While Whitsitt admits Kemp "might be our fourth-best big guy," he bristles at suggestions that the Blazers are netting a small return from such a large investment. Though Portland is the league's 19th-largest market, its revenue reportedly ranks among the top five teams. "People focus on our payroll, but I haven't read one article on revenues," Whitsitt says. "The Rose Garden is sold out We have the highest local TV ratings in the NBA, and we're having a record year for sponsorships. There are teams with high payrolls that are not making the playoffs—New Jersey, Washington. People talk about us paying the luxury tax, but a lot of bad teams can't even make a deal because they're over the cap."
Knicks' Record-Setting D
The Coach Was Not Impressed
Coach Jeff Van Gundy didn't want to give his team too much credit for breaking a 46-year-old NBA mark last week when the Knicks held the opposition under 100 points for the 29th consecutive game—especially since New York went the final 3:19 of that game without scoring and lost 76-75 to the Rockets. "We should move [the threshold] down to 90," Van Gundy said. "It was different in the '80s, when scoring was high-But now it's only when you hold someone under 90 that you're doing a good job."
By any standard New York is strangling opponents defensively. By limiting teams to 83.5 points per game through Sunday—including a 91-78 win over the Trail Blazers last Saturday—the Knicks were permitting 10.3 points less than the league average. If they wind up the season with that differential, it would be only the eighth time that a team has reached double figures in that department. The only defenses to have accomplished it: the Cavaliers (four times) and the Knicks (three).
Outside the Box Score
Pacers Capitalize On Riled Reggie
When Reggie Miller was hit with a technical foul for complaining from the bench with 7:40 left in Indiana's Jan. 8 game against the Clippers, coach Isiah Thomas rushed him back into the game. "I've learned that Reggie needs to find artificial things to get him going," said Thomas, whose Pacers were trailing 71-65 in Los Angeles when Miller checked in. "If the crowd's not going at him or he can't get mad at the other player, he uses the referees to get mad and get himself going."
Miller responded immediately. He passed to Austin Croshere for a three-pointer, drew a foul on the next play and made the only shot he took the rest of the way—a 20-footer that helped the Pacers recover for an 85-82 win.