Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 13, 2016 at 12:18 PM
THE NBA REPORT: IT'S ALL-STAR GAME WEEKEND AND NOW WE'RE HANDING OUT OUR WESTERN CONFERENCE MID-TERM REPORT CARD GRADES...PLUS SUNDAY'S KEY COLLEGE B-BALL GAMES
Okay, so the only two NBA Eastern Conference teams that gobbled up "A" grades in our Jim Sez column yesterday were the Boston Celtics and the Toronto Raptors - now they are truly deserving of high marks so far this year.
But are we allowed to hand out grades even higher than "A+" to anyone in NBA-land 'cause both the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs surely would qualify!
Alas, "A+" is our top mark and both of these franchises easily have hit major high notes through the first 50-plus games of this 2015-16 NBA campaign.
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 WESTERN CONFERENCE
GOLDEN STATE (48-4) - And y'all wanted to know what the Warriors could do for an "encore" after copping last year's NBA championship! Well, how about a team playing .923 ball and totally undeterred by the fact head coach Steve Kerr missed the season's first 41 games following off-season back surgery? Guard Steph Curry (29.8 ppg) continues to power up the NBA's highest-scoring offense - one that's averaging a ridiculous 115.5 ppg - but you could make the case that teammates G Klay Thompson (21.3 ppg) and F Draymond Green (14.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg) both deserve to be getting top-five MVP votes too this year. Everyone's wondering whether or not the Warriors can break the all-time single-season wins total of 72 set by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls but we have a different question ... can G-State actually be a better team in the next couple of months than it was the first three-and-a-half months? P.S., Golden State entered this All-Star Game break on an 11-game winning streak.
SAN ANTONIO (45-8) - Can you imagine playing .849 ball for the first three-plus months of a season and getting virtually no national "ink"? Welcome to the Spurs' world as Gregg Popovich's crew has somehow stayed beneath the proverbial radar screen with a squad that's 28-and-oh at home and really/truly in somewhat of a transitional year considering F LaMarcus Aldridge is the team's second-leading scorer (17 ppg) and top board man (8.4 pg) while veteran Tim Duncan missed 15 games and chunks of others just so he'll be sharp come the playoffs. Hats off to Kawhi Leonard (team-leading 20.2 ppg) who should be getting lots of third- and fourth-place MVP votes this year behind Curry and Cleveland's LeBron James. The Spurs streaked to the break having won their last six straight.
OKLAHOMA CITY (40-14) - It's like the good old days back in OKC where tag-team tandem F Kevin Durant (27.7 ppg) and PG Russell Westbrook (24.1 ppg and 10 apg) has the Thunder back on the hoops map but what's really making a big difference here is a supporting cast that has Okie City sitting with the league's second-best scoring offense (110.1 ppg) as C Enes Kanter has been a big boost and the bench has been better than expected. Maybe Oklahoma City gets a bit lost in the shuffle here with Golden State/San Antonio stealing the show but three cheers for first-year coach Billy Donovan for making a smooth transition to the pros.
PORTLAND (27-27) - Maybe the Trail Blazers went into this season with lower-than-usual expectations based on losing the aforementioned LaMarcus Aldridge to free agency and thus the .500 mark ain't all that bad and how about the fact that C.J. McCollum (20.7 ppg) has played a neat "Robin" to Damian Lillard's "Batman" (see 24.3 ppg)?
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (35-18) - Gotta admit it's tough to put a grade on this Clips' club that has managed to navigate through some dysfunctional times (see the whole Blake Griffin punching incident/injury) because on one hand head coach Doc Rivers has done a wonderful job keeping things cool but the flip side says there's too much reliance on the backcourt to carry the water (see PG Chris Paul and his 19.3 ppg average) and LAC's lost a few games that simply slipped through their hands.
UTAH (26-26) - The fact that the Jazz dashed to the All-Star Game with eight wins in its last 10 games elevated the Jim Sez grade here (up from a likely "C") and gotta admit we like the gumption/moxie this young team plays with as leading scorer Gordon Hayward (19.9 ppg) and Rodney Hood can handle late-game heat. Throw in the fact Utah's third in the league in scoring defense (96.4 ppg) and the arrow's pointing up.
DALLAS (29-26) - Sometimes the Mavericks are a really disjointed bunch (see four losses in their last five games heading into the All-Star Game break) that still relies too much on old man Dirk Nowitzki (team-leading 17.6 ppg) and truth is we hoped for better from PG Deron Williams (just 5.4 apg).
MEMPHIS (31-22) - Don't know about you, but we were expecting more from the Grizzlies the first 50-plus games and now with C Marc Gasol (16.6 ppg) out for the next few weeks with a broken foot it could get worse. Shouldn't this team be better than 19th in the league in scoring offense?
SACRAMENTO (22-31) - The Kings have been your modern-day reality show (and, like all reality TV shows, it isn't very good!) and whether or not they ax head coach George Karl or not probably means nothing. The bottom line is C DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins (26.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg) must want to make his teammates better and there's simply too many no-shows on this Kings' cast.
DENVER (22-32) - Folks, this is right around where we would have had the Nuggets at season's start as there is generally a real lack of star power on this team (only 15th in the league in scoring) and lately losing close games has been a major bugaboo.
HOUSTON (27-28) -- No way in the world this talent-stocked team should be under .500 at the All-Star Game break but all the chemistry issues involving (mostly) Dwight Howard has made this team a mess. Guard James Harden pumps in his 28 ppg but there is no fear of losing on this squad and we still don't know why head coach Kevin McHale was fired early on.
MINNESOTA (17-37) - Egads, there's All-Americans all 'round this roster and yet the Timberwolves are 20 games below .500. Nothing like having likely back-to-back Rookie of the Year award winners on your teams in Andrew Wiggins (20.8 ppg) and Karl-Anthony Towns (17.1 ppg and 10.1 rpg) and having nothing to show for it!
NEW ORLEANS (20-33) - It's a been a bummer season for the Pelicans who may have one of the sport's biggest stars in Anthony Davis (23.4 ppg and 10 rpg) but not much else ... and 6-21 on the road, c'mon!
PHOENIX (14-40) - When you have nothing good to say about someone, you say nothing!
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (11-44) - Gee, we really wish Kobe Bryant would have called it quits before this season ever started!
SUNDAY'S COLLEGE B-BALL MENU
Hey, it's the first non-Football Sunday in months and so we know - especially those of you basically trapped inside by the frigid weather - you're looking for some Valentine's Day college hoops to keep you busy.
Here's what is on the Sunday menu:
INDIANA (20-5, 10-2 Big 10) at #8 MICHIGAN STATE (20-5, 7-5 Big 10) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Things are heating up in the Big 10 - yes, a league that should net as many as eight NCAA Tournament bids next month - and here come the Indiana Hoosiers who may not have a ranking next to their name but Tom Crean's club does own a 15-2 SU (straight-up) mark since early December and now they're even winning games when star G Yogi Ferrell doesn't take charge. Ferrell's eight free throws took away from a 2-of-12 FG night in Thursday's high-profile 85-78 home win against 3-point dog Iowa and the senior lead-guard must stir up things in East Lansing where Tom Izzo's club is a far-from-robust 3-2 SU against Big 10 teams this year (see home losses versus Iowa and Nebraska). Is it too much storybook stuff to believe Sparty's Denzel Valentine (19 ppg) will be the star of this show on his namesake day?
No doubt we'll also be keeping our eye on some other key TV tilts on this second Sunday in February as #23 USC will tangle with host #17 Arizona and don't sleep on the final game of this night - that's UCLA at Arizona State where both teams are on the outside looking in at a NCAA Tourney bid unless either one can get hot, hot, hot.
NOTE: Lots of College Hoops action in the next edition of Jim Sez.