|NBA Power Rankings, 1/20||01.20.11 at 1:00 pm ET|
So much for the Year of the Streak, huh? After the Celtics, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Lakers and Hornets ripped off significant winning streaks earlier this season, everybody’s settling into midseason NBA mode (aka, “no heavy lifting”) — which makes sorting out the Power Rankings all that much more difficult.
In my mind, there are four heavy favorites to reach the two conference finals: Celtics vs. Heat, and Lakers vs. Spurs. And four other contenders: Bulls, Magic, Thunder and Jazz. Outside of that, it’s a matter of filling out the playoff picture now that we’re at the midway point, and that’s not a pretty picture at the bottom of the East. Here goes …
1. San Antonio (36-6): The Spurs are 22-2 at home and riding a 16-game winning streak at the AT&T Center. Only the Lakers are within 8.5 games of San Antonio for the West’s No. 1 seed, and even they’re six games back. If the Spurs manage to snag homecourt advantage, L.A.’s reign could be over sooner than expected. And Shaq won’t be the only guy playing for a fifth ring this spring; Tim Duncan will be, too.
2. Boston (32-9): The Celtics are 13-5 against teams with records above .500. They’ve beaten the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Spurs and Thunder already, and they play the Jazz (Friday) and Lakers (Jan. 30) over the next 10 days, so they could easily reclaim the top spot. That’s a remarkable feat for a team that’s never been fully healthy.
3. LA Lakers (31-13): The Lakers are now top-10 in points scored, points allowed, rebounds and assists, which is pretty good. They had won 8-of-9 before losing in Dallas on Wednesday night, which is also pretty good. And Lamar Odom granted Playboy an interview about basketball and marriage, which is beyond good.
4. Miami (30-13): You can’t really let the Heat slip too far down the rankings, despite their season-high four-game losing streak, considering LeBron James missed two of those contests and Chris Bosh missed another. Still, it’s midway through the season, and Miami still doesn’t have a defined rotation. That’s a problem.
5. Oklahoma City (27-15): Would you rather have the Miami Thrice on your team or the Kevin Durant–Russell Westbrook–Jeff Green triumvirate? The former, but the latter’s not far behind (Miami Thrice: 69.3 ppg, 13.3 apg; OKC Three: 65.9 ppg, 13.4 apg). Considering their respective salaries next season (Miami Thrice: $47.6 million; OKC Three: $24.6 million), it’s almost a toss-up as to who’s in better position for the future.
6. Chicago (28-14): This season, especially lately, Derrick Rose is getting a LOT of love. Charles Barkley called him the NBA’s best point guard. Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie gave him their midseason Most Improved Player award. There’s even some MVP chatter. Should he be crowned before he’s even won a playoff series?
7. Orlando (27-15): It’s funny how Otis Smith decided to pick this week — after losing 3-of-4, including one to the Celtics — to essentially call the C’s a bunch of posers. Because, you know, Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick are essentially Randy Couture and Mickey Ward. What’s that saying about glass houses?
8. Utah (27-15): The Celtics are welcoming the Jazz to Boston on Friday, and let’s hope a stomach bug doesn’t keep Deron Williams from playing. Boston fans have already missed Durant and Carmelo Anthony in their teams’ only trips to the hub. Missing a battle between Williams and Rajon Rondo would be a shame.
9. Atlanta (28-15): It’ll be interesting to see how much attention Jamal Crawford will get in free agency after this season. Even though he’s the returning Sixth Man of the Year, he’s not a guy I’d really want on my team. Same goes for a lot of guys on the Hawks, except for Al Horford.
10. New Orleans (27-16): Welcome back to the top 10, Chris Paul. A six-game winning streak — including wins over the Magic and Nuggets — will do that for you. The Hornets accomplished it with defense, allowing fewer than 90 points in four of those six contests.
11. Dallas (27-14): After Dirk Nowitzki missed nine games, he returned against the Grizzlies, only to be tossed by the referees midway through the third quarter. And then the Mavericks lost their sixth straight to the lowly Pistons. Good times. Mark Cuban was probably sticking forks in light sockets before they beat the Lakers.
12. Denver (24-17): I hate the fact that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called off the ‘Melo trade discussion for two reasons: 1) he robbed us of a meeting between them and Jay-Z, which may have been the greatest meeting of all-time; and 2) now we have to listen to another few weeks of people speculating where he’ll go.
13. New York (22-19): How does the NBA’s top scoring team produce 83 points at home against the Kings? Seriously. It’s the Kings!?!? Since winning 13-of-14 from mid-November to mid-December, the Knicks are 6-10. There’s a lot less optimism around them since they played the C’s tough and were in the ‘Melo sweepstakes.
14. Portland (23-20): Another Trail Blazers player (Marcus Camby) injured his knee. In other news: The sky is blue. At this point, should opposing teams just rest their stars when they visit, for fear that their knees might disintegrate into the Portland air?
15. Houston (20-23): Rockets GM Daryl Morey is on Twitter and gives insightful comments about his team, like: “Our shot making disguised issues in our transition offense.” Can we lobby to get Danny Ainge on Twitter?
16. Memphis (19-23): When Zach Randolph is the one saying, “We’ve got to get some heart,” you’ve got problems. The Grizzlies still have an outside shot at a playoff berth, but Randolph’s words aren’t a good sign.
17. Phoenix (19-21): The only two players that have scored 20,000 points, are eligible for the Hall of Fame and haven’t been inducted are Mitch Richmond and Tom Chambers. Now that Vince Carter has joined the 20,000-point club, will he be the third to fall short of the Hall?
18. Indiana (16-23): Pacers wing Mike Dunleavey has been in the league since 2002 and never sniffed the playoffs, but this could be his year — even if Indiana doesn’t make the postseason. The Pacers are shopping him, and he’d be a nice pickup for any team looking to deepen their rotation.
19. LA Clippers (16-25): When Blake Griffin scored 47 points on 24 shots, he became just the 13th player in the last 20 seasons to score such a high figure on so few shots. TrueHoop did a nice job of breaking it down.
20. Golden State (18-23): According to the Contra Costa Times, over the last 13 games, Dorell Wright has averaged 20.4 points and 5.2 rebounds. Think the Miami Heat could use him in their rotation now?
21. Philadelphia (17-24): The 76ers might be the most confusing team in the NBA. They’ll lose to the Raptors twice in one week, and then play the Celtics tough. They’ll lose to the Bulls by 45 points one night, and then beat them by six another. Chalk that up to youth and the fact Andre Iguadola is their leader.
22. Milwaukee (15-24): A back injury has flared up for Bucks center Andrew Bogut. You wonder if the issue is something that will plague him for a while, considering that nasty fall he took last April. You know what they say: the bigger they are, the harder they fall … and the tougher it is to come back from it.
24. Detroit (15-27): Good thing the Pistons benched Richard Hamilton against the Celtics amid the trade rumors that would’ve sent him to New Jersey as part of a three-team ‘Melo trade — now that there’s no way the Nets are going to take on Rip’s contract without landing the big fish, too.
25. Washington (12-28): I saw this headline: “Lewis provides a steady influence for young Wizards.” Are we talking about Rashard Lewis? Well, I guess the headline didn’t distinguish whether it was a good or bad influence.
26. Toronto (13-29): The Raptors and Cavaliers have a combined 21 wins after the departures of Bosh and James. The Heat have 30 victories. Those guys were kind of important to their teams. Just a little.
27. New Jersey (11-31): Is anybody shocked by the fact that Prokhorov is pursuing Andrei Kirilenko. Next up: Timofey Mozgov. Let’s just hope they don’t turn out to be like Angelina Jolie‘s character in “Salt”.
28. Minnesota (10-33): I had to steal this line from Canis Hoopus: “Wesley Johnson: DNP (coach’s decision); Jonny Flynn: 15 minutes, 2 points; Ricky Rubio: tanning. What an awesome use of top lotto picks.”
29. Sacramento (9-31): The Maloofs could move to Anaheim. Sounds like a bad CBS comedy. Unfortunately, it could be a reality for Sacramento fans. If there are any of those.
30. Cleveland (8-33): Anderson Verajao out for the season. Mo Williams out for a couple weeks. Believe it or not, those are the Cavalier’s two best players. Now Cleveland fans literally have nothing to root for but a potential No. 1 pick in the lottery. Knowing their luck, though, that won’t happen.
|NBA Power Rankings, 1/6||01.06.11 at 7:15 pm ET|
I know how you love our themed NBA Power Rankings, so this time around we’re going to deliver the most intesting Tweet of the week about each team from the Twitter universe. Meanwhile, we’ll rank the 30 clubs from first to worst — after pointing out that three of the top five teams are in the Eastern Conference. Without further ado:
1. Boston (27-7): “There needs to be a [Kevin Garnett] cam for these games. I imagine him sitting at home just tearing apart couch pillows like George ‘The Animal’ Steele.” (@rlevine33 during the Celtics‘ nail-biting win over the Spurs) P.S. When you beat the Spurs without Garnett, you’ve gotta be No. 1.
2. San Antonio (29-6): “Doc [Rivers]: “The fact that we shot 61% and won by two is scary. That shows they’re a really good team.” (@Celtics on the Spurs’ 105-103 loss to the Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday night)
3. Miami (28-9): “LeBron [James] says ‘Heatles’ comment was in comparison to Beatles being a mega attraction on tour, not about group’s hit-making ability.” (@WallaceHeatNBA on James’ nickname for his team) P.S. Who’s Yoko Ono in this situation? Please say Eddie House.
4. Dallas (26-8): “Mavs owner Mark Cuban called Phil Jackson ‘Jeanie Buss‘ boy-toy’ causing a league-wide moment of silence so players and fans could throw up.” (@timstubinski on Cuban’s response to Jackson saying the Mavericks were done following Caron Butler’s apparent season-ending injury)
5. Orlando (23-12): “National media portraying Dwight Howard as ‘bad boy?’ Are you kidding? He’s more like Ron Howard, ‘Opie’ on Andy Griffith. Google it, kids.” (@MagicInsider on Howard’s growing technical problem) P.S. Is the national media really portraying Howard as a “bad boy”? Hadn’t heard that.
|NBA Power Rankings, 12/23||12.23.10 at 3:00 pm ET|
Obviously, we’re going to release a Christmas version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should hope for from Santa Claus this holiday season. So, without further ado, here they are:
1. Boston (23-4): The Celtics need a medicine man to hasten the rehabilitations of Rajon Rondo (ankle), Kendrick Perkins (knee) and Delonte West (wrist). He could stick around and hang out with Lucky the Leprachaun, too, to help out if and when something happens to the O’Neal “brothers.”
2. Dallas (23-5): The Mavericks need Bill Russell‘s guide to playoff basketball success. They’re on pace for an 11th straight 50-win season, yet they’ve only reached the NBA Finals once and got pounced in the first round last year.
3. San Antonio (25-3): The Spurs need a Portuguese-to-English translator to remind Tiago Splitter that he averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds during an MVP season in the Spanish League last season. Imagine how good San Antonio would be if Splitter lived up to his Rookie of the Year candidate projection.
5. LA Lakers (21-8): The Lakers needed help backing up Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol, so they signed Steve Blake and traded for Joe Smith — neither of whom are very good. So, yeah, they still need a backup point guard and big man.
|NBA Power Rankings, 12/9||12.09.10 at 6:37 pm ET|
1. Boston (17-4): The Celtics have the best top six in the NBA and the best defense in the league. They’re the best shooting team in the league, and they’ve won eight consecutive games despite not having Rajon Rondo at full strength. With five All-Star candidates, they’ve been the most complete team.
2. San Antonio (18-3): The Spurs won another three games this week, and Manu Ginobili (20.1 points, 5.1 assists, 3.6 rebounds) has played his way into the MVP conversation. Oh, and New Hampshire’s own Matt Bonner is making two 3’s a game while shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc.
3. LA Lakers (16-6): After losing four straight, the Lakers are back on track with three consecutive victories. This whole Andrew Bynum situation is strange. Phil Jackson seems to call him out on a daily basis, but why rush him back? The guy is like Mr. Glass. Don’t you want him healthy for the playoffs?
4. Dallas (17-4): The Mavericks have the longest winning streak in the league at 10 games. Even Ian Mahinmi is contributing double-doubles. Why did this team all of a sudden decide to start playing defense? This team could’ve won multiple titles if they were playing defense like this in the mid-2000s.
5. Orlando (15-6): You can’t really blame the Magic for losing two straight games to Atlanta and Milwaukee. Dwight Howard, J.J. Redick, Mickael Pietrus and Jameer Nelson have all been hit by the flu. With them, they’ve been able to keep pace with the C’s. Without them? Not so much.
|NBA Power Rankings, 12/2||12.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET|
1. Boston (14-4): The Celtics rank first in the NBA in field goal percentage and assists per game, while ranking fourth in points allowed. They’re in the midst of their second five-game win streak of the season, and their four losses are by an average of just 4.0 points. On Wednesday night, they showed an ability to beat a good team (the game Trail Blazers) despite playing poorly. All that adds up to one dangerous team.
2. San Antonio (15-3): The Spurs are the biggest surprise of the season, and they’ve done it by reinventing themselves — again. While the dynasty Spurs of yesteryear were more of a slow-’em-down, defensive-minded team, this year’s edition ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 106.6 points per game. Maintaining a veteran core, they’ve integrated younger talent like James Anderson, DeJuan Blair, George Hill and Tiago Splitter onto the roster.
3. LA Lakers (13-6): The Lakers have lost four straight for the first time since acquiring Pau Gasol three years ago. That’s pretty significant. Speaking of Gasol, as a result of Andrew Bynum‘s absence, he’s been logging 39.4 minutes per game this season. What’s more concerning for the Lakers is the fact that they’ve struggled to integrate their newcomers into their defensive schemes — and rank 18th in points allowed as a result.
4. Dallas (14-4): Believe it or not, the Mavericks are actually playing defense. Tyson Chandler has set a tone that’s translated into a third-place ranking in points allowed. And Dirk Nowitzki continues to be an offensive force. He may look like he’s flopping around the court, throwing up rainbows, but he makes 54 percent of them. As a result, the Mavs already have wins over the Nuggets, Celtics, Spurs, Hornets, Hawks and Heat.
5. Orlando (14-4): Having won nine of their last 10 games, the Magic are the hottest team in the NBA. The main reason? Their defense. They allow the fewest points per game of any team in the league. Dwight Howard is making his case for MVP, leading his team in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. Even Rashard Lewis has shown signs of life, as he’s back to shooting 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
|NBA Power Rankings, 11/25||11.25.10 at 3:18 pm ET|
Obviously, we’re going to release a Thanksgiving Day version of the NBA Power Rankings, taking a look at what teams should be thankful for one-sixth of the way through the season. So, without further ado, here they are:
1. L.A. Lakers (13-2): The two-time defending champion Lakers can still be thankful for Memphis Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace for deciding to deliver Pau Gasol to them. Statistically, Gasol is the most efficient player in the NBA right now, cementing himself as the best big man in the league.
2. San Antonio (13-1): The Spurs can be thankful that Richard Jefferson is still alive, Tony Parker has a renewed focus solely on basketball and Manu Ginobili is healthy. Surround those guys with the ever-productive Tim Duncan and a nice core of young talent, and you’ve got a championship-contending formula once again.
3. Boston (11-4): The Celtics can be thankful that they didn’t land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that turned into Greg Oden. As a result, the C’s decided to go another route, trading for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. As an aside, it’s a shame that Delonte West broke his wrist on Wednesday night; after overcoming some personal issues, he was truly embracing this season.
4. New Orleans (11-3): The Hornets can be thankful Chris Paul hasn’t gone completely insane over their inability to surround him with enough talent to contend. I’m not sure how they’re doing it this season, but they’re winning with a group of guys that — outside of David West — aren’t exactly household names. You can’t argue with their success against a tough schedule.
5. Dallas (10-4): The Mavericks can be thankful that Dirk Nowitzki was still available with the ninth pick in the 1998 NBA Draft and that their owner is a bazillionaire who is willing to spend money to surround him with the talent to win 50 games a season year in and year out. Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Is Kobe Bryant a winner or whiner?||11.24.10 at 11:19 am ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
All Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and championships.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojarowski, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant waxes poetically about his drive for success and what he learned from two of the greatest basketball minds ever: Bill Russell and … Michael Jackson?
After reading the story, dry heaving several times and doing a little research, I want to make one thing clear: When he has good teammates and is winning, all Kobe Bryant has ever cared about is team-building, winning and championships.
Let’s take a look at a few of Bryant’s quotes from Wojnarowski’s piece …
“It sounds weird, I guess, but it’s true: I was really mentored by the preparation of Michael Jackson. … That’s the mentality that I have — it’s not an athletic one. It’s not from Michael Jordan. It’s not from other athletes. It’s from Michael Jackson.”
One question from that nugget: Is Kobe the first young mind ever to be proud of being “mentored” by Michael Jackson? Too soon?
“Guys have voices now, want to build brands,” Bryant said. “I don’t identify with it, but I understand where it’s going, why it’s going there. That’s not for me.”
On the same day the interview was published, a story that Nike-sponsored Kobe is going to wear special “Grinch” style green shoes against the Miami Heat on Christmas day. But, you know, Bryant would never want to build a brand or anything.
“I focus on one thing and one thing only — that’s trying to win as many championships as I can.”
Let’s not forget Bryant’s thirst for winning from 2004-07, during which time he wanted to be traded, shot roughly 15,000 shots per game and won 34, 45 and 42 games. Kobe has never won more than 45 games without Shaquille O’Neal or Pau Gasol, who have been the most dominant centers in the league during their respective tenures alongside Bryant.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce‘s 2001-02 Boston Celtics won 49 games with Tony Battie at center, Kevin Garnett‘s 2003-04 Minnesota Timberwolves won 58 games with a Ervin Johnson/Michael Olowakandi combination at center, and Ray Allen’s 2004-05 Seattle SuperSonics won 52 games with Jerome James at center.
Now, I’m in no way arguing that any of those three guys are better than Kobe. Bryant is one of the top five guards ever to play the game. But this notion that he has always been “all about winning” is absurd. He’s only all about winning when he’s winning.
Speaking of the C’s, here’s what Bryant had to say about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry …
“Now that’s a war. Boston is a great city to go to, all the history. If you’re an opponent, they hate your [expletive] guts — like New York, like Chicago, all those Eastern cities. That’s the one that gets me excited. If you’re a basketball purist, that’s the [expletive] you want to see.”
Well, at least Kobe’s right about one thing.
A CELTICS THANKSGIVING FEAST
Well, Thanksgiving is almost upon us, so the obligatory Turkey Day sports stories are popping up all over the place. ESPN.com caught up with a bunch of Boston athletes to ask them what they like most about Thanksgiving? Here are the answers from Celtics players …
- Shaquille O’Neal: “Lucille’s [his mom’s] fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is eating!”
- Glen Davis: “Macaroni and cheese, but I most look forward to cutting the turkey. I’m the one who carves the turkey, and I think I do a good job.”
- Nate Robinson: “My favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey, ham ‘¦ you’ve got to do both. Turkey, ham, dressing with maple corn bread is real good, what else? Yams and macaroni and cheese. I like having all my family being together and having a good time, and then there is always football on that day. We all watch football.”
- Kendrick Perkins: “I love, love, love turkey, baked turkey actually. I love the football games that are on, being able to play cards and games and stuff like that with the family at the house. I think Thanksgiving to me is one of the most underrated holidays. Everybody looks forward to Christmas, but I think Thanksgiving is more like where you wake up to the food, just the smell of the house and stuff like that is all just warming and stuff, so that’s what I look forward to.”
Honestly, my family has never had mac and cheese for Thanksgiving, but it sounds amazing. Then again, maybe I’d just end up weighing as much as Shaq and Big Baby. In my 6-foot-1 frame, that wouldn’t be pretty.
IS JERMAINE O’NEAL OVERPAID?
On average, NBA teams pay roughly $1.7 million per victory. Based on who got paid the most to produce the least amount of wins, Forbes Magazine determined the most overpaid players of the 2009-10 season. No. 2 on the list? Jermaine O’Neal.
That shouldn’t worry Celtics fans too much, as he was making $23 million when he statistically produced a whopping 3.1 wins last season. His true value, according to Forbest, was $5.3 million, and the C’s signed him to a $5.7 million deal in the offseason.
Still, it’s looking as though he could actually be worse than 2009-10, when he averaged 13.5 points and seven rebounds in 28 minutes per game.
By the way, the Orlando Magic’s Rashard Lewis was the most overpaid player in the league last year, collecting $18.9 million for 14.1 points and 1.5 assists in 32.9 minutes per game. This year, Lewis is worse, averaging just 11.6 points and 1.2 assists in 31.8 minutes per.
CELTICS PLAYING THE SIMS GAME?
According to NBA Fan House, The Celtics’ NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, signed former University of Michigan forward DeShawn Sims to replace the injured Stephane Lasme.
Sims played for the C’s in the Orlando Pro Summer League over the summer and will join Celtics training camp invitees Jamar Smith, Mario West and Tiny Gallon on the Red Claws’ roster. The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Sims averaged 16.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the Wolverines as a senior, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors. …
Well, that’s it for today, folks. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and try to catch a high school football game. Go Barnstable Red Raiders. Beat Falmouth.
(Have a question, concern or conception for tomorrow’s Irish Coffee? Send a message to @brohrbach on Twitter.)
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