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Original Issue

Ian Thomsen's Fast Break


It's no accident that Eric Musselman runs Kings practices like an NFL team's, with players breaking off into groups to drill in different phases of the game. When Musselman was fired by the Warriors in 2004, he went to the team's next-door neighbors—the Oakland Raiders—and asked for permission to study their organization. "They gave me an office with a phone, they set up a computer for me right next to [player personnel director] Mike Lombardi's, they even put a nameplate on the door," says Musselman (above).

His father, the late coach Bill Musselman, was a master of organization, but Eric Musselman has taken the art of practice to another level. "When you meet with football coaches, you understand the importance of planning—the breakdown of stations, a lot more paperwork and supplying the players with information, breaking things down into parts and never having people sit," he says. "When we scrimmage, the other group is over there dummying [plays] and doing stuff. A lot of that is off football, because [in the NFL] there's not many guys just standing around."


The most reliable player on the Knicks' $117 million roster is also their best bargain. For the relatively low salary of $926,040, second-year forward David Lee leads the team with 8.8 rebounds (21st in the NBA) and 1.21 steals while shooting 61.2% (fourth best in the league)—all in 25.7 minutes off the bench.

"He's a great athlete, he's got a very high basketball IQ, he understands how to defend in the post and on the perimeter, and he plays the percentages," says team president and coach Isiah Thomas, who has assigned the 6'9" Lee (left) to guard everyone from 6'6" Paul Pierce to 7'6" Yao Ming.

Lee focuses on drawing charges and forcing difficult attempts instead of trying to block shots. "My goal is to mentally bring it every single night," he says, "and not have a night where we go into film the next day and they say, 'David, you played with no effort.'"


3 The Magic's Grant Hill is being urged by his mother to consider a political career when he retires, but the 34-year-old forward has little interest. A future in real estate is more likely: Hill has spent his extended rehabs over the last six years taking classes and establishing contacts with Florida developers.

2 After waging a campaign to make sure that players' drivers' licenses and registrations are up to date, commissioner David Stern recently issued a similar directive to front-office staff. "I guess it occurred to him that it would be embarrassing if a G.M. was pulled over and charged with the same kind of thing he's been nagging the players about," says a Western Conference executive.

1 Were we too quick to dismiss the Pistons (11--6) as conference favorites? They have the East's second-best record and have quietly moved just outside the top 10 in field goal defense.

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