AROUND THE RIM
Unless the Warriors trade Cliff Robinson before the Feb. 19 deadline, his streak of 14 straight playoff appearances is likely to end. Only John Stockton (19), Karl Malone (18), Scottie Pippen (16) and Clyde Drexler (15) have had longer runs.... Surprisingly, Bucks point guard T.J. Ford wasn't named to the All-Star rookie team; he was edged out by undrafted 6'8" free agent Udonis Haslem, who played in France before joining the Heat.... With Sam Cassell (five fouls) and Troy Hudson (sprained ankle) sidelined, Kevin Garnett took over as the Timberwolves' point guard in the fourth quarter of a loss at Golden State on Jan. 28. "Name another [6'11"] guy who can do that," said Cassell. "He can get the rebound, bring the ball up the court and get us into our set."
WHO IS ...
The shot-blocking center of the 76ers immigrated to Montreal from his native Haiti at 14 and played his first basketball game at 16. In spite of expert advice that he needed more seasoning, he entered the draft following his sophomore year at Seton Hall to raise money for his grandmother, who couldn't afford medicine while recovering from a stroke back in Haiti. After undergoing left knee surgery and missing last season, the 6'11", 250-pound Dalembert has replaced injured Derrick Coleman (fractured finger) and was averaging 7.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.79 blocks at week's end. "Defense is what gets me going," says Dalembert, 22. "If I'm not blocking the shot, then I'm going to get the rebound—one or the other is going to be there for me."
On the Grizzlies (25-20 at week's end), who followed an eight-game winning streak with three straight losses:
"They're going to be streaky because they're making the transition from a perennial loser to a group that expects to win. At their best they play great defense, getting into guys and contesting every shot. They go from the fast break to the half-court as smoothly as any team because Jason Williams knows what he's doing, and when his jumper is on, he becomes a truly great point guard. They've got a decent mix inside with Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright and Stromile Swiff; Mike Miller's scoring has improved in recent weeks as he and Bonzi Wells have learned to coexist; and Shane Battier gives them defensive versatility and leadership. Hubie Brown has a deep rotation, though his rule of limiting his starters to less than 32 minutes will hurt them in the playoffs. That's when your best players need to take over."
3. The anticipated collapse of the Celtics opens a playoff spot for the 76ers (20-27 at week's end), the Heat (21-27) or the Cavaliers (17-29); the team that takes that berth could have the worst winning percentage of any postseason entry since expansion, displacing the 1994-95 Celtics (35-47).
2. Three reasons to believe in Darius Miles: He's only 22; his third team, Portland, is desperate to rebuild with young talent; and the Trail Blazers have one of the NBAs top development coaches in assistant John Lover, who can teach Miles the moves he needs to establish himself as a small forward.
1. With LeBron James averaging 20.4 points at week's end, it has become clear that the Cavaliers are best served playing him off the ball rather than at the point, though he can still take over as the primary playmaker (a la Jordan) when necessary.