?The buzz. Rookie power forward Antonio McDyess, the second pick of the draft (then traded to Denver by the Los Angeles Clippers), was impressive in the preseason. He dominated an exhibition-game matchup with Golden State Warrior rookie Joe Smith, who was picked ahead of him. "We knew he was good, but we didn't know how quickly he would become a player in this league," Golden State coach Rick Adelman said of McDyess. "Obviously it's going to be very quick."
?If troop. If forward LaPhonso Ellis recovers from two broken kneecaps that kept him out most of last season, he, McDyess and center Dikembe Mutombo could give the Nuggets one of the most formidable front lines in the league. If Jalen Rose's off-season work on his outside shot pays off, he could join the league's elite point guards. If Mutombo stops worrying about scoring more points and settles for being the best shot blocker in the league, he would be a lot better off.
?Outlook. The Nuggets have improved, but so has the rest of the conference. They'll have to fight for the last playoff spot again.
Starting all over again
?The truth hurts. Kevin McHale, Minnesota's new vice president of basketball operations, has described the Wolves (21-61 last year) as "a laughingstock" and "the worst franchise in pro sports." Sounds like he has a firm grasp of the situation.
?Too young to know. Nineteen-year-old Kevin Garnett, the 6'11" forward Minnesota drafted out of high school, named teammate Isaiah Rider as one of the players he looks up to.
?Why that's scary. Rider has been a constant source of aggravation for Minnesota. For example, he spent part of this past Labor Day weekend in jail for violating his probation for a 1994 assault conviction.
?The good stuff. Rider is a terrific offensive player when he behaves himself; Christian Laettner and Tom Gugliotta are excellent ball handlers and passers for big men; and swingman Doug West is the kind of hard worker the Wolves need.
?Outlook. Minnesota's problem isn't so much a lack of talent as it is the players' morose attitude, and McHale will use the season to decide which malcontents to weed out.