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.
Mar 12, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT
NBA guys break out trick shots at practice all the time. Not so much during pregame warmups. Except for Dallas’ Monta Ellis, who practiced some free throws with his eyes closed, and a no-look over-his-head corner three. And nailed it. Maybe he should have broke them out during the game in Golden State Tuesday night…
Mar 12, 2014, 2:55 PM EDT
We told you this was coming on Tuesday night, but now the Lakers have made it official: Kobe Bryant is out for the remainder of this NBA season. “Obviously this has been a frustrating and disappointing season, but I appreciate all the support I’ve received from the Lakers and the fans, and look forward to…
Mar 12, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT
It’s the NBA — you keep your star players in the loop, you consult with them on big moves, if for no other reason then to make them feel wanted. Elite talent is in limited supply in the NBA, you need to keep those guys happy. So it was only a matter of time before…
Steve Kerr confirms his interest in coaching, understands speculation that he will join Phil Jackson with Knicks
Mar 12, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT
Steve Kerr sees why you’d make the connection between Phil Jackson, the Knicks, and himself. But he won’t discuss it just yet.
Mar 12, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley went hard after Russell Westbrook from the opening tip on Tuesday, but James Harden says it was a needless distraction.
Mar 12, 2014, 12:33 PM EDT
Thomas grew up a Lakers, Kobe Bryant fan.
Mar 12, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT
“From that day forward, I knew I was the guy, the leader, and I knew that they trusted me.”
Mar 12, 2014, 11:32 AM EDT
Carmelo Anthony has never met Phil Jackson.
Mar 12, 2014, 10:52 AM EDT
Andrew Bynum looked good against the Celtics Tuesday. It was simple and clear. When basketball coaches say “you can’t teach height” Bynum showed exactly what they mean — matched up on Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass, Bynum just grabbed rebounds and made shots right over the top of them. He was too big, too physical.…
Mar 12, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT
As I’ve watched the Miami Heat excel these last few years, I’ve gained an appreciation for how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, et al. play the game of basketball. But I’ve also grown to appreciate Heat sideline reporter Jason Jackson. Through all the Heat’s video-bombing, Jackson keeps hitting the right notes. As someone who’s…
Mar 12, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
His second 10-day contract ends Friday.
Mar 12, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
Andre Iguodala put up an impressive highlight as the Warriors routed the Mavericks.
Report: Knicks, Phil Jackson have deal in principle for him to be team president. Or not. Depends on who you ask.
Mar 12, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
Nothing is final until the ink dries on the contract, but Jackson to the Knicks as team president seems done. It will end poorly but should be an interesting ride.
Mar 12, 2014, 8:22 AM EDT
One really good team won’t make it at all, and at least two excellent teams won’t even make the second round.
Mar 12, 2014, 2:33 AM EDT
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while thinking I never had teachers like that… San Antonio Spurs offense. The Bulls defense has forced everyone they have faced lately into an ugly, grappling fight on the ground that favors Chicago. Even Miami fell victim to it. San Antonio rose above it with…
Mar 12, 2014, 12:32 AM EDT
To be fair Omer Asik was wide open, he just was on the bench at the time when Dwight Howard hit him with a pass.
Mar 11, 2014, 11:21 PM EDT
Kevin Durant led the Thunder to victory with his 42 points, but not before there were plenty of fireworks between the two teams.
Mar 11, 2014, 9:36 PM EDT
Kobe Bryant’s recovery has been slower than expected, and the Lakers are reportedly ready to officially shut him down for the season.
Patrick Beverley goes at Russell Westbrook just as he did on the play that caused injury in 2013 playoffs (VIDEO)
Mar 11, 2014, 8:44 PM EDT
Patrick Beverley gives Russell Westbrook a not-so-subtle reminder of the play that caused Westbrook’s season-ending knee injury in the 2013 playoffs.
Mar 11, 2014, 8:13 PM EDT
George Karl says that Carmelo Anthony, whom he coached in Denver, isn’t a Phil Jackson type of player. Which means?
- It’s official: Lakers rule out Kobe Bryant for remainder of NBA season 13
- Carmelo Anthony confirms Phil Jackson “will be coming on board” with Knicks 14
- Report: Knicks, Phil Jackson have deal in principle for him to be team president. Or not. Depends on who you ask. 27
- Extra Pass: Western Conference playoff field ought to be really good, but just how good? 1
- Tuesday night NBA Grades: San Antonio with another impressive statement 17