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HOOPSWORLD Week In Review
Posted By Kyle Cape-Lindelin On April 21, 2013 @ 5:00 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Rise of Larry Sanders in Milwaukee
By Alex Kennedy
Entering the 2012-13 season, Larry Sanders was buried on the Milwaukee Bucks’ depth chart. He opened the season on the bench, competing for minutes against Samuel Dalembert, Ersan Ilyasova, Ekpe Udoh, John Henson and Joel Przybilla among others.
The following week, the 24-year-old earned the starting center job and he has been great ever since. In fact, Sanders has been so good that he’s in the running for Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player. Since becoming a starter, Sanders has averaged 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
Can Anyone Beat the HEAT?
By Joel Brigham
So here’s a ridiculous question: Is there any Eastern Conference team with even a smidgen of a shot at upsetting the Miami HEAT in a seven-game series?
The short and easy answer to that question is, “What, are you kidding?” We spent over a quarter of the regular season wondering if there was a team in the league with the ability to beat Miami even once to snap their streak, let alone four times out of seven to win a playoff series. They are so, so much better than the rest of the conference that to have this argument with a straight face is almost as challenging as watching “Splash” with anything but comedic intrigue.
Here’s a little something to put this all into perspective: the HEAT are such major Vegas favorites to win the conference that you’d have to bet $100 to win only $16, while the second-best odds in the conference are for the New York Knicks, who would net you $600 for every $100 bet. Indiana and Chicago, the next couple of teams on the list, are at 13/1 odds, which proves just how great the gap is between Miami and the rest of the conference.
NBA Coaches, Executives On The Way Out
By Eric Pincus
The regular season has come to an end, which is usually followed by a rash of changes among the coaching ranks. Even a number of executives get caught in the crossfire as teams look to go in a different direction.
On Thursday morning, Doug Collins became the first head coach to be out of a job when it was announced that he was resigning from the Philadelphia 76ers job. Byron Scott was the second coach to lose his job when the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that he had been fired. Several hours later, the Detroit Pistons decided to fire Lawrence Frank.
Here are some other coaches and executives who may be looking for work soon.
5 “X-Factors” for Knicks’ Postseason Success
By Tommy Beer
We know what to expect from Carmelo Anthony – the NBA’s newest scoring champ. Anthony is the clear focal point of New York’s offensive attack, and his importance is obvious to even the most causal observer.
However, there are a number of other more subtle factors that will have an enormous impact on New York’s ability to beat the Boston Celtics and advance to the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs and beyond.
Outlined below are five “x-factors” that could determine the fate of the Knicks in this year’s postseason.
Frustrating Season in Philadelphia
By Lang Greene
Entering the season, the Philadelphia 76ers were thought to be a team who could make some noise in the Eastern Conference. The belief was fueled by the acquisition of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum and the team’s performance during last year’s playoffs, where the club finished just one win away from a Conference Finals trip.
But things took a turn for the worst in 2013 as the Sixers never received any contribution from Bynum and were forced to watch traded former players Andre Iguodala and Nikola Vucevic thrive in Denver and Orlando, respectively.
The Sixers (34-48) finished the campaign ninth in the conference and missed the playoffs for just the second time in the last six seasons. In the aftermath, head coach Doug Collins opted to resign and take a consultant role with the franchise and the club has begun preparing for the summer, where they’re also expected to re-sign Bynum in free agency.
Forward Thaddeus Young set career-highs in points (14.8), rebounds (7.5), steals (1.8) and assists (1.6) this season but despite the individual success the veteran is frustrated by the lack of a playoff berth from a roster with so much promise.
Thunder Celebrates 60-Win Season
By Susan Bible
The Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2012-13 regular season will undoubtedly beam brighter among previous stand-out seasons.
Despite the naysayers who thought losing James Harden would result in the franchise taking a step backwards, the opposite happened. A quick glance at the team’s numbers reveals improvement in nearly every meaningful statistical category, not to mention an improved offensive rating (ranked first in the league) and defensive rating (fourth in the league). They have captured the Northwest Division title for the third season in a row. Even better, they clinched the number one seed going into the Western Conference playoffs.
Forget all of those things for now.
The Thunder franchise is celebrating a feat few NBA teams ever achieve: a 60-win season. That number may rise to 61 depending on the outcome of their final regular season game this week.
“To get 60 games, it’s quite an accomplishment,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “You go into the season, you set some goals. We’re like all the other teams in this league. We want to strive for excellence.
“Not a lot of teams do it,” he added. “We’ve come a long ways through all the hard work our entire organization has put in.”
Brooks is right about that. A 60-win season is not common in this league. It’s a mark of excellence in an 82-game NBA season. Setting aside the 2011-12 shortened season, it’s only happened 18 times in the past dozen years. Considering a total of 30 teams (as of 2004) are vying for the top record every season, it’s clear the task to reach 60 wins is not only special, it’s difficult.
Where Do the Mavericks Go From Here?
By Derek Page
After striking out in the Deron Williams/Dwight Howard sweepstakes this past summer, the Dallas Mavericks rallied to put together a makeshift, playoff-hopeful heading into the season. Things didn’t quite go as planned in Dallas as Dirk Nowitzki missed a chunk of the season after preseason knee surgery and the Mavs couldn’t get back on track. The thrown-together roster failed to gain any cohesion over the course of the year and played selfish, me-first basketball – exactly what you would expect from a team featuring so many players on one-year deals.
Dallas started the season 25-32 with Nowitzki on the shelf and subsequently playing his way back into game shape before going on a tear to start the month of March. Dallas has gone 15-9 since March 1 but struggled in the month of April, going just 4-4 down the stretch to miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
If Nowitzki suits up for the majority of the year, this Mavs team likely makes the postseason but that doesn’t solve the many underlying problems for Dallas. Defense and rebounding – two keys to the Mavericks’ NBA Title in 2011 – were nonexistent this season and are areas of concern heading into the offseason.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Next Star
By Yannis Koutroupis
As the Los Angeles Lakers get set to play for their season on Wednesday night against the Houston Rockets, their front office’s focus is much further down the line. When this $100 million, star-laden team was put together this offseason, it was like a dream becoming a reality, on par with when the Miami HEAT were able to add LeBron James and Chris Bosh alongside Dwyane Wade two years ago. While the HEAT are still living the dream, this season has been nothing short of nightmarish for the Lakers.
All season long they’ve battled coaching, chemistry and injury issues. Every time it seemed like they were going to turn the corner, they suffered another setback. Last week, their already unlikely championship hopes received a knockout punch as Kobe Bryant, who had been playing at as high of a level as ever this season, tore his left Achilles on a routine move. As Bryant went down, the Lakers’ small championship hopes dwindled into nothing and the front office’s approach has shifted as a result.
This team was always thought to have a two-year window. But, with Bryant out the next 6-9 months, they basically have to move forward as if that window has closed. There’s no telling what Bryant is going to be able to give them next season or if he’ll ever be the same.
Can Rockets Threaten Thunder in Playoffs?
By Bill Ingram
The Houston Rockets drew the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. Normally the eighth seed is expected to roll over for the one seed, but in the case of the Rockets and Thunder, you can expect a dogfight with plenty of extra drama thrown in.
First and foremost, these two teams made a trade right before the season started that seems to have helped Houston more than it did the Thunder. The one thing the Rockets lacked was a legit superstar to carry the load, and James Harden turned into that kind of player seemingly overnight. He leads the Rockets is scoring and is widely considered the third-best shooting guard in the league behind Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. The Thunder got some nice pieces in return, but they have struggled to find consistent offense off the bench to replace Harden’s production in the sixth-man role.
With that in mind, we take a look at what will be a very competitive first round match-up.
Bulls Confident About Playoffs
By Steve Kyler
While the media and fans have focused on the status of Bulls guard Derrick Rose and when he will return to action for the Bulls, inside the locker room the player’s focus hasn’t been on their sidelined MVP. Their focus has been on finally getting healthy and sharp going into this weekend’s matchup against Brooklyn.
“You know we’ve had a lot of adversity and a lot of injuries,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said to HOOPSWORLD. “I think the fact that we’re able to come back and be healthy, that’s one step, and then the next step is getting sharp and getting our conditioning right, getting our timing together; unfortunately, we probably won’t be at one hundred percent, but at the end of the day, we’re a team of fighters and let’s see what happens.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau openly questions how sharp his team is going to be due to all of the missed games, but his players are not nearly as concerned.
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