Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, February 13, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE NBA UPDATE:
WE KICK OFF ALL–STAR GAME WEEKEND
WITH THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
REPORT CARD GRADES …
PLUS THERE’S COLLEGE HOOPS ACTION TOO
It’s break time.
The NBA is taking a longer–than–usual All–Star Game break this year and we won’t see any regular–season games till Thursday night and so better enjoy all the glitz/glamor of this weekend in Brooklyn and Manhattan ‘cause pro hoops is on a real–time hiatus.
Okay, so that makes us think for a moment or two of what to expect for the unofficial second half of this 2014–15 NBA season – are we really gonna be watching an Atlanta Hawks versus Golden State Warriors showdown in this year’s Finals?
We’ll have lots of time to analyze and examine what’s straight ahead for the final several weeks of this NBA campaign in Jim Sez columns next week and beyond but first things first and that means – of course – it’s time for our annual NBA Mid–Term Report Card Grades and we’ll get to the Eastern Conference marks in a moment.
But first a key reminder …
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will keep on piling up the profits all this week/month with lots of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online at www.jimhurley.com or at our exclusive toll–free telephone # of 1–800–323–4453 – so go ahead and win with all the hardwood action today!
NBA MID–TERM REPORT CARD GRADES –
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
ATLANTA (43–11) – The unabashed numero uno story of this year’s NBA, the Hawks are 25–3 at home, 18–8 away and a sizzling 28–7 versus fellow Eastern Conference opponents and this weekend they’re sending four different starters to the All–Star Game in New York City. Atlanta’s share–the–wealth mentality has been a breath of fresh air in a league where “isolation plays” and individualism rule the roost but for those folks that claim the Hawks “don’t have a superstar” then perhaps they check out G Jeff Teague (17 ppg and 7.5 apg) who is a premier go–to guy who’s not afraid to take over at crunch time.
MILWAUKEE (30–23) – The many critics of Bucks’ head coach Jason Kidd (you may have noted he doesn’t have a whole lot of friends in the league despite his 20–plus year playing/coaching career) cannot hide the fact that he’s been a real mastermind for a no–name team playing most of this year without star rookie Jabari Parker and note the Bucks have a winning mark at home (15–10), on the road (15–13), and versus fellow Eastern Conference foes (20–13) plus Milwaukee zooms into the break having won eight of its last 10 games. Hey, this is a team starring G Brandon Knight (17.8 ppg) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (6.6 rpg and a 50.7 percent shooter from the floor) and that doesn’t have the same ring as Jordan and Pippen, right?
TORONTO (36–17) – Hats off to the Raptors for not only hanging on when star G Demar DeRozan went down with an injury a few weeks back, but this North–of–the–Border crew thrived even in his absence with star PG Kyle Lowry (18.6 ppg and 7.2 apg) grabbing the reigns plus bench star Lou Williams is the perfect offensive energizer for the East’s top–scoring team (105.6 ppg).
WASHINGTON (33–21) – No doubt there are nights where you’d like to see the Wizards be a tad more “engaged” and a bit more consistent too but keep in mind this is the East’s fourth–best team at press time and PG John Wall (17.4 ppg and 10.1 apg) spends a lot of time trying to integrate others into the attack and thus the fact this D.C. team has seven players averaging 8.2 ppg or more. Overall, Washington’s probably won a couple of games more than we would have thought at this stage but it must play better on the road (see just 13–13 away).
CHICAGO (34–20) – True, the Bulls are playing .623 ball but Tom Thibodeau’s crew has slacked off on the defensive end and PG Derrick Rose is often out of control with all his shot attempts and thank goodness for G Jimmy Butler (20.4 ppg) and key reserve G Aaron Brooks for saving this club when injuries popped up to Rose and F/C Joakim Noah. Let’s see now how Butler’s shoulder injury impacts the Bulls coming out of the break.
CLEVELAND (33–22) – The Cavaliers have really been raging hot as we approach this All–Star Game or otherwise we might have handed ‘em a “D”! The injuries to LeBron James (25.8 ppg and 7.4 apg) have been amongst Cleveland’s biggest issues but, let’s face it, this club simply didn’t jive on the court for the first 40–or–so games and the Kevin Love drama – Fit–In or Fit–Out, as the King said – often has dominated the scene.
BOSTON (20–31) – No question the Celtics sold off their present for future hopes after trading away PG Rajon Rondo to Dallas and underrated scoring G Jeff Green to Memphis and so can’t kick the Beantowners when they’re down and thus the “average” grade handed out here. P.S., we still do wonder why former Butler boss Brad Stevens ever took this job though!
MIAMI (22–30) – This has been a truly disjointed season for the Heat after those four straight runs to the NBA Finals that included a pair of championships, but then what could you really expect in the post–James Era with brittle G Dwyane Wade having missed some 17 games with assorted injuries and other so–called “recovery games”? Luol Deng – who shoots 48.4 percent from the floor – has been a plus and F Chris Bosh’s 21.1 ppg average is slightly better than expected but the supporting cast has been a bust.
INDIANA (21–33) – The Pacers keep trying to pick up the pieces on what’s truly a broken franchise but there are plenty of A+ efforts given by the likes of F David West (13.1 ppg and 7.3 rpg) but just not enough from seven–foot C Roy Hibbert who often plays with zero passion.
ORLANDO (17–39) – The Magic stagger into the break having lost eight of its last 10 games and despite the play of C Nikola Vucevic (19.6 ppg and 11.3 rpg) this club just doesn’t score enough (ranked 22nd in the NBA in offense) and just doesn’t have the bodies to handle deeper/better teams. Yes, it’s another rebuilding year near Disney.
CHARLOTTE (22–30) – The Hornets have not shown much offensive punch (94.3 ppg) even though we’d still consider G Kemba Walker (18.8 ppg) a star but the addition of G Lance Stephenson hasn’t helped and the Charlotte bench just hasn’t provided a big–enough lift.
DETROIT (21–33) – The whole has not been nearly as good as the parts in Motown as the Pistons have some real individual stars in G Brandon Jennings (15.4 ppg) and big men Andre Drummond (12.8 rpg) and Greg Monroe (15.4 ppg) but Stan Van Gundy’s magic touch hasn’t worked wonders just yet.
PHILADELPHIA (12–41) – Fact of the matter is the Sixers are accomplishing their mission of “tanking” for the best possible shot at getting this year’s #1 draft pick a/k/a Duke C Jahlil Okafor but, really, Philly’s played some inspired ball at times.
BROOKLYN (21–31) – One of the league’s most dysfunctional franchises, the Nets have no identity, no direction and really no future considering they don’t own a first–round draft pick this summer and have a slew of current players that want out (see oft–injured PG Deron Williams and F Kevin Garnett, among others). And so much for any home court advantage at Barclays Center where the Nets are a dreary 10–15.
NEW YORK (10–43) – The league’s biggest embarrassment has so many issues that we simply don’t have enough time to address them all but consider that owner James Dolan has run this franchise into the ground, president Phil Jackson has been clueless (we’ll give ‘em this summer to spend wisely before declaring him a major bust in this role) and the roster is awful with me–first All–Star F Carmelo Anthony set to play in this Sunday’s game even though a faulty knee has caused him to miss a slew of games … what’s that all about?
COLLEGE BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK
Here’s a sampling of what’s on tap among ranked teams for Saturday …
#3 Duke (21–3, 8–3 ACC) at Syracuse (16–8, 7–4 ACC) – 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Get the feeling this one is really the Orange’s “Super Bowl”?
Okay, so Syracuse disqualified itself from post–season play this year (including next month’s ACC Tournament) with NCAA–related sanctions and so getting a shot at the country’s third–ranked team will be super–important for the upstate New York squad – to say nothing of looking for revenge for last year’s controversial loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium … remember that one, ladies and gents?
Maybe crusty Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim can drop a few more curse words if/when his club loses this one!
#6 VILLANOVA (22–2, 9–2 Big East) at #18 Butler (18–6, 8–3 Big East) – 6 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
It’s #1 vs. #2 in the Big East where the names have changed (greatly) but there’s still some hot court action and one question making the rounds these days is does gritty/gutty Butler have enough talent to beat a ‘Nova club that would love to celebrate its 30th anniversary of winning it all by cutting down the nets this April in Indianapolis.
Jay Wright’s crew is fresh off Wednesday’s 74–68 win at 4–point underdog Providence as G Ryan Arcidiacono poured in 20 points and big man Daniel Ochefu rattled in 19 points against an active Friars’ front line – now here the Wildcats do battle with a Butler bunch that has won its last five in a row (and seven of its last eight games) with three double–digit wins since January 25.
Maybe you haven’t heard of sharpshooter Kellen Dunham but note he enters this Big East free–for–all averaging 16.7 ppg and he’s drained 55–of–131 triples (that’s 42 percent from beyond the arc). The Bulldogs also need G Alex Barlow (39 trifectas) to heat up against an active Villanova defense that ranks first in the league while yielding just 60 ppg.
#16 Baylor (18–6, 6–5 Big 12) at #8 Kansas (20–4, 9–2 Big 12) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Kansas Jayhawks squeaked out a 56–55 win at Waco back on Jan. 8th when G Wayne Selden got hot late – in fact, Kansas head coach Bill Self said afterwards that Selden “didn’t play a lick … until it counted” but can the J–hawks cover the price tag here if they only attempt six free throws?
Keep an eye on Baylor G Kenny Chery who whizzed his way past defenders to the tune of 25 points on 8–of–14 FG shooting and 5–5 from the FT line in that first showdown.
NOTE: Get our NBA Western Conference Report Card Grades and more College Hoop goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez!