Don Nelson's awkward pursuit of history coming down to the wire

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NBA_nelson_250.jpgAs you may know, Warriors coach Don Nelson is three wins away from breaking Lenny Wilkens’ all-time record for NBA coaching victories. He’s also been on the sidelines as the Warriors, only a few years removed from pulling off one of the biggest playoff upsets of all time, have become a shell of their former selves. Thanks to injuries, locker-room turmoil, perplexing front-office moves, too many shoot-first players, and horrible, horrible defense, the Warriors have stumbled to a 21-53 record.

Some people believe Nelson is doing the best job he can with the players he has available to him. Others, like Tim Kawakami, do not. (If Nelson breaks the record, the champagne will likely not be provided by Kawakami.) But before we can start to think about the supreme awkwardness that would occur if Nelson breaks the record while so many Warrior fans and analysts have been calling for his head all season, let’s take a look at the Warriors’ remaining schedule and assess Nelson’s chances of breaking the record:

At home against the Knicks:

The Knicks play the same up-and-down style as the Warriors, and it’s been just as ineffective for Mike D’Antoni’s current crew as it has been for Nelson’s. The Warriors are at home, the Knicks are 0-3 on their current road trip, and the Warriors beat the Knicks comfortably the first time the two teams met this season.

On the road against the Raptors:

The Raptors are fighting for a playoff spot and at home, but they also don’t play defense, and the Warriors beat them by double digits in their first meeting of the season. This one could go either way, although the Raptors are the favorites.

On the road against the Timberwolves, Wizards, and Clippers:

These games are huge for Nellie. The Nets’ flirtation with the worst record of all time hid the fact that the Timberwolves have been almost as bad, and the Wizards have flat-out imploded since the Arenas situation and Josh Howard’s season-ending injury. The Clippers are playing out the string after the replacement of coach (and GM) Mike Dunleavy, and are just trying to get the season over with so they can rebuild. This is the stretch that will make or break Nellie’s record chase.

At home against Oklahoma City and Utah, and on the road against Portland:

Three games against quality Western teams jostling for playoff position. I don’t like the Warriors’ chances in any of these games, but never underestimate a man on a mission. Maybe underestimate the Warriors going all-out against a playoff team to get Nellie his record. 

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell
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After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.