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Western Conference: November 1, 2004

Dallas Mavericks

G/F-Jerry Stackhouse, who was acquired in a trade for F-Antawn Jamison, contends he will be happy coming of the bench as the Maverick’s sixth man.  Drafted ahead of Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett, Stackhouse has always been a career starter, being the go-to guy wherever he has played (Philadelphia, Detroit, and Washington)…..  The Dallas Mavericks are a bit of an enigma starting of the season.  Loaded with as much talent as previous years, many analysts still hesitantly predict an off-year for the Mavs.  The major question is whether there will be good, productive team chemistry with the departure of floor leader G-Steve Nash, and the addition of new players C-Erick Dampier, Stackhouse, G-Jason Terry, and G-Devin Harris…..  G-Avery Johnson has retired as a player to focus on coaching.  As the coach Don Nelson’s lead assistant, this move was widely predicted as the next logical step for Johnson, who is widely hailed to be the Nelson’s successor…..  The Mavericks finished the preseason with a 3-5 record, winning their preseason finale against the Sacramento Kings 112-93.  F-Dirk Nowitzski scored 30 points, G-Devin Harris added 24, and F-Josh Howard contributed with 21. 

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are entering this regular season with extremely high expectations, fueled by the addition of rising superstar F-Kenyon Martin and a more seasoned F-Carmelo Anthony.  Many analysts place them amongst the Western Conference elites, a far cry from 2 years ago, when they couldn’t even win 20 games……  The Denver Nuggets have waived rookie G-Marcus Hatten, who dazzled crowds during preseason with his quickness and highlight-reel assists…..  The Nuggets finished the preseason with a promising 6-1 record, including a preseason finale 98-79 win against the Indiana Pacers.  F-Nene led the team with 17 points and 8 rebounds. 

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors agreed to contract extensions for G-Jason Richardson and F-Troy Murphy.  Richardson will receive $70-million for 6 years while Murphy is getting $58-million for 6 years.  Both were 2001 first round draft picks, and considered key components in the Warriors rebuilding process.  Both entering their forth season, Richardson averaged a career best 18.7 points and 6.7 rebounds last season, while Murphy was injured most of last year, but averaged 11.7 points and 10.2 rebounds the previous season…..  Coach Mike Montgomery looks like he will begin the season opener against Portland with Speedy Claxton as the starting point guard.  It was surprising regarding that the team had signed PG-Derek Fisher to a 6 year, $37-million deal in the summer…..  The Warriors finished the preseason with a 5-3 record including a 82-78 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.  Richardson scored 19 points and Murphy had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the effort.

Houston Rockets

G/F-Tracy McGrady has agreed to a contract extension with the Rockets for $63-million over 3 years.  McGrady still had 3 years remaining on his current 6 year, $110-million contract and was going to opt out of that contract at the end of the season.  He is happy now…..  C-Yao Ming is ready to play the Rockets season opener against defending champs, Detroit Pistons.  Yao had hyperextended his elbow against the Cleveland Cavaliers in preseason action last Wednesday……  Maurice Taylor gets the nod as the Rocket’s starting power forward in the season opener.  Taylor was used primarily as the 6th man last season.  F-Juwan Howard will come of the bench…..  With McGrady teaming up with Yao this season, expectations are high in Houston.  Many analysts see the Rockets as championship contenders, however coach Jeff Van Gundy was quick to quell or the hype.  Van Gundy said that he feels the team is overrated, citing that they turn the ball over too much. 

Los Angeles Clippers

Other than the obvious choices of F-Elton Brand, G-Corey Maggette and G-Marko Jaric, Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy has not committed to a starting lineup.  With C-Chris Kaman and G-Kerry Kittles not ready to start the season due to injuries, the main candidates to start are F-Chris Wilcox and F-Bobby Simmons…..  The Clippers waived G-Trajan Langdon, F-Kaniel Dickens and F-Terence Morris last Thursday.  This trims the Clippers roster to 14 players for the start of the season…..  The Clippers finished the preseason with a 2-5 record.  They lossed their preseason finale 109-88 against the Phoenix Suns.  Simmons had 19 points and 7 rebounds in the losing effort.    

Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers season is about to begin with an opening game against the Denver Nuggets.  Many analysts don’t know what to make of this new look Laker team.  The burden is squarely on G-Kobe Bryant’s shoulder.  Now is no doubting his immense talent, but how will he play now as he has no Shaq to bail him out?…..  The Lakers waived G-Nate Johnson and C-Ike Nwanko last Wednesday, and G-Tony Bobbit on Monday, leaving them with 15 players on their roster to start the season…..  The Lakers placed C-Vlade Divac (herniated disk of lower back), F-Devean George (recovering from ankle surgery), and F-Slava Medvedenko (righ heal) on the injured list.  All will miss a minimum of five games…..  The Lakers announced Sunday they were exercising a fourth-year contract option on F-Caron Butler, assuring he’ll be with the team through the 2005-06 season, and declined the option for G-Kareem Rush, making him an unrestricted free agent next summer……  The Lakers finished the preseason with a 5-2 record with a preseason finale 97-87 victory of the Washington Wizards.  Kobe scored 19 points to lead his team.

Memphis Grizzlies

Expectations are high for the Grizzlies this season following their surprising 50-win campaign of last season.  With essentially the same roster, with the addition of free agent F-Brian Cardinal, coach Hubie Brown expects and even better performance from his team after they have matured from last season…..  C-Lorenzen Wright was suspended for one game by the NBA on Tuesday for shoving Milwaukee C-Zaza Pachulia during Memphis’ 97-75 exhibition victory over the Bucks last Thursday.  Wright will serve the suspension during the Grizzlies’ season opener, Nov. 3 against the Washington Wizards…..  The Grizzlies finished the preseason with a 6-2 record winning their preseason finale 99-92 against the Milwaukee Bucks.  F-Stromile Swift led the team with 24 points.

Minnesota Timberwolves

G-Latrell Sprewell has demanded a trade if he doesn’t get a contract extension with the team.  Sprewell averaged 16.8 points last season and is due to make $14.6 million this year.  The team had offered an extension worth $9-million a season, which Sprewell found insulting…..  The T-wolves released G-Anthony Goldwire and F-Kasib Powell on Thursday, trimming their roster to 14 players…..  Coach Flip Saunders has his starting lineup set: PG-Sam Cassell, SG-Latrell Sprewell, SF-Wally Szerbiak, PF-Kevin Garnett, and C-Michael Olowakandi.  G-Troy Hudson, G-Trenton Hassell, and F-Eddie Griffen will play significant minutes of the bench…..  The T-wolves finished the preseason with a 5-3 record, winning their preseason finale 102-95 against the Detroit Pistons.  F-Kevin Garnett finished with 22 points, and F-Eddie Griffen contributed 15 points of the bench.

New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets will begin the season in a new conference.  A perennial playoff team in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference…..  Coach Byron Scott finalized his 12-man roster by placing second-round draft pick Tim Pickett and G-Junior Harrington on the injured list with back spasms……  The Hornets’ starters are expected to be PG-Baron Davis, SG-David Wesley, SF-George Lynch, PF-P.J. Brown, and C-Jamaal Magloire.  Rookie SG-J.R. Smith is expected to be the top reserve……

 The Hornets finished the preseason with a 3-5 record.  They loss their preseason finale against the San Antonio Spurs 102-86.  G-Baron Davis had 21 points in the losing effort. 

Phoenix Suns

Coach Mike D’Antoni has implemented a fast offense-focused team for this new year.  With PG-Steve Nash managing this frenetic pace, and SG-Quentin Richardson, SF-Shawn Marion, and PF-Amare Stoudamire looking to finish.  Many analysts are wondering whether they will be able to outscore their opponents though with their porous defense…..  Coach D’Antoni will begin the regular season opener against the Atlanta Hawks with a small starting lineup: PG-Steve Nash, SG-Quentin Richardson, SF-Joe Johnson, PF-Shawn Marion and C-Amaré Stoudemire…..  The Suns waived G-Howard Eisley after buying out his contract Friday.   Terms of the buyout were not disclosed…..  It looks like G-Yatu Tubase will make the Suns regular season roster making him the first Japanese player in the league…..  The Suns finished the preseason with a sparkling 6-1 record.  They won their preseason finale against  the Los Angeles Clippers 109-88.  The two newcomers sparked the victory, G-Steve Nash had 17 points and 6 assists, while G-Quentin Richardson, who has been a force this preseason, had 18 points.  

Portland Trail Blazers

F-Zach Randolph agreed to a six-year, $84 million contract extension with the Blazers.  Randolph, who at 23 is the franchise player, averaged 20.1 points and 10.5 rebounds last season, and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player…..  The problems never cease for F-Qyntel Woods.  Already suspended by the team following allegations of dog fighting, Woods has been suspended without pay for five games by the NBA for violating the league’s drug policy……  Coach Maurice Cheeks has announced his starting lineup for the teams opening game against the Golden State Warriors: PG-Damon Stoudamire, SG-Derek Anderson, SF-Shareef Abdul-Rahim, PF-Zach Randolph, and C-Theo Ratliffe.  Key contributors of the bench will be F-Darius Miles, G-Nick Van Exel, and G-Ruben Patterson…..  The Blazers finished their preseason with a 4-4 record.  They lost their preseason finale 91-87 against the Seattle Supersonics.  Only 8 players dressed for this game, and Ruben Patterson had 22 points in the losing effort.

Sacramento Kings

The Kings will embark on this new season amidst a swirl of questions regarding whether they can overcome any negative team chemistry.  Essentially the same squad as last season, minus locker room leader C-Vlade Divac, problems began with news of star F-Peja Stojakovic demanding a trade, and F-Chris Webber questioning the toughness of this team……  The Kings released G-Liu Wei, C-Anwar Ferguson, and G-Tony Bland, trimming their roster down to 16 players…...  The projected starting lineup when the Kings face the Dallas Mavericks in their regular season opening game is PG-Mike Bibby, SG-Maurice Evans (in place for injured Doug Christie), SF-Peja Stojakovic, PF-Chris Webber, and C-Brad Miller.  Key contributors from the bench are G-Bobby Jackson, F-Darius Songalia, and C-Greg Ostertag…..  The Kings finished the preseason with a disappointing 2-6 record, but are not concerned about that record.  They drop their preseason finale 124-96 against the Phoenix Suns.  F-Peja Stojakovic had 21 points in the losing effort. 

San Antonio Spurs

G-Tony Parker and the Spurs have agreed to a 6 year, $66-million contract extension.  The deal was closed in the closing hours of the deadline with much lobbying to owner Peter Holt from star C-Tim Duncan and Coach Gregg Poppovich.  Parker will earn $1.5 million this season in the final year of his rookie contract. His salary will jump to more than $8 million for the 2005-06 season……   The Spurs have waived C-Ruben Boumtje Boumtje……  The Spurs signed G-Mike Wilks, who was waived by the Chicago Bulls in training camp.  The 5-11 Wilks split time with the Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves last year…..  The Spurs finished their preseason with a 4-3 record.  They won their preseason finale over the New Orleans Hornets 102-86, led by 16 points from G-Tony Parker. 

Seattle Supersonics

F-Rashard Lewis looks like he will be ready for Seattle’s opening game against the Los Angeles Clippers.  Lewis is suffering from plantar fasciitis……  C-Vitaly Potapenko will be sidelined six weeks with a broken right hand.  Potapenko is entering his ninth season and was the Sonics starting center…..   Seattle waived G-Mateen Cleaves and G-David Young on Thursday, trimming the roster to 14 players……  In a surprising move, the Sonics placed Turkish G-Ibo Kutluay on the injured list, bringing their active roster to 12.  The Sonics signed Kutluay to a two-year, $3.328 million deal in September.  Placing him on the injured list instead of free agent camp invitee G-Damien Wilkins indicates Kutluay has not been as good as the team believed he’d be when it signed him.  He must miss at least five games…..  The Sonics finished their preseason with a 2-6 record, but ended on a high note defeating the Portland Trailblazers 91-87.  G-Ray Allen scored 32 points to lead the team. 

Utah Jazz

C- Mehmet Okur is questionable for Wednesday’s season opening game against the Los Angeles Lakers after getting poked in the eye during practice over the weekend…..  F-Andrei Kirilenko and the Jazz have agreed to a 6 year, $86-million extension.  Kirilenko is the Jazz’s best player at only 23 years.  An exquisite all-round player, Kirilenko averaged 16.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.76 blocked shots, and 1.92 steals……  The Jazz have picked up the 2005-2006 options on G-Raul Lopez and C-Curtis Borchardt, preventing both players from becoming unrestricted free agents next summer.  Lopez gets a nearly a 75% raise and will earn almost $1.8 million next season.  Borchardt’s pay climbs nearly 54 percent to almost $2 million…..  The Jazz put three players on the injured list Monday, including G-Raul Lopez (right knee), F-Carlos Arroyo (sprained left ankle) and C-Aleksandar Radojevic (tendinitis left knee). 

The Jazz finished their preseason with a 4-4 record.  They lost their final preseason game 89-83 against the New York Knicks.  F-Matt Harpring scored 17 points and F-Carlos Boozer had 13 points, 10 rebounds in the losing effort.