Mar 5, 2012, 1:33 PM EDT
The top three are pretty much set, it’s just a matter of who is playing the best among them at this moment. Right now it’s Chicago. The bottom three are pretty much locked in, too, but the Bobcats have really grabbed hold of the last spot and made it their own.
1. Bulls (31-8, last week ranked number 3). Four games, four wins since the All-Star break — and that is with Rip Hamilton not really finding his footing yet since his return. Everybody already looking forward to a week from Wednesday when the Bulls face the Heat again.
2. Thunder (29-8, LW 2). They continue to close out games well despite pretty stagnant late game play calling. Why? They play great defense at the end of games (read Zach Lowe at SI). Their Achilles heel is turnovers, that’s what cost them against the Hawks in their one loss since the All-Star break.
3. Heat (28-9, LW 1). Back-to-back losses to the Lakers and Jazz — both teams with strong front lines playing the Heat without Chris Bosh. He matters a lot more to the Heat then people realize, and the drop-off after him is steep. As for LeBron James, he’s the one guy in the league who gets criticized for passing to an open teammate.
4. Clippers (22-13 LW 6). Hard-fought overtime win Sunday against a Rockets team that is tougher than everyone realizes. Expect a lot more games like that in the coming weeks — their March schedule is brutal. They are on the road this week and have a tough one Friday at San Antonio.
5. Lakers (23-14, LW 8). The Lakers got a signature win over the Heat on Sunday, a game where they really used their assets to exploit Miami inside. Kobe Bryant is shooting 54 percent since Dwyane Wade broke his nose — he says he’s not going to wear the mask any longer than he has to, but the way he is shooting he may want to consider going Rip Hamilton.
6. Spurs (25-12, LW 4). Tough losses to good teams in Chicago and Denver this week. Another test coming Friday against the Clippers. For a while it looked like this team could beat anyone, but do you really buy that when the playoffs get here.
7. Magic (24-14, LW 7). Lost to the Thunder last week… really, does anybody care about their games the next two weeks? Until the deadline the league is on Dwight watch.
8. Pacers (23-12, LW 9). Six wins in a row, but they continue to beat the league’s weak teams. This week the schedule is Bulls, Hawks, Heat and Magic. If you want to say you are upper echelon, talk to us after that gauntlet.
9. Grizzlies (22-15, LW 12). Won 10-12, but most of that at home. When they get Zach Randolph back and integrated, watch out. Who wants this team in the first round of the playoffs? (If the playoffs started today it would be a Lakers/Grizzlies first round, which would be a fascinating battle of bigs.)
10. Mavericks (22-16, LW 5). They had a five-game losing streak before Dirk Nowitzki went off for 40 and stopped it Saturday. Lamar Odom is back and says he is sorry for how things are gone, but the Mavs need actions to speak louder than words.
11. Hawks (22-15, LW 14). Impressive win over the Thunder last week. They have three games in four nights this week, and that is the kind of situation where a lack of mental focus can hurt a team. So, bad news for the Hawks.
12. Nuggets (21-17, LW 16). Nice wins over Portland, San Antonio and Houston last week. They are in the same boat as Houston — one of the last playoff spots in the west with Minnesota just two games back — but with a soft schedule this week they can start to create some distance.
13. Rockets (21-17, LW 11). Lost to Utah, Denver and the Clippers last week and now seven of their next eight are on the road. Right now they are the seven seed in the West but Minnesota is lurking two games back.
14. 76ers (22-16, LW 10). Flying under the trade deadline radar is Andres Nocioni — don’t be shocked if he gets moved.
15. Celtics (19-17, LW 18). Four wins in a row last week out of the All-Star break — this team is dangerous when rested. Some teams struggle when trade rumors swirl, but this veteran group should be able to play through it.
16. Timberwolves (19-19, LW 17). They are in the playoff mix (just two games out) but are going to have to fight to keep that spot — Clippers, Lakers and Blazers this week, then they head out on a lengthy road trip.
17. Knicks (18-19, LW 13). They are the eighth seed in the East, but Milwaukee is four games back so they likely can hold on to a playoff spot baring a total collapse. However, they are three games back of Atlanta at the six seed, and you really don’t want the Heat or Bulls in the first round.
18. Jazz (17-19, LW 19). They are showcasing Devin Harris for a potential trade — and he’s looked pretty good, including the game winner over the Heat on Friday.
19. Suns (17-20, LW 20). Three straight games where the Suns have rallied from more than 20 points back to win. We’re all watching for Steve Nash trade rumors, but right now it looks like they keep him.
20. Blazers (18-19, LW 15). Jamal Crawford trade rumors are going to engulf this team for the next two weeks, we’ll see how they deal with it. Right now they are not dealing well with much of anything well.
21. Warriors (14-19, LW 22). Their offense is just wildly inconsistent, which makes them a team that can beat anyone or lose to anyone on any given night. But they are entertaining while they do it.
22. Pistons (12-26, LW 23). They have dropped four of five and have looked pretty terrible doing it.
23. Bucks (14-23, LW 24). If they are going to make a playoff run they need to get very hot right now. That’s not going to happen, by the way.
24. Nets (12-26, LW 26). They have won three of five since Brook Lopez came back, with two of those wins over Dallas and New York. Of course, Lopez rolled his ankle and may miss a few games, so it will be back to the same old Nets for a while.
25. Raptors (12-25, LW 27). Here is how Raptors fans need to look at the season — next year they get Jonas Valanciunas and whoever they draft this year to come in to camp. It’s like two lottery picks in one.
26. Cavaliers (13-22, LW 21). They lost to the Wizards this week. They are lucky to be this high.
27. Kings (12-25, LW 25). Hey, they got a new arena deal. We’re just going to keep talking about that (and that they plan to bring back coach Keith Smart next season).
28. Hornets (9-28, LW 28). They are showcasing Chris Kaman for a trade and he is looking good — 16.5 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game since his return. Like the kind of player the Hornets should have been playing earlier.
29. Wizards (8-28, LW 29). Randy Wittman is trying to put his foot down and instill some discipline (like by benching JaVale McGee). Good luck with that.
May 18, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT
The NBA has had a concussion policy in place for the past 18 months, and while all teams have been made aware of the details, they haven’t been publicly available until now. With the recent concussion that kept George Hill out of the Pacers’ Game 5 loss to the Knicks (and may sideline him even…
May 18, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT
To quote the great Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Nicole Muxo took a shot. The high school senior at Archbishop Coleman Carroll put a video on YouTube asking Dwyane Wade to be her date for her senior prom. Friday night, he showed up, reports NBCMiami.com. Muxo, who attends…
May 18, 2013, 2:51 AM EDT
Here is the reality of the NBA Draft Combine: It doesn’t matter that much. It’s one small piece of a big puzzle. This isn’t like the NFL draft where a good or bad combine can really move a guy on draft boards. The reason is pure numbers — in the NFL every year more than…
May 17, 2013, 10:45 PM EDT
Phil Jackson has a new book coming out, so he will be spending plenty of time talking it up at various media outlets in the coming weeks. The tour has begun in earnest, and the juiciest quotes from the book are beginning to be released. If there’s one subject Jackson can speak on with absolute…
May 17, 2013, 9:33 PM EDT
Vinny Del Negro coached the Clippers to a franchise-best 56 regular season wins, yet he is a man without a contract for next season. It’s been widely assumed that the team would go in another direction after L.A. was bounced from the playoffs in the first round, especially after getting out to a two games…
May 17, 2013, 8:07 PM EDT
George Hill played 37 minutes in the Pacers’ Game 4 win over the Knicks, and led the team in scoring with a game-high 26 points. So when the news broke shortly before tip-off of Game 5 that he had been ruled out due to a concussion, the collective head-scratching of when this might have happened…
May 17, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
In 2009, Greg Oden averaged 16.7 points, 12.8 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 36 minutes. After injury, Oden finally looked like the No. 1 pick (at least when not compared to Kevin Durant), and people were getting excited. Of course, you know how the story ends. More injuries for Oden, who hasn’t played since. Well,…
May 17, 2013, 7:24 PM EDT
As my friends can attest, I’m not always the smoothest guy around. But even I know to make a little small talk before trying to score a number. Apparently, the Spurs just rushed to the point when they were set up with Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas. Jason Lloyd of Ohio.com: Thomas said teams asked him…
May 17, 2013, 6:53 PM EDT
Jerry Sloan is 71 years old. He’s a Hall of Famer. He spent 21 of his last 23 seasons coaching with either John Stockton or Deron Williams as his point guard. You think he wants to coach a team that’s hoping Brandon Jennings is its point guard next season? In the nicest terms possible –…
May 17, 2013, 6:19 PM EDT
It’s been a while since someone notable has weighed in on Derrick Rose’s decision not to return from his ACL injury this season, and I figured it his name would stay out of the headlines a little longer, considering the Bulls’ next game is in October. But Bradley Beal stepped up and filled the Rose-less…
May 17, 2013, 5:06 PM EDT
Phil Jackson has a book to sell — “11 Rings” out May 21 (so he doesn’t count the two as a player with the Knicks?) — so you’re going to see a lot of him in your media space ver the next few weeks. The man knows how to be a salesman. As part of…
May 17, 2013, 4:23 PM EDT
Harrison Barnes had a solid regular season, making the All-Rookie first team as a debatable choice for that honor. He started 81 games for the playoff-bound Warriors, but Barnes took a back seat to Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and, when healthy, Andrew Bogut. Again being the seventh banana on…
May 17, 2013, 4:14 PM EDT
Generally, the cure for plantar fasciitis is rest. As in stay off your foot for a while. Which really didn’t work for Joakim Noah in the playoffs. But now that the Bulls are eliminated there is a question about whether it is just rest and some treatment that he needs, or whether surgery is an…
May 17, 2013, 2:55 PM EDT
The puzzle pieces have changed, but the picture of the sailboat they form has not. Under Frank Vogel, the Pacers have relied heavily on their starters. Between them, George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert excel in all areas of the court, offensively and defensively, and really balance each other. But…
May 17, 2013, 2:28 PM EDT
It was a throwaway line Zach Randolph said himself after a physical game early in the season against the Thunder and Kendrick Perkins, “I don’t bluff.” My first thought when I heard it was “wish I was playing poker against him.” But the line caught on to describe the them, and it’s now the chorus…
May 17, 2013, 2:10 PM EDT
No big man is going to be battling in the paint with Roy Hibbert and the physical front line of the pacers and not get a little banged up. After the Knicks win in Game 5 center Tyson Chandler said his back and his knee were bothering him. But this isn’t the time of year…
May 17, 2013, 1:35 PM EDT
Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins is not under contract for next season. As much as the Brooklyn Nets would like to have a shot at Hollins, both sides expect he will come back to Memphis next season. Hollins talked about that on the Dan Patrick show Friday. He also talked about the San Antonio Spurs…
May 17, 2013, 1:07 PM EDT
Whatever happened with the sale of the Kings, one thing was a lock — big front office changes and a coaching change were on the way. Now that the deal is done and the Kings will be staying in Sacramento, don’t expect it to be long before you see changes — Geoff Petrie and Keith…
May 17, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT
There are not a lot of iconic shots unique to players in the NBA. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Skyhook comes to mind. So does Dirk Nowitzki and the one-legged fadeaway jumper — a shot that gets big time treatment in the latest NBA playoff ad. You’ll see a lot of this one on your television…
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- Report: Vinny Del Negro to meet with Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling this weekend 3
- Bradley Beal said he’d lose respect for a teammate who acted like Derrick Rose 32
- George Hill injury jeopardizes Pacers’ identity 1
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