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NBA PLAYOFFS | AROUND THE LEAGUE

Magic Rewards Rivers With an Extension

April 21, 2001|From Associated Press

The Orlando Magic signed Coach Doc Rivers to a contract extension through the 2004-05 season, ending growing speculation about his future.

Rivers, 39, was rewarded for guiding Orlando to a 43-39 record and a berth in the playoffs, all without all-star Grant Hill--one of two key off-season acquisitions. The Magic had eight new players this season.

While Rivers is pleased to have the extension, he is just as happy about no longer having to address questions regarding potential jobs with other franchises.

"When I was first asked about this contract early in the year, I didn't want it to be an issue and it became an issue everywhere we went where there was an opening," Rivers said. " . . . So I'm glad this is over with and for now on we can talk about Tracy McGrady, Darrell Armstrong and all the other guys and we don't have to talk about me anymore. That's nice."

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Tim Hardaway's bruised left foot felt much better, and so did Miami Heat Coach Pat Riley.

After Hardaway practiced for the first time this week, Riley said his veteran point guard probably will start tonight in the Heat's playoff opener against Charlotte.

"We'll see Saturday how he is, but he looked pretty good today," Riley said. "He worked hard."

Hardaway, hobbled during the playoffs in 1999 and 2000, had been glum earlier this week when discussing his chances of playing in Game 1. But when he took off the protective boot he had been wearing and tested his foot, he was pleased with how it felt.

"I'm thinking I'm going to play," Hardaway said. "Right now I'm like 90%. I'm feeling good."

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Despite finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers feel they haven't gotten as much respect as the elite teams in the West.

"People have been waiting for us to slip all season," said Aaron McKie, perhaps the best sixth man in the league. "People kept saying we're not that good. We have to go out and prove it. We were picked to finish in the middle of the pack. We have to impose our will, let teams know we are for real."

The Indiana Pacers will get first crack at the 76ers when their best-of-five first-round series begins today at the First Union Center.

Indiana, the defending East champions, has knocked Philadelphia out of the playoffs in the second round the last two years.

But these aren't the same Pacers. Gone from last year's team are Rik Smits, Mark Jackson, Dale Davis and Chris Mullin.

Don't call the Pacers an underdog, however.

"We don't feel that way," said third-year forward Al Harrington. "We feel we can compete against everybody. During the season, they had the lead. We feel as long as we go out, play hard, we can compete and it's a toss-up."

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Marcus Camby went through a full practice for the first time since hurting his hip and insisted he'll be ready for the playoff opener against Toronto.

"I won't feel 100%, but I'll be 100% ready to play," said Camby, who sat out the final four games of the season because of a bruised left hip.

Camby, the Knicks' best rebounder and shot blocker, will be counted on to negate some of Toronto's size advantage when he starts in Game 1 on Sunday.

The other injury news for the Knicks wasn't as good as Camby's. Forward Larry Johnson, who sat out most of the final six weeks of the season because of a chronically sore back, is not expected to play Sunday. His spot in the starting lineup will be taken by Kurt Thomas.

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The league fined Portland's Rasheed Wallace $10,000 for failing to make himself available to the media Thursday, and the Trail Blazers were penalized $25,000 for failing to ensure that he comply with the rules.

It's the latest in a series of punishments for Wallace, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who set a single-season record with 41 technical fouls this year. He broke his own record of 38, set last season.

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Comparisons between John Stockton and Steve Nash are inevitable. Each is a deft ballhandler who played college ball in the overlooked West Coast Conference.

In fact, the 27-year-old Nash is sometimes called the next Stockton, which the 39-year-old Stockton regards as a compliment.

"He's a terrific player. He's a young guy and he's very, very capable," said Stockton, who came out of then-unheralded Gonzaga in 1984 to become the NBA's career leader in assists and steals.

Stockton and Nash will face off in Game 1 of the Dallas-Utah first-round playoff series today.

"John Stockton and Steve Nash, it's a really good matchup," said Dallas Coach Don Nelson. "Old guy and young guy. Stockton knows it all and has done it all. Steve would like to."

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Opponents of the San Antonio Spurs usually talk about how to stop the twin towers of Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are talking about how to stop Derek Anderson, who wasn't even on the Spurs' championship team that knocked Minnesota out in the first round in 1999.

The Spurs, who finished with the best record in the league, begin shooting for their second NBA title in three years when they take on the Timberwolves today.

The top-seeded Spurs and eighth-seeded Timberwolves will play the first two games in San Antonio before moving the best-of-five series to Minneapolis.

"Obviously, everybody's going to pay attention to the two 21s playing," Timberwolves All-Star Kevin Garnett said, referring to himself and Duncan. "But D.A. has killed us in the past.

"For us to win, we're going to have to slow him down."

Anderson, who played for the Clippers last season and signed with San Antonio in the off-season, scored 29 points against Minnesota on just his second night in a Spurs uniform.

He had 21 points in another Spur victory over the Timberwolves. And he saved his best for last with a 30-point game in San Antonio's 106-100 overtime victory last month.

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