime acts Destiny's Child and Sugar Ray, I would say David Stern & Co. made a good call. After all, visiting teams don't call it the F.U. Center for nothing.
I've heard that the Bulls have been offered Portland's Bonzi Wells for the fourth pick in the draft. I've also heard they've been offered the Timberwolves' Wally Szczerbiak for center Brad Miller and change. Are these deals for real and if so, what do you think may happen? --Vasco Curado, Linda-a-Velha, Portugal
If those deals were for real, Vasco, Bulls GM Jerry Krause would dance the lambada naked down State Street. There is simply no way the Blazers would give up Wells, a rising young star and the team's only slasher, for a draft choice alone. Chicago would probably have to throw in Jamal Crawford, season tickets at Wrigley and a deep dish pizza just to get Portland to consider it. As for your other deal, it's no secret that Krause has been trying to pry Szczerbiak from the T'Wolves for some time. Miller and "change" probably won't get it done, but a package of Marcus Fizer and Ron Artest might. If the Bulls could pull of this deal, then throw some money at free agent Tim Hardaway, they could have a starting lineup next season of Hardaway and Ron Mercer in the backcourt, Szczerbiak and Elton Brand at the forwards, and Miller in the middle. They wouldn't be a playoff team, but they would be much improved.
What do you think are Philly's chances of picking up Rasheed Wallace in the offseason? Portland is clearly sick of his antics, their salary cap situation is disastrous, and Philly has players to give-Matt Geiger, Eric Snow, George Lynch and Tyrone Hill. I think they're all expendable, and I think Portland may be willing to take less talent to get him out. Also, rumor has it that Aaron McKie can keep Rasheed in check, and being back in Philly can't hurt either. --Jonathan, New York City
Mt. Rasheed and the Answer in the same locker room? Somebody get Larry Brown a Maalox. Actually, Jonathan, the idea of Wallace returning to his Philly roots isn't all that far-fetched. If the Blazers could somehow land another big-time scorer, like Gary Payton, then they might be tempted to move `Sheed and his Vesuvian temperament. Philadelphia would be a logical home for Wallace, but only if the Sixers were willing to give up Dikembe Mutombo. The Blazers are not going to deal Wallace for a bunch of role players, but they might for a center who can give them a fighting chance against Shaq. On the other side, Philadelphia would have to give serious thought to such a deal, given Mutombo's age and the lack of dominating centers in the East. Still, the bottom line is that the Blazers wouldn't move Wallace until they found somebody else to put the ball in the basket.
Do all the players who played for the Lakers during the season -- including Isaiah Rider, Mike Penberthy, Slava Medvedenko -- get championship rings? Or does the jewelry only go to the 12 guys on the playoff roster? --Shiran Samarawickrama, Colombo, Sri Lanka
The Lakers will give championship rings to all their players, whether they were on the playoff roster or not. That means Rider, Penberthy and Medvedenko each gets a ring. Then again, so do some folks in the mailroom and the accounting department. According to PR director John Black, owner Jerry Buss gave out rings last year to every full-time Lakers employee, roughly 100 in all.
What team you think would benefit the most from the new rule changes, and why? Personally, I like the Bucks. What do you think? --Clinton Covington, Savannah, Ga.
It's still too early to know what kind of impact the new rules are going to have, Clinton. Until we see it in summer leagues and in the preseason, it's going to be a guessing game. However, most GMs and coaches say it will benefit teams with good outside shooters and teams that don't have great man-to-man defenders. If that's true, then the Bucks would seem to be at the top of the list of teams that will benefit. The Mavericks and the Kings are two other clubs that also should adapt well. Meanwhile, the Lakers might find it harder to go inside to Shaq if he's sandwiched by defenders, the Jazz might find it harder to pick-and-roll foes into submission and the Heat might need to find somebody who can make an outside jump shot.
Showtime was the Laker nickname during the 1980's. The Lake Show was it for the 90's. But what is the generally accepted Laker nickname for this decade? --Richard Jimenez, Whittier, Calif.
Good question, Richard. How about the Purple Reign? Or the Shaq Attaq? Maybe we should leave it up to the readers. Send in your suggestions, and we'll list the best ones in a future mailbag. Who knows? You might even be able to trademark it, like Pat Riley's "Three-peat."
Marty Burns covers pro basketball for CNNSI.com. Click here to send Marty a question or comment.