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NBA Update (Part 2)
by Larry Ness - 02/21/2005
I'll sum up Sunday's All-Star game with just this. The game's MVP, Allen Iverson, shot 4-of-13 from the floor and had SEVEN turnovers. No wonder he was voted the game's best performer! Ray Allen's 17 points were the most by any player, the first time since the 1981 game that not a single player reached 20 points.
The first part of my mid-season report was available on Friday (see archives) and I'll wrap-up here. I begin with the current state of last year's four division winners. AMAZINGLY, if the playoffs were to begin today, just ONE of the four would be included!
The Indiana Pacers posted the league's best record last year winning 61 games. They lost in an 'ugly' six-game series to the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals but were again one of the favorites at the start of the year.
Things changed dramatically for Indiana when on November 19 in Detroit, Artest, Jackson and O'Neal were suspended in the infamous BRAWL! While O'Neal and Jackson have returned to the court, the Pacers will enter the season's final two months with a 25-26 mark.
While the Pacers are not in the current eight-team playoff field, it's hard to see them that making it come year's end. However, being able to improve enough to gain home court advantage for even the first round, seems unlikely. Reggie's final playoff-run doesn't figure to last TOO long!
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished last year's regular season with 58 wins, the most of any West team. The addition of Cassell and Sprewell finally gave Garnett a much-needed supporting cast and he responded by winning the league MVP!
Minnesota had NEVER won a playoff series prior to last year but the 'Wolves won two series before losing to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The team chose not to extend the contracts of either Cassell and Sprewell before the year and BOTH players have been way off their games (SHOCKING, isn't it?).
While Garnett's numbers are as good (or better!) as last year, Minnesota finds itself just 27-27 at the break, one position shy of a playoff spot! The West is much more competitive than the East and while Minnesota I can see the Timberwolves making the playoffs, the team will be "on the road" in ANY playoff series it plays!
When looking at the New Jersey Nets, it's hard to imagine that this is the same team that made the NBA Finals in both 2002 and 2003 plus won the Atlantic Division last year with a 47-35 mark. Well IT ISN'T!
Starters Martin and Kittles left during the off-season, as did role players Rogers and Harris. Jefferson, the team's leading scorer was lost during the year to a season-ending injury and team leader (?) Jason Kidd seems to want out AGAIN!. Vince Carter, acquired from Toronto, gives the Nets an All-Star talent but is a player best known for his "me-first" attitude!
At just 23-30, the Nets can still (believe it or not?) win the pathetic Atlantic Division. Starting the final two months, they are only three games behind second place Philadelphia and four games behind first place Boston. Assuming Kidd sticks around, the Nets may make the playoffs but expect an early exit!
Despite a record of just 26-24, the Lakers are the only one of last year's four division winners that currently holds down a playoff spot. With Shaq in Miami, the team is not much more than "Kobe and the Seven Dwarfs". A quick look at the standings shows the Lakers and Timberwolves could spend the final days of this year's regular season battling for that EIGHTH and final playoff spot. How the mighty have fallen!
Here's a quick look at some other teams going in the WRONG direction!
The Utah Jazz went 42-40 last year but start the second half at 17-35! Milwaukee, New Orleans and Portland all finished at 41-41 last year. While Milwaukee (20-30) and Portland (21-30) are struggling, New Orleans has fallen off the face of the earth, at 11-42!
Atlanta (28-54) and Golden State (37-45) weren't exactly winners last year but those two teams are taking it to another level this season with Atlanta currently at 10-41 and Golden State at 15-38!
Golden State has the longest current playoff drought at 10 straight seasons and will undoubtedly make it 11 straight this year. The Clippers, owners of an NBA record 15 consecutive non-playoff seasons from 1976-77 through 1990-91, have currently missed the postseason for seven straight years and at 23-30 will likely make it EIGHT straight this year.
The Wizards, like the Clippers have not made the playoffs the last seven seasons but are well are their way to breaking that drought with a current 30-22 mark. Washington making the playoffs would be HUGE news in the nation's capital as the Wizards have been on the outside looking-in for 15 of the last 16 postseasons!
Chicago (26-23) and Cleveland (30-21) are both making playoff 'pushes' this year, looking to break six-year droughts. Of course, for the Bulls it would be the team's first playoff season since Michael 'retired' and I expect Cavs fans will be experiencing the first of many playoff seasons now that "King James" is aboard!
Last year it was big news when NEITHER the Blazers nor the Jazz made the playoffs. The Blazers had participated in 21 consecutive postseasons and 26 of 27 before falling short at 41-41 last year. The 42-40 Jazz also missed out last year, ending a playoff-run of 20 consecutive appearances. As stated earlier, BOTH of these franchises are well on their way to missing the playoffs again this year!
The record for consecutive playoff appearances is held by the Philadelphia 76ers. Starting as the Syracuse Nationals in 1949-50 that franchise, which moved to Philadelphia for the 1963-64 season, made 22 straight playoff appearances. Since Portland and Utah missed out last year, the LA Lakers, with 10 straight playoff appearances, are the new current leaders.
The Lakers are surely NO LOCK to extend that streak to 11 this year. If they miss out this year, it would be just the SECOND non-playoff season for LA in 29 years! For the record, the Spurs and Pacers own the league's second-longest current playoff streaks with seven straight!
Wednesday, it's my latest college basketball update.