DAVID STERN VS. MARK CUBAN
Giving new impact to the phrase Maverick owner, Cuban has taken
on every NBA institution, including the omnipotent commish.
Stern's response to various Cuban missiles last season was to
level $505,000 in fines. "David gets to ding me every now and
then," Cuban says. "If there are things that need to be
addressed, you can be sure I will."
PETER VECSEY VS. CHARLES BARKLEY
They share airtime on TNT's studio show--and a distaste for each
other. Vecsey has said that "any career move that gets Charles
away from the Turner audience gets my seal of approval" and that
Barkley is "Richard Jewell's body double." Sir Charles, who calls
Vecsey a "nitwit," has retorted, "[I] can always lose weight, but
he'll always be ugly."
NEW YORK KNICKS VS. PRICE OF TIX
After concluding an unremarkable season by losing in the first
round of the 2001 playoffs, the Knicks failed to lure Chris
Webber from Sacramento, instead landing...Clarence Weatherspoon.
So, naturally, the team raised ticket prices by 7%. The average
seat at Madison Square Garden, the most expensive ducat in
sports, runs $100; two courtside will set you back $3,200. You
think that bothers the brass? Hah! The team's sellout streak is
going strong at 391 games.
ANDRE MILLER VS. OBSCURITY
Hi. I may play for the Cavaliers, who make Dockers seem flashy,
but I'm the East's best point guard not named Jason Kidd.
CHARLOTTE VS. THE HORNETS
Once happily married, the parties are barreling toward divorce.
In a June referendum voters roundly rejected paying for a new
arena. Last month, in a covert courtship, team owners slipped
into Louisville on their 727 charter.
JERRY KRAUSE VS.FREE AGENTS
Krause's tightfisted and ham-handed treatment of former stars has
turned Chicago into Chernobyl for coveted free agents. Says
Raptors center Antonio Davis, who considered signing with the
Bulls last summer, "I went there with an open mind, but he ended
up wasting our time."
SCOT POLLARD VS. CHEROKEE PARKS
Until a desperate team signs Dennis Rodman, these two
frontcourtmen will vie for the mantle of MEP--Most Eccentric
Player. Pollard, a Kings backup, paints his fingernails and
experiments frequently with his hairstyle. Parks, a Spurs
reserve, is swathed in a tapestry of tattoos, among them snakes,
knives and the Statue of Liberty. "Scot's from San Diego, and
maybe that's the look," Parks says. "My look's been going on
since I was 18."
RILEY THEN VS. RILEY NOW
After guiding the Lakers to four titles in the '80s, Riley was
on track to become one of the alltime great coaches. Since
leaving L.A. in 1990, he has added no rings to his fingers, and
his luster fades with each disappointing season. Last spring
Miami was swept in the first round by Charlotte, losing three
games by an average of 22.3 points. "I'm like a basketball
coachaholic who's bottomed out," Riley conceded. "I need to do
some deep searching."
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS VS. UTAH JAZZ
When the two teams meet this season, it will resemble nothing so
much as a father-son game. At times last year the Clippers used a
starting lineup with only one player older than 21. When L.A.
acquired third-year forward Elton Brand from Chicago this summer,
the brass expressed excitement over his "veteran leadership."
Contrast that with the doddering Jazz, which has only one player
under 30 (28-year-old forward Donyell Marshall) among its
starters. "Better to be too old," argues Marshall, "than too
NEW JERSEY NETS VS. FATE
Call it the curse of the Doctor. Since the Nets sold Julius
Erving to Philly in 1976, career-ending injuries (Jayson
Williams), horrid draft picks (Yinka Dare) and even death (Drazen
Petrovic) have doomed this franchise. No one is safe: Last season
the team's mascot, Sly, blew out a knee.
STEVE NASH VS. HIS COMB
Though the Mavericks' point guard has never been known for his
hops, his hair achieves Kobe-like hang time. Nash's epic case of
bed head defies all logic. "You'd think once he started sweating,
his hair would calm down," says teammate Dirk Nowitzki, "but it's
sticking up the whole game."
HAKEEM OLAJUWON VS. PATRICK EWING
For two decades they were centers of attention, each a benchmark
against which the other was measured. Now in their sunset years
and after disappointing seasons, they have decamped to upstart
teams--Ewing, 39, to Orlando; Olajuwon, 38, to Toronto--still
seeking glory and revenge (Ewing for the 1994 NBA Finals,
Olajuwon for the NCAA title game a decade earlier). When they
meet in Orlando to open the season, expect them to box each other
out as if a spot in the whirlpool were at stake.
RODNEY ROGERS VS. THE MUNCHIES
Eating his way well past his listed 255 pounds last season, the
6'7" Rogers watched his stats plummet. Asked at training camp how
the 1999-2000 Sixth Man Award winner looked, Suns coach Scott
Skiles said, "Not as good as he should."
GEORGE KARL VS. WALLY WALKER
Since being fired as coach by Sonics exec Walker three years ago,
Karl has been fined $75,000 by the league for calling him "a
trickster" and "incompetent." When it comes to the Bucks' coach,
Walker goes off too--but off the record, for his checkbook's sake.
B/W PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: BILL JANSCHA/AP (STERN HEAD)
B/W PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: JEFFREY LOWE (CUBAN HEAD)
B/W PHOTO: MAGGIE STEBER/SABA (VECSEY)
B/W PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (BARKLEY)
B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK (LEE)
TWO B/W PHOTOS: FERNANDO MEDINA/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (MILLER, NASH)
B/W PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (POLLARD)
B/W PHOTO: CHRIS COVATTA/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (PARKS)
B/W PHOTOMONTAGE: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (OLAJUWON)/CRAIG AURNESS/CORBIS (OLAJUWON BEARD)
B/W PHOTOMONTAGE: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (EWING)/BOB ROWAN/CORBIS (EWING BEARD)
TWO B/W PHOTOS: BOB ROSATO (RILEY, KARL)
B/W PHOTO: ROBERT MORA/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (ODOM)
B/W PHOTO: NORM PERDUE/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (STOCKTON)
B/W PHOTO: SANDY TENUTO/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (ROGERS)
B/W PHOTO: JEFF REINKING/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (WALKER)