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More than a Peja mail

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We promised we would publish more of your emails this week, so here goes.

Thanks again to all of you for your feedback and for your nice compliments. It's great to know that my columns are eliciting some response. Can't wait for the playoffs!

And the usual disclaimer: It shouldn't always be "Ask Steve." Feel free to include your own opinions on any of my recent columns and audio/video segments, and we'll try to print the best of them in future mailbags. And you get bonus points for including your last name and hometown.

My comments are in italics.

Steve's first mailbag


HUNGRY LIKE THE 'WOLVES (Feb. 20: Heir apparent?)

The T'wolves have six guys that are able to rack up the fouls against Duncan and Shaq. You forgot about the biggest guy of them all, big ol' Oliver Miller. He has been playing very well for the T'wolves as a solid, veteran big man.

Matt Orth


Please, the T'wolves beat the Kings once without C-Webb and Miller and you write a big article.

Peter Santana
Waynesboro, Va.


Your article, while a well-reasoned piece, did completely seem to forget a key to INSTANT OFFENSE for the T'wolves. Troy Hudson is back and any professional basketball player who manages to score over 40 points against the Lakers in a playoff game has to be considered in the mix of the plethora of T'wolves players.

H. Franklin Maze
Carbondale, Ill.


Minnesota????????

Eric Crawford
Chillicothe


Which Chris Webber have you been watching the last couple of years? Sorry, but the Kings' best player for at least the past two years is Peja. Webber has to adjust when he comes back because it's Peja's team. Webber is an overhyped, injury-prone, crybaby, never-won-anything liar. So if you're a Kings fan, you'd better hope it's Peja's team.

Brian Hutchinson
Houston, Texas


Why should the Sacramento Kings adjust to Chris Webber? It is plain to see that their offense runs a lot better without forcing the ball to him. This has been the case whenever he has missed games the last few seasons. Peja Stojakovic has been abusive with his shot, Brad Miller (whom I previously thought was all hype, sorry) has made me a believer and I'd be wasting your time discussing the best two-headed point guard, Bibby/Jackson. Vlade Divac can depend on Miller, unlike Webber, who is too busy shooting outside of 15 feet instead of dominating inside, the way he used to.

Cornell


PEJA'S PLACE (Feb. 27: Shooting the lights out)

Kevin Garnett? How does he get your MVP? Peja is the best player in the NBA and you give it to an overrated player.

Sumit
Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada

First of all, KG an incredible player. But maybe more importantly, he does things the right way. He plays and practices hard, he treats his teammates well and he respects the game. The guy is everything fans should want in an NBA player, and I root for guys like that. The NBA needs more guys like him.


I enjoy your column. But two things on your last column about Peja:

1) His form looks perfect to me. At the 3-point shooting contest at the All-Star Game it struck me that Voshon Lenard and the guy from Seattle (Rashard Lewis) had more flawed forms.

2) Two years ago vs. the Lakers, Peja had a badly sprained ankle, missed several games and was clearly not himself. That wide-open miss I thought was more rust (on the other hand Doug Christie's miss was more choke). It was three to four years ago that Rick Fox really antagonized Peja – but we both agree he is at a new level now.

Peter Cowen
Los Angeles, Calif.


There have been a lot of people comparing Peja Stojakovic to Larry Bird this year because of his emergence in Chris Webber's absence. Now, Peja has been phenomenal this year, but I hardly think that one great half of an NBA season merits comparison to one of the greatest players ever in Bird. Will everyone just stop with the Peja-Bird comparisons?

Steve O.
Los Angeles, Calif.

I agree. Peja is nowhere near the player Bird was. He doesn't rebound or pass that well, and he doesn't do much around the basket. But boy, can he shoot. And the one comparison we can make is between their shooting styles. Peja kind of slings that ball up from behind his head like Larry did. But I'm with you – there's no comparison otherwise.


A FRANK DISCUSSION (Feb. 24: An alternative pedigree)

The Nets are NOT a surprise, having been in the finals the past two years. They SHOULD be leading their division, a very weak one. And they should have a pile of wins in the past 14 games with the teams they've been playing (only four with winning records).

Craig Nies


I agree with almost all of what you say in your columns. However, I do think you should give Lawrence Frank more credit than you did – even though you did give him a fairly large amount. You said in the end that if the Nets play the way they have been playing, then Frank will continue to be a great coach. There was an implication there that it was the circumstances – and not Frank – that inspired this.

Michael Beauchot
Ya'an, China


Lawrence Frank is not going to take the Nets as far as Byron Scott did. Now they are playing their best because they want to make it seem like Scott was the main reason the team was struggling to win games. When the playoffs come around, they are going to miss Byron Scott. The East has better teams this season.

Abdel Gutierrez
Austin, Texas


I'm an avid reader of your columns, and I generally like and agree with what you have to say. But c'mon, man. The Nets and Lawrence Frank are getting WAY too much credit. Sure, they've rattled off a lot of victories. But then again, we are talking about the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

Steve Pauley
Missoula, Mont.


Hallelujah! Why is it a coach HAS to have played the game to be able to coach in the NBA? I understand the "been there, done that" mentality, but that doesn't mean it should be a prerequisite. Look at the incredible coaching turnover rate in the NBA right now. Maybe more franchises should hire guys who haven't played the game! I'm serious, in a lot of ways I'd think a coach who never played would be more objective in his decision making.

Evan
Phoenix, Ariz.


I think what it really means is that anyone could step into a head-coach position with a team that's trying to step up its play. The guy is no genius.

John
San Diego, Calif.


SEARCHING FOR THE ANSWER (Feb. 7: Clearing the (AI)r)

Nice column about Iverson needing to lead by example. But let's be honest – even in this politically correct age in which everyone is afraid of speaking the truth – Allen Iverson is an immature hoodlum who should be thanking God every day that he was born with the skill to do a crossover dribble. He knows nothing of team basketball, shoots far too often for a 39-percent shooter and is a detriment to the team off the court as well. If he couldn't play basketball he'd be dealing drugs or selling pencils on skid row. You expect him to lead by example? Is the moon made of Swiss cheese?

Chris Rosato
Philadelphia, Pa.


You are an accomplished player with five championship rings. You have contributed greatly to your teams' success to win each of them. However, you have never been depended on to CARRY a team on offense and defense. AI has consistently been an NBA leader in points and steals. He has held the No. 1 position in both of those categories several times. He plays through injuries. He plays through controversy (despite the source). I find it difficult to understand why his demeanor with his ex-coach gets more air time in your discussions than his obvious talent, heart and dedication to the game.

AI is bigger and better than the player you've described in your column. And he will accomplish much, much more.

Will Bailey
Washington, D.C.


Steve, I admire your commentary. I particularly enjoyed your comments regarding Iverson. You spoke the truth without bashing the player and going overboard. Kudos, I respect that type of commentary. Now if only my Lakers can get and stay healthy. I also enjoyed your play with the Bulls.

Dennis Swing
Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.


What makes you such an expert on Iverson's practice habits these days? You seemed to bring up things in the past, such as his past practice habits. Really and truly he has performed in games. It is well documented and he did have a different coach and teammates. So the people around him now probably see the same mature person that you see today. If so he can talk and lead as he is doing.

Steve, I think you are measuring Allen's superstar status with that of MJ's – he did not allow you all to come to practice and go through the motions. And for that matter neither did Mr. Lute Olson – the man you all took from our Hawkeyes.

R. Robinson


LEBRON'S ALL-STAR SNUB (Jan. 30: My All-Star picks)

Are YOU crazy? Sorry, but All-Star voting is for the fans and we want Vince. We do not care what you want or who you think should be the ones who represent. That is why it is called "fans' voting." You see, a thousand NBA rings and a thousand years in the NBA does not necessarily make a player an All-Star.

When a player shows positive energy, has character, is giving and caring and tries hard everyday to make his team better – those are some of the characteristics we look for in choosing All-Stars.

Why not take time out to talk about some of those characteristics of players within the NBA the next time you do your little column?

Doreen Campbell


You stated, "LeBron has to pay his dues just like everyone else." Well, everyone else paid their dues because in fact they were not good enough to make the All-Star team. In LeBron's case he is good enough to be on the All-Star roster. It is absolutely the biggest joke in sports that LeBron James is not on the All-Star roster.

Brian Roby
Tipp City, Ohio


TWO CHEERS FOR JERRY SLOAN (Feb. 3: King of the court)

How can you have any Coach of the Year column and not mention Jerry Sloan? Did you know that every team in the league has a top-five draft pick except Utah? Their only lottery pick is Keon Clark, who was picked 13th and has played exactly 27 MINUTES this season. Jerry rules!

David Sneath
Columbia, S.C.


With all due respect, how can you rave about the job Rick Adelman is doing but not talk about one of THE most unappreciated coaches of all time, Jerry Sloan.

At the beginning of the season, everyone picked the Jazz to be horrible. They lost their two best players in Stockton/Malone and had very little star power. When they were turned down by every important free agent during the offseason, people figured them to be a joke.

Yet, now past the halfway mark, in the toughest division (by far) in the NBA, the Jazz are at .500. They've done this with their top free agent out for the season (Keon Clark) and their second-best player (Matt Harpring) now out for the season.

What Sloan has done year in/year out has been excellent. What he has done this year borders on amazing!

David Meeks
Ashland


BEAR DOWN, ARIZONA

The 2003-04 University of Arizona men's basketball team is extremely talented but has been inconsistent this season to date. With a Hall of Fame coach as universally respected as Lute Olson, their performance thus far in conference games has not fulfilled most people's expectations despite what many consider to be a down year in the Pac-10. Would you attribute this entirely to injuries, lack of depth and inexperience, or are there other factors at play?

Secondly, how would you compare the talent on this team to your Wildcat teams of the mid- to late 1980s (Sean Elliott, Kenny Lofton, Tom Tolbert, yourself, etc.)?

Congratulations on a great NBA career. Herb Furth would be proud of you!

Gary Hein
Moraga, Calif.

It has been a disappointing season for the Arizona Wildcats. Lute Olson's team has a lot of talent, but not much size and not much experience. Still, a tournament run isn't out of the question. And by the way, Herb Furth would be horrified watching this Cats team play defense.