Drawing from itsnetwork of NBA insiders--including scouts, coaches and front-officepersonnel--Fast Break picked up these bits of chatter from around theleague.

"For TimThomas to sit at home and realize that the Bulls feel they're better offwithout him and with no team dying to trade for him, that has to be a wake-upcall. If he's willing to change his approach, then he's worth taking a lookat." ... "I'd take Paul Pierce over Tracy McGrady right now. Aside fromMcGrady's health issues, I think Pierce is the better competitor." ..."I wouldn't be surprised if Greg Oden [the 7-foot senior at Lawrence NorthHigh in Indianapolis, above] is considered for the '08 Olympic team. He's thebest big man we've had in years with an innate feel for the game. And on top ofall his talent he's a really good teammate, which is what we're trying toemphasize this time around."


Few careers havegotten off to a more turbulent start than that of 19-year-old Blatche, a6'11" forward from South Kent (Conn.) Prep who was picked 49th by theWizards. Blatche was shot during an attempted carjacking in suburban D.C. lastSeptember. After recovering from bullet wounds to his chest and right wrist, hebounced between the NBA and the D-League before Jan. 11, when he had 9 points,7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 17 minutes against the Hawks. Though he does hismost significant work in the privacy of team practices--at week's end he wasaveraging just 2.1 points and 5.2 minutes--at least one Wizard believes thatBlatche (above, left) has the potential to be an All-Star. "Not too manyguys have that kind of vision and talent to be that good on both ends on thefloor," says Washington forward Antawn Jamison. "It's phenomenal to seethe energy he brings."

How soon willBlatche fill Washington's desperate need for a big man? "He's like a colt,just all over the place," says an Eastern Conference scout. "He's gotthe physical tools, but he doesn't have a game. To me, he's the perfectD-League guy--you stick him down there, and in two years he's going to be aplayer."


3 My EasternConference All-Star team: Ben Wallace, Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Allen Iverson,Chauncey Billups (starters); Shaquille O'Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Dwight Howard,Paul Pierce, Richard Hamilton, Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas (reserves).

2 For the West:Marcus Camby, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash (starters);Tim Duncan, Elton Brand, Pau Gasol, Shawn Marion, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker,Chris Paul (reserves).

1 Toughest toomit (from most to least): Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Michael Redd, ZydrunasIlgauskas (East); Tracy McGrady, Ray Allen, Jason Richardson, Mehmet Okur(West).

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