Atlanta Hawks v Los Angeles Lakers

Playoff Scenarios: How the West will be won (the No 2 seed anyway)


One day of games remain and five seeds still up for grabs in the Western Conference — and you say there isn’t parity in the NBA.

Okay, there isn’t parity. Not really. But for one day we can at least pretend because a lot of things can happen in the Western Conference. (The East is set, it got its act together a couple of days ago.)

Here’s how it breaks down:

San Antonio is the top seed, locked up.

The Lakers control their own destiny, they will be the No. 2 seed if they win in what promises to be a very raucus Sacramento arena Wednesday (in what everybody thinks will the last game ever for the Kings in Sacramento, which sucks).

If Los Angeles loses and Dallas beats New Orleans, Dallas is the two seed (they will have one-more win) and the Lakers the three seed. If Dallas loses then they can do no better than finishing tied with Los Angeles, and the Lakers have the tiebreaker so they are the two seed no matter what.

If Dallas loses to New Orleans and Oklahoma City beats Milwaukee, then the Thunder and Mavericks will be tied, but Oklahoma City has the tiebreaker and gets to be the three seed, and Dallas falls to the four spot.

So, the Lakers will be the two or three seed, Dallas can be anywhere from two to four, and Oklahoma City can be the three or the four seed. Still with me?

Denver is the five seed, Portland the six, both locked in.

New Orleans and Memphis are now tied for the seven and eight seeds, but New Orleans has he tiebreaker so they are the seven seed. If the Hornets beat the Mavericks, then New Orleans is the seven seed. If the Hornets lose and the Grizzlies beat the Clippers, then Memphis is the seven and the New Orleans the eight.

What will really be interesting Wednesday: The important Dallas vs. New Orleans game starts at 8 p.m. Eastern, two-and-a-half hours before both the Lakers and the Grizzlies tip off in their respective games. If Dallas were to lose then the Lakers incentive to play their starters at all goes away. If New Orleans were to lose — and Memphis wanted to make sure it lost and kept the eighth seed — it also could suddenly start pulling key players off the floor.

So, we all clear now? Oh, what if there is a three-way tie? The Lakers still get to be the No. 2 seed by virtue of the conference record tiebreaker. There, that should answer everything. I think.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.

Jimmy Butler wants Mason Plumlee to pay fine after scuffle (video)


Jimmy Butler and Mason Plumlee got into an altercation in the Bulls’ win over the Trail Blazers last night.

Plumlee lowered his head and tried to barrel through Butler’s chest on a Butler screen. Butler fell and retaliated by putting Plumlee in a leg lock, causing Plumlee to fall.

You might remember a leg lock as what Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova did to Bulls forward Taj Gibson during last year’s playoffs. For all the talk then of Dellavedova being a dirty player, Butler seems particularly aggrieved after getting a technical foul, which comes with a $2,500 fine – the same penalty Dellavedova eventually received. (Plumlee got a flagrant foul.)

Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“He thought he was playing football for a second there,” Butler said. “Almost had to let the Fort Greene Projects out of me, Brooklyn, you know what I’m saying?”

It was said tongue in cheek considering Gibson was a few feet over and Butler wanted to draw some laughs. Gibson is a Brooklyn native and grew up in the Fort Greene Projects while Butler grew up in Tomball, Texas.

It was no laughing matter when he said he would find a way to approach Plumlee about the fine money, jokingly suggesting he would have his agent email him at “Mr. or something” and made a joke about Mike Dunleavy applauding Plumlee’s act.

Plumlee and Dunleavy are products of Duke University.

“Yeah, he cost me 2,500,” Butler said. “I’m not happy about that. Gonna ask him to pay me back and I’m not playing.”

Is that, or Or is it Dookie?

These are important questions – at least if you’re trying to turn the conversation away from your dirty play and toward your colorful quotes.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked


The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.