THE HOT LINE
Tapping its network of NBA cognoscenti, Fast Break picked up these bits of chatter from around the league last week.
"This is a bad year to be a bad team. The Number 1 pick in the draft could be Connecticut sophomore forward Rudy Gay [right], but only if you're willing to wait a few years for him to develop. If you want someone to help now, then you'll probably go with Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, who will be a reliable scorer in the NBA. But right now I don't see any future All-Stars in this draft." ... "I've seen Marvin Williams play three times this season, but I have yet to see the athleticism. Where's the hop?" ... "The hot rumor is that the Knicks are trying to move Penny Hardaway and his expiring contract for Jalen Rose, which would put Toronto under the cap this summer. But word is that the Knicks want $3 million and a draft pick to help make up for the extra $17 million in luxury tax they'd be taking on next season [because of Rose's salary]."
WHO IS ... DESAGANA DIOP?
Mavericks backup center DeSagana Diop was recently telling a reporter that he'd lost 30 pounds since last season when Mark Cuban interrupted. "What was your highest weight in Cleveland?" asked the Dallas owner.
Replied Diop (left), who played four lethargic seasons with the Cavaliers before signing with Dallas as a free agent last summer, "Three hundred twenty-five pounds."
"And what are you at now?" persisted Cuban.
"Two hundred seventy," said the 7-foot Diop.
The plummet in pounds has led to a spike in productivity for Diop, who has turned into a shot-altering dynamo off the bench for the suddenly stingy Mavs (94.0 points per game allowed, a 4.7-point decrease from last season). At week's end the 23-year-old Diop ranked 13th in the league with 2.1 blocks per game, even though he was averaging only 17.9 minutes. "He's certainly the best backup that I've ever played with," says Mavs All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki. "He's very active, he comes in with energy, and he tries to block everything and get every rebound."
3 If Grant Hill stays healthy, the Magic is a playoff team. Orlando is committed to defense, its top scorers (Hill and Steve Francis) can both pass, and Dwight Howard is the next Tim Duncan.
2 MEMO TO: Boston Celtics. ON BEHALF OF: Every shivering team exposed to the frigid jet stream that flows by the visitors' bench at the Garden. REQUEST: Shut the bloody doors, and turn up the heat! You have the coldest gym this side of Irkutsk.
1 If the Sonics can't get relief from their crushing Key Arena lease, then owner Howard Shultz should fly his private jet to Nevada and begin negotiating a move to Vegas.
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