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Western Conference Notebook

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Ranking the Offseason Moves

1. L.A. Lakers Mitch Kupchak’s key offseason moves included re-signing Derek Fisher and replacing backup point guard Jordan Farmar with Steve Blake. He also brought in former Laker nemesis Matt Barnes and backup center Theo Ratliff. All three newcomers will help improve Phil Jackson’s rotation.

2. Dallas Mavericks The biggest move here was re-signing Dirk Nowitzki, but Dallas also added size and shot-blocking by re-signing Brendan Haywood and unloading Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.

3. Houston Rockets Daryl Morey brought back restricted free agents Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry and added Brad Miller as insurance for Yao Ming, who returns from a year-long absence.

4. Phoenix Suns Despite losing Amar’e Stoudemire to free agency, Phoenix was able to fortify the front line by re-signing Channing Frye and acquiring Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress. The Suns also traded for Hedo Turkoglu to replace some of Stoudemire’s scoring.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder  Inking Kevin Durant to a long-term extension amid all of the LeBron chaos was one of the more deft moves made this offseason, and the Thunder also added vets Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook to fill key roles for Scott Brooks’ ever-improving rotation.

All-Western Conference Preseason Team

First Team

Kobe Bryant             G            L.A. Lakers

Tim Duncan             F            San Antonio

Kevin Durant             G            Oklahoma City

Pau Gasol            F            L.A. Lakers

Deron Williams             G            Utah

Second Team

Carmelo Anthony            F            Denver

Yao Ming             C            Houston

Dirk Nowitzki             F            Dallas

Chris Paul             G            New Orleans

Brandon Roy             G            Portland

Third Team

Andrew Bynum             C            L.A. Lakers

Rudy Gay             F            Memphis

Manu Ginobili             G            San Antonio

David Lee             F            Golden State

Steve Nash             G            Phoenix

All-Rookie Team

James Anderson             G            San Antonio

DeMarcus Cousins             F            Sacramento

Xavier Henry            G            Memphis

Quincy Pondexter             F            New Orleans

Tiago Splitter            F            San Antonio

Coaches on the Rise

Alvin Gentry

Phoenix

Gentry landed the Suns in the Western Conference Finals last season.

Scott Brooks

Oklahoma city

The reigning Coach of the Year leads a hungry team into the 2010-11 season.

Coach on the Hot Seat

Don Nelson

Golden State

Nellie became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history last season, but new owner Joseph Lacob won’t have much patience if the Warriors produce another losing campaign.

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One More Year

Phil Jackson

L.A. Lakers

After leading the Lakers to the franchise’s 16th title, coach Phil Jackson — the owner of 11 championship rings — opted to return to the sidelines in pursuit of what would be an amazing fourth three-peat as a head coach. In announcing his decision, Jackson said the 2010-11 season would be his “last stand.”

Time to Shine

The following players are primed for big seasons in 2010-11.
Expect to see a few in the All-Star Game.

Stephen Curry           

G            Golden State

Eric Gordon

G            L.A. Clippers

George Hill

G            San Antonio

Robin Lopez

C            Phoenix

Luis Scola

F            Houston

Marcus Thornton

G            New Orleans

Russell Westbrook

G            Oklahoma City

Sliding Back

Don’t be surprised if the following players take a step
(or, in some cases, another step) backward this season.

Ron Artest

G            L.A. Lakers

Baron Davis

G            L.A. Clippers

Derek Fisher

G            L.A. Lakers

Kenyon Martin

F             Denver

Emeka Okafor

C            New Orleans

Tony Parker

G            San Antonio

Hedo Turkoglu

F            Phoenix

Under-the-Radar Signings

David Lee, Golden State (six years, $80 million) 

A first-time All-Star last season with the Knicks, Lee’s offensive skills will shine in Golden State’s system.

Hakim Warrick, Phoenix (four years, $18 million) 

Warrick’s talents will be showcased in the up-tempo Phoenix attack.

Darko Milicic, Minnesota (four years, $20 million) 

Another nonsensical offseason move by David Kahn resulted in the former No. 2 overall pick stealing money from the Wolves.

Wesley Matthews, Portland (five years, $32.5 million) Give the undrafted rookie credit for making the most of his minutes in Utah.