Drawing from itsnetwork of NBA insiders--including scouts, coaches and front-officepersonnel--FAST BREAK picked up this chatter from around the league.
"The Sixersare imploding, and there's only one answer: Trade Allen Iverson (right). Theycan't win with him, so they need to see if they can win without him. Instead ofasking for Ray Allen or Paul Pierce or Vince Carter, they need to settle foryounger players--like Ben Gordon and Luol Deng [of the Bulls]--and spend thenext two years running the offense through Chris Webber while the talentdevelops." ... "There are always rumors that if [Celtics coach] DocRivers is fired, they'll just shift [G.M.] Danny Ainge over to replace him, butI don't think that'll ever happen. Since Day One, Danny has been telling theowners that he doesn't want to coach." ... "I hear that the Blazers areinterested in hiring [Sonics director of basketball operations] DavePendergraft in some front-office capacity, maybe to replace G.M. John Nash, sothat [coach] Nate McMillan can have his own guy in Portland." ... "Tworeasons why the Bucks are struggling: Teams are clogging the middle on T.J.Ford and--unlike Chris Paul, for example--he doesn't have the ability to getthe ball in the basket when he's surrounded by big people. Also, JamaalMagloire is hurting them because he's a plodder who demands the ball anddetracts from their up-tempo style."
COMING BACK SOON:JAY WILLIAMS?
It has been almostthree years since a motorcycle accident tore three ligaments in Jay Williams'sleft knee and severed a nerve in his left leg, nearly resulting in itsamputation. This week, however, the 6'2" point guard--who also fracturedhis pelvis in the accident--will move to Houston to begin full-time workoutsunder former NBA point guard and coach John Lucas. A rehabilitation guru whoplayed a pivotal role in the comebacks of T.J. Ford and Vin Baker, amongothers, Lucas hopes to have Williams ready for his return to the league by thestart of next season. "John Lucas is going to put me through hell, but hellis where I need to go to get me where I want to be," says Williams, 24, the2002 NCAA player of the year at Duke and No. 2 pick in that year's draft.
Williams (left)plans to be ready for the start of summer-league play in July. "I don'tknow if I'll be the guy with a 43-inch vertical who's going to be able to dunkover Yao Ming," says Williams. "But I'll be a smarter player."
And perhaps evenas good as he was in his one NBA season, when he averaged 9.5 points and 4.7assists as a Bulls rookie. "I never thought I was going to be able to dunkthe ball again, but now I'm dunking," Williams adds. "I keep workinghard and surprising myself. For the first time I can see the light, and now I'mreaching for it."
The most important, yet overlooked, story down the stretch is Tim Duncan'splantar fasciitis. Few players have suffered bigger dips in back-to-backs thanthe Spurs' big man, who averages 19.4 points in the first game but only 14.9the following night. He experiences a similar dropoff on the boards, going from11.8 rebounds to 9.1.
The daily speculation about a Kevin Garnett trade is almost lending an air ofinevitability to his exit from Minnesota, no?
Now that Alonzo Mourning is out for the rest of the regular season andquestionable to be at full strength for the playoffs, it's up to you, ShaquilleO'Neal. If you don't motivate and dominate, the Heat is going nowhere in thepostseason.
RANDY BELICE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (WILLIAMS)