In the latest example of a team thumbing its nose at the salary cap, the billionaire Blazers are traveling with five point guards. Damon Stoudamire, Rod Strickland and Greg Anthony are on the active roster, rookie Erick Barkley is on the fake injured list, and Gary Grant, released when Strickland was signed, is a "volunteer assistant coach."
Clippers rookie Keyon Dooling marveled at the Jazz's execution against his team. "It was comical," he said. "They were like a computer. It was like how they execute on Dreamcast. It was just beautiful to see basketball played like that."
Mitch Richmond expects the Wizards to buy out his contract this summer and favors playing for the Mavs, Lakers or Heat. He's willing to play for the $4 million salary-cap exception.
Word from the Mavs is they think they can land an even better free agent than Richmond with that $4 million slot, now that owner Mark Cuban has turned Dallas into a glamour destination.
Chris Webber has proffered another invitation to his offseason free-agent derby — this time to Miami. "I have a lot of respect for coach (Pat) Riley," Webber said. "He's one of the greatest coaches to ever coach. It would be an honor for any player to play for him." The Heat are over the cap and would need to make a sign-and-trade to get Webber.
Vin Baker doesn't like coming off the bench in Seattle. "I've been a starter my whole career. I can tell you I am not going to spend the rest of my career coming off the bench." So, where would Baker like to play? "I love (coach) George Karl and I love the city of Milwaukee. We'll have to see what happens after the season."
"I'm too cute to be a villain," said Raptors guard Chris Childs. "If I was Reggie Miller ugly, then I could be a villain."
Potential discord in Philly, where Dikembe Mutombo has indicated he'd like to stick around. Mutombo is eligible to exceed the current salary maximums, which means he could want as much as $15.1 million for the first year of a new deal. If so, he'd make $4 million more than Allen Iverson, and the rules would not allow Iverson to get a raise.
Jason Kidd has decided the Suns are better when he shoots than when he passes. "My teammates have been on me to look to score, and I agree with them," he said. "We're a better team when I look at the basket."
Karl has a hefty contract extension on the table in Milwaukee, and the fact he hasn't signed it yet has fueled rumors that he's waiting for Mike Dunleavy to get canned so he can take the Blazers job. And then bring in Gary Payton to run the team.
Magic Coach Doc Rivers laughs off reports that he has delayed signing an extension in Orlando because he's interested in the coaching job in Chicago, near his hometown. "I'm happy where I'm at, and I'll leave it at that," Rivers said.
Bulls have best shot at No. 1 pick in the draft, and word is they're interested in 7-foot-6, 265-pound Yao Ming of China. "If he's available, then the No. 1 pick will be a no-brainer," said one Central Division scout. "He's that good."
Li Qiuping, coach of Ming's Shanghai Sharks, likes his center. "Yao Ming is better than Shaquille O'Neal in skill," Qiuping said. "Watch his jumps. Nobody of his age (19), at that height, can do them like him."
Agent Bill Duffy thinks the coach may be a little overenthusiastic. "I wouldn't necessarily disagree with that in terms of Yao's shooting skills, but he isn't better than Shaquille O'Neal," Duffy said.
After Jason Williams was fined for spouting racial insults at Asian fans in Oakland, Kings G.M. Geoff Petrie said, "This kid, if he continues to sow the seeds of his destruction, some are going to sprout."
Nets coach Byron Scott walked out of his son's practice, then was asked why. "I said, 'Because it was sickening to watch you play.' He really was in awe of Jason Williams. He was dribbling like him, shooting like him, and I said, 'That's not the way to play basketball. If I see you do it again, I won't stay and watch.' "
Robert Horry continues to mystify Phil Jackson. "When I came here and looked at the stats, (I thought), 'How can a guy like Robert Horry average five points and four rebounds?' So my goal was to ignite him . . . And I didn't have any impact on Robert at all. My motivational tactics were worthless."
In a new book, Jackson wrote that it sometimes looked like ex-coach Larry Bird didn't like his players in Indiana. "I wondered how much he enjoyed coaching Jalen Rose, who was constantly breaking plays and going off on his own," Jackson wrote. "And how did Bird feel about Reggie Miller, a hell of a competitor with a great heart, but a guy who's always looking for the nearest defender to jump into or flop over."
Celtics coach Jim O'Brien, who probably ought to spend more time worrying about getting his team into the playoffs, whined this week about Paul Pierce not winning player of the week honors. "I think that we've had the screws stuck to us all year from a standpoint of the recognition Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce have been given," O'Brien moaned.
Everybody's angry in Portland, where during a recent loss to Seattle Scottie Pippen was seen slamming a water bottle to the floor, saying "This guy can't coach" of Mike Dunleavy and retreating to the end of the bench.
O'Neal deemed Orlando "a dried-up little pond" when he left in '96, but now he wants to live there when he retires. "I've been around the world—and I still haven't found a place where I would like to live as much," O'Neal said. "When it's all said and done in a few years, I'll be back to stay."
And Shaq says he doesn't plan to play until he's a graybeard. "I'm not going to be one of those guys who is still playing when he's 36, 37, like some of the big guys do," he said. "I want to win a couple more championships, and that will be it. If you hear from me at age 38, I'll be sitting at the Krispy Kreme eating glazed doughnuts."
An unidentified candy company has approached Portland brat Rasheed Wallace about having its logo tattooed temporarily on his body. Wallace's agent, Bill Strickland, says the tattoo doesn't violate NBA rules.
Compiled by Rich Evans from wire service and internet reports.