The Los Angeles Clippers are rolling.
Their 9-6 November was their best since the franchise left Buffalo, N.Y., in 1978. The only other Clippers team (San Diego or L.A.) that even had a winning record was the Larry Brown coached squad that went 7-6 and finished 41-41, in 1992-93.
They’ve taken advantage of a favorable schedule, but they’ve also defended, moved the ball and shot well. So maybe this isn’t a fluke.
Marko Jaric, the combo guard they’re making do with at the point until rookie Shaun Livingston is ready, is one big reason. Last season, he averaged 8.5 points, shot 34 percent on 3-pointers and had an assistturnover ratio of 4.8 to 2.3. Now he’s up to 12.2 points, shooting 43 percent on 3s, and his assistturnover figures are 6.3 to 2.1.
The feeling around Los Angeles was that last season, with Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson (an inside player in college) and Chris Kaman starting, they had three poor ball-handlers in the lineup. They were 21st in assists at 20.2 a game and 24th in shooting at 42.8 percent.
Now, with help from backup point guards Quinton Ross and Rick Brunson, they’re No. 1 in assists at 24.6 a game, and No. 1 in shooting at 48.4 percent.
Said coach Mike Dunleavy: "What I’m most pleased about is the way we move the basketball. Our (improved) offense is due to us getting good shots."
The Portland Trail Blazers’ trade offer for Vince Carter and Jalen Rose is believed to include Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Nick Van Exel, both of whom are in the final season of their deals.
The Raptors were listening to teams, including the Hornets, Grizzlies, Heat, 76ers and Nuggets.
The Hornets were talking about Jamaal Magliore, but the All-Star center is now out for three months with a broken ring finger. Bonzi Wells and Mike Miller have been mentioned in a potential deal with the Grizzlies.
Another potential deal for the Blazers — with New Jersey for Jason Kidd — is on hold until Kidd returns to the Nets’ lineup, possibly Monday.
The Nets like Abdur-Rahim and would be interested in keeping him after his contract expires at the end of the season.
The Blazers, like other potential suitors, want to see how Kidd responds after having offseason knee surgery before making a deal.
Although the Nets will consider a trade, "I think we will probably keep (Kidd)," said Nets executive Rod Thorn.
But if they continue to lose, there would be more reason to trade the veteran point guard. If the Blazers would be willing to part with rookie point guard Sebastian Telfair, they could almost surely make the deal.
Commissioner David Stern said the NBA will be looking at security issues over the next several weeks and that "sometime in January, toward the end of the month, we’ll be prepared to respond to all the subjects we’re dealing with."
This might include a code of conduct for players and fans in response to the brawl during last month’s Pacers-Pistons game.
At the same time, he said, "There were four players that I suspended with harsh penalties out of 450 in the league. I think it’s important for us to have defined the behavior . . . as unacceptable. But remember it’s four out of 450 players. . . . We have 446 players who would not lose their reason in similar circumstances."
Michael Jordan’s son, Jeff, is starting to light it up in high school.
Playing for Loyola Academy High School in Chicago, Jeff, a sophomore, scored 23 points in his first varsity game.
He wears No. 32; he’s also a receiver on the football team.
"I’m adjusting pretty easily to being on varsity,’’ Jeff said. "The pace of the game is a lot different. I thought it was going to be harder with all the hype about playing on varsity.’’
Jordan has attended most of his son’s games.
Loyola coach Bryan Tucker sees a lot of potential in the 6-foot-1 guard.
"He’s so talented that he can do a lot with basketball,’’ Tucker said. "He creates a lot of offense for himself and his teammates.’’
Unlike his father, Jeff is a lefthanded shooter. He jumps center for the Ramblers at the start of games even though he isn’t their tallest player. He doesn’t show much emotion on the court and isn’t vocal with his teammates.
"Both of my parents keep me grounded,’’ Jeff said. "I try not to get a big head about anything.’’
Younger brother Marcus, at 6-3, already is earning rave reviews as an eighth-grade player.
• "These guys now are just the opposite. They run from the media. We used to run to the media and ask them to interview us. These guys now just don’t get it." — Hall of Famer Walt Frazier, on how some young players don’t do enough to promote the game
• "He’s not helping himself, and he’s definitely not helping us when he gets kicked out of the game." — SuperSonics guard Ray Allen on teammate Danny Fortson, whose recent ejection vs. the Trail Blazers helped cost the Sonics the game.
• Dwight Howard, the No. 1 pick in the most recent NBA draft, had a recent 15-point, 20-rebound outing.
It was the Magic’s first 20-rebound game since Ben Wallace got exactly that many on April 14, 2000.
"I’m happy with how I’m playing, but I’m not satisfied,’’ said Howard, who finished just one rebound short of the NBA high for the season.
• With the Rockets in a nose dive, coach Jeff Van Gundy went on a rant when he was asked if he needs his owner’s support:
"Support? I don’t need my owner to come and say, ‘You got my support.’ I don’t need it. I don’t want it.
"I want his support when I do a good job for him. I did a great job last year. I did. I know that.
"This year, what is he going to say? ‘Great job for losing five in a row at home. You had those guys hopping out there last night.’ I don’t want that false (stuff). I don’t need it."
• The Suns face a major test on the road against the Lakers on Wednesday.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Though scoring is up in the NBA, the Blazers and Nets recently combined to score 19 points in the first quarter, the second-lowest total in the NBA’s shot-clock era. Their 55 total points at halftime matched the NBA record for the fewest points scored in a half. The Blazers won, 83-71.
On their recent four-game Western trip, the Nets averaged 81.5 points, just 32.3 in the first half.