SPORTS

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November 12, 2002

The Eastern Conference will not surpass the West

I've just read a CNNSI article about how Eastern Conference teams are supposedly catching up to their Western Conference counterparts in terms of skills and talent. Through Sunday, the East was 23-16 against the West this season. Already, surprise powerhouses like the Celtics and Pacers have beaten the Timberwolves, while both the Hawks and Pistons have topped the aging Jazz.

All I can say to this and whoever wrote the article is, "Westside. Westside till we die."

More seriously, I believe that the East is by no means catching up to the West. If you look in terms of players injured, the West has been hit hard on virtually all its top four teams: the Mavericks, Spurs, Lakers, and Kings.

Most notably, reigning and "real" MVP Shaquille O'Neal is still out, recuperating from off-season surgery on his "itty-bitty" toe. He is supposedly coming back to the Lakers, who have managed only two wins without him, for Tuesday. The Spurs have lost their backup point guard, Speedy Claxton, for at least 8 to 12 weeks, owing to a dislocated right shoulder. Next to Parker and Duncan, the two left healthy, the Spurs are a hobbling group, with Steve Smith out day-to-day on a strained groin. The Spurs were trounced on by the Portland Blazers, who held them to an all-time low of 10 points in the first quarter.

On the other hand, the Mavericks have started red-hot, with a perfect 6-0 record. They've been managing to get by with Shawn Bradley playing decently in the middle, in place of Raef Lafrentz, who was recently placed on the injured reserve with a sore ankle. Fortunately, the injuries haven't really hit the team hard, considering how deep and stacked they are from 1 to 12 in their rotation. It pays to spend well, Cuban would say.

The Kings have been an anomaly; they've both floundered when both "supa stars" Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic have been in, and been resilient when only one was out. Either way, the team is definitely hurting, considering they have three key players on the injured reserve, Mike Bibby, Scott Pollard, and, most importantly, Brent Price. The Kings are a dismal 5-3, considering all three of their losses have come from Eastern Conference jokes, the Knicks, Heat, and Orlando Magic.

Well there you have it. The four Western Conference powerhouses that made it to last season's Western Conference semifinals playoffs, have a collective record of 17-10. Nothing can be said about this other than that Shaq is coming back this week, and that Western supremacy will be reestablished in due time.

On to other news. I think Latrell Sprewell will be traded for Jalen Rose for the following reason¬óJerry Krause, general manager of the Chicago Bulls, is a complete idiot. He'll trade his own mother for a one-in-a-hundred chance of getting LeBron James, the high school phenom who is projected to go first in the next NBA draft.

Krause might reason that with Rose, Jay Williams, and Jamal Crawford on the team, the Bulls have a logjam at the point guard position. Instead of giving away the injury-prone Crawford, Krause will trade Rose for Sprewell, a 32-year-old "I'll strangle you, P.J. Carlesimo" shooting guard, who also owns a yacht.

While adding Sprewell gives the Bulls instant points, giving up Rose also hurts the Bulls in the following departments: immediate size, youth, and ball handling skills. Sprewell is an unproven leader. He has yet to show 20-10 numbers to justify the three years and $50.5 million that remain on his contract.

The only benefit I see to adding Sprewell is that you immediately diminish tensions between Crawford and Williams; Williams can be the undisputed starting point guard and Crawford can play more time at small forward while backing up Jay at the point. If the Bulls were to trade for him as of now, their starting five would be Williams, Sprewell (at his natural position, finally!), Crawford/Trenton Hassell (it's a real tossup), Tyson Chandler/Donyell Marshall, and Eddy Curry.

And if the Bulls hadn't made those idiotic trades two seasons and one season ago, the Bulls could have a featuring lineup of: Williams/Crawford, Ron Artest, Hassell/Ron Mercer, Elton Brand/Tyson Chandler, and Brad Miller/Curry.

And if we were to remember last season's trade between the Pacers and Bulls: Jalen Rose, Travis Best, and Norm Richardson for Brad Miller, Ron Mercer, Ron Artest, and Kevin Ollie. As I predicted, what the trade has really been all along is Jalen Rose for Brad Miller, Ron Mercer, and Ron Artest.

Artest has really bloomed, scoring 16.3 points per game (ppg), while shooting 51.4 percent from the field. Brad Miller, a real fantasy NBA stud, is also doing well, 17.7 ppg with 8.8 rebounds per game (rpg). Ron Mercer is still doing a solid 9.3 ppg with 2.7 rpg. The trio that was traded to Indiana is a collective 43.3 ppg and 17.0 rpg.

Meanwhile, Jalen Rose, the superstud the world fell in love with, is at 21.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and shooting 39.7 percent from the field.

If only Jerry Krause could listen to his critics, from time to time.