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On The Beat: Western Conference, Pacific Division (December 16, 2004)

Phoenix Suns (19-3)

The Suns keep running themselves into victories, that’s six straight and 15 of their last 16 games, and there is no indication of the running letting up.  The Suns are leading the league in averaging 109.4 points a game, almost eight points higher then the next most potent offense (Sacramento Kings), and nearly 15 points more than their average a year ago.  In the process they are shooting a league-best 47.8 points and have made and attempted the most three-pointers…  The Sun’s five starters have been spreading the wealth, with all of them averaging more than 14 points a game – C-Amare Stoudamire (25.8), PF-Shawn Marion (19.5), SG-Joe Johnson (16.4), PG-Steve Nash (16.3), and SF-Quentin Richardson (14.3).  Richardson, who appears broken out of his early season slump, has been averaging 20.5 points a game in the team’s last 10 games, highlighted by a 37 point performance in a 121-99 win over Portland…  C-Jake Voskuhl had an appendectomy last Friday and hopes to be back in action in three weeks. F-Jackson Vroman is eligible to come off the injured list soon, meaning the team may place Japanese G-Yuta Tabuse back on the injured list…  The Suns' chairman and CEO, Jerry Colangelo has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Colangelo, who is also involved with baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, will have surgery at the end of the year.     

Sacramento Kings (15-6)

The Kings are looking like they’ve settled back into their old selves as NBA Championship contenders.  The Kings have won two straight, and 14 of their last 16 games.  All the controversy surrounding team chemistry earlier in the season has been put on the backburner as the team is playing moving the ball around with continuity, a trademark that has made them so successful in the past few seasons…  F-Chris Webber, who was the source of much of the controversy that involved F-Peja Stojakovic, has been a model of consistency.  Despite the lack of explosiveness he once possessed, he has been successful relying on crafty plays.  He leads the team with 20.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a game, and is second on the team with 5.3 assists a game.  He missed the game against Charlotte to rest his sore left knee…  The Kings will look forward to their next game against the Los Angeles Lakers that will see the return of former C-Vlade Divac in a Laker uniform.  Divac signed a deal as a free-agent with the Lakers after spending six productive seasons in Sacramento.  He was widely seen as one of the leaders of the team, and was the buffer between Webber and Stojakovic.        

Los Angeles Lakers (12-9)

The Lakers are playing a solid, consistent game so far this season.  They have not loss more than 2 games in a row, and at the same time, have not won more than 2 consecutive games…  The soap opera that is Kobe Bryant’s life continues.  Recently he has apologized to former teammate C-Shaquille O’Neal over comments he had said about the big guy over the summer.  The comments revolved about Shaq paying of women he sees on the road.  Shaq vehemently denied those allegations, and wishes to have nothing to do with Kobe.  He had no response to Kobe’s comments.  The apology followed a spat between Kobe and former teammate F-Karl Malone, where Kobe was angered by his perceived notion that Malone was hitting on his wife.  Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, had told Kobe that Malone made inappropriate comments to her during a game earlier this season.  This incident was preceded by another incident where Malone was angered about Kobe’s comments about the distraction Malone has caused over whether he will return to the Lakers or not.  In lieu of this, it appears that Malone will not return to the Lakers, and has since contacted the San Antonio Spurs about a possible spot on the roster…  C-Vlade Divac will be looking forward to the team’s next game, a match-up with hated rivals and his former team, the Sacramento Kings.  Divac spent six productive seasons there before signing a 2-year deal with the Lakers in the summer.  Since his arrival in LA, Divac had been mainly injured, but has returned to play in the last seven games.  He is averaging less than a point and a rebound in 5 minutes per game.

Los Angeles Clippers (11-10)

After reeling of 5 straight wins, the Clippers have fallen back into their usual realm, losing 4 of their next five games, including their current three-game losing streak…  G-Cory Maggette has been on fire lately despite the team’s current woes.  He has averaged 29.5 points per game over the team’s last six games, which has upped his season average to 22.0 points a game.  A big reason for his scoring surge is Maggette’s ability to get to free throw line.  He is seventh in the league with 9.5 free-throw attempts a game…  C-Chris Kaman has demonstrated his durability after starting a game against the Golden State Warriors six days following an appendectomy.  Kaman also missed the early part of the season due to a sprained left ankle.  He has played nine games since and has averaged 14.8 minutes, 2.1 points, and 3.3 rebounds a game…  G-Kerry Kittles still needs to get himself into game shape.  Kittles has played four games since his return from a knee injury, and has averaged 7.0 points in 26.3 minutes a game and shooting 38.7% from the field.  Kittles was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Nets in the summer where he averaged close to 15 points a game over 7 seasons.  

Golden State Warriors (7-15)

The Warriors have been showing positive signs of consistency winning four of their last seven games.  Although their game-to-game play still needs to be more consistent.  For example, the Warriors lost their last game 89-98 to the lowly New Orleans Hornets (just their second win) following their best performance, a 111-107 win, against the Dallas Mavericks.  The game against the Mavericks was highlighted by G-Jason Richardson’s emphatic dunk over Dallas’ 7’6” C-Shawn Bradley.  Richardson is a two-time NBA Slam Dunk Champion…  The team placed PG-Derek Fisher on injured reserve with a sprained right knee suffered before Sunday game against the Charlotte Bobcats.  Fisher, who signed a 6-year, $36-million deal with the Warriors in the summer, had been averaging 9.6 points and 4.1 assists in 24.9 minutes a game.  This should give PG-Speedy Claxton more confidence in knowing that he will be receiving guaranteed big minutes.  Claxton has been impressive over the last four games where he has averaged 19.0 points and 8.2 assists a game.  G-Luis Flores was activated from the injured list to take Fisher's place…  A silver lining in the Warrior’s sub-par season is the emergence of second-year F-Michael Peitrus as a key bench contributor.  The athletic Pietrus, who was born in France, has been an offensive sparkplug of the bench averaging 10.3 points in 18.1 minutes per game.