NBA Power Rankings: Western Conference dominates top spots

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We enter 2013 off a week where the two best teams in the East — Miami and New York — looked sloppy while the teams at the top of the Western Conference looked strong and took over the top spots in the weekly rankings.

source:  1. Clippers (25-6, Last week ranked No. 1). The win streak is at 17 in a row and if you’re asking me when it will end my guess is Wednesday, the second night of a back-to-back when the Clippers have to face a good Golden State team. They have the Warriors twice plus the Lakers on deck.

 

source:  2. Thunder (23-6, LW 2). The Christmas Day loss to Miami shows the Thunder where they need to get, but don’t read too much into a December game. Soft part of the schedule ahead with five straight very winnable games coming up for OKC.

 

source:  3. Spurs (24-8, LW 5). I don’t think people realize just how well Tiago Splitter is playing right now, he seems to have figured out how to play next to Tim Duncan. So Gregg Popovich is trusting him. He’s very efficient, with a PER of 20.2.

 

source:  4. Heat (20-8, LW 3). Sloppy lost weekend where they fell to Detroit (after leading by 17) and the Bucks. We’re going to see that this year from the defending champions, stretches where they take a mental vacation. It doesn’t mean much big picture.

 

source:  5. Warriors (21-10, LW 7). They are 11-2 against the Eastern Conference with wins over Miami and Atlanta, but both the losses are to Orlando. Golden State is in rest mode with two games in nine days, but both against the streaking Clippers.

 

source:  6. Knicks (21-9, LW 4). The next month is going to be a real test for New York — no Raymond Felton at the point and they soon will try to integrate Amare Stoudemire back into the rotation. They can come out of this stronger, but the best tests are not easy.

 

source:  7. Hawks (19-9, LW 8). Winners of four in a row, including quality wins over the Bulls and Pacers in that stretch. Their offense is going well with Lou Williams starting, taking over the Joe Johnson role. (Think Hawks fans are enjoying watching the Nets fall apart?)

 

source:  8. Grizzlies (19-8, LW 6). They are struggling of late because their offense is a mess — 29th in the NBA in the last 10 games (ranked in points by possession at NBA.com). Their defense is still strong but in their win over Denver Saturday they scored just 82 points.

 

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9. Bulls (16-12, LW 9). Derrick Rose is back practicing with the team but not doing anything involving contact. Target for his return is still after the All-Star break. Who the Bulls did get back is Richard Hamilton and Rip is good for their defense.

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10. Nuggets (17-15, LW 10). Want to place a bet on the team with the best record in January? Bet Denver, which after a lot of road games to start the season is home for 15 of their next 18.

 

source:  11. Pacers (17-13, LW 11). Third worst offense in the NBA, second best defense. That is enough to win more games than you lose, but they need Danny Granger back and Roy Hibbert to come out of his funk.

 

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12. Bucks (16-13, LW 12). Picked up a quality win over the Heat but then turned around a lost to the Pistons and Cavaliers. Another good defense, weak offense team but the Bucks are just more up and down than the Pacers.

 

source:  13. Lakers (15-15, LW 16). Winners of six of their last seven, and the only loss in there was the second night of a back-to-back in Denver. Still, Dwight Howard’s play looks a step slow. Give Pau Gasol credit for trying to do what Mike D’Antoni wants and being more of a stretch four.

 

source:  14. Rockets (16-14, LW 17). They lost a couple in a row at the end of the week but still look like a team starting to figure out who they are and how they can win games with this roster. James Harden should be an All-Star. Not so much with Jeremy Lin (although he has played better of late).

 

source:  15. Nets (16-14, LW 13). The Nets are 2-0 under P.J. Carlesimo, although that really has a lot more to playing the Bobcats and Cavaliers than it does the coaching. Carlisimo wants the job and knows winning a lot of games is the only chance he has.

 

source:  16. Timberwolves (14-13, LW 14). They have won six of their last 10 and I keep waiting for them to go on a little tear, but with six of their next eight on the road and no gimmies in the lot (don’t sell the Hornets at home short) I may be waiting a little longer. They have not found their groove.

 

source:  17. Trail Blazers (15-14, LW 19). The Damian Lillard show is about to go out on the road the next week with stops in New York, Memphis and Minnesota — all tough wins. But if the Blazers are serious about the playoffs those are the kinds of wins they need to be picked up.

 

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18. Jazz (15-17, LW 17). The home and home against the Clippers emphasized the home-road difference with this team — they could have won that at home with a couple breaks or a couple calls, but they couldn’t stay that close on the road. They are 9-4 in Salt Lake City, 6-13 outside it.

 

source:  19. Celtics (14-16, LW 15). Doc Rivers made an interesting point — previous Celtics teams played good defense all the time and didn’t let a stretch of bad offense hurt the other end of the floor. This team falls apart on defense when it has a bad offensive stretch.

 

source:  20. 76ers (13-15, LW 20). They are 1-3 on their road trip with a nice win in Memphis but little else to show. This week it gets tougher with the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs all on the road.

 

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21. Raptors (11-20, LW 23). They are 7-3 in their last 10 games because they have exploded on offense — 5.4 points per 100 possessions better than their season average the last 10 games and 8.8 better over their last five. DeMar DeRozan has put up points but it’s been the bench with guys like Alan Anderson and lately Kyle Lowry that have been key.

 

source:  22. Pistons (11-22, LW 25). Nice wins last week over the Heat and Bucks have them climbing up the rankings. You can credit Will Bynum with the Heat win as he was huge, but it was more of a team effort over the Bucks.

 

source:  23. Magic (12-18, LW 21). They have lost five in a row since Glen Davis went down with a shoulder injury. That’s no coincidence, they miss what Big Baby did on both ends, but particularly on the defensive side.

 

source:  24. Kings (11-19, LW 26). The owner Maloof brothers overruled their own front office and put DeMarcus Cousins back on the active roster. If you think those same owners will roll over and sign off to trade Cousins you will be sorely disappointed.

 

source:  25. Mavericks (12-19, LW 24). Getting Dirk Nowitzki back was not the answer, they have lost five in a row. Coach Rick Carlisle is so frustrated he’s threatening to suspend players, but it’s not like he’s got a deep roster of good replacements.

 

source:  26. Suns (11-20, LW 22). They are the losers of five in a row and the reason is they play no defense. They might outscore you now and again if someone gets hot, but they can’t stop anyone. They have the Thunder, Jazz and Grizzlies on the schedule this week.

 

source:  27. Hornets (7-23, LW 28). They looked so much better, so much more creative when Eric Gordon got back on the floor — through all the injuries and free agency fanfare people forgot this guy can flat out play. He and Anthony Davis will form a very good pick-and-roll duo by next season.

 

source:  28. Cavaliers (7-25, LW 27). They have certainly looked a lot better since Kyrie Irving’s return, but certainly not like a playoff team. Look for them to be sellers at the trade deadline with Anderson Varejao and C.J. Miles.

 

source:  29. Wizards (4-24, LW 29). The Wizards have turned to Shelvin Mack at the point… what more can I say.

 

source:  30. Bobcats (7-23, LW 30). The losing streak is up to 18 games with no clear end in sight. In case you’re curious I looked it up and the NBA’s longest losing streak ever is 26 (Cavaliers just two years ago, how could you forget?).

Ben Simmons reps ‘Egg Boy’ on shoes (PHOTO)

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The internet has tried to raise several thousand dollars for Will Connolly, better known as “Egg Boy”, after he slapped an egg on the head of New Zealand senator Fraser Annig. As of publication, the Go Fund Me has more than $71,000, which will be donated to the victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Connolly went viral as the perfect, realtime response to the racist views espoused by Annig, who spoke of anti-immigrant (and anti-Muslim) rhetoric directly following the Christchurch massacre despite himself being an immigrant to New Zealand.

Thanks to his courageous act, Connolly has become a kind of internet sensation. A native of Australia, Connolly got a little recognition by countryman Ben Simmons on Tuesday.

Via Twitter:

Gen Z is going to save us.

Report: Markelle Fultz is moving rehab from L.A. to Orlando

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Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford has already said that former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is not expected back on the court this season. Fultz was traded back in February from the Philadelphia 76ers to his new home in Central Florida.

Now it appears that Fultz will be doing his rehabilitation back in Orlando. According to a recent report from Josh Robbins, Fultz will shift his rehab from Los Angeles to Florida from here on out. To that end, Fultz said he wants to be closer to his new teammates.

Via The Athletic:

“I think it’s what’s best for me and the team,” Fultz said after he watched practice Tuesday. “(It’s beneficial) just being around these guys, so they see my face and I see their face. I’m going to learn as much as I can. As we make this push for the playoffs, I want to be here with my guys and just support them.”

Fultz is still trying to get his shoulder right, and not to mention his shooting stroke and comfortability on an NBA floor. If anything, his return back to the Magic organization should be seen as a good sign, especially as the season comes to a close. A lot of players already spend their offseason in Los Angeles, so the idea that Fultz would want to return shortly before the Magic season ends is encouraging.

We don’t have a timeline for his return just yet, but at this point Fultz is a reclamation project that Orlando is happy to have under their guidance. If they can turn him into an NBA player, they could have something special at a relatively low asset cost.

Report: Doc Rivers agrees to an extension with Clippers

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Doc Rivers will be staying with the Los Angeles Clippers.

According to multiple reports, Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer have agreed to an extension that will keep Rivers with the Clippers organization “long term”.  Some earlier rumors had Rivers potentially being a candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are presumed to have an opening this summer. But Rivers told reporters on Tuesday that he isn’t going to be heading across the hall, and that he’s happy where he is.

Via Twitter:

Rivers has led the Clippers to a surprising season, one that should result in a postseason bid despite a sort of ramshackle roster.

I think Rivers’ legacy was called into question following the departure of both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but his ability to create a winning atmosphere in L.A. in a post-star era for the Clippers is a testament to his ability.

Of course, Rivers might not have to go without a star for too long. Rumor has it Kawhi Leonard still favors the Clippers as a top destination this summer should he choose to leave the Toronto Raptors.

A fan paid nearly $7,000 to see LeBron and Giannis, then got neither

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March in the NBA can be a bit of a gamble for fans looking to score tickets as a means to watch their favorite players play. On good teams or bad, stars are subject to rest this late in the season.

Apparently one fan found that out the hard way after shelling out several thousands of dollars to see Giannis Antetokounmpo square off against LeBron James on Tuesday.

With the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers set to go head-to-head in Wisconsin, neither Antetokounmpo or LeBron will be on the floor. That’s going to upset one fan who, according to Darren Rovell, paid $6,970.50 for courtside seats.

I had a friend have this happen to him recently. Expecting a trip to New Orleans, he purchased tickets to watch the Pelicans play the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the year. His tickets were for several rows behind the Blazers bench, and although they weren’t too expensive, no doubt they would have left wallet a bit thicker if he would have known that Anthony Davis would not have been playing.

Stay home, watch the game on your 4K television, and have a private bathroom and fridge. I know I shouldn’t tell you not to go to NBA games, but at least this wouldn’t happen to you if you stayed home.