AROUND THE RIM
Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley were crying in the Magic locker room after Mobley was traded to the Kings for Doug Christie (left). Though he was able to soothe Francis, Orlando G.M. John Weisbrod inherited a new set of issues with Christie's wife, Jackie, who routinely traveled on the Sacramento team plane--which the Magic doesn't allow. Will Weisbrod bend the rules? We may find out if VH-1 green-lights a proposed reality TV series on the Christies.... At 38, forward Cliff Robinson was averaging 9.3 points at week's end for the Warriors. "I don't look at myself as an older player," says the 6'10" Robinson, who neither tapes his ankles nor ices his knees. "I'm capable of doing the same things I've been doing my whole career." ... Here's why Shaquille O'Neal is more popular than other dominating big men: When the KeyArena JumboTron recently compared O'Neal to Shrek, Shaq responded by laughing at himself--earning him an ovation from the Sonics' fans.... Though the Spurs (30-9 through Sunday) haven't lost by more than six points since opening week, coach Gregg Popovich still has his gripes. "I'm disappointed in the sense that we have lost focus against lesser teams," he says. "We're too soft."
LESSONS FROM A PASS MASTER
One reason for the expansion Bobcats' competitive play: 5'10" point guard Brevin Knight, who handed out a season-high 20 assists to go with 15 points in a 100-98 loss at Cleveland on Jan. 11. The performance was no fluke for an old-school playmaker who at week's end ranked second in assists (9.6 per game) and first in assists per turnover (4.47). "When I came in, people said you had to go with bigger point guards," says Knight, 29, who has played for seven teams in eight seasons. "Then everybody wanted big point guards who were scorers, then pure-scoring point guards. Hopefully it's coming back to where they want someone like me who can run your squad and make the open shots when they're there."
3. A prediction: Whether the Pistons repeat or not, the nomadic Larry Brown will leave Detroit next season and return to his native New York, completing his career by coaching the Knicks.
2. The next best thing to winning your division is being the No. 6 seed in the East, which will likely mean home court advantage (based on superior record) against the weakling Atlantic champ.
1. League officials are patting Hornets owner George Shinn on the back for not yielding to Jimmy Jackson's boycott of New Orleans, but the critics will come out if Shinn doesn't trade him by the Feb. 24 deadline. Do the Hornets really want to expose their young players to Jackson's negativity?
News and Jack McCallum's analysis, every week at SI.com/basketball.