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Pacific already makes plenty of waves

Pacific already makes plenty of waves
Forget the standings. The standings show wins and losses.

Out here in the Pacific Division, the raucous Pacific Division of bold decisions and jarring transitions, it takes the Richter scale to chart the first month. Just the first month.

There was the perfect metaphorical moment last Friday. The Warriors made a big trade, and hours later the Clippers made a big trade. With the same New York Knicks. Two teams from California dealing with a partner 2,500 miles away at the same moment, players all but waving as they passed somewhere over the Rockies.

Some world, this Pacific.

The Lakers moved Lamar Odom to the bench in favor of Vladimir Radmanovic at small forward and all but dropped Luke Walton, a part-time starter last season and key reserve in the playoffs, out of the rotation. And then they broke out to a 12-1 start while outscoring the opposition by an average of 14.3 points.

The Clippers poached another team looking to dump payroll, getting Zach Randolph in the Knicks deal just as they had taken Marcus Camby from the Nuggets in the summer for next to nothing. A lot of good it did. Los Angeles opened 2-13, instantly dropping 11 games behind its Staples Center co-tenant, easily the largest deficit of any division. The Pacific is even doing bad at a high rate.

The Warriors traded Al Harrington to New York for Jamal Crawford, another high-offense, no-defense point guard, amid continuing front-office upheaval that leaves great doubt as to who is making the deals. Meanwhile, Stephen Jackson got a two-year extension in a move that was absolutely handled by president Robert Rowell and pushed personnel boss Chris Mullin out of the loop, just as Mullin's No. 2 was fired and replaced by a close friend of coach Don Nelson's to set the stage for Mullin being gone all together.

There has been so little stability in Oakland that DeMarcus Nelson went from starting at point guard on opening night to being sent to the NBA Development League 16 days later.

The Kings spent the entire four weeks with a jumbled lineup. No Brad Miller the first five games because of suspension, no Francisco Garcia at all because of injury, no Kevin Martin for 10 of the first 17 games because of injury. But a lot of open speculation on the future of coach Reggie Theus, thanks to critical comments from co-owner Joe Maloof.

"For us, it's what we went through last year," Theus said of the rotation. "Trades and stuff, that's part of the game. Injuries are part of the game. But I think it's quite a bit of activity. Typically, it's not this much activity, trade-wise, this early in the season, I don't think."

Finding normalcy requires leaving California. That's not a straight line. That's the Lakers going from a Western Conference crown to a major lineup change and two new starters counting the return of Andrew Bynum from injury, the Kings wishing having two new starters was the worst of it, the Warriors covered in front-office intrigue, and the Clippers back to tripping over themselves.

The calm is in Phoenix, where the Suns are 11-5, a nice start, and have made welcome little noise. Matt Barnes in as the starting small forward and Grant Hill out made headlines mostly because it was Grant Hill, but he also averaged 13.1 points and five rebounds last season. That's nothing compared to the Lakers demoting Odom, a double-double guy.

The news is when a team doesn't make news. It's been that kind of four weeks in the Pacific.

That's not even counting major preseason happenings -- Elgin Baylor fired by the Clippers and Monta Ellis suspended by the Warriors. Or what comes next.

The Lakers, already crushing people, next week start a 10-game stretch that includes two meetings with the Kings and one each with the Pacers, 76ers, Wizards, Bucks, Timberwolves and Knicks in addition to the creditable Suns. Boredom will be Los Angeles' biggest challenger most of those nights.

The Kings should be healthy soon, while there's no substantive Warriors timetable for Ellis' return from ankle surgery. There's also no substantive timetable for the Clippers to wake from their coma, while we're at it.

It's still only late November, even if it seems as if some on the Left Coast already have lived months, so a lot can happen. Sacramento and Golden State still thankfully have the Clippers as a safety net on any potential fall to the basement, the Lakers and Suns have separated themselves from the rest, and there's 4 1/2 months of regular season ahead.

Track it on the Richter scale.

Call The Bee's Scott Howard-Cooper, (916) 321-1210.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: November 30, 2008


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