The Lakers keep on winning — even if it requires them to come from 25 points down on the road against the Hornets (who despite their record have been playing better lately).
But that was only half the equation — the Lakers were always going to need help from one or more of the teams ahead of them. Like from the Golden State Warriors (4 games ahead of Los Angeles), who lost four in a row before turning it around and winning a couple in a row. Or from the Houston Rockets, who have lost three of five and are two games up on the Lakers.
But nobody is helping out like the Utah Jazz, who have dropped five of ix and are now just 1.5 games up on the Lakers.
And when you look at the schedules ahead, the Jazz should be worried.
Utah has 21 games left on their schedule, 11 of them on the road and 12 against current playoff teams. They don’t face the Lakers again — and Utah has the tiebreaker — but they have a tougher schedule from here on out than anyone.
The Lakers have 20 games left split evenly between the road and home, and 10 of them are against current playoff teams. It should be added that the Lakers last seven games are stiffer competition, with five playoff teams on that list. The Lakers want to make up ground now.
It would seem like the Rockets (20 games, 8 on the road and 10 against playoff teams) have an easier path to the postseason. Golden State not only has the largest cushion but also the easiest schedule — 14 of their 20 are at home, with 11 playoff teams in there).
The question of whether any of these teams could beat the Spurs, Thunder or even Clippers is another question entirely (but the answer is no, but none want to work as hard as the Lakers would make them in the first round). But you have to get into the playoffs before we start talking matchups.
The Jazz have been a little unlucky lately (the keep losing close games and they have a positive point differential in their last five despite being 1-4) but they’ve seen their offense dip lately and they need to get it together. Those footsteps are getting very loud and the Lakers have found their stride.
The No. 28 pick, R.J. Hunter became the first first-rounder from last year’s draft to fall out of the NBA when the Celtics waived him.
He won’t be out of the league for long.
The Bulls, the only team with an open roster spot, appear close to adding him.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
Hunter belongs in the league. Though he must knock down shots far more reliably than he has, Hunter has potential as an outside shooter with complementary ball skills to provide value. Boston just had more NBA-caliber players than roster spots.
He’s far from a lock to succeed in the NBA, but I value Hunter about as much as Tony Snell – whom the Bulls just traded for an upgrade at backup point guard in Michael Carter-Williams. That they could so cheaply replace Snell makes that deal look even better.
Gerald Green was drafted by the Celtics and spent two seasons with them before being traded (in the Kevin Garnett deal).
After stints with the Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Suns and Heat, he signed with Boston this summer.
Think he’s happy to be back?
Abby Chin of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Joel Embiid couldn’t endear himself by playing in an NBA game, because he’s been too injured to do that in two pro seasons.
He’s had to resort to witty nicknames, practice-gym dunks, fun-loving stunts, attention-seeking tweets and self-deprecating humor.
Embiid is scheduled to make his NBA debut tonight, when the 76ers play the Thunder. Soon, we’ll judge him more for what he does on the court.
But, first, Embiid went out with one last bang of a quote.
Embiid, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:
“You know how I learned to shoot?” Embiid says. “I watched white people. Just regular white people. They really put their elbow in and finish up top. You can find videos of them online.”
LeBron James might be the greatest athlete in NBA history.
But even he has shown signs of decline at age 31.
He has gotten multiple back injections and even took a break during the season to rehabilitate in Miami. The forward has treated the last two regular-seasons as glorified warmups for the playoffs.
Just where does LeBron stand physically?
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue gave quite the answer.
Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:
Lue said James, at 31, “had a chance to get tested this summer and they said he had a body of a 19-year old. Maybe he’s getting younger. Benjamin Button.”
It was a little perplexing because neither James, nor his personal trainer, Mike Mancias, nor general manager David Griffin had any real idea what test Lue was talking about.
This reminds me of Derrick Rose attributing the Knicks and Warriors being super teams to “They’re saying.” Who is they, and what are they smoking?
That LeBron, Mancias and Griffin won’t cop to knowing is quite revealing.
LeBron does not have the body of a 19-year-old. Years of other-worldly play and long playoff runs has taken a toll.
Because he’s declining from such a high peak, LeBron should remain elite for a while. His athleticism might even fluctuate as it trends downward overall.
But Father Time is undefeated, and LeBron didn’t just get a mid-career reset to his rookie physical form.