My long introduction strike enters its second week — partly because Heisler wrote long again in his intro last Wednesday, and partly because I am pressed for time this particular Sunday morning in Orlando because I am playing soon in the Li Ning media basketball game, preparing to knock down 3s like Ryan Anderson.
So here are your weekly Sunday rankings, and if you are patient and read every single word, you will find a money-making opportunity buried amongst these 2,000 words. You’ll also find a naughty word.
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: FRI at UTA
It’s good to be the King! Break lasts a couple extra days for Heat before they resume Thursday with three-game Western swing. Last WC swing was a 0-3 debacle, lest anyone forget, but they’ve gone 18-3 since, with 16 of those wins (including last eight) by double digits. Which means we have a very small sample size to judge how they’ll perform in guts of close games. Won’t go further West than OKC after next Sunday.
|LAST WEEK: 4-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU vs ORL
Come out of the break with three road games in four nights against middle-of-pack East teams. Kevin Durant begins 2nd half trailing Kobe Bryant by 0.5 points for scoring lead. KD is shooting .513 from the field. Kobe? He’s at .435, taking four more shots per game. KD’s 51, with sidekick Russell Westbrook’s 41, was the first 50-40 game by teammates since Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English did it for Denver in 1983. (Nuggets averaged 123 points that season).
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: WED vs CHI
Their 40-point loss at Portland was their first since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997. Pop sure knows how to offer up a sacrifice, eh? Closed pre-AS break by winning at Denver for 8-1 record on Rodeo trip. Play next seven at home, where they are 13-1. Bonner, Jefferson and Neal all shoot above 40 percent from 3. Orlando, Miami, Golden State, Chicago and Atlanta also have three guys at 40-plus.
|LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at SA
Provincial Bulls writers gaining ground on Heat beat guys as biggest homers in the biz. Yes, that is a dig at newest Hall of Fame media member and the guy who works at his old shop, who will be paying for a Sam Adams Summer Lager before too long. Or not. Reminder to them: In Game 5 of last year’s East finals, Thibodeau played Taj Gibson and Kurt Thomas entire 4th quarter. Carlos Boozer sat final 14 1/2 minutes.
|LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: TUE vs. MIN
Only Golden State (30) has played fewer games. Open post-break schedule with one home game before six-game trip. They’ve got 20 games in March, six back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back. Yes, we shall see their “depth” tested. By the way, they are 11-9 vs. Western teams. Yes, I still have my doubts. But I also still love watching them.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU vs OKC
Screaming could be heard coming from the locker room following their loss to the Hawks the night before the break. It had to be directed at Hedo Turkoglu, who was chucking like a Turkish J.R. Smith. Dwight Howard shot 100 percent at All-Star media day, refusing to answer every question about his future. My gut tells me Magic will keep him through the March 15 trade deadline and take their chances in postseason, hoping the 3s keep falling. Jameer Nelson’s longevity may be more tenuous.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at MEM
Had a nice chat recently with Mark Cuban, who has been checking out SheridanHoops from time to time but says he is too busy in regular season to read anything regularly. He is of the belief that most journalism is trash, and I am out to convince him and everyone else that it doesn’t have to be that way. Once upon a time, he just wanted to hear IU games on the radio, and look where it got him. Me? I have exhausted my patience for assholes in positions of power. We’ll see where it gets me.
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE vs. GS
Come out of the break with the league’s third longest winning streak, four games, and I probably dropped them a little too far last week (even as I elevate them a little too high this week after their last four opponents were Nets, Bobcats (twice) and Hornets.) Should be able to build a six-game winning streak to take into next Monday’s game at Chicago.
|LAST WEEK: 3-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs. DEN
You know, once you get past the top 6-7 in this league, it starts to get a little arbitrary. There are 13 teams with between 14 and 17 losses. That’s almost half of the league. Are any of them title worthy? We always say no in February, and then there’s always someone who sneaks up and becomes more relevant than we would have imagined, like the Magic in 2009. Will that team be Houston? Maybe if they upgrade Scola for Pau Gasol.
|LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs DAL
You are going to hear O.J. Mayo’s name a lot before the trade deadline for two reasons: The Grizz tried to trade him last year at the deadline, but missed it by a minute (it was reportedly the Pacers’ fault). Also, he’s giving them just under 12 points per game and shoots only 41 percent. He still has huge upside, and teams like that. Memphis needs a dead-eye shooter in return. Tony Allen (4-for-10) is their only guy at 40 percent.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at LAL
Ricky Rubio would have been the star of the rookie game for his passes if he hadn’t been one-upped by the shooting of his ROY rival, Kyrie Irving. We’ll see over the next four weeks whether the Wolves are for real: Four in a row on the road this week, four straight at home after that, then seven in a row on the road against West opponents, ending at San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs OKC
We now enter the penalty phase of the rankings, where Doug Collins’ team gets dropped four spots (you could argue the penalty should be harsher) for going into the break on a five-game slide. There is only so long you can endure getting nothing out of your starting shooting guard, and it may be time to sit Jodie Meeks and let Evan Turner give it a go.
|LAST WEEK: 1-1 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU vs MIA
Jamal Crawford replaced Ray Felton as the starting point guard and had 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting with eight assists and just one turnover in a 40-point win over the Spurs. Granted, he didn’t have to face Tony Parker. But can that arrangement work long-term for the Blazers, who have now demoted both Felton and Wes Matthews?
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: WED vs MIN
Thou shalt not pass judgment on them until March 16 – the day after the trading deadline. They’re reportedly adding Sheed, they still have an $8.9 million exception from the Lamar Odom sacrifice, and Pau Gasol can bring back a lot of lumber in a trade. Should be the NBA’s most active deadline team, but dynamics in front office have changed considerably, which complicates matters.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs MIL
Once a week I hold my nose and give them a higher ranking than I think they deserve. They’d be lower if not for their pre-break finishing job against Orlando, having lost 5 of 6 before that. Looking to shed payroll at the trade deadline to get out from under the luxury tax. And I’ll say it again: Kirk Hinrich and his $8 million expiring contract would fit nicely into the Lakers’ trade exception and give them solid defender at the point for the postseason.
|LAST WEEK: 2-2 THIS WEEK: 1 games KEY GAME: WED vs CLE
It took them half the season to put their team together, and they are now two deep at both guard spots without even factoring Iman Shumpert or Mike Bibby into the equation. At some point – maybe not until the playoffs – you have to believe Mike D’Antoni will take the keys away from Jeremy Lin and let Baron Davis drive the bus. They have 31 games left to develop chemistry.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: FRI at HOU
I said in previous rankings we’d be better equipped to judge them after seeing how they did after a stretch of back-to-backs against quality opponents, and the results are in: They lost four out of five. Highest-ranked team that had no representative at All-Star Weekend (others were Bucks, Raptors and Hornets).
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI vs MIA
Congratulations to Jeremy Evans for winning Slam Dunk Contest. Always nice to see somebody who lobbied to get included actually get included and then come out with the trophy. As for bigger picture, need to win first two this week against Sacto and Houston before beginning six-game stretch that starts with Miami, then features five straight roadies.
|LAST WEEK: 0-3 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED vs MIL
This could be the week when they determine whether to break out the dynamite. And as much as everyone in Celtics Nation frets over breaking up the Big Three, the guy who would bring back the most in a trade is Rajon Rondo. And don’t forget, Danny Ainge already tried to trade him once this season when Chris Paul was still on the Hornets.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE vs BOS
Hope you got your rest, fellas. Open the post-break schedule with four games in five nights, the first three against likely East playoff teams. If they win the first vs. Boston, they can restore hope that they’ll remain playoff contenders for rest of season. (It’s a tiebreaker game too, as the teams split previous two.)
|LAST WEEK: 2-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: FRI at PHI
Come out of the break on a five-game Eastern swing that does not include powerhouses Miami and Chicago. A 5-0 trip is a lot to ask for, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility – and would put them right into the playoff mix in the West.
|LAST WEEK: 2-1 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: FRI vs LAC
Just askin’: If you are the Suns, do you package Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat for Andrew Bynum and Steve Blake? I say no way – and not just because the ESPN Trade Machine says it gives LAL an additional nine wins. Long term, I’d prefer Gortat.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SAT at MEM
Won seven of nine, then squashed all that positive momentum by dropping a pair on the road against Cleveland and Toronto. Coulda been a contender.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: WED at BOS
Who would you take in a steel-cage death match: Scott Skiles or Stephen Jackson?
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: THU vs LAC
The Sacramento media overran Commissioner Stern’s All-Star news conference, eliciting three separate “Life is a negotiation” quotes from my good buddy Dave.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: TUE at DAL
Tuesday is their chance to intentionally injure Shawn Marion and ruin Mark Cuban’s master plan of bringing in D-Will and Dwight.
|LAST WEEK: 1-2 THIS WEEK: 4 games KEY GAME: TUE at CHI
Memo to Dell Demps: You’re welcome. Memo to Hornets bloggers: Open your eyes.
|LAST WEEK: 1-0 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: WED at NO
Stern told Canadian reporter no chance of a second franchise moving north of the border. Europe has better shot than Vancouver. Too bad.
|LAST WEEK: 0-2 THIS WEEK: 3 games KEY GAME: SAT vs CLE
Despite John Wall’s recent bump in assists, as a team they are 29th in dropping dimes. And Randy Wittman sounds much like Flip Saunders when he laments “style over substance.”
|LAST WEEK: 0-2 THIS WEEK: 2 games KEY GAME: FRI at SA
Make yourself some money. Bet against them every single night. Almost league worst at 11-21 against the spread. Wiz are 10-23.