Bernucca: You Can Have the NCAA Tournament

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sportsWICHITAstate_t640I don’t like the NCAA Tournament.

I don’t like that college basketball’s regular season provides little postseason incentive. I don’t like that the coach is a bigger personality than the players. I don’t like that the games are played on neutral courts. I don’t like that one bad game or bad call or bad break can end a team’s season. I don’t like that “close” becomes a synonym for “well-played.” And I don’t like that poor play determines the outcome much more often than great play.

Most of all, I don’t like how I’m supposed to just accept that it’s fantastic and wonderful and beautiful, when it’s actually substandard basketball in a flawed format that tells me less and less every year about the game I love, which is the NBA.

I’m not trolling here. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’ve truly felt this way for a while. Part of it is admittedly a lingering distaste developed over more than a decade of working on a sports news desk and spending countless hours having to plan, preview, write, edit, update and package all of the words and numbers associated with the NCAA Tournament.

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SH Blog: Lacob finds some of Warriors’ struggles disturbing, Raptors likely to keep Lowry

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Steph CurryBefore the season began, much hype surrounded the possibilities of a revamped Golden State Warriors lineup.

They locked up Andrew Bogut to a reasonable deal (although some initially disagreed with the size of the contract), signed Andre Iguodala and brought in useful veterans like Jermaine O’Neal and Marreese Speights. They also had Stephen Curry coming off an incredible playoff run and looking to become a legitiate superstar in the league. Heading into the All-Star break, they expected to be better than 31-22 and eighth in the Western conference, which is where the team currently stands.

General manager Bob Myers has already made one trade, acquiring the services of Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks while giving up on Toney Douglas, who failed to play a significant role off the bench through the first half of the season. Based on some of the team’s struggles this season – particularly on the offensive end – Myers is likely not done shaking up the roster. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, the Warriors are aggressively involved in the market as the trade deadline approaches: 

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Lillard, Aldridge and Blazers defiantly winning with their brand of basketball

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AldridgeLillardSH1Portland is a unique, interesting and unconventional city to say the least. That unique and unconventional nature extends to their basketball team, where the Portland Trail Blazers are winning games at a high rate doing things their own way.

While the league is trending toward discouraging players from long two-point shots, Portland embraces it. Portland plays their starters more than anyone else, hit more threes than anyone else and lead the league in free throw shooting. Is their defense lacking? Sure, but the surprising Blazers have the fifth best record in the league at the 50-game point in the season. And they’re not here to apologize for the way they play.

Tweet of the Day: Players React to Selection of All-Star Reserves

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2014 NBA All-Star Game LogoFinally.

After much anticipation, and to some chagrin, the NBA’s coaches have submitted their list of reserves for the forthcoming 2014 NBA All-Star game in New Orleans, LA.

Many of the All-Star reserve selections are expected, though there were a few selections (and snubs) that were unconventional, though deserving.

In the Eastern Conference, Chris Bosh [Miami Heat], DeMar DeRozan [Toronto Raptors], Paul Millsap [Atlanta Hawks], John Wall [Washington Wizards], Joe Johnson [Brooklyn Nets], Roy Hibbert [Indiana Pacers] and Joakim Noah [Chicago Bulls] all join the team as reserves.

Out west, Dirk Nowitzki [Dallas Mavericks], LaMarcus Aldridge [Portland Trail Blazers], James Harden [Houston Rockets], Dwight Howard [Houston], Damian Lillard [Portland], Tony Parker [San Antonio Spurs] and Chris Paul [Los Angeles Clippers] are all joining the Western Conference roster.

This year marks the first time Millsap, DeRozan, Wall and Lillard have been selected to the NBA All-Star game in their respective careers.

With the announcement of the All-Star Reserves Thursday evening, many players took to Twitter to voice their appreciation, congratulations and displeasure with the selections.

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Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: Yes, the Trail Blazers are for Real

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whereistheloveWhere is the love? Why do so many pundits and taking heads consider these guys to be a flash in the pan?

As Martin Luther King Day arrives, the Portland Trail Blazers have the second-best record (31-9) in a brutal Western Conference, along with the third-best overall record in the NBA.

They have twice beaten San Antonio and Oklahoma City and come up victorious against Indiana, Miami, the Clippers and Golden State. Yet all of those teams continually garner more confidence from “experts,” despite tangible evidence this Blazers squad can hang with the best.

Of course, All-Star lock LaMarcus Aldridge himself pegged the Blazers as just a seven seed – not six, not eight, seven — heading into the season, more or less where many people (myself included) felt they would land, health provided.

Clearly, they’ve exceeded expectations, but is it sustainable when the stakes rise? That depends on whether you buy into this team’s strengths more than fear its weaknesses.

From an offensive standpoint, there may not be more balanced starting five than Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, Aldridge and Robin Lopez. Each guy’s role is plainly obvious, and their skill sets mesh beautifully. Lillard and Aldridge (rejuvenated playing his natural four-spot again) are capable of taking over games.

Matthews and Batum keep the floor stretched, and the latter is among the more versatile players in the league. Lopez has found his niche as a heady dirty worker who doubles as a defensive anchor. That job has been made easier by Batum and Matthews along the wings, plus the willingness by Lillard and Aldridge to pitch in despite their burgeoning superstar status.

Some may be concerned about reliable bench depth beyond Mo Williams, but perhaps C.J. McCollum’s return can eventually goose the works. If not, they can always swing a deadline deal, or simply take comfort knowing that a moderately productive seventh and eighth man could be enough in the playoffs, where rotations shorten anyway.

This should also alleviate some concerns about the pedestrian defensive numbers. As ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz recently noted, when Portland’s top five players are on the floor, the D is more than respectable. The most pressing concern might be collective inexperience, but for the time being, this group appears unfazed. Thus far, the positives have far outweighed the negatives.

Granted, a lot can change between now and April, much less beyond. But 40 games into this season, I’m increasingly convinced this group’s championship prospects may not be ironclad, but should also be dismissed at an opponent’s own risk.

On to the rankings.

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