Posted on: April 1, 2011 10:31 am
Spurs lose five in a row for the first time in the Tim Duncan era.
Posted by Matt Moore
When the Celtics ran away from the Spurs in the fourth quarter Thursday night, they were making history, they just didn't realize it. With the Spurs falling for the fifth time in a row, it marks the first five-game losing streak in the Tim Duncan era for the Spurs. Granted, it's not like Duncan actually saw those five losses as a player. He was injured for four of the five games.
Duncan was drafted in 1997. It took thirteen years for the Spurs to lose five in a row with Duncan as a member of the roster. That's stunning. It speaks simultaneously to the rampant success and consistency of Duncan's teams under Popovich and the randomness of luck. Duncan's missed his fair share over the years, though he has played in 78 games or more in eight of those seasons. For the Spurs to never have strung together five losses during that time is at both overwhelmingly impressive and downright bizarre.
There's something at once fitting and confusing that in what could end up being the most successful regular season of the Duncan era that the Spurs would also suffer their longest losing streak. The Spurs seemed so unbeatable a few months ago and are now not only stumbling to the finish, they've already fallen and are only dragging forward by the the velocity of their own fall. The hope will be that the postseason will bring a different team, a tougher team. But against the Celtics in the fourth quarter of this fifth loss in a row, it wasn't injury or matchups that doomed San Antonio. It was wide open jumpers from Kevin Garnett. It was defense.
Holding off a five game losing streak this long with Duncan on board is impressive. But there are other concerns besides the trivia-answer aspect here.
Posted on: March 27, 2011 9:11 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 10:47 pm
San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili left Sunday's game against the Memphis Grizzlies due to a thigh injury. Posted by Ben Golliver.
As we noted earlier on Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs have their eyes set on a deep playoff run, but only if they can stay healthy. After losing franchise big man Tim Duncan to an ankle injury last week, another member of the team's big three went down on Sunday night.
MySanAntonio.com reports that the team's leading scorer, guard Manu Ginobili suffered a left thigh injury shortly before halftime of a game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Manu Ginobili left the game at mid third quarter due to a thigh bruise. He was hurt late in the first half and started the second half. He was taken back out with 6:10 left in the third quarter. Ginobili played 19 minutes and had two points on 1 of 3 shooting.After the game, MySanAntonio.com reported that the injury wasn't "serious" but that Ginobili's status is "in doubt".
Stiff-legged, with a gait recalling that of Frankenstein’s monster, Manu Ginobili hobbled down a hallway at the FedEx Forum after the Spurs’ 111-104 loss to Memphis on Sunday night. A left quadriceps contusion had knocked him out for most of the second half, and cast into doubt his availability for Monday’s home game against Portland.
“At first, when I came to the bench, I thought I was going to be OK,” Ginobili said. “Then it stiffened up. I can’t put my full weight on it.”Here's video of the play.
The Spurs play next on Monday night against the Portland Trail Blazers in San Antonio. The Blazers beat the Spurs in dramatic fashion on Friday night in Portland.
Without both Duncan and Ginobili, the Spurs fell to the Grizzlies, 111-104. The loss dropped San Antonio to 57-16 on the season and marked the first time the Spurs have lost three games in a row this season. San Antonio's lead over the Los Angeles Lakers is now down to 4.5 games. The win improved Memphis, the West's No. 8 seed, to 41-33.
Posted on: March 27, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2011 4:18 pm
When the San Antonio Spurs contingent descended upon All-Star Weekend back in February, their message was unanimous: Our luck avoiding injuries has been incredible, and we just hope it lasts. “Honest to God, you look over your shoulder thinking something’s got to happen,” coach Gregg Popovich joked to reporters in Los Angeles.
Well, something did happen. Franchise big man Tim Duncan, the engine of more than a decade of Spurs dominance, severely sprained his ankle last week. For the team with the league’s best record, Duncan’s absence has prompted a total reevaluation. Point guard Tony Parker summed it up recently, telling the San Antonio News Express that San Antonio is “not going anywhere in the playoffs without him.” That, evaluation, of course, is representative of the perputally high standards in San Antonio, one of the rare NBA cities where advancing to the second round of the playoffs isn't a triumph.
Parker’s statement made it clear, if it wasn't already, that San Antonio has sky-high internal expectations this season. As they should. Despite a two-game losing streak, the Spurs possess a league-best 57-15 record, a stunning figure given the lack of name players complementing the longtime core trio of Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The Spurs have succeeded by owning the fundamentals and mastering the basics with a consistency that’s unrivaled in today’s pro game. They move the ball brilliantly and unselfishly, confidently and purposefully. They move without the ball aggressively and always with the team concept in mind. Their perimeter players are extremely disciplined, feasting on the clean looks created by the ball movement and Parker’s ability to probe defenses off the dribble (17.4 points and 6.6 assists a game). The Spurs can still dump it in to Duncan (13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game) and expect him to deliver when it matters and Ginobili remains one of the game's best late-game decision-makers (18.0 points and 5.0 assists). Together, it’s made for the league’s second most efficient offense through Sunday, a unit that scores more points per possession than both the star-laden Miami Heat and the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. This is "fives fingers equals a fist" offense at its best.
Defensively, San Antonio is the king of getting your hopes up on paper: Duncan’s lost a half-step, power forward DeJuan Blair is undersized, wing Richard Jefferson is past his prime, and Matt Bonner is Matt Bonner. And yet their commitment to team defense, their uncanny ability to take away their opponents’ first option, and their opportunistic ability to push out in transition off turnovers have combined to make this a nearly elite defensive unit that's earned respect around the league, even in Duncan's absence. “They do a good job of rotating. Just that experience that they have, they have won a lot of championships, they know how to adjust in-game really well," Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy said before Friday night's game against San Antonio in Portland.
The juggernaut has just one real weakness: interior depth. A big man rotation of Duncan (28 minutes per game), Blair (21.8 minutes per game), Bonner (21.6 minutes per game), veteran forward Antonio McDyess (18.5 minutes per game) and promising but minimally used center Tiago Splitter (12.0 minutes per game) is solid but not superb. The Spurs are only slightly above average at clearing the defensive boards and they ask their wings and guards to rebound more than they would probably like. It's worth noting that Duncan will almost certainly see his minutes ramp up significantly in the post-season, which could change things a bit.
Regardless, the surest way for a team to send San Antonio home is to pound the paint, crash the boards and limit turnovers, extracting the maximum efficiency from each offensive possession by forcing San Antonio’s starting bigs to play with fouls and work tirelessly on the defensive glass. Surveying San Antonio’s most likely first round opponents – the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies – none figures to have the ability to do that, at least on paper.
The Hornets lost their star forward and leading scorer David West to a season-ending ACL injury this week, leaving recently backup forward Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor, never a true go-to scoring option, to pick up the interior slack. Given San Antonio’s ability to throw multiple defensive looks at Chris Paul and New Orleans’ lack of a bench, a series between the two teams very well could end in a sweep.
The hard-charging Houston Rockets, winners of five straight, are looking to salvage their season by making a nice post-deadline run. Guard Kyle Lowry is leading the way with his strong recent play, but the Rockets would almost certainly be exposed as fool’s gold if they do manage to sneak into the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed. Houston is really an off-brand version of the Spurs, a cut below San Antonio in every way, even their strengths. They have very efficient guard play, but not as good as San Antonio’s. They can put up points, but not with the same efficiency as San Antonio. They are hurting on the inside even more than the Spurs and their overall team defense suffers for it. This would likely be another cakewalk for the favorite.
San Antonio’s least favorable first round matchup on paper is the team that they are most likely to face: their Sunday night opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis sports an excellent scoring, offensive rebounding and foul-drawing duo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, and the pair will do damage against the Spurs, the only question is how much. But Popovich has made a career out of chewing up and spitting out teams that aren’t ready for the big stage. I already feel sorry for Mike Conley, a talented point guard but one with no playoff experience. He has no idea – he simply can’t know – what’s about to hit him when the post-season begins. The Grizzlies, a slightly below average offense thsi season, are also entering the playoffs without star wing Rudy Gay, a versatile scorer who would be critical to freeing up Randolph and Gasol inside. Without Gay, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to envision the Grizzlies keeping up.
As Parked noted, though, clocking one of the West’s weaker sisters is not going to be enough for the Spurs. Their road to the Finals will go through whichever team emerges from a first round series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets. Those are two talented, motivated, athletic, balanced teams, and the winner of that series will be riding a wave of confidence into Texas. San Antonio is 33-3 at home on the season, another league-best figure, a fact that will weigh heavily in the second round, as both the Thunder and Nuggets are solid at home in front of their excited crowds. Oklahoma City, newly balanced with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, figures to be the tougher match-up because their elite skill level and athleticism will stress and stretch San Antonio’s older players. Denver, though, possesses the one offense in the league that is more efficient than San Antonio’s and George Karl is as good a match for Popovich as there is in the NBA. Neither will be an easy draw and both series have a solid chance of going six, if not seven games.
Should the Spurs weather that tough second round they will almost certainly have to go through the team that presents the greatest set of challenges: the Los Angeles Lakers. With an interior trio of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers are versatile, long, athletic and immensely talented, a nightmare group that will require San Antonio to regularly provide interior help, scrambling their defense. Both Parker and George Hill are tough match-ups for the Lakers, and would likely have a field day, but L.A.’s wing defenders are experienced and physical enough to make life significantly more difficult for San Antonio’s tertiary perimeter players. Stripping away the hype, not much separates Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili these days, and both have the ability to take and make game-winners in front of a hostile crowd on the road, a rare commodity in the NBA.
If the Lakers played with San Antonio’s discipline and consistency, a series between the two teams would be no contest. As it stands, though, the West’s top two teams are on a crash course for an entertaining, drag-out Western Conference Finals. Assuming San Antonio gets Duncan back healthy -- and they do expect him back in time for the start of the playoffs -- they’ve got a legit shot at dethroning the reigning champs.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 11:15 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 11:26 pm
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says Tim Duncan will be ready to play in the playoffs. Posted by Ben Golliver.
Is it possible the San Antonio Spurs big man Tim Duncan isn't injured as badly as we all feared?
When news of Duncan's ankle sprain first broke, the first timeline was set at roughly 2-3 weeks, with additional time away from the court seen as a possibility once an MRI revealed that the sprain was between a grade one and a grade two.
On Wednesday, MySanAntonio.com reported that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich put an unofficial timeline on Duncan's absence, suggesting that he might miss "four or five games" and sending a reassuring message that Duncan would be ready in time for the playoffs, which begin in roughly one month.
Coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday he expects to have the two-time MVP back in time for the start of the playoffs. “Once he gets back on the court in a couple of days, we’ll be able to tell more,” Popovich said. “But four or five games for sure.”
Asked again before tonight’s game if team doctors had given him any indication Duncan might not be ready for the start of the playoffs, Popovich was adamant. “No, no, no,” he said.If Duncan were to miss five games, he would actually only sit through the rest of March, as the Spurs have a busy week this week, facing the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, the Blazers again on Monday and the Boston Celtics next Thursday. A four-game absence would see Duncan back on the court for the Celtics game on March 31. A five-game absence would set his return for April 1 against the Houston Rockets.
The Spurs, who carried a league-best 57-13 record into Wednesday night action, conclude their regular season schedule on April 13 against the Phoenix Suns. All that really matters for the Spurs is the playoffs, however, and it sounds like Duncan will meet that timeline with plenty of room to spare.
Posted on: March 22, 2011 1:54 am
Tim Duncan is out for a while, but is that the least of the Spurs' problems?
Posted by Matt Moore
It seems like everything's fine in Spurs World. Sure there were a few losses to the Heat and Lakers, but they've been blasting teams just the same. They're going to finish with well over 60 wins. They blasted the Warriors into smithereens on Monday night by 15. All's well with San Antonio, and it's just a matter of resting up and getting ready for the playoffs.
Yeah, about that.
Let's start with the news that Tim Duncan will be out for a "while" according to the always-effusive Gregg Popovich after spraining his ankle. X-rays were negative for Duncan's ankle but the fact remains that the Spurs will be finishing the season, save possibly a handful of games with their Hall-of-Fame power forward. Then all they have to do is get his conditioning back to NBA-level, re-establish chemistry and rotations that might have shifted with him out and hope that he doesn't suffer any more trouble in a 34-year-old body that's played 1,745 games in its career.
But that's not the real issue. Duncan's had physical problems before, nearly every season. The real question is whether this Spurs team peaked too early.
The winner of the NBA championship is rarely the best team the entire season. It is often times the team that was the best, consistently, throughout the course of the season. But there are peaks and valleys. The Lakers and Celtics both struggled in the second half of last season. We're not talking "didn't look like world-beaters." We're talking "didn't look like Bobcat-beaters." But they always do find their groove at the right time, which is, you know, the playoffs. Otherwise they wouldn't be champions. The Celtics managed to instantly manifest themselves as contenders in the playoffs. The Lakers showed late-season signs of life before rolling over the West on their way to the title. The Spurs? They looked nigh-on unbeatable in December, but as the season progresses, they seem to be limping to the start of the second season. And I'm not just talking Duncan's ankle.
For example, the Spurs have been 24-12 this season against playoff teams. But they are just 5-5 in their last 10 games against playoff teams. In their last eight games against playoff teams, they have a negative efficiency differential (they are being outscored by their playoff opponents per 100 possessions). Perhaps you're thinking that's just the result of the 110-80 loss to the Heat. But in reality, in those last eight playoff matchups, they had a negative efficiency differential in four of the contest. When they were successful, they outscored their opponents by 12.6 points per 100 possessions. When they were not, they were outscored by 19.7 points. Here, try this one. Let's throw out both Heat games, one a dominant Spurs laugher and the other an embarrassing Heat blowout. The result is that in their last six games against playoff opponents non-Heat, when they win, they outscore the other team by 6.1 points per 100 possessions. When they lose, they are beaten by 15.5 points per 100 points.
But those are just numbers, really. They can be spun anyway, and who cares if the Spurs haven't been dominant in what is customarily a coasting period. But the same concerns are present in their play. The Spurs have taken their high-octane offense, good-not-elite defense approach as far as they can, and now have to become something else. Instantly. A team which features George Hill, still relatively inexperienced, and DeJuan Blair often starting and Matt Bonner as their fourth big in the rotation has to become a defensive stalwart. This team is often spoken of as if it resembles those championship teams, but the makeup is wholly different outside of Duncan, Popovich, Ginobili and Parker. The core is the same, sure, but one of the central structures of those teams was a series of veteran wing defenders. Those wing defenders have been replaced by a core of bigs including Bonner, the aging aged Antonio McDyess, and the inexperienced Tiago Splitter, still working his way into the rotation.
The Spurs are obviously a contender for the NBA championship. You can't win that many games and not be one. But at some point, the question has to be raised whether they peaked sometime in the NBA's hidden months or whether they have that extra gear that defines championship teams. It would be some sort of bizarre twist of fate if the best regular season team of the Popovich era was also unprepared for the postseason. That would be interesting, humorous, and it is definitely not something you want to bet on. But the question is there.
Posted on: March 21, 2011 10:43 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 4:30 pm
Tim Duncan reportedly out 2-3 weeks with an ankle injury.
Posted by Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.
The San Antonio Spurs informed the media on Tuesday that an MRI on Tim Duncan's left ankle confirmed the sprain, but that the team has not yet set an official timetable for his recovery. Duncan will miss at least the next three games, however, as he will not travel on the team's upcoming road trips which includes games at the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies.
MySanAntonio.com reported that the Spurs said Duncan's ankle sprain was between "grade one and grade two" and that the Spurs plan to release an official timeline later this week. The diagnosis is relatively good news, because a grade three sprain is really bad. Still: anything worse than a grade one sprain will keep a player sidelined for multiple weeks.
Original Post: Tim Duncan is reportedly out 2-3 weeks according to Sean Elliot of the Spurs' broadcast network via Art Garcia of NBA.com after spraining his ankle against the Warriors in the Spurs' win Monday night. This wasn't via an official release, but does sound in line with what you would expect given there being no reason to rush Duncan back prematurely.
The timing isn't all that terrible for the Spurs, who have been resting Duncan on and off for the past few weeks with such a considerable lead in the Western Conference playoff race. But he'll have to try and recover in time to get back for the playoffs, and then the concern of course is getting back into a rhythm with him. Luckily the Spurs are likely to face either the Grizzlies or Rockets in the first round, two teams they have considerable matchup advantages over (though the Grizzlies could be probelematic). All things considered, this one could have been a lot worse, but it's also yet another disturbing sign as the Spurs come off one of their most successful regular seasons in team history with significant concerns about their ability to reach the Finals.
In the meantime, DeJuan Blair will get even more time, and this means the Spurs will be trotting out the most hilarious frontcourt tandem, ever: DeJuan Blair and Matt Bonner, otherwise known as "Please Score On Us In The Paint At Your Own Discretion." It's like a trance band, only with an unhealthy love of Pitt basketball and sandwiches.
Posted on: March 15, 2011 2:33 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 2:39 am
The Spurs get trounced in a meaningless regular season game against the Heat, but does it bely a concerning trend regarding their defense?
Posted by Matt Moore
Somewhere, in the bottom of his cold, unfeeling heart, Gregg Popovich knows what the loss to the Heat represents. In the grand scheme of things, it's a blip, a bump in the road, nothing to be concerned about. The team's still 54-12, still the best team in the league, still a juggernaut and a near-lock for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Popovich will remain a big picture guy, never overreacting to a single game of the regular season. But somwehere he knows the really concerning thing to take away from the Spurs' 110-80 loss to the Heat Monday night.
The Spurs entered Monday night 7th in the league at defensive efficiency (which estimates points per 100 possessions, removing the element of pace and providing a more true image of defensive productivity). That's not as good as they typically are, but it's still a top ten mark. But they also entered Monday night's game against Miami having averaged giving up 102 points per game in March, as opposed to their typical mark of 97. Their season defensive efficiency has been a solid 101.1. In March? The Spurs have averaged a 108.5 defensive efficiency, including marks of 117 to Memphis, 112 to the Lakers, 114 to Detroit,and the abomination, a 122 mark to the Heat. For reference, the worst team in the league, the Cleveland Cavaliers, average a 110 defensive efficiency. So in a supremely small sample, this month the Spurs are surrendering a defensive efficiency that would be the worst in the league if spread over the season. Looking at the Spurs' defensive efforts per game, you'll notice some solid efforts betrayed by huge breakdowns, with a concerning increase as of late.
Now, that's a small sample size to consider, but given that the Spurs have not played brilliant defense all year, it's got to be concerning for Popovich. This is especially true when you look at the kind of style that has led the Spurs' huge winning percentage. They've been an offensive juggernaut, with one of the best marks in the league. They've been balanced, they've been consistent, they've been impressive. But beneath it is the defense, the mark that's always held the Spurs up in the playoffs, even when their regular season success was limited. The Spurs have always won championships with stellar defense and deliberate, efficient offense. This season, when they've had the most regular season success in team history, it's been their offense propelling them forward while their defense has been quietly inconsistent. What's more, their defense is trending slightly worse as the season goes on. As teams are finding their playoff gears, the Spurs are giving up some of their worst defensive efforts of the season. In the chart below, I found the differential for the past month, starting with the February 17th game against the Bulls, for the Spurs defensive efficiency against their season average of 101.1. So for example, they surrendered a 122 efficiency against the Heat (shudder), so I subtracted the Spurs' season average of 101.1 from 122 to find the difference between what the Spurs normally do, and what they've done this month. The results are stunning.
If you're not big on the whole numbers vibe, essentially the Spurs have only performed at or better than their season defensive average three out of their past twelve games. Even in the first romp against the Heat, the Spurs allowed their average of 101 points per 100 possessions. In three of those games, against playoff teams in L.A., Memphis, and Miami, the Heat have allowed more than 15 points more per 100 possessions in those games. That's bad.
Against the Lakers a week ago, it was their positional physical disadvantages that were prominent. DeJuan Blair, Antonio McDyess, and Matt Bonner were helpless to keep the Lakers off the glass, and it was the length of L.A. that gave them the advantage. Conversely Monday against the Heat, it was positional skill matchups that aided the Heat. George Hill was isolated in space against Dwyane Wade, as the Heat deliberately forced the double then started their perimeter rotations, finding open threes. Then when Matt Bonnner was inserted and placed against Chris Bosh, the Heat ran that mismatch into the ground, and it resulted in point after point. When Popovich was forced to switch Blair onto Bosh putting Bonner on Joel Anthony, the Heat ran a play for Joel Anthony... let me restate that one more time for emphasis... the Heat ran a play for Joel Anthony that resulted in an open dunk. Bonner's arguably the best bench three-point shooter in the league, but he's a nightmare for the Spurs defensively, and it showed.
So now the Spurs try and forget about this loss, shrug it off as "one of those games," focus on the huge win they had two weeks ago against the same team and keep pushing forward. But as their fans continue to wonder why they don't receive as much respect as other star-laden teams, this game should serve as a notice. Previous years it was simply a matter of overlooking a great team that often proved everyone wrong by winning championships. But this team has an issue on defense, and if they don't find the extra gear by the time the playoffs roll around, they could be in a world of hurt and fall short once again of the fifth title for Duncan's Spurs.
(All per-game defensive efficiencies courtesy of HoopData.com. Basketball-Reference.com calculates defensive efficiency using a slightly different formula, as a result, the Spurs' defensive efficiency season average is calculated at a slightly higher 104.3. The effect would be standardized across the different per-game efficiencies, meaning the impact would be the same, but it should be mentioned there is a differential there.)
Posted on: March 11, 2011 8:07 am
Posted by Matt Moore
In this week's edition of the Friday 5 with KB, we ask how far the Heat can go, where the Kings will be, and how the March slog will work out. All this and more in this week's Friday 5 with CBSSports.com's Ken Berger.
1. Point blank, right now, how far do you think the Heat go in the playoffs?
Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: A loaded question deserves a dance-and-dodge answer. First, it depends on who they play. In any round, I'd be concerned if I were the Heat playing Boston, Chicago or Atlanta. Boston obviously has their number, and the Bulls have a player capable of winning a playoff game by himself on the road -- plus, several of their core players have been through playoff series together in the past, which Miami's guys have not. For all their lack of defense and rebounding, the Knicks still impose a certain fear factor simply because of the offensive weaponry they have and because Carmelo is so good in the clutch. So in a roundabout way not to answer your question, I could see Miami getting bounced in the first round or getting to the conference finals. I don't see them going farther than that, and if I had to guess, I'd say they lose in the second round.
2. San Antonio got fairly detonated last Sunday against the Lakers. I have concerns about their defense in terms of length versus the Lakers and their ability to guard stretch fours like West, Aldridge, and Randolph. Am I nuts or is the San Antonio record not indicative of their playoff strength?
KB: I think you've pinpointed the Spurs' weakness fairly well, but I'm not as concerned about them as you are. Having said that, I do think Z-Bo or West could give them fits in a first-round series. I just think it's a different story in a best-of-7 when Duncan will have rest between games and Pop will have time to make adjustments and figure it out. While I think it's a little insulting to say the Spurs may not be as good as their record, the reality is that the playoffs are all about matchups. And if San Antonio consistently has a bad matchup against bigger teams or floor-spacing fours, their record won't help them win that series. I don't think that's hysterical; it's just a fair observation.
3. I don't mean to alarm anyone, but the extension for the Kings to file for relocation is coming up in the next few days. How does this play out from what you know now?
KB: Anaheim or bust is what it looks like to me. I've increasingly gotten the impression that the commissioner has run out of patience with Sacramento, and the Maloofs' posture is the definition of one foot out the door.
4. What are the teams most likely to tank from here on out? Are there any? We're not looking at a super strong draft class.
KB: I guess you could argue that Charlotte already tanked by trading Gerald Wallace, though their plan is more geared toward using the cachet of Michael Jordan to attract a marquee free agent in 2012. Also, there's no rule that says the Bobcats have to cede the eighth spot to Indiana; the Pacers have to earn it. Imagine that: Charlotte trades its best player for two first-round picks and still makes the playoffs. It could happen. Other than that, I don't envision tanking being nearly the storyline it's been in past years. For one, it's a weak draft to begin with and could get weaker if underclassman pull out due to lockout fears. Plus, in the West, all the teams on the bubble really want to make the playoffs -- Portland, Denver, New Orleans, Memphis, Phoenix, Utah and Houston. Same in the East with New York, Philly, Indiana, Charlotte and even Milwaukee.
5. This is what I refer to as the NBA's deathmarch, trying to slog through the days post-trade deadline, pre-playoffs. Are you looking forward to the quiet or does the endless stretch of March get to you on the beat?
KB: After the excruciating Melo saga -- which for me culminated with writing the breaking story of the trade from seat 27C on my Delta flight from Los Angeles to New York on Feb. 21 -- I welcome the sanity. The Melo story was all-consuming for weeks, even months, and the deadline was busier than most people in the basketball and media business expected. On the NBA beat, this is always the time of year to take a breath and try to recharge a bit. It's also a time when I typically welcome the opportunity to focus on, you know, basketball again. But I'm energized on a couple of fronts more so than I've been in deathmarches past. I'm interested in seeing how the Knicks thing works out with Carmelo and Amar'e, and eager to see how the Perkins trade affects Boston and Oklahoma City. Also, the playoff races at the bottom are tight, which will lead to more compelling March and April games than we've had in recent years. As mentioned above, there are five teams legitimately battling for the final three spots in the East and six teams vying for the final four spots in the West. So that means I will pay even less attention to the NCAA Tournament than I normally do. As soon as I catch my breath.