NBA power rankings

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Thumbnail image for nba_bryant2_250.jpgRanking all 30 NBA teams, even the ones that deserve relegation (if only we had the English soccer system). Everybody at the top of the standings had had a recent loss, so the question becomes, whose loss bothers you the least?

1. Lakers (42-14) They lost to the Celtics at home, but they can play the “we didn’t have Kobe” card for that one after the ugliness that was Derek Fishers last shot. Kobe comes back Tuesday, time to see if LA reverts to old, bad habits.

2. Magic (38-19) They drop one to Dallas but the win against Cleveland Sunday was bigger. If Orlando gets that Jameer Nelson to start showing up on a regular basis, the East just got a lot more interesting.

3. Jazz (36-19) They have won four in a row, and showed something coming back from 25 down in Portland Sunday. The Jazz usually have a mid-season hot streak then go cold in March, we’ll see if that trend continues.

4. Nuggets (37-19) Denver beats Boston and Cleveland, but loses to Washington in between those wins? Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

5. Cavaliers (43-14) I hear the complaints coming about this one… but they have lost three straight, including to two teams above them. The Cavs will get it right with Jamison soon and start climbing back up, but as of this week they fall.

6. Thunder (33-21) A nine-game winning streak, and Kevin Durant is destined for Mount Olympus. We’d move them up higher, but does anyone think they could beat any of the top five on this list in a seven game series starting tomorrow?

7. Mavericks (35-21) Three straight wins, including an Orlando/Miami back-to-back. Not sure how far the Butler/Haywood trade takes them in the playoffs, but it did energize a slumping team.

8. Celtics (35-19) Great back-to-back wins over the Lakers and Trail Blazers, but the loss to Denver has me still questioning if this team is elite.

9. Suns (34-23) The team just kept playing through the trade
deadline rumors and aftermath, with wins against Memphis and Atlanta.
Very professional team.

10. Hawks (34-20) Losses to Phoenix and Golden State on this road trip — wouldn’t you think the Hawks would thrive when forced to run?

11. Raptors (31-24) Good test for Toronto this week — Portland, Cleveland and Oklahoma City. We’ll see how real their recent play has been.

12. Spurs (30-21) Two straight losses and now Tony Parker out for a few games. People are drinking away their sorrows on the Riverwalk. (Of course, if they were celebrating they’d be drinking to that, too.)

13. Bulls (29-26) Four straight wins since last week. All against bottom feeders, still, four straight wins. Chicagoans should not look at a gift horse like that.

14. Blazers (33-26) Well they did beat the Clippers this week. And they beat Utah for three quarters. Turns out that’s not enough.

15. Heat (29-28) Wade is willing this team to wins and a playoff spot.

16. Bucks (26-28) They have won two in a row, seven of their last 10, and are just one game out of a playoff spot. And John Salmons is going to help them.

17. Bobcats (27-27) The Bobcats better hope if they make the playoffs they don’t face New Jersey in the first round — they Nets lead the season series 2-1. Okay, maybe that’s not going to be a problem.

18. Hornets (30-26) Daren Collison may be the mid-season fantasy steal of the season.

19. Grizzlies (28-27) They steal Ronnie Brewer from the Jazz, then the fates strike him down with a hamstring injury. Life is not fair.

20. Rockets (28-27) Kevin Martin is 8 for 28 from the floor in his first two games in Houston.

21. Sixers (21-34) Is Jodie Meeks worth a second-round pick?

22. Kings (18-28) Carl Landry is going to be a great fit by the Delta, but this team has lost four in a row.

23 Pistons (20-35) Detroit is actually 5-5 in their last 10 games.

24. Clippers (22-33) The Clippers have gone 2-8 in their last 10, but they have enough cap space to sign LeBron… ha, I know, I just get a laugh every time I type that.

25. Warriors (16-39) When Monta Ellis and Steph Curry are both shooting like they did Sunday, Golden State can topple Atlanta. It’s just not a regular occurrence.

26. Pacers (19-36) They still have Troy Murphy to kick around.

27. Wizards (19-34) Al Thornton and Andray Blatche are having good games together. Yea, that will last.

28. Knicks (19-35) The team that may have been the happiest at the trading deadline? The Utah Jazz. They have the Knicks first round pick this summer.

29. Timberwolves (13-34) They have lost six games in a row….

30. Nets (5-51) But no matter how bad the T-wolves are playing I can’t take the Nets out of last.

Zion Williamson’s sprained knee became bad day for Nike

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When presumptive No. 1 pick Zion Williamson went to the ground, his knee twisting, early in Duke’s game against North Carolina Wednesday night, the basketball world collectively gasped.

Former President Barack Obama was there and quickly recognized the problem:

It did, unquestionably. The  6-foot-7, 284 pound Williamson was wearing the  PG 2.5 PEs (the Paul George signature line of Nikes), and when he made a hard cut the shoe gave out and Williamson went to the ground in a heap. The television cameras closed in on the busted Nike.

That’s not good press.

Fortunately, Williams suffered only a mild, Grade 1 knee sprain, and is day-to-day.

Nike released a statement to multiple media outlets that said, “We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery. The quality and performance of our products are of utmost importance. While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

Nike stock dropped one percent on Thursday, although that level of fluctuation is not serious.

Bottom line, if this remains an isolated incident, Nike’s reputation — and position as the dominant force in basketball shoes — is not in danger. Fans and players will forgive one random incident. Have it happen again to a high-profile player and… Nike doesn’t want to find out.

 

Marcus Smart on today’s NBA: “Everything’s become real cute… Everybody’s scared to get hit”

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“I think it’s wonderful what we’re seeing in the league right now, some of the rules changes we’ve made in the last few years that really focus on skill-based playing. I’d like to think that young people around the world are able to look at this game and say, I can be as great as my desire to dedicate myself to this game, especially when it comes to shooting and ball handling. I get it, you can’t dream about being seven feet tall, but you can dream about having ball-handling skills like Steph Curry.”

That was NBA Commissioner Adam Silver All-Star weekend in Charlotte, and television ratings and overall interest in the league back him up — NBA ratings have been largely rising for years, both on the local and national level. Fans seem to gravitate towards fast-paced, entertaining teams and games.

But not everybody loves it. Charles Barkley can lead the “get off my lawn crowd.” However, there is a role for throwback players in the game. Guys who would have thrived in the 1990s, or the 1960s. Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of those guys — he told Mirin Fader of Bleacher Report he wishes there was more physicality in the league.

“Back in the ’60s, ’70s, my mindset and the way I play would be perfect. They play like that every game,” Smart says…

“That’s just what it is! Exactly!” he says, a smile breaking through. “I think we kind of lost that in today’s game. Everything’s become real cute. Everybody’s scared to go to the rim. Everybody’s scared to get hit. Everybody’s scared to touch.

“I thrive on the contact. Contact is in my nature.”

The NBA has always had to strike a balance between physicality and allowing skill to flourish. Right now the pendulum has swung well over to the skill side, and some fans romantically recall 1990s basketball when the pendulum was on the other side. They think of Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson and remember the era fondly through the haze of time. Of course, what that time obscured were the slogs of games with scoring in the 80s and maybe 90s, they forget how hard it could be to watch Mike Fratello’s Cavaliers clutch and grab their way to a slow, tedious, and coach-controlled four quarters. The 90s were not filled with the beautiful game.

But in any era, a guy like Smart has real value because he’s a good basketball player. Plain and simple. Just one who would like to be allowed to be a little more physical.

 

76ers coach Brett Brown: Markelle Fultz didn’t mean to insult Philadelphia coaches

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After getting traded from the 76ers to the Magic, Markelle Fultz said, “It just excites me really to know that I have coaches that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear.”

I don’t know whether Fultz intended that to sound like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown. But it sounded like a shot at Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

Brown said Fultz “didn’t mean that.”He said the two have spoken back and forth.

“He’s a good kid,” he said. “He’s a good young man, and, truly, we wish him well.”

I’d prefer to hear that directly from Fultz. But I doubt he’ll do any more interviews this season until he plays again – and who knows when that will be?

Still, it can be difficult for a player to compliment his new team without sounding like he’s admonishing his old team. There was always a good chance that’s all that happened with Fultz. Brown’s explanation makes that even more likely.

Report: NBA formally submits proposal to lower draft age to 18, end one-and-done

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It’s coincidental this happened the day after Duke star and likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson sprained a knee in a much-hyped, nationally televised game. This is been in the works for a while and is now becoming realty:

The NBA formally submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association (the players’ union) to lower the draft age from 19 to 18. Meaning players could be drafted to the league straight out of high school. While that will not come until likely 2022, the formal proposal starts the project, reports Jeff Zillgitt of the USA Today.

The NBA has submitted to the National Basketball Players Association a formal proposal that will lower the draft-eligible age to 18 from 19, a person with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports…

The league and union have had informal discussions about lowering the age limit, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on record saying the current 19-year-old age limit is not working for the league or college basketball.

This is the first step in formal negotiations to lower the age limit by the 2022 draft. The issue is collectively bargained between the NBA and NBPA, and both sides need to agree to any rule change.

There have been sticking points during those informal discussions between the sides. Specifically, the league wants to require that agents provide every team with full medical reports on players, and the league wants players to be forced to participate in some level of the NBA Draft Combine. As of now, agents often withhold medical info from teams they don’t want to draft their players (that doesn’t always work) and elite players often do little more than get measured at the combine. It’s a fight over information and the sides will need to find a compromise.

Silver had told reporters over the summer that the NCAA’s own report from Condoleezza Rice’s Commission On College Basketball called for an end to one-and-dones, and that has motivated him to end the practice. However, to give teams ample time to gear up scouting and get development programs in place, nothing will happen before the 2022 draft.

This has been a long time coming, the one-and-done rule is a compromise neither the NBA or colleges liked much, and it has made players resentful. What exactly the process will look like on the other side remains to be seen, but it should be better than the mess we see right now.