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AROUND THE RIM
He may lead the league in three-pointers attempted (503 through Sunday) and made (185), but Suns swingman Quentin Richardson doesn't want to be known as just a sniper. "It's something I do because nine times out of 10 I'm relegated to standing outside, and I don't complain because that's our best look," he says. "But my favorite thing is posting up. You can ask our coaches: Every game I'm telling them, 'Look, I got such and such guarding me! Post me up!'" ... Though Shaquille O'Neal is on pace to play 2,627 minutes--a four-year high--Heat coach Stan Van Gundy is far more interested in trying to earn the No. 1 overall seed than in resting his star for the postseason. "The difference between a guy playing 36 minutes and 32 minutes? It's almost ludicrous to say that's going to save a guy in the playoffs," says Van Gundy, whose team had the league's third-best record (48--16) at week's end.... George Karl has made a positive impact as Nuggets coach, starting 15--5, but note that G.M. Kiki Vandeweghe hired him at the perfect time: Only two of Karl's first 18 games were against teams with winning records.
WHO IS ... ROBERT SWIFT?
Convinced that the skinny 7-footer from Bakersfield High had the embryonic passing and shot-blocking skills to blossom into a traditional NBA pivot, the Sonics took Swift with the 12th pick last June and entrusted him to a private tutor: assistant coach Jack Sikma, the center of their 1979 championship team. Though Swift, 19, had scored only four points in 43 minutes through Sunday, Seattle expects him to contribute next season and become a starter while Luke Ridnour, Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic are in their primes. Says Swift, who has grown significantly stronger after daily weight-room sessions, "Instead of going to college and learning half of what I'm learning now, I decided to come to the NBA and learn it all."
3. Brad Miller's broken left leg is final proof that the Kings aren't championship contenders this year, but count on them making a title run next season--largely because Peja Stojakovic will be playing for a new contract.
2. This summer some smart team is going to try to hire Maurizio Gherardini, the 49-year-old G.M. of the Italian power Benetton Treviso. Europe's finest basketball mind could have a huge impact as an NBA executive.