The top player in the Euroleague is former Trail Blazers center
Arvydas Sabonis, who at 39 is averaging 15.5 points and 12.0
rebounds in 29.2 minutes for the Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas
(4-3), of which he's the majority owner. Yet in an interview with
Euroleague.net, Sabonis admitted that he prefers the NBA to
Europe. "The NBA is much more tolerant and protective," he said.
"Nobody will force you to play even if you have a minor injury.
They will wait patiently until you recover completely." Still,
his homecoming has been so invigorating that Sabonis says he may
play one more season.
AROUND THE RIM
Rumor had it that Celtics coach Jim O'Brien was on the hot seat
last month--and that G.M. Danny Ainge would take his place--but
that rings false when Ainge explains why he acquired 24-year-old
Ricky Davis from Cleveland. "I have a good coach who can teach
him to play," says Ainge, who is gambling that O'Brien's
disciplined approach will turn Davis into a steal.... Contrary to
rumors, the Cavaliers are not seeking to move Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
G.M. Jim Paxson wants to see how the East's best center fits in
now that Davis is gone.... Stephon Marbury is the only point
guard in the West averaging more points and more assists than Sam
Cassell, who at week's end had helped lead the Timberwolves to
the conference's fourth-best record with career highs in scoring
(20.5) and shooting percentage (50.7). "It would be
well-deserved," says the 34-year-old Cassell of the possibility
of playing in his first All-Star Game. "But I'm going with Kevin
Garnett anyway. If I'm going to be on the court or be in the
stands, I'm going with Kevin."
On the Mavericks, who at week's end were 18-13, eight wins behind
last year's pace:
"It's like they're playing with five guards. Antoine Walker and
Dirk Nowitzki are too much alike: They both play 20 feet from the
basket and like to pound the ball. While Walker will drive or
post up, Nowitzki has been settling for jump shots, and that's
not a good thing for your most talented player to be doing. They
have to get you to play their style--open court, up-tempo--but
they don't play good enough defense to force the pace. They could
still turn it around because they have a lot of talent, but more
than ever they need someone like Brad Miller who can be a force
around the basket at both ends of the court."
3. Congratulations to the Bulls for not offering contract
extensions to third-year big men Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry,
who after next season will be restricted free agents (giving
Chicago the right to match any offer). This move sends a signal
that the team will force its players to earn their megadeals.
2. Three reasons why the Pacers won't deal the temperamental Ron
Artest this season: He's a base-year player, so Indiana can take
in return only a player who makes half of Artest's $5.5 million
salary; despite his recent clash with coach Rick Carlisle,
Artest's behavior hasn't been as incendiary as last year; and
he's an All-Star-caliber forward who, with Jermaine O'Neal, might
take the team to the Finals.
1. If the Jazz finishes anywhere near .500 and Jerry Sloan is not
recognized as the NBA's Coach of the Year, then the award is a
joke. Sloan has done what many around the league consider
impossible--succeed with inferior talent by persuading his
players to play as a team.
COLOR PHOTO: MAXIM MARMUR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (SABONIS) Arvydas Sabonis