Dec 3, 2012, 3:11 PM EDT
It’s early in the season, very early, but there are moments it feels line the NBA finals come June could be a rematch of last year — Miami vs. Oklahoma City. And that really shouldn’t be a surprise. Right now those two teams are on top of the PBT power rankings.
1. Heat (12-3, last week ranked No. 3). The Heat are back on top, and on a six-game winning streak, because they are starting to find their defensive stride again. The last two games they have held their opponent below the league average in points per possession, and as a team they are taking the long view of getting the defense to click.
2. Thunder (14-4, LW 4). Winners of five in a row, in part because Russell Westbrook is not as one dimensional as you think and has been a real playmaker for them. Good tests this week against the Nets and Lakers.
3. Spurs (14-4, LW 2). They went 5-1 on a tough six game road trip, and the one loss really pissed David Stern off. Then they came back and handled the Grizzlies. Would you be shocked if they were the top seed in the West this season? I wouldn’t.
4. Grizzlies (12-3, last week ranked No. 1). They were 3-1 last week, the loss coming to a motivated Spurs team out to stick up for their coach after Stern’s fine (and while the Spurs stars were rested the Griz were on a back-to-back). They have the best defense in the land and a pretty soft schedule this week (Hawks are the big challenge).
5. Nets (11-5, LW 8). Deron Williams is struggling with his shot — 39.9 percent on the season — but he will not blame his sprained wrist. The Nets offense has been bailed out by the suddenly hot Jerry Stackhouse, who loves the corner three and has 15 from beyond the arc this season. BTW, nice win over the Knicks.
6. Knicks (12-4, LW 6). They are defending their house and are now 7-0 at Madison Square Garden. We will see how much the bone bruise in Raymond Felton’s hand bothers him, because with Jason Kidd out also it becomes the Pablo Prigioni show.
7. Clippers (10-6, LW 5). Chauncey Billups is back and although he has played limited minutes in those games it seems to have settled their offense down and they put up 100 points in those games (after missing that mark in four of the previous five). Jamal Crawford may be finding his groove again, too. Which is good for all of us.
10. Celtics (9-8, LW 11). I’m not with Doc Rivers, I don’t think the Celtics are soft… well, maybe their bench is. They started out with a 17-0 run against the Bucks and by halftime it was a one-point lead. And they went on to lose. Jeff Green had a couple nice games with Rajon Rondo out, but remains enigmatic.
11. Warriors (10-6, LW 17). This is a team with the points per possession differential of a .500 team and I keep waiting for them to revert, and they just keep on finding a way to win. Carl Landry is quietly having a strong season, as is David Lee. When those two are paired the Warriors lineups are stronger.
12. Bucks (8-7, LW 13). Quality wins last week over Boston and Chicago, plus they got a triple-double (with blocks) out of Larry Sanders. The jury is still out on the Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings pairing but it just doesn’t seem to be lightning in a bottle (they don’t defend well).
13. Bulls (8-7, LW 15). That loss to the Bucks — ahead by 27 only to lose — is a real stinger. That said, they are still in the mix to win the Central division (without that Rose guy) and they have some winnable games this week (Cavaliers, Pistons) before some real tests in the middle of the month (Knicks, Clippers, Nets, Grizzlies).
14. Lakers (8-9, LW 10). The NBA’s most inconsistent team. Why so inconsistent? Los Angeles is running an offense based on smart, strong point guard play and they run out Darius Morris and Chris Duhon playing the point. Combine that with some horrible mental vacations on defense and you get up and down. Lots of road games coming up this week.
15. Jazz (9-9, LW 16). There is no good time for Derrick Favors to go down but this is about as close as it gets — Jazz are a dramatically better team at home and have four of their next five in Salt Lake City.
17. Mavericks (8-9, LW 14). Derek Fisher is not the answer, as his 1-8 shooting night Saturday showed. Dallas is 2-6 on the road this season and six of their next seven are away from Dallas. Meaning a real test for the team that has no certain idea when Dirk Nowitzki might return to the lineup.
18. Nuggets (8-9, LW 12). This was a team expected to run everyone into the ground, but they are playing at just the eighth fastest pace in the league and are 23rd in points scored per possession in transition. They don’t have a good running game right now.
19. Timberwolves (7-8, LW 19). Ricky Rubio is back practicing, which is great news and fits with the timeline of him returning mid-December. In the interim, they need Kevin Love to shoot better (37 percent since he returned to action).
20. Bobcats (7-8, LW 18). Three straight losses against tougher competition, including an ugly thrashing at the hands of the Thunder where they looked like last-season’s Bobcats. The feel good story may be ending with the Knicks, Bucks and Spurs up this week (as well as the Blazers).
21. Pacers (8-9, LW 22). They got a quality win against the Lakers last week (although pretty soon we are going to stop saying that about beating LA). David West has been playing well of late, but they miss Danny Granger’s shot creation.
22. Trail Blazers (7-10, LW 20). They lost to the Wizards and the Pistons, then needed a dramatic Nicolas Batum three to beat the Cavaliers. This is not a very good team. Sorry. Nice pieces but not a good team.
23. Suns (7-10, LW 23). After watching him against the Knicks Sunday, you have to wonder how long before Alvin Gentry just starts slashing Michael Beasley’s minutes. Dramatically. He guns on offense, hurts them on defense.
25. Magic (6-10, LW 24). There is no real revenge for Dwight Howard, but that win Sunday night sure tasted good to Magic fans. As it should.
27. Hornets (4-11, LW 28). They are going to have to go at least another week without Anthony Davis and they have to figure out how to defend without him. With Davis in the lineup they allowed opponents 103.1 points per 100 possessions, that has jumped way up to 110.5 in the past five games.
29. Kings (4-12, LW 25). You look at where the Kings are now, where they have been for the past few years, and you’d think an owner would clean house starting with the GM and working down into the roster. But Geoff Petrie in entrenched as GM. The Kings marketing team can start planning another lottery party for fans now.
30. Wizards (1-13, LW 30). Nene was back, now he’s gone (but may be back this week). Randy Wittman’s mom wants to know when John Wall is coming back and there are no answers. It’s going to be a long season in the nation’s capital.
Mar 14, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT
Tony Wroten of the Sixers became the latest player to experience a shoe malfunction.
Mar 14, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Pau Gasol believes that Kobe had every right to demand the Lakers put together a team capable of winning immediately.
Mar 14, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT
Paul Pierce continues to play up his hatred of the Knicks.
Jermaine O’Neal explains his reasoning for confronting Blake Griffin outside locker room following loss to Clippers
Mar 14, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
Blake Griffin apparently did something on the court that, at least in Jermaine O’Neal’s eyes, crossed the line.
Mar 14, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
After a disaster of a season in New York, Knicks owner James Dolan has made his bold move to save face. Now we will see if it actually turns the franchise around. The Knicks have announced they will “hold a press conference on Tuesday, March 18 to make a major announcement.” That would be the…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
For the big Thursday night game where the Bulls showed up ready to play and the Rockets just showed up, TNT mic’d up Carlos Boozer for the game. And he talked. And talked. And yelled “and one” at the top of his lungs. And talked. Tomike Shengelia doesn’t want to listen and Boozer keeps talking.…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT
By the time Phil Jackson signs with the Knicks it feels like Ted Mosby will have met the mother of his children. Finally. Pretty much every source in the universe says a deal is close, that includes Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN. Todd Musburger, Jackson’s Chicago-based agent, is in Los Angeles to finalize…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT
Mike Woodson knows what is coming. It is expected that some time in the next 72 hours Phil Jackson will put pen to paper and become the president of basketball operations for the Knicks. When the season ends he’s going to clean house (CAA is not going to enjoy the experience), bringing in his people…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
Jimmy Fallon has been looking into buying a truck, this is the one he needs. Tim Duncan teamed up with Gunn Chevrolet in the San Antonio area to customize a 2014 Silverado for a giveaway. If you didn’t know, Duncan is a bit of a car nut and owns Blackjack Speed Shop, a customizing shop…
Mar 14, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT
Phoenix has to turn things around. Fast. The team is 3-7 in their last 10 and in the deep Western Conference that spells trouble — they have tumbled out of the playoffs and now are two games back of Memphis and Dallas in trying to get the last ticket to the postseason dance. Jeff Hornacek…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT
The Boston Celtics and Rajon Rondo have had better days behind them. In front of them too, they hope. Boston will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, and Rondo missed the All-Star Game for the first time in four years. To avoid repeating either outcome, Rondo must get fully healthy. That’s…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
This is what makes Inside the NBA on TNT great. You can be sure some star almost fell asleep on the set of a Sunday morning football show this year, but they got him some coffee and kept it off the air. Not Inside the NBA. They show Charles Barkley nodding off and the guys…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Terrence Ross has won a Dunk Contest. He scored 51 points in a game. He starts for the Eastern Conference’s third-best team. But he still has to take out the trash when he goes to his mom’s house. Raptors.com interviewed Ross with his mom, Marcine Ross, when Toronto played in his hometown of Portland last…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Michael Jordan is commonly accepted as the best NBA player of all time, though occasionally someone else believes a different player belongs No. 1. Consider Kevin Durant among those dissenters. At least partially Durant on Kobe Bryant, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball): “He’s…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
In ESPN’s Fab Five documentary, Jalen Rose discussed how he felt about Duke while playing at Michigan. Rose: I hated Duke, and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms. To many, that’s still the…
Mar 14, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Royce White, the former first-round pick whose anxiety issues have kept him from playing in the NBA, is one step closer to making his NBA debut. The Sacramento Kings signed White to a 10-day contract, immediately assigning him to the D-League. After posting 8.8 points on 37 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5…
Mar 14, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama has ramped up his efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act, even appearing on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis. With only mild offense intended for Galifianakis (in the spirit of his episode with the president), Obama has enlisted a much bigger celebrity to help with the cause – LeBron James. In the…
Mar 14, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
At a panel during the Sloan Conference, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers described the arduous process of acquiring Andre Iguodala. The Warriors had no cap room last summer, so Myers faced a two-sided task to land the free agent. Not only did he negotiate with Iguodala, Myers discussed trades with other teams to…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
This was expected when Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford tore his pectoral muscle, he had to have surgery and was done for the season. But with the Hawks playing better than expected for rookie coach Mike Budenholzer — thanks to an All-Star year from Paul Millsap — Atlanta is going to be a playoff…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
I’m a big fan of the NFL/HBO series “Hard Knocks,” which each year follows a team through training camp and the drama of season-ending injuries and the cut downs — guys are playing for their livelihood and there is inherent drama in that. It’s great television. But thanks to guaranteed contracts you can’t do the…
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