NBA Power Rankings, where the Spurs, they jingle, jangle, jingle

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, or, how the West looks better than the East right now by a long shot.

1. Spurs (11-1). Distraction? What are you talking about? Right now the Spurs are focused and playing the best basketball in the association — and the offense is really clicking with Parker dishing a little more.

2. Lakers (12-2). Los Angeles is playing well, but we need to note they have played one of the five softest schedules in the league so far. They’re beating who they are supposed to beat, though, and big wins over bad opponents are a good sign.

3. Hornets (11-1). Jarrett Jack can be a nice backup point guard and play a little two, sure, but what really matters is that Chris Paul likes him, and all that really matters for New Orleans is what makes Chris Paul happy.

4. Magic (9-3). Four wins in a row, but not against he strongest of competition (although they did beat Memphis, something the Heat couldn’t do. Monday night against the Spurs is a much better test.

5. Thunder (9-4). Big jump up the board because despite Kevin Durant having to sit a game they beat Boston, Utah and Milwaukee in one week. They are getting their swagger back.

6. Mavericks (8-4). What Dallas is doing poorly so far? Getting the ball on the offensive glass. What Dallas is doing well so far? Not fouling on defense.

7. Jazz (9-5). All credit to Jerry Sloan, I thought this team would take a step back this season and so far they are what they always are — a good, professional side.

8. Celtics (9-4). The Celtics are playing with the passion usually reserved for a road trip in February already. I suppose we should have expected that. They need Rondo back soon, mostly for his defense.

9. Heat (8-5). The long front line of Memphis pushed the Haslem-less Heat around at the end of their loss this week. Pat Riley needs to do something about that, but his options are limited.

10. Hawks (8-5). Al Horford is tearing it up this season, 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds a game, a true shooing percentage of 68.5 percent (third best in the league) and a PER of 27.8 (behind only Chris Paul).

11. Bulls (7-4). Tom Thibodeau has them running, the Bulls are playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league.

12. Nuggets (7-6). Carmelo Antony isn’t playing much defense, JR Smith and coach Karl are butting heads — despite all the rumors everything remains the same as it ever was in Denver.

13. Blazers (8-6). Brandon Roy and Greg Oden will never be quite the forces that will lead this team everyone had hoped for. Rich Cho’s job has gotten a lot harder.

14. Pacers (5-6). They are cruising along in the middle of the East, which for them is a big step forward.

15. Warriors (7-6). Hey, new owners, lots of hope. Look at that and not that Sunday night game against the Lakers. Ignore the man behind the curtain.

16. Cavaliers (5-7). Nice win against Boston this week, but suddenly it’s trendy for every middle of the road team to beat Boston. Can they play Antawn Jamison and JJ Hickson together?

17. Suns (6-7). Without Steve Nash this team is not good on offense, and they are terrible on defense either way. Nash may be back Monday night.

18. Bucks (5-8). I think they are the best 5-8 team in the league, for what that’s worth. Which isn’t much. Andrew Bogut can’t fully extend his arm on his shot release, which is why he is shooting 46.3 percent on free throws.

19. Knicks (6-8). Three wins in a row, following a week with three losses in a row to bad teams. Inconsistent. Why? Well, this goes a long way in explaining it.

20. Bobcats (5-8). Stephen Jackson with the franchise’s first triple double — that took a long time.

21. Grizzlies (5-9). OJ Mayo has not been good this season (PER of 10.4 best example). Despite that they get a quality win against the Heat, ending a five-game losing streak.

22. Raptors (5-9). Three straight wins including one over Boston. And they’re doing it with defense. Didn’t see that coming.

23. Pistons (5-8). When an opposing coach (Phil Jackson) questions your team’s effort and the response is “yea, he’s probably right” things are bad.

24. Wizards (4-8). Gilbert Arenas is racking up big, inefficient numbers. John Wall should be back this week.

25. Rockets (3-9). Kyle Lowry is no Aaron Brooks, and no Yao Ming now for a couple more weeks. They have lost three in a row.

26. Nets (4-9). The offense really needs to be more about Devin Harris.

27. Kings (4-8). If the Kings start to play defense consistently like they did against the Hornets they are going to start winning some games and moving up these rankings. But we need to see it to believe it.

28. Timberwolves (4-10). Man, Ron Artest just took Kevin Love out of his game. They could use Jonny Flynn back to provide some scoring punch.

29. Sixers (3-10). The Sixers offense has been terrible the last week or so. The defense isn’t great, but the offense is terrible.

30. Clippers (1-13). Blake Griffin’s highlights mask a bad team right now. And Baron Davis coming back soon isn’t really going to help that.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently switched agents from Andy Miller to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.

NBA confirms Lakers under investigation for potential tampering with Paul George

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Paul George is not a member of the the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet.

The California native has one year to go on his contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being traded there by the Indiana Pacers. Rumors have been swirling for months about whether George would stay in Indiana, a new city, or if he would bolt for his hometown in LA after the upcoming season comes to a close.

Even more rumors have said that the Lakers have felt confident enough that they are going to get George in the summer of 2018 that they weren’t urgent in trying to pick him up sooner.

Meanwhile, the NBA has confirmed that the Pacers have filed tampering charges against the Lakers, and that the league has hired an independent law firm to conduct the investigation.

From the NBA’s press release:

At the request of the Indiana Pacers, the NBA opened an investigation into alleged tampering by the Los Angeles Lakers. The independent investigation is being conducted by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The Lakers have been cooperative and, at this point, no findings have been made. We have asked both teams to refrain from commenting all the investigation is ongoing.

The rumor first broke this weekend when Peter Vecsey published it on his Patreon.

Magic Johnson has spoken publicly about George, explicitly stating that he knows he is not supposed to tamper with players. However, on an episode of the Jimmy Kimmel show, Johnson did say that he would give a wink to George if you happen to see him.

Via Jimmy Kimmel:

“I had to go to school. I had to go to CBA school, salary cap school and tampering school. You can’t tamper with somebody else’s player.”

“We gonna say hi because we know each other. You just can’t say, ‘Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,’ even though I’ll be wink-winking like, ‘You know what that means, right?’

Punishment from tampering charges are rare in the NBA but are not unheard of. In 2013, the Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings were fined for name dropping Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

According to ESPN, Johnson is at the center of the investigation for tampering with George. If evidence is found, the punishment could be significant for LA, and could include future restrictions when it comes time to acquire George.

Via ESPN:

The Lakers are denying the allegations filed by the Pacers, insisting that there is no evidence of tampering, and they expect to be cleared in the matter, a team source told ESPN.

If the league office’s probe can prove the Lakers were guilty of tampering with George while under contract with Indiana, Los Angeles can be punished in several ways, including a loss of draft picks, financial fines up to $5 million, future restrictions on acquiring George and possible suspensions of offending officials.

It’s still unclear at this point if anything is going to come out of this investigation, but it certainly does seem as though Los Angeles is confident that they are going to be able to sign George next summer.

LeBron James once saved someone while snorkeling with Dwyane Wade

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LeBron James is one of those guys who seems like he can do it all. He’s been league champion, league MVP, and Finals MVP. He’s an international marketing icon. He’s the best basketball player of a generation.

Apparently, he can also save people from the water like a dang superhero.

The recent article published on Vogue about James and his wife Savannah, the author shared a story told to him by Gabrielle Union, actress and wife of Dwyane Wade.

As Union tells the story, during a snorkeling trip in the Bahamas, Lebron noticed one person wasn’t back in the boat at the end of the session.

He then leapt in to bring them back.

Via Vogue:

As I prepare to say goodbye, I am reminded of a story Gabrielle Union told me about LeBron. Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, with other friends and athletes, were out snorkeling in the Bahamas a few years back. Some, including Wade, were ocean-shy, city-born and not as strong at swimming as LeBron. (“LeBron, it turns out, is Aquaman!” Union says.) Eventually, the group got out in the water, though at the end of the swim, when everyone was back in the boat, LeBron took a count and noticed a man missing, immediately diving back in. “He literally brings our friend back, like something out of an episode of Baywatch,” Union says. “Because he’s that guy, and when you see that, you know he is not going to leave these at-risk kids behind or an NBA player snorkeling. He’s that guy who dives in.”

Lebron James: that dude.