Extra Pass: 2014 Eastern Conference’s last chance to avoid being the worst NBA conference ever

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In a packed slate of 14 games tonight, five of which feature both teams legitimately jockeying for playoff position, Timberwolves-Heat does not stand out.

But the seemingly innocuous game is the Eastern Conference’s best chance of beating a Western Conference team the rest of this season.

Just seven East-West games remain  this year:

  • Friday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Miami Heat
  • Saturday: Minnesota Timberwolves at Orlando Magic
  • Wednesday: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies
  • Wednesday: Chicago Bulls at Minnesota Timberwolves
  • April 11: Philadelphia 76ers at Memphis Grizzlies
  • April 13: Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers
  • April 16: Detroit Pistons at Oklahoma City Thunder

The East must win three of those games to avoid being the worst the NBA’s worst conference ever as determined by record against the other other conference. Currently, the East is 163-280 against the West this season.

If the East wins two of the remaining games, it will tie its 2004 predecessor as the NBA’s worst conference ever. If the East wins zero or one, it will rank alone at the bottom.

A caveat: The NBA didn’t adopt conferences until 1971. Prior, the league had divisions that effectively served as conferences as we now them (only they weren’t subdivided into separate units, as divisions do to conferences today).

With the exception of 1950, there was an Eastern Division and Western Division between 1947 and 1970. In 1950, the league had three divisions (Eastern, Central and Western) and held a round-robin playoffs.

Here are the win percentages of each conference – and before that, division – in NBA history:

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And here are the worst of the bunch:

1. 1960 Western Division: 42-102 (0.292)

2. 1950 Western Division: 50-114 (0.305)

3. 1948 Eastern Division: 31-65 (0.323)

4. 2004 Eastern Conference: 154-266 (0.367)

5. 1972 Eastern Conference: 125-215 (0.368)

6. 2014 Eastern Conference: 163-280 (0.368)

7. 1958 Western Division: 54-90 (0.375)

8. 1966 Western Division: 76-124 (0.380)

9. 2001 Eastern Conference: 161-259 (0.383)

10. 1968 Western Division: 98-154 (0.389)

So, the 2014 Eastern Conference can’t fall below a few old-timey Divisions, even with an 0-7 finish. But since the NBA’s major divisor became conferences, the 2014 East will go down as one of the worst of all-time.

The only remaining question is whether it will be the worst of all time.

Tractors worth $50,000 stolen from Scottie Pippen’s farm

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HAMBURG, Ark. (AP) — Authorities in rural Arkansas are investigating the theft of more than $50,000 worth of equipment from a farm owned by former NBA star Scottie Pippen.

Investigator Mark Griever of the Ashley County Sheriff’s Office says two tractors were stolen from the farm in Hamburg, about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Little Rock. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pippen’s family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

Griever says Pippen owns the livestock farm with his brother.

Pippen, who now lives in Florida, is a native of Hamburg. Pippen won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s.

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.