This is an article from the March 16, 2009 issue
Some NBA players would pay to watch him (Poll, below), and Jazz ticket holders are sure getting a nice return. Utah had won 11 straight through Sunday (its longest streak in 10 years), and Williams had put up 51 points and 25 assists in his last two home games. Said Rick Adelman, coach of the Rockets, who were victimized by Williams last week, "He controls the game."
You'd think a top closer (1.33 ERA last year) might be pitching for his native U.S. in the WBC, but the Twins' Nathan had to miss it with a sore shoulder. He got good news when he threw a perfect inning against the O's and felt no pain.
That was one tough tournament matchup—and the Terrapins won it, beating Duke in OT for their first ACC title in 20 years. Maryland squandered a late, 10-point lead in regulation, but, said forward Marissa Coleman, "we were never worried."
Who says they can't fly? Soaring to six straight wins—five on the road—and with Sidney Crosby (right) back from a groin injury, Pittsburgh is at last looking like last year's finalists. Coach Dan Bylsma's strategy? "I always plan to win the next game," he told Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette.
Popping off against the Magic's Stan Van Gundy and Dwight Howard—did you really invent everything Howard does, Shaq daddy?—was unseemly, especially given the way O'Neal has been playing. In a four-game stretch, all Phoenix losses, the big fellow had as many personal fouls as free throw tries. Worse: If the playoffs began today, O'Neal and the Suns would be out.
You'd think a former Cy Young--winning closer might be playing for his native Canada in the WBC. But the oft-injured Gagné's fall from late-inning grace continued when he was cut by Milwaukee. His next step: rehabbing his troublesome shoulder.
"This next game is the biggest of the year," said guard Eric Hayes before his Terps lost to Virginia and slipped to 18--12. That meant three losses in four games and the need for a small miracle—or a big run in the ACC tournament—to get into the dance.
Wrong time to go south. Anaheim had lost four of five through Sunday, falling to 11th in the West, and the team's running out of time. (It's played more games than other contenders.) Coach Randy Carlyle says the trouble's in "the execution." The architect of Anaheim's 2007 Cup, G.M. Brian Burke, who left in November, may have bolted just in time.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Which NBA point guard would you pay to see?
Chris Paul, Hornets 59%
Steve Nash, Suns 14%
Chauncey Billups, Nuggets 5%
Deron Williams, Jazz 5%
Allen Iverson, Pistons 4%
Paul led the NBA with 11.1 assists per game through Sunday, ahead of runner-up Williams, who was at 10.6.... Paul was also the league leader in steals, with 2.8; among these top five vote-getters Iverson was next, at 1.6, which tied for 14th overall in the NBA.... In this, his 13th season, Nash had his lowest assist average (9.7) since 2003--04.
[Based on a survey of 190 NBA players] • For more on the poll, and to comment on it, go to SI.com/magazine.