Thursday, October 25, 2001 Updated: October 30, 3:50 PM ET
MJ, 'Sheed highlight road map through season
By Marc Stein Special to ESPN.com
If you never learned how to read a map, or if you're too stubborn to stop at
the gas station to ask for help, get in line.
Or just keep this handy guide to the NBA season in the glove box, since it's
not that confusing and only occasionally hypothetical. Some of this stuff
will actually happen.
Oct. 30, Wizards at Knicks: World Series? The guy who paid 100K to sit next
to Spike Lee? T-Mac vs. Cousin Vince down in Orlando? Puh-lease. If you're
paying attention to anything on the night before Halloween, it'll undoubtedly be MJ. One
small warning, though: Should he hang another double-nickel on the Knicks --
that's 55 points for the unhip -- hosts still win by 25.
Oct. 30, Trail Blazers at Lakers: Isn't this how we started last season?
Actually, no. That was Lakers at Blazers. But this way works fine, too, even
if Commissioner Stern isn't present for the ring ceremony. Book the champs
for a win and Mr. T -- that's Rasheed Wallace, if you don't remember -- for
two techs to get the season started right.
Nov. 1, Pistons at Grizzlies: No word yet if the home team will be busting
out the blue suede high tops. But this much we do know: If A.C. Green hasn't
signed and played for someone by the time the Grizz absorb the first of
their usual 60-plus losses, the NBA's Cal Ripken will see his Iron Man
streak come to a very quiet conclusion. Green has played in 1,192
consecutive games but remains unsigned. If every team in the league plays
one game before he hooks on somewhere, the streak ends.
Nov. 3, Sixers at Wizards: In case opening night at the Gahden wasn't tasty
enough, why not A.I. vs. M.J. in Washington's home opener? Good to see the
networks spreading out all the suspense.
Nov. 7: Ten years ago, on one of the most somber sporting occasions in any
of our lifetimes, Magic Johnson announced to the world that he had
"attained" HIV. A decade later, smiles are all we see from the Magic
Man-turned-Magic Mountain. You should smile, too.
Nov. 23, Mavericks at Heat: Happy Thanksgiving! Tim Hardaway shuffles back
to South Beach to talk trash with Zo and Riles. And Tim Bug should have
plenty of energy that wasn't wasted at practice, his new/old coach (Don
Nelson) being the anti-Riles and all.
Nov. 25, Nuggets at Lakers: A day none of us thought we'd ever see, as J.R.
Rider collects his championship ring. Assuming he doesn't oversleep.
Nov. 30, Lakers at Sonics: Seattle somehow went 8-0 against the LA teams
last season. It'll be 0-1 after Kobe's first 50-pointer of the campaign.
Dec. 5, Suns at Nets: If there's a more intriguing quarterback controversy
than Jason Kidd vs. Stephon Marbury, dueling anywhere really (moreso in America West), we'd like to
hear about it.
Dec. 8, Wizards at Mavericks: Jordan visits Finley to settle the debate:
Who's the league's No. 1 Michael? Early line: Pick 'em.
Dec. 9, Rockets at Pistons: First of three straight Houston games against
Central Division opposition. Rockettes, remember, were 16-0 against the
Central last season. Tough, though, to see them sweeping this set: Away to
Detroit, home to Cleveland, away to Indiana.
Dec. 11, Blazers at Mavericks: Mike Dunleavy is spending the season in the
Dallas area, where his wife's from, to take some time away from the game to
be with family. But he just might be tempted to slip quietly into American
Airlines Center to join the 'Sheed hecklers. Two more techs put Wallace at a
quick 20, prompting newspapers around the country to start a daily Sheed vs.
Dec. 16, Wizards at Raptors: Jordan, if he's still standing by this point,
gets his first crack at Vince in the UNC alumni game. With Tracy McGrady
waiting for Jordan five days later in Orlando. Will the old man makes it to
Dec. 16, Grizzlies at Kings: JWill is back, and a rusty CWebb -- just back
from that ankle turn -- is thrilled to see him. Not so Rick Adelman, who
gets a face full of leather on a trademark behind-the-back bullet from his
former point guard. Only this time, JWill was trying to nail him.
Dec. 19, Blazers at Spurs: These teams meet up in Portland on Nov. 3, but
this is the more intriguing rendezvous. Derek Anderson comes back in Blazers
colors to get Tex-Mexed by the home crowd.
Dec. 25, Sixers at Lakers: It's a Finals rematch, and who knows? Philly
might even be healthy by the holidays, apart from the strains of DC in their
Dec. 26, Wizards at Hornets: Merry Christmas! Jordan drops in on Charlotte
Coliseum to remind his fellow Carolinians of the comeback that could have
been all theirs, not Washington's. Not a good day to be George Shinn. Again.
Dec. 26, Mavericks at Spurs:Juwan Howard, a hated man in Alamo Country just
a few short months earlier, gets a standing ovation from Spurs fans. For
body-slamming Derek Anderson.
Jan. 1: How many "exclusive" Dennis Rodman comeback interviews with Jack
Haley do you think we'll have been subjected to by now?
Jan. 10: Non-guaranteed contracts become fully guaranteed at this time every
season. Which means that ring might be all J.R. Rider has by dinnertime.
Jan. 19, Wizards at Bulls: Maybe, just maybe, the MJ statue outside the
United Center can be magically brought to life on behalf of the home team. Like in that "Mannequin"
movie, to set up Jordan vs. Jordan. Which reminds me: Anyone have Kim Cattrall's number? OK, forget all
that. This is the one game we have zero hesitation predicting a Wizards
rout. Jordan rings up 75. Easy.
Jan. 19, Lakers at Spurs: Sweepees host the sweepers in their first
encounter since the greatest Western Conference Finals dismantling of
all-time. Tim Duncan says the Spurs "don't want to forget" what the Lakers
did to them, but this probably won't be the reminder. Too early for LA to
Feb. 2, Blazers at Jazz: Pardon a grumpy Mailman if he's not exactly
bubbling with Olympic spirit. After trading techs with 'Sheed, who's
approaching 50, the Jazz departs for the world's longest road swing. Nine
games ... in 24 days. Next Utah home date: Feb. 28 vs. Memphis.
Feb. 8-10, All-Star Weekend in Philadelphia: Never has the phrase "All-Star
break" taken on such a literal meaning. The Sixers will need the break just
to see their homes, since 28 of their 41 road games come before the long
weekend. But there's no vacation for lil' Al waiting back in Philly. Try a
starting berth in the East backcourt alongside His Airness; who will freeze
Feb. 12, Wizards at Lakers: First game out of All-Star Weekend and Jordan
makes his first visit to the land of Shaq, Kobe and Phil. But MJ's legs are
fresh after skipping the legends' dunk contest.
Feb. 17: Happy Birthday! No. 23 celebrates No. 39. Next MJ milestone:
Playoff elimination. Coming soon. Very soon.
Feb. 20, Blazers at Sonics: The night before the trading deadline, at home
against Seattle's Pacific Northwest neighbors, could be Gary Payton's last
in the green and gold. Or Vin Baker's. Unless one or the other is traded
sooner, of course. Or both.
Feb. 27, Blazers at Wizards: For three seasons running, Scottie Pippen has
played on without a trusty MJ to carry him -- the last two seasons on a
Portland squad that Scottie recently said made him feel almost "suicidal."
Payback time? Mike can expect six fouls from Pip and lots of jabs to the
ribs when the refs ain't looking. Hard ones.
March 1, Hornets at Celtics: How fitting. Charlotte's on the road on the
deadline-day for relocation applications. Safe to say theirs will be
submitted before the buzzer. Maybe months before the buzzer.
March 5, Raptors at Rockets: Dream Olajuwon, back in Houston as a visitor
for the first time in two decades. Enough said, unless you want us to start
talking about Kelvin Cato.
March 8, Clippers at Bulls:Elton Brand returns to Chitown in the heart of
the Clips' playoff run. They're clinging to No. 8 in the West. The Bulls? At
5-57, Tim Floyd's finally admitting that winning eight bleeping games might
not be such a lock.
March 14, Kings at Knicks:Chris Webber finally arrives at the building he
wanted to call home. The (scant) consolation: Ankle is back to full
March 27, Grizzlies at Sonics: As the Vancouver Grizzlies, they went 1-52 in
March road games in a span of six seasons. As the Memphis Grizzlies? No
difference. Even in a college town now, even with Shane Battier freshly
plucked from Duke, this loss completes an 0-6 road ledger for the month.
April 1: Cleveland pronounces Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his feet fully healthy.
April 2, Suns at Cavaliers: Just kidding. Ilgauskas is shelved for the
season. Only for precautionary reasons, mind you.
April 7, Bucks at Sixers: OK, time to get serious. Playoffs are approaching
and two Philly-Milwaukee tussles in the space of 72 hours (another one April
9 at the Bradley Center) serve as a fine reminder.
April 14, Knicks at Heat: The battle is as fierce as ever. It's just that
the battle is at the bottom of the East playoff chase, not the top.
April 14, Lakers at Blazers: Sheed falls short. Stuck at 66 techs, with only
one game left, Bonds is safe.
April 16, Raptors at Bucks: Did someone say Eastern Conference Finals
April 17, Kings at Lakers: Did someone say Western Conference Finals
preview? (Actually, our pick is Lakers-Spurs again, but LA ain't playing San
Antonio in the regular-season finale.)
Did someone say enough with the hypothetical and let's just get the real
Marc Stein, who covers the NBA for The Dallas Morning News, is a regular
contributor to ESPN.com.