Though he helped the Lakers win a title, Rice's reputation took a beating in L.A. If he wants to prove he is a player who will sacrifice his personal stats for the good of the team, he has found the perfect home in New York. Barring another trade, the Knicks' hopes depend upon Rice's ability to excel in a limited role while sharing the ball with the Knicks' top two offensive players, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. So far, Rice is doing his part; he didn't balk at starting the season on the bench. "I've asked him to emphasize defense and rebounding, and he's trying very, very hard," Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy says.
Responds Rice, "I've told Jeff I'm so happy to be here. After what I went through last year, New York is a relief."
Vancouver's Fast Start
Big Forward Steps Forward
While the fast starts of the Cavaliers and the 76ers turned a lot of heads, the most surprising team of the early season had to be the Grizzlies. On Nov. 8 in Dallas they went on a 25-3 second-half run to overwhelm the Mavericks 101-74, a win that pushed their record to 4-1. That's the best start after five games for Vancouver in its five seasons, during which the team has never won more than 22 games. "I certainly wouldn't have predicted this," says new coach Sidney Lowe, a Mike Fratello disciple who preaches team defense and unselfish play. "We just have to stay together."
Toward that end the Grizzlies hope they can change Othella Harrington's mind about playing in Vancouver. Since being traded from Houston in August 1999 as part of the 12-player deal that sent Steve Francis to the Rockets, Harrington—like Francis before him—has been adamant in his demand to be dealt. The 26-year-old power forward doesn't care for the dreary Vancouver winters or for the high Canadian taxes.
Unlike Francis, Harrington has little leverage to force a trade, and it's not in his nature to use it anyway. During his three years in Houston, which acquired him with the 30th pick of the 1996 draft, Harrington earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working players the Rockets had ever had. In previous years the Grizzlies might have been willing to unload Harrington, but new owner Michael Heisley is eager to improve the franchise, and the 6'9", 235-pound Harrington—who was averaging 13.3 points and 7.1 rebounds at week's end—has been a major factor in the team's strong start. Harrington's solid play has also allowed the Grizzlies to bring Stromile Swift, their top pick this year, along slowly while providing him with an example of hard work. "I haven't heard any griping," Lowe says of Harrington. "He's a joy to coach."
Harrington has noticed changes for the better in the franchise. "If we keep playing like we're playing, I don't see why we can't become playoff contenders," he says. Is his trade demand set in concrete? "I'm not saying it is, and I'm not saying it isn't," Harrington says. "As the saying goes, winning cures all ills."