NBA Power Rankings: Mavericks fall, Heat race into top spot

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Only one third of the teams in the NBA have played a game, but it was enough to move some teams around and give us a new No. 1.

1. Heat (1-0, last week ranked No. 2). They had 100 possessions in their opening game, nine more than they averaged last season. If they do that for a full season they will be a much better team.

2. Bulls (1-0, LW 3). It was all Derrick Rose and defense — so the same as last year — but a dramatic comeback win over the Lakers on the road is a fantastic way to start the season.

3. Thunder (1-0, LW 4). Durant dropped 30 on the Magic, but the real key was Kendrick Perkins defending Dwight Howard one-on-one and throwing him off his game.

4. Knicks (1-0, LW 6). I’m still not sold on Carmelo Anthony as a point forward, and I don’t love how they are using Amare Stoudemire, but a win over Boston to start the season is a nice win.

5. Clippers (1-0, LW 10). Make no mistake, this is Chris Paul’s team. Blake Griffin is now the No. 2 guy. And note to DeAndre Jordan: Loved all the blocked shots but your chasing the blocks is a key reason the Warriors were so strong on the offensive glass. Pick your spots.

6. Lakers (0-1, LW 5). They showed some grit, but this team needs Andrew Bynum back (Dec. 31 is his return).

7. Celtics (0-1, LW 7). Brandon Bass had a very nice debut with 20 points and 11 boards. They are going to need big number from him nightly.

8. Mavericks (0-1 LW 1). That was not pretty, but we’re going to assume it was a one-off for now and think things will improve fast.

9. Grizzlies (0-0, LW 8). They only move down because the Clippers played and moved up.

10. Spurs (0-0, LW 9). Antonio McDyess has retired. It was time, but that leaves the Spurs front line very thin.

11. Blazers (0-0, LW 11). This is one of the two teams we may well be under-rating right now. They could climb fast.

12. Nuggets (0-0, LW 13). This is the other team we are underrating. Still a lot of talent on this roster despite how much of last year’s team is in China.

13. 76ers (0-0, LW 14). If Evan Turner’s reworked jumper is ready to roll the 76ers are improved. But I need to see it in real action to believe.

14. Hawks (0-0, LW 15). I want Jeff Teague to blow my doors off this season. He has the skills. I’m just not sold it will happen.

15. Magic (0-1, LW 12). Man that was ugly, but the Thunder are able to follow the book on the Magic — Kendrick Perkins can cover Dwight Howard one-on-one, which means other guys can stay home on the shooters. Worked for the Hawks last playoffs, worked for the Thunder Sunday.

16. Rockets (0-0, LW 16). Samuel Dalembert may not play in the opener, and if he does minutes will be limited.

17. Pacers (0-0, LW 17). How healthy is David West and that surgically repaired knee? If it’s all the way back the Pacers will finish this season much higher up this list.

18. Bucks (0-0, LW 18). Stephen Jackson does have back problems but is back with the team after an epidural. That means he’ll be dealing with the injury all season. Something to watch.

19. Suns (0-0, LW 19). No, they have not traded Steve Nash yet and are not planning to. So stop asking.

20. Jazz (0-0, LW 21). This is the kind of team that may not win a lot of games but they are not going to get blown out much — they are a hard out.

21. Warriors (0-1, LW 20). Stephen Curry was 4-of-12 shooting with five turnovers in the first game. Chris Paul is not that good a defender, makes you wonder about the ankle (if it’s not right they should be resting him). That said, I don’t think he looked off on his cuts or movement.

22. Kings (0-0, LW 22). Getting Chuck Hayes back is big for the Kings, especially if his game starts to rub off on DeMarcus Cousins.

23 Wizards (0-0, LW 23). Jan Vesely probably will not play on opening night due to a sore hip. Not good, we’re looking for reasons to watch the Wizards other than Wall.

24. Pistons (0-0, LW 25). Rodney Stuckey is going to get the start at the point. But eventually Brandon Knight is going to get that job.

25. Timberwolves (0-0, LW 26). This may be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league this season. Not one of the best (although Rick Adelman makes them better), but if they really run one of the most entertaining.

26. Nets (0-0, LW 24). How do you fall two spots without playing a game? Lose Brook Lopez for a couple months and replace him with Mehmet Okur.

27. Hornets (0-0, LW 27). Newly acquired point guard Greivis Vasquez is going to get some run in New Orleans. That’s not really going to change anything.

28. Raptors (0-0, LW 28). Going into opening day, nobody is really sure what the starting lineup for Toronto will be. That’s not a good sign.

29. Cavaliers (0-0, LW 29). Kyrie Irving will be thrown to the wolves be the Cavaliers starting point guard and learn on the job beginning day one — he got the starting job.

30. Bobcats (0-0, LW 30). Just to add to the fun, Tyrus Thomas will not start in the opener Monday due to injury. This team is snake bit right now.

Rumor: Paul George told former Pacers teammates he wanted to join the Lakers

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Paul George to the Lakers is a capital-T thing.

George is from Southern California, and he keeps indicating his dissatisfaction with the Pacers. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2018. Even Lakers president Magic Johnson is talking about George.

Where do rumors like this originate?

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

A SoCal native, he’s been talking about playing for his hometown team, the Lakers, for a long time. He’s never made his long-term intentions a secret within the Pacers’ locker room, according to former teammates. He wants to wear the purple and gold.

Did George say he dreamed of playing for the Lakers growing up? Did he say it’d be cool to join his boyhood favorite team if the situation presented itself? Or did he say he wanted to get the heck out of Indiana to join the Lakers as soon as possible?

There are so many ways his comments to teammates could get misconstrued as they get passed down in the game of telephone.

But the Lakers threat – to whatever degree it’s real – looms, and it’ll impact how the Pacers handle their offseason.

Jazz call deactivating Jeff Withey, who was accused of domestic violence, ‘strategic basketball-related decision’

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Jazz Center Jeff Withey was accused of domestic violence in a police report filed by his ex-fiancée.

Withey played a small role in Utah’s first two playoff games, but once the accusation over an alleged 2016 incident became public, he hasn’t seen the court. Withey received a DNP-CD in Game 3 against the Clippers, and the Jazz deactivated the center for Game 4 last night.

Ryan McDonald of the Deseret News:

The team called it a “strategic basketball-related decision.”

Withey was always going to see a reduced role with Rudy Gobert returning from injury.

Though Gobert didn’t play in Game 3, the Jazz had two injured players – Gobert and Alec Burks on the inactive list – so Withey was active but never played. But Withey was active for Game 1, which Gobert started healthy before injuring his knee 11 seconds in.

Therefore, deactivating Withey in Game 4 for Joel Bolomboy, a little-used second-round rookie who has yet to play in the postseason, is a curious choice for basketball reasons. It’s almost as if that wasn’t the reason.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.