For two seasons Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis has been a reliable presence on a volatile Portland roster. But perhaps he has been counted on too heavily in recent weeks. First-year Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy had played him 30 minutes or more in 10 of the team's last 15 games through Sunday. Last week, though, Sabonis missed two games due to back spasms. Look for Dunleavy to begin monitoring the minutes of the injury-prone 33-year-old center.
Toni Kukoc always has said he'd rather be a starter than a sixth man. While Scottie Pippen was sidelined for the season's first 35 games after toe surgery, Kukoc averaged 32.3 minutes, 14.2 points, 4.7 assists and 4.3 rebounds in a starting role. But with Pippen's return, Kukoc is a reserve again, and his playing time (20.4 minutes) and production (8.0 points, 2.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds) have dropped off markedly. If Pippen and coach Phil Jackson leave Chicago at the end of the season, as expected, Kukoc, who has often been the target of Jackson's ire during his five seasons with the Bulls, could be the biggest beneficiary.
Karl Malone is suffering from ligament damage to the middle finger of his right (shooting) hand. Utah teammates report Malone experiences considerable pain when he shoots, but at week's end the injury hadn't stopped the Mailman from averaging 17.9 shots and 25.9 points a game or from shooting 52.3% from the field.