HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Cleveland Cavaliers: A Team on the Rise
By Richard Hardy
As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. For a small-market team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, that saying rings especially true after the city’s Pope-like figure LeBron James “decided” to abandon the team in the summer of 2010.
“When you lose a player like LeBron James, normally that will cripple a franchise for a while,” Cleveland Cavaliers forward Luke Walton told HOOPSWORLD. “Cleveland has done an unbelievable job of getting good young players and sticking with a very solid coaching crew. As an organization, we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”
Fast forward three years and this young Cavaliers team has slowly begun to build a roster full of potential stars, hoping to reap the same sort of success that the James-led Cavaliers were able to accomplish.
“You can take a lot of positives away from the last couple years,” Cavaliers forward C.J. Miles said. “We obviously want to win more games and not have to be looking at incorporating rookies every year, but if that’s the situation that you’re in, you have to try and build that way. Between Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters, those are four great young talents. We’re a team that is definitely on the right path.”
Is Perkins The Key To A Title In OKC?
By Steve Kyler
There is no doubting that Kevin Durant is the most important piece of the Oklahoma City Thunder puzzle followed closely by Russell Westbrook, but the player that never gets the respect he’s due is arguably the most important cog in the inner workings of the Thunder machine: Kendrick Perkins.
Perkins’ value to the Thunder is rarely reflected in the box score, but it’s his ability to be the mentor and leader that’s made him invaluable to the Thunder, so much so that Thunder big man Hasheem Thabeet and rookie Perry Jones III share the lockers to the right and left of the Thunder’s passionate big man.
Perkins caught up with HOOPSWORLD, and says this year’s Thunder team is a little more prepared for the postseason and a chance to get back to the NBA Finals.
Can The Bulls Defeat Pacers in the Playoffs?
By Joel Brigham
This is probably all moot. With the Miami HEAT staring history in the face with their win streak that just won’t end, what’s the point of debating whether the Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls are truer contenders in the Eastern Conference? The upstart Pacers have made huge strides this season and look like the next big up-and-comer in the East, and the Bulls are always well-coached and work incredibly hard, even without Derrick Rose, but does either have a prayer of beating the HEAT in a seven-game series?
Despite that, with the playoffs only a few weeks away, it’s time to start talking about which teams are true contenders in each conference, and the Bulls and Pacers are unquestionably two of the more notable teams in the East outside of South Beach. So should something happen to LeBron James, we’ll immediately turn to these two teams as possibilities for the NBA Finals.
That’s what makes this debate worth having. With that said, who’s the more serious contender this upcoming postseason: Indiana or Chicago?
Who Represents New York in NBA Playoffs?
By Tommy Beer
The New York Knickerbockers were established in 1946, one of the founding members of the BBA, which eventually became the NBA. The Nets franchise joined the NBA in 1976. These two teams have been in the same division since. However, in the 37 years both the Knicks and the Nets have been rivals in the Atlantic Division, they have never finished in first and second place in the same season. That may very well change this year. The Knicks and the Nets are currently sitting in first and second respectively, with just over three weeks left in the 2012-13 campaign.
Yet, the question we are asking today is: Once the postseason begins, which one of these two cross-river rivals has a better chance to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs?
Home Court Advantage No Guarantee for Clippers
By Derek Page
In the midst of easily the most decorated season in franchise history, the Los Angeles Clippers have stumbled so far in the month of March. There’s little doubt that closing out the first 50-win season and winning the first division title in franchise history have been important to the resurgence and indicative of the turnaround of the Clippers. Now, needing just two wins to get to 50 on the season and having already ran away with the Pacific Division, playing the right way come playoff time trumps either of those goals.
“Even more than seeding for us, it’s about playing great at the right time,” Sixth man Jamal Crawford told HOOPSWORLD. “Gaining momentum going into the playoffs and feeling good about what you’re doing. We feel like if we’re playing good, playing the right way and feeling good about what we’re doing, we like our chances against anybody.”
Despite featuring the sixth-best home record in the NBA this season at 28-8, the Clippers believe peaking down the stretch will propel them no matter what arena they’re playing in come playoff time.
Mavericks Make Push for 8th Seed
By Alex Kennedy
Dallas was trailing the West’s eighth seed by almost 10 games and they had the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the playoff hunt. ESPN’s Hollinger Playoff Odds, which simulates a team’s final stretch 5,000 times and projects the most likely outcome, gave Dallas less than a five percent chance of qualifying for the postseason. It seemed that the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz would battle for the eighth seed while the Mavericks’ streak of 12 consecutive playoff berths would come to an end.
However, Dallas refused to accept they were lottery-bound and fought their way back into the mix in the West. The Lakers and Jazz have struggled recently, with neither team running away with the conference’s final playoff spot. That opened the door for the Mavs, the hottest of the three teams. Now, Dallas is just one game behind the Lakers for the eighth seed, and they’ll play L.A. on April 2.
The Lakers’ Ultimate Undoing
By Yannis Koutroupis
The Los Angeles Lakers have had more than their fair share of issues this season, from having two changes at head coach, their longtime owner Jerry Buss pass away and chemistry issues amongst their stars, but it looks like what is going to be their ultimate undoing this season is something that can derail even the best of teams: injuries.
The Lakers have only had their full roster available for one game this season. It started out with starting point guard Steve Nash missing the two months at the beginning of the season with a fractured leg. Then, shortly after his return, Jordan Hill was lost for the year with a hip injury. After Hill went down, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were in and out of the lineup with various minor injuries of their own.
In early February Gasol suffered a major injury, a torn plantar fascia that kept him out for just over six weeks. Just prior to his return Kobe Bryant went down with a severely sprained ankle, but there was finally some hope that when he and Gasol returned the team could potentially salvage this season, make a strong final push and go into the playoffs as a team to fear.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the injuries have only continued to pile up.
Can The Hawks Threaten The HEAT In Playoffs?
By Lang Greene
The end of the regular season is near and the beginning of playoffs loom on the horizon with only five spots left to be clinched. It’s also the time of year to start evaluating who are the true contenders, which teams are legit sleeper candidates and identify what squads are the pretenders in the field.
In the Eastern Conference, Miami HEAT are the presumptive favorites to make a third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals and win their second straight title. The HEAT’s recent 27 game winning streak put the league on notice and most believe the only threat in the East to their march toward another crown is the Indiana Pacers.
However, is there another team in the conference who can derail Miami’s quest to repeat?
Today we’ll evaluate whether a sleeper team like the Atlanta Hawks could pull off a monumental upset like the 2007 Golden State Warriors or the 1994 Denver Nuggets who both toppled a highly favored top seed.
In the NBA playoffs, top tier teams have faltered to unheralded squads under the bright lights, the question is can the Hawks add their name to the short list?
Paul George Ready to Lead Pacers
By Bill Ingram
The Indiana Pacers were expecting to have a big lift as they traveled to Dallas to play the Mavericks on Thursday night. The highly-anticipated return of Danny Granger was slated to happen, but instead, shortly before game time, it was announced that rather than returning Granger would be undergoing season-ending knee surgery.
“It’s tough to hear, especially when we know how Danny’s been battling it all year long and trying to get back healthy and back to 100 percent,” Pacers forward Paul George told HOOPSWORLD. “It’s tough. We all know where he’s at mentally as far as wanting to play. You definitely want to play. For us to be doing so well and having the year that we’re having, of course you want to be part of that. Of course you want to be a part of that and be on the court. Not that he’s not a part of it now, but there’s really so much that Danny brings that we really could have used come playoff time.”
Granger has already missed all but five games of the 2012-13 season, and his absence has been sorely felt by George, his replacement in the starting lineup.
“Well, since I’ve been on this team, even going back to when I was working out, Danny was the first guy I met and was a role model to be around, even around my draft process,” George said. “He’s been a big brother to me, he’s been a mentor, he’s always encouraging me, teaching me the ins and outs in the whole game. On offense, how to get to certain spots, just how to create and be a professional.”
For his part, George has flourished in his new role with the team. He’s putting up career-best across the board, averaging 17.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game and was even on the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston last month.