Whenever the Lakers have a couple days off in a row, I try use the break in the action to take a look around the league. There are always some good stories brewing and as a fan of the game, I love to take stock in what the other franchises are doing. So, without further ado here is what I’ve noticed in the past few days when looking at the league…
*That sound you hear in the standings below the Lakers are teams jockeying for playoff positioning. There’s only a one game difference between the 6th and 8th seeds and only a game and a half between 5th and 3rd in the Western playoff race. And while the top three seeds are likely sewn up (the top records from the division winners earn those seeds and the divisions look pretty much locked up save for a battle between Utah and Denver), home court in the second round is definitely up for grabs amongst those top seeds. Meanwhile at the bottom of the playoff standings, teams are trying to earn the right to avoid the Lakers in the first round. The last two weeks of the regular season are always a great time to take a look around the league because even though teams tend to know if they’re going to make the playoffs, there’s still a ton of fight in them to set themselves with the best possible matchups to advance.
*Speaking of Western playoff teams, Dallas may have peaked a bit too early. After running off 13 straight wins, they’ve now lost three of four. And two of those three losses were blowouts suffered at the hands of the Knicks (yikes) and the Hornets. As I pointed out the last time I spoke about the Mavs, there were some metrics out there that didn’t buy into the Mavs being a true powerhouse (fair or not). Now at this point, it’s not like I’m going to bury the Mavs – I still think they’re going to be a tough out in the post season. However, if they continue to stumble down the stretch I think it’s fair to question if playing so well in late February and early March benefitted them in any real way. Don’t get me wrong, before their trade for Butler and Haywood, the Mavs were playing .500 ball and were in a malaise. They needed a shake up or an infusion of new blood. But it’s now, at this point in the season, we’re at a time where (I would think) they want to be playing their best ball.
*A couple of teams that are playing some pretty good ball are in the East. Fear the Deer, everyone. The Bucks are on a roll and are now the team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs. This team has taken on the mentality of their head coach (Skiles) and are playing hard nosed defense. You add to that Andrew Bogut’s strong play and the reemergence of John Salmons as a perimeter threat, and you’ve got a team that will stop you defensively and then show an inside/outside game with their offense that is tough to slow down. The other team that is making a push late in the season is Boston. Before losing to the Jazz last night (no shame in that), the Celts had won four games in a row and have been showing some of that championship mettle and swagger that made them so imposing two seasons ago when they won the title. Long ago buried by many a national pundit, the Celtics are climbing out of the dirt thrown on top of them in a manner that would make Beatrix Kiddo proud. Sure, Boston is still (at least) a step behind Cleveland and Orlando as favorites to win the East. And, they’ve also been swept by the Hawks this seaon. But, when push comes to shove, they have the league’s top ranked defense and a veteran team that may have one last push in them. (Now allow me to go wash my hands after typing complimentary things about the Celtics.)
*The big news around the league right now is that Warriors franchise is on the market. Yes, the Warriors are for sale. Anyone have a few hundred million lying around to help me buy them? No? Okay then, lets move on and take a closer look at all this. The consistent rumor affloat is that Oracle kingpin Larry Ellison is the frontrunner to buy the team. The rumors further say that he’ll look to bring in Jerry West to run the basketball operations. Having Ellison and West on board would be a pretty good place to start in turning this franchise around. You add Ellison’s wallet to West’s ability to create a winning atmosphere and then put it together with a pretty good roster and things could be looking up. However, that’s a long way off and currently only a pipe dream (selling the team and bringing in a new front office will take time). Right now, it’s still Cohan and Nellie (who is, for now, still looking for those last few wins to become the NBA’s all time winningest coach) and D-league call ups (Reggie Williams!) putting up career highs every other night.
*But the Warriors are not alone when looking for some (potential) front office shakeups. Have you been following what’s going on in Portland? Their assistant GM was just fired for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (though there are theories). And now, GM extraordinaire Kevin Pritchard may be out next. Really? Read what the link above says (more great work from Dave at Blazer’s Edge) and either feel bad for Portland or revel in the fact that a franchise that was touted as being an up and coming team that would one day soon be our chief rivals is (potentially) coming apart at the seams.
*Finally, just 11 days ago, we faced off with the Suns. And in that game Amar’e Stoudemire went off for 29 and 16 in a losing effort. The Suns have not lost since – winning 5 straight games mostly on the back of STAT. Why do I mention this now? Only because I want to link to this (oh no, Anthony Tolliver). That throwdown was even better than this Amar’e offering just a few weeks ago (sorry Richard Jefferson, I had to). But Stoudemire’s dunk against Golden State, can’t ever top this ultimate victimization of a Warrior ever (boy, the Reign Man, wow).