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On The Beat: Eastern Conference, Southeast Division (December 16, 2004)

Miami Heat (17-7)

The Heat continue to roll winning their sixth straight game and their twelve in sixteen games.  They are proven themselves to be the strongest Eastern Power so far going 14-2 against conference opponents.  However, their 3-5 win-loss record against Western opponents doesn’t bode well…  Journeyman PG-Damon Jones looks like he has maybe found a permanent home, by all indications of his early season play.  Jones, who has played for a different team every season (that’s eight in total) has been seeing the most floor time that he’s ever seen in his career, having been inserted into the team’s starting lineup for the past eight games.  Jones is making the most of this opportunity being the third leading scorer behind dynamic duo C-Shaquille O’Neal and G-Dwayne Wade with 11.5 points per game.  Jones is also leading the NBA in 3-pointers made (74), second in 3-point attempts (156), and is ninth in 3-point field goal percentage (45.5%).  He is making his case for entrance into the NBA 3-point competition during the all-star break.  Shaq jokingly said that he would give $50,000 to Jones if he wins that competition…  There had been trade rumors circulating around the Heat camp involving G-Eddie Jones being swapped to the Raptors for G-Jalen Rose.  Jones has had a disappointing season so far averaging only 10.1 points a game and shooting an inexcusable 34.9% from the field.  The 33 year-old Jones is making $13.5-million this season and has two more years remaining on his contract that will see him get paid $14.6-million next season and $15.7-million for the 2006-7 season. 

Washington Wizards (12-8)

The Wizards have loss their last two games, both to the Miami Heat.  Before this, the Wizards had won six of their previous seven games, making significant strides in becoming a legitimate playoff contender.  They have finished their divisional play with the Heat, losing all four times they had faced them…  F/C-Kwame Brown has made a stronger case for himself to get traded.  The team suspended Brown for his refusal to participate in a team huddle during the Wizard’s loss to the Denver Nuggets.  Brown returned after recovering from a fractured foot at the beginning of December.  The former first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft, has averaged 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in the seven games he has played in.  The Wizards did not offer a contract extension to Brown, who is rumored to be on the trading block, this season so he will become a free-agent in the summer…  C-Etan Thomas (abdominal strain) and G-Steve Blake (strained left arch) are eligible to come off the injured list for Friday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.  Thomas has not played a game this season after he signed a lucrative 6-year, $37-million contract in the summer.  Thomas was an integral part of the team last season where he averaged 8.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 24.1 minutes a game. 

Orlando Magic (13-9)

The Magic have hit a stretch of reality losing three straight games, although all against quality Western Conference teams – San Antonio, Phoenix, and the Los Angeles Lakers (combined record: 49-17).  Their 94-91 loss to San Antonio capped of a grueling six game Western road trip that saw them win only two games.  At home, Orlando have played admirably sporting a 7-2 record…  G-Deshawn Stevenson has become increasingly disgruntled with his lack of playing time.  He has acted forth by demanding a trade, although GM-John Wiesbrod has no plans on moving him.  Stevenson had started in 10 games for the Magic, but has fallen out of Coach-Johnny Davis’ rotation with the return of G-Cuttino Mobley.  Stevenson, who was acquired this past summer, has played a sparing 16 minutes in the last six games…  F-Grant Hill missed one game over last week because of a bruised shin suffered during the Magic’s win over the Golden State Warriors.  His removal from the game was precautionary, as management is cautious about minimizing any chance of further injury.  Hill has been plagued by an assortment of injuries over the last 4 years after signing a 6-year, $93-million deal with the Magic.   

Charlotte Bobcats (5-14)

The Bobcats won their last game 94-93 against New Orleans in overtime, snapping a four game losing streak.  The game was an emotional one as fans were extremely happy over the victory against the Hornets, who moved out of the city last season.  The team had fallen out of the favor of the city due to the fan’s hatred for owner George Shinn…  The team’s franchise player, F-Emeka Okafor has been elevating his play of late.  The second overall draft pick in the 2004 NBA Draft has averaged a double-double in the Bobcat’s last 11 games.  In that stretch, Okafor has averaged 17.6 points and 12.8 rebounds a game.  He is solidifying his role as the team leader and is the leading candidate for Rookie Of The Year Honors…  The Bobcats acquired G-Kareem Rush on Dec. 6th in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for two second round picks in the 2005 and 2008 NBA Draft.  Charlotte cleared a roster spot last week by waiving G-Eddie House.  Rush will be getting substantial minutes with his new team, and since playing in four games, has averaged 11 points in 23 minutes a game…  G-Jason Kapono has been mentioned in trade rumors involving the Denver Nuggets.  The Nuggets are on the market for a perimeter player since the season-ending loss of G-Voshon Lenard.  

Atlanta Hawks (4-18)

At least Atlanta can find solace in the New Orleans Hornets, the only team with a worse record.  The team has been sorely outmatched most games, and are in midst of a three game losing streak.  Twelve of the team’s losses have been by 10 points or more.  The team’s is ranked 27th in the league in points scored (89.1 per game), and is 28th in points allowed (100.0 points per game), and leads the league allowing opponents to shoot 46.9% from the field…  G-Royal Ivey has been activated of the injured list and F/C-Jelani McCoy was released.  Ivey, who had been playing well in limited minutes prior to injury, will return to share point guard duties with Boris Diaw and Kenny Anderson.  McCoy had played 10 games averaging 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds a game before his release…  A silver lining in the Hawk’s disappointing season has been the positive development made by F-Josh Smith.  Selected with the 17th overall pick in last’s 2004 NBA Draft out of high school, Smith has been responding well with increased minutes.  An athletic standout, Smith has averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 rebounds over the last five games.  He had a career game in Atlanta’s latest game, a 92-69 drubbing by the Houston Rockets, where he scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds.