Monday, November 17, 2003
Updated: November 18, 10:45 PM ET
Reverse Slams: Sonic boom
By Marc Stein
|THE WEEK IN PREVIEW
The real drama is in Utah, where Orlando's Doc Rivers tries to halt a nine-game losing streak ... before the Scott Skiles speculation starts in earnest. Portland visits Dallas in a rematch of last spring's first-round series that went the full seven games, with Rasheed Wallace certain to play for the Blazers and Michael Finley definitely still a Mav. For those who enjoy individual matchups, Steve Francis at Allen Iverson -- as part of Rockets at Sixers -- certainly works.
Continuing with the guard theme, Baron Davis duels Jason Kidd in Hornets at Nets. Lakers at Detroit gives the Pistons an immediate opportunity to avenge last Friday's narrow loss in L.A. Denver at Minnesota, meanwhile, makes Carmelo Anthony the warmup act for the Wolves before they visit Cleveland to see LeBron James three nights later.
Kobe Bryant in Madison Square Garden? Think there might be a be a frenzy Wednesday night at MSG? ESPN's late-evening offering sends Detroit to Memphis to parade around Darko Milicic, the young star prospect that the Pistons couldn't have drafted without the Grizzlies' lottery pick from the ill-fated Otis Thorpe trade in 1997.
Both games are televised nationally. San Antonio meets Dallas in a West finals rematch at American Airlines Center, only this time the Spurs should have Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Without those two, the Spurs recently lost by three at home to the Mavs. The nightcap is Orlando at Phoenix, with either the presence of Rivers as Magic coach -- or his absence -- sure to dominate conversation.
ESPN's doubleheader puts Minnesota in Cleveland for LeBron vs. Kevin Garnett, followed by Houston at Portland. In other games of intrigue, Boston visits Philadelphia to see if they can renew their old rivalrly ... Stephen Jackson returns to San Antonio as a member of the Atlanta Hawks ... Milwaukee travels to Utah and Memphis goes to Seattle as four surprise teams pair off ... and Eddy Curry tries to stand up to Shaquille O'Neal in Bulls at Lakers.
The committee loves coffee. The committee loves Brent Barry's game and Kevin Calabro's voice. The ESPN.com NBA Power Rankings committee (of one) has always wanted to sneak this unforgettable Adam Sandler song lyric into print: "The owner of the Seattle Supersonickas ... celebrates Hanukkah."
Consider all of the above the committee's response to suggestions that there is some anti-Seattle or anti-Sonics faction operating here.
To wit, Seattle has been freshly bumped to No. 9 in the latest rankings, after riding Ronald Murray Mania to a 6-2 start and the Sonics' first legitimately impressive wins of the season. The Sonics rebounded from a bad home loss to Atlanta last Sunday with road victories in the past week at Minnesota, Milwaukee and Chicago.
That's the way it works, friends. If the Sonics start beating good teams with their bombs-away approach, especially without the injured Ray Allen and Nick Collison, they will maintain a high position. If this is merely a repeat of last season's misleading 8-2 start, with a tumble to come because of a depth shortage, they won't.
More Power Rankings complaints, er, questions will be addressed in senior NBA writer Marc Stein's Monday chat at 4 p.m. ET.
|All of Seattle is flipping out over Ronald 'Flip' Murray.|
Team of the Week
Memphis Grizzlies. If the Grizz really does hang on and join the playoff race for real, it will look back fondly on a November that featured home victories over the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks. In its nine-year history, amazingly, this is the first time the Grizz has been over .500 this late in the season. With a past that barren, there's no way they're going to devalue the San Antonio and Dallas wins just because Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki suffered injuries in those games.
Male of the Week
Quentin Richardson. The Clips easily could have been where the Grizzlies are, thanks to Richardson's spark. With Elton Brand sidelined and Corey Maggette badly needing a scoring sidekick, Richardson answered with at least 30 points twice in L.A.'s 3-0 week. After slumping to 9.4 points per game last season, after alter ego Darius Miles was dealt to Cleveland, Richardson is off to his best-ever start, as evidenced by last Tuesday's 32 points and 16 rebounds in a home win over Atlanta.
E-mail of the Week
Nice bit last week on the Pacers' 6-1 start and Ron Artest, but guess what? Nothing new there. Last season the Pacers lost their second game on the schedule, went 6-1 to start -- and in a 4-0 streak over eight days, Artest was the leading scorer in two of those games. I hated (Isiah Thomas') coaching, and I love that (Rick) Carlisle is back, but let's save the praise for when Rick does make a difference, like when these Pacers don't fall apart in the second half of the season (which they won't). Right now, it's a carbon-copy of last season.
STEIN: Silly us, Seth. Here we were, thinking it was rather impressive that Artest doesn't have a single technical foul through 10 games. But your point is noted. Indy started 14-2 last season, then lost again in the first round of the playoffs. How the Pacers finish under Carlisle is more important than how they start.
Speak of the Week
"I told Gary and Karl when they came here that we were going to change the offense from the triangle to the square."
You see? Not even Winter, the Lakers' assistant coach and the game's leading advocate of the triple-post offense at age 81, can resist triangle humor.
Line of the Week
This wasn't a good line, but it's definitely an unusual one. Carter missed 16 of 20 shots from the floor and committed nine turnovers (against nine assists) in Toronto's best offensive showing of the season. It was the first time these Raptors have cracked 100 points, albeit with the help of double-overtime.
|Sunday, Nov. 16, Houston at Toronto
Stat of the Week
That's how many teams in the West have sub-.500 records through Sunday's play.
The mighty Atlantic Division has one team over .500.
Stat of the Weak
That's how many teams don't have a single international player on their roster. Those teams? Chicago, Miami and Washington.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.