Tuesday Night NBA Grades: We fail the entire Atlantic Division

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Our grades for what happened around the NBA Sunday, or what you missed while you were turning in your neighbor who stole monkeys and grew marijuana

source:   The entire Atlantic Division. With the losses Tuesday of the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics, Atlantic Division teams have now lost 14 games in a row. As a division the Atlantic is 19-36, a winning percentage of 34.5 percent. The Philadelphia 76ers are on top of it at 5-7. It’s not going to stay this way all season… please, don’t let it stay this way all season. The idea of a sub .500 team as the No. 4 seed in the East because makes me queasy. This losing streak will end Wednesday — the Raptors and Sixers play each other and by NBA rules one of the teams has to win. (Hat tip to Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers for pointing this out.)

source:   New York Knicks offense. We warned you earlier in the day that for all the issues with their soft-as-a-Twinkie defense, New York’s offense could be a bigger issue. The team proved that point Tuesday night. The Knicks went up against a Pistons team with the worst defense in the NBA so far this season (allowing teams to shoot 49 percent) and could only manage 86 points on 43.4 percent shooting. For those of you scoring at home, that works out to less than a point per possession (the Pistons have allowed 107 points per 100 possessions this season, the Knicks scored 98.9). Yes, Raymond Felton was out, but it was more than that and wasn’t pretty: Carmelo Anthony had 25 points on 20 shots, J.R. Smith 18 points on 15 shots. Wednesday night the Knicks get the Pacers — the team with the best defense in the league. Cover your children’s eyes, they don’t need to see that.

source:   Chris Bosh, Miami Heat. This is what Miami needs out of Bosh. He had been in a funk for a few games, had only taken four shots in the Heat’s last game, but with Dwyane Wade out he stepped up. Bosh finished with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He had a corner three but his other buckets all came within 15 feet as he stretched less and just went after the Hawks. He played solid defense and pulled down five boards as well.

source:   Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets. Great line from him — 24 points on 10-of-12 shooting, plus nine rebounds and a couple of blocks. Jones was aggressive and attacking the Celtics inside, all but one of his makes came inside five feet of the rim (the other was a three). Jones is making a good case that with Dwight Howard in the center spot he is the best choice on the roster to play power forward because of his athleticism and you have to respect him from the outside. The Rockets have looked much better with him starting.

source:   DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings. Good stat line — 27 points, 12 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocks — and he did it playing through a shoulder injury. Cousins tweaked his shoulder in the second quarter and wore a brace the rest of the game. He also had three points, a block and a steal in the Kings’ 10-0 run at the end of the game to get the win. He also had a turnover and an offensive foul in that stretch, it wasn’t always pretty, but (as tends to be the case with with him) there was more good than bad, and in this case he carried the Kings to that win. Bad shoulder and all.

Dirk Nowitzki on Mavericks sexual harassment allegations: “It’s very disappointing. It’s heartbreaking.”

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Dirk Nowitzki is the face of the Dallas Mavericks franchise, the best player in Dallas history, the future Hall of Famer who led them to a title.

Nowitzki was not named in the bombshell story detailing sexual harassment in the Mavericks’ workplace, nor were any of the players, coaching staff, or basketball operations people. It was all on the business side of the house. That doesn’t mean Nowitzki wasn’t going to be asked about it, as was done by Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

“It’s tough,” Nowitzki said after the team practiced at USC in advance of a Friday game against the Lakers. “It’s very disappointing. It’s heartbreaking. I’m glad it’s all coming out. I was disgusted when I read the article, obviously, as everybody was. I was shocked about some of the stuff.”

“So really, really disappointed that our franchise, that my franchise, that stuff like that was going on,” Nowitzki said. “It’s very sad and disappointing. But I think [Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban] is trying to step up and lead this franchise to the right direction, and that is hiring investigators, finding out all the little details that we have to know as a franchise what really was going on. I think Mark is going to step up here …

“As a franchise, obviously, we feel bad for the victims and for what happened to some of these ladies. Like I said, it’s truly, truly disgusting. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with some of these victims.”

That’s exactly what Nowitzki (and the other players) should say. We are all disgusted having read what was going on, and clearly since the misconduct started with a former CEO it sets a tone for the organization that this is acceptable. It is not.

There would be no reason that Nowitzki and other players would have or should have had any idea what was going on over on the business side of the Mavericks organization. Mark Cuban on the other hand… there are still questions to answer, even if he is saying and doing the right things now.

LeBron James on 1-16 playoff seeding: ‘Let’s not get too crazy’

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The NBA’s first newly formatted All-Star game went well (especially for LeBron James). It’ll probably go even better next year when the All-Star draft is televised.

Adam Silver also discussed breaking from another tradition – playoffs divided by conference. The NBA commissioner said 1-16 seeding has gotten “serious attention” from the league office.

LeBron, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“I would disagree with that,” James said Wednesday afternoon following the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first practice since the break. “I think our league has been built the right way as far as when it comes to the postseason.”

“It’s cool to mess around with the All-Star Game, we proved you can do that, but let’s not get too crazy about the playoffs. You have Eastern Conference and you have Western Conference. You have Eastern Conference champions, you have guys from the Eastern Conference that win the big dance and sometimes you have it from the West as well.”

LeBron has won seven straight Eastern Conference titles, usually traversing an easier road to the NBA Finals than the Western Conference champion. With the West projecting to remain better for the foreseeable future, does this hint LeBron plans to stay East and wants to keep his advantage? Remaining with the Cavaliers seems slightly more likely now, though maybe LeBron will leave for the 76ers or some other Eastern Conference team. I doubt he knows yet, but I also think he cares about his conference-title streak for legacy reasons – to the point it could affect his free agency. So, this could be preemptive lobbying.

In the past, LeBron has had Silver’s ear. But Silver specifically said in Los Angeles he wasn’t concerned with the tradition issues LeBron raises.

I’m not either.

The NBA has always split the postseason by East and West, but teams have been too fluid between the conferences to feel beholden to the current setup. Current Eastern Conference teams Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic have all been in the Western Conference while in their current locations. And vice versa with the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. (The New Orleans Hornets were in the Eastern Conference before they became the Pelicans and surrendered their history to Charlotte, and the Pelicans are now in the West.)

To Silver, the obstacle is travel. Concern is frequently raised about the possible effects of cross-coast playoff series.

I’m more concerned about the regular season.

Right now, teams play 52 intra-conference and 30 inter-conference. To most logically implement 1-16 seeding, the NBA would have to balance the regular-season schedule. That not only means more travel, it means more awkward start times due to time-zone difference. East Coast fans don’t want to stay up until 10 p.m. to watch their favorite team tip off during Western Conference road trips. West Coast fans don’t want to rush home from work or school to see their favorite team tip off at 4 p.m. during Eastern Conference road trips.

And then there’s the biggest and maybe only real issue: It’s virtually impossible to see enough Eastern Conference owners, who benefit from the current format, voting to change it.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.