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Coast To Coast

January 06, 2008|MARK HEISLER

Morning in the East, finally

Not that it's historic for Eastern teams to be 1-2, but the last time the conference had the two best records outright was 1981-82 when Boston was 63-19 to Atlantic Division rival Philadelphia's 58-24.

The Lakers started 7-4 before Paul Westhead was fired, finished 57-25 under interim Coach Pat Riley and won the title.

In other words, who cares who has the best record?

Boston is on a 70-plus win pace, but Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are averaging 38 minutes and Kevin Garnett 35. Meanwhile, no Detroit starter is averaging 35.

"It's just a matter of them being tested," said Allen of Boston's bench. "But I think there are constantly going to be questions on what is the weakness of this team. . . . That's just the way it is."


In West, name of game is survival

The West has no team on a 60-win pace but seven starting the weekend on a 50-win pace to the East's three, leading to a new imperative: survival.

Dallas Coach Avery Johnson, whose Mavericks went 67-15 before falling in the first round, is letting his team ease into it on a 55-win pace.

San Antonio was 7-5 in December, with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili playing one game together as Coach Gregg Popovich sat them out to rest injuries.

The last champion with the best outright record was the 1999-2000 Lakers, who were 67-15. The Dallas Morning News' David Moore notes the last seven champions finished an average of eight games behind.


We're a ways from San Antonio, Toto

Cleveland's comical end-of-bench mutiny is just the tip of the iceberg of Coach Mike Brown's problems, with Larry Hughes asking to be traded and Damon Jones and Ira Newble refusing to go in at the end of a romp over Miami.

"Regardless on how much time is on the clock, I'm going 100% every time I step on the court," Newble said. "Not being loose enough, you could possibly pull something."

The problem is the insistence by Brown, a former Spurs assistant, on defense that he reportedly calls "the San Antonio way."

Among the skeptics is LeBron James, who doesn't like Brown's slow-down offense.

In other words, stay tuned.


Thanks for thinking of us

Ignoring the 76ers' 8-3 run, new GM Ed Stefanski, hired over clueless President Ed Snider's head to rebuild, traded sharpshooting Kyle Korver to Utah for cap space and a No. 1 pick.

Now teams are lining up for Andre Miller, whose contract Stefanski doesn't plan to extend.

Said appreciative Utah Coach Jerry Sloan: "When I was in Chicago, they once traded a player for money. Coach [Dick] Motta took out a $1 bill and threw it on the court. He said, 'Money can't rebound for me.' "


No fair remembering what we told you

With Charlotte boss Michael Jordan impatient as ever, Coach Sam Vincent said the goal wasn't just making the playoffs but home-court advantage in the first round.

Said Vincent last week: "There's been so much put on wins and losses, and it's not very fair." Vincent says losing Adam Morrison and Sean May cost "40 points a night," presumably referring to their NCAA averages. In the NBA, they've averaged a combined 22.


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