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From its network of NBA insiders--including scouts, coaches and front-office personnel--Fast Break picked up this chatter from around the league:
"At a recent Board of Governors meeting, [Blazers owner] Paul Allen told his fellow owners that even if he lowered his payroll to the salary cap of $49.5 million [it's currently $60.4 million] and sold his entire inventory of seats, he still wouldn't make money. Why? He declared bankruptcy on the Rose Garden and surrendered ownership of the best seats to another company, which is now making a profit by selling those seats." ... "The Warriors had a team meeting last week, and it didn't go well for [coach] Mike Montgomery (above right). He was told outright that the players have lost respect for him because he doesn't stand up to Baron Davis."
WHO IS ... MARQUINHOS?
Agent Michael Coyne has taken personal tutoring to new heights. Recognizing that his client Marcus Vinicius (a.k.a. Marquinhos) needed hands-on guidance to prepare for the June draft, Coyne hired former NBA assistant Bob Donewald to work with him last August--by having Donewald installed as coach of Sao Carlos, Marquinhos's team in Brazil. (It helped that Nuggets forward Nen�, until recently a Coyne client, owns a stake in the Paulista League club.)
A 6'9", 231-pound swingman, Marquinhos, 21, averaged close to 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and is the top-rated player in Brazil's top league. "I've had him playing the point at times," says Donewald. "He can handle, he can pass, he's outstanding in the open court and he can really shoot. The two knocks against him were his defense and his body, but he's been in the weight room every day getting bigger, and defensively he's not afraid to compete."
Only the Hawks have scouted Marquinhos (left), but Donewald says private workouts are scheduled for later this month in Cleveland. He has also talked with Coyne about finding another Brazilian prospect whose team he could coach. "The weather's 85 degrees," he says. "I have a maid, a cook and a driver. It's a pretty good life."
3 The lucky Eastern playoff seed is No. 6, which offers a winnable first-round series against the Nets and no meeting with Detroit until the conference finals. Imagine if the Pacers (9-5 at week's end with Peja Stojakovic in the lineup) get that spot and have Jermaine O'Neal back for the playoffs.
2 The Rockets have everything in place for a run at the postseason. Not only are Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming healthy, but Houston is also beginning its easiest stretch of the season (11 home games in March).