NBA power rankings

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Thumbnail image for nba_bryant2_250.jpgRanking all 30 NBA teams, even the ones that deserve relegation (if only we had the English soccer system). Everybody at the top of the standings had had a recent loss, so the question becomes, whose loss bothers you the least?

1. Lakers (42-14) They lost to the Celtics at home, but they can play the “we didn’t have Kobe” card for that one after the ugliness that was Derek Fishers last shot. Kobe comes back Tuesday, time to see if LA reverts to old, bad habits.

2. Magic (38-19) They drop one to Dallas but the win against Cleveland Sunday was bigger. If Orlando gets that Jameer Nelson to start showing up on a regular basis, the East just got a lot more interesting.

3. Jazz (36-19) They have won four in a row, and showed something coming back from 25 down in Portland Sunday. The Jazz usually have a mid-season hot streak then go cold in March, we’ll see if that trend continues.

4. Nuggets (37-19) Denver beats Boston and Cleveland, but loses to Washington in between those wins? Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

5. Cavaliers (43-14) I hear the complaints coming about this one… but they have lost three straight, including to two teams above them. The Cavs will get it right with Jamison soon and start climbing back up, but as of this week they fall.

6. Thunder (33-21) A nine-game winning streak, and Kevin Durant is destined for Mount Olympus. We’d move them up higher, but does anyone think they could beat any of the top five on this list in a seven game series starting tomorrow?

7. Mavericks (35-21) Three straight wins, including an Orlando/Miami back-to-back. Not sure how far the Butler/Haywood trade takes them in the playoffs, but it did energize a slumping team.

8. Celtics (35-19) Great back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Trail Blazers, but the loss to Denver has me still questioning if this team is elite.

9. Suns (34-23) The team just kept playing through the trade
deadline rumors and aftermath, with wins against Memphis and Atlanta.
Very professional team.

10. Hawks (34-20) Losses to Phoenix and Golden State on this road trip — wouldn’t you think the Hawks would thrive when forced to run?

11. Raptors (31-24) Good test for Toronto this week — Portland, Cleveland and Oklahoma City. We’ll see how real their recent play has been.

12. Spurs (30-21) Two straight losses and now Tony Parker out for a few games. People are drinking away their sorrows on the Riverwalk. (Of course, if they were celebrating they’d be drinking to that, too.)

13. Bulls (29-26) Four straight wins since last week. All against bottom feeders, still, four straight wins. Chicagoans should not look at a gift horse like that.

14. Blazers (33-26) Well they did beat the Clippers this week. And they beat Utah for three quarters. Turns out that’s not enough.

15. Heat (29-28) Wade is willing this team to wins and a playoff spot.

16. Bucks (26-28) They have won two in a row, seven of their last 10, and are just one game out of a playoff spot. And John Salmons is going to help them.

17. Bobcats (27-27) The Bobcats better hope if they make the playoffs they don’t face New Jersey in the first round — they Nets lead the season series 2-1. Okay, maybe that’s not going to be a problem.

18. Hornets (30-26) Daren Collison may be the mid-season fantasy steal of the season.

19. Grizzlies (28-27) They steal Ronnie Brewer from the Jazz, then the fates strike him down with a hamstring injury. Life is not fair.

20. Rockets (28-27) Kevin Martin is 8 for 28 from the floor in his first two games in Houston.

21. Sixers (21-34) Is Jodie Meeks worth a second-round pick?

22. Kings (18-28) Carl Landry is going to be a great fit by the Delta, but this team has lost four in a row.

23 Pistons (20-35) Detroit is actually 5-5 in their last 10 games.

24. Clippers (22-33) The Clippers have gone 2-8 in their last 10, but they have enough cap space to sign LeBron… ha, I know, I just get a laugh every time I type that.

25. Warriors (16-39) When Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are both shooting like they did Sunday, Golden State can topple Atlanta. It’s just not a regular occurrence.

26. Pacers (19-36) They still have Troy Murphy to kick around.

27. Wizards (19-34) Al Thornton and Andray Blatche are having good games together. Yea, that will last.

28. Knicks (19-35) The team that may have been the happiest at the trading deadline? The Utah Jazz. They have the Knicks first round pick this summer.

29. Timberwolves (13-34) They have lost six games in a row….

30. Nets (5-51) But no matter how bad the T-wolves are playing I can’t take the Nets out of last.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.

Watch Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant make every shot they take for 75 seconds

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) poses for photos during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Here’s the thing that should make teams nervous — this doesn’t even include the best shooter in the game today. Stephen Curry was on the other end of the court working on something else.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson exchanged shots at the Golden State Warriors practice and didn’t miss one for more than a minute, closer to 75 seconds. No, they were not being guarded, and this was just some light shooting at the end of practice. Still.

From Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

It’s going to take at least until Thanksgiving and maybe closer to Christmas for the Warriors to figure out how to play together, what the rotations will look like, and just become comfortable with what is largely a new team. But once they do, the firepower on this squad is insane.