Be very, very careful reading much into the end of the regular season when trying to predict the playoffs. The Lakers stumbled the final games of the regular season, Boston took the final few weeks off and was 11-11 right before the playoffs. They were the teams in Game 7 of the finals.
But one thing seems to be different in the East — Boston has lost some of its intimidation factor.
They have replaced Kendrick Perkins’ scowl with nothing right now — Jermaine O’Neal doesn’t count and Shaquille is still out — and the result is teams are not afraid of ventures into the paint.
Former Celtic Brian Scalabrine said it after the Celtics/Bulls game, then after the Heat thumped the Celtics on Sunday it was the Chris Bosh saying the same thing to the Boston Herald.
Speaking of the difference in the Celts since their big trade, Chris Bosh said things were essentially the same in what they try to do. Then he added, “It’s just a difference in players. Kendrick (Perkins) brought a certain element to that team, and it’s not there anymore.”
Look, getting Shaq back matters, no doubt. But the attitude of other teams tells of a perception shift — Shaq does not intimidate. Not anymore, anyway. How much that perception really matters in the playoffs — when the Celtics veterans have rested legs and bring another level of energy — remains to be seen.
Perkins himself Sunday said he is not buying any of it.
“This is nothing for them, they’ll pick it up in the playoffs, believe me,” Perkins said in the Thunder locker room after his new team beat the Lakers. “They’ll be a different team in the playoffs.”
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.
After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.
So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?
Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.
The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.
Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.