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Sunday, January 04, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

NBA
Western Conference notes: Kirilenko closes out year with a magical December


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No one was sadder to see the calendar turn a page than Utah's Andrei Kirilenko, who had an incredible December. Kirilenko matched or tied career highs in five categories last month. Among his achievements:

• Matched a career high for points, 30 at Philadelphia on Dec. 14.

• Set a career high for rebounds, 16 at Chicago on Dec. 22.

• Set a career high for assists, seven at Houston on Dec. 3.

• Set a career high for steals, eight at Houston on Dec. 3.

• Set a career high for blocks, seven at Boston on Dec. 19.

Kirilenko ranks third in the NBA for both steals (2.22 per game) and blocked shots (2.88). Only two players in NBA history averaged more than two of each in the same season. Hakeem Olajuwon did it four times and David Robinson did it once.

Still, Kirilenko's wild hairdo receives just as much attention as his versatile basketball skills. His locks have gone from a bleached-blond mohawk that flopped as he went up and down the floor, to more of the spiked punk-rocker look he has now.

"I asked him if he had to pay for it," coach Jerry Sloan told reporters in Utah.

Buzzer-beater

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Sacramento has had nine shots just beat the buzzer this season, five by guard Bobby Jackson. His latest occurred last Sunday when he sank a pull-up three-pointer at the end of the third against Utah. The Kings have won every game in which Jackson has beaten the buzzer.

J-Rich seeks three-peat

Golden State's Jason Richardson confirmed earlier this week that he will defend his slam-dunk title during All-Star Weekend next month.

The Warriors' shooting guard will attempt to become the first participant to win the contest in three consecutive years. He joined Michael Jordan as the only back-to-back winners when he defeated Desmond Mason, Amare Stoudemire and Richard Jefferson last year in Atlanta.

"That's the only reason I'm going back, to try to do that," Richardson said of the possible three-peat.

Notes

• In 15 games last month, Portland's Zach Randolph led the Trail Blazers in scoring nine times and in rebounds 13 times, averaging 24.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.

• Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony is starring in a movie named "Playground" that also includes Toronto rookie Chris Bosh, Miami rookie Dwyane Wade, R&B singer Jaheim and rapper Cam'Ron.

• Dallas coach Don Nelson is so pressed to get wins that he has almost gone strictly to a six-man rotation, as Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, Antoine Walker, Antawn Jamison and rookie Josh Howard have gotten the lion's share of the minutes.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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