Midseason Report (P4)

Phoenix

(…Continue P3 ) Hardaway’s return should bolster lineup

SG Penny Hardaway, who played in 15 games and missed one because of a suspension before going to the bench with a foot injury, has made little impact. The Suns got him to give PG Jason Kidd some help and transform a club that has disappeared from the playoffs in the first round into a Western Conference contender. That hasn’t happened. Even when Hardaway was playing, he did not assert himself offensively as he tried to integrate his game with Kidd’s. Without Hardaway, the Suns barely were able to remain among the top teams in the West But he will be back, and he’s a playmaker who can create shots for himself and his teammates. He creates matchup problems for defenses because of his post-up ability. The Suns have missed that.

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Midseason Report (P3)

Philadelphia

(…Continue P2 ) Brown must find a way to keep everyone involved

Even before the trade winds started swirling at gale force last week, it was apparent the current mix of players was not what coach Larry Brown had in mind. Whether SG Larry Hughes will be traded is only part of the equation. Brown has to figure out a way to make sure everyone, feels a part of things. Because of the inordinate amount of injuries, virtually everyone has gotten a shot this season. That leads to expectations that they’ll be part of the rotation. Now that Brown has everybody back, C Todd MacCulloch, F Bruce Bowen, and G/F Billy Owens have virtually disappeared.

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Midseason Report (P2)

Detroit – No low-post threat hurts bid to be among East’s elite

The Pistons are possibly a capable low-post player away from being a legitimate contender in the Eastern Conference. Joe Dumars, the vice president of player personnel, has made it dear he will not break up the nucleus of this team unless he can land a superstar player So the Pistons continue to patch the hole in the middle with Fs Terry Mills and Christian Laettner, and they pay a price. The team is athletic and skilled. Because it plays hard, it, should get into the playoffs and, be depending on the matchup, perhaps win a round. But without a big presence in the middle, it will be hard-pressed to beat the elite in the East.

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Midseason Report

Atlanta – Better help defense could turn around poor effort

The team isn’t getting the effort it needs on defense. Opponents drive around Hawks perimeter defenders with ease, and C Dikembe Mutombo has become reluctant to step over and help out because his teammates do not rotate to pick up his unguarded man. In the NBA, where the talent is so good that keeping a player from penetrating or getting open off screens is virtually impossible, defense without help is poor defense. That’s why the Hawks, first in the league in defense last season (84.3 ppg), are allowing 102 points per game this season. Until there’s a commitment by the players to cover each other’s back, the inability to stop teams at key moments will continue.

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