Kurt Helin

The race for eight: A look at the NBA’s playoff picture with eight days left

Leave a comment

A week from Wednesday, April 13, is the final day of the NBA season.

With just eight days left, there’s a lot to be decided still in the NBA playoff chase. Here is an update on where things stand.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1-2 seeds set, Cavaliers and Raptors. Cleveland will finish with the best record in the East and the top seed through the playoffs; Toronto will finish in second place. (In theory Toronto could catch Cleveland if the Cavaliers lose out, but come on now.)

3-6 seeds could land in any order of Hawks, Hornets, Celtics, Heat. Just half a game separates the four teams bunched up in the middle of the Eastern Conference, and while they are all in the playoffs these teams still have a lot to play for. First, both Charlotte and Miami are far better at home than on the road, so getting the 3/4 seed and home court in the first round would be huge. Second, in an ideal world, teams would rather end up as the three seed or six seed — stay out of the Cleveland side of the bracket, making it easier to have a deep run in the playoffs. Some big games are coming up for this group, including Pistons vs. Heat Tuesday, Boston vs. Atlanta on Saturday.

7-8 seeds find Bulls trying to catch Pistons, Pacers. So maybe Thibodeau wasn’t the problem, because the Chicago Bulls are unexpectedly on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Chicago is two games back of Indiana and Detroit, who are tied for the 7/8 seeds. The Bulls need wins — including against Miami and Cleveland later this week — and some help. Looking at their remaining schedules, Fivethirtyeight.com gives the Pacers a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs, the Pistons an 87 percent chance, and the Bulls just an eight percent chance of catching one of them. Sorry Wizards, but you’re toast.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

1-4 seeds set, basically locked in place with Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, Clippers. While mathematically there could be shifts if the Warriors or Thunder lost every remaining game, in practice the top of the Western Conference is set. Golden State will finish first, San Antonio second, Oklahoma City third, and the L.A. Clippers fourth. That also lets you look forward to the second round because those four teams likely advance in a stratified Western Conference.

5-8 seeds much more wide open, with the big question how far do Grizzlies fall? Memphis is the current five seed in the West, but injuries have made that team a shell of itself, and it has lost six straight games (with a tough schedule ahead). How far they fall determines a lot. Portland is just half a game back of Memphis and seems poised to grab the five seed. Dallas and Utah are tied for the 7/8 seed, two games back of Memphis and just one ahead of Houston. Most likely one team of the Mavericks/Jazz/Rockets will be on the outside looking in, and fivethirtyeight.com suggests it will be Dallas (a 46 percent chance to make the playoffs, well back of Houston at 69 percent and Utah at 90 percent). Houston has a soft schedule the final four games and should make it. The question becomes:, If Memphis loses its final five games can Dallas/Utah/Houston win enough games to pass it and all make the playoffs while Memphis falls out? It may not be likely, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Dallas plays both Houston (Wednesday, April 5) and Utah (April 11). Those games may well decide who gets in and who is out of the Western Conference playoffs.

Could Villanova’s Jay Wright be next college-to-NBA coach?

4 Comments

If an NBA team is looking for a coach calm under pressure, and one who knows how to develop players, then Villanova’s Jay Wright has put on quite a display — not just in winning the NCAA championship Monday, but over the past few years in building up the program.

Could Wright be the next in line behind Brad Stevens, Fred Hoiberg, and Billy Donovan to jump from college to the NBA?

Jeff Goodman of ESPN asked some NBA decision-makers.

“Sure,” one NBA general manager said when asked if Wright could be the next college-to-NBA guy. “He has a great demeanor, communicates, has a terrific knowledge of the game. He just gets it.”

“I think he could be — if he wanted to be,” another GM added.

That last line is key: If he wanted to be.

There is a sense that Wright isn’t looking to make the leap, or, at least, is not right now. He’s a Philadelphia guy who just led that city’s college power to a national title. Another NBA official told Goodman he doesn’t think Wright is looking to move on from the college game.

At least right now. Maybe down the line he decides to give it a shot.

But for right now, you can blame a man who wants to bask in the glow of an NCAA title for a while.

Report: Knicks not interested in Tom Thibodeau as coach, Rambis return not out of question

Associated Press
10 Comments

The New York Knicks are 8-16 under Kurt Rambis. In their last 20 games, the Knicks have played at the fourth slowest pace in the league, are running the triangle more but are ranked 28th in offense, however are a surprising seventh in defense, and have been outscored by 1.4 points per 100 possessions.

Those numbers don’t exactly scream “give Rambis the full-time job.”

But if there are any Knicks fans still dreaming of Tom Thibodeau being given the reins in New York, Marc Berman of the New York Post squashed them in his latest report. Also, he throws cold water on the Luke Walton dream.

For those tabbing Tom Thibodeau, who looks even more attractive because of the Fred Hoiberg disaster, it’s not happening. The Knicks also are getting a strong sense Luke Walton is not leaving the Warriors this soon. Thibodeau has as much a shot as a Fisher redux.

People I’ve spoken to say Walton may listen to the Lakers when their coaching position opens up, but the Knicks would be a long shot — even with Walton’s relationship with and affection for Phil Jackson — because he doesn’t want to be wed to the triangle that Jackson still wants to run. Not after what Walton has seen in Golden State. Don’t be surprised at all if Walton looks at his options this summer and decides he can be patient and returns to Steve Kerr’s side for another season.

The reliance on the triangle could mean Brian Shaw or a Rambis return — the latter of which Jackson is good with, even if Knicks fans are not.

Brian Shaw is a safe triangle choice and would have been the original pick after Steve Kerr bailed had he not been under contract to Denver in May 2014. But Shaw’s failure to relate to players in the Rocky Mountains has not made him a must-get….

The Rambis-Jackson daily rapport has been unmatched, rarely seen between head coach and president anymore, according to observers. Rambis has no ego. They talk almost every day and have their disagreements. This is what Jackson craved — access and input he could not achieve with the headstrong Fisher running the show. If Rambis returns, Jackson will only get more involved next season, as long as his bionic hips don’t melt.

Jackson may want Rambis, but that is a hard sell.

It’s going to be a very interesting summer in New York. Jackson moved the franchise forward — mostly because of the Kristaps Porzingis pick — but he still has a lot of hard work to do.

 

Remembering Hall of Famer Allen Iverson’s dynamic play with 76ers

Leave a comment

Allen Iverson, Hall of Famer.

Courtesy NBA.com, here’s a look back at his peak year’s with the Sixers, starting with the crossover on Michael Jordan. These are years that went on to inspire Stephen Curry, among many others.

 

NBA players react to NCAA Finals wild finish

2 Comments

Villanova’s win over North Carolina was as wild an ending as you are ever going to see.

Don’t take my word for it, just watch Charles Barkley.

It wasn’t just Barkley freaking out, check out the reaction of NBA players to the final seconds of that game.

First, it was North Carolina guard Marcus Paige with a double-clutch three that Stephen Curry would have found ridiculous.

But the game wasn’t over because the fat lady hadn’t sung — or the fat Barkley hadn’t leapt around the set — and as time expired Villanova’s Kris Jenkins knocked down a three to give his team the win.