Friday, December 5, 2003
No great outdoor NBA games
By Marc Stein
Editor's note: Every Friday, ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein takes you around the league for the latest news and notes in "Coast to Coast."
If you watched Montreal and Edmonton skate on an outdoor rink recently, and if you thought it'd be quite cool if the NBA tried to do the same with a regular-season game at Rucker Park or maybe Venice Beach, you're not alone.
"I can remember, over the years, someone occasionally throwing it out there as a possibility," NBA deputy commissioner Russ Granik said.
Yet it hasn't gone any further than that and probably won't. Intriguing as the idea sounds -- and it certainly was a smash for the hockey lads -- the league's feeling is that weather conditions would impact an NBA game much more than an NHL game.
The surfaces for indoor and outdoor hockey games aren't nearly as different as they'd be in basketball. And beyond the obvious issues that rain or snow would present, Granik also listed wind as a major obstacle. "I don't really think that we would look at it seriously," he said.
Zones aren't going anywhere, folks
As yet, according to Granik, there has been no clamor from teams to outlaw the three-season-old legality of zone defenses, in spite of Tracy McGrady's vows to "write a letter" to kickstart the anti-zone campaign.
Suggestions for further tweaks to league rules are inevitable at the next league competition committee meeting at All-Star Weekend in February -- Larry Brown's suggestion that the 3-point line be moved in to the international distance (21-plus feet) has some intrigue, for example. Yet the likelihood that the zone will be abolished in the near future is roughly zero at present.
"We think the game looks a lot better than it did three years ago," Granik said, acknowledging that there is concern about some of the low scores seen in the first month but that "it can't just be all about points."
"I don't think we're going back to illegal defense," Granik quipped.
West rolls the dice on Bonzi
John Nash wasn't kidding. Portland's new general manager was determined to unload Bonzi Wells without regard to equal value and achieved just that, taking back Wesley Person and a first-round pick that might not be especially high, if Memphis can continue its surprising start and make a legit playoff run.
From the Memphis end, this was more like the sort of gamble we've come to expect from Jerry West, who has been more like his old, aggressive Lakers self since the ill-fated selection of Drew Gooden with his first draft pick.
West spent much of the summer trying to use the package of a pick and Person (who's in the final year of his contract) in exchange for a center; Michael Olowokandi was a prime sign-and-trade target before Kandi signed with Minnesota. Wells obviously isn't a center but, for all his faults, he has more talent than anyone on West's roster not named Pau Gasol. The Grizz really didn't need another swingman, but if West and Hubie Brown can rehabilitate Bonzi like they've cleaned up Jason Williams, it's an interesting gamble.
Getting Wells away from Rasheed Wallace can't hurt Portland's prospects, either.
Just as Danny Ainge scoffed at the suggestion this week that coach Jim O'Brien was in any immediate jeopardy, you can apparently say the same about Suns coach Frank Johnson. By all accounts, Johnson is going to be given some time to try to generate the missing consistency and hunger from a team that has not coped well with ramped-up expectations. In New Jersey, meanwhile, there is no clear-cut replacement for Byron Scott, which figures to give Scott the whole season to revive the Nets. It's difficult, though, to see Rod Thorn letting the Nets continue to sink, with Jersey carrying a 2-6 home record into the weekend after an 18-1 start at home last season. Larry Drew didn't get the Lakers' interim job when Del Harris was dismissed in 1999, but he's the interim favorite if the Nets did make an in-season change. ... Ainge, incidentally, does remain very hot to make a trade, with Eric Williams and Tony Battie very available. ... Theme of the Lakers' season, courtesy of Karl Malone: In Spite Of. "We got a saying in this locker room -- In Spite Of," Malone shares. "Meaning in spite of everything that's happening, in spite of what people are saying, we can still go out and play the game. That's our little saying, and now y'all know it. That's our belief." & Courtesy of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers' main rivals are: "The Spurs, because the last five championships have been between us, and it'd have to be Sacramento, just because last year they had a great chance to win it all and were very unfortunate that Chris Webber went down. They'll be back at full strength shortly and they'll be back in the hunt again. ... The perils of magazine writing and its early deadlines are illustrated by No. 2 on Esquire's list of 34 Reasons to Be Optimistic About 2004: "Jason Kidd and Alonzo Mourning, together at last."
||We got a saying in this locker room -- In Spite Of. Meaning in spite of everything that's happening, in spite of what people are saying, we can still go out and play the game. ”
||— Karl Malone
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.