HOUSTON – This is why Chandler Parsons plays basketball. It’s really why they all play the game.
To have fun.
And there are few things more fun on the court than playing without pressure, without a care, without fear of missing a shot or making a play and with a sense that it’s just your time.
“We’re fully confident that we’re gonna win tomorrow and that we’re gonna take the series,” Parsons said matter-of-factly on Thursday as he stood outside the locker room at the Toyota Center, his eyes dancing, almost bright enough to light the entire hallway.
It wasn’t a boast. It wasn’t intended to demean anyone in an Oklahoma City uniform.
It’s just the feeling that occurs when it seems that everything has suddenly turned your way. Maybe based on the last two games, it has.
History books and the oddsmakers will still tell you that Kevin Durant and the Thunder are the logical favorites to advance.
But sometimes logic doesn’t have any place in these crazy games.
It was a different team, a different time, a different Kevin McHale.
The Celtics had made one slice into what seemed like the 76ers’ insurmountable lead in the 1981 Eastern Conference finals and were going into Game 6 with a chance to tie the series.
“They better win this one, because they know damn well they’re not going to win Game 7,” said the brash 23-year-old rookie power forward.
Boston won Game 6 by two points and then finished off Philly in Game 7 by one.
So now it is 32 years later, coincidentally the uniform number that he wore on his jersey through a Hall of Fame career, and the coach McHale is approaching another Game 6 crossroad with his Rockets against the Thunder Friday night.
But in a different role.
“I was playing and had a lot more confidence back then,” McHale said. “Hey, if it was 1981 and I was still playing this series, I would say the same thing.”
Because you can’t win if you don’t believe and after the Rockets stuck a sock in the mouth of Loud City in Game 5, there is no shortage of faith.
It’s the dynamic of how a series can sometimes work. You can feel the shift, the surge of energy on one side, the planting of doubt on the other.
There were the No. 1 seed Thunder so helpless, so unable to do anything to slow down the No. 8 seed Rockets on Wednesday night that coach Scott Brooks reached into his first aid kit to find a tourniquet and the best he could do was to hack Rockets center Omer Asik and try to stop the flow.
But as happens sometimes on these occasions, the flow was like a wave that might be growing into a tsunami. Asik, a 56 percent free throw shooter, stepped up to the line to stick 8-for-11 free throws in the final six minutes and now here is OKC perhaps feeling the air getting a little thinner and the collars a bit tighter.
The last thing in the world the Thunder need is an all-or-nothing Game 7 on Sunday and all the Rockets want is a chance to walk about onto that court in OKC.
Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverley and Parsons took turns grinning and talking about having fun. That’s not likely a word that’s been tossed around in OKC much over the past few days.
“We’re growing up every game,” Parsons said. “Every day we’re going through this process together and it can only get better from here.
“We got something really special going on right now and I think the world is starting to see it, because we didn’t get as much attention as we think we deserved during the regular season. But now the lights are on and we’re playing well and we’re really shocking people.”
The Rockets aren’t jolting anybody more than the Thunder, who figured to have a much tougher road to the NBA Finals without Russell Westbrook, but not a slog just to escape the first round of the playoffs.
Now suddenly the heavily favored Thunder are walking around as if there’s a boulder on the their backs, while the Rockets are skipping around the schoolyard.
They are a reflecting of their head coach, a personality and ethic forged on the Iron Range of Minnesota, where you work hard and never take anything too seriously. That’s why a skinny kid from Hibbing could lay down the gantlet to Dr. J, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney and the mighty Sixers back in 1981. That’s why a 55-year-old coach can keep pushing and molding and instilling a sense of anything’s possible even in a season when he’s suffered the unspeakable anguish of losing a daughter.
“He’s been awesome,” Parsons said. “He’ll tell you all about his experiences when he was playing. Having a coach that’s been through it, that’s been in the same situation we’re in right now really helps us and gives us that comforting feeling that he knows what he’s talking about.
“I know it’s a serious time and we’re all focused, but he makes you feel comfortable and it’s fun to be around a guy like that instead of being uptight and yelling. He does that, too, but he’s such a nice dude.”
Thirty-two years later, McHale limps around the sidelines like an arthritic crab and is a bit more circumspect with his words.
“I could talk that way,” he said laughing, “when I was young and bouncy.”
That’s a big bounce in Chandler Parsons’ step, which is why the game has never been more fun for the Rockets and why the Thunder should be worried.
HANG TIME, Texas – It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.
Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.
With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.
Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.
In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – Popovich stands a step apart and above.
He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.
Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.
“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.
But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.
He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.
“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.
He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.
“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”
Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”
That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.
After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead. (more…)
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: It was pick-a-wild-finish night in the NBA after the thrilling endings to Heat-Cavs, Celtics-Hornets and Thunder-Grizz. We liked the finishes of all three — how could you not like the frantic action in Cleveland? — but our pick goes to the grit-and-grind guys in Memphis. The mostly unappreciated (by non-League Pass fiends) Marc Gasol came up with a big bucket in OT to seal the win (although, if you’re an OKC fan, you might have thought there was a little push-off going on there) after Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook seemed to vanquish the Grizz time after time in the fourth quarter. Our guy Zach Randolph struggled (thanks to killer down-the-stretch defense from Nick Collison), but Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless provided some smart guard play to offset Z-Bo’s absence in what was a playoff-type game through and through.
Round of ‘H-O-R-S-E’ gets Lin going — Entering Wednesday night’s showdown with the Jazz in Houston, Jeremy Lin had been hot, averaging 16.7 ppg, 5.2 apg and shooting 52 percent. But he was a bit worn down from the season’s grind and Alicia Keys taking over the Toyota Center, Lin headed to a different court and played a few rounds of H-O-R-S-E with his brother, who was visiting him. The light-hearted game obviously helped as Lin torched Utah for 24 points and six assists (most of which coming out of the pick-and-roll) as Houston got a big win to help its playoff hopes. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has more:
With a day off and orders to clear his mind, Jeremy Lin took the opportunity to head to the gym.
He did change things up a bit. With Alicia Keys taking over Toyota Center, Lin found a different court and a few different teammates. But Lin’s idea of a day off included basketball.
“It’s therapeutic,” he said.
After Sunday’s 30-point loss to Golden State, he and the Rockets needed the therapy, so Lin spent a chunk of Monday launching jumpers and playing HORSE.
When the Rockets reconvened at Toyota Center on Wednesday, Lin spent the night as if still goofing with his brother and buddies far from the cameras and lights. He repeatedly pierced the Utah Jazz defense, helping to drive the Rockets to a 26-point lead. And when the Jazz rallied in the fourth quarter, Lin knifed through them again, with one drive to a layup and another and a pass for a Chandler Parsons dunk that finally closed out the Jazz 100-93.
Lin made eight of nine shots in the paint as the Rockets went from launching 3-pointers to beating the Jazz at the rim, and from a series of slow starts to a rapid bolt from the opening tip that set the tone for the game.
“JLin made them pay,” Parsons said. “He’s a good player, especially in pick-and-roll. He’s fast. … He can get in the paint.”
“Jeremy really attacked the rim well,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “I thought that Jeremy made some big hoops coming down the stretch when we needed them. They were really intent on staying with James (Harden) in the second half and really not giving him a lot of room, so Jeremy really broke free. Jeremy kept turning the corner and got in the paint. We needed all of those.”
“Sometimes, when you do that, you get the feel of the joy of the game back in you again,” Lin said of his day off in the gym. “I went and shot. My little brother is in town. My buddy is here. We just went out and messed around, played some HORSE. But we didn’t get to finish because other people started playing. Everyone had S.”
Karl amazed by Nuggets’ revival — Nuggets coach George Karl is the man with whom former Denver star Carmelo Anthony experienced his greatest NBA successes as well as some of his biggest letdowns, particularly in the playoffs. It’s hard to believe, but it has been more than two years since Denver sent Anthony to New York for a package of players that included Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and others. At the time, it looked like the Nuggets were embracing a full-scale rebuild, but Karl has kept Denver competitive and, this season, the Nuggets are one of the Western Conference elite and sport a 13-game win streak. Karl talked with USA Today’s Sam Amick about the Nuggets rise, the post-’Melo era and more in a solid Q&A:
Q. So you having fun yet?
A. You know, in coaching you don’t ever really have that joyful fun, but there’s no question that it’s enjoyable. It’s winning. And when you win and you’ve lost, what, four games in 60 days or something like that, it’s nice not having the headache of that day of losing. In the NBA, you win, and you think you’re going to win tomorrow. But as soon as you lose, you don’t think you’re ever going to win again.
Q. Are you as surprised as most people are with how quickly your franchise recovered from the Anthony deal?
A. I definitely think that the speed that we’ve built ourselves back into being a contender in the Western Conference has surprised me. We have one player on the team that played with Melo. The Melo trade was, what, two years ago in February? And you have to remember that one of those years was a lockout year. So probably the team has only played together less than 100 games … And then you had the Nene trade last year. Nene was another piece that we changed up. That was kind of the final addition that “we’re going to go with young players.” During the year, we played Kosta (Koufos) and Timo (Timofey Mosgov) a lot more than we played Bird (Chris Andersen) and Nene. We turned it over to all the young guys. The team has evolved. It’s worked hard. It has stayed focused … My team even last year always thought they could play with the big boys. Now that they have the consistency to play an 82-game season together and show that they’re good enough, that’s what we’re doing this year.
Q. Has your longevity and success allowed you to have a wall up between you and the fires that coaches are always putting out or is that still always there?
A. I don’t think there’s any question that I don’t think young coaches can maybe take the risks that I take. But in the same sense, I think my staff and I work very hard on explaining what we’re doing. And we have no problem with a player wanting to play, and we have no problem answering a question of why you’re not playing — in fact we encourage it, we like it, we want players to want to play, we want them to be angry when they’re not playing, but we don’t want them to degrade the team or negate the team (with) a negative attitude during the game or during practice or in the locker room. Do that one on one with me, do that one on one with (general manager) Masai (Ujiri), do that one on one with my assistants, and let’s talk this through. I try to tell players all the time — I’m 61 years old. It’s not personal man. I mean this is not personal. I’m past the time when I’m making a personal decision. I’m making a basketball decision based on who is playing well, who is playing hard, and who is more focused and more disciplined on that given night.
Q. That record is good enough at this point to have your group be in the discussion about title contention. I know that’s not where your head is at this point, but how do you see this idea that this deep and balanced group can take it to that level?
A. My first step is to get this team to win in the first round. And then, once you win in the first round, there’s confidence. Coach (Tim) Grgurich (formerly a longtime Seattle SuperSonics and Denver assistant) have talked about how this team responds me a little of my first full year in Seattle (in 1992-93). I think we played Utah in the first round, beat them in a Game 5 in the first round. We were down 2-1 in that series, and could’ve lost in Utah in Game 4. But we won Game 4 — that made us grow up. We won Game 5 in a really crazy game. I think it’s actually a record, where in the same game we had the lowest scoring half and the highest scoring half for a SuperSonic basketball team (the Sonics scored 30 points in the first half and 70 in the second half) … And that whole momentum of learning to win in that series, and then we took Houston to a seven-game series and beat them in overtime (in Game 5). It was really one of those weird series, where we won at home easy and they won at home easy and Game 7 was an overtime game. We won that game, and then we play Phoenix and we’re growing up right in front of ourselves (the Sonics lost to the Suns in seven games in the Western Conference Finals). You could see the confidence happen.
Now can we do that this year with this group? I think we can. I hope we can. I really think we can. That’s where I want to put this team. I want to put them in that place, the best chance possible to win a first round (series), and then see where our confidence goes from there.
Teague steps up against Bucks — Milwaukee boasts one of the more explosive backcourt combinations in Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, with Ellis hot of late after a 25-point fourth quarter that helped the Bucks to a comeback win over the Magic. Hawks guard Jeff Teague has quietly established himself as one of the more solid guards in the East and took the challenge of playing against Jennings and Ellis to heart on Wednesday night, particularly with playoff positioning between the Hawks and Bucks on the line. Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution details just how Teague stepped it up against Milwaukee:
Teague finished with 27 points and 11 assists as the Hawks held off the Bucks 98-90 at Philips Arena in a key Eastern Conference game. It was one point shy of Teague’s season- and career-high point total.
The Hawks (38-30) won for the fourth time in five games and kept hold of the fifth spot in the conference playoff race.
Teague was challenged by Player Development Instructor Nick Van Exel at halftime to pick up his energy and play. The guard responded with 12 points in a decisive third quarter.
“C’mon,” is what Teague said Van Exel simply told him. “Me and him a little way we talk to each other. I knew what he meant.”
The Bucks (34-33) had a two-game win streak snapped. They lost for the ninth time in the past 10 games at Philips Arena. Jennings finished with 21 points but Ellis had just five. Larry Sanders had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucks.
“Not letting them get in a rhythm,” Devin Harris said of the success against the guard combination. “Obviously, Jennings did that a little in the third and the fourth (quarters). We try to take away easy baskets. Don’t let them getting any open looks. They run a lot of stuff off each other and (Teague and I) are able to switch and keep them in front of us.”
Both teams struggled offensively in the early going with the game tied 18-18 after the first quarter. The Hawks shot 30 percent (6 of 20) and the Bucks shot 25 percent (8 of 32). The Hawks made 12 of 19 shots in the second quarter to push to the lead at intermission.
Ellis and Jennings combined to make just 2 of 14 shots for four points in the first two quarters.
“I don’t get caught up in that,” Teague said of the challenge of the Bucks’ duo. “I just go out and play. They are talented players. They do what they are supposed to do for their team. I just try to help my team.”
Shumpert scared by knee pop – The good news for the Knicks last night? Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup and New York romped past a downtrodden Magic squad. The (possible) bad news for the Knicks? Iman Shumpert heard a pop in his knee — the same knee he had surgery on and that caused him to miss much of the early part of the season. Howard Beck of The New York Times has more on Shumpert’s injury, which doesn’t sound serious and hopefully isn’t for a Knicks team that counts Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Kurt Thomasamong its wounded:
The Knicks are still awaiting the return of Chandler, who is dealing with a bulging disk in his neck, and they are moving on without Kurt Thomas, who was lost this week to a broken foot that might end his season.
But the Knicks could not escape the night without another injury, this time to their youngest player. Iman Shumpert tweaked his left knee — the same one that was surgically repaired last spring — late in the first half. He was held out of the second half as a precaution.
Shumpert said he felt a pop in the knee while pushing off toward the rim. The medical staff later told him it was probably scar tissue.
“Last time I felt it pop, I was out eight months, so I was just a little nervous,” Shumpert said, referring to the torn ligaments he sustained last spring. “It scared me more than anything.”
Doctors will re-evaluate Shumpert on Thursday, but no tests are planned.
Kurt Thomas sounded much less optimistic than team officials about his potential return this season. Thomas has a stress reaction surrounding a stress fracture in his right foot. The Knicks are projecting a recovery of two to four weeks. But when Thomas was asked if he would play again, he said simply, “We’re going to see.” Asked if the chances were 50-50, he said, “I think that’s a good number.” Thomas confirmed that he initially sustained the stress fracture in 2006-7, when he played for the Phoenix Suns, and that it never completely healed. The injury was aggravated last Thursday in Portland.
Bynum has surgery, starts rehab soon — Andrew Bynum is done for the season after having arthroscopic surgery on his gimpy knees and our crew on the weekly Blogtable chimed in on exactly where Bynum would fit in best for 2013-14. While we all sit back and wonder where the former All-Star big man will end up and, if he’ll ever be an elite-level center again, Jason Wolfof The (Wilmington) News-Journal reports that Bynum is starting rehab work on his injury this Friday:
One-time All-Star center Andrew Bynum had arthroscopic knee surgeries Tuesday to remove debris from both joints and will begin physical therapy Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers announced.
The 7-foot, 300-pounder, who did not appear in a game this season because of bone and cartilage damage in his knees, will refrain from any weight-bearing activities for about three weeks and will spend an additional three weeks on crutches, according to the team.
Bynum’s longtime orthopedist, Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed the operations. The primary focus of the procedures was to clean out loose bodies from his knees in an attempt to alleviate pain and swelling.
Bynum, 25, was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right knee in September, a month after the Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers in a blockbuster four-team trade in August. The Sixers nevertheless expected Bynum to be ready to play in the season opener, but as the season progressed, the team and player repeatedly delayed the date of his expected debut. Bynum was diagnosed with a “mirror issue” in his left knee in November, when a piece of cartilage broke loose and his joint swelled after going bowling.
While James Harden of the hometown Rockets will be in the lineup to serve as unofficial host for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, evidently the voters — fans and coaches — haven’t received the memo that the NBA is making a big splash in Brooklyn this season.
Harden, who was traded from Oklahoma City four days before the season opener and made a splash by scoring 37 and 45 points in his first two games, will make his All-Star debut in his brand new home town.
Yet despite their being the hottest team in the league with nine wins in the last 10 games and currently holding down the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Nets were shut out when the reserves were announced for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Thursday night.
A poll of the league’s head coaches added seven players to each team.
Chris Bosh joined teammates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade on the East team, making the defending NBA champion Heat the only team with three players that will take part in the 62nd All-Star Game, which will be played at Houston’s Toyota Center on Feb. 17 (TNT, 8:30p.m. ET).
In the Western Conference, the Spurs’ old reliable twosome of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were voted in for their 14th and fifth times, respectively, while the vote split up potential duos from other teams.
– Chris Bosh, Heat — If they were the Three Tenors, LeBron James would be Pavarotti, Dwyane Wade would be Domingo and Chris Bosh will always be “that other guy.” Numbers aren’t flashy, but he sacrifices his game to make it all work. | Highlights
Tyson Chandler, Knicks — He averages a double-double of 12.1 points-10.9 rebounds, leads the league in shooting (.674) and defends the rim as if he were a hungry fat man protecting the last cheeseburger on the planet. Justice is done. | Highlights
Luol Deng, Bulls – Coaches love the lunch pail players, the guys who show up for work every night. He leads the NBA in minutes, is his team’s top scorer and top defender in a season when the Bulls are surviving without Derrick Rose. | Highlights
Paul George, Pacers — He’s not just keeping the seat warm for Danny Granger, but playing like the Pacers’ MVP. With six double-doubles in the last two-plus weeks, he closed fast and has led Indiana’s surge after a slow start. | Highlights
Jrue Holiday, Sixers – In a season when Philly fans search for rare and exotic sightings of Bigfoot and Andrew Bynum, the dynamic guard is the reason to go to the games. He’s the only player in league averaging 19 points and nine assists. | Highlights
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers — Look past the Cavs’ 11-32 record at these more pleasant numbers: 20.7 points, 5.7 assists, 39.9 3FG%, 20.7 PER. And the kid is only 20. Are the coaches already buttering him up for free agency? | Highlights
Joakim Noah, Bulls — The numbers say it all — 12.2 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.1 blocks, 1.3 steals per game. The hyperactive one is having the finest season of his career and symbolizes coach Tom Thibodeau’s driven attitude. | Highlights
The lowdown:The pair of Bulls on the frontline probably squeezed Nets center Brook Lopez out of a spot. Deron Williams would have been everyone’s preseason pick, but struggling with his shot didn’t help. Maybe coaches also didn’t like his griping that led to his coach, Avery Johnson, getting fired. You could have made a case for Boston’s leading scorer Paul Pierce, but with Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo already voted in by the fans, it’s unlikely the coaches wanted to reward the 8th-seeded Celtics with a third man. Do you really see a group of coaches warming up to J.R. Smith? Brandon Jennings of the Bucks and Greg Monroe of the Pistons are just too far under the radar.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Trail Blazers — The plan was to build Blazers into a playoff team next summer. But on a roster with less depth than a wading pool, L.A. scores (20.6), rebounds (8.6) and keeps them as a surprise club in the mix this season. | Highlights
Tim Duncan, Spurs — Oh, so you foolishly left him out of the All-Star Game for the first time last season? Well, the 36-year-old geezer responds by turning back the clock and turning up the heat to keep the Spurs as a real threat in the West. | Highlights
James Harden, Rockets – A bit ironic that The Beard’s first All-Star honor comes just when he’s shot 28-97 (.289) in his last five games. But he’s shown he can carry the mantle of the top dog and will represent the home team in Houston. | Highlights
David Lee, Warriors — Statistically, a no-brainer as the top PF in the West — 19.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists. His biggest challenge was probably splitting votes with teammate Stephen Curry on a Warriors team that has truly surprised. | Highlights
Tony Parker, Spurs – Coach Gregg Popovich keeps ratcheting up the pressure on him every season by raising the bar of great expectation and Parker goes right on clearing it. Seems the coaches understand just how hard that is to do. | Highlights
Zach Randolph, Grizzlies – You could make an argument for teammate Marc Gasol anchoring the defense. But flip the light switch every night and there’s Z-Bo with 16.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, which add up to a league-leading 27 double-doubles. | Highlights
Russell Westbrook, Thunder – The most polarizing player in the NBA has struggled all season with his shot, but ranks in the top five in steals and the top six in assists while churning away with fellow All-Star Kevin Durant to build OKC’s league-best record. | Highlights
The lowdown: As difficult as it was to pare down the list, imagine how much harder things might have been if Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Kevin Love were healthy/up to par. In many cases in the West, it became an intramural competition with Lee beating out Curry, Randolph elbowing Marc Gasol aside and Aldridge getting the nod over rookie Damian Lillard. The surging Nuggets were overlooked, maybe because they’re too well-balanced. The Clippers’ turbo-charger off the bench, Jamal Crawford, was also snubbed. But if anybody’s got a reason to complain here, it’s Curry. a
HANG TIME, Texas — It might be time to change the name of Lob City to Titletown or Bannerburgh.
Either way the streaking Clippers are on the verge of moving into a rather exclusive neighborhood that merits quite serious attention. It’s a ritzy place that comes with lots of shiny gold hardware.
When Chris Paul and his pals won back-to-back games over the Jazz to run it up to 17 consecutive wins, they squeezed into a tie for the ninth-longest single-season streak in NBA history.
With one more win tonight at Denver — No. 18 — the Clippers would take another step toward forcing themselves into the conversation as honest-to-goodness contenders.
Of course, the 1971-72 Lakers top the list with their all-time record 33-game win streak that many consider to be unbreakable. But of the eight teams currently ahead of the Clippers, five of them went on that same season to win the NBA championship and two others advanced to the conference finals. Only the 2007-08 Rockets failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
1971-72 L.A. Lakers
Coach: Bill Sharman
Stars: Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich
Start: Nov. 5, 1971 (110-106 over Bullets)
End: Jan. 7, 1972 (120-104 to Bucks)
Playoff result: Won NBA championship
2007-08 Houston Rockets
Streak: 22 games
Coach: Rick Adelman
Stars: Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming
Start: Jan. 29, 2008 (111-107 over Warriors)
End: March 18, 2008 (94-74 to Boston Celtics)
Playoff result: Lost in first round
1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks
Coach: Larry Costello
Stars: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson
Start: Feb. 6, 1971 (111-105 over Warriors)
End: March 8, 1971 (110-103 in OT to Bulls)
Playoff result: Won NBA championship
1999-2000 L.A. Lakers
Coach: Phil Jackson
Stars: Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal
Start: Feb. 4, 2000 (113-67 over Jazz)
End: March 13, 2000 (109-102 to Wizards)
Playoff result: Won NBA championship
2008-09 Boston Celtics
Coach: Doc Rivers
Stars: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen
Start: Nov. 15, 2008 (102-97 over Bucks)
End: Dec. 25, 2008 (92-83 to Lakers)
Playoff result: Lost in conference semifinals
1969-70 N.Y. Knicks
Coach: Red Holzman
Stars: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley
Start: Oct. 24, 1969 (116-92 over Pistons)
End: Nov. 29, 1969 (110-98 to Pistons)
Playoff result: Won NBA championship
1981-82 Boston Celtics
Coach: Bill Fitch
Stars: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish
Start: Feb. 24, 1982 (132-90 over Jazz)
End: March 28, 1982 (116-98 to 76ers)
Playoff result: Lost in conference finals
1995-96 Chicago Bulls
Streak 18 Coach: Phil Jackson
Stars: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman
Start: Dec. 29, 1995 (120-93 over Pacers)
End: Feb. 4, 1996 (105-99 to Nuggets)
Playoff result: Won title
2012-13 L.A. Clippers
Coach: Vinny Del Negro
Stars: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin
Start: Nov. 28, 2012 (101-95 over Timberwolves)
* 20 consecutive wins by 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs was split between 10 regular season and 10 playoffs and thereby does not qualify officially.
The surgeon said that if this is the case, there’s a small chance that Bynum’s knees could heal sufficiently on their own in time for him to return for the playoffs this season, but called that scenario “wishing on a star.”
“While they can heal non-operatively, they can take a long time [four to six months] to heal, and in adult athletes, frequently they will require surgical intervention at some point if there isn’t adequate healing within the first several months of treatment,” the surgeon said.
He added that if the 25-year-old returns to the court too early and the lesions become large enough, the condition could become career threatening. The surgeon spoke on condition of anonymity because Bynum is not his patient, but this probable diagnosis, given the player’s symptoms and treatment thus far, is backed up by reams of medical literature.
“I’m a little bit worried, bluntly, that it’s more advanced and the guy probably does need surgery. But if he needs surgery, then the year is completely written off,” the surgeon said. “But if he doesn’t have surgery and they think they can demonstrate healing in about four months, then he could potentially still come back for the playoffs.
“That’s what it sounds like they’re thinking about.”
The minds of Sixers management must be swimming in so many different directions each day as they wait for the latest medical updates and wonder if the player they are paying $16.5 million for this season will ever play.
But that’s exactly the kind of scenario the Sixers were trying to avoid after claiming the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference standings and then knocking off the depleted Bulls in the first round of the playoffs. They made the deal that sent their leading scorer, Andre Iguodala, to Denver for the 7-foot-2, 285-pound Bynum because they knew hustle could only get them so far. It was the big man in the middle — a former All-Star with the Lakers — who could elevate Philly to the level of contender.
Bynum, who has a history of knee troubles, was a gamble for Philly from the outset. The Sixers were hoping he’d be healthy and that a starring role with them could convince him to sign a max-level contract next summer as a free agent. But almost from the day that he was officially introduced to Philly in the shadow of the Liberty Bell, that plan began growing cracks.
Bynum has already undergone Orthokine blood-spinning treatment in Germany during the offseason and the timetable for his debut with the Sixers keeps getting pushed back.
It should be noted that Sixers medical staff has in no way said that Bynum is lost for the season. General manager Tony DiLeo repeats that the club has hopes to have an update on Bynum’s status by mid-December.
Yet, acccording to the surgeon contacted by the DelawareNews Journal:
If there isn’t adequate healing in his right knee by mid-December or possibly January, it is likely that he will need surgery. Should the right knee exhibit adequate healing by that point, Bynum would still have to worry about the left knee, which he confirmed Sunday began swelling after bowling last week.
“It would be another two months before he could eventually be at a point where he could return [from the injury to his right knee], so now they found something in his left knee, so add four months to that,” the surgeon said. “You’re looking at around the end of March or April as potentially the earliest that he could come back, assuming that the MRIs show healing.”
That’s when a difficult decision ratchets up to the level of one that could hamstring or cripple the franchise for years.
If Bynum needs surgery and misses the entire season, the Sixers would seem in no position to still offer the maximum contract to keep him as their centerpiece of the future. Yet they can hardly let him simply walk out the door and have nothing in return for Iguodala.
The first time it was Linsanity and all of the madness the arrival of a true global icon (Jeremy Lin) brought to the New York Knicks (along handfuls of wins) during his breakout moment last month. There was a seven-game win streak wrapped into a cosmic stretch that saw the Knicks go from a struggling outfit to a potential postseason matchup nightmare for anyone unlucky enough to draw them in the playoffs.
Then the bottom fell out.
Now comes Woodsanity … well, it might be wise to hold off on that one for at least a few more days. But the Knicks are definitely at it again. They’re 4-0 under interim coach Mike Woodson, who took over after Mike D’Antoni departed the premises last week.
The Knicks aren’t just playing well since Woodson took over … they’re playing great. They are playing like the team folks expected them to be when Lin, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and the rest of the Knicks’ talented roster had everyone whipped into a frenzy heading into All-Star weekend.
The balanced offensive effort combined with a heightened attention to detail on defense has them back in sole possession of eighth place in the Eastern Conference — and they’re rising. New Yorkers see a lot that they like out of the Woodson-led Knicks, as Tim Smith of the New York Daily News points out:
Oh what fun it is for these resurgent Knicks, who have totally bought into Woodson’s system and philosophy. There is nothing Linsane about what’s going on.
“The spirit of the team, the energy of the team, we’re sacrificing, we’re buying in,” Lin said. “Using each other and individual shot attempts may be going down for specific people, whether it’s me or Melo or Amar’e. But then everyone else is getting more shots and the shots are easier. We’re able to keep the defense honest by using all five guys all the time.”
After Mike D’Antoni resigned one week ago as coach, everyone thought Lin would be taking a seat on the bench. With veteran point guard Baron Davis nursing a sore hamstring, Lin has maintained his spot in the lineup and seems to be settling into the job of running the team. He played much more under control and in the flow of the offense against the Raptors, committing just three turnovers.
“I just tried to be aggressive,” Lin said. “I’m not sure how many shots I took but I was trying to put pressure on the defense, and if it was open, it was open. I got some easy ones from other people looking for me. Melo, Landry (Fields) , those guys hit me with a couple of passes where I was open.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We haven’t spoken about him much this season, what with all of the struggles the Nets have endured, but we haven’t forgotten about you Deron Williams.
Even with all of the other names crowding the best point guard debate while you ponder your looming free agent future, we are here to recognize the fact that you remain one of the coldest crossover operators in the game today.
The work you did off the dribble in overtime against the 76ers last night … wicked! We apologize in advance to Jodie Meeks and Andre Iguodala for putting you on blast like this (we like to watch the whole thing, but you can skip to final 47 seconds of this recap video to the freak show):
We understand if you’re dizzy after watching that final 47 seconds.
If you’re not careful, you can get rocked to sleep just like the Sixers did!
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve heard some pretty creative excuses for a team’s struggles in losses before, but 76ers guard Lou Williams turned in one of the all-time great “Dog-Ate-My-Homework” excuses after an overtime home loss to the Kings Sunday.
He suggested that his awful outing, he shot just 1-for-12 from the floor, had something to do with a trip to the Lil’ Wayne concert Saturday night:
Williams was at a loss for an answer as to why the team didn’t play well, although he did mention attending a concert on Saturday night.
“It was a combination of things, and it doesn’t seem we came out ready to play,” he said. “We took a chance last night by going to the Lil Wayne concert.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The college folks aren’t the only people who get to enjoy March Madness.
Hoops lovers worldwide get to revel in the madness that encompasses this time of year, a stretch of non-stop college games laced with the win-or-go-home premise that captivates us all. Toss in the NBA’s version of March Madness, the playoff chase intensifies over the next month for any team dreaming of postseason berths and championship chases, and you have a festival of hoops that satisfies the most voracious of appetites.
The complaint box at the hideout doesn’t even have any entries these days, the clearest indication of all that the next month represents a sort of basketball nirvana that we have come cherish.
That’s why we outdid ourselves on Episode 48 of the Hang Time Podcast, the March Madness Special.
In an effort to make sure we captured the whole experience we dug a little bit deeper this week, snagging a little time with recent NCAA Tournament stars who have graduated to the pro game.
Evan Turner of the 76ers, and formerly of Ohio State. A year ago Turner was in the midst of the college madness and now he’s locked in with his 76ers teammates as they attempt to crash the NBA’s big dance. Turner speaks candidly about the ups and down of his rookie season in addition to giving his take on this year’s NCAA field. Take a wild guess about his pick to win it all:
TURNER TALKS BUCKEYES, SIXERS AND WOLVERINES:
We wrapped things up with a man whose connections to the college game run deep. Pacers power forward and former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough won a title as a Tar Heel in 2009 and now he’ll watch his baby brother, Big East Player of the Year and Notre Dame star Ben Hansbrough, try to do the same with with the Fighting Irish. Big brother didn’t hold back in his assessment of his season, to this point, which includes his career-high 29-point outburst on the Knicks Sunday: