PBT’s NBA Power Rankings: Golden State still on top, but welcome Detroit to the cellar

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Consider this something to read while we all wait to see who Rajon Rondo has breakfast with next. When a team wins 12 in a row, has the best record in the West and is playing the best defense in the NBA, they end up on top of ProBasketballTalk’s weekly NBA power rankings. No shock there. The biggest surprise may be at the other end of the list where Philly has won two of three and ceeded the bottom spot to Detroit.

 
source:  1. Warriors (17-2, Last Week No. 1). We know about all the firepower they have from their stars on offense, but focus too much on Curry/Thompson and things happen like Draymond Green dropping 31. As he did on Chicago. This team is about to get deeper as David Lee expects to return this week, but with the way Green is playing Steve Kerr has to bring Lee off the bench.

 
source:  2. Spurs (15-5, LW 3). The Spurs made a statement with a win over Memphis last week, then the next night picked up the most Spursian of wins — no Tony Parker, no Manu Ginobili, limited minutes from Tim Duncan (18) and they still beat Minnesota. Tiago Splitter appears close to coming back and that is big for the Spurs’ defense and depth.

 
source:  3. Rockets (16-4, LW 6). The Rockets are an impressive 7-3 without Dwight Howard (five of those games against quality, +.500 teams) which is key as he is not going to be back “any time soon.” The Rockets are winning with quality defense and getting good performances from Donatas Motiejunas.

 
source:  4. Trail Blazers (16-4. LW 4). They have won four in a row and seem to do it a different way every time. The one constant is quality play from Damian Lillard (who has taken a big step forward in his third year — and he was an All-Star last year). They are on the road this week but against the East so the Bulls are the only team that should pose a real threat.

 
source:  5. Clippers (14-5, LW 9). They have won seven in a row and that string could stretch out for a while with a pretty soft schedule coming up (save for the Suns Monday night and the Wizards later in the week). In the West, you have to make sure to get your wins against the teams you’re supposed to beat because the schedule will get brutal.

 
source:  6. Grizzlies (16-4, LW 2) They lost to the Spurs and the shorthanded Rockets, but picked up a nice win against the Heat. However, what was the best news in Memphis last week was that Marc Gasol’s MRI was negative. He’s their MVP candidate.

 
source:  7. Mavericks (16-6, LW 5). Sunday night was the most comfortable Chandler Parsons has looked in the Dallas offense, scoring 28 points (it helps that Milwaukee largely left him alone, nine of his 14 shots were uncontested). Not fair dropping this team in these rankings despite a good week, but welcome to life in the West.

 
source:  8. Cavaliers (11-7 LW 17). They beat the Raptors last week and continue to do it by putting up boatloads of points — LeBron James’ passing is opening up the offense. Good tests this week that will jeopardize that streak — Toronto, Oklahoma City and New Orleans all are on the schedule.

 
source:  9. Raptors (15-5, LW 7). When DeMar DeRozan went down coach Dwane Casey tried to downplay his loss defensively to PBT (and other reporters). Nope, their defense has really struggled without him and it’s costing them games, they are just trying to outscore opponents now.

 
source:  10. Hawks (13-6, LW 14). They have won six in a row and gotten fantastic play out of the point guard spot (Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder) but have done so against the easiest schedule in the NBA so far. That does not change this week with the Pacers, Sixers and two against the Magic on the docket. The week after, then things get serious.

 
source:  11. Wizards (13-6, LW 11). Not a pretty loss Sunday on the first end of a home-and-home with Boston. Part of that is tied to them still keeping a cap on Nene’s minutes — they need his defense, but they really need him healthy come the playoffs.

 
source:  12. Bulls (12-8, LW 8). They are 10-3 on the road but just 2-5 at home in Chicago, which is going to have to change for them as they have a lot of home games on the schedule in the coming weeks (including Brooklyn and Portland this week).

 
source:  13. Suns (12-9, LW 12). Jeff Hornacek has moved P.J. Tucker into the starting lineup and is bringing Marcus Morris off the bench now. What really works for this team is how much better Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe seem to play without Isaiah Thomas in the lineup.

 
source:  14. Kings (10-10, LW 13). DeMarcus Cousins spent time in the hospital due to the viral infection and while they finally picked up a win with him out they are still 1-15 without him over the past couple seasons. He should return to action this week, they are 9-5 with him in the lineup.

 
source:  15. Bucks (11-11, LW 16). They have lost four of five but against Cleveland, Houston and Dallas (twice) and looked pretty good in those losses. Things don’t get any easier ahead with Oklahoma City, the Clippers, Phoenix and Portland.

 
source:  16. Pelicans (9-10, LW 18). There were murmurs around the league that if Monty Williams couldn’t get the Pelicans to play better defense with Omer Asik on board his job could be in jeopardy at the end of the season. Well, the Pelicans are 24th in defensive efficiency. Something to watch as the season goes on.

 
source:  17. Nuggets (9-11, LW 17). They have lost three in a row and looked really ugly doing it in losses to Washington and Atlanta. This is a roller coaster, up and down team and the ups come when their inconsistent shooting is on, lately it hasn’t been.

 
source:  18. Thunder (7-13, LW 22). While Kevin Durant dropped 27 on Sunday and showed flashes of his old self the Thunder are still trying to find a groove with Russell Westbrook and Durant back. This is a stretch where they need to get wins — Milwaukee and Phoenix are on the docket and are the kind of teams the Thunder need to beat if they are going to make this playoff run.

 
source:  19. Heat (9-11, LW 15). They have lost four straight and it really comes down to this — they can’t get stops. Without LeBron James on the roster Chris Andersen just looks old and they don’t have the same level of athleticism and maturity on that end of the floor.

 
source:  20. Celtics (7-11, LW 21). They have won three in a row and not so coincidentally those came when Jeff Green has shown up and played well. It also helped to have the Pistons and Lakers on the schedule. Eagerly awaiting the reports of who Rondo has breakfast with this week.

 
source:  21. Nets (8-10, LW 20). The most interesting thing about the Nets: Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are coming to watch them play against the Cavaliers. Great, now LeBron has more motivation than just playing in New York to put up numbers.

 
source:  22. Magic (9-14, LW 23). Of all teams to tip the historic imbalance between the West and East this season (the West has won 70 percent of the games between conferences so far), the Magic are 4-5. And it could have been 5-4 if they had held on against Golden State. Problem this week is they take on Washington and Atlanta of the East.

 
source:  23. Pacers (7-13, LW 19). They are 0-4 on a road trip through the West and have a tough go this week with the hot Hawks, the Clippers, the Raptors, and finally the Trail Blazers. Against that gauntlet they are really going to miss Ian Mahinmi, who is out for 6-8 weeks.

 
source:  24. Lakers (5-16, LW 25). Kobe Bryant needs just 63 points to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA scoring list, and it will likely happen on an upcoming Lakers three-game road trip (San Antonio, Minnesota and Indiana). Recently both Toronto and Detroit threw early double teams at Kobe and he carved them up with passing and the Lakers won. Don’t expect to see that much anymore, teams will dare Kobe to beat then.

 
source:  25. Hornets (5-15, LW 28). You can always count on the Knicks to help you snap a 10-game losing streak, but that doesn’t solve the larger issues of bad offense (Lance Stephenson’s shot selection can get ugly) and disappointing defense.

source:  26. Timberwolves (4-15, LW 24). Reports came out a week ago Monday that Flip Saunders told his team to play back and let the Clippers shoot threes in their meeting. Um, Chris Paul shoots 41 percent, J.J. Redick 38 percent, Jamal Crawford 37 percent, and Spencer Hawes 34 percent. Interesting strategy, Flip. The Timberwolves have lost five in a row.

 
source:  27. Jazz (5-15, LW 26). After a fast start they have lost eight in a row, but they got some good news that starting two guard Alec Burks should return this week from his shoulder injury (but he will need surgery on it after the season).

 
source:  28. Knicks (4-18, LW 27). They have lost eight in a row but if you want a silver lining they are not getting blown out — the last four of those losses were by a combined 13 points. The Knicks just don’t close out games well. The bad news? The Knicks have had one of the easiest schedules in the NBA so far this season.

 
source:  29. 76ers (2-18, LW 30). Two wins in three games, beating the Timberwolves and Pistons. The key has been they played pretty good defense in those games (granted against teams that can’t shoot the ball well).

 
source:  30. Pistons (3-18, LW 29). The loss to the Sixers was ugly, but I think the final shot against OKC Sunday summed up their play best: down two and with less than 10 seconds on the clock the Pistons settled for having Josh Smith take a three pointer for the win. A guy who shoots 25 percent from three but ran to the arc and got the pass. That’s just bad basketball.

Report: Villanova coach Jay Wright not reciprocating Knicks’ interest

Villanova coach Jay Wright, rumored Knicks target
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A report of the Knicks being interested in Jay Wright and Wright emphasizing his happiness at Villanova.

Let’s do it again.

Adam Zagoria of Forbes:

League sources say Villanova coach Jay Wright could become the next head coach of the Knicks.

“There is a strong possibility that Jay Wright in New York could happen,” one league source said.

Dana O’Neil of The Athletic:

The Knicks are reportedly hiring Leon Rose to run their front office. Presumably, he’ll choose New York’s next coach.

Despite the Knicks’ denial, Steve Stoute let the cat out off the bag: The Knicks aren’t keeping interim coach Mike Miller. Perhaps, Miller can rally late in the season and change their minds. But it seems unlikely.

So, we’re in a limbo period where many candidates will emerge. Getting reported as a possibility is a great way for a coach to get publicity and maybe even gain leverage in contract negotiations at a current job. It can be difficult to tell which rumors are real.

But when a credible reporter like O’Neil states something with such certainty and attributes it to only a single source, that carries major weight.

Rockets to add Spurs buyout DeMarre Carroll, free agent Jeff Green

Spurs forward DeMarre Caroll
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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:

ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:

Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.

Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.

Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.

Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.

In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.

NBA players’ union votes to support formation of G-League union

Kyrie Irving
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Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.

The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.

The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.

Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.

The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.

In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Chris Paul remains the union president.

Check out Dr. Dre’s Kobe Bryant tribute

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CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.

Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.

Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.