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News » Power beginning to slide to Eastern Conference

Power beginning to slide to Eastern Conference

Power beginning to slide to Eastern Conference
Atop former Grizzlies president Jerry West's wish list when he took over in Memphis was that team move to the Eastern Conference.

He cited geographical issues. Truth is that West thought the reclamation project would have a better chance in the East, then-fertile ground.

But what West, and all NBA-lifers, know is that conference power goes in cycles. In the 1990s, East teams dominated The Finals stage, winning seven titles over the decade. Then, from the 1999-2000 campaign through last season, the East had a woeful .421 winning percentage in interconference games.

The NBA landscape has changed a bit with the Boston Celtics serving as reigning champs, and the East holding a 42-29 record in interconference play this season through games played as of last Thursday.

"There's a little more depth in the East now," Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. "(There's) the two rookies (top pick Derrick Rose going in Chicago and No. 2 selection Michael Beasley in Miami). A lot of teams did some things to the rosters that seemed to make everyone better."

Consider these moves: Forward Elton Brand bolted the Los Angeles Clippers for Philadelphia and coach Mike D'Antoni left Phoenix for New York.

Meanwhile, the Celtics' Big Three - thirtysomething stars Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce - hasn't shown much age. Teams showing the most age are San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix.

The Wright stuff

Cleveland center and local product Lorenzen Wright has played a total of 22 minutes this season. But he's played his role to near perfection. Wright's main job is to get rookie big men J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson ready to play. Wright works after practice with both players, who think the world of him.

"He's trying to help us raise those guys the right way," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "He knows a lot of tricks. They need to be brought to earth every once in a while and get knocked in the head by a veteran. Lorenzen Wright is a class act. He's a first-rate pro. I was shocked he can still play as well as he can play."

Wright is in his 12th season.

No 'D' in Detroit

One of the biggest shocks with Detroit this year has been the team's defense; or rather, lack of defense. Several players have struggled, but none sticks out the way Allen Iverson does.

Starting point guards have averaged 17.3 points against Detroit, more than any other starting position against the Pistons. Perhaps Iverson needs more practice.

Iverson didn't start Friday and was fined for being the only Piston to skip a Thanksgiving Day workout.

Contradiction King

Cleveland superstar LeBron James recently said that his decision during the 2010 free agency will come down to which team gives him the best chance of winning championships.

"San Antonio isn't a big market," he said. "To me, it's all about winning."

Spurs forward Tim Duncan took less than a maximum contract in San Antonio to allow the team to sign Manu Ginobili.

But James is just talking the talk because he also said he wouldn't consider following Duncan's lead.

The Cavs can pay James about $130 million over six years. The most another team can pay is roughly $102 million over five.

Love train

Minnesota rookie Kevin Love , traded from Memphis for O.J. Mayo on draft night, hadn't made a field goal in two consecutive appearances before going 4-of-7 in Friday's game at Oklahoma City. He was 0-for-3 at Detroit last Sunday and 0-for-2 against Phoenix at home last Wednesday.

Moving Durant

One of Scott Brooks' first moves as P.J. Carlisemo's replacement as Oklahoma City's head coach was to insert Damien Wilkins into the starting lineup and move Kevin Durant to small forward.

"It gives them an opportunity to get in positions they can take better shots and be able to guard guys easier," Brooks said.

Durant responded with 31 and 29 points his first two games.

"That's my natural position. I've been playing that mostly my whole life," Durant said. "The (first few games) I've felt a lot more comfortable guarding (small forwards) and just helping my team out in different areas. I'm excited."

Cold turkey

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld has worked 19 seasons as a general manager. He had fired only one coach prior to last Monday's dismissal of Eddie Jordan. Grunfeld gave Don Nelson the pink slip in 1996 after 59 games with new York.

He cut Jordan cold turkey.

At 7:30 Monday morning, Jordan and his wife were handing out turkeys in front of Verizon Center as part of the Wizards' holiday community outreach.

Roughly 45 minutes later, Grunfeld informed Jordan that he was being fired, citing a need for change following the team's 1-10 start to the season.

From the baseline

Boston's Kendrick Perkins is up to a league-high eight technical fouls, which is good for $9,500 in fines. For those counting at home: the first five 'Ts' are $1,000 each. Technicals 6-9 cost $1,500 each. ... The Detroit Pistons don't want to hear about the Grizzlies having third-quarter problems. Detroit is in a second-period tizzy, having been outscored, 135-84, in the second period of games it's lost. ... Former Griz Shane Battier returned to the Houston Rockets' lineup last Wednesday. He's already in mid-season form. Battier played 30 minutes and took three charges.

Oklahoma City has averaged 18,620 fans in its first nine home games which ranks 10th in the league and is 97.3 percent capacity in the 19,136-seat Ford Center. ... Houston's Tracy McGrady has already had five games of single-digit scoring this season and is averaging less than 16 points, a career low. ... The NBA awarded Portland the broadcast rights to the Seattle market at the beginning of the season, and Trail Blazer games are starting to broadcast in the Seattle area on Comcast.

This is just worth repeating: Griz center Darko Milicic told this newspaper that he may return to Europe to play Basketball once he becomes a free agent in 2010. Said Milicic: "A lot of days I think that because the only way to be me is in Europe. I don't want to be a defensive player the rest of my career. It's not really what I want to do."

Call Ronald Tillery at 529-2353, read his Grizzlies blog at and listen to him 6-8 a.m. weekdays on The Morning Rush on WHBQ-AM (560).


10 from Tillery

The Western Conference's decade-long dominance over the East is coming to an end judging by recent results. Below is how the West has done against the East, including this season:

Year / West / East / Pct. /

'08-09* / 29 / 42 / .408 /

'07-08 / 258 / 192 / .573 /

'06-07 / 257 / 193 / .571 /

'05-06 / 252 / 198 / .560 /

'04-05 / 256 / 194 / .569 /

'03-04 / 266 / 154 / .633 /

'02-03 / 250 / 170 / .595 /

'01-02 / 232 / 188 / .552 /

'00-01 / 259 / 161 / .617 /

'99-00 / 227 / 193 / .540 /

* - Through Thursday's games

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: December 2, 2008


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