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Westhead's touch helps Magic

By Wire services
Published February 22, 2004

The guy who has been called the future of basketball was stuck in the past in November.

Paul Westhead was on a rickety bus meandering through the streets of Juarez, Mexico. That's when he got the word the Magic was interested in bringing him back to the NBA as an assistant coach.

"It was like a farm worker's bus, and it was struggling along in traffic," said Westhead, then preparing to coach the Long Beach Jam of the minor-league ABA against Juarez. "I said, "I'll call (Orlando) back when I get back over the border."'

Westhead soon dialed the Magic and was brought aboard by Johnny Davis, who just had replaced the fired Doc Rivers as coach.

Westhead led the Lakers to the NBA title in 1980 before being dumped 11 games into the 1981-82 season. But it was at Loyola Marymount (1985-90) where he gained a reputation as a guru of high-octane basketball.

Westhead had less success with the Nuggets 1990-92 when he tried to implement a similar frantic style. They averaged 119.9 points in 1990-91 but gave up 130.8, an NBA record.

When Westhead arrived in Orlando, the Magic was 1-14. Since then, Orlando has gone 14-28.

Since Westhead's arrival, the Magic has averaged 97.5 points as opposed to the 88.1 it was scoring before he showed up. Davis credits Westhead for devising more ways for Tracy McGrady to get open. McGrady is averaging a league-best 27.6 points after getting off to a slow start.

"He's been around coaching for 30-plus years, and I just feel good having him next to me," Davis said.

PORTLAND RULES: If you look at the 34 players, nine draft picks and the rights to another player that have been traded since Jan.1, you're left with this conclusion:

Portland did the best job.

The Trail Blazers picked up two starters in Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff, unloaded malcontent Rasheed Wallace, structured a roster with 10 players who have two years or fewer on their contracts and repaired a tarnished image.

DAYS NUMBERED?: A week ago Friday, Allen Iverson sat at a table in a ballroom of a Los Angeles hotel and spoke with heartfelt sincerity about how much he wanted to be a 76er for life.

Within four days, Iverson had not only missed a practice, but he declared himself "angry" and "upset about being here eight years and someone being here for one game (new coach Chris Ford) and benching me."

For the first seven years of his career, Iverson's teammates and Philadelphia management were willing to deal with the conundrum he presents, but there are signs the uneasy marriage may come to an end when the season is over.

If the 76ers, who are hovering around the eighth Eastern playoff spot, are convinced they can't win a title the way they are presently constituted, then there might never be a better time to deal Iverson, the team's best player and most marketable asset, than after the season. General manager Billy King said Thursday that Iverson was not on the trading block, despite rumors that the Rockets had proposed sending Steve Francis to Philadelphia for Iverson.

AROUND THE RIM: Seattle didn't make any moves last week. But general managers who spoke with the Sonics came away convinced the club would look to move All-Star guard Ray Allen in the offseason. ... Memphis president of basketball operations Jerry West thinks his team is soft up front, which is why he targeted Golden State center Erick Dampier. But ownership didn't want to include forward Shane Battier in the deal.

- Information from the Rocky Mountain News, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore Sun was used in this report.

[Last modified February 22, 2004, 01:45:26]

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