Blazers could beat Sacramento, but don't hold your breath

SACRAMENTO Ñ Teams going in opposite directions meet tonight at Arco Arena. Sometimes, that's when the oddest things happen.

In this case, odd would mean a Trail Blazer victory over Sacramento.

The Blazers, losers of nine of 10, are the sad sacks of the Western Conference these days. Conversely, Rick Adelman's Kings are the toast of the NBA, sporting a league-best 28-9 record going into Monday's game against the L.A. Clippers without the services of their best player, Chris Webber. Webber is back practicing and scrimmaging but might not return to action until after the All-Star break. Hey, who needs him?

Sacramento has its other bona fide star, Peja Stojakovic, playing the best ball of his career. The 6-9 small forward is third in the league in scoring (25.1), second in free-throw percentage (.913), ninth in 3-point percentage (.423) and 11th in field-goal percentage (.497).

There is not a better pure shooter in the game than Stojakovic. It takes one to know one: Ask Larry Bird.

'I remember (King executive) Jerry Reynolds telling me a couple of years ago, 'I got me a Larry Bird coming in here,' ' the Indiana president tells the Sacramento Bee. ' 'He may not be the player you were, but he might be better than you as a shooter.'

'He was right. Peja has to be the best shooter in the league by far, because he has it all. When he lets the ball go, it looks like it is going in every time. The ball hardly ever goes left or right. That is the sign of a great shooter. É You can tell he likes to shoot just like I did.

'If I were Peja, all I would be doing is working on my low-post game. He has a great step-back jumper, and I don't know why he doesn't use it more often. You have to come up with something new every year so defenders don't find ways to stop you. É Peja, if he wants to be an even greater player, he will figure it out, too.'


Tim Grgurich has always been an eccentric, but the Phoenix assistant coach outdid himself last month when he exploded at Seattle Times reporter Percy Allen during a Suns-Sonics game at KeyArena.

The Suns were getting drilled late in the game when Grgurich, who evidently thought Allen was making fun of him while speaking with another reporter in their courtside seats, jumped up and started yelling at him.

According to an eyewitness, Allen responded, 'What are you talking about?' As play ensued on-court, Grgurich approached Allen, told him to meet him after the game and said, 'I am going to kick your ass.'

Two players held Grgurich, once an assistant with the Blazers, and eventually he calmed down. Allen, who had never spoken with Grgurich, sat in his seat, stunned.

Last week, Grgurich was fined $7,500 by the league. He has yet to apologize to Allen for his actions.

Grgurich has always enjoyed being different. During a game, he sits at the opposite end of the bench from the other coaches and communicates only with players. He takes on the menial tasks such as ball-shagging for players before games with particular zeal. He makes himself available to players during the season and the offseason to help them work on their games, which makes him popular with them. He takes pride in never doing interviews with the media and says he recently told a Sports Illustrated reporter to scrap plans for a feature on him.

But Grgurich was willing to offer an opinion on a personal favorite, Sam Cassell, who would seem to be in position to make the first All-Star Game in his career. The two worked together last season in Milwaukee, and Grgurich regards the talkative Cassell as a warrior.

'I heard Sam say on TV, 'I have been playing like this for seven years,' and I believe that,' Grgurich says. 'Sam is a lot like Rod Strickland and Gary Payton are.' 'Gurg' coached Strickland in Portland and Payton in Seattle.

'The league looks at those guys like they are a little different, but I love those guys. Those three guys can play for me any time.

'Sam is the best clutch player around. I would put all three of those guys in the same category. They come to play. They have their own styles, they talk a lot, but as long as you play. É'


Portland, 2-16 on the road, needs to go 21-2 the rest of the way to tie last season's mark of 23-18. É Peter Vecsey of the New York Post writes that the Blazers recently offered Rasheed Wallace a contract extension, starting at $8 million, but it was rejected. Vecsey says Wallace's agent, Bill Strickland, has given notice to Portland management that his client has permanently canceled negotiations and that he plans to sign elsewhere. Could the Blazers really be so lucky?

Dale Davis was late for the morning shootaround on Saturday and didn't start that night against Dallas. Davis says he's puzzled that Cheeks didn't talk to him about why he was pulled from the starting lineup. 'I have no idea,' Davis says. 'It would be nice to know.'

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