New Orleans Hornets: Win eight more games
At 2-27, New Orleans is closing in on a date with history, and not the good kind. The Hornets need to win 10 games on the season to avoid going down as the worst NBA team ever, an honor currently held by those lovable 1972-73 76ers. With Baron Davis and Rodney Rogers back from injury and David West returning soon, it seems the Hornets are more than capable of putting up the necessary 8-45 (which is still absolutely pathetic) the rest of the way. But beware -- if the fire sale that unloaded David Wesley and Darrell Armstrong extends to Davis and P.J. Brown, the Hornets might have trouble winning eight games in the D-League.
Rasheed Wallace: Rediscover his shot
Whither 'Sheed's stroke? Detroit's fiery forward is a 49-percent career shooter but mired at 41.0 in his 2004-05 campaign, one reason the Pistons are a disappointing 16-13 after winning the title a year ago. The degeneration in Wallace's field-goal percentage from last year's 43.6 -- which was also a career low -- is worse than it seems. With offense up around the league, other player's marks are rising, but Wallace is shooting worse even though he's taking fewer 3-pointers.
Al Jefferson: Share the ball
Boston's rookie forward is making a noticeable impact in his first season out of high school, working his way into the Celtic's rotation and even earning a start a week ago while Raef LaFrentz was sidelined. But his considerable post skills will go to waste if he doesn't learn how to spot his teammates. Jefferson has a Yinka Dare-esque five assists on the season, which actually isn't the worst total in the league (Dikembe Mutombo has two), but given how often the ball is in his hands, Jefferson needs to do a much better job of locating other players who might want it.
Devin Harris: Get a rebound
The Mavericks have talked about what a disappointment the fifth overall pick from Wisconsin has been offensively, and they'll get no argument from me. But what really stands out is his amazing allergy for balls bouncing off the rim. Harris has rebounded just 2.6 percent of missed shots while he's on the court, the worst rate in the league. For comparison, Denver's Earl Boykins is 10 inches shorter but manages to nab the carom on 4.2 percent -- more than 50 percent more often than Harris. Perhaps if he sticks his nose into the action a bit more he'll stay in Don Nelson's good graces long enough to show more at the offensive end.
Michael Ruffin: Make a shot
Suffice it to say that the reserve big man for the Wizards won't be having any plays called for him. In 535 minutes, Ruffin had made just 12 baskets -- yes, 12. That's a half for Kobe Bryant. Ruffin makes less than one field-goal per 40 minutes (0.9 to be exact), a microscopic output which is less than half that of every other NBA player. While his success rate (30.8 percent) is a strong deterrent to any ventures to the basket, if he could manage some kind of offensive production it would help take some of the heat off Larry Hughes, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.
Gerald Wallace: Hang on to the ball
The young Bobcats forward is earning plaudits for his defense, but he's undoing much of his good work by handing the ball right back to the opponent. Wallace turns the ball over on 18.6 percent of the possessions he uses, the most of any double-figure scorer and the highest among all perimeter players. Combined with Wallace's erratic shooting, it's less of a mystery why Rick Adelman kept him on the pine in Sacramento.
Danny Fortson: Quit hacking
Fortson's toughness has added an undeniable edge to the previously soft Sonics, who improved to a shocking 22-6 with last night's win in Miami. However, it would be nice if he could stay on the court a bit longer. Fortson averages a whopping 10.8 fouls per 40 minutes, which, since they only give six, normally precludes him from finishing the game. The resulting foul trouble limits him to just 18 minutes a contest.
Paul Silas: Play Anderson Varejao
Here's what we know about Cleveland's frontcourt reserves so far: Robert Traylor has been a huge disappointment (literally), DeSagana Diop rhymes with slop for a reason, and Anderson Varejao is absolutely electric. So it's mystifying to see Varejao barely playing more minutes than Diop and seeing about half as much time as Traylor. The Brazilian rookie is shooting 57 percent and averaging 17.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per 40 minutes, plus he hustles like crazy and rocks a mean Carrot Top 'do that gets the locals in a frenzy. Shouldn't Silas give a guy like that get some more burn?
Rudy Tomjanovich: Give Kobe a break
Kobe leads the league in minutes at an absurd 43.6 a game, the most since Allen Iverson averaged 43.7 in 2001-02. Not coincidentally, Iverson missed 22 games that season due to injury, and unlike Bryant he wasn't battling plantar fasciitis. The resultant wear and tear on Bryant has been noticeable down the stretch in several games, especially the Christmas Day affair against Miami when Bryant didn't score in overtime and could only manage a forced brick at the buzzer on L.A.'s final attempt. This could be a case where less really is more -- less minutes for Bryant, more production in crunch time.
Antoine Walker: Stop the masonry
This seems to be a recurring resolution for Walker, but this year he's really gone off the deep end. Walker's low-percentage shooting ways have followed him from Boston to Dallas to Atlanta, with the additional minus that he's now missing free throws, too -- he's at just 53 percent. Taken as a whole, he averages 0.96 points per shot attempt (shot attempts here are defined as field-goal attempts plus free-throw attempts times 0.44). That's the worst mark of any player averaging 13 points per game or better.
• Looking for the big loser in Amare Stoudemire's 50-point night against Portland on Sunday? How about Steve Nash. It's going be tough for his MVP campaign to get much momentum if he's not the best player on his own team.
• Sleepy-eyed Tracy McGrady normally waits until a month into the season to wake up, but now that he's arisen from his slumber, Western teams should watch out. McGrady has 10 straight 20-point games, one more than he could muster in the Rockets' first 21 contests, igniting a hot streak that has Houston back on the good side of .500.
• Finally, I'll leave you to ponder this: The sale of the Cavaliers to Dan Gilbert is complete, which means that when Cleveland plays host to Washington on Jan. 24, Gilbert Arenas will be in Gilbert's arena.