I haven’t heard about a deflated football in a week, and I feel great. Bouncing balls only, please. (And yes, pun intended!)
On to the week in review…
Karl to the Kings hits a kink. — Marc Spears was reporting going into the weekend that the Kings were nearing an agreement with George Karl to become their next head coach. Now, those talks seem to have stalled, with one of the issues being Karl’s relationship with DeMarcus Cousins’ camp. Being that Cousins is the cornerstone of the franchise, it will be interesting to see what direction the Kings go not only with Karl, but with hiring any coach going forward.
Griffin out indefinitely for already hurting Clippers. — The Clippers have quietly been going about their business this season, slowly climbing the standings during the last few weeks with some steady play to get as high as third in the conference.
Unfortunately, the good times have come to a screeching halt for Doc Rivers’ club on their recent Grammy road trip. The team has suffered a couple tough losses, including a complete defensive breakdown during a blowout at the hands of the Raptors, and now, lost forward Blake Griffin to a staph infection in his elbow. While it’s unclear how Griffin suffered the injury, the infection required surgery, and the team announced that he’ll be out indefinitely, through the All-Star break at the minimum.
That’s a huge blow to a team that was already struggling, and whose biggest strength is continuity–not to mention that Griffin is LA’s more important player outside of Chris Paul. He’s projected to miss 4-6 weeks, but it could be longer. The Clips have no assets, but expect them to be even more involved in the market for a big man now.
Amar’e’s New York days are numbered? — One option could be hitting the market soon: word has it that Amar’e Stoudemire is working on a buyout with the New York Knicks as Phil Jackson continues to backpedal on his experiment this season.
Stoudemire hasn’t played defense in years, but he’s still a low-post scoring threat who could be a boost to a contender in need of a big man. The Mavs are reportedly the front-runners for his services.
Critical CP3 hit with a controversy, fine. — Another issue for the Clippers this week: Chris Paul’s misconstrued criticism of referee Lauren Holtkamp, which cost him $25,000 and the team a bunch of unwanted publicity.
After a game in which Holtkamp hit him with a tech, Paul questioned it during his press conference, saying of the foul: “That’s ridiculous. If that’s the case, this might not be for her.”
He was immediately accused of going at Holtkamp for her gender, but from his comments, it’s impossible to tell if that was Paul’s intent. He was speaking almost exclusively about the nature of the call, and his only allusion to Holtkamp could just as easily be perceived as a jab at her inexperience in her first year on the job. Not to mention, Paul has never been afraid to take issues with the calls of referees, and it’s not unheard of for referees to issue odd techs–it’s all part of the game. There’s nothing to indicate that Paul might have had malicious intent, and many people have leapt to defend both sides of the issue. Please, let’s focus on real issues of discrimination.
Hawks beat Warriors in prime-time showdown. — Friday night saw the best team from each conference, also the two best teams in the league, square off in Atlanta, and the Hawks came out on top. It was a learning game for the young teams, both of whom are learning how to be the hunted rather than the hunter when it comes to status. Who says the regular season doesn’t matter?
Postseason reform coming? — This past week was Adam Silver’s one-year anniversary as commissioner of the league, and one of the things he touched one as a major consideration to address during his second year was the playoff format. Silver acknowledged that the conference imbalance has caused some worthy teams to be forced to sit at home in favor of less-deserving, fortuitously-located franchises.
One plan Silver mentioned was sending division winners to the playoffs, then seeding the rest of the teams by record in one big group. Obviously, travel concerns are the major concern in a scenario such as this, and there will be pushback from smaller franchises in the Eastern Conference who have benefited from the imbalance during the last few years, teams like Charlotte or Milwaukee. However, most teams are on-board with a more meritocratic playoff system, and so are the fans.
Jacque Vaughn finally fired. — After a week of really uncomfortable leaks to the media and an unnecessarily long losing streak, the Magic finally parted ways with their head coach after almost three unsuccessful seasons. While Vaughn struggled to show growth during his time with the team, and the team had every right to fire him, the way Orlando’s front office seemed to undermine both Vaughn and the team’s playing style in the few weeks leading up to a firing that was basically only a formality doesn’t inspire confidence in the way that franchise is being run. Then again, we suspected the same things after all the unrest in Golden State, and that proved to be a learning experience for all involved, plus Steve Kerr provided an easy solution. That team also already had obvious talent, however, something Orlando has yet to demonstrate in a cohesive way.
Brian Shaw calls out his players for dogging it. — It’s the time of the season when we start to learn just how good teams really are, and the Nuggets suck. The team has lost 12 of their last 13 games, and coach Shaw suggested the other night that his players were trying to lose on purpose, an inclination that seemed absurd until they went out and lost to the 76ers that night.
This situation has been a mess since the front office fired George Karl a couple seasons ago, and things seem to have hit rock-bottom recently. Shaw seems like a bad fit, as do many of the players, and on a squad that was meant to contend, that usually means starting over.
Paul George might return this season? — Larry Bird talked about it this week in earnest, but George sounded tentative about it two days later, while coach Frank Vogel said he won’t rule anything out. Altogether, it seems the Pacers will be careful with George, and that Bird’s comments seem to be a bit of wishful desperation from a competitive guy.
Brow 4 MVP. — Last but not least, Anthony Davis continues his arrival. His Pelicans are just 1.5 games back of the Suns of the last playoff spot, and he hit a double-clutch, buzzer-beating three-point against the Thunder on Friday night to secure the tiebreaker between the two teams. That will prove crucial should Oklahoma City, currently 1.5 games back of New Orleans, wind up tied with the Pellies on the back end of the playoff race.
Davis survived his second scary fall in as many weeks Saturday night, but he’s still only 22, so hopefully he will remain his young, indestructible self for awhile. He’s already being recognized as perhaps the league’s most impactful player, and while Steph Curry, LeBron, and KD continue to assert do their things, Davis is doing his own, and helping to make this one of the most interesting MVP chases in recent memory, especially if he can lead NOLA to the playoffs.
DUNK OF THE WEEK: Bradley Beal makes an ill-advised contest on Mike Scott, who dunks it so hard it bounces off his own head.