NBA Power Rankings: All-Star influenced edition

Leave a comment

With teams only playing one or two games this weekend due to the All-Star break, we decided to let the weekend activities influence the power rankings. Like dunking over a car moves you up. But just a little.

1. Celtics (40-14, LW #2). Doc Rivers played Kevin Garnett 7:32 in the All Star Game and LeBron James 32:20. Take that Erik Spoelstra.

2. Spurs (46-10, Last Week #1). Derrick Rose shredded them on national television last Thursday. What should we take away from that? Only that it was the last game of a 9-game road trip and the last game before a vacation.

3. Mavericks (40-16, LW #3). Dallas is 9-1 in the last 10 and got better by adding Roddy Beaubois to the lineup this week. They head into the final months 2.5 games ahead of the Lakers, they will need that home court advantage to stand a chance against L.A. in the playoffs.

4. Heat (41-15, LW #5). LeBron James with the All-Star triple-double, joining Jordan as the only other guy to do that.

5. Bulls (38-16, LW #6). They keep looking to trade for a two guard. What they get depends on what they will give up, but it shouldn’t be much for Anthony Parker.

6. Magic (36-21, LW #7). Dwight Howard was non-existent in this All-Star Game. Next year the game is in Orlando, expect him to win MVP.

7. Lakers (38-17, LW #4). Kobe’s All-Star MVP not enough to wipe away stain of loss to Cleveland. People around the Lakers were less shocked by that loss than the fans — if the Lakers don’t respect an opponent they barely show up. Throw in last game of a road trip and it was a trap game. By the way, the Lakers have one of the toughest schedules in the league from here on out.

8. Thunder (35-19, LW #8). It was clear that Kevin Durant came out trying to win the All-Star MVP as well, but he shot 5-for-14 in the first half while Kobe was hot.

9. Blazers (32-24, LW #11). LaMarcus Aldridge has been playing like a guy who was ticked about not being an All-Star. They have played well of late, the question is how they blend in Brandon Roy on his return.

10. Grizzlies (31-26, LW #12). They are currently tied for the eighth seed in the West, but they are playing better than several of the teams ahead of them now. They keep it up and they are in the playoffs easy.

11. Hawks (34-21, LW #9). Joe Johnson was an East best +10 in the All-Star Game. As for his Hawks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them take steps back heading into the playoffs.

12. Hornets (33-25, LW #10). Ten points and 7 dimes for Chris Paul in the All-Star Game. They are the six seed in the West and that seems a likely landing spot. Of course, right now that would mean the Lakers in the first round.

13. Sixers (27-29, LW #15). They are 7-3 in their last 10 before the break. This is a playoff team that will show better against one of the East’s three powers than most fans expect.

14. Nuggets (32-25, LW #13). At least it ends this week.

15. Jazz (31-26, LW #14). They are 3-7 in their last 10 and considering all the changes, this team needed the break more than most. We’ll see now if Ty Corbin can rally the squad.

16. Knicks (28-26, LW #17). How good are they with Carmelo Anthony and no role players? We’re about to find out I think.

17. Pacers (24-30, LW #16). They are playing better under interim coach Frank Vogel, but I’m still not sure what the long-term plan is.

18. Suns (27-27, LW #18). Suns fans may dream of the playoffs, but the hard part of the Suns schedule is ahead of them. Need to make up 2.5 games against that schedule

19. Warriors (26-29, LW #19). Another team playing well of late with playoff dreams, but they play 12 of next 15 on the road. Tough to climb up through that.

20. Bobcats (24-32, LW #20). There are some serious talks about moving Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson right now, expect one of them to move in the coming days.

21. Rockets (26-31, LW #21). Look for them to make a move or two at the deadline — but not to help this year. For them it is about rebuilding.

22. Bucks (21-34, LW #22). They are 3.5 games out of the last playoff spot in the East, they get Brandon Jennings back and the schedule gets easier form here on out. If one team makes a late playoff run…

23. Pistons (21-36, LW #23). The Tom Gores era hasn’t started yet, but it sounded All-Star weekend in L.A. like it will very soon.

24. Clippers (21-35, LW #26). Blake Griffin may have figured out this weekend just how big a star he really is now. Especially in Los Angeles.

25. Wizards (15-39, LW #25). John Wall’s bounce-pass ally-oop to Blake Griffin still may have been the best play of the entire All-Star Weekend.

26. Timberwolves (13-43, LW #27). Kevin Love did not get an All-Star double-double, just four boards and two points (on a nice top of the key jumper).

27. Nets (17-40, LW #24). Avery Johnson is going to have to be putting some new pieces together on the fly, one way or another.

28. Raptors (15-41, LW #28). They are here because their defense is so, so, so bad.

29. Kings (13-40, LW #29). With DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans on the team they should not be this far down the rankings. And no, they are not going to Anaheim. Not long term anyway.

30. Cavaliers (10-46, LW #30). Even beating the Lakers will not move them out of last in the poll. Sorry.

James Harden on recruiting Chris Paul from LA: “He didn’t seem happy”

Leave a comment

One of the most interesting storylines of the first month of this upcoming NBA season will be the Houston Rockets.

The team has paired MVP candidate James Harden with one of the greatest point guards of all time in Chris Paul, but it remains to be seen whether the two will be able to work together with the kind of efficiency that Mike D’Antoni’s team had in 2016-17.

Harden has been the subject of some chatter already this offseason after a photo of him surfaced on Instagram. In it, Harden looked to have added a significant portion of muscle this summer, which may help him as he moves back to a more off-ball style of play with Paul in the fold.

Harden was also the subject of significant scrutiny at the end of last season, where he failed in the playoffs in spectacular fashion against the San Antonio Spurs.

In a recent interview with Sam Amick of USA Today, Harden said his newfound weight gain has been part of his plan to combat late-season fatigue. Harden has also introduced yoga and pilates into his workout routine.

Perhaps more interesting information from Harden’s interview with Amick revealed just how much impact he had recruiting Chris Paul in the trade from Los Angeles Clippers, and Paul’s attitude at the end of the season toward his former team.

Via USA Today:

Harden, who signed a four-year extension this summer and will earn a combined $228 million by the end of the 2022-23 season, had everything to do with the move.

“I just knew that in the summertime obviously (Paul) was a free agent, and I wanted to see where his head was,” Harden said of Paul, who will now be a free agent next summer. “He didn’t seem happy, so after that we just took it from there.

“Obviously Golden State has been in the Finals and won two out of three, so that’s what everybody is trying to build up against. But we’re right there. We’re right there. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do, but it definitely puts us in a better chance.”

It certainly makes sense that after years of perpetual playoff failure by the Clippers that Paul would want to move on. Harden and CP3 seem to enjoy each other at the moment, and a pairing does seem to make sense on paper. We will see how that plays out over the course of next season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo announces he will not play for Greece in Eurobasket

Getty Images
2 Comments

Giannis Antetokounmpo said had big plans to play for the Greek national team this summer, taking his country back to the top of the European ladder at EuroBasket (they had won the tournament a dozen years ago).

Instead, a sore knee will keep the Greek Freak out of EuroBasket. He made the announcement on his Facebook page.

Antetokounmpo had missed all but one of Greece’s early EuroBasket tune-ups due to a sore knee. That, understandably, concerned the Bucks, especially with his four-year, $100 million contract extension about to kick in next season.

Antetokounmpo is in China promoting shoes, but said he on Facebook he took a physical while there and was not able to complete the exercises due to pain.

“It is by far the biggest disappointment in my career. I must deal with the problem,” Antetokounmpo said in the Facebook post (written in Greek).

Within hours of the post going up, the Greek basketball federation released a statement slamming the Bucks and Antetokounmpo, saying they had done an MRI of his knee and found no damage.

“The simultaneous report by the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo himself, by phone and social media from faraway China, and not by the appropriate official manner, of his inability to join the national men’s team saddens us … but is not surprising… A series of indications … had convinced us of the existence of an organized and well-staged plan by (the Bucks), with the full knowledge if not encouragement of the NBA that put the athlete on the spot and forced him to announce today that he is no longer part of the men’s national team.”

Great, just what the world needs, another conspiracy theory.

While NBA teams generally are not huge fans of their stars playing in national team tournaments (due to the injury risk), teams cannot stop a healthy player from playing. Antetokounmpo said this was his decision because he is in pain and has to think about the upcoming NBA season.

Whatever the Greek Federation believes internally, slamming the player and his team publicly like this is one good way to make sure he will not want to play for them in the future. He’s got knee pain, they are saying “you’re fine, walk it off, ” and that must have Antetokounmpo and the people around him wondering if the Greek Federation has his best interests — or theirs — at heart.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

Getty Images
1 Comment

We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.