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Doc Rivers:"Spurs without Duncan, you might see a team like Houston go to the Finals

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Yaowaming, Mar 27, 2005.

  1. Yaowaming

    Yaowaming Contributing Member

    Nov 18, 2002
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    Tim & none

    That's what Spurs' chances for title are if Duncan's out

    Tim Duncan is helped off court by teammates last Sunday in Auburn Hills after severely spraining right ankle in first quarter vs. Pistons.

    From Seattle to Phoenix to Dallas, and in every Western Conference playoff town in between, team executives, players and coaches are on a Tim Duncan watch.
    A week ago, Duncan severely sprained his right ankle and could be out for the rest of the regular season with ligament damage that may not fully heal until next season. His status for the playoffs, and how effective he can be in the postseason, is the most significant development in the West since the Lakers broke up their mini-dynasty last summer by trading Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat.

    "The entire West changed dramatically with Shaq leaving the Lakers," said Seattle GM Rick Sund this past week. "If Duncan is not 100% when the playoffs start, it changes things in our conference in a big way. I've always felt that Phoenix was the best team out here, anyway, even before Duncan went down. But he is the most dominant player in the West . . . If he's not his normal self for the playoffs, then that gives everybody a legitimate shot to get to the Finals."

    The loss of Duncan could be a huge break for the Sonics, who could finish with the No. 2 seed, even with Vladimir Radmanovic, their third-most important player, out for the rest of the regular season with a leg injury.

    But the biggest winner could be Phoenix, which is looking at its first No. 1 seed since posting the best record overall in 1993. That would cap a remarkable turnaround. The Suns finished in the lottery last season after winning only 29 games.

    "Tim is an obvious impact player and his absence could certainly affect the Western Conference playoff picture," said Bryan Colangelo, the Suns' GM. "The No. 1 seed has been our goal all along, and we have competed neck-and-neck with the Spurs all season. What we need to worry about, however, is that we stay sharp and focused and compete each night as if nothing has changed."

    There hasn't been a Western Conference champion outside of the Lakers or San Antonio since Utah won the conference in 1998. Since then, the Lakers and Spurs have won five of the last six NBA championships, with Detroit finally ending the West's domination last June.

    "I can't worry about how this will impact us for the playoffs, because I really don't know at this time," said Spurs executive VP-coach Gregg Popovich. "Tim's disappointed because he was starting to get on his roll. But he knows that is over with and he's got to start over. So he's got to start to change gears and has gotten into rehab mode."

    The West could well come down to how Duncan's recovery goes between now and the start of the playoffs on April 23.

    "The Spurs are one of the few exceptions in that if they have Duncan, it doesn't matter if they have the homecourt advantage," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "They've got veterans, they've been together and they've won. But without Duncan, you might see a team like Houston go to the Finals. They've got two stars - Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, one inside and one outside - and a ton of veterans who can shoot. I wouldn't be shocked to see them go far. Because without Duncan, the West now is actually a small conference and a speed conference."

    And suddenly, a conference up for grabs.

    Feeling the draft

    In what is the strongest signal to date that North Carolina's star freshman Marvin Williams could be heading to the pros, persons acting on his behalf recently talked with NBA officials about the state of a new collective bargaining agreement. League sources say Williams' reps specifically inquired about the chances of a minimum-age requirement being added to the next CBA. Although the 6-9 Williams is considered a lock to be drafted in the top five, he wants to stay in school for another year of seasoning. But a minimum-age requirement is expected to be established and could lead him to come out in this June's draft. He turns 19 on June 19, nine days before the draft.

    Look for Pitt's big man, Chris Taft, to formally announce that he's heading to the pros after the Final Four. Taft, out of Coney Island, could be a lottery pick, depending on his predraft workouts.

    NBA GMs and scouts head to South Bend today for the start of practices for Wednesday's McDonald's All-America game. They'll be looking at a handful of prep players, starting with Houston-area star Gerald Green, who's this year's version of Josh Smith, the Atlanta rookie who won the dunk contest at All-Star weekend. Although Green has agreed to play at Oklahoma State, there's still a good chance he will make the jump to the pros. One scout says the 6-7 small forward needs a crash course in how to play, "but you can't pass up his athleticism."

    Green had been considered a top-10 pick, but disappointed in his practices and performance at last week's all-star game in Chicago . . . Oklahoma State's Joey Graham may have slipped to No. 18-to-22 range after his NCAA Tournament showing. Some scouts see him as a "power three" and a better-scoring version of the Bucks' Darvin Ham.

    Slam Dunks

    Of all the recent coaching changes, the one in Dallas made the least sense. Although he had never taken a team to a Finals, Don Nelson was a great in-game coach and a master of setting up and exploiting mismatches. "Nellie lives for the playoffs, so I don't know why he'd walk away," said one Western Conference executive.
    The crazy thing is that Mark Cuban allowed Nellie to leave, knowing full well that he's replacing a coach with 155 games of playoff experience with Avery Johnson, who has never been a head coach. "With Del (Harrris) in Avery's corner," said Cuban, referring to the long-time Mavs assistant, "I like our chances going into the playoffs."

    It's quitting time in L.A. The Lakers have dropped seven straight and threw in the towel during their Thursday night loss at Denver, prompting interim coach Frank Hamblen to say of his players: "They're starting to erode my immune system, I'll tell you that."
    It's hard to imagine that Phil Jackson would want to rejoin this team. "From the success this franchise has had over the years, in the last five years, it's hard for those of us who've remained with the team to accept this," said Hamblen, a former member of Jackson's staff. "Not the losing. It's how you lose. It's how you compete or do not compete." The Lakers haven't been very competitive since Rudy Tomjanovich quit, losing 17 of 25 games.

    Maybe Allen Iverson and Chris Webber should practice together more frequently. Since Webber's acquisition last month, the two didn't go through their first practice together until this past Tuesday. The next night, the Sixers clobbered the Pistons by 23. As one Sixer privately noted, "Allen never practices and Chris doesn't practice a lot." . . . Memphis assistant Eric Musselman is the favorite to get the Orlando job. A former Magic assistant, he's the young and fiery type GM John Weisbrod wants for the post. ... If the Pacers make the playoffs, after all they've endured, how does Rick Carlisle not win Coach of the Year?

    Originally published on March 27, 2005

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