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Ian Thomsen
April 23, 2001
Who'll Take The Heat?Despite Philly's superior record, our panel picks Miami to face San Antonio in the Finals
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April 23, 2001

The Nba

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Most Overrated Player: Joe Smith, Pistons. Even after the fallout from his under-the-table contract almost ruined the Timberwolves, Minnesota wanted to keep him, and a recruiting war ensued for his services. Smith then barely averaged 12 points for offensively challenged Detroit. Consider him Exhibit A of the dilution of talent in the league.

The Education of Rudy T
In Charge but Not Obsessed

A long season ended on April 10 for coach Rudy Tomjanovich when his overachieving Rockets were eliminated from playoff contention. Tomjanovich took over the U.S. Olympic team last August; the same day he returned from Australia, he was opening preseason camp with Houston. Exhaustion forced Tomjanovich to take a break in 1999, but he says he has never felt close to a relapse over the past eight months. "I hit rock bottom two summers ago," says Tomjanovich, 52. "That changed the way I look at things. I don't focus 24 hours a day on basketball anymore, and the paradox is that I think it works better this way than if I were obsessing all the time."

Tomjanovich is not the only recovering workaholic coaching in the NBA The Heat's Pat Riley has spoken of the need for balance in his life, and the 76ers' Larry Brown—an assistant to Tomjanovich at the Olympics-took time off during the season to deal with fatigue and illness. Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy would appear to be on a path toward exhaustion as well, but at 39 he is young enough to dismiss suggestions that he should follow Tomjanovich's example and change his single-minded approach. "Every coach deals with those questions every year," says Van Gundy, "and you have to make the decision."

In any case, adds Van Gundy, the workload decreases during the postseason because coaches prepare for the same opponent over a number of games. But by looking at the dark circles under his eyes, you won't be able to tell his job is any easier.

Outside the Box Score
Six-Inch Gap Costs the Spurs

When Sacramento visited San Antonio last Thursday in a meeting of the West's leading teams, the Kings gave a stunning demonstration of the offensive pressure they can exert—even without Chris Webber, who fouled out near the end of regulation.

With the scored tied and 12.3 seconds left in overtime, Sacramento put center Vlade Divac and four shooters onto the floor. Respecting that group's range, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich countered with a quick but small unit. That meant David Robinson was on the bench when 6'9" Peja Stojakovic drove baseline and lofted a runner over 6'7" Malik Rose, sealing a 107-105 victory that helped the Kings hold on to their Pacific Division lead. "I expected help," said Derek Anderson, who was guarding Stojakovic. "Malik got there, but I guess that's the difference between Dave, who's 7'1", and Malik."

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