November sweeps — NBA-style

Three weeks into the NBA season isn’t long enough to start making sweeping generalizations. Or maybe it is. Actually, so what if it’s early.

Let’s sweep.

» The Eastern Conference ought to be ashamed of itself. Through Monday’s games the East was 17-39 against the, West and there were a grand total of two Eastern Conference teams (Cleveland and Orlando) playing above .500. Boy, that New Jersey-Indiana first-round playoff matchup should be a doozy.

» Shaquille O’Neal must now be included in any discussion about which players have the worst contracts in the NBA. That’s right, O’Neal.

It is no longer accurate to say that O’Neal is a dominant player. What is true is that O’Neal “can” be a dominant player, when and if he plays — and even then only here and there.

Let’s look at the cold, hard facts. O’Neal, 34, is on the downside of his career, injury-prone and can only give you his A-game for weeks at a time, not months or seasons.

O’Neal, out for at least a month after knee surgery, hasn’t reached the 70-game mark in four of the past five seasons. And he won’t do it this year either. Consider for a moment that O’Neal is still owed almost $80 million on his current deal and he’ll be making $20 million in the 2009-10 season. He’ll turn 38 that season.

And you think your team has trouble managing the salary cap.

» Eric Musselman has his hands full in Sacramento. As constructed, the Kings are not an easy team to coach. And Musselman is finding that out. As good as Ron Artest is, he very well may be the least effective NBA superstar.

When you run your offense through Artest, you’re doing so at the expense of the rest of the team. Artest not only shoots a low percentage from the floor, he doesn’t make his teammates better. Most of the time, he becomes a passer only when he can’t squeeze off a shot, and seldom, if ever, because he’s looking specifically to get teammates involved.

It certainly won’t be easy for Musselman to try to convey to Artest, Mike Bibby and Brad Miller that he’d prefer giving Kevin Martin more shots at the offensive end. As Jerry Seinfeld once said: “Good luck with that.”

» If it’s true, in fact, that the Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t interested in trying to trade Kevin Garnett, then vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale is a lost cause.

How can he not be thinking of trading K.G.? McHale has failed to surround Garnett with productive teammates and therefore has ensured Garnett will toil in mediocrity.

And all the while Garnett works for a sub-.500 team, his value goes down. Why? Because the logical question becomes: How good can Garnett be if the team he plays for is so lousy?

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Fox Sports Net.

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