He seems to have a real

shot at making it big

Since being zinged by Kobe Bryant, Washington's Gilbert Arenas is now yelling "Quality shots!" when he turns one loose instead of his old "Hibachi!"

Nevertheless, even taking five shots a game only he could dream up, Arenas is shooting a respectable 44% and a career-high 40% on three-pointers. His scoring average -- 30.3 -- is up, as it has been annually since he arrived six seasons ago.

Arenas has surprised everyone every step of the way from Van Nuys Grant High when he had Bryant's poster on his wall.

In yet another stunner, wherever Arenas is headed, he doesn't seem to be there yet.

Now it's Kevin

Durant bowl?

If the draft were tomorrow, Texas freshman Kevin Durant, a 6-foot-9 version of Kevin Garnett, might go No. 1.

Ohio State's Greg Oden, playing with a cast on his right hand, looked klutzy on offense in last week's loss at Florida. However, few 7-footers have Oden's athleticism and effort level, so there's a long way to go on this one.

Not that anyone is guaranteed to be fortunate enough to choose between them.

Some scouts think that Oden, an unassuming honor student, looks as if he's someone who could ignore the hype and stay in school for four years, as Tim Duncan did.

Still Riles after

all these years

Whatever they pay Miami Coach Pat Riley to reassure everyone, it's not enough. Last week's wrist injury to Dwyane Wade was just their latest calamity while Milwaukee's rise took away the comfort factor of being in a playoff slot.... Asked about his players' casual start, Riley told, "I think that's true for a lot of teams that have veteran players, not just ours. So yeah, that's a theory. I don't like that kind of thinking at all. I don't think it was true. [But] I think that's the nature of a veteran team. Sometimes that does seep in. It's my job to try to eradicate it." ... Toronto redux: New Jersey's Vince Carter, who is to stardom what Ferdinand was to bullfighting, didn't even take offense when ESPN's Mark Jackson said he should be benched for "going through the motions." Said Carter, who scored 20 or more in three of eight games as the Nets went 2-6: "That's the truth. If you can't play motivated, you're not helping the team." ... Oklahoma City fans just got the bad news -- the Hornets will be back in New Orleans next season. Said NBA VP Joel Litvin, consoling them, sort of: "It's got to be a natural next spot in the event of expansion or relocation. We're not currently planning to expand further and we hope not to have teams relocating so we can't offer any promises." ... If the 76ers want to move Andre Miller's $8-million salary, a call to Cleveland will do it. The Cavaliers' biggest problem is at point guard where they're minus-eight points a game with starter Eric Snow on the floor.

Famous last words

Houston Coach Jeff Van Gundy on the firing of his friend, former Memphis coach Mike Fratello: "It's predictable. Struggle due to injury. Scapegoat needed.... All I know, when you're going against well-coached teams you know it as another coach. It's very interesting how things can conspire to force change. They try to win last year, the Clippers dump games, get a favorable playoff seeding by dumping. They win a round [beating the Nuggets]. Mike Dunleavy should and did get a contract extension. Memphis loses to the best team in the West [Dallas] and all sorts of changes are made."


-- Mark Heisler

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