Inside The NBA

April 01, 2002

Manual Labors
Allen Iverson's broken hand won't stop the Sixers in their run
to the postseason

Derrick Coleman sat at his locker in Boston last Friday and
politely answered questions about the injury to 76ers teammate
Allen Iverson, who had broken his left hand two hours earlier.
Coleman seemed to be taking the bad news very well indeed--until
he was told that the league's reigning MVP might be sidelined for
four to six weeks. "Four to six weeks?" yelled Coleman. He
shouted across the locker room to point guard Eric Snow, "Four to
six weeks?"

"But he doesn't need surgery," said Snow, trying to emphasize the
bright side. "That means he could come back early."

Iverson was driving to the basket in the first quarter when
Celtics center Tony Battie chopped down on his left hand,
fracturing the second metacarpal. Iverson, who has a high
threshold for pain, looked as if he had suffered nothing worse
than a broken fingernail as he played the rest of the half. "He
was telling me the whole half it was broken," said Snow,
pointing out that Iverson scored 20 points after the injury.

The Sixers' 96-91 victory showed Eastern Conference rivals why
they'd better not write off Philadelphia. After Iverson headed to
a hospital at halftime, the 76ers turned up their defense and hit
clutch shots, reminding coach Larry Brown of the team that went
to the Finals last year. "Boston thought we would be mentally
weak because we didn't have Allen," said center Dikembe Mutombo.
"We are going to be successful because many teams will be
counting us out."

Mental toughness will take the Sixers only so far. Through Sunday
they were 1-8 without Iverson, in part because reigning Sixth Man
Award winner Aaron McKie had been either sidelined or hindered by
injury. McKie has played only four games since suffering a high
left ankle sprain on Jan. 25, and his absence had heaped more
pressure than ever on Iverson, who was averaging a career- and
league-high 31.4 points while shooting a career-low 39.8%. But
those numbers don't tell the whole story. Two hours before
Iverson's injury Brown said, "Allen has been having a better year
than he had last year." The 76ers hope that McKie, who returned
on Sunday, will supply the scoring, defense and leadership they
desperately need.

Iverson, McKie and Snow are the only holdovers from the team that
was 41-14 through Feb. 22 last season. Even though many of those
Brown dealt--Theo Ratliff, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill and Toni
Kukoc--have been injured this year, he has been criticized for
letting them get away. While admitting that he might have been
able to acquire the 6'10" Coleman without sending Lynch to the
Hornets in an eight-player, three-team trade in October, Brown
says Lynch was included in the deal because of his demand for a
new contract. "I don't want to keep anybody who isn't going to be
happy," Brown says. Had he known that Matt Geiger was going to
retire in November, Brown says, he would have tried harder to
retain backup center Todd MacCulloch, who signed a six-year,
$33.8 million contract with the Nets.

Since trading for Mutombo in February 2001, the Sixers have gone
52-44. Though injuries have been a factor, the team is also
slower with Coleman, 34, and Mutombo, 35, who is averaging career
lows in blocks (2.43 per game) and rebounds (11.0). Mutombo has
missed Lynch and Hill on defense, and the new three-second rule
has forced him out of the paint. It hasn't helped that he has
played in every game and averaged 36.5 minutes, second to Iverson
on the team. Says Mutombo, "I am feeling fatigue."

The more deliberate pace of the playoffs should suit Mutombo and
Coleman--as long as Coleman is able to play. Since November he has
been bothered by a mysterious left knee injury. Last week the
Heat's orthopedic specialist, Harlan Selesnick, told Coleman that
his MRI revealed a possible tear of the meniscus. But Coleman
says that renowned sports surgeon James Andrews diagnosed the
injury as arthritis and normal wear and tear. Although he was
criticized for malingering last year in Charlotte, the sight of
him producing 18 points and 10 rebounds on one leg in Sunday's
90-82 win over the Knicks doesn't square with that image.

With 13 games remaining, Philadelphia isn't likely to blow its 5
1/2-game cushion over the Raptors, Wizards and Heat. Even if the
76ers limp in as the eighth seed, Mutombo likes their chances.
The playoffs will start just as Iverson is due to return. "He
gives us so much," Mutombo says, "so now we are going to give
this to him. When he comes back, he is going to be physically
fit." A healthy Iverson with fresh legs for the playoffs? That
should be a frightening thought for all of Philly's Eastern
rivals.

From Booneville To the Lottery?
Juco Phenom Qyntel Woods

Sitting in a crowded gym at Carver High in Memphis five years
ago, Vensia Woods had one concern as she prepared to watch her
son Qyntel play his first varsity basketball game: Don't let my
baby get hurt. That fear had kept her from watching Qyntel play
quarterback at Carver, and he had to reassure her that basketball
was far less dangerous. But once the game started, Vensia's
worries vanished. "I thought to myself, Lord, what have you sent
me?" Vensia remembers. "It was like a masterpiece had been
unveiled."

Vensia Woods isn't alone in being mesmerized by Qyntel
(kwin-TELL). Now 21, he's a 6'9" guard in the Tracy McGrady mold
out of Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville, a
potential lottery pick who announced last Saturday that he'll
enter the draft--despite the warnings of University of Memphis
coach John Calipari, who had signed Woods for next year.

Calipari has told Woods that teams with mid- to late first-round
picks are trying to make him believe he's a top selection in the
hope that he'll turn pro and fall to them. Woods feels that once
teams assess his quickness, body control, three-point touch and
midrange game, he'll go high enough. "I read that the top pick
would be me or [Duke's] Jason Williams," says Woods, who averaged
32.9 points and 9.8 rebounds last season. "I don't buy into
that--he's proven himself at the Division I level--but I do see
myself in the top five."

"There aren't many players who have his size and length and are
able to handle the ball," says one NBA executive. "I can't think
of enough guys with his upside who will be able to knock him out
of the lottery."

Now living at home after withdrawing from school, Woods admits
that the current hype makes him uncomfortable. He didn't even
want to play basketball at Carver because he thought coach
Stevenson Bratcher would be too hard on him. When Woods grew from
6 feet to 6'5" before his junior year, he finally gave in to the
pleas of his best friend and joined the team. Prodded by
Bratcher, Woods developed perimeter skills, though he played
mostly inside.

Woods has shown toughness in his brief career. After tearing his
left ACL in the second football game of his senior year, he
skipped surgery, played basketball that season wearing a brace
and scored 35 points in the state AA final to lead the Cobras to
the 1999 title. He had surgery on his knee the following fall at
Moberly (Mo.) Area Community College, and while redshirting, he
dribbled a basketball everywhere he went to refine his ball
handling. The next season he averaged 23.4 points and 8.3
rebounds before academic struggles and a desire to be closer to
home led him to transfer to Northeast Mississippi.

Vensia handles all the questions from scouts who've flocked to
Qyntel's games, as well as the constant phone calls from agents.
It's a chaotic time for the Woodses, but they're not complaining.
Qyntel's father was murdered seven weeks after he was born;
growing up in South Memphis, Qyntel resisted the constant
opportunity to use or peddle drugs. Now he has an opportunity of
a different sort. As Vensia says, "It's time for Qyntel to cash
in on his blessings." --Jeffri Chadiha

Disenfranchised Franchise Player
Denver's Antonio McDyess

As a result of their salary-clearing megatrade with the
Mavericks, the Nuggets may have at least $30 million in cap room
in the summer of 2003. They would like power forward Antonio
McDyess to help them spend the money by recruiting elite free
agents. But McDyess may not be the right man for the job because
he isn't sure he wants to stay in Denver.

"What do I tell them?" asks McDyess, who can opt out of his
contract after next season. "I can't sell them on us winning,
because we haven't won. I can't sell them on the weather or the
tax [breaks], because it's not Florida or Texas."

The 27-year-old McDyess is a former All-Star and Olympian, but
he's disappointed with his career. In seven NBA seasons he has
been to the playoffs once, with the Suns in 1997-98--the only
season he hasn't spent in Denver. McDyess doesn't want the
Nuggets to waste next season by hoarding their resources for a
free-agent spending spree in the summer of '03. Kiki Vandeweghe,
the third G.M. McDyess has played under in Denver, vows that
won't happen. He plans to spend his $1 million and $4.5 million
salary-cap exceptions this summer, has four first-round picks in
the next two drafts and will sign lower-profile free agents if
big names won't come in 2003.

The best addition would be a healthy McDyess. When he had surgery
last October to repair a partially torn patellar tendon in his
left knee, the Nuggets lost their inside toughness. McDyess
missed 54 games, and by the time he returned on March 1, coach
Dan Issel had resigned, Nick Van Exel had demanded to be traded
and Vandeweghe had unloaded him to Dallas, along with Raef
LaFrentz, Avery Johnson and Tariq Abdul-Wahad, for Juwan Howard,
Tim Hardaway, Donnell Harvey, a first-round pick and cash.
Through Sunday the team had lost 12 of 16 since the deal, and
McDyess was shut down last Thursday for the rest of the year to
help heal his knee.

"I sit on the bench and think about everything, and sometimes I'm
so frustrated it brings tears to my eyes," says McDyess. "I think
about Dan leaving and Nick being traded, and I wonder if I didn't
get hurt whether any of it would have happened."

Vandeweghe has sought McDyess's opinions on all matters, from
last month's trade to who might take over for interim coach Mike
Evans next season. As much as McDyess appreciates being asked, he
is tired of being a company guy. "Next year has to be a lot
better," he says. "Losing is not an option."

Young NBA Stars Not Interested
2002 World Championships

When the U.S. defends its title at the FIBA world championships
in Indianapolis from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8, it will do so without
many of its young stars. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy
McGrady and Chris Webber have been informally approached about
making a 25-day commitment to represent their country. Iverson,
McGrady and Webber haven't shown interest in filling one of the
two remaining slots on the 12-man roster, and Bryant has already
ruled it out.

Barring a last-minute change of heart, the leading U.S. player
will be point guard Jason Kidd. He will be joined by the likes of
Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Jermaine O'Neal--giving the U.S. a
strong team but not necessarily a dominant one. A national team
insider points out that, for the first time since the Dream Team
made its debut in 1992, the U.S. may not have the best player at
a major international tournament, considering the likely presence
of Germany's Dirk Nowitzki and Yugoslavia's Peja Stojakovic.

At least 17 foreign NBA players are expected to represent their
countries in the tournament. Stojakovic could use a summer of
rest, considering his recent hamstring strain, yet he insists on
playing for Yugoslavia whenever he is healthy. "I will join the
team three or four weeks before the tournament, and we will
practice two times a day, with no pay," Stojakovic says. "But it
is for my country, so I am happy to go."

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH Although Iverson was shooting just 39.8%, Brown says he was having his best season as a pro. COLOR PHOTO: WILLIAM R. SALLAZ/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES If McDyess doesn't see more wins in Denver soon, he's likely to go.

around the Rim

European prospect Nickoloz Tskitishvili will enter the draft if
agent Marc Fleisher thinks he will go in the top 10. Fleisher
hopes to negotiate a buyout for less than $1 million with
Tskitishvili's club, Benetton Treviso. Otherwise the 6'11"
18-year-old will stay in Italy through next season, after which
he can buy his way out for $350,000.... Thought you'd heard the
last of David Falk? Think again. Not only does Falk, 51, deny
rumors that he's retiring, but he also promises to stay active
for at least six more years to help his oldest daughter, Daina, a
freshman at Duke, establish herself as a sports agent.... Grant
Hill is working out daily, including sessions in the pool to
avoid stress on his left ankle, which underwent three operations
in a 20-month span. The Magic is considering the Zydrunas
Ilgauskas plan--limiting Hill's minutes, sitting him out of
practices--in the hope of keeping him injury-free next season....
Look for other teams to copy the Pistons, who won't raise ticket
prices for the playoffs after lowering some of them 45% during
the season. "The economy is not growing," says commissioner David
Stern, "and it is time for basketball and all sports to adjust
accordingly."

scout's Take
On the value of the NCAA tournament in assessing prospects:

"Fans tend to look at someone like Maryland's 6'8" Lonny Baxter,
who has had a good tournament, and say that he must be helping
himself for the draft. People in my business look at one or two
tournament games as fool's gold. Baxter and 6'9" Carlos Boozer of
Duke put up decent numbers, but by NBA standards they're
undersized bigs who are limited offensively. They can usually
muscle their way past the players who are guarding them in
college, but I try to imagine if they would be able to score
against a defender with length, like P.J. Brown. The answer is
probably no--and it isn't going to change, even if they have a
couple of 20-and-10 games in the tournament."

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)