AROUND THE RIM
Ron Artest has been hogging the spotlight for the Pacers, who had the NBA's second best record (28-11) at week's end, but give some kudos to point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who returned to the starting lineup on Dec. 30 and led Indiana to a seven-game winning streak that ended last Saturday in San Antonio. Tinsley has picked up the tempo on offense and created easier shots for teammates....
Court dates for Kobe Bryant's trial in Colorado may force him to miss the Lakers' Feb. 2 game at Indiana, the March 2 game at Atlanta and the March 24 game in L.A. against Sacramento. "Just as long as it's not a playoff game," says coach Phil Jackson....
While still bothered by his right big toe despite surgery to remove bone spurs in September 2002, Shaquille O'Neal is working with specialist Alex McKechnie to adjust his gait in hopes of alleviating his current calf strain and avoiding a recurrence of the knee problems that hampered O'Neal during the playoffs last year....
Phoenix owner Jerry Colangelo denies that the Suns are on the block, despite his cap-clearing trade of Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway to the Knicks. The Suns lost $7 million last year, but Colangelo says the trade will produce a $13 million savings that will almost get the team back in the black this year. "Starting next season we will be profitable again," says Colangelo, "which takes the pressure off."
...From journeyman Anthony Goldwire, who joined his fifth NBA team when he signed with Minnesota on Jan. 9: "I just take things one 10-day at a time."
On the Detroit Pistons, who were 24-13 at week's end under new coach Larry Brown, three games behind the Indiana Pacers, who are led by Detroit's former coach, Rick Carlisle:
"I'm not convinced the Pistons' record would be any different if Carlisle were still coaching. They might be a little more disciplined offensively, but the defense would be just as good either way. The fundamental problem is that they don't have a true scorer in the block other than Elden Campbell, who Larry can't stomach because he's such a lazy defender, and Corliss Williamson. I'm convinced that Number 2 draft pick Darko Milicic will eventually become that inside scorer, because he has good hands and instincts and he's very quick getting the ball from the floor to the rim, but right now he's an 18-year-old who has no understanding of how hard you have to play in this league. Of course there's been some grumbling in Detroit—that goes with the up-and-down nature of a perimeter-based team—but in the end the Pistons are going to contend in the East because they have good players, a good organization and a good coach, just like last year.