At 40, a superstar begins a new adventure with an uncertain role
At first glance Gary Payton and Karl Malone look out of place. They developed their games for certain spots on the floor, and the triangle offense puts them in locations where they aren't...
By scoring 30.0 points per game last season, Kobe Bryant joined Elgin Baylor and Jerry West as the only Lakers to average 30.
Record: 50-32 (5th in West)Points scored: 100.4 (4th in NBA)Points allowed: 98.0 (23rd)Coach: Phil Jackson (fifth season with Lakers)
Will adding two more big-time scorers make this a dream team?
First, they robbed Golden State of Antawn Jamison, then they not only unloaded Raef LaFrentz's bad contract to Boston but also got one of the NBA's most versatile players, Antoine Walker, in...
Despite selecting 14 players in the last six years, the Mavs were the only team to use none of its former draft picks during 2002-03.
Record: 60-22 (2nd in West)Points scored: 103.0 (1st in NBA)Points allowed: 95.2 (16th)Coach: Don Nelson (seventh season with Mavericks)
The brash new guard says he can take this team to the next level
This is the best talent they've ever had, but the season could still turn ugly if all the strong personalities clash on the court. That's where Kevin Garnett comes in: He is not only an elite...
Kevin Garnett's 68 double doubles were the most since 1992-93, when Hakeem Olajuwon had 71 for the Rockets.
Record: 51-31 (4th in West)Points scored: 98.1 (7th in NBA)Points allowed: 96.0 (18th)Coach: Flip Saunders (ninth season with Timberwolves)
For this rising young team, a journeyman banger will be pivotal
They've always been considered a soft team with finesse players, but they have an opportunity to change that image with their three young stars—Stephon Mar-bury, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion,...
Besides Oscar Robertson, Stephon Marbury is the only player to have averaged more than 20 points and eight assists for his career.
Record: 44-38 (8th in West)Points scored: 95.5 (13th in NBA)Points allowed: 94.4 (14th)Coach: Frank Johnson (third season with Suns)
A tough little coach will put this club back on the playoff track
Rudy Tomjanovich allowed his young players a lot of freedom—the same approach that won him two titles in Houston—but they didn't accept responsibility for themselves. 10 Now they have to deal with...
Guards Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley combined to play 82.7 minutes per game last season, the most by any two teammates.
Record: 43-39 (9th in West)Points scored: 93.8 (21st in NBA)Points allowed: 92.3 (8th)Coach: Jeff Van Gundy (first season with Rockets)
There may be new management, but old habits are hard to break
For the first time in years they're not especially big, they're not as deep or athletic, and they're not a lock for the playoffs. Even if everything goes right, I don't see how they can finish...
Rasheed Wallace's technical fouls dropped from 27 in 2001-02 to 11 last season, while the Blazers' fell from an NBA-high 93 to 58.
Record: 50-32 (6th in West)Points scored: 95.2 (15th in NBA)Points allowed: 92.5 (11th)Coach: Maurice Cheeks (third season with Trail Blazers)
Memo to a deep but callow team aiming to move up: Be like Mike
This is an example of how you build a franchise. The Grizzlies have a lot of young assets who will not only help them move up in the standings this year but also can be traded if Jerry West...
Jason Williams led all starters with an assists-to-turnover ratio of 3.76 to 1, a year after he ranked 25th among starters (2.43 to 1).
Record: 28-54 (12th in West)Points scored: 97.5 (8th in NBA)Points allowed: 100.7 (27th)Coach: Hubie Brown (second season with Grizzlies)
The season hasn't started and already the backup plan is in effect
In Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Brent Barry and Vladimir Radmanovic they have probably the best group of four shooters on one team in the NBA. Each is capable of hitting five three-pointers in a...
With a league-leading 201 three-point field goals, Ray Allen became the first player to make 200 or more treys three times.
Record: 40-42 (10th in West)Points scored: 92.1 (23rd in NBA)Points allowed: 92.3 (6th)Coach: Nate McMillan (fourth season with Sonics)
One volunteer is eager—and able—to pick up the scoring slack
If you're trying to build with young guys like Mike Dunleavy. Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson, why would you expose them to a potentially negative influence like Nick Van Exel? Their decision to...
The Warriors became the first team to rank last in defense for four straight years since the Nuggets(1980-81 to '83-84).
Record: 38-44 (11th in West)Points scored: 102.4 (2nd in NBA)Points allowed: 103.6 (29th)Coach: Eric Musselman (second season with Warriors)
Can feeding hungry shooters cure a point guard's Clipperitis?
Last year they had the worst collection of talent I've seen on an NBA team. They were last in turnovers and in all the shooting categories, but they pulled off upsets in 17 games by playing hard...
The Nuggets' average of 84.2 points last year was the lowest ever for a full season. (Chicago scored 81.9 per game in lockout-shortened 1998-99.)
Record: 17-65 (14th in West)Points scored: 84.2 (29th in NBA)Points allowed: 92.4 (9th)Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (second season with Nuggets)
The money is (finally) flowing, but it won't pay dividends this year
I don't want to hear about a 'new era' because Donald Sterling gave big free-agent contracts to Elton Brand and Corey Maggette. They could have spent close to $20 million more and still stayed...
Elton Brand was the NBA's top offensive rebounder the past two seasons with an average of 5.0 in 2001-02 and 4.6 last season.
Record: 27-55 (13th in West)Points scored: 93.8 (20th in NBA)Points allowed: 97.9 (22nd)Coach: Mike Dunleavy (first season with Clippers)
With a legend gone, a talent-starved team has a new point to make
Forget everything about the Stockton and Malone era. If this team wins 20 games I'll be surprised. Its only hope is to take on the personality of coach Jerry Sloan and become the NBA's...
Karl Malone's 20.6 points per game last season marked the lowest team-high scoring average in the 29-year history of the Jazz.
Record: 47-35 (7th in West)Points scored: 94.7 (17th in NBA)Points allowed: 92.3 (7th)Coach: Jerry Sloan (16th season with Jazz)
A bullish center in a finesse offense? A change for the better
Alonzo Mourning gives them a scoring option in the half-court offense, which was their big weakness in the Finals whenever the Spurs shut down the running game. His health is going to be in...
Jason Kidd led the Nets with a career-high 18.7 points per game, the first time in nine NBA seasons that he was tops on his team in scoring.
Record: 49-33 (2nd in East)Points scored: 95.4 (14th in NBA)Points allowed: 90.1 (2nd)Coach: Byron Scott (fourth season with Nets)
A scrawny swingman must pick up where he left off in the playoffs
This is a true team with depth at every position—but when all is said and done, I don't see the Pistons getting past New Jersey in the East....
By winning all eight overtime games they played, the Pistons set a season record for most victories without a defeat in OT.
Record: 50-32 (1st in East)Points scored: 91.4 (26th in NBA)Points allowed: 87.7 (1st)Coach: Larry Brown (first season with Pistons)
Will a shotgun marriage of coach and players lead to playoff bliss?
Detroit jumped to the top rungs of the East the last two years, and Indiana will do the same, because of Rick Carlisle's little-known strength: He teaches spacing as well as any coach in the...
Jermaine O'Neal was the first Pacer to average 20 points and 10 rebounds since Clark Kellogg (20.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg) did it in 1982-83.
Record: 48-34 (3rd in East)Points scored: 96.8 (10th in NBA)Points allowed: 93.3 (13th)Coach: Rick Carlisle (first season with Pacers)
A star's newly chiseled body gives the team a healthy outlook
With his poor record from his days as the scapegoat for the Bulls, Tim Floyd (49-190) is going to have to earn the respect of the veterans, who loved playing for Paul Silas. A good start is going...
For the 13th time in 14 seasons the Hornets had a better record after the All-Star break (21-11) than they did before it (26-24).
Record: 47-35 (5th in East)Points scored: 93.9 (19th in NBA)Points allowed: 91.8 (5th)Coach: Tim Floyd (first season with Hornets)
Inside help came relatively cheap, but it could be worth a lot
Their big weakness has been interior defense, and it might get worse because they no longer have Darrell Armstrong and Jacque Vaughn pressuring the ball for 48 minutes. They need that pressure to...
Tracy McGrady won his first scoring title with a 32.1 average, the highest in the league since Michael Jordan's 32.6 in 1992-93.
Record: 42-40 (8th in East)Paints scored: 98.5 (6th in NBA)Points allowed: 98.4 (24th)Coach: Doc Rivers (fifth season with Magic)
The Answer has a new playmate. The question is, Will they share?
What can they expect to get out of 36-year-old Derrick Coleman at center? He's coming off a tremendous year, but I wonder how much that had to do with Larry Brown's positive way of dealing with...
Allen Iverson became the fourth player to win three steals titles—and the first to lead the league in steals for three straight years.
Record: 48-34 (4th in East)Points scored: 96.8 (9th in NBA)Points allowed: 94.5 (15th)Coach: Randy Ayers (first season with 76ers)
Rebounding will be a tall order for this height-challenged club
The story of Lamar Odom's brief career is that he's been a good offensive player when he hasn't been injured or suspended. I was shocked that he wanted to play for I Pat Riley because with the...
Miami was the only team whose winning percentage fell in each of the last six years—from .744 in 1996-97 to .305 last season.
Record: 25-57 (13th in East)Paints scored: 85.6 (28th in NBA)Points allowed: 90.6 (4th)Coach: Pat Riley (ninth season with Heat)
Will a hot finish from last year be the start of something big now?
"I'm sure Jalen Rose thinks this is his team, but he's a shoot-first guy who dominates the ball, and that isn't the best thing for the development of Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler....
Eddy Curry became the first player in six years to average more than 10 points despite playing less than 20 minutes per game.
Record: 30-52 (12th in East)Points scored: 95.0 (16th in NBA)Points allowed: 100.1 (26th)Coach: Bill Cartwright (third season with Bulls)
The rebuilding begins. To wit: A bargain free agent starts at point
They're no longer a playoff team after trading their two most experienced playmakers, Antoine Walker and Tony Delk, to the Mavs on Monday for Raef LaFrentz, Chris Mills, Jiri Welsch and a...
Paul Pierce's 604 free throws made not only led the NBA but also broke the Celtics' record of 574, set by Cedric Maxwell in 1978-79.
Record: 44-38 (6th in East)Points scored: 92.7 (22nd in NBA)Points allowed: 93.1 (12th)Coach: Jim O'Brien (fourth season with Celtics)
New coach Kevin O'Neill has many worries, but in Vince he trusts
Kevin O'Neill is a defensive specialist from the Riley-Van Gundy school. He'll keep the lane compact, demand that teammates provide help and put a stop to easy layups. bet they'll go from being...
The Raptors lost 519 man-games to injuries last season, the most since the inception of that stat in 1986-87. (Boston lost 480 in '96-97.)
Record: 24-58 (14th in East)Point scored: 90.9 (27th in NBA)Points allowed: 96.8 (19th)Coach: Kevin O'Neill (first season with Raptors)
October 27, 2003
Bronc RiderHow can you call Jake Plummer "one of the NFL's most efficient signal-callers" after only four games (Snake Eyes, Oct. 6)? In Arizona he was always trying to get out of holes he created...
October 27, 2003
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On a team of explosive young talent, an old standby is the fuse
With such a young team, I'm surprised they didn't hire a recent NBA player for their coaching staff. Paul Silas is a terrific coach who won three championships as a player in the 1970s, but even...
Ricky Davis's jump in points per game—from 11.7 to 20.6—was the best among players with at least 40 games in each of the last two seasons.
Record: 17-65 (15th in East)Points scored: 91.4 (25th in NBA)Points allowed: 101.0 (28th)Coach: Paul Silas (first season with Cavaliers)
Trying to replace Latrell Sprewell won't be a walk in the Garden
Signing Dikembe Mutombo will help, but because he can give them only about 20 minutes a game, all they can expect is a half dozen points and rebounds plus a blocked shot or two. At least Mutombo...
The Hawks' Theo Ratliff (3.23) and the Pistons' Ben Wallace (3.15) averaged more blocks per game than the Knicks did as a team (3.11).
Record: 37-45 (10th in East)Points scored: 95.9 (11th in NBA)Points allowed: 97.2 (20th)Coach: Don Chaney (third season with Knicks)
The franchise forward is still getting bigger, but is he any better?
They ran a lot of set plays to get the ball in Michael Jordan's hands over the last two years. That's going to change with new coach Eddie Jordan, whose Princeton offense will teach the young...
Washington's 15 years without a playoff win ties the NBA record of the 1990-91 Clippers (né Buffalo Braves, when their drought started).