NBA Power Rankings, cue Glenn Frey because the Heat is on…

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Our weekly NBA Power Rankings, where Mavs fans are going climb on me for dropping them down to five, and I get that. I just think the four teams above them are better.

1. Celtics (22-4). They’ve won 13 in a row. Remember how we have said that Doc Rivers is willing to sacrifice regular season games to keep players healthy. Well, not a lot of sacrifice.

2. Spurs (23-3). Manu Ginobili is bucking for the “best closer in the game” title with his play last week. The Spurs have Orlando, Washington and the Suns on the schedule this week — nearly every team in the weekend’s big trades.

3. Heat (21-8). A dozen wins in a row but if they lose Monday to the Mavericks and Saturday in Los Angeles the whole “they can’t beat a good team” meme will continue. Even though it isn’t true. It was that soft schedule which helped turn things around far more than that team meeting in Dallas, however.

4. Lakers (21-7). Either their defense has looked better since Andrew Bynum returned or they played some bad teams. Actually, a little bit of both.

5. Mavericks (21-5). Would have said the two games in Florida this week are a good test, but not sure what to make of Orlando yet (and they need some time to figure it out). So it’s the Heat. This Miami team is playing with more confidence then when the Mavericks beat them last time.

6. Thunder (19-9). They are 7-3 in their last 10, but they keep winning close games (12 by seven points or less) and that concerns me. Those kinds of things tend to balance out.

7. Jazz (19-9). Look for a run out of the Jazz. The return of Mehmet Okur (who may come off the bench for a while) will give them some scoring and options up front. Plus, pretty soft schedule for a few weeks.

8. Bulls (16-9). That loss to the Clippers shows how much they will miss Noah — if you can score inside you can beat the Bulls for the next couple months.

9. Hawks (17-12). Joe Johnson is back and shot 9-of-30 in two games. So, not much of a boost there. They really miss Jamal Crawford.

10. Nuggets (16-10). You could say that when Kenyon Martin gets back soon they can step up into that second tier in the West with Dallas and San Antonio. Except for that whole “going to trade Melo” thing.

11. Magic (16-10). Do you have any idea where this team will be ranked in two weeks? I don’t. Tough time to integrate new guys with the next four games being the Hawks, Mavericks, Spurs and Celtics.

12. Hornets (16-11). Moral victory against the Heat? Maybe if it wasn’t for falling to the Pistons on Sunday when they were without Rodney Stuckey and Rip Hamilton. New Orleans continues to slip and we’d blame the owner if there were one.

13. Knicks (16-12). Three straight losses as teams are just collapsing down on Stoudemire. The role players need to step up more consistently, and the Knicks need to get better backups for Stoudemire and Felton.

14. Blazers (14-14). There are going to be some trades to shake up this roster in the next two months. But is Andre Miller really a guy they are going to send out?

15. Suns (13-13). Marcin Gortat and Robin Lopez make a nice tandem at center and they can protect the paint. On the other side, at this point in their careers Vince Carter is no Jason Richardson in this system. Carter needs the ball in his hands, and that means it’s not in Nash’s.

16. Sixers (11-16). They are No. 16 with a bullet — they are 7-3 in their last 10 and would be are the eighth seed in the East if the playoffs started today. I think they’re going to make the playoffs, which is not something I would have said mid-November.

17. Rockets (12-15). They went 3-1 last week. Now they can forget about trying to integrate Yao and just go out and run. This is a fun team to watch when they just let it go.

18. Pacers (12-14). Danny Granger is averaging 18 points a game in the last 10 shooting 37.1 percent. Not efficient. But that sums up the Pacers right now (that and poor rebounding).

19. Grizzlies (12-16). Zach Randolph is averaging 2014 in his last 10. Why did I not draft him on to my fantasy team again?

20. Bucks (10-15). If you go 1-2 on the week against the Jazz, Mavericks and Spurs is that good? It could have been worse, I guess. Now they need to get by without Brandon Jennings for at least a month with a foot injury.

21. Bobcats (9-17). That gentle breeze you feel caressing your cheek? It’s trade winds coming to Charlotte and they are going to get stronger

22. Raptors (10-18). Well, at least Leandro Barbosa can hit half courters.

23. Pistons (9-19). They beat the Hawks and Hornets, then fall to the Clippers, so you tell me what is up with this team?

24. Warriors (9-17). David Lee averaging 15 points a game but on just 43.5 shooting in his last 10. There are nine boards a game too, from him.

25. Clippers (7-21). Two wins in a row on the road. You can’t stop the Clippers…

26. Nets (8-20). Sasha Vujacic may provide them some offensive spark — which shows you how bad their offense is.

27. Cavaliers (8-19). They are 1-9 in their last 10 but fought hard against the Heat and beat the Knicks. Maybe they are turning it back around.

28. Wizards (6-19). They needed to ship out Gilbert Arenas and make this John Wall’s team. Now they just need to get Wall back.

29. Timberwolves (6-22). They are 0-5 on a road trip but can salvage one win against the Clippers Monday. Love vs. Griffin.

30. Kings (5-20). In their last 10 games the Kings are shooting 43.9 percent, while their opponents are shooting 47.7 percent. You don’t win a lot of games with that kind of gap.

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!