Could the Atlantic Division winner have a losing record?

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In a thrilling tussle for first place, the Raptors beat the 76ers on Wednesday to move atop the Atlantic Division. Losers of four straight, the 76ers had valiantly held control of the division until the juggernaut that is the  5-7 Raptors finally overtook them.

So far this season, the NBA’s Atlantic puts NFC East jokes to shame.

Philadelphia (5-8) and Boston (4-9) are supposed to be tanking, and they’ll probably start showing it soon enough, before they fall too far in the lottery. The two preseason favorites, Brooklyn (3-8) and New York (3-8), have been even worse. Toronto might actually win the division simply by valuing winning just a little and not being completely dysfunctional.

But could the division winner actually finish with a losing record?

It’s unprecedented.

Since the NBA expanded to its current six-division format for the 2004-05 season, division winners have won 69 percent of their games, the equivalent of 56 wins in an 82-game season. The worst division winners in that span – the 2005-06 Denver Nuggets and 2006-07 Miami Heat – went 44-38.

I’m pulling for a division winner with a losing record, because how fun would that be? But it’s probably early to get our hopes up.

We’re just 23 days into the season, though the Atlantic Division is guaranteed to be completely full of losing teams through at least day 28. But in 2005, 2006 and 2007 a division – the Atlantic each time if you’re looking for a pattern – had at least one day from day 40 on where all its teams held a losing record.

The deepest into the season a division has featured five losing teams came in 2005, when the Celtics led the Atlantic with a 27-28 record on day 115 of a 170-day season. Unfortunately for those of us hoping the 2013 Atlantic will make history, that season offers a grim reminder of how difficult the feat is to accomplish.

That year – despite all five of the Atlantic’s teams holding losing records on day 115 – a major of them finished with winning records.

Nets’ DeMarre Carroll has ankle surgery on eve of season

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NEW YORK (AP) — Brooklyn Nets forward DeMarre Carroll has undergone right ankle surgery and will miss the start of the season.

The team says Carroll had a right ankle arthroscopy. It was performed Tuesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Carroll started 73 games at forward for the Nets last season, averaging 13.5 points and 6.6 rebounds.

The Nets say updates regarding Carroll’s return will be issued as appropriate.

Brooklyn opens its season Wednesday at Detroit.

 

PBT Extra: Five players to watch in NBA’s MVP race

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It was difficult to limit this list to just five.

The NBA’s race for the MVP award seems wide open this season. LeBron James is the favorite of the Las Vegas books (thank Lakers’ fans for that) and James Harden has been first or second three of the past four years, so he cannot be counted out. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have each won it before, although they tend to cancel each other out on the same team.

This year feels like we could see new blood winning the award. Maybe Anthony Davis of the Pelicans. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. Maybe Kawhi Leonard is back to form in Toronto and we shouldn’t count him out. Joel Embiid is touting himself in Philly.

I make my prediction and talk about the players to watch in this new PBT Extra video.

Warriors reveal reversible championship rings

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The Golden State Warriors received their championship rings on Tuesday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, even with Patrick McCaw not in attendance.

The 2017-18 NBA champions have grabbed three titles in four years, and as such you’d expect them to get inventive with their hardware at this point.

Enter this season’s championship ring.

The Warriors revealed the ring’s design on social media on Tuesday, and it has one very specific feature. Specifically, the center area of the ring is completely reversible.

Check it out:

Championship rings are objectively ugly, gaudy things. But if someone offered you one, you certainly wouldn’t turn it down. Everyone wants to have a championship under their belt, and having a ridiculous ring with 74 diamonds in it and a twist-off top is just wild.

Glen Taylor says Tom Thibodeau’s job isn’t in danger

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Jimmy Butler is a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, at least until the team finds a suitable trade partner. It seems the talks between the Wolves and the Miami Heat have gone dormant, and there isn’t an openly-interested party in sight.

Meanwhile, Butler is attending practices and is expected to play in the first game of the year for Minnesota against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday. As the team looks for trade partners, the question remains what will happen with head coach Tom Thibodeau. Things have quickly gone south under his watch, and many are calling for his firing from the outside.

In a conversation with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which Taylor owns, Taylor said that Thibodeau’s job is safe.

Via Star-Tribune:

Thibodeau has three years left on a five-year contract worth about $40 million. Is he coaching for his job?

“No, no, the only thing now is that we are starting to play games and I am asking him to concentrate on coaching,” Taylor said. “GM Scott Layden will help to see if any trades are available.”

Is Taylor still happy he hired Thibodeau in April 2016?

“Yes, yes, he is a good coach and I have faith in him,” he said.

Meanwhile Taylor says that he’s not thinking about selling the team, and that they will try to grit themselves through from here on out.

It’s a tougher Western Conference this year, and it was already up in the air whether the Timberwolves were going to be a playoff team. Now, it seems as though they are destined to miss the postseason yet again after making it last year.