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Stackhouse shoots from lip about wanting scoring title

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Say this for Jerry Stackhouse: He seems to have as little fear pulling the trigger off the court as he does on it.

At a time when openly pursuing personal goals is thought unfashionable, the Detroit Pistons guard is publicly and wholeheartedly embracing the concept of winning the NBA scoring title.

"It is a goal. There are maybe 30 players who have led the league in scoring. I would look at that as a compliment, to put myself amongst those players," Stackhouse said last week. "But I don't put a whole lot into it. I would much rather have the success of being a playoff team and still be among the top scorers, if it went that way.

"I was always taught to look for the silver lining when things aren't going as well as you would like [them] to. With the season not going as well as I would like to, having the opportunity to still be in the scoring race and having a chance to win it -- I look at that as a silver lining."

Stackhouse, who left North Carolina after his sophomore season in 1995, has never been bashful about shooting.

The two-time All-Star ranked third in points per game (29.6 average before Friday night), behind the Philadelphia 76ers' Allen Iverson (30.9) and Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant (29.8) but was second to Iverson in both total points and shot attempts.

And because Stackhouse has played roughly 300 fewer minutes than his former Sixers teammate, his 0.6 shot-a-minute pace is just ahead of Iverson's 0.59 and on pace to match another guy from Carolina, Michael Jordan, who averaged 0.6 a minute for his career.

Stackhouse, incidentally, isn't tiptoeing around his desire to see the Sacramento Kings' Chris Webber join him in Detroit. Webber is expected to be the jewel of this summer's free-agent class, and Stackhouse says the chance for the 6-foot-10 forward to play in his hometown shouldn't be passed up.

"This is maybe a team he would consider, if you look at it man-to-man and the roster that he has now and the roster that we have," Stackhouse said. "I think we already have great role players. And we are looking for another superstar-caliber player to come in and just give that presence, not only on the offensive end but on the defensive end."

Quiz

San Antonio's Terry Porter joined an unusual club last week, when he went over the 15,000-point mark. He became one of seven players to score that many, as well as hand out 6,000 assists and make 1,000 steals.

Porter and one other player out of those seven share another distinction, as well. Name the other player and the distinction (A hint: Like Porter, he toiled in Texas.)

A steady hand

Jordan's excising of Rod Strickland from the Washington Wizards' roster last week wasn't as miraculous as getting the Dallas Mavericks to take Juwan Howard's salary, but it was infinitely more important.

Strickland had become a cancer that had to be eliminated, though it's galling that he could malinger for most of the season, engineer his departure, and end up possibly catching on with a championship contender. The notoriously tight-fisted Washington franchise had to shell out a reported $2.5 million to get rid of Strickland, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's gift of $3 million in the Howard trade should ease some of the sting.

Now comes the rumor that Jordan is greasing the slide to get guard Mitch Richmond and his $10 million salary for next season out of the way. Richmond alluded to the rumors late in the week but vowed to continue to prepare and play as hard as he can the rest of the way.

And that's precisely why Washington should keep him one more season.

The Wizards are not going to come within sniffing distance of a title next season, but younger players, such as Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander, will be expected to be the cornerstone of what is to come.

Now that Strickland's total absence of professionalism is gone, the Wizards' youth could use Richmond's experience and work ethic. Besides, the Wizards will have to pay him $10 million, either in salary or in a buyout. They might as well get something out of him.

No ordinary Joe

You would think that after all the grief former Maryland star Joe Smith caused the Minnesota Timberwolves, he would be the last guy they'd want to see back in Minneapolis.

You would be wrong. Indeed, after Minnesota's 110-100 win Wednesday over the Pistons, the team Smith signed with after NBA commissioner David Stern voided his contract with the Timberwolves earlier this season, all his former teammates could talk about was how much they wanted the 6-10 forward to be their future running mate.

"We're going to go on a campaign to get Joe back. I'm going to be the leader of it," said Kevin Garnett, to which point guard Terrell Brandon added, "I think we're all like, 'Hurry up and get your year over with.' It's like a substitute teacher -- hurry up and get it out of the way, and come on home. We were all happy to see him, but we'd love to see him in a Timberwolves uniform."

Keep in mind that Stern not only voided Smith's tenure in Minneapolis, but he also fined the franchise $3.5 million and stripped it of four first-round picks, as well as suspending owner Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale, the Timberwolves' vice president of basketball operations, for a year.

All of that for a guy who, coming into this season, is averaging 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds for his career -- nice numbers, to be sure, but nothing extraordinary.

"I appreciate that they would want Joe back, but we want him back, too," Pistons coach George Irvine told the Detroit News. "I understand the rules. You can't actively campaign for a guy on someone else's roster. I think that's a violation. I don't understand all the rules, but I think they went too far. Minnesota, of any franchise in the league right now, shouldn't be pushing the envelope right now."

Quiz answer

Both Terry Porter and former Dallas guard Derek Harper not only have 15,000 points, 6,000 assists and 1,000 steals, each also has hit 1,000 career three-pointers.

Quote of the week

"It will be strange, but I'm going to do everything the way I've done it. I've already told them I am driving my car up the ramp like I always did. If the guards stop me, I'm running them over."-- Seattle center Patrick Ewing before his return Tuesday night to Madison Square Garden, where he played 15 years as center of the Knicks.

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