Inside The NBA

February 25, 2002

It's on the 'House
In leading resurgent Detroit, Jerry Stackhouse has learned the
joys of passing

When Pistons shooting guard Jerry Stackhouse talks about the
recent changes in his life, he sounds as if he has found
religion. The truth is that he's learned how to pass and how to
lead.

Last Thursday at New Jersey, Detroit was trailing 78-77 with two
minutes remaining when backup point guard Damon Jones dished to
Stackhouse. Instead of forcing a three-pointer over 6'7" Richard
Jefferson, Stackhouse zipped the ball back to Jones, whose
wide-open three from the corner gave the Pistons a lead they
wouldn't relinquish in an 85-80 victory. "Last year I probably
would have taken that shot," says Stackhouse. "I didn't used to
feel this way, but I care as much about making an assist now as
scoring a bucket."

Stackhouse is content with his scoring average of 23.0
points--down 6.8 points from last season--because at week's end
the Pistons were 28-22, nine games ahead of their 2000-01 pace.
Detroit had also won six straight on the road, its best streak
in 12 seasons. At the heart of the team's success is the 6'6"
Stackhouse, who was leading the Pistons with 5.2 assists per
game, the third-best average among NBA shooting guards. "His
all-around game has [risen] to an amazingly high level," says
76ers coach Larry Brown, who dealt Stackhouse to Detroit four
seasons ago.

Much of the credit for Stackhouse's ascent goes to rookie coach
Rick Carlisle, who had developed a reputation for aloofness as
an assistant with the Pacers. After Indiana passed over him and
hired Isiah Thomas last season, Carlisle became a part-time
broadcaster in Seattle and a full-time student of coaching,
learning the importance of having close relationships with the
players, especially with the stars. "I told Rick that Jerry is
not unreasonable and not uncoachable," says Detroit G.M. Joe
Dumars, who played 1 1/2 seasons with Stackhouse. "He was a good
person who really needed direction and guidance."

Last May, the day after Dumars hired Carlisle, the new coach
spent more than two hours conveying to Stackhouse his vision of a
ball-sharing team. "It was like an oral exam, the way Rick was
picking my brain," recalls Stackhouse, 27. "My first reaction
was, How many teams really use everybody?"

Playing Carlisle's way, the Pistons--who were picked by SI to
finish 14th in the East--got off to a 14-6 start. When they
dropped 12 of their next 14, however, Stackhouse's many critics
were sure he would revert to his old shoot-first form. Instead he
continued to spread the wealth and at week's end had taken the
Pistons on a 12-4 run that placed them a game behind the Bucks
for the best record in the Central Division. "Once the pressure
was on, he responded extremely well," says Heat coach Pat Riley.
"He's making plays, he's unselfish, he's a better defender, he's
a better outside shooter, and we already knew he could slash and
score."

Despite his improved all-around play, Stackhouse, a two-time
All-Star in his more selfish days, wasn't chosen for this year's
squad. "That's a bad message to send," says Trail Blazers guard
Steve Kerr, who rates Stackhouse with Vince Carter and Michael
Finley among wing players, a cut below Kobe Bryant, Michael
Jordan and Tracy McGrady.

Stackhouse hopes to make the league pay by advancing in the
playoffs for the first time in his career. The grinding,
defensive-minded Pistons stand out in the underachieving East,
where the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers have more talent but show
less passion. Stackhouse's 35.8 minutes per game are 4.4 fewer
than last season, which allows him to burn more energy at the
defensive end. Despite a groin injury he suffered in November,
Stackhouse says, "For the first time I feel like I'm getting
stronger each month."

Carlisle calls the majority of the plays in order to dictate
tempo and make sure the scoring is shared. That's fine with
Stack, who says he limits his freelancing to "like, one play each
half," then gets more freedom from Carlisle to take control over
the final three minutes when the game is close. "I've bought into
numbers," he says. "Rick has statistics showing that when we move
the ball from side to side, our scoring percentages are off the
charts."

Stackhouse's early career was marked by his failure to
complement Allen Iverson on the court in Philadelphia and his
wars with Grant Hill off it in Detroit. "Everything was tailored
to Grant," Stackhouse says, "to the point that guys on the team
wouldn't speak their minds." However, now that he has learned to
sacrifice for his team's success, Stackhouse sounds as if he
would like to turn back the clock. "It would be great to have
somebody like Grant back on our roster," he says. "I could take
having a real star on the team and still feel secure. Because I
know that the things I do are what ignite us, and when I don't
have it, we don't have it."

Stern's European Invasion
FIBA Not Thrilled About NBA's Plan

The revelation during All-Star weekend that the NBA is
considering expansion into Europe signaled a reversal for
commissioner David Stern, who had spent the previous decade
promising basketball officials overseas that he would not
encroach on their turf. Stern made it clear that the league needs
new revenue streams, and he'll begin by seeking them in Europe,
then try to crack the potentially lucrative market in China.

"The domestic market for men's basketball is getting to be
mature," Stern told SI last Thursday. "Television ratings are
not going to go up. Advertising is not going to experience any
robust growth in the near future."

Stern pointed to last week's decision by Fox to write down $909
million in losses on its contracts with the NFL, NASCAR and
baseball as the latest sign that the American sports market is
saturated. On the other hand, Stern looks abroad and sees NBA
offices in 10 countries, European leagues made vulnerable by
infighting, and the worldwide popularity of basketball at an
alltime high. "We have enormous growth potential," Stern says,
"and it's outside the United States."

FIBA secretary-general Borislav Stankovic--the David Stern of
international basketball--doesn't sound ready to cede Europe to
the NBA. "Our relationships with the NBA have been good,"
Stankovic says, "until now."

Stern will decide within the next year on a course of expansion,
then implement that plan when the league's new $4.6 billion
television contract expires in 2007-08. The options: 1) taking
over an existing European league, such as the 32-team EuroLeague;
2) establishing a new league, separate from the NBA, and placing
franchises in the continent's major cities; 3) inviting several
European clubs to join the NBA, a scenario long endorsed by many
of the leading teams there; and 4) placing NBA expansion
franchises in Europe, under European ownership.

Given the likelihood that few American players would happily move
overseas--many object to playing in Canada--the last two proposals
seem farfetched. Stern insists, though, that they're plausible.
If he's right, that could force FIBA to play ball and accept one
of the first two options.

The NBA would seek to build European basketball in an American
way, which means bringing together corporate investors and media
moguls (like Rupert Murdoch or Italy's Silvio Berlusconi) to
finance the major league basketball arenas that don't exist in
Europe. Stern envisions entertainment hubs in which modern soccer
and basketball facilities stand side by side with a shopping mall
in between.

As Stern sees it, European basketball is in the midst of a crisis
and needs the NBA's leadership to dig its way out. A two-year-old
spat between FIBA and ULEB, a breakaway faction representing many
of the top clubs, has turned into Europe's version of the old
NBA-ABA war and is dividing the fan base. "In the post-Dream Team
period basketball in Europe underwent a rapid ascent," says
Stern, whose good relationship with FIBA led to the introduction
of NBA players to the Olympics in 1992. "But that ascent has
stopped."

"I don't agree," says Stankovic, pointing to the number of
Europeans in the NBA and the fact that the U.S. was almost beaten
by Lithuania in the 2000 Olympics. He also makes a solid point
when he warns that the NBA's superstar culture may not fly in the
Old World, where fans are passionate about their clubs.
"[Stern's] idea is to present sport as entertainment, but it's
very, very difficult to say if that will be successful,"
Stankovic says. "In Europe the spectators only care about seeing
victory for their team and not the spectacle."

Swingman Shandon Anderson
Money Aside, Nix With the Knicks

For a perfect example of how hard it can sometimes be for a
player to fit into a system, consider Knicks swingman Shandon
Anderson, who at week's end was averaging a career-low 4.8 points
in 18.7 minutes while earning more money than ever for a team
that is likely to miss the playoffs for the first time in 15
seasons.

New York acquired Anderson, 28, from the Rockets in a three-way
trade involving Glen Rice last summer and will pay him $42
million over six years, making him the team's
third-most-expensive player. There seemed little chance that
Anderson would make a difference commensurate with that salary,
especially when he would have to share time with the Knicks' top
two scorers, Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell. A role player,
Anderson focuses on making subtler contributions. "Make the game
easy--get easy baskets, get out in the open court, move the ball
around," he says. "I learned that in Utah."

Chosen with the 54th draft pick in 1996 by Scott Layden, who was
the Jazz G.M. at the time and now holds that position with the
Knicks, Anderson played in the NBA Finals in his first two years.
He admits he was too young to realize how good he had it in Salt
Lake City. "Greg Foster told me, 'Don't think the grass is always
greener on the other side,' but I didn't understand," Anderson
says. "I'd played there three years, I was accustomed to one
system, and I thought that was the way things would be. I didn't
realize there are 28 other teams who play about 20 different
systems."

Does Anderson regret leaving the Jazz to sign a two-year, $4.2
million deal with Houston before coming to New York? "I felt
they'd groomed me in Utah, and I needed to go off into the world
and see what I could do," says Anderson. "But I got used to
playing in the playoffs there."

Play of the Week
Double-Blind

After a half season loaded with bad luck, the Heat got a huge
break last Friday from referee Bill Spooner, who from eight feet
away failed to notice an obvious violation by Miami guard Eddie
Jones in the closing seconds of a game at Milwaukee. With the
Heat trailing 82-79, Jones picked up his dribble under pressure
from Anthony Mason outside the three-point arc, then dribbled
again to free himself for a shot. Although Jones missed badly,
teammate Jimmy Jackson grabbed the rebound, raced behind the arc
and drilled a buzzer-beating three to send the game into
overtime. Jones then hit the decisive shot in Miami's 90-88 win,
nailing a 10-footer with 7.1 seconds left in OT.

"That was a high school call by a high school ref," said Bucks
coach George Karl. Said Heat coach Pat Riley, "I ain't giving it
back."

For complete scores, stats and the latest news, plus more
analysis from Jack McCallum, go to cnnsi.com/basketball.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG NELSON Stackhouse is still Detroit's top scorer, but his shot attempts are down while his assists--and wins--are up. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH

around the Rim

Introducing the latest top prospect from Europe: 6'11" Nickoloz
Tskitishvili, a thin 18-year-old power forward from the Republic
of Georgia. "He has more talent than Pau Gasol," says Benetton
Treviso coach Mike D'Antoni, who predicts Tskitishvili will be a
Top 5 pick in 2004 when he turns 21. "He's very quick, plays
hard, shoots the three and knows how to pass."...With his
rebounding and shot blocking, 7'1" Tyson Chandler of the Bulls
is the only rookie straight out of high school to make an impact
so far this season.... Al Harrington is taking a typically
optimistic view of his rehab after reconstructive surgery on his
right knee last month. "Giving me three months of shooting will
really help my game," says the Pacers forward, who wants to add
the three-pointer to his arsenal.... With Shaquille O'Neal
sidelined by an arthritic big toe, the Lakers were 2-2 after the
All-Star break, including a home loss to the Hawks. Still, they
are considering resting Shaq for one more stretch before the
playoffs.... The NBA says it won't return any more draft picks
to the Timberwolves, who will lose three first-rounders in
all--including ones this June and in 2004--for their illicit
signing of Joe Smith in '99. That's fine with Minnesota, which
won't have to pay guaranteed money to what would probably have
been late-round picks.... To avoid suspect starts and stops of
the game clock, the competition committee has decided that clock
operators during the playoffs must come from neutral cities....
With five triple doubles after 51 games, Jason Kidd has tied the
Nets' franchise record, held by Kenny Anderson and Shawn Bradley.

scout's Take

On Stephon Marbury of the struggling Suns (25-27), whose coach,
Scott Skiles, resigned on Sunday:

Stephon Marbury isn't the kind of point guard who helps win
games. When he's looking for his shot, the Suns become a
one-on-one team and do a lot of standing around. Then when he
decides to set up his teammates, it's hard for them to make that
switch and become more involved in the offense. He's been trying
to scale back his shooting, but then he becomes less of a threat.
He doesn't rebound or create on the fast break the way Jason Kidd
did, but Phoenix can still be a potent transition team because
Marbury is one of the best finishers in the league--much better
than Kidd. He might develop into a scoring guard who can carry a
team through the playoffs, but right now, at 25, he can't
dominate a game without shooting, which is the test for every
great point guard.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)