HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Are the Knicks Back on Track?
By Tommy Beer
When the Knicks left for London earlier this week, they boarded the plane as losers of eight of their previous 14 games. After a stupendous start to the 2012-13 campaign – New York’s record stood at 18-5 in mid-December – the Knicks had stumbled toward the back in the Atlantic Division.
However, the Knickerbockers responded with a solid effort against a flat Pistons team, racking up a much needed 102-87 victory on Thursday. Nonetheless, the Knicks have been mediocre, at best, of late. Due to a number of reasons, they have played sub-.500 basketball for the better part of a month. Over the last five weeks, the Knicks have beaten only two teams with winning records (Brooklyn and San Antonio).
At the core of New York’s recent struggles has been a regression defensively. The Knicks started out the season following the edict head coach Mike Woodson had been preaching since the start of training camp: The Knicks would need to be an elite defensive team if they wanted to be considered legit contenders. New York held their first three opponents below 90 points (the last NBA team to accomplish that feat was Mike Woodson’s 2008 Atlanta Hawks). The Knicks also became the first team in league history, during the shot clock era, to hold its opponents to 40 points or less in the second half in each of their first five games. And NY became just the third team in NBA history to win their first five games of a season, all by double-digit margins.
Alvin Gentry, Phoenix Suns Part Ways
Alvin Gentry is out as head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
According to a team release, he and the organization “have mutually agreed to part ways after his five-plus seasons.” Gentry originally landed the job as an interim coach in February of 2009 when he replaced Terry Porter. He compiled a 158-144 record during his tenure with the Suns, but Gentry previously coached the Miami HEAT, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers.
NBA Rookie Watch: January 15th
By Stephen Brotherston
While other rookies deal with the speed of the game, shooting slumps, injuries and coach’s agendas not consistent with winning awards, one rookie continues to impress week-after-week. Damian Lillard was supposed to be a decent scoring point guard, but the Trail Blazers have themselves a floor general playing well beyond his rookie status.
The season is young and early successes or setbacks are unlikely to be remembered in April. There is still plenty of time for the rookies to emerge, re-emerge or disappear from our top five.
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Charlotte Bobcats: 10.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.8 steals, 1.2 blocks
January has been rough on the Bobcats’ rookie. He missed the last game of December due to a scratched cornea and the month just has not gotten off to a good start. Kidd-Gilchrist was a stat stuffer with decent scoring, rebounding and better than a steal and a block per game in November, but as the season has progressed, the stat stuffing has tailed off.
So far in January, Kidd-Gilchrist is averaging 9.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks and is shooting below 40 percent from the field. Part of the problem is defenses have adjusted to Kidd-Gilchrist’s game around the rim and he has been leading the NBA in the percentage of shots being blocked. On the defensive end, he isn’t surprising anyone anymore.
The Bobcats have lost 22 of their last 24 games and it isn’t going to get any easier from here.
Greg Oden Drawing NBA Interest
By Yannis Koutroupis
Former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, the number one overall pick in the 2007, has not played in the NBA since 2010 due to a variety of serious knee injuries. He should be six seasons into his career by now, but unfortunately those injuries have robbed Oden of all but 82 games. However, a comeback could be in store for the big man who was once viewed as a lock for greatness after a dominant high school career and an impressive freshman season at Ohio State that included a run to the national championship game.
The plan has been for Oden to miss this season and try to catch on with a team this summer if he is 100 percent healthy. A market is already starting to form for him and amongst the teams interested is the Boston Celtics.
As Ainge alluded to, the Celtics are not alone in their interest in Oden. Oden isn’t a former top pick without reason; he was once full of potential with the tools to be a high-caliber center in a league where true big man play is sorely lacking.
The Best Offseason Moves
By Alex Kennedy
Now that the 2012-13 NBA season is nearing the halfway point, we’ve had enough time to see which offseason moves have panned out and which ones have failed. This was a busy offseason that featured plenty of big trades and notable free agent signings. There were also a number of coaches and executives who found new jobs. Here are the offseason moves that have looked the best so far.
Best Trade Acquisition: James Harden
Entering the season, the Rockets were projected to be one of the worst teams in the Western Conference. They had stockpiled young players and draft picks in an attempt to acquire Dwight Howard, but failed to land their primary target. However, the trade that they made just before the start of the season was even better. Rather than bringing in Howard as a rental, they acquired Harden and signed him to a five-year deal. For years, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had been trying to land a star player and now he finally has the centerpiece that he wanted.
Could Lakers Lose Dwight Howard?
Howard And The Lakers: Orlando fans can stop me if they have heard this one before; Dwight Howard might leave his team high and dry in free agency.
Lakers center Dwight Howard, fresh off a monster 31 point, 16 rebound and four block drubbing of the Milwaukee Bucks last night, has been battling injuries and has been trying to get himself right physically for most of the season; but, as Howard tries to get right physically more and more people in and around the Lakers say he is unhappy with his situation and there is growing doubt about his stated commitment to the Lakers, not only externally but internally.
The Lakers have said repeatedly that they are not worried about losing Howard to unrestricted free agency and that they have talked to Howard and his representatives enough to believe they have the advantage on keeping him long-term via a new contract in July.