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By Eric KarabellJeff Hornacek is the best at the line this season. (See Shaq’s Follies)Whew, the Lakers didn’t lose last night! We, the people who put together the Power Rankings, consider this a victory. Of course, the Lakers didn’t play on Tuesday, but that’s another story. At least they didn’t lose.

A few teams did lose, though, and we noticed. Kudos to the Suns for almost beating the Spurs on the road with no bench and a clearly tired Jason Kidd. Give Mitch Richmond and the Wizards some credit for bombing the Pistons on the road, mostly without Rod Strickland. And the Kings were serious candidates to lose to the Bucks, but were barely threatened.

Anyway, here’s Wednesday’s version of Around The Rim, the last one of the week. As always, we will be summing up what went down Tuesday night, looking ahead and praising the good, while ripping those who just aren’t cutting it.

In Heroes and Goats, Kidd and his latest triple double doesn’t make it for two reasons. First, his team lost. Second, you can’t shoot 6 for 26 and be honored. If big Oliver Miller wasn’t the Suns’ lone presence in the paint, Kidd wouldn’t be averaging 10 boards a night, like he’s been doing. . And because his team won, we have to avoid Nick Anderson as a Goat. Nick managed to go scoreless again, the third time in the last week or so. Twenty three minutes, no points. On most teams Nick would be benched. . And Jamie Feick can’t be a Hero because he lost, but watch this guy play, as we have, and you gotta love him. We’re going to stop ripping a certain Dallas center because it’s gotten out of hand, but if Feick was a few inches taller . watch out! Here’s some more. Enjoy.

How are the Suns winning games without, as TNT said repeatedly on Tuesday’s Suns Spurs telecast, four of their starters? Well, here’s how.

First of all, sure, four starters are out, but it’s not nearly as bad as one would think because:

Starting small forward Shawn Marion, on the injured list, was playing fewer minutes than the team’s leading scorer, Clifford Robinson. Cliffy no longer comes off the bench and won’t be when the rookie returns. Misleading.

Oliver Miller is far more effective than soft, injured center Luc Longley. The Big O can block shots and nobody we mean nobody can push him around. Miller was always a great passing big man, but then he got too big, teams and mascots soured on him . whatever. Miller can play. Stick Longley on the bench if he ever returns. He’s only here because of the rings anyway.

Rodney Rogers isn’t quite as good as Tom Gugliotta, but he’s not a big dropoff because Gugs wasn’t playing real well. Rogers has three point range and can match Gugs in scoring with ease. He’s intense and is capable of big rebounding nights when the opponents aren’t 7 feet tall, like the Spurs were. Rogers will return to the bench when Gugs returns and add depth.

And finally, is it wrong to say that Kidd is a better player when Anfernee Hardaway is out of the lineup? Not at all. Kidd has played much better in the past few weeks because his two guard normally doesn’t handle the ball much. Rex Chapman is pretty one dimensional, and it’s the dimension the Suns like to use: three point shooting. Penny serves a purpose, of course, but in the short term, it’s not a real big deal. At least until Toby Bailey starts getting 25 minutes.

So, you can see, the Suns missing four starters isn’t exactly a deathwish. It’s not like the Lakers, who have only three players scoring at all, missing four guys. Anyway, it’s not like the Suns’ best player or players, if you consider Cliffy No. 2 are out.

Says Chapman: “Either we have a really deep team that can kind of patch things up with four starters out, or you can put any four guys out there with Jason Kidd. The guy’s unbelievable.”

Kidd led the Suns to a 3 0 record while averaging a triple double last week 25.7 points, 11.7 rebounds and 11.7 assists. Chapman’s right. The guy’s unbelievable.

Fifteen years ago on Christmas day, back in 1984, Bernard King scored a franchise record 60 points for New York, but the Knicks bowed to the Nets 120 114. That got us thinking: Who are the guys on each team capable of putting up a game like that?

The high scoring game by an individual this season is Allen Iverson’s 46 point outburst. Obviously, on Philly, Iverson’s the choice. We looked at each team and who has been their high scorer in a game this season and came up with this:

Only 19 teams have had their highest indivudal scoring game come from their leading scorer this season.

Five teams have had that big game from their second leading scorer.

Chicago’s top game came from Hersey Hawkins (30 points). Hawkins, now on the injured list, is sixth on the team in points per game.

The lowest highest scoring game on any team is naturally in Portland. Amazingly, six Blazers have their high games in the 20s, but none have hit 30. Steve Smith’s 26 point effort leads the team. The Warriors’ high is only 28 (by John Starks), but they’re the Warriors. The Blazers are winning. Three Mavs, Bucks and Heat have all topped 30.

So what does it all mean? We had some time on our hands.

Shaq didn’t play on Tuesday, but he did nice work from the line on Monday, hitting 8 of 17 and bringing his season total up to .425 (125 294). We thought it would be fun to figure out what Shaq would have to do in the next few games, or make that years, to catch the NBA’s leading free throw shooter this season, Jeff Hornacek.

Hornacek for the season has made 78 of 80 from the stripe, or .975. In order for Shaq to get his percentage up that high?

Shaq would have to make his next 6475 free throws in succession.

Some believe that Minnesota’s Wally Szczerbiak is struggling this season, mainly because they see that he has only attempted 16 three point field goals in 17 games.

Sure, he’s not taking threes, but Wally can do a lot more. He posted his first NBA double double recently with 18 points and 10 rebounds in a win over the Mavs. He’s averaging a solid 12.7 points a night and makes the shots he takes. Unlike most rookies, he’s not a turnover machine and nobody is complaining about his defense. And everyone knows he can hit the three when he starts taking it.

“He has taken what they are giving him, and they are closing out hard on him and trying to prevent him from taking those shots,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “Instead, he’s getting to the hole and finishing.”

Wally has been a little nicked up so far, and he’s not going to get a lot of votes for Rookie of the Year, not with flashy rookies Lamar Odom and Steve Francis leading their teams in scoring. The Wolves have this other young forward getting all the headlines in Minnesota. But Wally has impressed a lot of people.
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