NBA Week in Review: The Atlanta Hawks surge to the top of the Eastern Conference, Kevin Durant returns and the rest from the week in the NBA
LeBron to miss two weeks. It seems nothing good is happening these days for the Cavaliers, who have recently suffered through rumors about coach David Blatt losing the team or even his job, not to mention a rash of injuries to key players. LeBron James hasn’t been immune to the bug, and this week he began a two-week hiatus from the team and the game in order to rehab a sore left knee.
The Cavs have struggled in his absence, but were able to welcome back Kevin Love and Shawn Marion this weekend and stop the bleeding versus the Hornets on Friday night.
Thankfully for Blatt, GM David Griffin backed up the coach, basically saying the team should get in line, because Blatt isn’t going anywhere. A bold play, but at least Griffin has made a move.
Hawks surge to the front of the East. It was 1994 the last time the Hawks were in the first round this late in the season, so yeah, it’s been awhile for Atlanta. Don’t sleep on coach Mike Budenholzer’s three-point-bombing squad, either. Al Horford is rounding into form, while Paul Millsap continues to thrive in Atlanta, and Jeff Teague’s come-up continues.
Knicks might shut down Carmelo Anthony for the year. The Knicks have been a nightmare this year, and there’s a strong chance they could try to coerce Melo to take it easy the rest of the season. At 5-30, New York is definitely headed for the lottery, but it’s hard to tell a superstar to just sit out for most of a season when he’s called surgery a “last resort.” Instead, it’s likely that the Knicks will hold him out on a game-to-game basis and say they’re doing everything they can to keep their $124 million player healthy. And no, things can’t get any worse for the Knicks.
Timberwolves have lost 11-straight. The Knicks of the Western Conference continue to lose, but I’m joking, they have Andrew Wiggins, which is far more than most NBA teams can say. Although the T-Wolves continue to struggle in the Bestern Conference, their young players are starting to show flashes, starting with Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad. Hopefully Flip Saunders does not mess it up.
Rajon Rondo gelling well in Dallas, shines in Boston return. We knew Rondo could distribute, but he put on a shooting clinic in the Garden in his return back to Boston, making 5-of-7 three pointers in the kind of out-of-nowhere performance that Rondo has mastered. He has started to find his role on this Mavericks team, especially on defense, which he joked about this week, saying he “[hasn’t] played defense in years” thanks to Avery Bradley as his backcourt mate. Now in Dallas, that’s a role he’s coming back around to; that, and feasting on a smörgåsbord of talented offensive teammates.
Kevin Durant returns. The Thunder is already knocking on the door of a playoff spot, just 1.5 games behind the Suns for the 8th slot. They’re hoping that they’ve finally shed the injury bug that’s plagued them this season, as they welcomed back Durant this week for hopefully the final time. The former MVP showed no signs of rust after a nagging ankle injury, and he dropped 34 against the Wizards during the weekend. He and Russell Westbrook just need to remain healthy, and Oklahoma City will be a first-round matchup that no top-tier Western Conference team wants.
This year is not the Hornets’ year. While they’re not the Knicks, the Hornets have had a disastrous season as well, with the Lance Stephenson experiment failing so far, Kemba Walker not living up to expectations, slipping defense, and now an injury to Al Jefferson, their best player. The big man will miss at least four weeks with a strained groin.
On the bright side, Charlotte will get a good look at Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh, two young big men whom the franchise invested high draft choices in the last couple summers. However, it comes at the expense of what’s now all but assured as another losing season, and a missed opportunity for success with the aging Jefferson as their cornerstone.
DUNK(S) OF THE WEEK:
Although, as a Pacers fan, I’m partial to George Hill’s
block-into-coast-to-coast-tomahawk slam, both of which were ownage on Birdman,
Wiggins threw down a nasty two-handed oop this week that had Rodney Hood trying to act like he wasn’t at the scene of the crime.