Smith given second chance:
Former high school standout Leon Smith, who was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in 1999, re-entered the NBA last week with the Atlanta Hawks. Smith never registered a minute in the NBA, despite being a late-first-round pick. The 6’11 250 pound power forward was thrown out of his first practice as a Maverick due to an argument with coach Don Nelson, and followed that up with a suicide attempt in which he tried to swallow two hundred aspirins after a fight with his girlfriend. Smith eventually ended up in a psychiatric ward, where he remained for a month.
The Hawks, who have been dealt a laundry list of injuries which include season-ending setbacks to Emmanuel Davis and Chris Crawford, had nothing to lose with the signing. Smith was given a ten-day contract, at the end of which general manager Pete Babcock would re-evaluate his status with the team. Averaging 18.0 points and 15.8 rebounds in the CBA, Smith was a perfect signing for the talent starved Hawks. If, and this is a big if, Smith can get his act together and concentrate on the game, he will be able to help Atlanta. His 7-7 wingspan and solid vertical only begin to describe his exceptional physical prowess.
Early Season Surprises:
Aside from the expected stars who grace the courts of the NBA, there are other lesser-known players who are putting out solid seasons.
Steve Nash is a major reason why the Mavericks are winning without Michael Finley. Nash is putting up 19.3 points and 7.9 assists per game, far above his career averages of 10.3 and 5 respectively. His aggressive penetration and ball movement is a signature of the Mavericks’ offense, and there is no reason why Nash will not be dropping 30 a night come playoff time.
Up a few states there’s a man named Wally, who is having an all-star campaign after two stellar seasons in Minnesota. With Terrell Brandon on the bench and the Timberwolves needing a complement to Kevin Garnett, Szczerbiak has delivered, averaging 19.7 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
Finally, let’s not forget about the Nets man in the middle, Todd MacCulloch. Although his season averages of 10.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks are not indicative of what Shaq can do on the court, MacCulloch is answering the critics.
Better Left off the Box Score:
So there are those who have not had trouble lighting it up this year, and then there are the players who haven’t been able to find the rim at all. Granted, Anthony Mason’s seasons have fluctuated year by year, but Mase is having trouble putting anything up in 2002. Averaging 8.2 points and 8.1 boards a game, he is being steadily overshadowed by players other than the Big Three. Michael Redd and Joel Przybilla have been solid contributors in Mason’s absence.
David Robinson’s game has steadily digressed in recent years, and apparently it will continue to for a while longer. Robinson’s 66% free throw line percentage and 11.1 points per game, are not going to cut it this year if the Spurs are going to take the next step in beating the Lakers.
Finally, there’s Brian Grant, who can take at least some of the blame for the Heat’s early season struggles. Grant’s five-point drop in his scoring average has hurt the Heat dearly. Yet, it is his lost inside presence which will help Miami think lottery come next month.
Studlife Top 5:
1.) Lakers – Still two-time defending champions, with or without Shaq
2.) Kings – Christie remains one of the most underrated players in the league
3.) Nets – Balanced offense a product of Kidd’s unselfishness
4.) Timberwolves – Szczerbiak showing he can do more besides attract women
5.) Mavericks – Nowitzki’s new hairdo the only thing going wrong in Dallas
Studlife Bottom 5:
25.) Nuggets – Showing heart in close games, Van Exel worthy of All-Star bid
26.) Hawks – Snapped six-game losing streak but still wondering if Ratliff will every return
27.) Grizzlies – J-dub angered that teammates don’t know offensive plays
28.) Warriors – Talented youth is not translating into wins in the Bay Area
29.) Bulls – Shot enough bricks vs. MJ’s Wizards to build new Soldier Field
Contact Eric at [email protected]
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