THE BOX OUT
PICK AND POPS
1. That whole $125 playoff guarantee thing didn't seem that big of a deal when you saw the number of empty seats at Philips Arena for the Hawks' home opener Thursday night. No wonder the promotion got approved by the budget committee.
2. So much for the kindler, gentler Rasheed Wallace, who picked up his first technical foul of the year in Portland's loss at Sacramento on Thursday. 'Sheed didn't get tossed, so at least he's making progress in the anger management department.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“You coached stupidly.”
—Kobe Bryant's response to Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter after Winter told Bryant, "You played stupidly."
NUMBER OF THE DAY
The number of teams who have shot 50 percent or more so far in a game this season (Bulls, Magic, Grizzlies, Clippers, Hawks, Wizards).
You have something to say? Then say it below. But keep it clean. And include your hometown AND state. Here are some of the best comments:
Andrew Hawkins (Shoals, Ind.): Kobe Bryant is nothing but a spoiled brat. He talks back to a coach that has been in the league this long and is so well respected? He can't take criticism; it's always someone elses fault. If he was on my high school team last year, it wouldn't matter who he was, he would be running lines for disrespecting a superior.
Jay Giri (Chicago, Ill.): The Lakers run out lineups featuring Slava Medvedenko, Soumaila Samake, Devean George, Gennaro Pargo, and Samaki Walker and Tex Winter doesn't want Kobe to shoot. You tell me who the stupid one is.
But thanks for playing.
"He's going to be a hell of a guard," Rose said after his bold prediction.
Of course, Rose is just a tad biased. But you would be, too, if you were wearing a red Chicago Bulls uniform on the Fleet Center floor Wednesday and saw all the little things Williams did to help stun the Eastern Conference finalist Boston Celtics -- things like the steal that enabled the Bulls to take a 96-93 lead on Trenton Hassell's 3-pointer, or the pass that followed to set up Hassell's second back-breaking 3 for the 99-96 victory.
Never mind that Williams gagged on four straight free throws in the final 1 minute, 30 seconds. There's only one other point guard in the Eastern Conference who can have that large of an impact on a game without scoring a point, and that Kidd plays in New Jersey.
"He's a player," Rose said of JWill. "Everybody knows he can play the game. And the thing about him is that he's just going to get better. He's a humble kid. And he understands that he has to come in and run the team and be in the right place at the right time."
Williams is so intent on using Jason Kidd's selfless M.O. that Kidd should get royalties. How serious is the NBA's No. 2 overall pick about making his teammates better? So much that he repeatedly passed up open shots to get the Bulls into a flow. In fact, Williams didn't attempt his first NBA shot until nearly five minutes had passed in the second quarter.
"I was trying to lead the team," Williams explained. "I think it was real important to come out right off the bat and get Jalen going and get Donyell (Marshall) going. And trying to get Tyson (Chandler) and Eddy (Curry) and other guys going. Eventually, I was going to take my shot. But running my team first is going to be real important."
Make no mistake, this is Williams' team, and he acted like its leader when he tried to calm down Chandler after the hyper second-year forward was whistled for the first of two technical fouls. Jamal Crawford was on the court when the Bulls erased a 13-point deficit to tie things up at 91 (and who knows how much longer Crawford will remain a Bull now that he's a backup), but Chicago saw the future Wednesday. And it wears No. 22.
But about those bricks he threw up from the line ...
"Make 'em," said Rose about the free-throw shooting tips he'll give Williams. "If you're going to be the Rookie of the Year, he's got to make those free throws."
After hearing whispers that he might be washed up, Michael Jordan bounced back from Wednesday's ugly display (eight points, 4-of-14 shooting including a missed dunk) with a vintage performance, scoring 21 points in 21 minutes to begin his bid for Sixth Man of the Year. Jordan can't finish his drives like he used to, but he's still quick. He picked off a lazy Antoine Walker inbounds pass just before the half and sank a jumper to push the Wizards' lead to 18. Speaking of 'Toine ...
The Celtics might miss Kenny Anderson and Rodney Rogers, but they miss Walker's 3-point stroke the most. Rick Barry he was not, but Walker is 2-for-16 beyond the arc this season after Thursday night's 1-for-6 effort on 3's. In Boston's 0-2 start, Walker has made only 10 of 39 shots in averaging a meager 13 points. "We know what we have," Walker said in a reassuring assessment of the C's after Wednesday's collapse to Chicago.
Can't wait to see Adam Sandler in "Punch-Drunk Love." But Sandler's "Love It Live/8 Crazy Nights" commercial for the NBA in which Sandler reprises his Opera Man character from "Saturday Night Live" has quickly approached nails-on-the-chalkboard proportions. First of all, it's annoying. Secondly, it's not even the Sandman in costume, but in a cartoon. What is that?
They sure do love their Terps in the D.C. area. The loudest cheer of the night in the Wizards' rout of the Celtics Thursday? For Juan Dixon with a booming "WE WANT JUAN!" chant in the fourth quarter.
Joe Lago, NBA editor for ESPN.com, writes Morning Shootaround every Wednesday and Friday.