Around the League

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LA-LA Land vs. Beantown

The 2008 and 2009 NBA Champs have both had interesting runs in 2010. Kobe and Co. dispatched Orlando in the Championship series last year, after Orlando took down LeBron and supporting cast in the Eastern Conference Finals. And the boys from Beantown were left to ponder what exactly went wrong (besides missing Kevin Garnett) after dropping a seven-gamer to the Magic in the Semis.

This season, the Lakers have had their first three-game losing streak of the Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant era. However, despite Kobe’s struggle with injuries, Phil Jackson’s Lakers lead the West and appear poised to reach the Finals and defend their title. With 18 losses, the Lakers stand three games behind Cleveland for best record in the NBA, and 2.5 ahead of Orlando in the league-wide race for home court dominance.

The Celtics, on the other hand, have a lot of questions left to answer. Will the Big Three be able to leg-out one more title sprint? Will point guard Rajon Rondo control his incredibly explosive game enough to make solid decisions when they matter most in crunch time? Will KG, after putting tens of thousands of minutes on his odometer, be able to grunt and leap like the Man Child of old in order for the C’s to have a realistic shot at replicating what they did in 2008? I’m confident coach Doc Rivers will come up with some solutions as the regular season winds down and the Green gear up for the playoffs.

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Surging Mid-Packers

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Both Milwaukee and Charlotte boast six-game winning streaks. Each team has 17 games remaining in the regular season and both teams look poised to roll into the playoffs with the wind at their backs.

Without Michael Redd, the Bucks have counted on former number one overall pick Andrew Bogut to lead them, and he’s answered in a big way. He’s a vocal guy who isn’t afraid of getting in the trenches and battling with the NBA’s elite inside players.

The Bobcats, led by coaching legend Larry Brown, have moved into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. With Stephen Jackson’s veteran leadership and Raymond Felton’s steady play at the point guard position, Charlotte has matured enough to present a tough challenge to top teams through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Bottoming Out in the East

The teams that inhabit the last five places in the Eastern Conference remain anchored at the bottom with a combined 21-game losing streak. All seven lottery-bound teams in the East have losing road records and only Chicago boasts a winning mark at home of 19-13. Sadly the injury-riddled Bulls‘ recent seven game tumble could wind up costing them the playoffs. And with 16 games remaining, the NJ (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets need to win three games in order to beat the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ 9-73 record and avoid the dubious distinction of finishing with the worst record in NBA history.

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Unfortunately the wins are only going to get harder to come by as the end of the regular season fast approaches. For top teams in the league, this is the most exciting part of the season. Coming down the backstretch, each of these teams faces a number of different challenges – whether battling for playoff spots, division championships and best overall record in the league or jockeying for home court advantage in the postseason. These players have everything to fight for – it’s the height of competition, the reason they love the game.

Conversely, the teams that are not in contention can’t wait to get their remaining games over with. These guys just want to get to the finish line as quickly as possible so they can look forward to the upcoming draft and the opportunity to acquire the help needed to make a fresh start next season. The turnaround won’t be instantaneous, so organizations must be patient while putting the pieces together.

The Hawks are a terrific example of a team that has succeeded in rebuilding their program. After hitting an all-time low with only 13 wins during the 2004-05 season, we have seen Atlanta take the necessary steps to steadily improve year after year. They acquired new talent through drafts and trades while developing young guys on the inside. They also stuck with Mike Woodson throughout the transition and gave him the opportunity to cultivate a winning team. In 2008 the Hawks reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years and now they are competing at the next level.

Almost to the Top

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Though Golden State is among the bottom of the heap in the West, coach Don Nelson is approaching a summit. He is just six victories shy of breaking Lenny Wilkens’ all-time wins record of 1,337. With just 18 wins so far this season and only 16 games remaining, Coach Nelson will have a difficult time overtaking Wilkens before season’s end. Like Monday’s three-point loss to the Lakers, this group of Warriors have suffered a dozen or so heartbreaking defeats that could have easily gone the other way and helped tip the scale in coach Nelson’s favor. Nonetheless, the pride of Muskegon, Michigan will surely surpass the mark if he returns next Fall.


  1. Abdullah says:

    Good to see you got a blog now Mike. I’ve always respected your opinions on the game, and enjoy your color commentary…..How ’bout dem Cavs!!

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