Around the League

Will the new Spurs pack the same old punch?

I’ve been to San Antonio a couple of times in the past 10 days and have seen signs of the Spurs gelling.  I believe they will be a threat that opponents won’t want to face in the playoffs.  Matt Bonner and Michael Finley are both close to returning, which will put the team at full-strength for the first time this season.  And Roger Mason, George Hill and DeJuan Blair have progressed more quickly than expected because they’ve logged a lot of minutes filling in for some of the injured stars.

But beyond Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker it’s a whole new squad that hasn’t gone through the battles that made the Spurs arguably the team of the last decade. And I think we saw that evidenced when Dallas scored 42 in the fourth quarter to cap a comeback victory in San Antonio last week.  That wouldn’t have happened to a Duncan-led defense of a few years ago.

So while the Spurs are 10-3 in their last 13 and only a game behind the Mavs in the loss column, we’ll need to see them win a few tough ones down the stretch before we can begin to answer the only question that matters to Pop and the old guard: Are the new Spurs ready to win a championship?

Kicking it up a notch

Dirk Nowitzki is playing at another level this year and when it comes time for winning, he’s willing the Mavericks to victory. In San Antonio last week Dirk was off for most of the game but became the best player on the floor in the fourth — scoring 16 of his 26 points, hitting two big 3s and leading his team to an improbable comeback victory over the Spurs.

He produced his 11th double-double of the season in the previous win at Detroit — and in Saturday’s loss to the Jazz Dirk scored 29 while Jason Kidd put up 19.  I love the addition of Shawn Marion and how the team looks with Dirk at the 5. They’re a tough team to match up against.

Gauging the East

When we talk about the Celtics we usually begin with a remark about The Big Three. But Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo have had as much to do with the team’s success as anyone. Rondo is one of the top two-way guards in the East right now and he affects the outcome of games on both sides of the court. Thursday we saw him hit a buzzer-beater in Miami to take Boston to OT for the win and then cap off the week with a triple-double in Toronto.

The X factor in Boston is Rasheed Wallace, who had his best game as a Celtic with 29 points against the Raptors. With the uncertainty of KG’s knee (he missed his fifth straight game) the Celtics need Wallace to stay fully engaged in the regular season and give them important minutes, especially on the inside.  He’s one of the smartest players in the league and can do damage passing or scoring from the block.

The Hawks broke their losing streak with wins over the Celtics and the Nets before dropping one to the Magic, who’ve lost four of five, in addition to their leading scorer Vince Carter — who suffered a shoulder injury against the Wizards.  Orlando is one of the deeper teams in the league, but it may take a little more time for Stan to find the rotation he’s most comfortable with going into the playoffs.

The Cavs looked good this week, especially in their throwbacks last night. Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like to have had LeBron throwing up 41/10/8 alongside Daugherty, Nance, Price and the rest of the guys back when I was with Cleveland! But then I snap out of my dream and return to the reality of being just another fan and admirer.  I’m not sure anyone maximizes the opportunities the defense gives him better than LeBron. He’s either going to hurt you himself or put his teammates in a position to score easy baskets.  His supporting cast is more versatile this year and I think we’ll see that pay off in the post-season.

Will the Wiz impact the playoffs?

The Hornets have really turned things around winning their sixth straight in Washington last night.  Chris Paul continues to lead the charge, racking up 26 points and 14 assists – his third double-double in a row.  The Wizards on the other hand continue to struggle, dropping 13 of their last 18 games.

In light of the disappointing season so far, which culminated in the indefinite suspension of Gilbert Arenas last Wednesday, President Ernie Grunfeld has some big decisions to make as to whether he feels the Wiz can still make a run in the Eastern Conference race during the second half of the season or if he should dismantle the team and start anew.

If he decides to retool it could impact the dynamic of the postseason because the Wizards certainly have some attractive pieces for teams that are contending. Caron Butler can create his own shot out on the floor and he’s a tough guard in the post. Jamison would be a tremendous asset for any number of top teams because he’s a versatile big who can shoot with range.

Comments

  1. Joe in Philly says:

    Dirk will cross the 20,000 point milestone later this week. Impressive.

  2. wow i’ve glad i found this blog…

  3. You’re the man. Glad to see you on here, czar 😉 Big fan of the broadcasts with you and Marv. Fellow short man, I’ll stand with you to fight the tall guys. I’ll be back

    I don’t think the Spurs are ready. I don’t think Dirk has what it takes in the clutch to win bigtime in the playoffs- he needs other players to help him with that.

    B

  4. i like spurs,

  5. Oops that sounded weird- I meant glad to see you using wordpress 🙂

  6. after Pierce, Rhondo is probably now the 2nd leader on the court with KG out. It is interesting to see Perkins and Rhondo continue to get better and better.

  7. 247Hoops says:

    Insightful thought about the Celtics players and i wonder if it effects the team chemistry? as the production shifts more to perk and rondo will they begin to resent the the older guys’ notoriety. Bet the Mavs would like to get their hands on Jamison. most teams can’t match up with them, but i don’t see how they match up with the lakers.

  8. rapfan04 says:

    I LIKE HOW NO ONE WANTS TO TALK OF RAPTORS THEY WERE RIPPING IT UP AND ERYONE JST IGNORED THEM!

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