Nothing But Ten In The NBA: January 27th, 2010

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Nothing But Ten In The NBA: January 27th, 2010

The Cavs swept their season series with the Lakers, but LeBron says it doesn’t mean anything. Is he being coy or does he actually get it this time?

There hasn’t been much of a change in the Top 10—for me—since we last talked about this, but there are some interesting subplots brewing in the NBA.

The Suns and Rockets have gone on MONSTER slumps since our last edition and that means there is a place for the Jazz, Spurs, and the Grizzlies. I know it’s complicated, but I can make 11 teams into 10…I promise.

Let’s work our way up from the bottom.

10. San Antonio/Memphis: Memphis Is Boxing Out The Spurs

This could get a bit confusing, but for me it’s simple. The Spurs aren’t living up to preseason expectations.

They brought in Richard Jefferson while Manu Ginobli and Tim Duncan got healthy. Well, they got healthy, but they don’t crack 40 minutes a night.

Plus, Richard Jefferson is a nice piece, but I think everyone in San Antonio thought he would save them. Richard Jefferson is not a savior.

Richard Jefferson plays great with other great players, but he doesn’t LEAD those great players(as seen above). Tim Duncan still has to lead, but when he’s spending 15-20 minutes a night on the bench that’s kind of hard.

Manu’s legs are starting to leave him and Tony Parker can only play the “token European with a good inside move” for so long.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have a worse record than the Spurs, but they are much hotter. At 23-19 the Grizzlies are poised to scare some teams after the All-Star Break.

Based purely on the math I had to put the Spurs at #10, but I can feel a tug at me to put the Grizzlies here. They have the Lakers, Cavs, Spurs, and Magic in 4 of their next 6 games. They can prove a lot. Let’s hope they can handle the pressure.

9. Portland Trailblazers: Young Talent That Must Stay Strong

It appears that the Blazers are doing fine without Greg Oden–and the only way he could make waves was by taking unflattering pictures of himself on his phone.

Jerryd Bayless is slowly coming into his own with 18, 12, and 12 points in his last 3 games on limited minutes. He’s not the answer today, but he is the answer for the future.

With Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge leading the charge and Joel Przybilla mopping up the glass the Blazers have a really nice team on their hands.

Unfortunately, if the playoffs ended today the Blazers would be the 5 seed and they would have to play Utah who they trail in their own division. It seems like Portland is sitting tight while Utah is “upwardly mobile”.

Something’s got to give and it will either be the Jazz or the Blazers in the middle of the Western Conference. The problem is that right now I’d bet on the Blazers to back off. Nobody is playing Deron Williams’ part for Portland—and that’s making all the difference right now.

8. Utah Jazz: Inching Closer To The Nuggets And Celtics

The Jazz are bolstering their midseason charge by winning 3-in-a-row and 8 of their last 10. This is mainly due to Deron Williams.

Williams is playing more minutes than anyone on the team and their second leading scorer along with dishing almost 10 dimes a game. I’m not saying Deron Williams is the best player in the league, but I am saying that he the most valuable to his team right now besides LeBron.

Without Deron Williams where is Carlos Boozer going to get the ball from? Where will AK-47 get a kick-out for a long 3? Where will Mehmet Okur get those same kick-outs for HIS long 3’s?

The Jazz are stacked with relatively young talent. The signing of Sundiata Gaines simply adds to the young nucleus, but Deron Williams is the straw that stirs this young drink.

I see no reason why they won’t catch up to Denver in the Northwest.

7. Denver Nuggets: I Don’t Trust Them

The Nuggets are 30-14 so I can’t say they stink. In fact, it would irresponsible of me to say they are anything but very, very good.

Melo is leading the league in scoring at 29.7 points a game. Chauncey Billups is running a tight ship that provides Carmelo with those 30 points a night. Nene, Chris “The Birdman” Andersen and Kenyon Martin mop up the glass, and Ty Lawson is learning to be the new “CP3” from Chauncey.

There isn’t any way you can say that the nuggets will stumble. They are #2 in the West and don’t really look to budge. But…

George Karl is their coach and I have a problem with George Karl like I have a problem with Norv Turner.

George Karl doesn’t seem like the most inspiring guy on the sideline. He looks uninterested most of the time, and I wonder if the Nuggets enjoy playing for him.

You can praise him to the sky for being a great “basketball mind”, but it never bears any fruit. Plus…

They’ve got all these angry guys on their team (Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen) and I’m wondering when there will be a “Latrell Spreewell-type” incident in Denver. I can just taste it.

When Spree tried to choke out P.J. Carlesimo?  We would have all agreed that P.J. was a good coach, but he probably wasn’t the most inspiring guy.  Sound familiar?

The Nuggets will only fail because of George Karl…it will NOT be the player’s fault. Put someone like Del Harris in there and we’ve got a winner.

Del would respect the players, be “in to” the games, and find a way to beat the Lakers. He just would.

I don’t want the Lakers to lose, but Del Harris in Denver would be nice…

6. Boston Celtics: Falling Back To The Jazz

The Celtics are old as dirt, but they’re still here!

However, they are still making a slight fall backwards into the arms of the Jazz. As the Jazz surge the Celtics search for their way.

They’ve gone 5-5 in their last 10, but that only holds .500. The Celtics need to stay close to the Cavs all season and .500 ain’t doing it.

Paul Pierce is scoring about 19 a night, and Ray Allen/KG are giving another 30 combined. The “Three Amigos” are not scoring 60-70 points combined anymore.

They’ve got to give the team over to Rajon Rondo completely if they want to stop this very slow downward spiral. Rondo is capable of scoring 20, dishing 15, and getting a couple steals if they’ll let him.

Every little inch they give away only translates to less momentum going into the playoffs.

This time they won’t be so lucky to get a “happy to be there” Bulls team. They’d get the Bobcats if the playoffs started today.

Do you think Larry Brown would “let them of the hook”? No, me neither.

5. Orlando Magic: Have They Lost That Magic Feeling?

The Magic have fallen a game behind the Hawks in the Southeast Division.

I know it’s only a game, but this is the team that stunned the Cavs last season. You would think that the Hawks have no business jumping them in the standings.

Well, you see, they let Hedo go and traded the Courtney Lee-Rafer Alston-Tony Battie trio to get Vince Carter.

They don’t have a Jamal Crawford-type coming off the bench to fix all their problems. Last season Hedo was doing that from the “Point Forward” position, remember?

Without Hedo they are left to lean on Jameer Nelson and pray that Vince Carter stays consistent.

Vince is putting up 16 and Dwight Howard is scoring 17 a night. Somebody needs to take control! If Dwight is taking the “offense” to the paint then he should be scoring like Shaq used to when he was younger.

If Vince is taking all the “offense” from the outside then he should be scoring like a Kobe or a LeBron.

Stan Van needs to decide quick before they lose more ground to the Hawks and end up losing to the Heat in the 1st Round.

4. Dallas Mavericks: I Don’t Trust Them, But Dirk Is On Fire

I’ll keep this simple. The Mavs are hot, but they have never delivered on “hotness” since Mark Cuban bought the team and fixed it.

They’re #3 in the West and playing great. Dirk is great. Jason Terry is great. Jason Kidd is great. Josh Howard is great. But…

I hate to say this because I like this guy. Rick Carlisle is the “Hall of Fame” Offensive Coordinator that I keep saying Norv Turner is.

Rick Carlisle did an amazing job being the “offensive coordinator” for Larry Bird and the Pacers back in the late 90’s. I mean, they got to the Finals with his offense. The problem is that he isn’t the best head coach.

He isn’t horrible, but Rick can’t take a team “over the top”.  Avery Johnson took the Mavs to the Finals. Rick Carlisle isn’t Avery Johnson…

3. Atlanta Hawks: Learning How To Win

The Hawks jumped the Magic in in the Southeast Division and they are playing “lights out” basketball, but they’ve got a showdown with the Celtics on the 29th.

Because they are currently ½ game behind the Celtics in the East it’s conceivable that the Hawks could be the #2 team in the East by the end of the night on Friday.

The Hawks are learning on a nightly basis how to control their own destiny in the NBA, IT was only a few years ago that they were lucky to be the #8 seed.

Now they are “this close” to besting the Celtics for #2 in the East. We would have all laughed at this idea just a couple years ago.

Now we’re not laughing. The Hawks are young and the Celts are old. One thing is coming and one thing is going. Next season it won’t even be THIS close.

The best part of this situation is that Jamal Crawford has YET to start a game. As far as I’m concerned I was right about J.C. coming off the bench.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: Bynum Needs More Time

Andrew Bynum is getting 32 minutes a night and scoring 16 points. That just isn’t enough. I’ve watched him START games with a nice little move inside or a cute “baby skyhook”, but that’s not translating for the rest of the game.

Kobe has given up a lot of the offense to Bynum to further the Lakers’ chances of repeating. However, other guys on the Lakers need to be going to Bynum as well.

It’s hard when you have Odom, Gasol, and Bynum, but Bynum is the future. He can be slowly nurtured by Gasol–who can live without some points–into the “big man” he needs to be.

To be fair, Gasol is an AMAZING player, but Bynum is still supposed to be the future. He is also the thing that will keep teams from beating the Lakers 4 out of 7 games.

Everyone keeps saying that no one can beat the Lakers that many times in a series. I understand their logic, but I get nervous when I see no growth “on paper” from Bynum.

Kobe is still nearly leading the league in scoring, but if he goes on too long like this the playoffs will be rough.

This is a warning: Be careful Lakers…

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t In June

The Cavs swept their season series with the Lakers last week and LeBron James admitted that that means almost nothing.

The Cavs are playing great basketball, but the loss of Mo Williams for 4-6 weeks isn’t going to help.

Coach Mike Brown even said they are “force-feeding” Shaq the ball. This also means Shaq’s ego is multiplying daily.

I will respect the Cavs’ game, but I will stay “on message”.

Shaq will ruin this team if you let him. LeBron has a good head on his shoulders, but Shaq is an ego-maniac.

LeBron knows they probably have no chance of beating the Lakers 4 out of 7 times in the Finals. Why? It’s just their luck.

The Cavs look more and more like the Braves of basketball every time they destroy someone.

From 1991-2005 the Braves won: 94, 98, 104, 90, 96, 101, 106, 103, 95, 88, 101, 96, and 90 games not counting the ‘94 strike season. That’s 1262 games!

They only have one World Series Title to show for it. Anyone see the comparison there? It’s a little eerie if you asked me.

Just a warning: LeBron is right.  This means nothing without 4 wins in June.

If the Jazz and Hawks keep pushing we’re going to have some major shake-ups at the Top of the NBA.  Plus, the harder those teams push up the more other teams are pushed down.

The Magic, Celtics, Blazers, and Spurs need to be careful or they’ll find themselves on the outside looking in.

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