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Inside the NBA | ON THE NBA

West Goes With a Grizzled Veteran

November 17, 2002|Mark Heisler

They're still paying for ancient mistakes, such as the 1997 trade of next spring's No. 1 pick to Detroit (unless the Grizzlies draw the first overall pick).

In return, they got grumpy, old Otis Thorpe, whose career with the Grizzlies lasted 51 games.

West inherited an outlandish $61-million payroll, which means they will pay about $8 million in luxury tax ... and won't get the $3 million in returned escrow from players that goes to teams under the tax threshold ... and they have no cap space.

With young prospects Pau Gasol, Drew Gooden and Shane Battier, they still could have a future.

Hopefully, Hubie really has mellowed and enough of them will survive their indoctrination to pursue it locally.

Faces and Figures

Dear Donald (cont.): Clipper officials keep asking when the free-agents-without-contracts story will go away so they can get on with their season. Try never, as last week's trip to Miami demonstrated. The rebuilding Heat will have cap room next summer and alert local reporters fanned out over the Clipper dressing room to see who might be interested. Said Michael Olowokandi: "I'm not sure if before the games that the mind-set of the guys [is on contracts]. We want to play and win for pride. We're not doing it to show management but for the team. It would be nice if management did [take care of its players], but I very much doubt it." Said Lamar Odom, remembering his pre-draft workout in Miami: "I feel like in those couple of days I built a little relationship with Coach [Pat Riley.] Maybe we'll meet up again one day. I hope so." Even Riley got into it, acknowledging: "I think a lot of GMs -- I know I do -- look at their roster and it's just loaded with talent, young talent."

There was a lot of speculation for the San Antonio-New Jersey game last week, since Tim Duncan talks freely about how wanting to play with his friend, upcoming free agent Jason Kidd. However, Spur insiders say the team hopes that Tony Parker will be their point guard, allowing them to sign a center to replace the retiring David Robinson -- with Olowokandi as first choice. On the other hand, if Duncan, who can opt out too, is down on Parker at season's end and tells them to go after Kidd, that's what the Spurs will do.

Utah elder John Stockton, who spurns publicity in the best of times, is upset at all the questions he's getting about retiring as he and Karl Malone approach free agency and the team struggles. "I get tired of hearing my name after a while and I know people out there are too," he said. "If it were me, I'd be thinking, 'Retire already. Or don't retire. Whatever.' I guess I take it as part of the territory. But you can only beat so much out of a dead mule." ... Duh: Portland General Manager Bob Whitsitt, defying conventional wisdom once more, signed free agents Jeff McInnis and Antonio Daniels, now -- surprise! -- having trouble dividing time with starter Damon Stoudamire. McInnis stomped out of the dressing room after not getting in one game, then played the next two while Stoudamire, averaging 7.8 points and shooting 35%, argued with Coach Maurice Cheeks on the bench....

The Cleveland Cavaliers' Ricky Davis and Tyrone Hill complained that management wouldn't sign Rod Strickland, leaving them with Bimbo Coles and Milt Palacio at the point. Coach John Lucas, walking a tightrope, since he wanted Strickland too, said he told his players to look at it this way: "You guys probably want Phil Jackson [as coach]. I probably want these guys [Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant]. What we have is each other and that's good enough for me." Davis then argued with Coles in a game, was taken out and refused to take part in warmups before the second half.... Turner Sports' John Thompson, ending a discussion of what went wrong for Denver's Rodney White in Detroit as White fired off a 20-foot airball: "Did you see that shot? That's what went wrong."

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Elder Statesmen

Hubie Brown became the second-oldest coach in NBA history this week at 69 when he was hired by the Memphis Grizzlies. Only Bill Bertka, the longtime Laker assistant who coached the team for one game in 1999 at 71, was older. The 10 oldest active coaches:

*--* Coach Team Birthdate Age Hubie Brown Memphis Sept. 25, 1933 69 Lenny Wilkens Toronto Oct. 28, 1937 65 Don Nelson Dallas May 15, 1940 62 Larry Brown Philadelphia Sept. 14, 1940 62 Jerry Sloan Utah March 28, 1942 60 Paul Silas New Orleans July 12, 1943 59 Pat Riley Miami March 20,1945 57 Phil Jackson Lakers Sept. 17, 1945 57 Don Chaney New York March 22, 1946 56 Rick Adelman Sacramento June 16, 1946 56

*--*

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