By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Mar 16 2009 1:32PM
LOS ANGELES -- Last season, with the Heat mired in the tail end of a 15-67 campaign, Miami coach Pat Riley decided it was in the franchise's best interest for him to leave the team to scout the NCAA Tournament in person. Riley thought that the Heat's selection in the upcoming draft was too important to the team's future not to see the tourney and its players himself.
L.A. Clippers coach and general manager Mike Dunleavy is in a similar position this year, with his team already eliminated from the playoffs with a month left to play. But he won't be leaving the team on any scouting expeditions.
"I did that one time when I was with Milwaukee because it was a lot harder to scout back then. You didn't have all the DirecTV and all the games on TV like you do now," Dunleavy said. "It turned out that there was one Christmas tournament that had eight of the top picks in it, in one place at one time and so I went to the tournament. It was a tough call, but everybody was like, 'No, no, you need to see these guys. If you can see them all at one place at one time and multiple games, it's too valuable.'"
Dunleavy said that the trip he made when he was with the Bucks caused him to miss only a "game or two."
He said the tournament is still important to watch for potential draftees, but it gets tricky because of the risk of overrating a hot streak by a player.
"Most of what you do is based on the total body of work of a player over his career, but, particularly in the sense for young guys when you're not seeing them have to perform under this pressure, this stage, it's valuable," Dunleavy said. "It's valuable to see who steps up in big games and kind of has that mindset and in some cases, guys are continually growing all the time so that makes a little bit of a statement as well."
The pitfall is overrating a freshman or sophomore who has a remarkable run, like Jared Jeffries did with Indiana, Chris Wilcox did with Maryland or Tyrus Thomas did with LSU in recent tournaments.
"A lot of times the draft is going to be a crapshoot, depending on how young the player is," Dunleavy said. "You may know better than others where guys stand as far as certain players. You might know that this guy's a can't-miss in the sense that he will not be a flop. This guy will be a good player. And then you have to make the decision on the guy out there who you think might be a great player. So, the factors that come into play, they are always potential on the upside vs. positioning and what your team needs are."
The Clippers' coach did attend some college basketball games last week at the Pac-10 Tournament in Los Angeles, however. He went to support his son James Dunleavy, a freshman on USC's basketball team.
They both came into the league in the 2006 Draft with funky names, funkier hair and unknown reputations, but three seasons in, Denver's Renaldo Balkman and Oklahoma City's Thabo Sefolosha are finding their grooves.
Balkman, selected No. 20 by New York, is a slight 6-foot-8, 208-pound power forward. The Knicks' Isiah Thomas loved him for his tenacity and do-the-little-things skillset he brings, but he became expendable when his limited offensive game didn't mesh with Mike D'Antoni's system. Traded to the Nuggets this summer for Taurean Green, Bobby Jones and a second-round draft pick, Balkman is coming into his own, averaging career highs in points per game (5.5), shooting percentage (57.4) and free-throw percentage (64.6). He moved into the starting lineup last week with Kenyon Martin out with a sore back and pumped in 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a win against the Thunder, followed by a career-high 22 points and 11 boards in a win over the Clippers.
Sefolosha was picked No. 13 out of Switzerland and traded to Chicago on draft night. The slashing forward averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds in two and a half seasons playing as Luol Deng's backup. The Thunder traded for Sefolosha at the deadline, sending a 2009 first-round pick to the Bulls. In 10 games with Oklahoma City, the "Swiss Mister" has seen his averages balloon to 11.5 points and 6.4 boards and the Thunder have gone 5-5 in that stretch.
Robert Horry attended last Wednesday's Lakers-Rockets game in Houston, and visited each locker room after the game. Naturally, he looked at home in both locales. Big Shot Rob shared a laugh with former Spurs teammate Brent Barry in Houston's digs, before reminiscing with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and others down the hall.
While both the Lakers and Rockets may be able to use the still unretired free agent, Horry said his quest for an eighth ring likely won't be with the first two franchises for which he won a title. If he decides to come back, it'll be in San Antonio.
"Well, I don't think he's going to play this year, but he'll definitely have a lot of input into the technical aspect and the refereeing aspect of it."
-- L.A. Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the possibility of his team facing the Dallas Mavericks, and their owner Mark Cuban, in the first round of the playoffs.
"Right now, if I'm a Clippers fan and I've told this to everybody, I know it's terrible to say as a player because they're paying our salaries but, I don't want to come watch this mess."
-- L.A. Clippers center Chris Kaman before making his return from a strained arch in his left foot last week. Only Sacramento and Washington have worse records this season.
"It's really special to see my Mom after a win. She's my biggest critic. Even though we won she will still probably point out some things I did wrong.''
-- Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks after the Thunder won in Sacramento last week to push its record to 5-1 in its first six games after Kevin Durant went out with an ankle injury. Brooks, who hails from nearby Lathrop, Calif., had 40 friends and relatives at the game, including his mother.
0 -- The amount of free throws attempted by Houston's Yao Ming in the Rockets' 88-85 loss to the Spurs on Saturday. It is just the second time in the last five seasons that Yao played at least 36 minutes without a single trip to the charity stripe. The other time was against San Antonio as well.
2-0 -- Minnesota's record this season when wearing its blue road uniforms for home games at the Target Center. The Timberwolves are 10-25 at home and 20-46 overall for the season.
10.8 -- The drop in points per game by Matt Carroll from his 12.1 average for Charlotte in 2006-07 to his 1.3 average with Dallas this season.
Seen in the stands at Staples Center on Sunday: A fan wearing a Lakers No. 09 jersey with the name "F Boston" on the back. The fan said he had to do some convincing when he ordered the official uniform, claiming his cousin's name was "Frank Boston" ... Lakers center Andrew Bynum said he's hoping to return from his right knee injury in 2-3 weeks, but the L.A. training staff said it could be closer to 4-5 ... With two technical fouls on Sunday, Golden State's Stephen Jackson reached the NBA limit of 16 and will have to serve a one-game suspension -- if the technicals stand. He trails only Detroit's Rasheed Wallace for the season lead in Ts.
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