News hit a couple of days ago that Derrick Rose would once again need knee surgery and once again would miss the entire season. It’s a tragic story that can’t help but make basketball fans feel bad for Rose, the Bulls and their fanbase. Even the biggest Rose critic can admit that the NBA is better with him in the league. It’s still questionable how Rose, out for basically two years straight, will be able to perform once he’s completely healed again. Will he ever get back to his MVP level? Will he even get to 80% of that form? It’s a gloomy situation in Chicago but despite missing their franchise player, their season and the rest of league must move on. The show must go on, as they say. But what kind of show will we be watching? The western conference is as good as ever but aside from the Heat and Pacers, is any other franchise in the east worth watching on a regular basis? Every team is going to one of “those nights” where they play well enough to upset a superior opponent, that’s just the way the league is. Aside from those nights is where the problem arises. Can fans rely on quality basketball on a regular basis knowing that the eastern conference has very much turned into a two-team race? It’s almost astounding how much better the Pacers and Heat (1 and 2 in the conference) are than the rest of the conference. If the playoffs were to start right now, I don’t see any team giving Indiana or Miami more than a five game series. A lot of the problem lies with the New York teams. The Knicks are usually towards the top of the conference and the new-look Nets were supposed to contend for the top spot in the conference. Right now the Knicks and Nets are a combined 7-20. Astonishing. Could they turn things around? Well they’re going to have to get 100% healthy before their fans can get excited.
On the other side of the country, things are more competitive. The Spurs are doing their usual thing of playing fundamental basketball while taking care of business. Portland, surprisingly enough, is still staying among the best in the west. The Thunder, Clippers and Rockets are fighting to keep up with the elites and then there’s the dogfight for the rest of the spots in the west. But the biggest news around the conference this week was Kobe signing another contract extension to essentially stay with the Lakers for the remainder or his career. The Lakers didn’t officially announce the exact details of the deal but plenty of sources have suggested that it’s an extra two years for $48.5 million. Those details bring up some inevitable questions. If all Kobe really does care about is more championships, why sign for that much money? Yes, we all know that Kobe means much more to the Lakers than what he earns, but does that leave room for anyone else? Most superstars that are hitting tail-end of their careers tend to take less money, knowing that it’s best possible way that they will continue to be on a championship level team. Can Kobe lead another team to a title? Well, i’m not so sure anymore. I’m skeptical because of his age and because of the severity of the injury that’s he is coming back from. That’s taking into consideration that Kobe is a machine and the hardest working player in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the same level he left off at but I also wouldn’t be shocked if Kobe only reaches about 75-80% of what he used to be. And if it’s the latter, how room does Kobe’s contract leave for another big free agent to come join him?
Key games this weekend: (tonight) Lakers at Nets; Heat at Cavs; Nuggets at Wolves; Spurs at Thunder; Warriors at Mavs (Friday) Nets at Rockets; Warriors at Thunder; Wizards at Pacers (Saturday) Bulls at Cavs; Wolves at Mavs; Rockets at Spurs.
It feels really good to have the NBA regular season back. A midst the NFL season reaching it’s regular season peak, it was quite refreshing to see some basketball back on the screen. Of course it’s great to have the “Inside the NBA” crew back for another season of the greatest pre/post game show in all of American sports. Even though he didn’t have a good game (thanks to Miami’s defense), it’s really good to have Derrick Rose back in a Bulls uniform. Miami’s swarm defense spoiled his comeback, limiting Rose to just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. The Heat went on to rout the Bulls and after the first half, it looked like Miami wasn’t going to take it easy on the Bulls at all. The Big 3 did their part but it was the combination of their bench (Cole, Allen, Battier) that was the clear difference.
Something else that was clear after last night’s games? The Orlando Magic are only one game into the season and they’re already tanking. I understand that this upcoming draft is supposed to be among the all-time greats but c’mon Orlando, at least have a respectable season. The Pacers took advantage of the situation and to no one’s surprise, they went on to win the game in a comfortable fashion. The Magic and Pacers are teams that will end up on opposite sides of the conference. Speaking of teams that are supposed to finish quite opposite, how about the Lakers surprising the Clippers last night? This is a Clippers teams that’s supposed to finish among the top seeds in the west and this gutted Lakers team isn’t supposed to amount to anything this season. At least until Kobe returns and is at 100%. But don’t tell the other Lakers players that. Enter Xavier Henry (career-high 22 pts) and the rest of the Lakers bench. They simply out-hustled the Clippers, extending their lead in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. Props to the Lakers showing some heart and not rolling over just because of some silly pre-season rankings.
Now it’s only one game so let’s not consider a Heat-Lakers Finals a complete lock just yet. The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint but it’s the type of marathon that you watch all along the way. Every team has hopes that this is their year, despite going against overwhelming odds. Well unless you’re the Magic, 76ers or Suns. Then you’re just looking to get a top 5 pick in the draft. There are in fact 14 games tonight so chances are your team is playing. I’ll be doing a weekly post about the NBA every Wednesday unless something crazy happens. Good to have NBA basketball back. And of course, on my part, go Mavs.
Not the most entertaining night in terms of close games or exciting finishes but there were some pretty good highlights to look back at. My personal favorite for the night was Roy Hibbert’s nasty dunk in the first quarter to set the tone early for the Pacers. Indiana rode their shooting performace to take the victory over the Hawks 113-98 and a 2-0 lead in the series. I watch this series between the Pacers and Hawks with the slight feeling that the Hawks aren’t playing with too much enthusiasm. Not going to go as far and say they’re not trying, that’s a little harsh but there seems to be a lack of effort or spark from Atlanta. Or maybe that’s just Atlanta’s style of play and i’m just missing it entirely. Either way, i’d be surprised if the Hawks managed to win a single game in the series. The first game, it was the Pacers playing good defense on Atlanta and last night’s game was the Pacers simply outscoring the Hawks. This one will most likely result in a sweep.
Am I the only who thought it was really weird that we were having a game in Oklahoma City start just after 6pm local time? I’m just used to the western conference games starting much later but sometimes, that’s just the way the schedule falls. It was a tight game between the Thunder and Rockets, coming down to the last few plays but eventually OKC edged out the Rockets 105-102. I was very surprised at how well the Rockets were able to get stops late in the game in order to climb back in it. It was simply too big of a task for Harden and co but I do applaud the effort. The Rockets seem to have figured out how to defend the Thunder but at times, Durant and Westbrook are just too good. Things shift back to Houston in a couple of days and if the Rockets have any chance of extending this series, game 3 is a must win. Teams don’t recover from being down 0-3 in a series.
Tony Parker looks like he’s back to 100% health and that’s pretty much it for the Lakers because when he’s back to full health, Parker is the best player on the court in this series. Led by Parker’s 28 points, the Spurs used a strong second half to cruise by the Lakers 102-91. The Lakers need to have Dwight Howard out on the court as much as possible but during the 3rd quarter, Howard picked up two quick fouls and that kept him on the bench for most of the quarter. It’s no surprise that in the same quarter Tony Parker had his best stretch, scoring 15 and leading the Spurs to a comfortable lead. What can the Lakers do to make this a series? Well for starters their back court has to play better and try to do what they can to contain Tony Parker. I’m anxious to see how much the referees influence will come up after game 3.
Most people consider the regular season a sort of “warm up” or preparation period for the elite teams, a time where teams that have a shot at the title can work out whatever problems they have before the playoffs begin. Or the “real” season as most experts like to call the NBA playoffs, only a couple days away. Even though i’m pretty bummed out that the Mavs aren’t going to participate this season (i’d almost forgotten what it’s like) i’m still very excited for the postseason to begin and all these series to get going. First things are first, every team in the NBA is playing tonight and the 8th seed in the western conference still has to be decided. Kobe’s injury was a massive blow to the Lakers (obviously) but nonetheless, the “lake show” still controls their own destiny and secures a playoff spot with a win over the Rockets tonight. That game will be on ESPN at 10:30 ET but before that game even goes down, the Utah Jazz will be in Memphis looking for a victory and keeping their chances of postseason participation alive. That game is also on ESPN and things get going at 8:00 ET. Don’t forget that the Jazz own the tie breaker over the Lakers so a Jazz win over the Grizzlies will put the maximum pressure on the Lakers. I think most fans around the NBA would prefer Utah to win if only to put the pressure on LA and create extra drama for the end of the regular season.
There were a couple of games last night but there wasn’t anything that great to mention, mostly because the losing teams from both games had nothing to play for. Something that did catch everyone’s attention was the San Antonio Spurs signing none other than Tracy McGrady. T-Mac is back! Well, sort off. In case anyone was wondering, McGrady has been spending this past season in China playing for the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles, putting up some pretty good numbers as the team struggles. T-Mac always was considered as an elite NBA talent but injuries always seemed to be the roadblock for McGrady, never advancing past the first round of the playoffs in his NBA career. Who could forget when he did this? It’s interesting that the Spurs would release Stephen Jackson just last week and then a few days before the postseason, sign T-Mac. It seems like a very low risk/medicore reward type of move so we’ll have to see what kind of impact McGrady has.
Unfortunately for myself and Mavericks fans everywhere else, this is the first time in 12 seasons that Dallas will not be participating in the NBA playoffs. It’s disheartening to be frank. I’d gotten so used to at least a shot at the NBA title for so long that i’d begun to forget what it’s like to not see the Mavs listed in the playoffs picture with their 1-8 seed number right next to it. Maybe if Dirk didn’t need surgery in the off season and hadn’t missed those first 27 games. There are tons of “maybe” scenarios for this team but I don’t want to sound like a whiner, I just wanted to put my thoughts out there before tonight’s final game against the Hornets. I enjoyed this season through the good and bad times but i’m looking forward to next season that hopefully holds a brighter future for my Mavericks.
Side note: There are multiple new sources reporting that an arrest has been made regarding the Boston Marathon bombings. No official statement has been made by the authorities but i’m hoping that it’s true so whoever is responsible can be brought to justice.
Normally division titles aren’t very important in the NBA, a banner is hung and it might attract more fans but it’s not a do-or-die situation. It’s not like in the NFL or MLB where a division title is almost necessary or else it’s going to be a tall order to get into the playoffs. Don’t tell that to the Knicks though. Last night the New York Knicks won their 13th straight game and in the process, clinched the Atlantic division title for the first time since 1994. Of course the scoring and offense flowed through Carmelo Anthony, who has been on a ridiculous tear and it didn’t slow down last night (36 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast) as he lead the Knicks to a 120-99 victory over the Wizards. Melo isn’t the only Knicks player that has it going right now, it’s pretty much the entire team but last night it was on another level. The Knicks went 20 of 36 from behind the arc. It doesn’t matter how well John Wall played last night, a Knicks team that is firing on all cylinders is very tough to beat. How far can this Knicks team go? It’s hard for me to see anyone in the eastern conference taking down the Heat but a Knicks team playing this well is going to give the best teams in the NBA all they can handle.
Not among the best teams in the NBA but still grabbing all the headlines are of course, the Lakers. Strides of progress for Kobe and co, they took down the Hornets last night at home and as of right now they’re in the playoffs.The 8th seed isn’t the most coveted spot particularly because the west is so strong at the top but every team just wants a shot. The downside for the Lakers is that the Jazz own the tiebreaker and have the more favorable schedule in the fight for the 8th seed. It’s going to be very interesting how the Lakers respond, controlling their own destiny but finishing the regular season with four very tough games. If the Lakers can win out and secure their spot in the post season, it will be very much deserved. My Dallas Mavericks are still in the race, however limited the percentages are for a team down 2.5 games with only five to go. I’m still holding out hope for a miracle but mostly I just want the Mavs to get to .500 tonight so they can get rid of the beards. Dirk is starting to resemble Ron Burgundy when he was drinking out of the milk carton.
The Heat continue to play without their full squad and they continue to look like the best team in the league. It’s going to be scary to see all these well-rested Heat players in the postseason, first round sweep of the Bucks here we come! Another playoff team that looked really good last night was Memphis. The Grizzlies easily handled the Bobcats 94-75 and if i’m one of the top teams in the west, I don’t want to face Memphis at any time. It’s a match up nightmare for most teams. I think they took that “don’t want to see them” title from Denver once the unfortunate injury to Gallinari happened. Blunder of the night easily goes to Jermaine O’Neal, who interfered on a buzzer beating shot by James Harden, giving the Rockets the win over the Suns.
I love that NBA does these Top 10 videos on a regular basis but this edition had an error. Westbrook’s dunk deserved to be #1.
As if she needed even more attention, Rihanna basically wore the ugliest possible outfit she could find inside her closet so that a little kid sitting in the nosebleeds could spot exactly where she was sitting. SERIOUSLY, what the fuck was she thinking?
In comparison to RiRi, will.i.am. was looking boring and average, but we still had to highlight those freaky-looking harem-skinny-jeans he has going. There’s simply no better way to look like a complete douche bag than wearing those babies.
As for the game, the Clippers once again owned the Lakers 109/95 and in the process they became the Pacific Division Champions for the first time in their 40 year history. Furthermore, they swept the Lakers for the first time since the 74/75 season. Here’s a recap of the game:
These were snapped last night as superfan Jack Nicholson was seen creeping on a couple Laker girls during the Lakers/Mavs game at the Staples Center (Lakers won 101-81). We’re still trying to confirm this, but judging by his past, we’re pretty sure Jack attempted to take one of those chicks home following the game. That’s a fair assumption, right?
Obviously, this isn’t anything new. Everyone remembers his awkward advance at Jennifer Lawrence during a post-Oscars interview with George Stephanopoulos. Watch the classic exchange unfold below…
Believe it or not, there were other games last night that didn’t include the Heat or the Bulls. In fact there were so many games last night in the NBA that the Pistons and my Mavericks were the only teams that didn’t play. But as things went on elsewhere around the league, the attention was going to be centered around the Miami Heat and their win streak going into Chicago to face a tough test. And it was certainly tough to say the least, filled with many plays that brought people back to the “old school” basketball that seems to be long gone and it all favored the Bulls. The Chicago Bulls used a physical style and made plays late to win the game 101-97 over Miami and end the Heat’s streak at 27. Six shy of the 1971-72 Lakers but people have to realize how impressive this streak was. Here’s a little fact: the last time the Heat lost a game was two days before the Super Bowl. The good thing for the Heat is now that they’re in the record books for the second longest winning streak of all time, they can focus on the ultimate goal. Was losing a good thing for the Miami team? Not in the short run, a team will always prefer to win no matter the situation. In the long run it’s for the best because if you’re going to win the most important game of the season, you prefer that it’s the very last game of your season and for Miami it’s the 4th win of the NBA Finals.
There were so many other games last night that it was hard to keep up with all the scores, even if you were at a place that was showing every single game. Personally I had my eyes on the Lakers-Timberwolves game because of the implications that it had on the Mavericks and the 8th seed in the western conference. The Lakers had a great lead behind Dwight Howard’s play but the Wolves rallied, only to fall short. Who would’ve thought that Celtics would need Jeff Green to be clutch against the Cavaliers? The Celtics seem to be missing Kevin Garnett severely but signs point to him returning in time for the playoffs. How about JR Smith? Scoring 35 points off the bench to help the Knicks with a dominant victory over the Grizzlies. Well, it looked dominant until the 3rd when Memphis had a furious comeback but a Jason Kidd 3-pointer late in the game sealed the victory for New York. The Nets (half of ESPN’s other game), Jazz, Hawks and Clippers all looked dominant in their victories. I was surprised that the Spurs had to edge out a Nuggets team that didn’t have Ty Lawson anywhere near 100%. The Spurs’ yearly tradition of quietly contending for the league’s best record continues.
What was better: Kirk Hinrich tackling LeBron or LeBron’s hockey-style check on Carlos Boozer? Never mind those plays, it’s Jimmy Butler’s dunk over Chris Bosh on an alley-oop pass that won last night.