The top player in the Euroleague is former Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis, who at 39 is averaging 15.5 points and 12.0 rebounds in 29.2 minutes for the Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas (4-3), of which he's the majority owner. Yet in an interview with Euroleague.net, Sabonis admitted that he prefers the NBA to Europe. 'The NBA is much more tolerant and protective," he said. "Nobody will force you to play even if you have a minor injury. They will wait patiently until you recover completely." Still, his homecoming has been so invigorating that Sabonis says he may play one more season.
AROUND THE RIM
Rumor had it that Celtics coach Jim O'Brien was on the hot seat last month—and that G.M. Danny Ainge would take his place—but that rings false when Ainge explains why he acquired 24-year-old Ricky Davis from Cleveland. "I have a good coach who can teach him to play," says Ainge, who is gambling that O'Brien's disciplined approach will turn Davis into a steal....
Contrary to rumors, the Cavaliers are not seeking to move Zydrunas Ilgauskas. G.M. Jim Paxson wants to see how the East's best center fits in now that Davis is gone....
Stephon Marbury is the only point guard in the West averaging more points and more assists than Sam Cassell, who at week's end had helped lead the Timberwolves to the conference's fourth-best record with career highs in scoring (20.5) and shooting percentage (50.7). "It would be well-deserved," says the 34-year-old Cassell of the possibility of playing in his first All-Star Game. "But I'm going with Kevin Gannett anyway. If I'm going to be on the court or be in the stands, I'm going with Kevin."
On the Mavericks, who at week's end were 18-13, eight wins behind last year's pace: "It's like they're playing with five guards. Antoine Walker and Dirk Nowitzki are too much alike: They both play 20 feet from the basket and like to pound the ball. While Walker will drive or post up, Nowitzki has been settling for jump shots, and that's not a good thing for your most talented player to be doing. They have to get you to play their style—open court, up-tempo—but they don't play good enough defense to force the pace. They could still turn it around because they have a lot of talent, but more than ever they need someone like Brad Miller who can be a force around the basket at both ends of the court."
3. Congratulations to the Bulls for not offering contract extensions to third-year big men Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry, who after next season will be restricted free agents (giving Chicago the right to match any offer). This move sends a signal that the team will force its players to earn their megadeals.
2. Three reasons why the Pacers won't deal the temperamental Ron Attest this season: He's a base-year player, so Indiana can take in return only a player who makes half of Artest's $5.5 million salary; despite his recent clash with coach Rick Carlisle, Artest's behavior hasn't been as incendiary as last year; and he's an All-Star-caliber forward who, with Jermaine O'Neal, might take the team to the Finals.
1. If the Jazz finishes anywhere near .500 and Jerry Sloan is not recognized as the NBA's Coach of the Year, then the award is a joke. Sloan has done what many around the league consider impossible—succeed with inferior talent by persuading his players to play as a team.