NBA Week 25

The playoffs are almost here! Find out who’s likely to make the cut!

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

Just like that, it’s all over. By this time next week, the NBA will have had its regular season come to a close and already completed the first games of the 2016 playoffs. Crazy, especially considering how many storylines we had this season. On top of all that, we also have some legitimate intrigue as we head into the final three days of the season including whether or not the Warriors will win their final game and break the all-time wins record, as well as Kobe scheduled to play the final game of his career on Wednesday night. With that said, let’s get into three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: Farewell, Kobe

He won’t be making the playoffs this year, but he will surely have an impact on them nonetheless. For many of the current or up-and-coming NBA stars, Kobe Bryant was their Michael Jordan. So many grew up watching Kobe and Shaq dominate the league for five years straight and walk away with three championships to show for it. Not to mention another two championships for the “Black Mamba” in 2009 and 2010 as well as an MVP and the second highest scoring game in NBA history (81). Yes, Kobe is a top 10 player of all time, yes he was an usher into the current era of basketball as we know it now. Yes, he is the closest thing to Jordan (from a competitive spirit standpoint) since MJ left the game for good. And no, he will probably never return to the court after Wednesday, enjoy him one more time, NBA fans.

Don’t Like: The Bulls, a mess

The Chicago Bulls have missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, dating back to the campaign before Derrick Rose got there. With essentially the same cast of characters coming out for this season and two legitimate all-star caliber players in Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol, it is a wonder that a team that is that stacked with talent can’t beat out a team like the Pacers or the Pistons for a spot in the playoffs. With the Bulls obviously switching things up this past off season with the edition of Fred Hoiberg, it’s interesting to see if Chicago will stick with their new coach beyond this year.

Don’t Like: The Rockets possibly missing the playoffs

Talk about another team that is a major disappointment. The one thing that needs to be looked at here is that this Rockets team was on the brink of going to the Finals just one year ago. The other thing is that according to most, they were supposed to have gotten better this off season with the addition of Ty Lawson. Now that Lawson is no longer with the team, they have welcomed misfits Josh Smith and Michael Beasley. Simply put, James Harden might not be the kind of alpha dog player that would equate to wins each season that many believe him to be. Simply having him on the team should equate to at least playoff appearances, and that does not seem to be the case currently.

Power Rankings

1) Golden State Warriors–A chance to put their name in the history books on Wednesday is the final piece for the Warriors’ puzzle, they have already clinched the conference.

2) San Antonio Spurs–With their loss to the Warriors on Sunday, there is still yet to be a team that goes completely undefeated at home in NBA history.

3) Cleveland Cavaliers–Two straight losses has made things interesting at the top of the Eastern Conference leaderboards as the Cavs still have yet to clinch the conference.

4) Oklahoma City Thunder–With the third seed in the conference being locked up for the last two weeks, the Thunder have been resting the majority of their players for the past weeks as they look ahead to a likely matchup with the Grizzlies in the first round.

5) Toronto Raptors–Winners of two straight, Toronto will likely finish as the second seed in the conference and the pressure of finally winning a playoff series will begin.

6) Los Angeles Clippers–Blake Griffin has looked a bit rusty but that has not stopped the Clippers from winning a league best five games in a row, after snapping the Mavs’ six-game win streak on Sunday.

7) Atlanta Hawks–With all the talk of the Cavs just walking their way into the Finals this year, the Hawks have been sorely underrated, especially considering this team has already been to the ECF last year.

8) Boston Celtics–The Celtics are hungry for home court advantage, they will more than likely be taking on the Heat in the post season, with the home team yet to be decided.

9) Miami Heat–Hassan Whiteside has found his way back into the starting lineup after being benched following a comeback from injury earlier this year.

10) Charlotte Hornets–The Hornets are a real sleeper, in my opinion, to get past the first round in the playoffs, especially is Kemba Walker is going to score at a clip like he is currently on right now.

Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow Round up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 24

How did the Warriors’ home loss to the Celtics impact the rest of the NBA? Find out with Sports Editor Albert’s Luna’s weekly NBA column!

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

The NBA has its first Monday off since October with the NCAA National Championship Game tonight. That’s too bad, they might have chosen the wrong game, since many are expecting it to be a highly uncompetitive contest.

Then again, that’s none of our business. NBA-wise, we had the Celtics march into Oracle Arena and defeat the previously undefeated-at-home Warriors with a thrilling victory. Let’s get right to it, with three things I like and don’t like, including power rankings.

Like: At least one home streak Is alive

Despite the Warriors getting their home streak ended, the the San Antonio Spurs’ reign still lives at 39 home game wins, and the Spurs have a chance to be the first team to go undefeated at home if they can win two more games. The closest team that has ever come close was the 1986 Boston Celtics who only dropped one game at Boston Garden. The only problem for the Spurs? The Warriors will be coming to visit one more time in San Antonio with a win being vital for their pace to have the most wins in a single season ever.

Don’t Like: The Raptors slipping

The Toronto Raptors have been in the rearview of the first-place Cavaliers for most of the season, coming within 1.5 games on numerous occasions. However, the city from the north has not been able to overtake the Cavs, who have all but clinched the top seed, which could be huge for what is looking to be a rematch in the finals. Keep in mind that the Raptors sport the best home record versus Eastern Conference teams with just three losses. However, three of those losses came at the hands of the Bulls, who could very well sneak into the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Like: Damian Lillard–all-NBA player

For some reason, Lillard was left off the all-star team this past year in favor of James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, and yes, Kobe Bryant. Since the break, Lillard has led his talent-depleted Blazer team to sixth in the Western Conference standings, and will likely make the playoffs. This is all after losing four of five starters last year including LaMarcus Aldridge. The point guard has been playing the best basketball of his career and has taken the West by storm.  I fully expect him to be repaid for his all-star snub in the form of an all-NBA third team selection. Anything short would be a robbery.

Top 10

  • Golden State Warriors–69-8 and they must win four of their last five games to make history. The real kicker here is that they still have yet to lock up the #1 seed, courtesy of the Spurs.
  • San Antonio Spurs–Will Gregg Popovich really rest his starters this week and let the Warriors roll their way to 73 wins? He seems like the only coach with the guts to do it.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers–It says a lot about the East that the Cavaliers’ three-game winning streak is the most in the conference.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder–A league-leading 21-point lead blown in the fourth quarter leaves OKC searching for their late game identity with the post season already at the end of next week.
  • Toronto Raptors–An ugly home loss to the inconsistent Houston Rockets seems to have developed a pattern for Toronto. They don’t have elite consistency.
  • Los Angeles Clippers–Blake Griffin is back… kinda? The former all-star power forward is going to have some serious rust to shake off as the Clippers have locked up home court in the playoffs.
  • Boston Celtics–A crazy second half by Isaiah Thomas Friday night in Oakland presented one of the most memorable games in the year. This off season should have the Celtics in the market for a superstar, now more than ever.
  • Atlanta Hawks–A loss to the Cavs on Friday could have been negated if Al Horford would get away from the free-throw line and attack the basket. It still was a great game, however.
  • Charlotte Hornets–For some reason, last season just always seemed like a fluke. Charlotte is, and will be a playoff team for the second time in three years, a nice little trend when considering they set the single season losing percentage record in the 2011-2012 season.
  • Miami Heat–Two really bad losses this weekend to the Lakers and a blowout in Portland can only be excused with the health issues of the Heat. After a while, however, there should be no excuse for their level of play.

Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow Round up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 23

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

It looks like the Warriors just might be making history after all after the latest predictions have them at just under 70 percent odds to break the 72 wins in a landmark season. Other than another undefeated week from the Warriors, the West’s bottom four teams in the playoff picture all seem not to want any part in post season play. Also, the Spurs looked to have already mailed it in this early with the second seed locked up. We have a lot to talk about, let’s get right to it with three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: OKC Thunder play of late
The Thunder have been winners of seven straight after beating the Spurs on Saturday night, although San Antonio did rest all of their starters. Nonetheless, the Thunder seem to have everything clicking at the right time, especially with their two superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The Thunder have quietly emerged as a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, with both of their games against the Warriors and Spurs being highly competitive losses. It will be interesting to see just how the matchups shake down in what could be a Thunder-Spurs second round matchup.

Don’t Like: Rockets
Houston is simply getting out of hand now. From being the number two seed last year and advancing all the way to the Conference Finals to being on the brink of not making the playoffs altogether, this has been one of the worst year-to-year drop-offs in recent NBA history. With James Harden seemingly putting up MVP numbers, it is a question as to whether or not the Beard actually carries that much value as a player, given they play better with him off the floor more often times than not. It doesn’t help either when you have Dwight Howard with essentially one foot out of the door for most of this season as most signs point towards the center leaving in free agency this season.

Don’t Like: LeBron’s week of comments
LeBron had quite the interesting week for most of the wrong reasons. The Cavs star unfollowed the team’s social media accounts which caused a big ruckus from many NBA followers. Several days later, an article ran that had LeBron quoted as saying he would like to team up with buddies Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony sometime in the future, which also created a media frenzy. Maybe not so coincidentally the Cavs forward also had two triple doubles in the week after having just one the entire first four months of the season.

Top 10

1) Golden State Warriors – 73-9 is in reach, the only question now is if they could even go 74-8 in that span also. If they were to win out they would have 75 wins. Unbelievable, I know.

2) San Antonio Spurs – With seemingly nothing left to play for this season the Spurs have rested their core the past three games and might use the next three weeks of the season to give their bench some run.

3) Oklahoma City Thunder – For as much talk of the Eastern Conference’s improvement this year, the real power up top still lies in the West with the Thunder being the transition team.

4) Toronto Raptors – An ugly home loss to Houston makes it seem more and more like the Raptors might not be able to catch the Cavs for the first seed in the East.

5) Cleveland Cavaliers – A bit of an easier schedule looms for the Cavs but might have bigger problems if they are going to drop duds like they did Friday in Brooklyn.

6) Los Angeles Clippers – Having won the once Laker-dominated Pacific Division for a franchise record five years in a row and the impending return of Blake Griffin has the Clippers looking like a dark horse.

7) Atlanta Hawks – With the third seed still up for grabs, it might be better to avoid the scorching hot Hornets in the first round for Atlanta.

8) Boston Celtics – Isaiah Thomas has made his case for an all-NBA team this year by guiding Boston to what looks like could be 50 wins, a first in five seasons.

9) Miami Heat – Chris Bosh has basically missed two seasons and the Heat will probably still combine for almost 90 wins in that span, simply an excellent coaching job by the once very much scrutinized Erick Spoelstra.

10) Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets have now transitioned into a team that takes care of the teams it needs to, not an easy thing for some teams to do when they move up a level.

Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu 

Make sure to follow Round Up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 20

Catch up on the NBA with sports editor Albert Luna’s weekly column.

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

The rematch of Thunder-Warriors was not even the biggest game of the weekend for the NBA. Somehow on a Sunday matinee match, the Lakers, with their 12 wins, took down the Warriors, who went into the match with 55 victories, for the biggest regular season upset in NBA history ( by win percentage). We also saw this week the bottom three teams in the Western conference playoff picture simply refusing to win a ball game against beatable opponents (looking at you, Mavericks, Jazz, and Rockets). Let’s get right to it, here are three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: The Spurs are creeping up

Don’t look now, but after that dud of a performance—the Warriors against the Lakers on Sunday—the Spurs are a mere two games back in the loss column for the number-one seed, their closet margin since the season began. Although they have nine losses to Golden State’s still historic six losses, it is worth noting that the Spurs and Warriors still play each other three more times this season, with two of the three taking place in San Antonio, where the Spurs are still undefeated, being just the third team in history to start a season 30-0 at home, the other two, (Bulls, Magic) both went on to the NBA Finals. The only problem, the Warriors are sitting at 26-0 at home, as well.

Don’t Like: Kobe is starting to break down

Kobe Bryant has missed three of his past five games, and in the two games he has been able to play in, he has played just a total of 37 minutes in those contests, which was his season average just seven years ago in minutes per game. 37 minutes in 10 days for a “sore shoulder” certainly doesn’t sound good for Bryant. Luckily for him, he has the majority of the next five weeks of his final season at home, as he’s made it a point to say that he wanted to play in most road games this year since it would be his last time playing in that city. His 37-year-old body simply doesn’t seem to be up to the task to carry the legend to play in the remaining games left in his career. Here’s hoping that he can.

Don’t Like: No one wants to make the playoffs?

The Western conference has been a mess after the top four teams (Warriors, Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers). Taking out the Grizzlies, who have done a great job of keeping things in tact after losing Marc Gasol for the season, the four teams fighting for three playoff spots have been mediocre to say the least. The Mavs, Blazers (who fizzled this week after being the hottest team in the league), Rockets, and Jazz are all not taking advantages of opportunities. A perfect example of this is the Mavs blowing a four-point lead with less than 14 seconds left and somehow not being able to inbound a ball, as they dropped an ugly loss to the Nuggets on Sunday afternoon.

Top 10

  • Golden State Warriors—A seven-game winning streak has been snapped and the Warriors will need to go 18-3 in their final 21 games to break the Bulls’ record for best team of all time. However, they have one of the harder schedules in the league in that span.
  • San Antonio Spurs—As mentioned, the Spurs are inching closer to the Warriors in the standings, and the same is true for them in these power rankings. The next few weeks should be interesting.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—Winners of seven of their last 10 games, the Cavs had a good week’s worth of games, yet seem to be having some chemistry issues in the locker room still.
  • Toronto Raptors—An ugly loss on Sunday that saw them blow a big lead to the lowly Rockets left a sour taste in the Raptors’ mouths after some quality wins against Western conference teams this week.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—A win versus the Bucks on Sunday stopped the bleeding for the Thunder, who went into the contest with the third-worst record since the all-star break, and blew a big lead on Wednesday night versus the Clippers.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—A big win versus the Thunder might as well be meaningless if the Clippers are going to turn around and lose to the Hawks at home. Consistency will be a major point of emphasis.
  • Miami Heat—Winners of five straight, the Heat are the hottest team in the East right now. One has to imagine just how scary this team would look with a healthy Chris Bosh, who seems to be getting further and further from returning to play this season.
  • Boston Celtics—The Celtics might just be benefiting from an easy schedule or simply just catching teams on the wrong night, but they seem to look like a legit top-four team in the East. Credit to Brad Stevens.
  • Memphis Grizzles—As mentioned, I have no idea how Memphis is staying so sharp after the loss of their best play for the season, but it doesn’t hurt to have Mike Conley on your team, who has come alive after a bad start to the season.
  • Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks are quietly now at 35 wins on the year and might be able to make a push at a least a 50 win season for the second year in a row if they can handle opponents down the stretch.

Be sure to check next week, same time, and same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow Round up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 19

See how your favorite team is faring with sports editor Albert Luna’s latest NBA column!

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

Saturday night saw what was probably the game of the year for the NBA. The Thunder and the Warriors gave us one of the most enjoyable games in recent memory, with Golden State refusing to lose and somehow coming back from a four-point deficit with 12 seconds left to win the game in overtime. The game put a bow on what was a great month of basketball, including all-star weekend, and gives fans a lot to look forward to as we head down the stretch of the season in March. Here are three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: Stephen Curry redefining the game

All-timers in the NBA always go through peaks in their careers when they cannot be stopped and shatter records and precedents in the process. Stephen Curry is officially an all-timer. Although he was just a good not great player for the first few years of his career, Curry is now unbelievable. His shooting ability has earned him the title of the best shooter in NBA history after breaking his own record for made threes in a season with 24 games still to go. With his shooting, the NBA could realistically see a new era of three-point attempts never before seen, and in the process, also make the game one that could be positionless, or it could just be Curry being one of a kind and me overthinking the whole thing, one of the two.

Don’t Like: Every Cavalier not named LeBron James

LeBron is 31 years old and came to Cleveland under the notion that he would not have to carry as much of an offensive and defensive burden as he did his last years in Miami and in the process continue to preserve his body for the future. His teammates must not have received the memo. Without James in two games this season, the Cavs are awful. After failing to beat Toronto on Friday night in what would have been a signature win, James’ teammates were blown out by the lowly Wizards with the superstar resting on Sunday. This is similar to the Heat absolutely obliterating them with James resting on the second night of a back to back in November. The Cavs need to figure out their identity with James not on the floor, and fast.

Like: The Spurs defending home

For all the talk of the Warriors being able to run the table on their home court, while currently being 24-0 at home, the Spurs are 28-0 on their home floor and have a better margin of victory there compared to the Dubs. It is beyond me why no one is talking about this possibility of going undefeated at home (which has never been done in the regular season) just as much as the Warriors possibility of breaking the 72-10 overall record. Yet in typical Spurs fashion, they will continue to fly under the radar. The one catch in all of this however, is they still need to play the Warriors twice and the Thunder once in their arena.

Top 10

  • Golden State Warriors—Still on pace for the best season of all time and Steph Curry is casually pulling up for game winners against the Thunder at half court, what else is new?
  • San Antonio Spurs—Saturday’s thumping of the Rockets was able to secure San Antonio’s 17th straight season of at least 50 wins, the longest streak of all time, and it’s not even that close.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—Contrary to popular belief, I think good teams can have bad losses, as was the case for OKC in their last two meetings with the Warriors. Forget Spurs-Warriors in the playoffs, OKC-GSW might be a far better matchup come post season time.
  • Toronto Raptors—Their breakout season continues as they picked up a quality win on Friday night but somehow had a hiccup on Sunday versus the Pistons.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—Unrest seems to be settling in for the Cavs as reports surfaced today that Kyrie Irving is unhappy in Cleveland. Watch out, this might start to get ugly here.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—LA has fizzled a bit since their hot streak since the Blake Griffin fallout but are still playing above average basketball, winning seven of their last 11 in the process.
  • Boston Celtics—Look at the Celtics! 10 games over .500 and beating the Heat in a good midseason test over the weekend. With the Cavs’ poor play, you have to wonder what these playoffs would have looked like had they made a move at the trade deadline.
  • Memphis Grizzles—By no means is Memphis even close to being a contender in the playoffs, but Coach Dave Joerger deserves to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year the way he has led the team since losing Marc Gasol for the season.
  • Portland Trailblazers—Out of nowhere, the Blazers are the hottest team in the league. Damian Lillard is playing out of his mind since his all-star snub and has guided the team to wins over the Warriors and Bulls since the all-star break.
  • Miami Heat—I’ll give the Heat some love because they have been doing as good of a job as they can with all the injuries they have been dealing with of late. However, the signing of veteran swingman Joe Johnson could give the Heat a nice boost going forward.

Be sure to check next week, same time, same place, for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Albert Luna may be reached at Aluna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow Round up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 18

How did the NBA rebound after a less-than-exciting trade? Find out in The Round Up/Oncore Magzine’s weekly NBA column!

By Derek Gonzales

Staff Writer

The 2016 NBA trade deadline was expected to be as entertaining as the year before, when players like Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Jackson, Enes Kanter, and Kevin Garnett were traded minutes before the four p.m. Eastern Time deadline hit.

This year, rumors swirled around the league, from Kevin Love going to Boston, to Carmelo Anthony teaming up with King James in Cleveland. However, none of these came to fruition, with the most notable trades being Cleveland landing of one of the league’s best three-point shooting big men in Channing Frye, and Phoenix finally getting rid of their disgruntled power forward Markieff Morris, sending him to Washington for two expiring contracts and a protected first-round pick.

Let’s take a look at my three likes and dislikes of Week 18 in the NBA, as well as power rankings.

Like: Cleveland acquiring Channing Frye.

This was a low-cost move for the Cavs, sending a first-rounder and Anderson Varajao’s expiring contract to Portland in the three-team deal. Channing Frye, whom Cavs GM David Griffin is familiar with when both were in Phoenix, is a 7-foot center who in his 10th year and shoots 38.7 percent from behind the arc. His ability to spread the floor and pull opposing big men away from the basket to open up driving lanes for LeBron and Kyrie will be a huge plus for the Cavs as we inch closer to playoff basketball.

Dislike: Markieff Morris

Markieff Morris was given a four-year, $32-million contract by the Phoenix Suns.  And what did they get from him? Bad publicity: getting charged with assault with his twin brother and fellow Sun Marcus, throwing a towel at the Suns’ coach’s head, shoving a teammate during a timeout, and publicly asking to be traded after Marcus got traded.  The unprofessionalism Markieff showed as part of the Suns was wrong.  The organization deserved his 100 percent effort on the court, and did not get that, with his scoring average dropping four points from the season before, to add onto his off-the-court antics. Here’s to hoping he grows up in Washington.

Like: The ‘Brow puts up 59 and 20 on Detroit.

The New Orleans Pelicans have been decimated by injuries all year.  A team that snuck into the playoffs last year is 11 games under .500 and is falling out of the playoff picture, but Anthony Davis provided a memorable night for the team Sunday. He went 24-34 from the field en route to his 59 points in 43 minutes, and grabbed 20 rebounds against Pistons center Andre Drummond. A team with a special talent like this shouldn’t be 22-33 on the year. GET THIS MAN SOME HELP!

Power Rankings:

  • Golden State Warriors (49-5)—It took an unbelievable performance from Damian Lillard, scoring 51 points to knock off the Dubs. Sitting at 49-5, they are still on pace for 73 wins.
  • San Antonio Spurs (47-9)—These Spurs continue to fly under the radar, but they do still face Golden State twice before the end of the season. That’s their chance to get some attention.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (40-14)—It was a toss-up for the third spot between them and OKC, but they knocked the Thunder in Chesapeake Bay Arena on Sunday, which is always tough.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (40-16)—They would’ve liked to have gotten a signature win over LeBron and the Cavs, but this team is clicking. The addition of Randy Foye will only make it tougher for opposing defenses.
  • Boston Celtics (33-24)—Brad Stevens has gotten his team to buy into his defense-first mentality. “They’ve got a bunch of junkyard dogs that can play,” said Clippers Coach Doc Rivers after his team lost in Boston.
  • Los Angeles Clippers (36-19)—Speaking of Doc, his team just continues to put up better numbers offensively without Blake Griffin. Good win during the week against San Antonio, but they still cannot figure out a way to beat those Warriors.
  • Toronto Raptors (36-18)—They have the second-best record in the East, but it’s hard to give love to a team that, with Lowry, DeRozan, Valanciunas, hasn’t been able to get out of the first round of the playoffs.
  • Memphis Grizzlies (32-23)—Grit ‘N Grind continues to win games in Memphis. Let’s see if Lance Stephenson can channel that fire that made him popular in Indiana and be productive for the Grizz.
  • Miami Heat (31-24)—Chris Bosh has another blood clot-related issue, so let’s keep him in our thoughts and hope for a speedy return to the court. Hassan Whiteside just posted 25 points and 23 rebounds in a win in D.C. on Saturday, as the team sits at fifth in the East.
  • Indiana Pacers (30-25)—Paul George, who should win NBA Comeback Player of the Year, leads this team into a big game in Miami on Monday. The game will have playoff/tiebreaker implications.

Be sure to check next week for the next installment of the NBA Column.

Derek Gonzales can be reached at gordooo5@nmsu.edu

Make sure to follow Round Up Sports on Twitter at: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 17

How did the all-star weekend affect the NBA? Find out now!

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

The all-star break has officially come and gone, and there is a landscape in the NBA unlike anything else this season. With Kobe Bryant suiting up for his last game over the weekend against Toronto and a nice reminder that defense is never of the essence in an NBA exhibition game, we must now focus on the second stretch of the NBA. One thing that’s very interesting of the all-star break is the trade deadline, which will be coming up later on in the middle of this week. We have a lot to get to, so let’s get right to it with three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: Quiet before the storm

At this point in prior seasons, two or three trades have occurred. However, this season, perhaps in line with its unprecedented field of competition, there was no trade chatter over the all-star break. If we look back just one year ago, we see trades such as Rajon Rondo going to Dallas, Rudy Gay going to Sacramento, and Josh Smith going for his first tenure in Houston.  But no big trades have occurred yet,  other than the occasional 15th man on the roster being sent for tax purposes, such as Joe Harris for the Cavaliers. With the new salary cap going into effect this summer, expect a crazy trade deadline.

Don’t like: Lack of consistency with all-star weekend.

The all-star game has unchanged for the last 60 plus years. However, the events around it have been in constant fluidity for far too long. A perfect example of this is the slam dunk contest, which in my opinion had one of their better showings in almost 15 years with Zach Lavine taking home the title. Other changes were the bracket format in the Skills Challenge along with the Shooting Stars Challenge being left out this year. For a marketing standpoint, this makes absolutely no sense for the NBA. Fans are not able to connect with a certain event they may like since it may change from year to year.  Although it’s just exhibition and for fun, there should be some type of committee that decides when and where these events will take place.

Like: Karl Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis

Both Towns and Porzingis where in the top three in this past year’s draft, and for good reason. Both are tied for first in scoring among rookies at 17.1 points per game. Granted, both of their teams have losing records, but both have bright futures of being franchise cornerstones.  The all-star break was a great national introduction for them, especially with both having decent games on Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge. In Towns’ case, he also took home the Skills Challenge Trophy, being the first rookie ever to do so. With a budding Ben Simmons coming into the NBA next year, the league is looking more than well stocked with young talent for the foreseeable future.

Top 10

  • Golden State Warriors—The Warriors are 48-4, the best start in NBA history.
  • San Antonio Spurs—With two all-stars joining, the Spurs have the highest number of players who are current or former all-stars on any team since the 2004 Los Angeles Lakers.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—Kevin Durant and company have 40 wins after going 8-2 in their last 10 games. Defense will have to be their biggest focus going forward.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—At 96.9 points per game for opponents, the Cavs are second in the conference in points allowed, a stark contrast considering the beginning of their season.
  • Toronto Raptors—Losing to the Timberwolves to close the first half of the season left the Raptors with a bad taste in their mouth after winning nine of their previous 10 game. Expect them to come out with some extra momentum after the all-star weekend.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—Despite Blake Griffin missing almost half the season so far, the Clippers are playing their best basketball of the campaign. It might make some wonder if the power forward was holding the offense back the whole time.
  • Boston Celtics—The Celtics won eight of their final 10 games heading into the break. Now they face a difficult March looming in the distance, currently still hold the third seed.
  • Memphis Grizzlies—Consistency is the biggest thing for Memphis going forward after losing to teams they were beating easily at this time last year.
  • Atlanta Hawks—For all the talk that Atlanta has dipped this season, they still hold the fourth seed in the East and look prime for home court advantage heading into the playoffs. That still has not kept most of their core players free of trade talks.
  • Miami Heat—Chris Bosh’s calf injury poses a threat for the Heat going forward, but with a three-game lead over the eighth spot in the playoff race and Dwyane Wade playing at an all-star level, Miami should find a way to weather the storm.

Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.

Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow the Round Up’s Official Twitter: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 16

Catch up on the latest NBA news with sports editor Albert Luna’s weekly column.

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

Editor’s Note: This piece was written just before Derek Fisher was released by the Knicks. That part of column, however, still holds true from a roster standpoint.

Well, the Warriors remain unbeaten at home and are still on track to have the best regular season in NBA history. The Oklahoma City Thunder gave the Dubs their only real game this week on Saturday night after Kevin Durant went for 40 points in Oakland and nearly led a comeback.

That being said, the NBA column keeps churning along as we have the all-star break/ game officially on the horizon. Games stop this Thursday for six days to account for the weekend in Toronto (FYI I think Steph Curry isn’t winning the three-point contest), which will give the players a nice break. Let’s get right to it this week recapping the NBA this past week with three things I like and don’t Like, plus power rankings.

Like: The Thunder as a dark horse championship pick

With so much talk this year of the Warriors, Spurs, and Cavs essentially running away with the field in terms of championship odds, the Thunder have very quietly officially emerged as the fourth team and rightfully so. People forget, myself included, just how special Kevin Durant is as a player. He can really get any shot on the floor that he wants and he is so skilled that he in the process makes his teammates better while doing it. Throw in the fact that Russell Westbrook might be the most athletic point guard in the history of the league and you have yourself a legitimate championship-caliber team, regardless of who the other players on the team are.

Don’t Like: The Washington Wizards’ disappointing season

Maybe this is just something that they do. The Wizards have made it to the second round of the playoffs in the past two years and have been a team that many thought was on the upswing, especially with all the young players. However, like anything, their young players have matured a great deal, yet they are having one of the worst season in almost three years. It doesn’t make sense other than the fact that star point guard John Wall can’t do it alone. Many players have either been injured (such as Bradley Beal) or have been too inconsistent this year (players such as Gortat and Nene). Whatever the case is, the Wizards have somehow managed to fall from NBA Finals aspirations.

Don’t Like: The New York Knicks’ last 10 games

The Knicks are a perfect example of a team that has totally lost their identity over the past few weeks. They have gone 1-9 in their last 10 contests and have dropped five in a row. Carmelo Anthony has missed some time due to injury yet there still seems to be an enigma about this team. In my opinion, I think that can fall directly on the shoulders of head coach Derek Fisher. After getting into a fight during the off season with NBA player Matt Barnes in a situation that seems to develop more and more layers as time goes on, it certainly isn’t a good look for Fisher and the Knicks going forward. I really do expect a big roster shake up going forward for the Knicks, and it should start on the bench.

Top 10

  • Golden State Warriors—It’s about time the Warriors got some competition in Saturday’s game versus the Thunder. There was only eight points’ difference in the Warriors 46th season victory. The next question: will these boys lose again? If so, when?
  • San Antonio Spurs—The Spurs dominated Friday night in Dallas by handing the Mavs one of their worst losses ever. One night later? They almost dropped a home game to the Kobe-led Lakers in his final game in San Antonio. Strange, I know.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—LeBron’s team experienced their first losing streak under new head coach Tyron Lue, albeit it lasted just two games.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—As stated above, I think the Thunder have proven they are as hungry as ever to chase the championship this year, but it just might be the toughest year from a competition point of view.
  • Toronto Raptors—Just two games behind the Cavs for first in the East, the Raptors have upheld their momentum going into the All-Star break, which is one of the more surprising feats at this point in the season.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—I wish there was a number that could separate five and six more, because starting with the Clips, the drop off in overall team quality is immense and drastic.
  • Memphis Grizzlies—After a bad start, the Grizzlies were a season-best 10 games over .500 before Saturday’s O.T. loss to the Mavs.
  • Miami Heat—The Heat picked up two good road wins this week before falling at home to the Clippers on Sunday, which kind of describes the inconsistency by Miami in the best of ways.
  • Boston Celtics— Look at the Celtics all of the sudden. With the help of a greatly enjoyable Avery Bradley game-winning three in Cleveland, the Celtics are riding a four-game win streak and have won nine of 10.
  • Atlanta Hawks—Rumors of Atlanta making Al Horford and Jeff Teague available on the market shows just how much better the East has gotten this year, or simply how much worse Atlanta has regressed.

Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.

Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow the Round Up’s Official Twitter: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 15

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

The long-awaited battle of the Spurs and Warriors was exactly the opposite of what everyone thought it would be: a blowout. Not only did this past week’s worth of NBA action feature two marquee matchups (Warriors-Spurs and Spurs-Cavs), but also a few historical moments and yet another coach being fired Monday morning. We have a lot to talk about, so let’s get right to this week’s three things I like and don’t like, plus power rankings.

Like: The Championship being locked up in January

I realize so many things can happen between now and June—trades, injuries, and simply bad luck. However, I don’t think there has ever been a season when there was such an odds-on favorite to take the entire championship so soon in the season. The Warriors, after getting out to the best start in league history, still had to face the two teams ranked right below: Cavaliers and the Spurs. One week after dismantling the Cavs, they just as equally embarrassed the Spurs on their home floor. With the Spurs figuring to be Golden State’s biggest matchup for this year, it does not seem anyone can really compete with these Warriors, at least not for now.

Don’t Like: The Lakers’ lack of heart

The Los Angeles Lakers now have tied their longest losing streak in franchise history, with 10 defeats in a row. The biggest problem I have here is they have better talent than what their record suggests. The Lakers are certainly not the 76ers, who are trotting out players who don’t belong in the NBA, so why are they only two games better than them? It is mindboggling that a team with Kobe Bryant, former all-star Roy Hibbert, reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, and talented young players Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle can’t get to 10 wins at the halfway point of the season. They are better than this and they need some sort of motivation to prove it.

Like: The All-star reserves

They might have finally gotten the all-star game right this year. With the exception of snubs Pau Gasol and even Dirk Nowitzki, the all-star reserves consensus was that it was fairly accurate. Players who deserved to get into the game did, such as Andre Drummond and Demarcus Cousins. On the other end of the spectrum, so too did the players who simply missed too much time or were not as good as we would like them to be (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). Despite predicting that there would be some unfair nods this year, with Kobe and Dwyane Wade being the lone exceptions, the rest of the roasters look to be fair and right.

 

Top 10:

  • Golden State Warriors—One night after a scare against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Warriors went into New York and handily beat the Knicks, despite Steph Curry having his worst game of the year.
  • San Antonio Spurs—After collecting two sizeable losses against other elite teams in one week, the Spurs are starting to look a little bit like a team that needs to regain their edge. Yet, as always, the Spurs will probably prove everyone wrong come playoff time.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—The Cavs rebounded well this week, especially with Saturday night’s big win over the Spurs. Cleveland is quietly looking better now since the firing of former coach David Blatt. Let’s see if this can continue.
  • Toronto Raptors—The Raptors are officially the hottest team in the league right now after their win streak increased to 11 over the weekend. It is also nice to see the Raptors get two all-stars (Lowry and DeRozan) in the game this year.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—The Thunder are the best team in the West in the past 10 games, going 9-1 and winning their last three. They beat bad teams and handle their business against above-average teams, as well.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—The fact Blake Griffin can break his hand while already out with another injury has many questioning just how far the Clippers can get with Griffin as their superstar. Let the (silly) trade rumors begin.
  • Memphis Grizzlies—A bad start to the season could not hold down these Grizzlies for long. They find themselves as the fourth best team in the league in the past 30 games, after the bad start made them wake up.
  • Miami Heat—Four straight wins and a blowout of the reeling Hawks have the Heat tied for fourth in the East, with Dwyane Wade and company suddenly looking rejuvenated.
  • Chicago Bulls—Getting blown out on National TV certainly does not help the Bulls’ case a day later in the power rankings. Inconsistency remains a big issue for the team, but what’s new?
  • Dallas Mavericks—The Mavs lose to teams they should lose to and beat the teams they should beat, no real surprises either way. Despite overachieving greatly in many people’s eyes this season, the Mavs are the definition of an average, solid team in this season’s NBA.

Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.

Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow the Round Up’s Official Twitter: @RoundUp_Sports

NBA Week 14

By Albert Luna

Sports Editor

NBA Week 14

After a scheduled month-long break, we are back for the second semester of NMSU and national sports. That also means our weekly NBA column. Now if you were counting, we are now coming upon week 14 of the season, which has already been one of the more memorable seasons in years past. As always, I’ll list three things I like and don’t like and include power rankings of the top 10 teams heading into this week of games.

Like: The long-awaited Spurs—Warriors I

We are more than halfway through the season and we have yet to see the two best teams in the league face off even once, despite being in the same conference. The Cavs and Warriors on Christmas day was supposed to be a meeting of the top teams in the league. However, with the Warriors and Spurs losing only a combined 10 games going into Monday night’s matchup, it is literally, from a combined record standpoint at this point in the season, the best regular season matchup in the past 30 years. This looks to be one of the best measuring sticks of the regular season and also carries the heaviest implications for the playoffs.

Don’t Like: The Cavs’ coaching shuffle

David Blatt was never the right coach for the Cleveland Cavaliersthat is just a simple fact. The now former head coach of the Cavs was 30-11 at the time of his firing but simply couldn’t get up to coach the big games, evident by that embarrassing loss at the hands of the Warriors last week. However, the thing that boggles my mind is, why go out and lock up top assistant Tyron Lue to a three-year deal worth $10 million when he has no experience coaching? Why not simply name him an intern for the remainder of the season and base your decision on whether to keep him off of this year’s success? It simply wasn’t good management. Keep in mind, the Cavs are now paying three head coaches (Mike Brown, Blatt, and Lue) and two of them are not even with the team.

Like: Toronto Raptors

It is no coincidence the Raptors want to be well represented at the first ever all-star game in Toronto next month. With Kyle Lowry already locked up as a starter, the team is now just 2.5 games back of being top in the Eastern Conference. With the Cavs in flux now, the Raptors have a legitimate chance to leapfrog them in the standings this week and secure their own coaching staff to coach the Eastern all-stars, which would be a first for the Raptors. Also, star shooting guard Demar DeRozan should get the nod as an all-star reserve, which will be announced later this week. The Raptors seem to be on the upswing at the best time for the franchise and the city.

Top 10:

  • Golden State Warriors—The Warriors are still on track to have the best season of all time. They rightfully deserve the top spot here, yet the Spurs are only two games behind them in the standings, making Monday’s game all the more interesting.
  • San Antonio Spurs—Kawhi Leonard is clearly number two in the league in terms of MVP nods right now, with his offensive potential finally now caught up with his long-standing defensive prowess. The next step: perform in big moments.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder—The Thunder have actually been fairly quiet lately despite going 8-2 in their last 10 games. However, ugly losses, such as on Sunday night versus the Nets, are all the more reason they are not in the top tier in the league, which may now only be a two-member club.
  • Toronto Raptors—The Raptors are the hottest team in the East. They’re winning all these games despite the absence of Demarre Carrol, but some superb play from the two backcourt players have pushed the Toronto franchise into elite company seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Cleveland Cavaliers—The Cavs’ loss Saturday to the Bulls left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths after the coaching debut of Tyron Lue didn’t go as well as anticipated. The Cavs have some legitimate concerns they are going to have to address, starting with Kevin Love.
  • Los Angeles Clippers—The Clippers have slowly crept up to the fourth best team in the West after a shaky start to the season. Chris Paul, meanwhile, is trying to make a push to have his all-star game streak extended with his play of late.
  • Chicago Bulls—Sometimes the Bulls look as though they can make a run at the finals, other times they nearly lose to the 76ers. One big difference from years past is they are allowing 102 opponent points per game, a far uptick from the previous coaching regime.
  • Atlanta Hawks—The Hawks need to have an all-star on the team this year. If they don’t, they run the risk of being the first franchise since the ‘90s Bulls to have no all-stars just one year after having multiple.
  • Memphis Grizzlies—Going 7-3 of late has really helped things in Memphis, where it appears they may be starting to figure things out finally. I firmly expect them to be in the market for three-point shooters at the trade deadline, though.
  • Houston Rockets—Inconsistency just might be a thing most Rockets fans might have to learn to live with this season, but when they’re playing good, they really look good. And when they’re badwell, let’s save that for another top 10.

Be sure to check back next week, same time, for the latest installment of the NBA column.

Albert Luna may be reached at ALuna32@NMSU.edu

Make sure to follow the Round Up’s official Twitter: @Round Up_Sports