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ON THE BEAT - Western Conference: October 18, 2004

Dallas Mavericks

Of to an 0-2 preseason start, the Mavericks have already started to rely on their deep bench following injuries to key team members. In their recent 114-93 loss to the Orlando Magic, F-Dirk Nowitzski left clutching his oft-injured left ankle. In addition to Nowitzki’s injury, G-Marquis Daniels (left ankle) missed the game and G/F-Jerry Stackhouse sat out the second half with a right thigh bruise..... Coach Don Nelson has not been impressed with his team’s preseason performance to date. Poor shooting, a rash of turnovers and poor defense are plaguingthe Mavs. Go back to the drawing board, Nelson said of the next course of action.... Disgruntled French G-Tariq Abdul Wahid, who is on Dallas’ official roster, but on the injury list, claims that he is healthy enough to play, but isn’t allowed by Dallas. He believes that the tests run by Dallas are bogus, with the intention of just declaring him ineligible to play.

Denver Nuggets

Kenyon Martin made his Nuggets debut in the team’s second preseason game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Martin played half the game, scoring 3 points, with 10 rebounds in the loss. He had missed the first game due to an injured toe..... In their opening game, a 97-91 victory over the Bucks, F-Carmelo Anthony showed signs of his vowel to improve his play following a disappointing Olympics. Anthony scored 19 points. Also impressive was 5-9 G-Earl Boykins who had 18 points and 6 assists..... Coach Jeff Bzdelik hopes F-Nene, who has missed both preseason games with a strained left hamstring, can practice in the latter part of the week. Nene’s absence has hurt his quest to start. But Bzdelik said he hasn’t made up his mind. I’ve haven’t seen my whole team together yet, he said.

Golden State Warriors

Off to a good start, the Warriors lost their latest game against the LA Lakers, where G-Derek Fisher was playing against his former team for the first time. Following 8 seasons in LA, including 3 championships, Fisher signed a 6-year contract with Golden State. He finished with 15 points in the loss which dropped the Warriors record to 2-1..... New coach Mike Montgomery is pleased with the team’s cohesion. In his first year as a pro-coach, Montogomery is best known for turning Stanford into an elite program, by preaching basketball fundamentals to his young and deep team..... F-Eduardo Najera has been impressing his coach and management with his work ethic, and all-out play, even in practices. After missing the first preseason game to a groin injury, Najera’s play has been superb in the next two games, as he is averaging almost a double-double in points and rebounds.

Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets have finished their back-to-back games against the Sacramento Kings in China. In the first game, the Rockets defeated the Kings 88-86 in Yao Ming’s hometown of Shanghai. The following game in Beijing saw the Kings draw even, defeating the Rockets 91-89 in Beijing. The exhibition games were a huge success as the games were sold out and were headline news in the world’s most populated country..... The Rockets played their first preseason game against Miami before departing for China. Shaq easily outplayed Yao and Dikiembe Mutombo.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are off to an unimpressive 0-2 start in their preseason schedule. The Clippers were routed by the Phoenix Suns 105-83, and then lost their most recent game to the New Orleans Hornets 105-95..... G-Marko Jaric got some good news when tests revealed that his broken left thumb was nearly healed and that he would be able to start practicing with the Clippers this morning at Los Angeles Southwest College.

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are now at 1-1 for the preseason, as Kobe Bryant led his new-look team to a 94-80 victory over Golden State. Bryant had 23 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists. In the Laker’s preseason debut, a 87-80 loss to the Seattle Supersonics, Bryant had 35 points..... The kiss-and-tell book of former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson remains the talk of the league and draws mixed opinion. In the book, Jackson blasted Kobe Bryant as a selfish and self-absorbed individual, whom Jackson was in psychological battle with throughout the course of last season. Kobe, and the Laker’s front office, has refused to comment on the book, only saying that they have differing views to Jackson’s opinions...... Seattle G-Ray Allen has joined the Kobe-bashing bandwagon. Allen felt that Kobe is obsessed with trying to win a championship without Shaq, and in the process of doing so, Allen feels that Kobe will alienate his teammates. Allen predicts that Kobe will be demanding a trade if the Lakers are not successful.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are of to a 2-1 start in the preseason, with their latest game, a 108-91 defeat to the Indiana Pacers. Previous to that, Memphis had defeated Orlando and Cleveland. The Grizzlie’s deep bench was yet again on display, continuing from the success of last season’s 50-win season, as at least 4, 5, and 6 players reached double-digits in Memphis’s respective games...... Although G-Bonzi Wells has yet to seen the floor, recovering from back surgery to remove a cyst and a strained left hamstring, he feels confident that he will be fine and will be able to successfully integrate with the team later on..... New acquisition, F-Brian Cardinal, who signed a 6-year contract with Memphis in the summer, has been garnering a lot of attention in Memphis. With his trademark hustle and intensity, the Grizzlies have added another good guy to their mix. Cardinal will be expected to do the dirty work (a role he relishes), which should also make him a good piece to the puzzle.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves recently won a game 76-70 against the defending champions, Detroit Pistons, to bring their preseason record to 2-1. C-Michael Olowokandi played well, coming of ankle recovery, to post 10 points and 11 rebounds. His efforts will be sorely needed if Minnesota plans of repeating last’s season achievement of having the best record in the Western Conference..... The Timberwolves haven’t given up on trying to sign free agent Karl Malone.

Malone, who is skipping training camp because of a tender knee, has assured the Wolves they’ll receive serious consideration if he decides to return to the court for the regular season...... Wolves backup PG-Troy Hudson, who hasn’t played in a game since March, went through drills with his teammates. He didn’t play Sunday and won’t play Tuesday at Indiana, but he is getting close to the final stages of rehabilitation.

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets are playing very well in the preseason under new coach, Byron Scott. With a recent 105-95 victory over the LA Clippers, the team sports a 2-1 record. With injuries to G-David Wesley (right hamstring), F-Rodney Rogers (right hamstring), C-Jamaal Magloire (left ankle), and F-Chris Andersen (back spasms) are sidelined, Scott have had plenty of opportunities to assess the rest of his team..... Making a lot of noise for the Hornets, has been their rookie G-J.R. Smith. Smith was selected 18th overall in this past NBA draft, straight out of high school. Smith was plunged into the starting position for New Orleans due to Wesley’s injury, and has consistently shined on the big stage. Showing a level-head and good shot-selection, Smith has been averaging 15 points a game. Although Scott maintains that Wesley will be his starter, he hopes that Smith can continue his output and play a prominent role in the team’s success...... F-Lee Nailon, back for his second stint with the Hornets has also played effectively this preseason. He has posted 30 points in his two exhibition games.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns are of to a 2-0 preseason start with victories over the LA Clippers and Seattle Supersonics. New G-Quentin Richardson, signed to a lucrative contract in the summer, scored 22 and 21 points in the Sun’s respective victories. Richardson seems like he will be make an impact for the Suns, playing cohesively with SF-Shawn Marion and PF-Amare Stoudamire...... PG-Steve Nash, who signed a long-term lucrative contract in the summer, has yet to play a game for his new team, with a strained right groin. He recently became a new father to a set of twins...... Coach, Mike D’Antoni is pleased with the way his team is distributing the ball. Even with both PGs, Steve Nash and Yatu Tubase, out with injuries...... The Suns on Thursday waived 7-foot, 240-pound center Justin Rowe.

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are 2-1 in the preseason – a debut win over Seattle, a loss against Golden State, and a recent 111-85 victory over the expansion Charlotte Bobcats.  F-Darius Miles got 20 points in the recent victory……  Despite all the noise about wanting get traded, F-Shareef Abdur-Rahim has looked and played comfortably.  Despite the team having a logjam of forwards with Ruben Patterson and Darius Miles, Abdur-Rahim appears to have solidified his spot in the starting rotation…..  F-Qyntel Woods has been suspended by the team, pending investigation, for his potential involvement in a Portland’s dog fighting circle.  The police searched Wood’s home for additional evidence.  Woods’ home was first searched on Monday, following allegations that Woods abandoned his pit bull, reportedly because it would not fight for him.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings have had a successful preseason so far, splitting two games against the Houston Rockets in China.  Overall, they had promoted the game of basketball and the NBA abroad very effectively along with Houston, led by Yao Ming.  Their preseason record stands at 1-2, after they most recent 91-89 win against Houston in Beijing.  In that game, G-Bobby Jackson made a fadeaway jumper with 6.7 seconds left to seal the victory……  Sacramento G-Wei Lu, also from China, played 19 and 10 minutes against the Rockets in Shanghai and Beijing respectively.  He will most likely be cut by the Kings prior to the start of the regular season…..  C-Brad Miller has played well as the new starting center following the departure of incumbent, Vlade Divac.  Miller, who has performed well in his first season in Sacramento should improve on his numbers – 14.1 ppg, 10.3 rpg……  Disgruntled F-Peja Stojakovic who had demanded a trade out of Sacramento, which General Manager Geoff Petrie refuses, has entered training camp in good spirits.  Stojakovic said that he will honor his contract and play hard for the team. 

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have opened their preseason with a 98-84 loss against the New York Knicks.  C-Tim Duncan had 16 points, 8 rebounds in 20 minutes of play.  Coach Gregg Popovich said that the only person that he impressed him in the game was New York’s new G-Jamal Crawford who scored 25 points on 8-12 shooting…..    Though the club won’t officially waive G-Valter Monteiro, who had some good moments in Saturday’s game, Monteiro returned to his home country of Angola after the game, cutting the number of players in camp to 17…..

F-Linton Johnson III remains sidelined with a badly sprained right ankle and the club has no timetable for his return to action……  Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the team resuming negotiations on a contract extension for G-Tony Parker.

Seattle Supersonics

The preseason of the Sonics could serve as a long reminder of how the regular season is going to turn out.  After winning their preseason opener against the LA Clippers, the Sonics have lost three consecutive games, including being blown out twice, dropping their record to 1-3.  The bright spot for Seattle in these games were all-star G-Ray Allen, who has scored 72 points on 51 percent shooting. He has made 45 percent of his 3-pointers; and 7-0 C-Robert Swift.  Coach Nate Mcmillan has been pleased with the progress of the 18 year old.  With every game, he is showing more of his ability, and he plays within his own limitations – pretty mature for his age.…..  Who will be the starting point guard? Neither Luke Ridnour nor Antonio Daniels has shot particularly well.  In three games, Ridnour has averaged 5.3 points, shot 35.3 percent from the floor and has yet to make a 3-pointer.  In four games, Daniels has averaged 7.5 points and shot 27.6 percent from the floor…… F-Rashard Lewis has missed 2 practices and a pair of games because of plantar fasciitis, which can be the kind of injury that can derail entire seasons and become debilitating.

Utah Jazz

The new-look Utah Jazz have started their preseason campaign with a 1-0 start with a 100-84 preseason debut victory over the lowly Seattle Supersonics.  Coach Jerry Sloan was impressed with the team’s performance, particularly from the fully recovered F-Matt Harpring, who had a game best 18 points, along with 8 rebounds.  Newly acquired C-Mehmet Okur showed his versatility scoring 14 points in a variety of ways.  Rookie forwards Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder finished with 14 and 11 points respectively….. F-Carlos Boozer (lower-back strain), G-Raja Bell (groin strain) and G-Raul Lopez (rehab leg) did not play in the Jazz’s preseason opener Sunday, but all practiced Monday and are expected to be available in their next game against the Knicks…… Fan interest in Utah is now reminiscent of what it was in the heyday of the Stockton/Malone-led Jazz teams.  The Jazz recorded their highest season-ticket renewal rate since just after the NBA Finals seasons.  The Jazz have annually ranked among the league’s top 10 draws since moving into the Delta Center in 1991.