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Original Issue

Ian Thomsen's Fast Break


Before last season G.M. Danny Ainge traded Antoine Walker (left) in the belief that the Celtics couldn't become a running team with him; last week Ainge reacquired Walker from the Hawks in a four-player swap. Ainge believes that Walker is more likely to take orders from Doc Rivers than he was from his former Boston coach, Jim O'Brien. While many around the league saw Ainge's change of heart as a sign of confusion, O'Brien credits him for keeping an open mind. "To me it's a sign of mature leadership," says O'Brien.... Here's one thing the owners and players agreed upon while meeting during All-Star weekend: They want the new collective-bargaining agreement to declare an exact luxury-tax threshold before teams begin negotiating contracts in the summer, so both the players and management will know how much money is available for free agents.... Surprise: Bulls coach Scott Skiles doesn't yell. "I can count the times I've really had to raise my voice with this group on one hand," says Skiles, who developed a reputation for being too dictatorial in his first job, at Phoenix.


They were born 11 years apart, all within a mile of one another in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas: First Arvydas Sabonis, then Zydrunas Ilgauskas and now another potential NBA pivot, 7'3" Martynas Andriuskevicius (right). The 19-year-old Andriuskevicius was averaging only 9.5 minutes and 1.6 points at week's end for Zalgiris Kaunas in the Euroleague, but his U.S. agent, Herb Rudoy, predicts he'll be "a high lottery pick" and doesn't plan to pull him out of the draft as he did last year. "That combination of size and skill level you don't find very often," says one of the league's top foreign scouts. Still, he and his colleagues debate whether comparisons with Dirk Nowitzki are fair. "He's a long way away from that," the scout says. "A lot of people don't believe he'll ever be that."


3. The team with the league's best salary structure is--no surprise--the Spurs. From Tim Duncan ($14.3 million this year) to Tony Parker ($8.4 million when his new six-year contract kicks in next season) to Manu Ginobili ($6.6 million), every player is making a reasonable amount (at least in NBA terms).

2. While the Bucks' trades last week cleared space for them to re-sign Michael Redd this summer, league execs believe the moves may also signal owner Herb Kohl's intention to sell the team.

1. The Warriors' risky decision to hire Stanford coach Mike Montgomery--a 58-year-old NBA rookie--is even more perilous now that they dealt for high-maintenance point guard Baron Davis.

News and Jack McCallum's analysis, every week at