From its networkof NBA insiders--including scouts, coaches and front-office personnel--FastBreak picked up this chatter from around the league:
"At a recentBoard of Governors meeting, [Blazers owner] Paul Allen told his fellow ownersthat even if he lowered his payroll to the salary cap of $49.5 million [it'scurrently $60.4 million] and sold his entire inventory of seats, he stillwouldn't make money. Why? He declared bankruptcy on the Rose Garden andsurrendered ownership of the best seats to another company, which is now makinga profit by selling those seats." ... "The Warriors had a team meetinglast week, and it didn't go well for [coach] Mike Montgomery (above right). Hewas told outright that the players have lost respect for him because he doesn'tstand up to Baron Davis."
WHO IS ...MARQUINHOS?
Agent MichaelCoyne has taken personal tutoring to new heights. Recognizing that his clientMarcus Vinicius (a.k.a. Marquinhos) needed hands-on guidance to prepare for theJune draft, Coyne hired former NBA assistant Bob Donewald to work with him lastAugust--by having Donewald installed as coach of Sao Carlos, Marquinhos's teamin Brazil. (It helped that Nuggets forward Nen√™, until recently a Coyne client,owns a stake in the Paulista League club.)
A 6'9",231-pound swingman, Marquinhos, 21, averaged close to 20 points, seven reboundsand seven assists and is the top-rated player in Brazil's top league. "I'vehad him playing the point at times," says Donewald. "He can handle, hecan pass, he's outstanding in the open court and he can really shoot. The twoknocks against him were his defense and his body, but he's been in the weightroom every day getting bigger, and defensively he's not afraid tocompete."
Only the Hawkshave scouted Marquinhos (left), but Donewald says private workouts arescheduled for later this month in Cleveland. He has also talked with Coyneabout finding another Brazilian prospect whose team he could coach. "Theweather's 85 degrees," he says. "I have a maid, a cook and a driver.It's a pretty good life."
3 The luckyEastern playoff seed is No. 6, which offers a winnable first-round seriesagainst the Nets and no meeting with Detroit until the conference finals.Imagine if the Pacers (9-5 at week's end with Peja Stojakovic in the lineup)get that spot and have Jermaine O'Neal back for the playoffs.
2 The Rocketshave everything in place for a run at the postseason. Not only are TracyMcGrady and Yao Ming healthy, but Houston is also beginning its easiest stretchof the season (11 home games in March).
1 Health iseverything: The top eight Pistons have participated in every practice thisseason.
•NBA PowerRankings every Friday at SI.com/NBA.