A guide for which teams to watch

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Our ideas of fun may be completely different. Personally, I like to pretend I’m playing Supermarket Sweep in the grocery store, but you may like going out on “dates” or “talking to actual people.”

With that said, I can’t in good faith tell you which teams will be fun this year. That’s a decision for you to make, based on your own tastes. What I can do, though, is provide this helpful guide that relates real life activities to watching NBA basketball in an effort to guide you towards some of the more intriguing teams and away from the Bobcats. Far, far away from the Bobcats. To the list:

If you like going out clubbing, you should watch the:

Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

Entertainment! Egos! Alpha dogs galore! These four teams are the equivalent of going out clubbing – no matter what happens, you’re probably not going to end up bored. Just how crazy are the Lakers? A guy who changed his name to Metta World Peace is now a third-string ego behind Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Miami, meanwhile, is defending their title and rolling with a former enemy (Ray Allen) for added fireworks. The Knicks ran Jeremy Lin out of town for Raymond Felton, which couldn’t possibly create any resentment in the Garden, right? Deron Williams may have the quietest wingman in the game next to him (Joe Johnson), but he’s ready to make a lot of noise and try to take New York’s spotlight from Carmelo Anthony. First man to play defense probably wins.

If you like being a parent, you should watch the:

New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Detroit Pistons

You can’t truly comprehend the joys of being a parent until you are one (or so I’ve heard), but these teams offer up all the fun with less of the sleep deprivation. Watching a player slowly figure the league out is one of the more rewarding fan experiences, so having the chance to watch New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis grow into a superstar game by game should be a treat. The Rockets have plenty of exciting rookies as well, but the big draw should be the Jeremy Lin/James Harden backcourt learning to play together. Portland will hand the keys to rookie Damian Lillard in hopes of developing the league’s latest and greatest point guard, while Pistons big man Andre Drummond provides some much needed sizzle to Greg Monroe’s steak. There will be some screaming here from both the kids and the adults, but it’s supposed to all be worth it in the end.

If you like solving puzzles, you should watch the:

Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs

Do you like to solve puzzles and make every piece fit? So do these teams. The Spurs seem to be able to find a home for every piece, don’t they? Two of their biggest additions last year were an overweight guy on the Bobcats (Boris Diaw) and a player more renowned for his dancing on the sideline (Danny Green) than anything else, and it worked out pretty darn well. The Jazz and the Hawks did a good job of following suit, bringing in players this offseason that fit their exact needs. They may not have the frame the Spurs do, but watching a team built with a vision get rewarded with success is just like putting in that last piece of the puzzle.

If you like crashing parties, you should watch the:

Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers

So what if they’re not invited? While no one really expects the Nuggets and Pacers to truly contend for the title, it would be pretty aesthetically pleasing if they did. The Nuggets play one of the most entertaining styles of basketball on the planet, and with Andre Iguodala on board, they should wreak even more havoc in transition than usual. Indiana is easy to forget about — until Paul George or Gerald Green tear down the rim with something nasty. They may not be on the invitation list, but you’ll be glad they came.

If you like getting into bar fights, you should watch the:

Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers

The Celtics and the Clippers are the bro in the $120 t-shirt with skulls plastered all over it. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett stirring up trouble with tiny European players or Blake Griffin uncomfortably staring down a referee for about three minutes too long, the Clippers and Celtics are two of the most hated teams in the league – and they love it. They see it as playing mind games; everyone else just sees it as being obnoxious.

If you like going to bed early and sleeping in late, you should watch the:

Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks

In need of a good night’s sleep? How about two months worth? The Bulls can still have success without Derrick Rose for most of the early season, but even the staunchest supporter of defensive play couldn’t recommend watching them on a nightly basis. The Wolves won’t have Ricky Rubio or Kevin Love for the start of the season either, the Wizards will be hopeless without John Wall, and the Mavericks may struggle to break 80 points a game without Dirk Nowitzki. Turn on that soothing league pass music and set your alarm for 2013 if you’re going to watch these teams.

If you like listening to music that everyone else has “probably never heard of”, you should watch the:

Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors

Hey, if this band just had a better sound system and the instruments were in tune and the songwriting was better and the drummer wasn’t out all the time — they’d be really good!  The Warriors and the Raptors need everything to break their way to nab a playoff spot. That’s counting on Andrew Bogut, Steph Curry, and Andrea Bargnani all being healthy for a full slate. That probably won’t happen, but if it does, you’re not going to like them anymore, anyway. That’s how that works, right?

If you like going to the gym, you should watch the:

Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies

Grit and grind. If your fun comes from tireless self-improvement, like it does for Kevin Durant, you’re a lucky individual. One thing you know about the Grizzlies and Thunder – they’ll work hard every single game. You probably won’t find two teams that give more consistent effort, which is nice if you’re opposed to wasting nights watching bad basketball.

If you like playing video games all night, you should watch the:

Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers

You probably won’t have a horrible time or a fantastic time playing video games, and you probably won’t remember many details of what happened the next day. Watching the Cavs, Bucks and 76ers is sort of unremarkable in the same way.  You just sort of do it until you’re done. You don’t get the peaks, but you won’t suffer through the valleys, either. As a bonus, Kyrie Irving, Monta Ellis and Jrue Holiday are really fun to play with in NBA2k13, so there’s that.

If you like rubber necking in traffic during your drive home, you should watch the:

Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns

You don’t really want to look at what happened in the accident on the side of the road, but you can’t help it. You slow down. There are cars, just like you expected. One of them is dented. You drive by and say, “That sucks”. That’s pretty much what the Magic, Bobcats, Kings and Suns have in store for you this season. You’ll stop in and look, expecting something exciting, and then you’ll leave and say, “That sucks.” Proceed with caution.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

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Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

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The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders:

Knicks’ Jeff Hornacek brushes off concerns about job security

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We saw this pattern earlier this season with the Lakers. Young team gets off to a better-than-expected start, shows real promise, but as things move toward the middle of the season they take a step back. As happens with young, developing teams, they are up and down. However, major market media and an impatient fan base wants to blame someone, so the coach is suddenly discussed as having “lost the locker room” and that his job was in jeopardy (a coach not hired by the current GM). Even though in Luke Walton’s case, it wasn’t (and isn’t).

Now that same pattern has come to New York and the Knicks with Jeff Hornacek. The Knicks started 17-14 and had fans prematurely thinking playoffs thanks to a home-heavy schedule. Reality has hit them the past month.

Hornacek tried to brush off questions about his job security in New York, speaking to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.

Hornacek also believes he has the backing of GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills, despite being inherited by them as Phil Jackson’s hire.

“We were talking about rebuilding and we got off to a good start because we had a lot of home games,” Hornacek said. “Scott and Steve, everybody’s still on the same page of trying to get our young guys opportunities. We’re still trying to win games. We still want to establish an identity where defensively we’re going to get after it all the time and we’re building toward that. It’s great to have their support…

“I think the expectations come from the players where all of a sudden you hear them talking about, ‘Oh we can make the playoffs.’ We never said that,” Hornacek said. “We said we want to get better and we want to grow. Part of our talk was you can’t worry about the results. You just got to go out there and if you do your best and try to improve the results will come. When you start thinking about win or lose all of a sudden your mentality becomes different. We got to get back to that.”

Is Hornacek the long-term answer in New York? I don’t know. However, finally unchained from the pseudo-triangle disaster Phil Jackson imposed, he has done a solid job this season, putting Kristaps Porzingis in better spots to lead this roster. The Knicks are projected to win around 38 games at this point (according to Cleaning the Glass), and they have about a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs still (according to fivethiryeight.com). Heading into the season, that would have been about anyone’s best-case scenario for this team.

Not that it matters when you’re coach of the Knicks — job security speculation comes with every paycheck. It just isn’t deserved in this case.

Steve Kerr has “regrets” over time as Suns GM with Mike D’Antoni as coach

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Saturday night, Steve Kerr and Mike D’Antoni will square off as the coaches of the two best teams in the NBA this season (the Warriors and Rockets), teams loaded with offensive talent that play fast — Kerr and D’Antoni have some of the same basic philosophies about the game. Right now they have a mutual admiration society going.

But remember when Kerr took over as the general manager of the “seven seconds or less” Suns? Then traded for Shaq, which was the first step in D’Antono going out the door to New York.

Kerr opened up about his regrets from that era to Mark Medina of the San Jose Mercury News.

“I have some regrets,” Kerr said. “I think we had a few differences that I probably didn’t handle very well as a GM that I could’ve probably handled better, especially given that we really like each other and have a lot of similar viewpoints on the game.”

The Suns were a contender, but not one that could get over the hump of the peak San Antonio Spurs of the mid-2000s (it was more than just the year Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the boards and A’mare Stoudemire got nailed for leaving the bench). Kerr felt the need to do something, so he traded Shawn Marion for an over-the-hill Shaquille O’Neal who did not at all fit the Suns’ style. That move ended an era, and the next summer D’Antoni signed in New York (with a front office that never gave him the pieces for his style of play).

“I should have let Mike know, ‘It’s okay, keep kicking [butt] and keep going, and we’ll make some moves that aren’t so radical that fit more with who we are as an organization,” Kerr said. “We swung for the fences, and it was not the right move to make as an organization. I didn’t envision that as GM. I didn’t have the macro view of what we needed to do….

“I needed to tell Mike, ‘It’s okay if we don’t win the championship,’” Kerr said. “We were so desperate to win. But not everybody can win. But what you can do is keep putting yourself in a position to get there. Then maybe the breaks fall your way.”

Kerr said he’s matured in the way he views the game and team building since then. That is evident in the way the Warriors have been built, with a big-picture view of everything that gets done — they win not only because they are loaded with talent but how that talent fits together. However, they are really an extension of the changes D’Antoni brought to the NBA in Phoenix, just with better defense and some ridiculous shooters.

After stints in New York and Los Angeles with rosters that were ill-suited for his style, D’Antoni is winning big again in Houston because James Harden was really a point guard and GM Daryl Morey has put the right pieces around him to play D’Antoni’s style.

But once again D’Antoni seems just short of a ring because a legendary team — and Steve Kerr — is in the way.