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January 16, 12:30 PM ET
Chat with Marc Stein

Marc Stein
  (5:30 PM)

Hello, all.

Marc Stein
  (5:31 PM)

Lots of games going on. Lots of chatter flying around. This will be a holiday half-chat but we'll still get to as much as we can.

Wade in Miami

should we go after JO or should we after howard from dallas

Marc Stein
  (5:33 PM)

In my view, Howard should appeal to the Heat on more levels even though he's obviously not a center. If he goes to the Heat and it works out well, Miami has a head start on its team-building summer of 2010. He'll also be easy to move next season if it doesn't work out.

Marc Stein
  (5:34 PM)

But this assumes that the Mavs would for sure bite. There has been no clear-cut indication out of Mavsland that they were do a Josh-and-Stack deal for Marion. Miami is still talking to multiple teams, so the possibilities are still evolving.

Scott (Sydney, Australia)

What do you think the Pistons' problems are?

Marc Stein
  (5:39 PM)

There are two main issues. 1. Everyone could see that they needed to move Rip or Iverson to the bench -- if only to lift some tension off the team -- but Curry inexplicably took way too long to do so when it seemed like everything in Motown was on hold until he made a decision. 2. This team realistically has a limited ceiling even if Rip suddenly flourishes in a sixth-man role. Even if Iverson, Rip and Rasheed reverse their season-long dips in productively and the lineup change leads to better offense from a group that has missed Chauncey even more than it anticipated, Detroit is going to be no more than a spoiler in this East. You can't expect more from the Pistons when they're clearly a team in transition and when there are three full-fledged powerhouses in the way, no matter what Detroiters have come to expect every spring.

Marc Stein
  (5:40 PM)

The consolation, of course, is that the Billups-for-Iverson trade gave Detroit so many options this summer and next summer in terms of reloading. I'm sure it's hard for Pistons fans to console themselves with that kind of thinking in the middle of the season, but this franchise is in an envious position even when the team is stuck in a funk like we've seen this month.

Brian Levine (Orlando)

Yikes! Stein and Hollinger have the Magic ranked #1. Now all we need for the ultimate kiss of death is for SI to put us on the cover and for EA to announce that Dwight is on the front of NBA 2010. But for the moment, its pretty sweet. Who has a better starting five right now (did anybody have a prayer for the back court combo of Jameer Nelson and Courtney Lee a few weeks ago)?

Marc Stein
  (5:43 PM)

My buddy Brian. I know somehow you bring up potential jinxes. But you bring up a good point. They won at Staples without the guy (Pietrus) you figure would have had a lot of Kobe duty defensively if he was available.

Brandon

I'm shocked. My Magic is getting love all over the place. Should I be worried about a fall from grace?

Marc Stein
  (5:44 PM)

Of course you should be worried. Hollinger and I have jinxed them. They are DOOMED!

Chris (Orlando, FL)

Steiny: Any explanation on why the entire panel of ESPN NBA experts didn't see the Orlando Magic coming????

Marc Stein
  (5:48 PM)

I can only speak for myself. But I didn't think they added enough in the offseason. Wasn't sure that Jameer really made the step at the end of last season, which we know he has, And I think there's a general doubt about any team as reliant on 3-point bombing as Orlando is. Dwight's free-throwing is another big playoff concern. But based purely on what we've seen so far, Orlando is indisputably No. 1 at the 41-game pole. Their road record, yet again, is ridiculous. They have a slew of quality wins now where they had none early on. The only consolation for us know-it-alls is that they're making a lot of us foolish.

Matt (Denver)

Let's assume that the Nuggets win the Northwest and have a home playoff series. I am not sure they would be favored against any of the possible 5-8 seeds (provided those teams are healthy). Will they ever win a playoff series?

Marc Stein
  (5:49 PM)

I tend to agree. They're not big enough to win more than a round in the West, if that. But I'd also say that they've done more with the Billups trade than I expected.

Dave (Toronto)

Stein, as a Raptors fan, I'm all for the Marion-J.O. trade from a basketball standpoint, but there's one thing about the deal that worries me-- If you were Colangelo, would you have any apprehension about giving Miami $22 million in 2010 cap space, knowing that they're likely to be one of the major teams that tries to sign Bosh away from the Raptors?

Marc Stein
  (5:52 PM)

It seems like a very plausible concern, but Miami is going to have that room one way or another. Toronto needs to make improvements IMMEDIATELY to have any shot at keeping Bosh.

John (L.A.)

Everyone wants to crown the Magic already. What have they done. I remember a team out west a few years ago that a great record, loved to shoot the three, and by they way they had a much better point guard and as I remember they didn't do so hot in come playoff time.

Marc Stein
  (5:52 PM)

No one's crowning them, kid. But they just made it to No. 1 for the first time all season. Brian Levine and all his Magic-loving pals are giddy. Let them enjoy the sun.

Eric (East Lansing, Mich.)

"Limited" ceiling or not, I could still see the Pistons squeaking back into the Eastern Conference finals. If Orlando grabs the No. 1 seed, then the winner of the 4/5 series -- which looks like it'll be Detroit against Atlanta -- plays the Magic. Am I crazy? Or can this team still manage to beat the Hawks and Magic come playoff time? (We are Dwight Howard's kryptonite.)

Marc Stein
  (5:54 PM)

<i>Crazy</i> is too strong, but you're banking almost totally on fortuitous seeding in the scenario you describe. Does Detroit still like its chances of winning a series with Orlando? I'll buy that part of your claim. But beating the Hawks and the Magic back-to-back would be way tougher than you make it sound. (I?d also say Boston's D bugs Dwight even more than Detroit's.)

Eugene (LA)

Whose going to be the East backup center for the all star game?

Marc Stein
  (5:56 PM)

We'll get into the specifics more later in the week, but don't forget that the rules are flexible when the coaches pick the reserves. They don't need to pick a traditional "center." Bank on that spot going to a forward.

Mike (Portland, OR)

Marc, Simple Question: With Miles back on the cap for Portland, do they have to deal at the deadline to take advantage of LaFrenz's expiring contract?

Marc Stein
  (5:57 PM)

I wouldn't say they "have" to. They've got so many trade chips that they will have plenty of opportunities to make moves at the draft or in the summer. That said . . . Portland's LaFrentz chip is a sweet one. Can't imagine they'd want to let that option pass in February without making a move.

Steve (provo, UT)

Philly at 10? at 20 and 20? you have got to be kidding me. You guys hop on steaks so fast, I cant wait til reality hits...

Marc Stein
  (5:59 PM)

I'm sure the cynics out there will think that it was all some master plan to jinx the Sixers today so Nowitzki could make a buzzer-beater and get out of Philly with a huge road win. But that wasn't it.

Marc Stein
  (6:00 PM)

Nailing down an order for the teams between Nos. 8 through 15 was the toughest part of assembling the rankings this week. Normally I'd have had Utah and/or Houston ahead of the Sixers, even after Philly's seven wins in a row, but not after the Jazz got splattered in OKC and not with all the injuries afflicting both teams.

Olli (Helsinki, Finland)

The Knicks will trade their spare parts for Shawn Marions expiring contract and then re-sign him, sign Joe Johnson and Amare in the summer of LeBron and Nash will follow for minimum. This just has to happen, right?

Marc Stein
  (6:01 PM)

Good one, Finland.

Matt (Houston)

Good Lord. It's Big Shot BOB, Big Shot BOB.

Marc Stein
  (6:02 PM)

No. It's. Not.

Marc Stein
  (6:03 PM)

I trust that was in reference to our recent chat discussions and Weekend Dime items on Robert Horry. No, no, no, no, no. It is Big Shot Rob. No one has ever called him Bob except people who mess up Big Shot Rob.

Joe

How close is the o'neal and marion trade to being finalized?

Marc Stein
  (6:04 PM)

I think Toronto is the leading option, but I certainly don't think it's the Heat's only option for moving Marion. The sense I get is that both teams -- Miami and Toronto -- are still talking to other teams about other scenarios.

Ludwig (Germany)

Hi marc! should the kings trade salmons while he's playing so well?

Marc Stein
  (6:06 PM)

Don't think the Kings are opposed to moving Salmons in the right deal. That's another wing player Bryan Colangelo has always liked.

Rob (Towaco, NJ)

Why are the Spurs still considered contenders? They were lucky to beat the Lakers last week -- Roger Mason wasn't fouled and Trevor Ariza didn't travel at the end -- and then they were killed by the Sixers, barely beat the Bulls and are struggling against the Bobcats today. Seems to me that you "analysts" are too afraid to count out a team that has been successful over the years. All good things must come to an end. I just wish some of these experts would have the stones to say it. You guys seem to be so scared of being wrong sometimes. The Spurs are a middle-of-the-pack team. Accept it.

Marc Stein
  (6:10 PM)

Not sure which "experts" you've been following, because my impression is that the Spurs have been written off in a big way by a lot of my colleagues and still rarely get mentioned with the Celtics, Lakers, Cavs and now Magic. I also couldn't disagree more with your view of their current status. The Spurs remain the only team in the West that we KNOW can get to the finish line. In the NBA, where there are maybe four active coaches who've won it all, that means even more than it does in the other sports. The Spurs also happen to have their deepest backcourt in years and more offensive firepower than they've had in some time. Are they short one big man? Sure. Do the Celts, Lakers, Cavs and Magic all wish they had one more dependable big? Ditto. So if keeping San Antonio in the championship conversation makes me "scared," you can go ahead and say that I'm scared to death. Because there's no doubt in my mind that the Spurs are the West's biggest threat to the Lakers IF Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are all healthy in May and June.

Tejinder (Mississauga, Ontario)

Kaka is staying at AC Milan...on a scale of 1-10 how disappointed are you, 27? Go Gunners!

Marc Stein
  (6:13 PM)

I'm at a solid 8 or 9. I naturally dreamed of a Kaka-Robinho partnership and, more importantly, what Kaka's arrival might have meant recruiting-wise in the summer. But I will get over it eventually because it's only a matter of time. The big names will come eventually.

Marc Stein
  (6:15 PM)

On one hand, I'm glad that we have an answer now and this thing doesn't drag out for the rest of the transfer window. But Kaka's lack of ambition does disappoint me. Anyone can stay at AC Milan and play with all the world-class names already there. I was hoping he would be more like Jose Mourinho, who will eventually wind up at City because he wants to take U----d on from close range. What more can Kaka prove at Milan? He's already considered the best player in the world or one of top three or four. Why not come to City and truly challenge yourself to build a world power?

Marc Stein
  (6:16 PM)

But I have zero regrets about City going for it and laying out all that insane cash. We're getting a lot of criticism for the numbers that were offered, but it makes so much more sense to spend ridiculous money on someone like Kaka than offering 40 mil for Santa Cruz, like Blackburn wants.

Marc Stein
  (6:17 PM)

We will do this again next Monday, friends. I hope you're all enjoying the heavy slate of games on this Martin Luther King Day. Til next time . . .