As we move into the second half of the NBA season, some unexpected teams are surging to the top of the ranks. Of course, nobody is surprised by the Miami Heat’s position at the top of the Eastern conference, but the wrong team from Los Angeles seems to be at the top, the Clippers. Many expected the Lakers to be the dominate team in the Western Conference, but they are not even in the picture right now. Here’s a quick look at where we stand as of right now:
1. Miami Heat
2. New York Knicks
3. Indiana Pacers
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. Boston Celtics
Biggest Surprises in the East
Probably the biggest surprise is the rivalry matchup sitting in the 2 and 3 seeds currently. Both Indiana and New York were expected to be in the playoff hunt, but not sitting right behind Miami with a legitimate chance to win the East. The Atlanta Hawks can also be thrown into this surprise group, as they are right behind the Pacers and not far behind the east leading Heat.
It’s going to be an exciting run to finish the season and snagging Indiana Pacers tickets for one of the final games, as they renew their historic rivalry with the Knicks, can lead to an exciting and memorable experience. All eight teams have winning records and the top four teams all have a real chance to win the conference.
1. Los Angeles Clippers
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Golden State Warriors
6. Houston Rockets
7. Denver Nuggets
8. Portland Trailblazers
Biggest Surprises in the West
The biggest surprise found in the western conference has to do with the team not in the playoff picture, as of right now. The 15-20 Los Angeles Lakers were picked to possibly win more games than any other NBA team in history, at the beginning of the season, but they currently sit 10 games back from the 8th and final playoff seed. Another huge surprise lurking even further back than the Lakers is the Dallas Mavericks.
Both of these teams have recently experienced quite a bit of success, but neither is even close to the playoff hunt right now. Without a long winning streak in the second half of the season, we may see the Lakers miss the playoffs for only the 6th time in franchise history and the first time since 2004-2005. We will most likely also see the playoffs played without Dallas for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.
With the two biggest surprises coming from the west, predicting the NBA finals teams isn’t all that easy. At the beginning of the year, many experts picked Miami and Los Angeles Lakers to make the finals. However, it’s necessary to re-evaluate the picture now and it’s very likely a team, such as the Indiana Pacers or the New York Knicks could build enough momentum to overtake Miami in the playoffs.
The west is all up for grabs and the most likely team to go to the finals is the San Antonio Spurs, simply because they know how to get there. Another team to look out for is the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they are young and capable of making a playoff run.
Whichever teams end up in the playoffs and the finals, this season has created quite a bit of excitement. The top teams in both conferences are only a few games apart from each other and nobody is running away with the conference titles. It will be exciting to watch and fun to see how it all shakes out.
The trade deadline ended at 3 PM ET Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the news of just-completed trades is going to stop coming in. Here are a few deadline deals that broke just before or after the league cutoff.
Blazers acquire Gerald Wallace. (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)
The Bobcats get Dante Cunningham, Joel Przybilla and two first round picks. Since Przybilla’s deal is expiring, this is a salary dump for Charlotte. They’ll come away with Cunningham and two first rounders out of the deal. Wallace can play either forward spot, so he could play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum if the Blazers want to play small ball.
Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins to OKC for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Y! Sports)
Interesting trade for the Thunder, who are going to have trouble shooting the ball if they start Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha. They’ll have plenty of size down low and appear to be gearing up for a potential matchup with the Lakers and/or Spurs. Perkins is widely regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league and Ibaka is no slouch either. The C’s must feel like they have plenty of size with Shaq and Glen Davis, who usually finishes games for Doc Rivers. Green will back up Paul Pierce and/or Kevin Garnett. Krstic is a serviceable center as well, and there are rumors that Boston will be looking to add Troy Murphy if he clears waivers.
Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic. (Marc Stein, ESPN)
Brooks was thought to be a cornerstone of Houston’s youth movement, but one temper tantrum and one suspension later and he’s on his way to the Suns for Dragic, who was thought to be the point guard of the future in Phoenix once Steve Nash moved on. But Dragic’s three-point shot has disappeared (28% this year after 39% last season) and his numbers are down as a result. If he gets back to form, the 24-year-old could be a steal — and the Rockets got a first round pick to boot.
In another trade that “almost-was,” O.J. Mayo was going to be moved to the Pacers for Josh McRoberts and a first round pick, but the NBA didn’t receive the fax in time, so the trade was nullified. Insert Michael Heisley joke here.
Months of trade speculation have gone by and now Rudy Fernandez is officially asking out of his contract so that he can return to Spain. His agent Andy Miller is making that perfectly clear. Per The Columbian…
“There’s nothing to fix,” Miller said. “He does not want to come back to the NBA.”
“This is not a bluff,” Miller said. “In his mind, he’s not coming back.”
Miller said he has attempted to be fair and reasonable with the Blazers during negotiations. But after waiting
months for Portland to make a move, the “light is out.”
“In my mind, we’re at a very unnecessary juncture,” Miller said. “I’m certainly not happy as an NBA agent that this is happening.”
Rudy Fernandez will not report to the Trail Blazers training camp in October and the disgruntled guard has no intention of playing for the Blazers for the remaining two years of his contract, his agent said Wednesday.
Fernandez, 25, is unhappy with his role and is frustrated with the offensive style of coach Nate McMillan, whom he says limits him to just a shooter, and not the playmaker he has shown he can be in international play.
Miller said new Blazers general manager Rich Cho has “overreached” in his attempt to trade Fernandez, turning down offers from Chicago, New York and Boston, leaving Miller and Fernandez with no option other than to hold firm that the former first-round pick will not report.
“All I can do now is stand on the roof top and scream ‘He’s not coming!’,” Miller said. “He’s just not coming back … I’ve made that clear.”
“Why would anyone want to hold anyone against their will?” Miller asked. “He’s not going to want to practice, he’s not going to want to be around his teammates. I mean, if they thought he was difficult when he was contributing, imagine how difficult he will be when he is not.”
Last week, I examined Fernandez’s case that he should get more playing time, and found that it wasn’t all that strong. He certainly hasn’t been the guy that we saw play so well in the 2008 Olympics, but then again, the NBA is a different animal. Fernandez has far more freedom when he plays for Spain than he does in Portland, and clearly he craves that kind of responsibility.
For his part, new Portland GM Rich Cho is taking a hard line with Fernandez and has said repeatedly that he’s not going to make a trade just to make a trade. But now Fernandez isn’t asking for a trade. He wants to leave the NBA altogether — will the Blazers let him out of his contract?
Joey Crawford called Marcus Camby for a foul when he was fighting through a Grant Hill screen, only he sent Steve Nash to the line. It was a pretty bad call in the first place, but then Crawford sends the wrong player to the line. Epic fail.
Although a verbal commitment may be announced sooner, the terms of the contract cannot be finalized until Wednesday when the NBA informs teams what the 2009-10 salary cap will be.
The Orlando Magic’s recent trade for Vince Carter, who has a large salary and plays small forward — which is Turkoglu’s position — made it highly unlikely Turkoglu would be back in Orlando.
The Toronto Raptors expressed interest in Turkoglu, but were constrained by their other efforts to keep Shawn Marion and Carlos Delfino.
Turkoglu, a 6-10 forward from Turkey who played a prominent role in the Magic’s recent trip to the NBA Finals, had been looking for a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $50 million.
Five years and $50 million is a lot for Turkoglu, who is already 30 years-old and isn’t particularly efficient statistically. But his game is a pretty good fit for the Blazers, who want to space the court for Brandon Roy. Turkoglu is a good enough shooter to do that, plus he can handle the ball really well for a small forward, which help to take the pressure off of Roy. In fact, with Roy at the two and Turkoglu at the three, there’s enough ball handling there that the team doesn’t have to play with a traditional point guard. This may open up minutes for Rudy Fernandez, who was reportedly upset about the Blazers’ interest in Turkoglu.
The other thing to remember is that the Blazers’ cap space wasn’t going to last. They have to sign both Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to big extensions as soon as this summer and Greg Oden will be eligible for an extension next summer. It was sort of a “use it or lose” it scenario for the Blazers, and owner Paul Allen has never been afraid to spend. They added a versatile, experienced small forward who proved in the playoffs that he knows how to win. $10 million per season is a lot for Turkoglu, but his game should age pretty well, so at worst the Blazers should get quality play for the first three or four years of the deal.
What’s lost in all of this is the fact that Orlando will not be bringing back the core that went to the Finals this year. Chemistry is a rare quality and the Magic may rue the day that they brought in Vince Carter and waved goodbye to Turkoglu. After all, there were two overtime games in the first four, and the Lakers won both. Had those games gone the other way, the Magic would have led the series 3-1 with Game 5 at home to clinch the title. They didn’t need to tinker this much, and GM Otis Smith may eventually regret it.