Mystery Team Theater

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A month into most any relationship you should have some ideas about who and what you are dealing with, per our good friend Dr. Phil.

There shouldn’t be any surprises after that first month, no skeletons tumbling out of the closet and basically what you see by then is what you get.

So why are we still struggling to figure out certain teams around the league?

And no, we’re not talking about the usual suspects around here (we’re giving the Heat, Lakers, Celtics and Clippers the day off). There are other teams that astound us (in good ways and bad) that are tough to make sense of on the eve of Thanksgiving.

So welcome to Hang Time’s Mystery Team Theater, where we try to make sense of teams that continue to puzzle us:


Last 10 Games: 7-3

The Skinny: They needed their highest scoring fourth quarter of the season, and yet another sterling performance from Dirk Nowitzki, to slide past the Pistons. We watched them take apart the suddenly hapless Hawks Saturday night. But there’s something about this team that makes us think they’re going to be a major (dark horse) factor in the Western Conference playoff mix. All the work done in the offseason to beef up the bench seems to have worked. That Brendan Hawyood-Tyson Chandler combo at center also presents a very interesting challenge for a team like the Lakers or Spurs, if these teams were to meet up in the postseason. Back to the here and now, though. Rick Carlisle‘s teams are always good on the defensive end and he has a knack for pushing underrated teams to surpass expectations. For reasons we cannot figure out, few people consider this team a contender in the Western Conference. We’d like to go on record now about this team: they are going to spoil someone’s postseason plans (in much the same way their have been spoiled in recent years by Golden State and New Orleans).

NEXT UP: Dallas at Oklahoma City, tonight at 8 p.m. ET


Last 10 Games: 4-6

The Skinny: If we can’t count on a Larry Brown-coached team to defend at a high level (regardless of personnel) and to play the game the “right way,” then nothing is sacred in the game these days. The Bobcats don’t seem particularly interested in doing any of these days. One night, they’re a lockdown defensive team and then the next, they’re trying to outrun someone. It just doesn’t make sense for this team to do anything but grind the way it did last season — especially considering its personnel. With leaders like Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace, you wouldn’t expect this team to be going through the sort of identity crisis that is sure to land them back in the lottery just one season after their playoff breakthrough. But unless something changes dramatically by the February trade deadline, we have no reason to believe that these Bobcats will do anything other than sway from side to side as the season goes on. They simply do not have a defensive anchor inside for Brown to build around.

NEXT UP: New York at Charlotte, tonight at 7 p.m. ET


Last 10 Games: 6-4

The Skinny: With or without Steve Nash, the Suns’ most glaring problems — defense and rebounding — persist. When you had Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire as your 1-2 offensive punch with all those shooters around them, you could just outrun people. But that dynamic no longer exists and the Suns have yet to come up with an alternative that provides similar results. We are still firm believers in the 10-man rotation philosophy that worked so well for coach Alvin Gentry last season. It’s the 10 men that don’t seem to be working out so well. Hedo Turkoglu‘s scoring numbers (10.6) are at a seven-year low and the bench mob of Goran Dragic, Hakim Warrick, Jared Dudley and Josh Childress (with Channing Frye in the mix when Robin Lopez is healthy) is not outplaying opposing benches the way we expected. It’s clear we have to reconsider our own lofty expectations for this Suns team (we had them as a surefire playoff team with a chance to sneak in and steal a top-five slot).

NEXT UP: Chicago at Phoenix, tonight at 9 p.m. ET


Last 10 Games: 7-3

The Skinny: There is nothing more entertaining than a supremely talented team struggling to find its motivation. And make no mistake about it, these Magic are one of the three most talented teams in the league — and are a group rarely spoken about around these parts. They went flat in the Eastern Conference finals last season against Boston and it’s like we’re all scared to take them seriously since then. It certainly doesn’t help the cause when Dwight Howard and his boys fail in measuring-stick games — the Heat routed them by 26 points in Round 1 of the Sunshine State Classic in Miami on Halloween weekend, the Jazz stunned them with a monster comeback win Nov. 10 and the Spurs handled them Monday night.  Tonight’s rematch against the Heat in Orlando provides the perfect opportunity for Stan Van Gundy’s team to show us that they are free of the psychodrama that has plagued them since the Eastern Conference finals.

NEXT UP: Miami at Orlando, 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN


  1. LAKERS says:

    This years Lakers withh again win. u have very strong bench and Kobe, Gasol, Odom those guys are just toooooo good to lose

    • LAKERS says:

      guys dont waste ur time talking about other teams, Lakers will again win. i hope theyr bring Nash to LA. that could be hell of a linup

  2. TheRightAnswer says:

    Most of you guys dont know what you are saying. Magic ARE a dominant force, but you guys looking at wrong problems. Rashard Lewis quite honestly disappears against people who are his level or better when they are matched together. Vince Carter USED to be able to get to the line and the rim, but now he is like Lewis and shy’s away against better oppenents. Earlier it was said their 3 points both hurts and helps them, that was true but only in certain situations where they get lazy and settle for them. Also, Jameer Nelso is not as bad as people are saying but rather a decent piece. In the playoffs he proves useful with clutch baskets time and time again and needless to say he is an allstar.
    Now the Suns are screwed over but they do have a chance to getting to the second round playoffs, but will be walled by spurs/lakers/nuggets etc. right after. Pretty stupid to let Staudamire slip, then to bring in Hedo…Dont get me wrong Hedo is good, but in that type of offensive style?
    Mav’s have good, no wait GREAT role players/bench its just that they need a scorer or simply a slasher like Gerald Wallace. As for their defense watch it break down by the end of the year and into the playoffs..Second round tops like Suns.
    Bobcats…………can you say Lottery Pick?

    • Rick says:

      I think Roddy Beaubois can be that slasher when he comes back from injury. As a fan, I’m worried about the minutes that the veterans (particularly Kidd) are getting. The team just looked tired in the first round against the Spurs.

  3. MO says:

    First of all, Orlando didn’t just “make it through” the season. They pretty much made it through the playoffs as well. To the finals two years ago and final four last year. You don’t just “make it there” by luck. They have a good, talented team. The problem is that what they are best at is also their worse enemy (those 3 pointers). There is a lack of consistency with Carter and Lewis which is what hurts them. It doesn’t mean they aren’t good, they just aren’t good enough to make it past the depth of experienced teams like Boston and LA. But all the haters out there need to look at the stats again the past couple of years. Yes, they need a strong consistent shooter on their team to probably take them over that hump but other than that there is nothing wrong with them. Their bench is a lot better than what half the other teams out there have. When they lose division and they don’t make it past that first round of the playoffs, then you can talk about them just “making it through the season”

    • abe says:

      true they made it to the finals two years in a row, but wat happened against boston? 3-0 and then they decided to make a run? c’mon they were just going through the motions and didnt give a damn if they won or loss. Mavs are the team to worry about this year…

  4. John says:

    What Orlando needs is for Carter to get into the lane and drive in no matter what. He has the ability to do so. He just doesn’t have the courage. He has no heart. This is why he will not be kept.

  5. scott says:

    @damian….did you really just describe Butler, Kidd, and Marion as “3 all-stars?” No wonder the All-star status is considered a joke now-a-days. All-stars…REALLY??? I think a better description might be “breaking, broken, worthless”

  6. abe says:

    the only team i see making it to the finals of the four, are the dallas mavericks. They have the defense that they need,all around talent, and also picked up chandler. but we will just have to see what happens.

  7. Parshad says:

    I think the Mavs are this years darkhorse bc they are playing like the spurs (great defense average offense), while the spurs are playing grest offense, average defense they look for like the mavs from previous years who has great regular season records but gets elimated in first round

  8. John says:

    You’re on the bandwagon probably more than anyone else.Magic do need to trade carter or make him into his old physical self.He needs to attack the basket more.What the Magic lack in is in their ability to get to the line.Van Gundy said there were 3 parts to his offensive game and the stripe was one of them but they average such a low number of free throws attempted.With the Heat playing like this,hello first round exit in the playoffs.They will win a championship but not this year.Once Dwight actually shows he can actually be the new age Shaq,the magic will win a title.

    • DeBrosh says:

      the ship on Carter has sailed. the guy has talent but no motivation. at one time he could have been great. too bad.

    • irvin says:

      yeah youre right about the line but they’re the worst team in ft percentage so that’s probably why and its not dwight howard it’s the entire team they’re a good ass team dnt sleep on them


    WHO CARES. just give miami the championship were gonna win it. then everyone us gonna bandwagon us cause WERE THE BEST. WE GONNA WIN 6 STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIPS LIKE SOME BILL RUSSEL SHT

    • The Augustus says:

      Miami will be lucky if they make the playoffs. They will go down in history as the most hyped team to fall short of great expectations.

    • DeBrosh says:

      Okay, you keep on believing the hype! the rest of the league is just gonna roll over. right?

    • irvin says:

      yeah but look at their record right now 8-7 they dont know how to function as a team with 3 big men like the celtics even before rondo became nice they’re not taking it! they can’t even beat the celtics so they’re deff not making it to the finals

  10. Brian says:

    Magic are doing good but the 3 point shooting.

  11. wetz says:

    Never underestimate the Suns as long as Steve Nash is healthy .. Last year, very few people expected the Suns to go past the first round of the playoff, much more to the western conference finals. The Suns plays team basketball and they just need time to jell together with all the new personnel.

  12. rah says:

    all those teams will not go anywhere , suns have no amar’e ,without him there nothing no more inside presence, bobcats are just all over the place one day they play good next day lose big. jackson n wallace r the only good ones n there not even big all-stars. magic are a good but i dont think they can make it out of the east with boston or the bulls when they get boozer back , the mavs like someone said earlier dirk needs help hes the only all-star kidd is already past his prime but still good player just not enough mavs will do good in the standings like they always do but WILL ALSO FALL IN THE PLAYOFFS LIKE THEY ALWAYS DO , GO SPURS GO

  13. eas says:

    im surprised the western conference is beating the heck out of the eastern conference despite good players from the west going to the east.

  14. james says:

    bobcats lost felton and chandler dont expect much this year.i do believe hwoard and the magic are a bit overrated especially dwight hes not superman thats shaqs title. the suns dont play defense no surprise and no inside presence.and the mavericks doesnt matter what they do in the regular season they end up being busts in the playoffs anyway.and chris paul best point guard when healthy. kobe and the lakers are the best miami is all hype.

    • 4072011 says:

      @ James, how can anyone say Orlando is overrated? The stats speak for themselves clown. Shaq was superman, WAS. Don’t be upset that Dwight is too raw now for the old superman to handle now. Orlando needs to start Bass and everything will follow like their shooting and what not. Their defense is top notch, People deny the greats when their teams, whoever that may be, are threatened or just not showing up. With that said, it’s just the beginning and the cream does rise to the top.

      • @407211 I wont say wont go as far as saying Orlando is overrated. But what i will say is, i dont think players play for stats. Players play to win championships, and realistically the magic are a good team. But they blew their chance to win a championship in 08 when the LAKERS beat them. Dwight is just the new age superman. But Shaq is the OG superman. In my opinion one thing that makes Shaq better than Dwight is Shaqs offensive game was slightgly better. Dwight to this day really all he has is a consistent dunk shot, nothing else really. Keeping Hedo might have done them some good. Shoulda got rid of Carter, the dude is breaking down. And if the cream rises to the top, Orlando must not be the cream.

  15. Tommy says:

    No team, that I can remember, has won it all without at LEAST 2 true All-Stars + a solid core of roll players.

    Dirk has never had that and he still doesn’t today. Mavs will play well all season and spin out in the playoffs unless they trade for a bona-fide All-Star sidekick for Dirk. Even Kobe and the Lakers were a first round and out team before they brought in Gasol.

    Orlando has the parts. Lakers do. Miami certainly does. Chicago is built well. Boston, sure. Maybe New Orleans. But the Mavs? You can’t win with 1 All-Star, even if the rest of the team is solid.

    • damian says:

      tommy, your wrong man. dirk has 3 all stars around him man. J-kidd, shawn marion, and caron butler. plus, they have a deep bench. it’s just HOW they play will affect them

  16. Scott says:

    Agreed with Trevor. The Magic/Spurs game on Monday was very high quality with both teams playing very well. The Spurs went 5 for 5 from 3 point range in the 4th quarter in order to win the game. They shot over 60% from 3 point range for the game. Parker, who had hit 1 3 pointer all season before Monday, hit 2 for 2. The Spurs will not shoot 5 for 5 from 3 point range in the 4th quarter in another game this season. Taking nothing from the Spurs (an excellent team when Parker and Ginobli are both healthy), the Magic were not “handled” on Monday.

  17. Sean says:

    Well its notable that the Mavs win their games in a different way than they used to. They play really, really good D but arent as effectiv on the offensive end I guess its easier to get your offensives going than your D, so its probaly a good thing.
    But the regular season shouldnt really count for Dallas they have to proof themself in the playoffs plus I dont think they will go there with the same line up Butler probaly will be gone and maybe Terry who has dissapointed in recent playoffs.

    The Bobcats gave up Chandler and Felton for nothing, so how do you keep them motivated? They wont be a factor this season unless they get a PG and a Center in trades. Devin Harris would’ve helped them.

    I would feel sorry for Nash but when he extended his contract he really knew what he signed up for and the Magic lack a go to guy .. I dont see them wining a championship .. Nowitzki and Howard should team up :).

  18. ize says:

    well said dude 🙂

  19. Trevor says:

    While I’m 100% on board with the “mystery” assesment of the Magic…it’s a bit absurd to say the Spurs “handled” them on Monday. Neither team led by more than 6 points until the final 2 mins of the game. It was probably the closest we’ve see to playoff-quality basketball so far this season, with both teams playing great on both ends of the floor. Going toe-to-toe with the best team in the league right now (Spurs) for 46 out of 48 mins is hardly being “handled”.

    The “mystery” is whether that same team shows up in Orlando tonight against the Heat. The Heat will surely be out to prove they can rebound from the route by the Pacers and all the negative press coming their way.

  20. T DOT!!! says:

    Im telling yall from now, DONT SLEEP ON THE RAPTORS!!! Theyre going to start making noise in this league with their young athletic core. Everyone is counting them out because Bosh left.. Well look at him now. The raps werent good because we had Bosh, we were bad because we had him and tried to build around him. Hes not a franchise player to build around. Dont get me wrong hes really good, but not franchise good. We havent got past the first round of playoffs once with him.. As a matter of fact I doubt they even won a total of 4 playoff games OVERALL with him, smh. All im saying is its a new generation for these raps so GET READY

    • OJ says:

      Dude the raptors are like the clippers. Good talent, but not going anywhere.

    • DeBrosh says:

      Man! i am also a loyal Raptors fan, but better without Bosh? common! the only good thing out of Bosh leaving is that Andrea is finally not being intimidated into mediocrity. I wish us good luck (really, i am a Raptors fan!)

  21. Zzanzabar says:

    Honestly, I don’t see any mystery in the teams that you have mentioned so far. Each team is performing historically like they have in the past. This leads me to think that it is more of an organizational approach rather than a ‘plug in new players for a change’ approach. Did anyone REALLY believe that the Suns would actually BENEFIT from losing Stoudemire? The Mavericks have ALWAYS revolved around Dirk and probably always will. C’mon, everyone out there who was expecting big things from Charlotte, raise their hands…yeah right. As for Orlando, here is a team with a two attack offense that is still one dimensional, they live and die by the 3 point line.

    On Orlando, Van Gundy should go to their practice court and erase the 3 point line and tell his players to simply shoot. Don’t even let them know where a 3 pointer is on the court. They need someone on their team to literally kick them on their collective butts so that Lewis and the rest realize that just ‘making it through’ the season to the playoffs is NOT enough.

    • Jd says:

      Orlando needs a dynamic wing scorer like a Carmello anthony or a Kevin durant . And until they get a solid play maker there never going to reach thier true potential. When hedo’s turkoglu’s 6 assist a game left the team they plumited.They should make a strong push for Andre miller . Or steve nash. Jameer Nelson is a waste at the point gaurd spot.

      • Jake says:

        Hey JD Jameer Nelson is averaging 6.5 assists per game and 14.5 ppg. That’s a lot better than what Hedo is doing right now. He can make plays, and don’t count the Magic out yet.

      • iMatch says:

        I can’t say Jameer Nelson is not a good player, but Orlando is not the team for him. There are so many ppl who can score in the team. Get someone who is willing the share the ball will make the team a lot better.

      • James says:

        Here’s a thought to solve all of these teams’ woes:

        Dallas gets, Nash; Charlotte gets Kidd; Magic gets Turkoglu; and Phoenix gets Nelson.

        Dallas gets the dynamic sidekick Nowitzki covets, Charlotte the playmaker they’ve desperately needed, Magic their old playmaker during their run to the Finals, and Phoenix a potent point guard to replace Nash who could likely flourish in Gentry’s system.

      • Mike says:

        Who does Charlotte have to give up?

      • DeBrosh says:

        Ouch! (the remark about Jameer is cold!)

    • Imad Akel says:

      Honestly i don’t know how Sekou managed to write an article relating these 4 teams… Just like you said, none of them are hard to understand…None of them fit in the same category even.

      You have:
      1 conference title contender (possibly championship contender),
      1 one man team a’ la KG’s wolves (the novitzki mavs version): playoff material, but they won’t win conference even if they get past the 2nd round
      1 team that’s missing some essential pieces that it had last year but still likely playoff bound, however will not do as well as last year
      and 1 team for whom making the playoffs is their ultimate goal, because they cant do more. For teams like that, there is no point in observing them because they are just buffers between the really good teams and the really bad ones…Only good thing about them is if they get to the playoffs, safe bet is they go out in round 1 (probably 4-0 or 4-1) so that’s some easy money…

      • Ulme says:

        I don’t think Sekou wanted to compare the teams. His point was that there is not enough evidence from the way the teams are playing to judge if the expectations are fulfilled or not.
        Your arguments are valid but I think Sekou wanted to say something else.

    • Steve Nash says:

      Hey, send me to Orlando. That team needs me.

    • TJ says:

      The thing about the Orlando Magic is their bench. They have a really solid bench better than the Lakers (though barely) and the Heat (though by a lot). At first I did jump on the Heats bandwagon but then i saw Bron acting like a child and Chris Bosh going on a anti performance trend thats all it took to change. The only thing the Magic need is a scorer. Someone like Melo who can just flat out score