We won't know the full verdict of last summer's New Jersey-Philadelphia three-player trade until after the playoffs. But for now -- and likely the remainder of the regular season -- give the Sixers a big edge.
Forward Keith Van Horn and center Todd MacCulloch have made far bigger contributions to the 76ers than defensive-minded center Dikembe Mutombo is doing in New Jersey.
Although Sixers coach Larry Brown doesn't like to define Van Horn as the second offensive option to Allen Iverson, he does say Van Horn can "score by accident," especially with his perimeter shooting that stretches defenses. In addition, Van Horn has a team-leading nine rebounds a game, a career-high pace.
"I never would have guessed that it would work out as well as it has," Van Horn said of the trade.
MacCulloch, meantime, continues to be a steady, if not particularly flashy, role player. More important, his numbers across the board compare favorably to what Mutombo has put up in New Jersey.
Mutombo had a strong season opener but since then has been inconsistent, not even ranking among the top 25 shot-blockers this season. In Saturday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks, he was outplayed by Shawn Bradley (whose two previous NBA stops, ironically enough, were in Philadelphia and New Jersey).
But then, the Nets didn't get Mutombo for the regular season. They got him for the playoffs, specifically if they return to the NBA Finals for a meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers.
That's why Nets coach Byron Scott isn't planning to play Mutombo more than 30 minutes a game. He wants the 36-year-old as fresh as possible come April.
"I want to play more," Mutombo said. "But right now, at this stage in my career, I don't want to worry about it."
Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Who's the best shooting team in the NBA? The answer may have come Saturday when the Seattle SuperSonics visited Dallas.
The Mavericks and SuperSonics are just below league-leader Milwaukee Bucs in terms of highest field goal percentage. Those three clubs are also the top three-point shooting percentage teams, with Seattle leading the way.
But while Milwaukee and Seattle rank in the lower end in free throw shooting percentage, the Mavericks again rank among the league's top three.
Despite the Mavericks' consistency in all three categories, it wasn't enough to convince Washington Wizards Coach Doug Collins which team has the most accurate shooters. His vote was swayed after watching the SuperSonics hit 76 percent of their third-quarter shots in a win over his Wizards.
"I don't know anybody that can come close to shooting as good as this team," Collins said.
No Translation Needed
For the first time, NBA all-star ballots are available in three languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. While the Asian community can vote for its hero, the Houston Rockets's No. 1 overall draft pick Yao Ming, the Hispanic community doesn't get the same chance with Mavericks forward Eduardo Najera, who's not on the ballot. Of course, there's still the write-in option. . . .
Low point production continues to be an embarrassing league trend -- and it might never have been worse than Saturday night. The Denver Nuggets' 53 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons was the second-lowest total since the inception of the shot clock in 1954. The Miami Heat scored just 65 points in a 30-point loss to Washington. And the Cleveland Cavaliers had just 32 points in the first half against the San Antonio Spurs. . . .
The Utah Jazz's 3-7 start was its worst since 1982. The schedule gave the Jazz no favors, especially early when four of its first five games were in different time zones. Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan had never seen such a schedule. "You have to recognize it takes a little out of you," Sloan said, "but you can't use it as an excuse."
The Jazz have rebounded a bit, however, and went into the weekend 6-7. . . .
The Rockets are near the bottom of the league in assists, with point guard Steve Francis at a career-low 5.4 assists-per-game pace. But the Rockets keep track of "correct decisions" that may not result in assists, and Francis' "correct decisions" average has increased.