Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, February 12, 2016 at 7:47 AM
THE NBA REPORT: WE KICK OFF THE ALL-STAR GAME WEEKEND WITH OUR EASTERN CONFERENCE MID-TERM REPORT CARD GRADES...PLUS COLLEGE HOOPS ACTION TOO!
Okay, NBA, time to take a deep breath!
We've reached the annual NBA All-Star Game break and, between the firing of five head coaches this year already (and we may not be done!) and the fact both the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs could be headed for record-breaking win seasons, it's been a real doozy 2015-16 campaign so far ... agree?
So, the pro hoopsters convene in Toronto for this year's All-Star Game (yet another All-Star Game that should hang it up along with the NFL Pro Bowl and that recent NHL mess) and that means it's time we roll out our NBA Mid-Term Report Card Grades.
Today, we get it started with the Eastern Conference; in tomorrow's Jim Sez we'll have lots to say about the Western Conference.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to pile up the profits all this week/month with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - so go ahead and pound the books with hard court action today!
NBA MID-TERM REPORT CARD GRADES - THE EASTERN CONFERENCE
BOSTON (32-23) - Three cheers for brilliant ball coach Brad Stevens who has returned a real "winning culture" back to Beantown even though this Celtics club is not exactly littered with All-Star types. Stevens even outfoxed one-time Boston boss Doc Rivers the other night in that 139-134 OT win as he constantly had lefty G Isaiah Thomas (21.5 ppg) attack the LA Clippers' defense off the dribble - can you believe the "C's" are sitting third in the East as we go to the break?
TORONTO (35-17) - Gotta admit that we entered this here-and-now season with thoughts that the Raptors could be a real threat to "win it all" and head coach Dwane Casey is neck-and-neck with Stevens for our Coach of the Year vote right now. The North-of-the-Border crew continues to be led by a dynamic backcourt starring DeMar DeRozan (23.4 ppg) and Kyle Lowry (6.2 apg) but how about the defense this team plays (tops in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the league while yielding just 97.4 ppg)?
CLEVELAND (38-14) - The fact of the matter this is just about where we would have considered the defending Eastern Conference champion Cavaliers to be at this more-than-halfway-point of the season. True, the Cavs did ax unpopular-though-successful head coach David Blatt in January; now Ty Lue is making his mark and Cleveland's been playing better but any team with LeBron James (25 ppg and 6.5 apg) in this conference should be playing .700-type ball (the Cavs are at .731).
ATLANTA (31-24) - Last year at this time the Hawks were running away with the East's top seed with a sizzling 43-11 won/loss mark at the All-Star Game break but things have come back down to earth for Mike Budenholzer's squad with trade rumors (is PG Jeff Teague going to New York?) sometimes rattling the inner sanctum. The question remains: Is Paul Millsaps (team-leading 17.7 ppg) the go-to guy at crunch time or is it somebody else?
CHARLOTTE (27-26) - Tough to get a real handle on this Hornets crew that's now gone nearly six weeks without C Al Jefferson as way too much of the offensive burden has fallen on the shoulders of G Kemba Walker (20.5 ppg) - even with this current three-game win streak a .500-type season is a tad below our expectations for this bunch.
INDIANA (28-25) - The Pacers never really have gotten any real traction so far this season (are we sounding like TV analysts discussing presidential politics?) and you wonder whether leading scorer Paul George (23.3 ppg) has taken over "too much" because there's simply been too much inconsistency on hand this year.
NEW YORK (23-32) - The Knicks bring an Eastern Conference-worst six-game losing skid into the weekend break and whether you wish to blame the recent struggles on recently-fired head coach Derek Fisher (a real dud!) or the fact Carmelo Anthony (21.4 ppg) seemingly never hits a meaningful late-game shot or that rookie Kristaps Porzingis runs on "E" after two-plus quarters, the real problem is there's nobody that steps up at point guard. Get Teague from the Hawks and the NYK fates/fortunes could change in a hurry.
ORLANDO (23-29) - The Magic stumbled into the break losers of seven of its last 10 games and even the occasional break-out games by C Nikola Vucevic (team-leading 17 ppg) and three-point ace G Evan Fournier (39.8 percent from beyond the arc) have not been enough for this team that one day has you thinking the sky's the limit and the next day makes too many "youthful mistakes".
MIAMI (29-24) - Start off by saying we're disappointed the Heat's just 16-15 versus Eastern Conference foes and should be a whole lot better with the league's second-best scoring defense (96.3 ppg). Then add to the mix the fact that top players Chris Bosh (19.1 ppg) and Dwyane Wade (18.7 ppg) have missed just three total games between 'em (all missed by Wade) and so it's not as if Miami's suffering because of any real key injuries.
DETROIT (27-27) - Hey, weren't the Pistons supposed to be one of those "teams to watch" this NBA season? Instead, Stan Van Gundy's gang has bungled along despite a sterling season from PG Reggie Jackson (team-leading 19.1 ppg and 6.2 apg) and that 35.1 percent free-throw percentage by C Andre Drummond has been a real killer.
CHICAGO (27-25) - Boo the Bulls! The Second City crew limps into the All-Star Game break on a four-game losing streak and without star Jimmy Butler (knee injury) for the next three or four weeks ... might this team nosedive its way right outta the playoff picture?
BROOKLYN (14-40) - Another year, another coaching change as sour-puss Lionel Hollins gave way to interim Tony Brown but all you need to know is there is only one "real pro" on this team and it's C Brook Lopez (20.2 ppg and 98 blocks) who is a legit All-Star even if he didn't make the cut. Otherwise, the Nets are a lost cause and not even relevant in NYC's other four boroughs.
WASHINGTON (23-28) - Hard to believe the Wizards have taken mucho steps backwards the past couple of seasons and it's not all injury-related although G Bradley Beal's 21 missed games has been immense. The Wizards don't play a shred of defense and late in games when G John Wall (20.1 ppg) can't score on every trip they get beat ... plain and simple.
PHILADELPHIA (8-45) - Truth is we really don't know how to grade the Sixers anymore because this whole "tanking" thing is a reality although one would think that, sooner or later, all these high draft picks would mesh and make for a dynamic season. Maybe next year!
MILWAUKEE (22-32) - Talk about a team with "chemistry" problems! This Milwaukee crew was supposed to take the next step up after the off-season free-agent signing of F/C Greg Monroe but at last check he was coming off coach Jason Kidd's bench and ditto for one-time on-the-rise PG Michael Carter-Williams. Maybe Kidd's prolonged absence because of hip surgery gummed up the works but this is the single-biggest disappointment in the East. 'Nuff said.
THE COLLEGE BASKETBALL WEEKEND UPDATE - IT'S KANSAS-OKLAHOMA II
Okay, so we're quite sure you've seen/heard all the heavy-duty promotion for Saturday's showdown between #3 Oklahoma at #6 Kansas and, naturally, everyone's hoping for another 3-OT epic as we watched back on January 4th when the Jayhawks outlasted the Sooners 109-106 behind the 27-point, 13-rebound showing of F Perry Ellis who only seems as if he's played at Kansas for the last 15 years.
In fact, flip back to that early-January affair in Lawrence and you'll see the following: Oklahoma G Buddy Hield - the no-doubt-about-it National Player of the Year - poured in 46 points in that prime-time game as he connected on 8-of-15 triples and 12-of-14 free throws and what about the night back then for PG Jordan Woodard who registered 27 points and 7 assists with only 2 turnovers in 50 minutes?
Ellis was aided/abetted on that evening by the likes of G Wayne Selden Jr. who finished with 21 points and 0 turnovers in 43 minutes of action. Keep in mind that Kansas was a 7.5-point home favorite for that first meeting this year between these powerhouses and now Oklahoma will be a slight home fav - and you gotta ask yourself just how many times this year you're gonna get the J-Hawks plus points? Almost never is the correct answer.
NOTE: Get our NBA Western Conference Report Card Grades and more College Hoop goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez as we get you key News/Notes for Sunday's big NCAA hoop games!