AROUND THE RIM
Although the Hornets have never drafted a player from a foreign club, new assistant G.M. Allan Bristow has made several trips to Europe this season. "Where we usually draft [in the mid-first round], taking a foreign player is a big risk," says G.M. Bob Bass. "If the talent is the same, I'd just as soon draft an American—you don't have the problems of language and other things. Or maybe I'm just a patriotic guy."
... Sebastian Telfair, a 6'1" point guard at Lincoln High in Brooklyn, is a likely lottery pick if he decides to turn pro. (He orally committed to Louisville last October.) "His speed reminds me of Allen Iverson's, and that's special," says one G.M., adding that Telfair is a far better shooter than Bucks point guard T.J. Ford, who was taken eighth last year....
In the race for the final playoff spot in the East, give the edge to the Heat: 15 of Miami's final 25 games are at home, and its starting lineup of Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones, Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant is finally healthy. At week's end the Heat was 11-4 when those five started.
On forward Keith Van Horn, who joined his fourth team in four years after being dealt last week by the Knicks to the Bucks: "The misconception about Van Horn is that he's soft. The truth is that he's overpaid [making $43.5 million through 2005-06], and he's a poor defender because he's slow and unathletic, but that doesn't make him soft, Unlike the guy he was traded for, Tim Thomas—now there's a soft player-Van Horn doesn't back down from anything. Milwaukee pushes the tempo, shares the ball and plays help defense, and all of that fits Van Horn's game. He'll be a more productive rebounder and scorer than Thomas was, which means that people may finally focus on his strengths instead of his weaknesses."
WHO IS... Brian Cardinal?
As a slow, 6'8", 245-pound forward from Purdue, Cardinal played only 184 minutes over his first three seasons with the Pistons and the Wizards. But he used that time to improve his strength, shooting and footwork, and last fall he got the Warriors' 18th and final invitation to training camp. Cardinal made the cut and, after a slew of Warriors injuries, moved from the end of the bench to the starting lineup. Now Cardinal, who earns $663,679, is the league's best bargain: At week's end he was averaging 10.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 22.9 minutes, while shooting 48.3%. "He gives us an identity as a hardworking team," says coach Eric Musselman, who rates Cardinal among the league's best at drawing charges and battling for loose balls. Says Cardinal, "The way I play can help any team."
3. Advice to Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks: Forget about moving home to coach Philadelphia next season. You have a better chance of winning in Portland than with the declining 76ers, and Blazers owner Paul Allen may insist that you honor your contract.
2. The Bulls stink partly because they're the worst-conditioned team in the league. Since being traded from the Bulls to the Raptors on Dec. 1, Lonny Baxter and Donyell Marshall have lost 19 and 10 pounds, respectively, and Jalen Rose (before suffering a broken hand) was struggling because he couldn't keep up with his new teammates.
1. To fully appreciate the potential of Nuggets rookie Carmelo Anthony, watch him at the other end of the floor. After an indifferent start Anthony is playing aggressive, physical defense—further proof that this 19-year-old will be an elite player.