NBA Power Rankings, where we have a new number one

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, or, how Laker fans shouldn’t panic unless they get up by 18 against the Jazz.

1. Hornets (8-0). They are not going to win 82, or 72, or even 62. But what this kind of start does is make it very likely they are playoff bound. And after watching them and CP3 the first couple weeks, you think anyone wants them in the first round?

2. Celtics (8-2). A bunch of old guys who are supposed to start slow, all their centers are banged up, and yet is there any question they are the best team in the East right now?

3. Lakers (8-2). Two losses in one week will cause some Lakers fans to reach for the panic button, because they can be a bunch of nervous poodles. But as Suns coach Alvin Gentry said, Phoenix hit 22 threes and still had to hang on to win. The Lakers are fine, just entering their disinterested part of the season.

4. Spurs (8-1). Seven straight wins for the Spurs. Tony Parker is dealing, Manu is Manu again, and when Matt Bonner is hitting 80 percent from three you know they have it going. It all comes down to health with these guys.

5. Jazz (7-3). I dare you to take a big lead on them. Just dare you. They head out on a tough road trip to the Southwest and find themselves, come back as real threats in the West.

6. Mavericks (6-3). The Mavs are doing it on defense — they are fourth in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up 100.1 points per 100 possessions. That should scare teams because you know the offense will come around.

7. Heat (6-4). Dwyane Wade is right, they are the best 6-4 (now) team in the league. But they are still a 6-4 team, and like the rest of them they have flaws.

8. Magic (6-3). They have hit 34.7 percent of their threes, jus 19th best in the league. Down from 37.5 percent last season. That’s a big drop for a team that relies heavily on the deep ball.

9. Hawks (7-4). They’re good on offense, not that good on defense. In fact, 11 games in they are giving up 1.1 more points per 100 possessions than last season. Remember, Larry Drew, movement in the offense is meaningless without some defense.

10. Bulls (5-3). Three straight wins, including one over Denver. If the goal was just to be good until Boozer gets back, mission accomplished.

11. Nuggets (5-4). You saw what they are capable of — they beat the Lakers. You saw what they are capable of — they gave up 54 points to the Indiana Pacers in a quarter. You want to predict this team night to night?

12. Thunder (5-4). They have not blown our doors off yet — as we all hoped and expected — and this week they get the Jazz, the Celtics then the Bucks on a back-to-back after Boston. Tough week for anyone.

13. Warriors (6-4). They are 4-0 at home, 2-4 on the road. Love the new owners for offering steep discounts to tonight’s game as a thank you. And apology for much of the last decade.

14. Bucks (5-5). Three straight wins this week, not giving up more than 91 points to anyone. They are giving up just 96.9 points per 100 possessions, best in the Association.

15. Suns (5-4). Second in the league in offensive efficiency, 29th in defense. Those Suns are back. But when they are knocking down 22 threes a game — and they can do that a lot more often than you think — they can beat anyone.

16. Blazers (6-5). The news that this Brandon Roy, the hobbled one, is the one we will see from now on makes me feel robbed of what could have been.

17. Pacers (4-4). The Pacers offense looked better this week and, it should be noted, they have slowed the pace a little. They are currently 10th in the league in possessions per game. That might work for them.

18. Grizzlies (4-6). Interesting stat of the day — the Grizzlies create more turnovers than any team in the league (per possession). One if five trips down the court the other team turns it over.

19. Pistons (4-6). They are 4-3 over the last two weeks, which is better than we expected of them. But the question remains: Do you keep this roster together to fight for the 8 seed?

20. Cavaliers (4-5). Antawn Jamison has been solid since his return, and that kind of sums up where the Cavaliers are at — their veteran leader is solid. Still, the eight seed if the playoffs start today.

21. Rockets (3-6). Still not good, but a couple nice wins over the Pacers and Knicks this week. This is a good offensive team, despite everything.

22. Nets (3-6). Is Avery Johnson completely hoarse yet yelling about the defense?

23. Bobcats (3-7). The team in the bottom 10 we expect to move up. They are not this bad and it looks like Gerald Wallace may have found himself.

24. Raptors (2-8). Hedo Turkoglu hits a game winner for the Suns and the entire city of Toronto cringes.

25. Timberwolves (3-8). Kevin Love and Michael Beasley actually make this team a threat on any given night. Not every night, but there will be some. The roster has some talent on it, it remains a question of fit and usage.

26. Wizards (2-6). Every day without John Wall just feels like waiting around for the real part of the season to start again.

27. Knicks (3-7). Losses to Minnesota and Houston because they can’t knock down an outside shot to save their lives. Is that D’Antoni’s fault?

28. Kings (3-6). The worst defense in the NBA right now. Bar none.

29. Sixers (2-8). When you watch a lot of League Pass, when you watch a lot of games, there become teams that just bore you, the ones you don’t get excited to see. Meet your Sixers.

30. Clippers (1-9). No Baron Davis is a good thing for this team long term, but it doesn’t mean wins now. Still, a highlight reel every night from these guys.

Michael Beasley: “I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor”

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Michael Beasley recently signed a one-year contract with the New York Knicks for the veteran minimum. Hopefully, this is just the start of an interesting year with the Knicks. I think you know what I mean.

Speaking to reporters this week, Beasley had lots to say about his potential new role with New York, his interplay with Carmelo Anthony, and his new weight loss.

Specifically, Beasley spoke of how long he had known Anthony and how much he had mimicked his game off of the star on the left side of the floor, saying, “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that, I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

Since Kevin Durant has apparently set the offseason tone for athletes being frank with reporters, Beasley did say that he was not as great on help side defense as he could’ve been in recent years. However, he said that he wasn’t as bad as people made about to be, and it appears he is going to try to make that something to focus on this season.

Beasley has also lost about 20 pounds — it appears he has cut out sugar and red meats — but the most interesting thing he said to ESPN’s Ian Begley was about his offensive production.

Via ESPN:

“I’ve came in and out of this league. Every year my per-36 [minute average] has been top of the league. And still everybody looks at me as a bust. I just want an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes. And you know if I play more than 15 minutes I’m going to score more than 15 points. And if I can do that for 82 games, that’s an All-Star level. I don’t know. I’m just talking. I just want an opportunity to play basketball. I just want the respect I deserve. Not for what I can do in the future but what I’ve done in the past. And I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

It’s not immediately clear what kind of fair shake Beasley wants here. True, he played less than 30 games in two of his last three seasons in the NBA. However, that was preceded by six seasons of at least 47 games a year. We do know who he is at this point in time, and there is a large swath of game tape and statistics that can be analyzed to prove it.

It is also interesting that Beasley brought up his per-36 numbers. It’s true that Beasley has been an okay scorer when looking at those numbers out of context. But per-36 numbers are not a direct correlary to how effective a player is on the floor. Indeed, even when he was playing starter-level minutes, Beasley’s best numerical seasons are spread all over the place when you take a look at his per-36 production.

Meanwhile, Beasley has had only one season out of nine where he had a positive value over a replacement player. That was his sophmore season with the Miami Heat at 0.2. Five of those seasons he’s taken a larger percentage of his shots from 16 feet to just inside the 3-point line than he has from 0-3 feet. He’s a career 39% shooter on those long jumpers, and 63.5% from that close-in range.

Would it be great if Michael Beasley somehow turned into a strong driving, hard rebounding, diving and passing pick and roll man? Yes. That is exactly what this Knicks team — and any team, frankly — could use.

For now, it appears it’s more likely we end up with the Beasley who says he is a carbon copy of Carmelo — long 2s and all.

Goran Dragic holds back tears after Drazen Petrovic’s mother gives Slovenian star his jersey

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It’s been a big week for Slovenian star Goran Dragic.

First, he led the Slovenian national team to the 2017 Eurobasket championship over Serbia, winning the gold medal.

Then, the Miami Heat point guard announced that he would be retiring from the Slovenian national team. Shortly thereafter, we learned that something special had taken place between Dragic and the mother of former NBA player Drazen Petrović.

Specifically, Biserka Petrović sent over her son’s New Jersey Nets kit as a gift for Dragic.

Via Sportando and SiolNET:

“It is one of the most beautiful gifts I’ve ever received in my life” Dragic told Siol. “He was my idol. We all know what he did for Yugoslavia and the basketball world. It was a great honor for me to wear the jersey no.3” Dragic added.

Petrović, who played for the Nets and the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA, died in a car accident in Germany in June of 1993. He is considered a sports hero in the successor states that make up the former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia.

You can watch Dragic receiving the jersey and his reaction in the video above. The video does not have English subtitles, but you can clearly see the emotion in his eyes and it’s pretty powerful.

Kevin Durant admits after decision to leave OKC he felt “f—— up”

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Anyone who has made a major, life-changing decision has been there — you make the call, take the steps, commit yourself to the new plan, and then start to wonder “what did I just do?”

Hopefully, usually, the decision works out. It did for Kevin Durant when he chose to leave Oklahoma City for Golden State. However, not only did he have the normal doubts the rest of us had, he had a nation on basketball Twitter ridiculously slamming him for “taking the easy way” to a title.

Durant talked about it in a feature in San Francisco Magazine, along with his agent Rich Kleiman (a story mostly dedicated to KD’s tech investments, which in and of itself is interesting).

(Durant) and Kleiman were in China for a weeklong tour of the country sponsored by Nike Basketball, and the flak he was taking from people in Oklahoma City who had once professed deep affection for him was overwhelming. “To have so many people just say, ‘F— you,’ that really does it to you,” Durant tells me, still clearly anguished. “Because I truly had invested everything I had into the people I played for…. And for those people that I know and love and trust to turn their back on me after I was fully invested in them, it was just…more than I could take. I was upset….

“That was before I met anybody from the Warriors and dove into the culture. I was basically on my own,” Durant says. “It was like you were in between two teams.”….

“We were all messed up on jet lag,” Kleiman says, turning to me, “and I was up at 6 a.m. and he calls me and says, ‘Yo, are you up?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, what’s up?’ And he’s like [yelling], ‘Why the f— did you let me do this to my life?’ And I’m like, ‘Ohh s—, I’m coming over to your room.’”

“That hotel was rock bottom,” says Durant.

Durant’s haters will read into this whatever they want, and the world should look at them and shrug (unfortunately, Durant does not).

I’m impressed that he opened up about this. To me, this makes him more human and relatable because we’ve all had doubts after making a life-changing decision. You know LeBron James has, but he’s not going to let that show. Durant allowed himself to be vulnerable, to show this was not an easy decision for him. It was emotional.

Granted, it’s easier to do that when in a few weeks Durant will put on a championship ring. His decision worked out. Still, good on him for talking about it.

Tyronn Lue says Cavs will stick with LeBron, Love, Tristan Thompson as starters

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With the acquisition of Jae Crowder, a theory started to pop up among Cavaliers observers: Could they go small?

The idea is to start Kevin Love at center, LeBron James at the four, and Crowder at the three — that’s a mobile front line with a couple good defenders and the ability to switch a lot. It provides more options on offense and spaces the floor. Then the Cavs could bring Tristan Thompson off the bench.

That’s not going to happen, at least to start the season, according to Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue, speaking to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Right now we’re just trying to get all of our pieces together and right now Tristan’s our starter,” Lue told cleveland.com. “I’m just thinking we’re going to run a lot more stuff through Kevin, more at the elbows, like we’ve done the last year and a half. Just trying to figure out with our new pieces and our new players and just see what works best for us.”

Thompson brings value and defense to the starting lineup, Cleveland needs that.

I could see a lineup of Isaiah Thomas (once healthy), J.R. Smith or Kyle Korver at the two, Crowder, LeBron, and Love working in sort of the way Steve Kerr uses his “death lineup” — just put it on the court for 10-15 minutes a night as a change of pace teams can’t adapt to. Use it in key moments to pull away, and in crunch time as needed. Golden State starts Zaza Pachulia, and Thompson is certainly the better of those bigs.

Lue has a lot of rotation decisions to make this season, both before Thomas gets back on the court and after. How to work the trio of Jeff Green, Crowder, and Kover off the bench is just one of them. With Irving gone a lot of options become available, and that should mean a lot of experimentation the first part of the season. Lue is and should be willing to sacrifice some wins now to see what works down the line, because for the Cavaliers the season doesn’t really start until mid-April.