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BATTLING FOR POSITION
Posted by Jeff Dengate on March 29, 2005 3 p.m. ET

NUGGETS ON THE RISE

George Karl, giddy? Smiling? Having fun? Really?

That's what happens when you take over a team stuck in a disappointing 17-25 funk and show them the way to a 21-6 record to climb back in the playoff picture. If the playoffs were to start today, the Nuggets would own the West's eighth seed, one game back of Memphis, but two ahead of Minny.

In fairness to Coach Karl, he's not only smiling now that the team's winning, the smile was there from Day One. Happy to be coaching again, he refused to let the depressed team bring him down, and opted instead to focus on making the game fun again.
-- [The Seattle Times]

The fun has returned, and as the pile of W's grows ever larger, Karl worries about the team getting too happy. It's hard to not get excited when you're playing bully to the schoolyard and clobbering teams as the Nuggets have of late.
-- [Denver Post]

Confidence is at a season-high in Denver, and rumors abound the team wants to face top-seeded Phoenix in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

That's all fine and dandy by Phoenix. One Suns player is predicting the series would last only four or five games.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

In Monday's potential first-round preview, the Suns temporarily ended the good times in Denver, improving to 3-0 against the Nuggets this season.

So, with the team setting its sights on meeting Phoenix in the first round, Denver faithful might want to hold off on penciling-in the Nuggets in The Finals this year.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

LAKERS DROWNING?

Note to the Lakers: Beware the slides of March. While the Nuggets climb the standings, the Lakers are sinking fast and have all but eliminated themselves from the playoff race. Los Angeles currently sits six games back of Denver for the final playoff spot with only 13 games remaining.

The last time the Lakers finished with a worse record than the Nuggets, Kobe Bryant was still a sophomore in high school.
-- [Rocky Mountain News]

The Lakers have dropped eight straight, two shy of the most in franchise history when the 1993-94 team lost its final 10 games of the season.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

Despite the ill-timed losing streak, GM Mitch Kupchak insists that his team is still in the playoff hunt.
-- [L.A. Daily News]

But some players appear to be looking forward to the long summer to rebuild.
-- [Orange County Register, Reg. req'd]

Meanwhile, one writer in New York is saying it's time for the Lakers, along with the Clippers and Knicks, to hang it up for the year.
-- [SportsLine.com]

RACE FOR HOME COURT

The playoff race is heating up in the Eastern Conference as well. This season's Cinderella story, the Bulls, have shown they're for real. Currently the fifth seed, one game back of Washington for the No. 4 spot and home-court advantage in the first round, Chicago has skeptics finally believing this team can reach the playoffs for the first time in the post-M.J. era.

Not merely content to make the playoffs, Coach Skiles has eyes on a larger prize, namely the Central Division crown, which the Pistons currently have their hands wrapped around.
-- [Chicago Tribune, Reg. req'd]

That means there's plenty of scoreboard watching in Chicago these days, not just to check the final score of the game at hand.
-- [Chicago Daily Herald]

If the Bulls can narrow the gap, the April 11 matchup between the Bulls and Pistons at Chicago's United Center may be a difference-maker. The Bulls hold a 2-1 advantage in the season series.

TIP-INS

Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner find it's good to be King(s).
-- [Philadelphia Inquirer, Reg. req'd]

The Wizards work magic to complete a Western Conference road trip with a winning record for the first time in five years.
-- [Washington Times]

To play or to rest? The question pains the Glove.
-- [Boston Globe]

AND FINALLY...

China's biggest star to add title of Model Worker?
-- [USA Today]

Karl has guided the red-hot Nuggets to a 21-6 record and back into the playoff picture
(Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Rockets center Yao Ming on the education he receives each time he faces Shaquille O'Neal:

"The tuition is a bit too expensive. What I really want to know is when he's going to retire."
-- [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

2004-05 ARCHIVE
March 22 -- Gone A Long Time?
March 15 -- Deja View
March 8 -- Top to Bottom
March 1 -- Dynamic Duos
Feb. 25 -- Much Adieu About
Feb. 16-20 -- All-Star Blog 2005
Feb. 15 -- Random House
Feb. 9 -- Reserves, Deserves
Feb. 1 -- All-Starters
Jan. 25 -- South by Southwest
Jan. 19 -- My Kind of Town
Jan. 11 -- 'S Wonderful
Jan. 4 -- Points Well Taken
Dec. 29 -- New Year's Wishes
Dec. 21 -- A Wonderful Life
Dec. 14 -- How Good is Good?
Dec. 7 -- Getting Medieval
Nov. 30 -- LeBron vs. Dwyane
Nov. 23 -- Playing Good Ball
Nov. 16 -- SuperbSonics
Nov. 9 -- Hitting the Blue Note
Nov. 3 -- Bling, Bang, Boom
2003-04 -- Archive