Tag: Western Conference

Kevin Garnett, Marquis Daniels

NBA playoffs: Boston will win Atlantic, can 76ers stay in?


With just more than two weeks left in the regular season, the NBA’s playoff picture is starting to come into focus. Sort of. Here is where things stand as of Monday morning.

Boston, with its easy win over Philadelphia, moved three games up in the Atlantic division, ahead of both Philly and New York. Barring an Atlanta Braves-like collapse, the Celtics will win the Atlantic — which means at least the No. 4 seed. Which means avoiding Miami or Chicago in the first round. Right now, Boston would get Atlanta in the first round (but the five-seed Hawks would get the home court due to a better record).

Philly is in danger of sliding right out of the playoffs all together — they are now the eight seed and just one game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks. Philly is tied with New York, but the Knicks are on an uptick and winning games — although the Wednesday showdown between the Bucks and Knicks will be big.

There may be some shifting in the middle in the East — Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando are all within 1.5 games of each other. But it’s hard to see those three being anything but the three, five and six seeds — they are six games back of the two seed Heat and four games up on the seven seed Knicks.

If the playoffs started today in the East it would be:

Bulls vs. Sixers
Heat vs. Knicks
Pacers vs. Magic
Celtics vs. Hawks (Atlanta has home court)

Out in the West, San Antonio and Oklahoma City remain tied at the top. The Lakers and Clippers are in a battle for the three and four seeds — the Lakers are half-a-game ahead (and have the tie-breaker) right now. But they both better look over their shoulder at the hot Memphis Grizzlies, who are two games back of the Lakers.

At the bottom of the West it is a crowded mess — Houston is the six seed, Dallas the seven and Denver the eight and they are all within a game of each other. Phoenix is one game back of the Nuggets and the Jazz are just half-a-game behind the Suns (after a loss to the Spurs Sunday). It feels like Denver is slipping out, but they have beaten the Bulls recently and are capable of big wins. Unless someone goes on a big losing streak, this is going to come down to the last week.

If the playoffs started today we would see:

Spurs vs. Nuggets
Thunder vs. Mavericks
Lakers vs. Rockets
Clippers vs. Grizzlies

Winderman: All-Star reserves show things still deeper out West

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics
Leave a comment

Thursday’s lesson is simple and to the point.

West? Good.

East? Not so good.

Granted All-Star selections are subjective. But after the All-Star reserves were announced Thursday night for the Eastern Conference, there sort of was a shrug, a “that’s about right” reaction. No righteous indignation.

One can only muster so much outrage over the omissions of Raymond Felton, Josh Smith, Carlos Boozer or Andrew Bogut. To be honest, what David Stern has to be hoping is that none of the 12 players selected in the East get hurt between now and All-Star Sunday. (And that if someone is, that Joakim Noah might be able to make it back in time to round out the East roster.)

Out West, Stern still has one selection to make to replace sidelined Yao Ming. We assume it has to be Kevin Love. But that means no LaMarcus Aldridge, no Lamar Odom, no Tony Parker, no Steve Nash. (We were a bit surprised that in such a competitive field Tim Duncan received a lifetime-achievement selection.)

Perspective? Consider that the East-leading Celtics received four selections and no one blinked at berths for Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.

Yet San Antonio has been even more dominant in the West and received only berths for Manu Ginobili and Duncan, with Parker on the outside.

Then consider that the Heat, second-best in the East, merited three selections, with Chris Bosh added to starters LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

The Lakers, second best in the West, have only Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Out West, Stern needs another injury or two to make things right, and that’s not even getting into Monta Ellis, who assuredly is out of any running.

With the Knicks teetering, we’re looking at an Eastern Conference that could have only five winning teams at season’s end, with two particularly putrid playoff entrants.

Fortunately, the East All-Star team is very much like the conference itself, top heavy, with legitimate, competitive talent. The East could win in Staples, just like the Celtics or Heat could be the last team left standing in June.

But Thursday was about who was left out, and that left plenty of quality candidates in the West feeling a cold shoulder.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

‘Melo says it’s all about winning. Trade to Nets moves closer. Do those two things go together?

New York Knicks v Denver Nuggets

It’s getting close. The Nuggets, Nets and Pistons are still negotiating, hammering out the final details of a proposed blockbuster trade, something the Denver Post and multiple other sources are reporting. The details could be finalized the first part of next week, after the Nuggets finish their road trip Sunday night.

Then it all falls to Carmelo Anthony. He and his people will be presented with the deal and have to make a decision.

Will he sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension to play with the Nets? Russian billionaire and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is expected back in the United States the middle of next week and he — along with minority team owner Jay-Z — are expected to personally make the case to Carmelo on why he should come to New Jersey. Prokhorov said to be very persuasive in person. But the Knicks keep standing there in the background trying to get Anthony’s attention.

Anthony told reporters before the Nuggets took on the Cavaliers Saturday that what he cared about was not moving to New York or any specific market — he cared about winning.

“I’m going into my ninth season. I have no time to waste right now,” Anthony said. “I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel in my future. That light is a championship….

“Going to a bigger market and all that stuff is cool, but if I feel like I have a chance of winning a championship in Denver in the next five years, then I’ll sign the extension. It really doesn’t matter. I just want to win. At the end of the day, that’s all I care about.”

There are real questions about whether moving to the East is the best way to get a title. Right now the Boston Celtics are a force, but even as they fade the Miami Heat will be a powerhouse for years to come, and Orlando with Dwight Howard in the middle isn’t going anywhere. Also, the Chicago Bulls with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer are a good shooting guard away from being an elite team.

Out in the West, right now you have the Lakers, plus the rejuvenated Spurs. But those are two of the older teams in the league; their windows are not going to be open much longer. Dallas with Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki is not a young team, either.

Oklahoma City is up-and-coming, but wouldn’t Anthony have a better chance of getting a ring coming out the West with a good Nuggets roster in three years rather than fighting his way out of a deep Eastern Conference? Especially since the Nets have 34-year-old Chauncey Billups and 32-year-old Rip Hamilton as key parts, so some moves to restructure would be needed in a couple of years.

While the questions linger, the trade machinery has moved forward and the deal is almost done. That deal would send Anthony, Billups and Hamilton to New Jersey; send Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, some other players and a couple first-round picks to Denver; and give Detroit Troy Murphy and Johan Petro as well as some second-round picks. And that’s just the core of a 16-player trade that would have multiple picks changing hands as well.

The only thing that would kill it is Anthony saying he wouldn’t sign an extension with the Nets, at which point they would pull out and the house of cards would fall. One way or another we are getting close.

West still dominating East in head-to-head matchups

New York Knicks v Charlotte Bobcats
Leave a comment

Amare Stoudemire went from the Suns to the Knicks. Carlos Boozer went from the Jazz to the Bulls. With everything that went down in Miami and other teams in the conference entering an arms race to keep up, it felt as if the NBA’s balance of power had shifted from the West to the East.

Or, maybe not, points out the brilliant Kevin Pelton writing for ESPN (this is behind the insider pay wall).

In fact, the West’s dominance in inter-conference matchups (113-91 record, .553 winning percentage) has in fact grown from last season (246-204, .547), keeping with the history of Western superiority that dates back to the 1999-00 season.

The elite of the East — Boston, Orlando and Miami (with Chicago knocking on the door) — may be deeper than the elite of the West, but the West remains deeper in good teams. Remember it took 50 wins just to make the playoffs in the West last season and while a few players have moved on, the depth of the conference is still superior.

Or to put it simply, the East’s seven seed right now is Indiana (14-20), the West’s is Denver (20-16). The eighth seeds are Philadelphia and Portland, and head to head Philly is 4.5 games back in that race.

Deron Williams thinks the Jazz have a lot of work to do

Deron Williams
1 Comment

There was a lot of frustration in the Jazz locker room Thursday night after Utah lost to Portland for the second time in a week. They feel like things are slipping away.

The Jazz are not bad (22-11, four seed in the West), but they are clearly not elite in the way the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks are — the record may be close but it doesn’t feel that way.

And it doesn’t look that way to Deron Williams, who spoke with the Salt Lake Tribune about his frustration.

Well, I’ve only felt we’ve played good in a couple stretches. Really the first road trip, we got lucky. We could easily have a lot worse record than we do right now. We got lucky. Everything might look good because of our record but — it’s not time to panic, but we have to play better.

I think (execution is) a big problem. I think you look at all the games where we’ve had success, we play well offensively. The defense has been pretty solid all year. We’ve had some bad games and we’ve had some games where we didn’t play well enough defensively, but we’ve let our offense dictate a lapse on defense. I’ve said it all season: When we come out and have under 22 assists, we’re not successful. It’s not Jazz basketball. That’s execution. We’re not screening, we’re not running the floor, we’re not gelling.

It’s something that’s going to take longer than we thought, you know? Everything wasn’t great my first year here, when we had some new guys, and it took us a while. That second year we came out and we just [played]. It’s something that’s going to take a little more time than we thought. Hopefully we can get it going sooner than later.

The Spurs are executing as well as anyone in the league, the Mavs are right there with them. The Lakers show flashes and it’s hard to doubt that when the playoffs roll around they will again be clicking.

But the Jazz, for them to have a chance they need to be playing nearly flawless basketball in the playoffs. And even that might not be enough, but they are a ways from there right now.

And quite frustrated about it.