The Three Pointer: This One Hurts

By Stephen Litel Special to City Pages

1. The rotation is so close to being complete Coach Dwane Casey has the correct players in his nine man rotation. Kevin Garnett, Mike James, Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Craig Smith, Randy Foye, Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson and Marko Jaric with Justin Reed and Mark Madsen the odd men out. However, with one simple change to this lineup Coach Casey could energize the fans and, more importantly, this now 3-6 team. Inserting Randy Foye into the starting lineup and placing Ricky Davis into the sixth man role would make a drastic change to this team while at the same time helping the team in the long run.

In the second quarter against the Hornets, Foye was simply dominating the game without scoring the basketball. He was making the correct decisions for the situations he was placed in, breaking down the defense with his speedy first step and dished out six assists. Simply put, this team plays their best basketball when Foye is on the court. Although he has still to light it up by scoring the basketball himself, his maturity and court savvy are things that need to be utilized.

Mentioned in yesterday's Three Pointer, Ricky Davis could then come off the bench and dominate the second teams of the opposition. Also, with Foye starting the game between the lines rather than on the bench, Mike James could, at times, shift over to the shooting guard spot. James has not come as advertised as of yet, but sliding over to this role should allow for more open shots with Foye's ability to find the open man. Something drastic needs to happen soon, so how about letting a rookie help a veteran get on track?

2. The focus is just not there Watch this team closely when they are in the huddle. Kevin Garnett, Randy Foye and Craig Smith are the only players seemingly hanging on what Coach Casey is trying to communicate to the team. Other than the two players named, everyone else is doing their own thing.

Although fans love it, Mark Madsen is always speaking to spectators while Mark Blount is chatting with Troy Hudson. Trenton Hassell is working on his bum knee while Ricky Davis is dancing to the music filling the Target Center. Mike James sits back in his chair and zones out while Marko Jaric is zoned out.

Honestly, I do not know why this has not been addressed before now. Maybe, just maybe, execution would be sharper if this team was focused.

3. Going waaaaaaaaaaay out on a limb As of Sunday, November 19, 2006, I am picking Craig Smith, the second round pick of Minnesota for the Rookie of the Year. Yeah, you heard me. Not Randy Foye, not Brandon Roy, but Craig Smith.

Going into the Hornets game, Smith ranks fourth among rookies in scoring at 8.8 ppg behind Adam Morrison of the Charlotte Bobcats (14.9 ppg), Brandon Roy of the Portland Trailblazers (11.6 ppg) and LaMarcus Aldridge, also of the Portland Trailblazers (10.5 ppg). The telling stat here is that Smith is averaging only 16.8 minutes per game, compared to Morrison's 33.9, Roy's 27.3 and Aldridge's 23.5. Smith is more productive per minute than the rookies ahead of him.

In the rebounding department, Smith ranks fifth at 4.5 rebounds per game, trailing Atlanta's Shelden Williams (6.7 rpg), LaMarcus Aldridge (6.2 rpg), Boston's Leon Powe (5.7 rpg) and Memphis' Rudy Gay (4.6). As Craig Smith is getting more comfortable in the NBA, his rebounding numbers continue to improve, collecting 8, 10 and 10, respectively.

Most telling is Smith's efficiency rating in which, again, he ranks fourth at 10.0. In this category he trails the aforementioned Aldridge (16.8), Powe (10.3) and Roy (10.2). By the stats listed, it would seem as if LaMarcus Aldridge would be Smith's biggest competition for the award. However, how will Aldridge's playing time be effected when Joel Pryzbilla and Raef LaFrentz return? Craig Smith is needed on the Timberwolves due to their lack of big men.

It may be going way out on a limb, but I'm comfortable with my choice.

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