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Ian Thomsen's Fast Break


Although the Hornets have never drafted a player from a foreign
club, new assistant G.M. Allan Bristow has made several trips to
Europe this season. "Where we usually draft [in the mid-first
round], taking a foreign player is a big risk," says G.M. Bob
Bass. "If the talent is the same, I'd just as soon draft an
American--you don't have the problems of language and other
things. Or maybe I'm just a patriotic guy." ... Sebastian
Telfair, a 6'1" point guard at Lincoln High in Brooklyn, is a
likely lottery pick if he decides to turn pro. (He orally
committed to Louisville last October.) "His speed reminds me of
Allen Iverson's, and that's special," says one G.M., adding that
Telfair is a far better shooter than Bucks point guard T.J. Ford,
who was taken eighth last year.... In the race for the final
playoff spot in the East, give the edge to the Heat: 15 of
Miami's final 25 games are at home, and its starting lineup of
Dwyane Wade, Eddie Jones, Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian
Grant is finally healthy. At week's end the Heat was 11-4 when
those five started.


On forward Keith Van Horn, who joined his fourth team in four
years after being dealt last week by the Knicks to the Bucks:

"The misconception about Van Horn is that he's soft. The truth is
that he's overpaid [making $43.5 million through 2005-06], and
he's a poor defender because he's slow and unathletic, but that
doesn't make him soft. Unlike the guy he was traded for, Tim
Thomas--now there's a soft player--Van Horn doesn't back down
from anything. Milwaukee pushes the tempo, shares the ball and
plays help defense, and all of that fits Van Horn's game. He'll
be a more productive rebounder and scorer than Thomas was, which
means that people may finally focus on his strengths instead of
his weaknesses."

WHO IS ...
Brian Cardinal?

As a slow, 6'8", 245-pound forward from Purdue, Cardinal played
only 184 minutes over his first three seasons with the Pistons
and the Wizards. But he used that time to improve his strength,
shooting and footwork, and last fall he got the Warriors' 18th
and final invitation to training camp. Cardinal made the cut and,
after a slew of Warriors injuries, moved from the end of the
bench to the starting lineup. Now Cardinal, who earns $663,679,
is the league's best bargain: At week's end he was averaging 10.4
points and 4.7 rebounds in 22.9 minutes, while shooting 48.3%.
"He gives us an identity as a hardworking team," says coach Eric
Musselman, who rates Cardinal among the league's best at drawing
charges and battling for loose balls. Says Cardinal, "The way I
play can help any team."


3. Advice to Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks: Forget about
moving home to coach Philadelphia next season. You have a better
chance of winning in Portland than with the declining 76ers, and
Blazers owner Paul Allen may insist that you honor your contract.

2. The Bulls stink partly because they're the worst-conditioned
team in the league. Since being traded from the Bulls to the
Raptors on Dec. 1, Lonny Baxter and Donyell Marshall have lost 19
and 10 pounds, respectively, and Jalen Rose (before suffering a
broken hand) was struggling because he couldn't keep up with his
new teammates.

1. To fully appreciate the potential of Nuggets rookie Carmelo
Anthony, watch him at the other end of the floor. After an
indifferent start Anthony is playing aggressive, physical
defense--further proof that this 19-year-old will be an elite