THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: The franchise in New Orleans apparently is under the impression it is in a Parks and Rec League and not the NBA. Less than a year after switching its nickname from Hornets to Pelicans, it has secured a naming rights deal for its facility, which will be called the Smoothie King Center.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Los Angeles Lakers center Chris Kaman, on Wednesday’s crazy win in Cleveland, in which teammate Robert Sacre fouled out with 3 1/2 minutes left but was allowed to remain in the game because the Lakers had no more healthy players:
“I had my shoes untied and I was like lying down on the bench because we had like a really long bench. There was like 30 feet of extra space.”
TANKAPALOOZA!: On Jan. 18, the Pelicans suffered their eighth straight loss and dropped to 15-24. They were knocking on the door of the five worst teams and had three rotation players – Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith – out with injuries. Instead of settling into another lost season, New Orleans has gone 7-4 since and is five games and six teams removed from the bottom five, which is where they have to finish to keep their first-round pick. Does Tyreke Evans’ benching Sunday mean he is trade bait?
LINE OF THE WEEK BY SOMEONE OTHER THAN KEVIN DURANT: George Hill, Indiana vs. Portland, Feb. 7: 38 minutes, 12-19 FGs, 2-4 3-pointers, 11-12 FTs, nine rebounds, eight assists, one block, two steals, one turnover, 37 points in a 118-113 win. With Lance Stephenson sidelined and Paul George struggling, Hill rang up a season high that included a 3-pointer to force overtime.
LINE OF THE WEAK: In Sunday’s 45-point blowout loss to the Clippers, Sixers forward James Anderson was a minus-40 in 16 minutes. Fellow starters Thaddeus Young (minus-40 in 26 minutes), Evan Turner (minus 43 in 27 minutes and Spencer Hawes minus-42 in 23 minutes, shooting 0-for-8) also reached that absurd range that measures how a team did, getting scored or outscored, when he was in the game.
LINE OF THE WEAK BY SOMEONE NOT IN SUNDAY’S SIXERS-CLIPPERS GAME: Joakim Noah, Chicago at Sacramento, Feb. 3: 19 minutes, 1-6 FGs, 2-2 FTs, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, zero blocks, two turnovers, three fouls, four points in a 99-70 loss. Some numbers not mentioned above: Noah also was a minus-10 and collected one ejection and a $15,000 fine after distributing three F-bombs, one to each referee.
TRILLION WATCH: This was perhaps the most disappointing week since the advent of this column category as no one in 54 games had more than a 1 trillion. Consolation prizes to Thunder center Steven Adams (6 trillion Sunday vs. New York), Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (5 trillion Wednesday vs. LA Lakers) and Wizards forward Trevor Booker (5 trillion Sunday vs. Sacramento), all of whom wrecked perfectly good trillions by committing a single foul.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma City at Portland, Feb. 11. The Blazers are three games in the loss column behind the Thunder, and a home loss would pretty much end their chances of winning the Northwest Division or claiming the West’s best record. Kevin Durant’s 38.7 points in three games vs. Portland is his highest against any team this season, but Oklahoma City has lost two of them.
GAME OF THE WEAK: Philadelphia at Utah, Feb. 12. In their push for as high a pick as possible, the 76ers have been losing to the right teams lately – fellow lottery candidates Detroit, Brooklyn, Boston and the Lakers. The Jazz would be another opponent that fits the bill.
TWO MINUTES: Kyle Korver and his record 118-game 3-pointer streak won’t be participating at All-Star Weekend because he opted to spend time with his family. Korver is ninth with 119 makes and third with a .463 percentage. None of the eight participants – Stephen Curry (first in makes), Kyrie Irving, Joe Johnson, Damian Lillard (third in makes), Kevin Love, Bradley Beal, Marco Belinelli (sixth in pct.) and Arron Afflalo (10th in pct.) – are in the top 10 in both categories. … Kyrie Irving has three 25-10 games in his career. Kevin Durant has four this season. … Some guys simply don’t have the demeanor or gravitas to be NBA head coaches – like Maurice Cheeks, who was fired Sunday by the Pistons. This came after another incident where a player questioned his authority and tried to take advantage of his reserved nature. Last week, after the Pistons beat the Magic to end a four-game slide, guard Will Bynum told reporters that the team had chemistry issues. “You don’t want to know what I think; it’s out of my pay grade to tell you what I think,” he said. “Hopefully things just really turn around, and we string up some wins.” After playing just three minutes in Wednesday’s road loss to the Magic, Bynum had a shouting match with Cheeks during the second quarter and was benched for that game and two more – both wins. Cheeks faced similar player conflicts in previous stops in Portland and Philadelphia. … The Grizzlies set an NBA record by attempting just one free throw in Saturday’s win at Atlanta, and really could have taken none. Courtney Lee took a technical foul shot in the third quarter after a defensive three-second violation by Hawks center Gustavo Ayon. … A week ago, we mentioned Washington’s difficulty in climbing above .500 this season, having failed in its first seven tries. With a five-game stretch at Golden State and the LA Clippers before hosting Oklahoma City, Portland and San Antonio, it seemed unlikely that the Wizards would be flirting with .500 again anytime soon. But they won three of the first four to get to 24-23, marking the first time in 355 games since Oct. 31, 2009 that they were above break-even. Coach Randy Wittman, who has been badgered with questions about the .500 mark all season, wasn’t particularly impressed. “It ain’t out of the way. How many more games have we got to play?” he said. “You act like that was the last daggum game. … If we’re going to learn to be a good basketball team, we have to do this every night, no matter who you’re playing.” Two nights later, Washington took San Antonio to double overtime before losing and falling back to .500. On Friday, however, the Wizards lost at home to Cleveland, and All-Star point guard John Wall got the message, albeit a bit late. “(Wittman) told us … this is the biggest game of the year, to see where you stand against this team and see if you’ve taken the right steps forward. We are nowhere close to taking those steps forward because we didn’t improve.” By the way, the Bucks now have the longest .500-or-less stretch at 65 games dating to March 20 of last season. Milwaukee (9-41) already is assured of not being above .500 for the rest of this season. … Sixers guard Tony Wroten made a 58-foot shot in Wednesday’s loss to Boston and a 62-footer in Friday’s loss to the LA Lakers. … Dallas’ win at Memphis on Wednesday did more than give the Mavericks a small cushion in the loss column in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dallas moved to 3-0 vs. Memphis this season, clinching the season series and the tiebreaker. There is a lot of season left, but that could prove huge in the end. … Only the Lakers have played more road games than Toronto, and only the league’s top five teams have more road wins than the Raptors, who are 14-14 in the U.S. Since entering the NBA in 1995, Toronto never has finished above .500 on the road – not even during Vince Carter’s heyday, when its best mark was 20-21 in the 2000-01 season. Of its 13 remaining road games, just two – March 18 at Atlanta and March 31 at Miami – are against teams currently with winning records. “Honestly, I think there is no pressure on the road,” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan said. … With less than two weeks until the trading deadline, disgruntled Rockets center Omer Asik has miraculously gotten past his
benching punishment thigh injury and played for the first time in 32 games Saturday, collecting five rebounds in 11 scoreless minutes. Houston has three games between now and the Feb. 20 deadline, and GM Daryl Morey has a long weekend in New Orleans among his peers to regenerate interest in Asik, who twice has asked to be traded since the Rockets signed Dwight Howard last summer.
Trivia Answer: John Havlicek and Kobe Bryant. … Happy 35th Birthday, Jumaine Jones. … If you’re not watching True Detective on HBO, then what the hell are you watching?
Chris Bernucca is the managing editor of SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Monday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.