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Coast To Coast

March 01, 2009|Mark Heisler

Remember the Suns and Mavericks panicking after the Lakers got Pau Gasol and breaking up their teams?

Now it's the Cavaliers, swallowing hard as the once-thin arch-rival Celtics got Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore.

The Cavaliers had already passed up the biggest splash of all, walking away from Phoenix's Shaquille O'Neal, whom they could have gotten for J.J. Hickson and Wally Szczerbiak's expiring $13.8-million deal.

Can we have a do-over on Shaq?

Instead, the Cavaliers offered Ben Wallace's contract, which runs another year, and Sasha Pavlovic.

Despite their talk of chemistry and finances, it came down to liking their chances the way things were, rather than rolling the dice -- and losing LeBron James if they got snake eyes.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, things just changed.

J.J. who?

Hickson is, indeed, a prospect, but prospects are only prospects.

A 6-foot-8, 20-year-old rookie, Hickson impressed Mike Brown, a veterans' coach, enough to put him into their rotation.

Of course, Hickson had things to learn . . . like boxing out Lamar Odom, who got 28 points and 17 rebounds in the Lakers' win at Cleveland.

Suggesting how angry everyone was at Hickson, the mild-mannered Brown said teammates "won't say he's only a rookie, they're going to be mad at him and me.

"He's a grown man and gets paid good money. You better go do it."

On the other hand, think about Odom trying to go over Shaq's back.

Joe Smith?

That's whom the Cavaliers, Suns and Nuggets were down to, Oklahoma City's 14-year veteran, who's averaging 6.6 points and hasn't even been on the floor for the Thunder since Feb. 10.

Modest as Smith's resume was, he wasn't even available, preferring to stay where he was rather than seek a buyout.

Teams are moving on to other targets of opportunity, like the Memphis Grizzlies' Chris Mihm.

Not so golden state of mind

The Warriors' turbulent season continued as Coach Don Nelson, criticized for not playing young guys, said their turn had come, and he would now sit veterans, starting with Jamal Crawford.

Thundered Crawford's agent, Aaron Goodwin: "What is the message that Nelson is sending to a young team, don't play to win?"

If the young team hasn't figured that out, Nellie gave up on this season before Thanksgiving, or, possibly, the opener.

The same thing happened to Baron Davis, their franchise player, who was benched in last season's final game. Soon thereafter, Davis wasn't even with the franchise.

Crawford can opt out this summer. The Warriors have already offered Corey Maggette to the Clippers for Davis, in effect reversing last summer's moves.

General Manager Chris Mullin is also being pushed out. He could wind up looking like Moses, leading the Exodus.

Let's hope he's better for America

Showing the White House truly belongs to every American, President Obama, a Bulls fan, invited his favorite team over since it was in town, although it hasn't won any titles lately.

"Given the historical significance of his election, we felt very honored," said GM John Paxson. "I know that our players understand the significance of meeting with the president and, hopefully, will find some true inspiration from today's visit."

Thus inspired, with the First Fan in the stands the next night, the Bulls lost to the Wizards by 23.

-- Mark Heisler

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