Ian Thomsen's Fast Break

February 09, 2004

AROUND THE RIM

Unless the Warriors trade Cliff Robinson before the Feb. 19
deadline, his streak of 14 straight playoff appearances is likely
to end. Only John Stockton (19), Karl Malone (18), Scottie Pippen
(16) and Clyde Drexler (15) have had longer runs....
Surprisingly, Bucks point guard T.J. Ford wasn't named to the
All-Star rookie team; he was edged out by undrafted 6'8" free
agent Udonis Haslem, who played in France before joining the
Heat.... With Sam Cassell (five fouls) and Troy Hudson (sprained
ankle) sidelined, Kevin Garnett took over as the Timberwolves'
point guard in the fourth quarter of a loss at Golden State on
Jan. 28. "Name another [6'11"] guy who can do that," said
Cassell. "He can get the rebound, bring the ball up the court and
get us into our set."

WHO IS ... SAMUEL DALEMBERT?

The shot-blocking center of the 76ers immigrated to Montreal from
his native Haiti at 14 and played his first basketball game at
16. In spite of expert advice that he needed more seasoning, he
entered the draft following his sophomore year at Seton Hall to
raise money for his grandmother, who couldn't afford medicine
while recovering from a stroke back in Haiti. After undergoing
left knee surgery and missing last season, the 6'11", 250-pound
Dalembert has replaced injured Derrick Coleman (fractured finger)
and was averaging 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.79 blocks at
week's end. "Defense is what gets me going," says Dalembert, 22.
"If I'm not blocking the shot, then I'm going to get the
rebound--one or the other is going to be there for me."

SCOUT'S TAKE

On the Grizzlies (25-20 at week's end), who followed an
eight-game winning streak with three straight losses:

"They're going to be streaky because they're making the
transition from a perennial loser to a group that expects to win.
At their best they play great defense, getting into guys and
contesting every shot. They go from the fast break to the
half-court as smoothly as any team because Jason Williams knows
what he's doing, and when his jumper is on, he becomes a truly
great point guard. They've got a decent mix inside with Pau
Gasol, Lorenzen Wright and Stromile Swift; Mike Miller's scoring
has improved in recent weeks as he and Bonzi Wells have learned
to coexist; and Shane Battier gives them defensive versatility
and leadership. Hubie Brown has a deep rotation, though his rule
of limiting his starters to less than 32 minutes will hurt them
in the playoffs. That's when your best players need to take
over."

BUZZER BEATERS

3. The anticipated collapse of the Celtics opens a playoff spot
for the 76ers (20-27 at week's end), the Heat (21-27) or the
Cavaliers (17-29); the team that takes that berth could have the
worst winning percentage of any postseason entry since expansion,
displacing the 1994-95 Celtics (35-47).

2. Three reasons to believe in Darius Miles: He's only 22; his
third team, Portland, is desperate to rebuild with young talent;
and the Trail Blazers have one of the NBA's top development
coaches in assistant John Loyer, who can teach Miles the moves he
needs to establish himself as a small forward.

1. With LeBron James averaging 20.4 points at week's end, it has
become clear that the Cavaliers are best served playing him off
the ball rather than at the point, though he can still take over
as the primary playmaker (a la Jordan) when necessary.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (DALEMBERT) COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH (ROBINSON) Cliff Robinson COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (WILLIAMS) Jason Williams

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)