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SICK AND TIRED
Posted by Rob Peterson on March 8 2004 12:08 p.m. ET

HEAL THYSELF ... QUICKLY

Last week, we talked to former Sixers coach Randy Ayers about the East playoff race. But the one thing that stood out was the conversation about health.

"Everybody has nagging injuries at this time of year," Ayers said. "But the teams that can get fairly healthy will be the teams that make the strides down the stretch."

So, what does that say about San Antonio, who's missing Tim Duncan? Or what about New Jersey, which has been without Jason Kidd for the past four games? Or what about the Lakers, who haven't seen Karl Malone in uniform for three months and lost Kobe Bryant on Friday to a sprained shoulder?
-- Los Angeles Daily News

The defending champs, have barely missed a beat since Duncan went down with a thigh contusion.
-- San Antonio Express-News

The Spurs have won four of five since then and have scored more than 100 points in three of those victories.

"You can win games without Timmy," Tony Parker told the San Antonio Express-News. "But you can't win a championship."

Same goes for the Nets, who went 2-2 without Jason Kidd on a West Coast trip last week. He hopes to return by Wednesday.
-- Newark Star-Ledger

As always, the intrigue centers around the Lakers. Will Karl Malone make his return to the Lakers lineup in Utah? It's not likely, but Malone has made the trip and plans to greet Jazz coach Jerry Sloan warmly.
-- Deseret News

I don't think the same could be said for the moment Malone and Jazz owner Larry Miller lock eyes.
-- Deseret News

Just check out the headline of that article. Yikes!

The Lakers have deeper problems than Malone and his former boss not making nice. Getting Malone back into the flow of the Lakers offense will be the key. That, and getting Kobe healthy. Bryant doesn't want to go on the shelf.
-- Los Angeles Daily News

Add to that the speculation that Phil Jackson could be on his way to the Jersey side of the Hudson and you have the annual Lakers' soap opera. I'm sure that move would be under the radar here in the tri-state area.
-- ESPN.com

Still, the physical health of the Lakers is more precarious than their mental health. One columnist says if the Lakers are healthy, they could go places. Thanks for that one.
--Miami Herald

Which leaves us with this: Is there enough time for the Lakers to mesh?
-- Los Angeles Times (Registration required)

MORE INFIRMARY NEWS

Let's look at Ron Artest and Grant Hill. If you had told someone in 1998 that Artest would be more relevant in 2004, you would have been kicked to the curb. But that's exactly what's happened. Why? Here's why. After having thumb surgery, Ron Artest has already returned to the lineup.
-- Indianapolis Star

As for Hill, he's trying to make a comeback from his fourth ankle surgery. And that comeback has already suffered a setback.
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

SLIP, SLIDING AWAY

This subject often arises at the time of the year when it becomes clear who will be cashing their playoff share checks and who will have -- as the gents at TNT's Inside the NBA say -- gone fishin'!

And that subject is "tank." In this case, it's an infinitive, an ugly four-letter verb that suggests ugly intentions with ugly results. Why on Earth would anyone want to lose on purpose?

Well, to get a chance at the No. 1 pick, that's why. But since 1990, only two teams have had the worst overall record and received the No. 1 pick. It was easier to play for the No. 1 pick when the teams with the two worst records in each conference participated in a coin flip. Heck, that's what led to the lottery. Also, gone are the days when a No. 1 pick can get a team 20+ wins in the next season. So, I ask, "What's the point?"

So does Philadelphia GM Bill King, who said he has no interest in seeing the Sixers join the lottery.
-- Philadelphia Daily News

And in Orlando, T-Mac has no interest in, shall we say, losing for the sake of losing.
-- Florida Today

Yet, one columnist believes some teams are doing just that and they have begun to focus more on the bouncing balls of the lottery than basketball itself.
-- Detroit News

Again, I don't agree, but there is another group directly affected by this. After all, has anyone thought about the dancers of these lottery-bound teams? I mean, while their team is playing out the string, they still must dance, smile and entertain as if the squad were headed to the playoffs. Won't anyone think of the dancers?
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

IN LOO OF...

Yes, and it counts! Well, maybe. But in one of the more interesting pieces you will ever see, Blazers point guard Damon Stoudamire, with an assist from Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks, saved his best shot for a columnist. Just read it.
-- The Oregonian

SAM-I-AM

If having Kevin Garnett wasn't already a benefit to the Timberwolves franchise, the addition of Sam Cassell has not only helped on the floor, but also in the locker room. Cassell's always been good fodder for quotes and anecdotes. This season, it has been no different.

For example, find out the biggest difference between KG and Cassell.
-- ESPN.com

Cassell, with two NBA championship rings and countless playoff appearences, also brings confidence to a franchise that has ... all together now ... never made it out of the first round.

"People are talking about getting out of the first round," Cassell said. "But that's irrelevant. We're trying to go farther than that."
-- ESPN.com

THINGS TO DO IN DENVER...

For those people who have sent so many e-mails about next season's All-Star Game that it borders on spam, I have this to say:

It's Denver, for goodness sakes. Denver! The 2005 All-Star Game will be held on Feb. 20 at the Pepsi Center. Tickets won't go on sale for a while. Please, please, please pass this on. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Heck, tell your enemies. Shout it from the highest Rocky Mountain top! Next season's All-Star Weekend is in Denver!

SPEAKING OF DENVER...

Colorado reporters had a field day this week when the Pistons came to town. Why? Well, there's this little issue of the 2003 Draft. See, the Pistons, who won their second consecutive Central Division title, found themselves with the No. 2 overall pick in the Draft. The Nuggets, who won 17 games, fell to the No. 3 pick.

It seemed to be an embarrassment of riches for the Pistons. And with the selection, they chose Darko Milicic, a seven-foot, 18-year-old from Serbia and Montenegro. The Nuggets selected Syracuse's Carmelo Anthony. Darko has 33 points ... this season. 'Melo has 39 points ... as a career-high.

As you can guess, Detroit's choice has some people second-guessing and Darko doubting himself.
-- Rocky Mountain News

Pistons coach Larry Brown still has faith in Milicic.
-- Boulder Daily Camera

While others are not so kind. Sam Bowie anyone?
-- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Here's how I see it. (May I? Thanks.) The Nuggets got what they needed -- a dynamic scorer who could help them pronto. The Pistons, who were coming off two 50-win seasons in a row, got someone who could help them in the future. Has bringing Milicic along slowly hurt the Pistons? After 66 games (Crikey! The Pistons only have 16 games remaining. Where has the season gone?), the Pistons are 41-25. At this point last season the Pistons were 42-24. If they can manage to go 9-7, they'll have another 50-win season.

And if the last three games are any indication, Detroit seems well on its way. The Pistons have held their last three opponents under 70, including the Nuggets, whom the Pistons crushed 97-66 on Friday.


Milicic

Prinze Jr.
At the risk of piling on (we kid because we love), I noticed something when I saw Milicic go back to his platinum blond look. If this basketball thing doesn't work out, he could always be a stand-in for the next Scooby Doo movie. He's a dead ringer for Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Fred Jones (yes, they have last names) character.

TIP-INS

Dallas had a bad week on the road and Mark Cuban didn't like it when the Timberwolves tried to make it worse.
-- St. Paul Pioneer Press

Well, the Bucks have figured out a way to use Keith Van Horn.
-- New York Post

Can you feel the love tonight? Jerry Sloan has thrown a bouquet to the refs.
-- Philly.com

Funny how you can go from village idiot to super genius in a year.
-- South Florida Sun Sentinel

For the Knicks trainer, it's all in the famiglia.
-- Newark Star Ledger

Calvin Murphy's close call.
-- Houston Chronicle

REASONS WE LOVE THIS GAME

Last week we asked you to give us the reason you loved this game and you came through like Jordan in the Finals. While we couldn't print all of the responses, we wanted to give you some of the ones we liked.

We'll start with our favorite one, then list the rest in no particular order.

"I love this game because of floor-burns. Nothing says LOVE like diving for a loose ball."
-- Joel of Princeton, W.V.

Click and Roll says: Joel, you got that right.

"I love this game because the fans are the best." (You should also think about letting the top winners of this contest be in the next commercial.)
-- Tamika in Detroit

Click and Roll says: Flattery will get you everywhere. And if I had that kind of power...

"I love this game because it's an international language and I actually know this language."
-- Rene of Edmonton, Alberta

Click and Roll says: Bueno!

"I love this game because even Kidd's can play it."
-- Alor in Sacramento

Click and Roll says: Clever, very clever.

"I love this game because where else can you say 'That's RiDirkulous!'"
-- Shea from Dallas

Click and Roll says: RiDirkulous? We were thinking the same thing.

"I love this game because ARCO's not just a place to gas up..."
-- Brien in Sacramento

Click and Roll says: Yeah, but have you tried their nachos... burp!

"I love this game because, even when I'm watching a game by myself at home, I still yell out loud."
-- K-Rob in San Francisco

"I love this game because it makes me ... lose ... my ... voice..."
-- Eric of Leverne, Calif.

Click and Roll says: K-Rob, do you have this problem too?

"I love this game because it keeps Charles Barkley off the golf course."
-- Steve in Sacramento

Click and Roll says: Good one. By the way, have you read Tim Kiely's blog? He's senior producer of Inside the NBA and has some great Barkley stories.

"I love this game because the baseball season is too long, the football season is too short, and the basketball season is just right."
-- Michael of Germantown, Tenn.

Click and Roll says: Thanks, Goldilocks!

"I love this game because it's the best thing on TV and my husband and I can watch it together when we get off work. We both LOVE the NBA!"
-- Jane in Elberfield, Ind.

Click and Roll says: Awww!

"I love this game because it [makes my wife angry]!"
-- Tony from Manchester, Mo.

Click and Roll says: May we suggest marriage counseling. Either that or you should talk to Jane. (See above.)

"I love this game because when it's on, nothin' else is important."
-- Julio from Dallas

Click and Roll says: Maybe that's Tony's problem.

"I love this game because it keeps Shaq from making "Kazaam! 2".
-- Jeff of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Click and Roll says: That won't make a commercial, but that's funny ... funnier than Kazaam!

"I love this game because of the 3-point buzzer beater shot to win the game! Wow, what excitement!"
-- Alana from Carson, Calif.

"I love this game because of all the nice jewelry (rings) they give out at the end of the year. Bling, bling!"
-- Trey from Oakley, Calif.

"I love this game because of the alley-oops."
-- Rachel in Milwaukee

"I love this game because you can be losing 47 minutes 59 seconds and still be able to win the game."
-- Chant in Fresno, Calif.

"I love this game because the Sacramento Kings' Mike Bibby pick and roll action is unstoppable!"
-- Kyeisha in College Park, Ill.

"I love this game because you can get a manicure before, during, or after the game! (Or at least Mike Bibby can.)"
-- Syreeta in Beltsville, Md.

"I love this game because Ben Wallace doesn't let anybody into his house."
-- Larry in Los Angeles

"I love this game because of the stop, pop, and drop!"
-- Jennifer from Brownwood, Texas

"I love this game because it makes me forget about everything else."
-- Mike from Fairbanks, Ak.

"The reason I love this game is that everything can change in just one season."
-- Max in Buenos Aires

"I love this game because of the poster-shot dunks."
-- Kevin in Los Angeles

"I love this game cause , they are too many players just ... waiting ... to slam it in your face. Take that and shut up."
-- Tracey of Tyler, Texas

"I love this game because before the NBA hoops were just 3-D circles."
-- Tyler in California

Click and Roll says: "He means "hoops" as a euphemism for basketball. Folks, we added this one because we liked the e-mail address: texaschickenlips@..."

"I love the NBA because of Steve Nash's hair!"
-- Jordan of Denton, Texas

"Every pass from Jason Kidd to Kenyon Martin is going to be a highlight, Thats why I LOVE THIS GAME."
-- Renee of Cincinnati

"I love this game because ... wait, why do we need a reason?"
-- Lee of Victoria, B.C.

"I love this game because one kid can get a whole town back into the game."
-- Jake of Wadsworth, Ohio

"I love this game because you can still hate the Lakers but love to watch them play!"
-- Gabe from Chico, Calif.

"I love this game because I get to see people fly without wings."
-- Obed in Maplewood, N.J.

"Who wouldn't love a game where people of all shapes and sizes can share the same court? Yao, Earl Boykins, Oliver Miller, Shawn Bradley? Only in the NBA!"
-- Gray in Christchurch, New Zealand

"I love this game for heating up the winter!"
-- John from St. Paul

"I love this game because new stars are born each season."
-- Lionel in Brooklyn

"I love this game, because this is the only sport that you get, all the drama of soaps, action, adventure and horror. It's like watching a movie ... but better!"
-- Melissa in San Diego

"I love this game because of the Boys from the South -- Memphis!"
-- Jaime in Jackson, Tenn.

"I love this game because DEFENSE has and will always win championships..."
-- Joel in San Antonio

"I love this game because the ultimate trash talk is, "You see this ring? I don't believe you have one. See this trophy? I don't believe you've kissed one."
-- Anonymous in San Antonio

Click and Roll says: Uh, Joel, we know it's you. It's the same e-mail address on your "defense wins championships" e-mail. Anyway, we liked it.

Who will shoulder the load for the Lakers while Kobe is out?
(Catherine Steenkeste
NBAE/Getty Images)

2003-04 ARCHIVE
Nov. 10 -- Short People
Nov. 17 -- Clip and Save
Nov. 24 -- Hive Talkin'
Dec. 1 -- Holiday Exchange
Dec. 8 -- Spurs Sportsmen
Dec. 15 -- Hail the Kings
Dec. 22 -- The Greatest Gift
Dec. 29 -- American Rookies
Jan. 8 -- Starbury Time
Jan. 12 -- Grand Central
Jan. 19 -- More Central
Jan. 26 -- Midwest is Best
Feb. 2 -- Lobbying for L.A.
Feb. 9 -- Git Up, Git Out
Feb. 13-15 -- All-Star Blog
Feb. 17 -- City of Angles
Feb. 24 -- Surfing the Nets
March 1 -- West Side Story

BACKCOURT
The week that was:
March 4: Kings hold clinic
March 5: Lakers lose Kobe
March 6: Odom's triple-double
March 7: Another sub-70

FRONTCOURT
The week that will be:
March 8: Lakers in Utah, alas no Karl
March 9: Grizzlies are only three behind Spurs
March 11: Mavs at Kings ... Whee! (10 ET, TNT)
March 12: Lakers at Wolves, quality

THE NUMBER
73.5 -- Percentage of field goals on which the Kings have assisted (138 of 189) in their last five games. Dropping more dimes than a U.S. Mint.

WEEKLY KERR
My boss likes Steve Kerr's Yahoo! column. I like my job. Hence, I include the link to Steve's piece on ... Hubie Brown.

'ROUND THE GLOBE
Want to know how hoop is being played around this little blue marble?

Well, in Europe, Euroleague has started its round of 16 as it works its way toward the Euro version of the final four. And guess what familiar face was the MVP of the first week? He's not my Vydas, he's not your Vydas, he's Arvydas!

Yes, Arvydas Sabonis kicked tail scoring, "25 points on almost perfect shooting - 6 of 7 two-pointers, 2 of 2 triples and 7 of 9 free throws" for Zalgris. Nice work, Arvydas.

And if you need your Euroleague fix, tune in to NBA TV every Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and catch the Euroleague Game of the Week.

PLAYOFF ROSTER
In the first of many, many updates in this box, we congratulate the Indiana Pacers for becoming the first team to clinch a spot in the 2004 NBA Playoffs. One down, 15 to go.

Team -- date clinched
Indiana -- Friday, March 5