NBA Power Rankings, cue Glenn Frey because the Heat is on…

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where Mavs fans are going climb on me for dropping them down to five, and I get that. I just think the four teams above them are better.

1. Celtics (22-4). They’ve won 13 in a row. Remember how we have said that Doc Rivers is willing to sacrifice regular season games to keep players healthy. Well, not a lot of sacrifice.

2. Spurs (23-3). Manu Ginobili is bucking for the “best closer in the game” title with his play last week. The Spurs have Orlando, Washington and the Suns on the schedule this week — nearly every team in the weekend’s big trades.

3. Heat (21-8). A dozen wins in a row but if they lose Monday to the Mavericks and Saturday in Los Angeles the whole “they can’t beat a good team” meme will continue. Even though it isn’t true. It was that soft schedule which helped turn things around far more than that team meeting in Dallas, however.

4. Lakers (21-7). Either their defense has looked better since Andrew Bynum returned or they played some bad teams. Actually, a little bit of both.

5. Mavericks (21-5). Would have said the two games in Florida this week are a good test, but not sure what to make of Orlando yet (and they need some time to figure it out). So it’s the Heat. This Miami team is playing with more confidence then when the Mavericks beat them last time.

6. Thunder (19-9). They are 7-3 in their last 10, but they keep winning close games (12 by seven points or less) and that concerns me. Those kinds of things tend to balance out.

7. Jazz (19-9). Look for a run out of the Jazz. The return of Mehmet Okur (who may come off the bench for a while) will give them some scoring and options up front. Plus, pretty soft schedule for a few weeks.

8. Bulls (16-9). That loss to the Clippers shows how much they will miss Noah — if you can score inside you can beat the Bulls for the next couple months.

9. Hawks (17-12). Joe Johnson is back and shot 9-of-30 in two games. So, not much of a boost there. They really miss Jamal Crawford.

10. Nuggets (16-10). You could say that when Kenyon Martin gets back soon they can step up into that second tier in the West with Dallas and San Antonio. Except for that whole “going to trade Melo” thing.

11. Magic (16-10). Do you have any idea where this team will be ranked in two weeks? I don’t. Tough time to integrate new guys with the next four games being the Hawks, Mavericks, Spurs and Celtics.

12. Hornets (16-11). Moral victory against the Heat? Maybe if it wasn’t for falling to the Pistons on Sunday when they were without Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton. New Orleans continues to slip and we’d blame the owner if there were one.

13. Knicks (16-12). Three straight losses as teams are just collapsing down on Stoudemire. The role players need to step up more consistently, and the Knicks need to get better backups for Stoudemire and Felton.

14. Blazers (14-14). There are going to be some trades to shake up this roster in the next two months. But is Andre Miller really a guy they are going to send out?

15. Suns (13-13). Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez make a nice tandem at center and they can protect the paint. On the other side, at this point in their careers Vince Carter is no Jason Richardson in this system. Carter needs the ball in his hands, and that means it’s not in Nash’s.

16. Sixers (11-16). They are No. 16 with a bullet — they are 7-3 in their last 10 and would be are the eighth seed in the East if the playoffs started today. I think they’re going to make the playoffs, which is not something I would have said mid-November.

17. Rockets (12-15). They went 3-1 last week. Now they can forget about trying to integrate Yao and just go out and run. This is a fun team to watch when they just let it go.

18. Pacers (12-14). Danny Granger is averaging 18 points a game in the last 10 shooting 37.1 percent. Not efficient. But that sums up the Pacers right now (that and poor rebounding).

19. Grizzlies (12-16). Zach Randolph is averaging 2014 in his last 10. Why did I not draft him on to my fantasy team again?

20. Bucks (10-15). If you go 1-2 on the week against the Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs is that good? It could have been worse, I guess. Now they need to get by without Brandon Jennings for at least a month with a foot injury.

21. Bobcats (9-17). That gentle breeze you feel caressing your cheek? It’s trade winds coming to Charlotte and they are going to get stronger

22. Raptors (10-18). Well, at least Leandro Barbosa can hit half courters.

23. Pistons (9-19). They beat the Hawks and Hornets, then fall to the Clippers, so you tell me what is up with this team?

24. Warriors (9-17). David Lee averaging 15 points a game but on just 43.5 shooting in his last 10. There are nine boards a game too, from him.

25. Clippers (7-21). Two wins in a row on the road. You can’t stop the Clippers…

26. Nets (8-20). Sasha Vujacic may provide them some offensive spark — which shows you how bad their offense is.

27. Cavaliers (8-19). They are 1-9 in their last 10 but fought hard against the Heat and beat the Knicks. Maybe they are turning it back around.

28. Wizards (6-19). They needed to ship out Gilbert Arenas and make this John Wall’s team. Now they just need to get Wall back.

29. Timberwolves (6-22). They are 0-5 on a road trip but can salvage one win against the Clippers Monday. Love vs. Griffin.

30. Kings (5-20). In their last 10 games the Kings are shooting 43.9 percent, while their opponents are shooting 47.7 percent. You don’t win a lot of games with that kind of gap.

Former LSU star, Trail Blazer Tim Quarterman arrested after leading police on high-speed chase

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If you missed Tim Quarterman’s cup of coffee in the NBA nobody can blame you. The 6’6″ point guard was a star at LSU who went undrafted but got a chance to earn a roster spot in Portland. He bounced between the NBA and D-League last season playing in 16 games for the Trail Blazers, but then this summer was traded to Houston for cash, and the Rockets quickly waived him. He had signed to play in China but never got there due to visa issues, he did not play a game there.

Now he has some big trouble stateside. From Tupelo, Miss., television station WTVA (hat tip to the Times-Picayune):

Master Sgt. Ray Hall with the Mississippi Highway Patrol says the incident began sometime near 10:50 p.m. when troopers attempted to stop a 2018 Dodge Ram pickup truck for traveling eastbound on Highway 278 at a high rate of speed.

Quarterman failed to stop and led officers on the pursuit… The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the pursuit ended near (a family’s) home when Quarterman intentionally rammed a Pontotoc police officer causing both vehicles to crash.

Both Quarterman and the police officer were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries.

This led to charges of aggravated assault and felony fleeing, according to the report.

 

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: “We are better than them”

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Houston’s home win Saturday night against Golden State was much more important for the Rockets than the Warriors. Not in terms of the standings (Golden State is still 3.5 games up there), but about confidence — the Rockets needed to know they can beat the defending NBA champions. This game fueled their belief that they have a shot against the Warriors.

Houston big man Clint Capela was trying to say that… then took it a step too far.

Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them,” Rockets center Clint Capela told ESPN. “We’ve got to keep playing. We know that they’re going to come back if we have the lead, and we’ve just got to keep that mindset. Sometimes I feel like, in the past, we were all dragging down after mistakes. But today, we were ready. I think that if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do on defense — all the switches, the weak side — and keep playing our offense by keeping that mentality all game long, we have the weapons to beat them.

“We are better than them.”

It goes without saying that January games are poor predictors of May playoff series. That said, I have two quick thoughts here:

• The Rockets are the team best built to have a legitimate shot at beating the Warriors. (They can score with Golden State, and they have good switchable defenders on the wing, the two things needed to have a chance.)

• I want guys to say this. I want teams going up against the Warriors to believe — that is the first step to actually doing it. You think the Cavaliers feel confident like this right now? The Rockets have the swagger and are over the intimidation factor, that’s step one.

Chris Paul scores 33, Rockets topple Warriors 116-108

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden felt closer to normal after struggling in his first game back from a hamstring injury, and the Houston Rockets got a big game from Chris Paul to down the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.

Paul scored 33 points with 11 rebounds, Harden bested Stephen Curry twice in the final seconds and the Rockets held off the Warriors 116-108 to snap their 14-game road winning streak.

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series advantage over Golden State after the reigning NBA champions had won the series the previous three seasons.

“Obviously they’re a championship caliber team for the past four years … and that’s what we’re trying to build our way up to,” Harden said.

Harden stepped back from Curry for a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 114-108 with 1:10 left, then blocked Curry’s 3-point attempt after a timeout.

Harden finished with 22 points. Paul added two free throws with 28 seconds left.

Golden State lost away from home for the first time since Nov. 22. The Warriors had won seven straight in Houston.

“It’s been a good streak, disappointing end to it,” coach Steve Kerr said. “But we didn’t deserve to win tonight. We played pretty poorly, did a lot of things to hurt ourselves and we’re playing a great team. Can’t get away with it.”

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni raved about the performance of the 32-year-old Paul .

“The guy is a winner, he’s been a winner, he’s going to win,” D’Antoni said.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 26 points, Draymond Green had 21 and Curry added 19 on a night he went 5 of 15 on 3-point attempts and 6 of 20 overall. It was just the sixth time in his career that he’d attempted 20 or more shots while making six or fewer.

“It was just one of those nights where I personally didn’t have the right vision on the floor,” he said. “So I’ve got to take that responsibility for that one. It was pretty bad.”

The Warriors were wrapping up a five-game road trip and had won the first four games to tie a franchise record for consecutive road wins. But they struggled from the outset Saturday and trailed by double digits for most of the first half.

It was Harden’s second game back after missing seven with a strained hamstring. He was in a much better rhythm than in his return Thursday night, when he scored a season-low 10 points. He had eight assists, two steals and two blocks Saturday.

The Rockets got the victory despite missing Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green, who were both serving the second game of a two-game suspension for an altercation with the Clippers. Clint Capela added 18 points for Houston on a night when top reserve Eric Gordon went 0 for 9 from 3-point range and finished with just six points.

Golden State led by four before Houston went on a 9-2 run, with the first five points from Paul, to take a 109-106 lead with about three minutes left.

 

Report: NBA’s minor league won’t allow potentially eligible college players

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USC’s De’Anthony Melton, Louisville’s Brian Bowen and Auburn’s Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy haven’t played this season due to the FBI’s probe into college basketball. Mitchell Robinson left Western Kentucky before his freshmen season started to train for the NBA draft.

But they’re all potentially eligible to play college basketball again someday.

So, they can’t play in the NBA’s minor league.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN:

That ineligibility stems from a rule that prevents players who were enrolled in college during an academic calendar year from being offered a contract in the same season, unless they have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA with no opportunity of being reinstated (as was the case with P.J. Hairston in 2013).

“We’re not looking to compete with college basketball for their players,” a G League source said. “The NBA, specifically NBA lawyers, are concerned about the optics of NCAA players being disgruntled with minutes or coaching decisions and leaving college with the hopes of joining the G League. This is a blanket rule unfortunately that applies to all players. Like all of our rules, we are open to revisiting them if needed, but at the moment any player that was enrolled in a college this season is ineligible to play in our League.”

NBA executives and scouts are griping because they can’t evaluate these prospects in games. I don’t care about that.

This is an affront to capitalism. The basis of our economy should be competition, and the NBA is handing the NCAA – a cartel – a monopoly in this level of basketball. And it’s the workers (players) who lose.

So what if a freshman is disgruntled with his minutes and wants to turn pro during the season? He can’t join the NBA due to the age minimum. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to at least enter the NBA’s minor league, for which he’s old enough? We should trust him to manage his future, not protect the almighty college coach from facing consequences to his rotation.

I don’t know whether or not the NBA and NCAA colluded, but the NBA’s stance is the exact one it would take if it colluded. The NBA has worked to improve the quality of play in its minor league by increasing salary to compete against foreign leagues for players. It’s strange to just willingly take a backseat to college basketball when there’s a great opportunity to compete for top talent.

The players could legally challenge the policy, but they’ll be eligible for the NBA draft in June, and there’s risk in upsetting a potential future employer. And would anything be decided quickly enough in court to matter for the challenging player?

Players like Melton, Bowen, Wiley, Purifoy and Robinson aren’t allowed to let the market set their compensation as college basketball players, because NCAA schools have colluded to cap wages. Those players aren’t allowed to seek employment in the comparable American professional league, because that league doesn’t want to compete with the NBA.

It’s a travesty for capitalism and these workers.