Count former Jazz point guard Mo Williams as one who is impressed with the start to the season by the Milwaukee Bucks. Then again, Williams, now with the Bucks, may be going just a bit over the top.
"We're a favorite now," Williams told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Teams know that Milwaukee is good. So they're going to come in prepared and ready to play. We've got to be more prepared ourselves because teams are going to come in prepared and ready to play." . . .
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban routinely rips on the media in his daily Internet chats. Most of the time, media members just shrug it off. But Cuban fired on the wrong target last week when he went after TNT's Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley. Cuban didn't like some of the criticism leveled by Barkley and Smith at his team's defense and voiced his objections on his blog (blogmaverick.com).
Cuban referred to the duo as the "idiots on TNT," adding there is "a reason why Kenny and Charles haven't gotten head-coaching jobs." So, on national cable television last Thursday night, with no chance for Cuban to rebut, the idiots let him have it. The best line, as always, came from Barkley. "I'll never have as much money as (Cuban)," he said. "I'll never know as much about computers, but if he lives to be 1,000, he will never know more about basketball than (Smith and I). If he knew something, he wouldn't have put that little soft cake team together." . . .
According to the New York Post, new Knicks coach Larry Brown has already seen enough of self-proclaimed "best point guard in the NBA" Stephon Marbury to know that maybe they'd be better off without him. Marbury is supposedly on the trading block. The biggest challenge in trading Marbury, however, is his contract — $15 million this season, $17 million next, $19 million the next and $21 million the next . . .
Meanwhile, the struggling Toronto Raptors claim they aren't ready to panic just yet and no trades are in the works — even if other teams are calling.
"To me it's too early," Raptors general manager Rob Babcock told the Toronto Star on Thursday. "You need to go longer than a week, but the phone calls have been picking up." . . .
The Mavs are breathing a bit easier now that it appears Dirk Nowitzki's back injury is not as serious as it could have been.
"That's as scary as it gets," Mavs coach Avery Johnson told the Dallas Morning News after seeing Nowitzki hobble to the locker room during Wednesday's game at Philadelphia. "Not saying one player means more to us than another, but especially when you are dealing with a back. You see backs and knees, you get concerned." . . .
In other back news from the Lone Star State, the Rockets' Tracy McGrady could be back on the court much sooner than the three weeks that the Rockets estimated he would be out following his Nov. 4 injury.
"From where I started to where I feel today is pretty encouraging," McGrady told the Houston Chronicle earlier this week . . .
As of Friday, Latrell Sprewell is still out of work — despite offering his services to teams on a daily basis. The Hawks and the Heat both denied interest this week.
"We're loaded at the wing positions, and we really have no interest in Latrell Sprewell joining our team," said Hawk GM Billy King . . .
"Larry Legend" is getting into the adult beverage market. It seems Hall of Famer Larry Bird is teaming with a California winery to produce a line of wines to be sold under the name "Legends" according to the Boston Herald. The Cosentino Signature Wineries, based in Yountville, Calif., plans to roll out the wines beginning in December.
"When he retired from the Celtics, he dabbled in growing grapes and so he's had an ongoing interest," said Bird's representative Jill Leone. . . .
NBA commissioner David Stern says he wants the Orlando Magic to stay in central Florida. There have been rumblings that the Magic would have to move because of an inadequate arena.
"I feel good in the extent that they are determined to go through a process designed to keep the team in Orlando," Stern told the Orlando Sentinel about the Magic's ownership. "That's their chosen city. Obviously, I would love for them to stay there."
If a team must relocate, however, Stern says there is a clear favorite. "Oklahoma City is now on the top of the list," said Stern.
The New Orleans Hornets are playing many of their home games in Oklahoma City this year. . . .
Detroit Pistons guard Chuncey Billups has averaged 9.2 assists through his team's first five games — far better then last season's 5.8 average. It seems Billups is buying into new coach Flip Saunders' pass-first emphasis for him.
"There was a time in my career when I thought I had to have 20 points," said Billups. "I don't have to do that anymore." . . .
The Lakers need another big body inside, but GM Mitch Kupchak told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that it is too early to start "scouring the earth for a big guy." Lakers center Chris Mihm has been in consistent foul trouble, and power forward Kwame Brown has been struggling.