The unofficial halfway point of the NBA has passed and we’re now into the good stuff. Contenders are jostling while those on the fringes battle it out for a spot in the playoffs.
The Westbrook Chronicles (continued)…
As it turns out, every basketball fan in Los Angeles will get to live out the Russell Westbrook experiment this season.
Los Angeles Lakers fans – even those that questioned his arrival in the first place – have ridden the Russell rollercoaster of hope and disappointment throughout the year. Every so often the idea that there might be something there popped up before that thought bubble popped with a flurry of bricked mid-range jumpers. Now, he has moved across the hallway to link up with the LA Clippers.
The Los Angeles Clippers have begun conversations with Russell Westbrook, sources tell me and @LawMurrayTheNU. Clippers received permission to speak to Westbrook and talks have started among franchise officials.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 16, 2023
Paul George got his man. With the Clippers said to be against landing Westbrook initially, George pushed for the contract and “drove the decision” in a desperate bid to convince the front office that he would add value to the roster.
He joins a Clippers team that is teetering on the edge of contention. Kawhi Leonard’s return from injury hasn’t propelled them up the standings quite like some had hoped, but they aren’t far away from the championship conversation at $12. Now we wait to see what impact Westbrook has…
It’s not always been positive in a team where he isn’t clearly the most dominant ball-handler.
What does Russell Westbrook do when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have the ball?
With Harden in Houston, the answer was “nothing.”
With LeBron in LA, the answer was “nothing.”
If the answer is “nothing” again with the Clippers, they’ve needlessly made themselves a worse team.
— Sam Quinn (@SamQuinnCBS) February 20, 2023
The former Laker had a somewhat positive impact in his first game as a Clipper and became only the second player to start a game for both LA teams in the same season. He ended with a very Westbrook 17 points on 7-13 shooting with five rebounds and 14 assists, but pulled a lot of the positives back with seven turnovers before fouling out. The Clippers went on to lose in Brodie’s absence in what is now the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history.
Clippers-Kings just became the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.
370 points: Pistons over Nuggets in 3OT, 186-184 (Dec 13, 1983)
351 points: Kings over Clippers in 2OT, 176-175 (Feb 24, 2023)
337 points: Spurs over Bucks in 3OT, 171-166 (March 6, 1982)
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) February 25, 2023
Malik Monk exploded for 45 points off the bench and capped off a 22-8 run late in the 4th quarter to force the game into overtime. De’Aaron Fox continued his impressive NBA season with 42 points and 12 assists with his go-ahead bucket with 36 seconds to play in the 2nd overtime enough to secure the win.
Kevin Durant hasn’t yet played a game for the Phoenix Suns but the hype around his arrival is having an impact on the NBA Championship market.
Phoenix shortened into $3 favourites shortly after the deal went through. Now, with Durant yet to play a game and only just on the verge of his debut, the Suns are out to the third line of betting at $5.50.
Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns are targeting his Suns debut and return to action in next Wednesday's road game against the Charlotte Hornets, league sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. Durant is on cusp of return from MCL sprain that he suffered on Jan. 8.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 22, 2023
The price feels right. Excitement and potential led to the early $3, but that’s all it is at the moment – excitement and potential. Durant and his time at the Brooklyn Nets is a prime example of how that doesn’t necessarily lead to wins. There is a lot for the Suns to figure out. Durant, and to a lesser extent, Chris Paul, need to stay healthy for the remainder of the season for a start. Without developing chemistry and cohesion, the Suns won’t challenge for the championship at the pointy end.
We will be keeping an eye on everything Suns once Durant makes his debut. From there, we should have a decent idea of how things might look come playoff time in a few weeks. In the meantime, though, $5.50 to be behind the Boston Celtics ($3.75) and Milwaukee Bucks ($5) is the right spot.
Grizzlies Bouncing Back
The Memphis Grizzlies are working through a little bit of a tough time at the moment.
Some have circled ‘the Shannon Sharpe’ incident as the catalyst to their recent poor patch…
Memphis Grizzlies this season:
Before Shannon Sharpe incident —
— 7th in ORTG
— 1st in DRTG
— 2nd in NETRTG
— 3rd in record
Since Shannon Sharpe incident —
— 25th in ORTG
— 8th in DRTG
— 23rd in NETRTG
— 25th in record ￼ pic.twitter.com/ARaqr9GzSq
— StatMuse (@statmuse) February 21, 2023
However, as JJ Redick suggests, there is probably a bit more to it than an off-court spat involving a television personality.
“Do u think it may have something to do with Steven Adams being hurt? Or that has no correlation? It’s just the patched cardigan?“
The big Kiwi is a key element to Memphis’ success. He’s known as one of the toughest players within NBA circles but doesn’t provide the highlights to garner the level of attention and respect he deserves from the wider basketball fan base. The Grizzlies are the best rebounding team in the league with Adams on the floor. Without him, they’re in the bottom five. He led the Grizzlies in on/off numbers before the injury, too.
Beating the Denver Nuggets recently is enough to suggest the Grizzlies are still part of the championship conversation. Their poor period coincided with a number of teams in the West improving at the trade deadline which may have made things look worse than they really are.
Second in the Western Conference and out at $19 to win the championship, now is the time to consider the Grizzlies. Adams is close to returning to five-on-five drills and out onto the court. From there, the Grizzlies will take some stopping.
Hawks Fire McMillan
The Atlanta Hawks have fired Nate McMillan and have Quin Snyder in their sights as his replacement.
While much of the fallout following McMillan’s firing has been around Trae Young and the two coaches he has contributed to firing, John Collins offered a more accurate perspective of what went wrong, and what he hopes the new coach can fix.
“ — I feel like he’s a little bit more suited for just guys who are older, understand the game. And I feel like we need a different kind of guidance. Hopefully, our new coach can come in and bring us that spark.”
The Hawks are a middling team falling short of expectations at the moment. At 30-30 for 8th in the Eastern Conference, they’re on the cusp of a playoff spot, but their up-and-down form throughout the season makes it difficult to back them in. While they are 2-0 since McMillan left the building, they’re 14th in offensive rating and 21st in defensive rating – middling. For a team that put all of their eggs in the offensive basket not long ago, the Hawks aren’t doing enough with the ball to make up for what most expect to be an average-at-best defence.
Snyder will make for an interesting replacement. He is especially familiar with producing NBA-best defensive systems. Should he make some quick changes, there might be hope for the Hawks yet.
NBA Championship Odds
We don’t need to check in on the teams towards the bottom of the NBA championship list. Here, we keep an eye on those inside the Top 10 each week.
The Westbrook addition hasn’t changed much in the championship odds list with the LA Clippers coming into $12 from $13 a week earlier. Meanwhile, the Phoenix Suns have settled into the third line of betting at $5.50.
Kyrie Irving’s pairing with Luka Doncic isn’t translating into improved championship odds. In fact, the Dallas Mavericks have blown out to $18 from $13 a week ago.
Top 10 Odds
|TEAM||WEEK 18 PRICE||WEEK 19 PRICE|
|Los Angeles Clippers||$13||$12|
|Golden State Warriors||$20||$18|