Dec 10, 2012, 2:43 PM EST
A lot of the preseason talk in the West focused on the Lakers… and it still does. And too often it ends with “and the Thunder are still contenders, too.” No, the Thunder are the defending Western Conference champs, the team to beat in that conference and they look pretty good right now. Thank you very much.
1. Thunder (16-4, Last week ranked No. 2). Winners of eight in a row after Monday night including some quality victories last week against the Nets and Lakers. Are the Lakers still considered a quality win? Well it was the Pacers win that impressed me — putting up an offensive rating of 115.3 (points per 100 possessions) against what had been the best defense in the NBA. The Thunder are rolling.
2. Spurs (17-4, LW 3). For the past few years, the Spurs have evolved into an offensive team that played enough defense to win games (a lot of games). But this season the Spurs are back to their old ways with the sixth best defense in the NBA (98.2 points per 100 possessions).
3. Knicks (15-5, LW 5). Going 2-1 this week without Carmelo Anthony (until Sunday), including a big win over Miami in Miami was impressive. New York is going to ride the train of threes as long as they keep falling. Trail Blazers fans had to watch Raymond Felton in that Heat game and throw things at the television, he didn’t give them games like that last season.
4. Clippers (13-6, LW 6). They are the winners of six in a row — and for the last three games the starters have not set foot on the floor in the fourth quarter. The Clippers remain the best and still by far least talked about team in Los Angeles.
5. Grizzlies (14-4, LW 4). Not their best week, needing overtime to beat the Suns and losing to the Hawks (who are playing well, to be fair). The Grizzlies remain an elite defensive team and that is keeping them in games, and they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat (they don’t have bad losses) so we’re not worried.
6. Heat (13-5, LW 1). Last week I said they might be finding their defensive footing. I would like to officially take that back. Their defense was bad in losses to the Knicks and Wizards, and they really were just a hot shooting team in their one win last week. They get a rematch with the Wizards Saturday.
7. Hawks (12-5, LW 8). Quality wins this week over the Grizzlies and Nuggets, with the Heat on tap for Monday. While you weren’t looking they have been a strong defensive team this season behind Josh Smith and Al Horford.
8. Warriors (13-7, LW 11). Here’s a shocker — if you put a bunch of guys who can shoot together on a team they are going to score points. For the season their point differential suggests they should be a .500 team but in the past five games their offense has found a groove. They have started a seven-game road trip 3-0.
9. Celtics (11-9, LW 10). Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but they have started to play really good defense in Boston the past couple weeks. That’s the first building block. And Doc Rivers is not building for February, he’s looking at May and beyond.
10. 76ers (11-9, LW 9). They did well, getting an Evan Turner game winner and splitting a home-and-home with Boston, but they get some tests this week with the Bulls, Pacers and Lakers. And with the Laker game, expect a plethora of Bynum stories. There still is no timeline for his return.
11. Bulls (11-8, LW 13). Don’t put too much into the rumors of Rose’s recovery, he’s doing well but he is still more than a month away from playing in games, probably longer. But they are doing okay without him. Winners of three straight, they have a tough stretch ahead — Clippers, 76ers, Nets, Grizzlies, Celtics and Knicks are the next six.
12. Bucks (9-9, LW 12). One of the many inconsistent teams in the middle of the pack in the NBA — they lost to the Hornets (in an ugly fashion) then beat the Nets later in the week. It’s like that every week with the Bucks, it feels.
13. Nets (11-8, LW 7). Losers of four straight and, dare we say it, their defense is terrible without Brook Lopez in the lineup? It’s true, which suggests maybe the Mayans were right and we should all be stacking up on canned goods for the shelter. Rematch with the Knicks this week.
14. Jazz (12-10, LW 15). They split with the Los Angeles teams this week, losing to the good one and beating the struggling one. The Jazz are what we thought they are — a good, hard working, balanced team. One that faces the Spurs and Grizzlies this week, so good luck.
15. Mavericks (10-10, LW 17). O.J. Mayo was a 36.4 percent three-point shooter the past two seasons, but this year he is knocking down 52.3 percent of his looks from deep. And he is taking 5.6 threes a game. I keep expecting this bubble to burst but we are 20 games in now.
16. Lakers (9-12, LW 14). What the slow start almost ensures is that the Lakers will have no home court advantage come the playoffs. The Thunder, Spurs and Grizzlies are out of their reach, and they are 5.5 games back of a good Clippers team in the Pacific. The Lakers are back out on the road for four more this week and they may or may not get Pau Gasol and Steve Nash to help them at some point.
17. Nuggets (10-11, LW 18). They have faced a tough schedule (although the Clippers and Hornets have had it worse) but that does not excuse the bad turnovers late in a couple games last week by Ty Lawson. This is another middle of the pack NBA team we keep expecting to get it and go on a run.
18. Timberwolves (9-9, LW 19). They expect to get Ricky Rubio back this week, which will be a huge boost to a struggling offense. Once they start putting up points again look for them to shoot up the rankings and the standings.
19. Pacers (10-11, LW 21). The drop off with this team when the bench enters the game is just hard to watch. They continue to play good defense as a team (save the Oklahoma City game) but the offense is passable at best with the starters then nosedives with the bench play.
20. Rockets (9-10, LW 16). We are just happy to see Kevin McHale back on the sidelines with this squad. Hopefully he can help even out another up and down team, one that beat the Lakers and the Jazz then lost to Spurs and Mavericks in their last four.
21. Trail Blazers (8-12, LW 22). If you’re a Trail Blazers fan and you watch the play of Raymond Felton in New York or Jamal Crawford in Los Angeles this season, you just have to be pissed.
22. Magic (8-12, LW 25). The gutted Magic have gone 3-2 on their road trip and are playing hard for Jacque Vaughn. They are the eighth best defensive team in the NBA without what’s his name in the paint blocking shots.
23. Pistons (7-15, LW 24). Detroit’s offense is 12.7 points better per 100 possessions at home compared to on the road. Which is good news for the Sixers and Nets as the Pistons travel there this week.
25. Bobcats (7-12, LW 20). They are the losers of seven in a row, and the reason is they can’t defend. In their last five games they have given up 116.1 points per 100 possessions, the worst team in the NBA during that stretch (using the NBA’s own stats page).
26. Suns (7-15, LW 23). They also have lost seven in a row, including one to the Magic on Sunday night they though was winnable. The two games this week are Memphis and Utah, although they are at home (and Utah can struggle on the road).
27. Raptors (4-17, LW 26). They are a terrible road team and this West Coast swing has them losing and looking for answers. I look at the roster and still don’t see a grand plan from GM Bryan Colangelo.
28. Hornets (5-14, LW 27). I want to cut them some slack — they have been without Anthony Davis for a long stretch and have played the toughest schedule in the NBA so far. But their problems go well beyond that.
29. Cavaliers (4-17, LW 28). Losers of five straight but they get Kyrie Irving back Tuesday night. And they bring him back against a Lakers team that has terrible defense at the point guard position.
3 30. Wizards (2-15, LW 30). Sorry, even a win over the Heat can’t get them out of the cellar… although if not for a Festus Ezeli block they would have beat the Warriors and moved up. They are close to getting out of this jail. Oh, and still no John Wall timeline.
Dec 12, 2013, 8:30 PM EST
After trying to play through it for a month and it not really working, Golden State’s Jermaine O’Neal is going to have surgery to repair the torn ligaments on the outside of his right wrist, the team announced Thursday. 1 of 2) @jermaineoneal will undergo arthroscopic surgery tomorrow to address a torn ligament in his…
Dec 12, 2013, 5:45 PM EST
We don’t need to tell you the Pacers are doing just fine without Danny Granger — they have the best record in the NBA (19-3) and knocked off the Miami Heat this week. Yet with Granger, they either will improve or they will have a potential trade piece to shop around at the deadline (or…
Dec 12, 2013, 4:43 PM EST
The Lakers, already without Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar due to injuries, will now be without Steve Blake until likely the start of February at least. Blake has a torn ulnar ligament in his right elbow at least six weeks, the Lakers announced. Speaking with the media, Blake said if he were a baseball player…
Dec 12, 2013, 3:25 PM EST
Glen Davis, even down to the lowest weight of his career, is big. After games, he’s big and sweaty. So, FOX Sports Florida’s Dante Marchitelli faced quite the challenge of staying focused during this, literally, touching interview. That man deserves a raise! Marchitelli, not Davis. Davis is paid just fine, and at least it’s his…
Dec 12, 2013, 3:05 PM EST
The Nets and Knicks have been the NBA’s two most underwhelming teams this season, but some statistical models predicted New York would slip. Few, if any, expected Brooklyn to struggle like this. From afar, I recognize Brooklyn’s troubles, but like most, I’m mostly numb to them. That’s certainly not the case for Kevin Garnett certainly,…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:33 PM EST
Rajon Rondo’s high school coach said Carmelo Anthony was recruiting Rondo, a 2015 free agent, to New York. As Kurt wrote, those types of conversations happen all the time. Of course, nobody publicly admits to them while they’re ongoing (except Chandler Parsons, who bragged about recruiting Dwight Howard to the Rockets). Anthony, via Ian Begley…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:32 PM EST
The Knicks need help on offense — a shot creator besides Carmelo Anthony — and they are looking at another point guard to get it. Multiple reports say the Knicks are now talking with the Toronto Raptors about getting Kyle Lowry, who became available when the Raptors picked up Greivis Vasquez in the Rudy Gay…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:00 PM EST
Tom Thibodeau is represented by Creative Artists Agency. We have to start there. CAA and the Knicks enjoy an extremely harmonious relationship. The Knicks actually made Mike Woodson fire his agent and retain CAA, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher/Report. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Once Woodson switches his representation to CAA, the agency will control…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:58 PM EST
It’s your game fans. The NBA All-Star Game is an exhibition filled with the players you vote to see. Whether those players deserve the honor based on their performance the first half of the season or not. Sometimes the most deserving guys don’t make the cut while guys hobbling through the season do. Which brings…
Dec 12, 2013, 1:25 PM EST
We present this to you with very little commentary on our part. Jim Brown is an NFL legend and an outspoken man about the African American community and how it fits in with overall American society. Brown was on the Arsenio Hall Show on Tuesday night and was asked to comment about Kobe Bryant’s return…
Dec 12, 2013, 12:35 PM EST
A lot of players have friends or family in the Los Angeles area (a shocking number live there in the off-season), so when they come to play the Lakers or Clippers they are looking to buy a few extra tickets to get those people in the door. There is always a scramble. Rudy Gay is…
Dec 12, 2013, 11:36 AM EST
It’s not that Brandon Jennings can’t play defense. He can. If you remember Jennings from the first couple seasons he was a solid defender on the perimeter. But that has changed over the years — he doesn’t seem to care about that end of the floor now, save for gambling for steals. He shows flashes,…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:56 AM EST
Zach Randolph has had his fair share of off-the-court issues over the years, but this is also a guy who gives back. He won the NBA’s Community Assist award for November for example: “As a part of the NBA’s Season of Giving, Randolph distributed 900 Thanksgiving food baskets at Booker T. Washington High School and…
Dec 12, 2013, 10:18 AM EST
The Knicks got an important victory on Wednesday over an undermanned Bulls team, because despite the fact that New York blew a 23-point lead before hanging on to win over the final few possessions, it relieved some of the pressure on head coach Mike Woodson. New York has been without key players due to injury…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:42 AM EST
The shoes worn by Michael Jordan in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals — the legendary “flu game” — have sold for a record price at auction. The red and black Jordan 12s went for an astonishing $104,765, shattering the previous high paid for a pair of game-worn shoes in any sport. ESPN.com has…
Dec 12, 2013, 9:04 AM EST
Knicks fans could use a positive, and while their team gave up a 23-point lead to a team missing pretty much every player you can name, the bottom line is the Knicks made some plays and got a win. They even had a couple highlights, like this one from J.R. Smith who looked like his…
Dec 12, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
By D.J. Foster All over the league, we’ve seen young teams fighting against the tank. If the playoffs started today, the Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns would be in the playoffs. This was unfathomable a few months ago. It wasn’t just about their rosters being bad – they were supposed to be bad. The Milwaukee…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:21 AM EST
Our quick look around the association on a busy Wednesday night. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks. Stoudemire played 30 minutes. Stoudemire was clutch, hitting a key jumper with less than 3 minutes to go after the Bulls had stormed from 23 points back to tie the game. Stoudemire played good interior defense. Stoudemire showed a…
Dec 12, 2013, 2:02 AM EST
Dallas had a 10-point lead with 8 minutes left and still were up 6 with less than two minutes to go, but no lead is safe when Golden State is at home. No lead is safe against Stephen Curry Curry had a four-point play a minute before that allowed Golden State to get back from…
- Lakers’ Steve Blake out at least six weeks with elbow injury 5
- Report: Knicks, Raptors talking Kyle Lowry trade 16
- Tom Thibodeau to the Knicks? Well… 4
- Deserving or not Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade among All-Star starters in early voting returns 32
- The Extra Pass: Bucks are bad, and that’s good; plus Wednesday’s recaps 8
- Why question “When did basketball get so bad?” misses mark (62)
- Pacers win first Conference Finals rematch vs. Heat (50)
- Raptors trade Rudy Gay to Sacramento for multiple players (47)
- NFL legend Jim Brown takes shot at Kobe Bryant, Kobe fires back (40)
- Adam Silver: NBA to consider doing away with divisions (39)