One high-scoring guard was sent packing and another, younger one arrived, but the heart of the team—stultifying defense—hasn't changed
Ben Wallace is the first Piston since Bob Lanier in 1974-75 to finish in the top 10 in both rebounding and shot blocking.
"They traded Jerry Stackhouse because he was going to demand maximum money, and they feel—as I do—that he's not a max player. If you forget about the contract issue, it was a lopsided trade. You...
[Tough D]CURRY[Tough D]ROBINSON[Tough D]WALLACE[Tough D]BILLUPS[No D]HAMILTON
There's a new, tough-minded running mate in the nation's capital, and he's eager to soften up foes so that His Airness can swoop in for the kill
Michael Jordan has more fellow Tar Heels as teammates this year (Brendan Haywood, Jerry Stackhouse) than he did in his Bulls career.
"They're better with Michael Jordan coming off the bench. At his age it's better for him to play against second-line players or first-line players who are a little winded. Plus, he'll be a big...
[Fair D]OAKLEY[No D]STACKHOUSE[Fair D]HAYWOOD[Fair D]JORDAN[No D]HUGHES
With Glenn Robinson gone, Tim Thomas has a chance to prove that he's worth his big contract—and that he can fetch more wins than Big Dog
Three Bucks—Ray Allen, Michael Redd and Tim Thomas—share the NBA record for most three-pointers made in one half (eight).
"Glenn Robinson was a proven 20-point scorer, and you don't find a lot of them. He wasn't as bad a defender as he's been made out to be, and he was a tough player who was willing to take the shot...
[No D]THOMAS[Fair D]JOHNSON[Fair D]MASON[Fair D]CASSELL[Fair D]ALLEN
A questionable trade for an underachieving big man puts more pressure on a franchise that would love to reach the Eastern finals a second straight year
Last season Paul Pierce (210) and Antoine Walker (222) became the first teammates to each hit more than 200 three-pointers.
"They are going to be weaker. Kenny Anderson gave his best performance in four or five years, and he's gone. His backup, Erick Strickland, is gone, sixth man Rodney Rogers is gone, and I have...
[No D]E. WILLIAMS[Fair D]BAKER[Fair D]WALKER[Tough D]DELK[No D]PIERCE
In trading for sharpshooter Keith Van Horn, the team gets a much-needed second scorer—at the expense of some of its vaunted grit
For the third straight year Allen Iverson's average (31.4 points) more than doubled that of the Sixers' No. 2 scorer (Derrick Coleman's 15.1).
"When I think of the team that went to the Finals two years ago, I think of a club that was tough defensively and that mentally beat you down. I just don't see them having that kind of energy...
[No D]COLEMAN[No D]VAN HORN[Fair D]IVERSON[Fair D]MACCULLOCH[Tough D]SNOW
With a new forward and a healthy center, the front line is packed with promise—but not enough to make good on the guarantee of a playoff berth
In two seasons Lon Kruger has failed to make the playoffs. No Hawks coach has gone three years and not reached the postseason.
"They're going to make a run at the playoffs, even though the backcourt is thin and highly questionable. They want Jason Terry to play the point, but it's complicated: They need his scoring,...
[Fair D]ABDUR-RAHIM[Tough D]RATLIFF[No D]ROBINSON[Tough D]NEWBLE[No D]TERRY
Thinner in the wallet but still hefty in the waistline, Shawn Kemp seems ill-equipped to carry this center-starved franchise
Since Grant Hill signed with Orlando, the Magic's record in the regular season is 8-10 (.444) with him in the lineup and 79-67 (.541) without.
"This is a feast-or-famine team. If Orlando can keep Grant Hill healthy and Darrell Armstrong fresh, then it could really make a move, because how many teams have the talent of Hill, Armstrong and...
[No D]GARRITY[Tough D]GRANT[Tough D]HILL[Tough D]MCGRADY[Fair D]VAUGHN
When Vince Carter went down last season, Toronto's fortunes went up. Now he's healthy—and he'll take the fall if this team fails
Before the '01-02 Raptors, only the 1976-77 Bulls and the '96-97 Suns had made the playoffs after losing 12 or more games in a row.
"Vince Carter doesn't have to score 30 to prove that he's back, because everyone knows he can do that. What's going to define Carter in a positive way is if he works to play defense and deny every...
[Fair D]PETERSON[Fair D]MONTROSS[Fair D]DAVIS[Tough D]WILLIAMS[No D]CARTER
How the mighty have fallen: Pat Riley is forced to turn to a rookie—Caron Butler of UConn—to lead his team
Top pick Caron Butler needs to rack up more than 13.4 points per game to become coach Pat Riley's most prolific rookie scorer.
"Opponents should be able to win most of their matchups against these guys, who are going to have more trouble scoring than ever. I wouldn't be surprised if they have a game in the 50s....
[Fair D]ELLIS[Fair D]C. BUTLER[Fair D]BEST[Tough D]JONES[Tough D]GRANT
Youth will be served in the Windy City, where a rookie takes charge of a club on which half the players are under 24
Marcus Fizer's 427 boards were the lowest team-leading total since rebounds became an official statistic in 1950-51.
"They've got three young, talented guys, which means they should be good someday. But not now. They brought Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Jay Williams and Trenton Hassell to the Utah summer league,...
[No D]CURRY[Fair D]ROSE[No D]CHANDLER[No D]WILLIAMS[No D]HASSELL
With the addition of Antonio McDyess, the season looked shaky at best; with his loss, it looms as a disaster
Last season Allan Houston (20.4 points per game) became the first Knicks guard to average 20 since Ray Williams (20.9) in 1979-80.
"The only thing keeping the Knicks from being the worst team in the East is their experience. The starters are all veterans, and Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Kurt Thomas are capable of...
[No D]WEATHERSPOON[Tough D]SPREWELL[Tough D]THOMAS[No D]HOUSTON[Fair D]WARD
An off-season makeover brought in a potential breakout player, but playoff contention remains Miles away
The Cavaliers haven't deployed the same opening day lineup for two consecutive seasons since 1977-78 and '78-79.
They have big trouble at point guard. I don't love Andre Miller as much as some people do, but he's one of the best. You pair him with Zydrunas Ilgauskas and you've got a strong combination that...
[Fair D]MILES[Fair D]ILGAUSKAS[Tough D]HILL[Tough D]PALACIO I[No D]DAWIS I
They've done fine without Chris Webber, and they can make do without Mike Bibby—at least until they get another shot at the world champs
The Kings were one of two teams with a winning record (18-17) last season when allowing 100 or more points. (Dallas was 26-20.)
"Their fourth-quarter collapse against the Lakers won't affect them until they're in the same situation again next spring. If Peja Stojakovic had been healthy, he might have put them over the top....
[Fair D]STOJAKOVIC[Fair D]DIVAC[Fair D]WEBBER[Tough D]CHRISTIE[No D]BIBBY
Even after Shaquille O'Neal returns from an injury, the champs will rely on the leadership of the increasingly Michael-like Kobe Bryant
The Lakers have been led in scoring by Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O'Neal in 240 of their last 244 regular and postseason games.
"It's about time Phil Jackson got credit for being one of the alltime great coaches. Defensively, the Lakers last season held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage and three-point...
[No D]WALKER[Tough D]BRYANT[Tough D]FISHER[Tough D]O'NEAL[Fair D]FOX
There's not a lot more that a franchise can ask of reigning MVP Tim Duncan—although his coach still sees room for improvement in one crucial area
In his 835 NBA games guard Steve Kerr has yet to foul out. Only Wilt Chamberlain went more games without being disqualified (1,045).
"The Spurs shot about 45 percent in the fourth quarter during the regular season, but it was close to 33 percent in their second-round playoff series against the Lakers. They didn't have guys who...
[Tough D]DUNCAN[Tough D]BOWEN[Fair D]PARKER[No D]SMITH[Tough D]ROBINSON
For all the fun in run-and-gun, the Mavs learned that there's no substitute for strong defense. Can these guys get serious about clamping down?
In 2001-02 the Mavericks set a record for fewest turnovers; average of 12.1 lowered the '96-97 Pistons' mark of 12.7.
"I see them improving just because Dirk Nowitzki keeps getting better. You can't stop him—he can score inside and out—so you just ask your defender to be physical with him and not give him any...
[Fair D]BRADLEY[Fair D]LAFRENTZ[Fair D]FINLEY[Tough D]NASH[No D]NOWITZKI
October 28, 2002
Physical EducationAmerica's Best Sports Colleges (Oct. 7) is interesting and insightful. However, I disagree with your basis for giving the nod to Texas over Stanford. To me it is obvious that the...
October 28, 2002
One of the game's deepest benches got deeper, but with no leading man to complement a talented supporting cast, the result could be deep trouble
Scottie Pippen is 26 steals behind ex-Blazers star Clyde Drexler (fourth alltime) and 129 behind his coach, Maurice Cheeks (third).
"If character wasn't an issue, I'd put their talent right up there with the Lakers. In any case they ought to be in that second tier with San Antonio and Dallas....
[Tough D]WALLACE[Tough D]PIPPEN[Tough D]DAVIS[Fair D]WELLS[No D]STOUDAMIRE
For a leaner, hungrier Houston team, the future is Yao, with a new offensive system designed to take advantage of the center's lofty view of the court
The 2001-02 Rockets forced the fewest turnovers per game (12.0) since the league began keeping track of the stat in 1970-71.
"They're a chaotic team. They break off a lot of their plays and end up going one-on-one. That matches the style of their two stars, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley....
[No D]RICE[Fair D]TAYLOR[Fair D]YAO[Tough D]FRANCIS[Fair D]MOBLEY
While the seasoned point guard sits injured on the sideline, it will be up to his live-wire young replacement to try to keep things moving on offense
Kevin Garnett became the first player since Larry Bird in the early '80s to average 20 points, 10 boards and five assists three straight years.
"There's no doubt Kevin Garnett is an elite player, but he's hit a ceiling in terms of making his teammates better. I love his emotional leadership, but there are times when your best player must...
[Tough D]GARNETT[Fair D]NESTEROVIC[Fair D]SMITH[Fair D]HUDSON[Fair D]SZCZERBIAK
As the tandem of Karl Malone and John Stockton makes (perhaps) its last stand, the Jazz considers variations on an old theme at shooting guard
Andrei Kirilenko last season became the first Jazz player since Karl Malone in 1985-86 to make the All-Rookie first team.
"Utah was second in turnovers (16.5 per game) behind Golden State, which was a big surprise because John Stockton prides himself on protecting the ball. I saw him forcing passes he used to make...
[Fair D]COLLINS[Tough D]MALONE[No D]STEVENSON[Tough D]STOCKTON[Tough D]KIRILENKO
High-flying, hardworking Desmond Mason gets a shot at forming a dynamic backcourt with Gary Payton and perhaps becoming the team's next star
Brent Barry made more threes last season (164) than any player who has shot better than 50% from the field. (He shot 50.8%.)
"With Vin Baker gone they are going to try to clear out the middle to make room for their scorers to run cuts and pick-and-rolls. Trading Baker [to the Celtics] was necessary: There was a bad aura...
[Fair D]BOOTH[Tough D]PAYTON[Fair D]LEWIS[No D]BARRY[No D]DROBNJAK
The ever-revolving door brought in Andre Miller, another young star left to wonder: How long can this team keep it together?
Last season Elton Brand became only the fifth player to average 15 points (he had 18.2 per game) and five offensive boards (5.0).
"Owner Donald Sterling let another summer go by without locking any of his players into long-term deals. This is his one chance to have a really good team, and the fans are showing their support,...
[NO D]ODOM[Tough D]MILLER[Fair D]OLOWOKANDI[Fair D]BRAND[NO D]PIATKOWSKI
The franchise player here is new boss Jerry West, who is trying to re-create the magic (and Kareem) he possessed with the Lakers
Last season Shane Battier (3,097) and Pau Gasol (3,007) became the first rookie teammates to each log 3,000 minutes.
"It looks like Jerry West's philosophy is to accumulate as many good players as he can and then make some moves. The strength of the team is forwards Pau Gasol, Shane Battier and Drew Gooden,...
[Fair D]WRIGHT[Fair D]BATTIER[No D]GASOL[No D]WILLIAMS[Tough D]DICKERSON
Just as fate brought them together last season, Johnson and Johnson are linked in the team's drive to regain its playoff form
The 2001-02 Suns set an NBA record with just 19.9 free throws per game; Seattle's 20.4 in '01-02 was second-lowest alltime.
"I can see them moving Stephon Marbury to shooting guard and having Penny Hardaway handle the point. Marbury did a better job of trying to involve his teammates last year, but it doesn't come...
[Tough D]OUTLAW[Fair D]MARION[Fair D]JOHNSON[Fair D]TSAKALIDIS[Fair D]JOHNSON[Fair D]MARBURY
An enthusiastic rookie coach is loaded with fresh ideas. It's just that he lacks the on-court talent to execute them
The Warriors were the only team in the bottom five last year in field goal (42.9%), free throw (72.2%) and three-point (32.2%) shooting.
"If they'd had any luck in the lottery, they would have gotten the first or second pick and used it to address one of their major weaknesses—point guard and center....