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By DARRELL FRY
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000
Several teams, such as Orlando and New Jersey, aren't having the kind of starts they had hoped. But, as always, things could be worse. They could be like Atlanta.
The Hawks not only are 0-7 and off to their worst start since the franchise moved from St. Louis in 1968, they have lost 27 of their last 32 games dating to last season and dropped their last 19 road games.
They hit bottom Friday, losing to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Despite what you think of the NBA coaching abilities of first-year coach Lon Kruger, it's hard to pin all of the team's misery on him. Folks, this was a bad team from the beginning. Having star center Dikembe Mutombo start the season sidelined with malaria didn't help. In fact, he's not in playing shape yet and probably won't be for a few more games.
He had four points and six rebounds in the 115-106 loss to the Clippers.
"It's not been enjoyable to get the results we've gotten," Kruger said. "(But) we've got a young group and we've really made progress."
If there's a bright side, it's that the Hawks aren't in danger of setting a league record for consecutive losses at the beginning of a season. They are 10 from the Clippers' mark of 17 to open the 1998-99 season.
Then again, check back in a couple of weeks.
THEY GIVE HIM FLOWERS AND CANDY, TOO?: Dallas' victory over San Antonio on Friday might have been more important than you would have thought.
The once lowly Mavs are one of several teams (Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and New York are the others) vying for free-agent forward Joe Smith, who attended the Mavs-Spurs game on the invitation of Dallas officials.
Smith reportedly met with Mavs players before the game and during halftime.
While Miami and New York could be more appealing to Smith because they have far better playoff chances, Dallas liked the pitch it made Friday at the expense of the Spurs.
"What more could you ask for?" Mavs star Michael Finley said. "A packed house, we win at the buzzer, that's the best selling you can do. We'd love to get him."
NERVOUS? NAW, WE'RE NOT NERVOUS: The Magic, loser of its last two games, maintains it isn't about to panic with Grant Hill on the injured list with a nagging left ankle injury. Orlando has lost to Chicago and Charlotte, neither a particularly strong team, and faces Golden State on the road today.
"Should we beat Chicago?" coach Doc Rivers said. "Absolutely, every time we play them. But this is no time to get stressed or uptight over something like this. It's a long season.
"I just told our guys to go out and have fun. We have things that need work, sure, but knowing we've got one of the top five players in the league (Hill) coming back, that makes it easier to take now."
Top five, Doc? Maybe a couple of years ago, but would you take Hill over Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant or Alonzo Mourning? Heck, how about Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, Chris Webber or Jason Kidd?
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.