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• Talk back to ... Marc Stein | The Daily Dime gang
• Dimes Past: February 27 | 28 | March 1 | 2 | 3 | 4-5 | 6 | 7
Greg (London, UK): It's a travesty that the Nets remain in the top 10. They have one win in the last five games (OT vs. Toronto). They have the least effective bench in the league. They play in the second-weakest division. And they start the less-than-imposing duo of Jason Collins and Nenad Krstic. There's no way the Nets should be ahead of Memphis, Cleveland and the Clippers.
Kevin (Portland, Ore.): The Parker-over-Diaw mistake was only your 73rd mistake this year, down from 106 at this time last year.Curtis (Bronx, NY): And you forgot to name Larry Brown as the worst and most disappointing coach of the year. Jake (Pikeville, KY): Let's see here. Last week you had the Mavs in the top spot and the Pistons at No. 2. Both teams lost two games during the week, but somehow Dallas dropped below Detroit. It must have been because the Pistons lost to better teams, right? Wait . . . Dallas lost to your new top two teams and Detroit lost to the Lakers and the Nuggets? You didn't even explain it in your introductory paragraphs. So what gives? Ed's note: Read my Stock Report in Box 8 and you'll know what gives.
I could understand Chris Mullin's reluctance to gamble on Ron Artest. Golden State was widely regarded as the Northern California franchise that would land Artest because Mully possesses more young and desirable trade chips than most GMs, but I endorsed the argument that it was better to save those chips for the pursuit of a more stable big name because Ron-Ron is too risky.
(Unless Artest's first 20 games in Sacramento have convinced you that his baggage is suddenly stored away safely.)
However . . .
No one will understand if Mike Montgomery really makes it to next season, as Mully has suggested with this week's Blame Me invitation.
I frankly can't see how Monty makes it to the end of this season -- this week? -- given how meekly Golden State is finishing a campaign that began at 12-6.
The Warriors are 13-28 since that start and are thus headed for the club's 12th successive season out of the playoffs. They're 8-20 in 2006. They were beaten Wednesday night in Atlanta, 113-106, to fall 5 ½ games behind the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Lakers with 22 to play. Add all that up and you have a team miles away from the group that finished a hope-generating 18-10 last season after acquiring Baron Davis.
You have a team that has stopped responding to its second-year coach from the college ranks, if it ever did. You have a coach who has never displayed the command of his NBA team that he had at Stanford.
The Warriors were being lampooned for their undisciplined play and overreliance on the 3-pointer even at 12-6. Now you're looking at a roster full of youngsters that appears to be checking out early and thus crying out for an authority figure.
As suggested about a month ago in a Midweek Dime devoted to Don Nelson, Golden State can't simply dismiss Montogomery and pursue the most decorated coach available. Nellie is the last coach to get the Warriors to the playoffs, but he parted with owner Chris Cohan on nasty terms in 1995 -- terms which almost certainly ruled out a reunion.
Now you can ditch the "almost." Nelson confirmed the above suspicion in an on-air visit last week with our man Randy Galloway of ESPN Radio in Dallas. Nellie, who turns 66 in May, didn't rule out the return to coaching that I and several long-time associates and peers expect as early as next season . . . but he did rule out Oakland.
Regarding the Warriors, Nelson said: "Chris Cohan is still the owner there and he sued me after I left there. I'm not about to go work for him. I don't know where all this stuff is coming from. No. 1, they have a coach. And just because I love Chris Mullin and he likes me, that doesn't mean I'm going to go work there."
Regarding coaching in general, Nelson said: "I'm not planning on coming back, but I don't know the future. I just don't. I wish I did, but I don't know what's going to happen."
Check around on the Internet to find the priceless picture of Nellie at the Oscars, a few rows behind his new pal George Clooney. (In case you've forgotten, Nelson is presently coaching a fictional NBA expansion team from San Diego in a proposed TV series directed by Clooney.)
My NBA Fastbreak colleague Paul Silas probably makes more sense as a Montgomery successor than his ex-Celtics teammate anyway. Silas isn't just a veteran coach; he's an Oakland native who has a successful history with Davis after their days in Charlotte and New Orleans.
Gilbert Arenas crushed Boston twice earlier this season with late free throws. The Wiz banger had a chance to finish them again with a jumper in regulation Tuesday. When he didn't, Paul Pierce had the final say at the OT buzzer.
Hawks G Joe Johnson: Don't feel great about bypassing Ryan Gomes' 27 points and nine boards in Boston's win at Washington, but Johnson won a duel of 42-point games with Golden State's Jason Richardson in Atlanta's 113-106 triumph over Golden State.
Pacers G Fred Jones: If any Pacer personifies his team's performance in a 15-point home loss to the Knicks, it's Jones for missing all eight of his shots in 22 minutes.
A look at the most active movers, upward and downward, in ESPN.com's weekly NBA Power Rankings: Highest Rise: No. 18 Minnesota Timberwolves
But with a Stephen Jackson layup Sunday cutting into Philadelphia's upward mobility, the most impressive teams in the latest batch of games were San Antonio and Phoenix, who didn't have much room for advancement because they were placed in the upper reaches.
Steepest Fall: No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs were actually one of five teams to drop three slots -- along with New Orleans/Oklahoma City, Washington, Houston and Boston -- but this is obviously the slip folks are talking about.
And while it's true that Dallas lost to the two hottest teams in the league last week, thereby convincing plenty of Dallas-based users that they shouldn't have fallen lower than No. 3, Detroit's long-term outlook was the tiebreaker. The Pistons might be sorting through their roughest patch of the season, but the committee (of one) simply couldn't drop a team with Detroit's proven title-worthiness to No. 4.
A championship pedigree has always been considered here as a source of "power" in itself and remains a difference-maker for the committee in these situations, as seen frequently with the three-peat Lakers and the placement they received during slumps.
Five questions with Suns forward Tim Thomas:Q: Are you the happiest guy in the NBA right now? A: Look at me, man. What do you think? Q: Twenty points in your first game? Does the Suns' offense really make it that easy? A: Hell, yeah. Without a doubt. From the outside looking in, you know [Steve] Nash is good, but now being a part of it, it's unbelievable. He draws so much attention. He thinks pass-first. You get open and he's going to find you. I've never really been with a point guard like that. I've always played with point guards that are really two guards. Q: Your reputation has taken some hits because of what happened in Chicago. How do you fix that? A: When you're in a situation like that and the team tells you to stay away, people think you're a bad guy. I'm not that type of person. I did nothing wrong. I was traded [from New York] to Chicago and, being a veteran player, I wanted to play. It was obvious [that Bulls coach Scott Skiles had no plans to play Thomas], so I was just hoping that Chicago wouldn't trade me, because then I have to go wherever they send me. I was definitely worried they were going to trade me eventually. For them to buy me out and me having the option to sign where I want, that's all you could want. Q: What did you do with the time off? A: I used it to be with my family. And I just tried to stay in shape. I practiced with Villanova, I practiced with my high school team. I did a lot of two a days, running early and running late. A lot of shooting. But it was three and a half months. That's a long time. Q: And now you're suddenly starting for the team with the fourth-best record in the league . . . as the tallest healthy player in Mike D'Antoni's rotation. A: I'm just grateful to be in this situation. It's an athletic team that runs and guns and I've always wanted to play for a team like that.
Brad (Dallas, TX): Dirk Nowitzki struggled in the playoffs last year. This past week, Bruce Bowen made him look human again. Is it Dirk's fault or is Avery Johnson not making the right adjustments to get Dirk going in the big games?Marc Stein: Bowen does that to Kobe Bryant sometimes, too. It happens. But "fault" is the wrong word here. The problem is personnel. The Mavs have made some successful changes post-Nash to get younger, more athletic and more defensive-minded, but they still lack a guy who can create easy shots for his teammates . . . besides Nowitzki.
Most nights, Dirk doesn't need the help any more. He has been chewing up smaller guys this season after his playoff struggles. But there is always going to be a defender or two who gives even the best of the best problems. Bowen and Marion are those guys for Nowitzki, so Dirk would benefit greatly against those two if another Mav could pick-and-roll properly and cause problems.
But the Mavs simply don't have anyone who can regularly create an easy shot when Dirk needs one. Devin Harris was injured and didn't play against the Spurs or Suns, but he doesn't do that yet anyway.
So it probably will take an offensive tweak from Avery Johnson in the playoffs to put Dirk in different spots against those teams. In the long term, Dallas will either need Harris to develop those skills or import another PG (hello, Sam Cassell) to help with that.