- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

CLARITY FOR DENVER, CONFUSION FOR DETROIT

Traded for each other during the second week of the NBA season, the Denver NuggetsChauncey Billups and the Detroit Pistons’ Allen Iverson have had nearly half a season to acclimate themselves to their respective teams. But so far, it seems only Denver has managed to capitalize.

Since sending Iverson to Detroit for Billups and Antonio McDyess, whom they later cut and allowed to re-sign with the Pistons, Denver has gotten a boost from Billups, a true floor general who is averaging 19.1 points and 6.7 assists. Under Billups’ leadership, Denver (27-15) has climbed to the top of the Northwest Division.

Meanwhile, the Pistons (23-17) approached the season’s midpoint on a five-game losing streak that ended with a victory over the Grizzlies on Monday. General manager Joe Dumars decided to shake things up by acquiring Iverson - a true game-changing scoring threat who has a contract that expires after this season. But rather than ignite the Pistons, the move has left Detroit without an identity and caused it to slide a few rungs in the East.

With Billups, the Pistons ran smoothly. He set the table for teammates Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Tayshaun Prince. If needed, he could take over the game himself.

But with Iverson, that’s no longer the case. First-year coach Michael Curry still hasn’t gotten the pieces to fit. First he tried Iverson at the point - although he’s actually a shooting guard - with Hamilton joining him in the backcourt and Prince, Wallace and Amir Johnson in the frontcourt. But Curry needed a true point guard to run things, so second-year guard Rodney Stuckey has taken on that role. Iverson is back at his natural position, with Hamilton moving to small forward and Prince to power forward. Wallace remains the center.

But with the three-guard lineup, the Pistons are getting beaten up on the boards. So Curry decided to bench Hamilton, who has started the last seven years and helped Detroit to a NBA title in 2004. Iverson couldn’t imagine himself as a reserve, saying, “I’ve never come off the bench in my life.”

Hamilton likely will cause less disruption as a reserve, but Iverson’s instant offense could have served the Pistons better off the bench and returned them to the flow they had before the trade.

It’s a delicate situation, but then again, perhaps the Pistons should have come up with a better plan regardless of how enticing Iverson’s expiring contract looked.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

BOSTON CELTICS

After looking set for another dominant run at a title, the Boston Celtics caused somewhat of a panic when they lost seven of nine games from late December to Jan. 9. Were the champs spent from last season’s dominance? Were injuries taking their toll? Was the weaker bench, following the departure of James Posey and retirement of P.J. Brown, to blame? Could the Celtics kiss a repeat goodbye?

The Celtics shrugged off the questions and chalked the losses up to a small slump. Starting with a 94-88 win over Toronto on Jan. 11, Boston has reeled off five straight victories. The last three have come in dominant fashion. First came a 118-86 win over New Jersey, followed by a 105-85 drubbing of the Nets. On Monday, Boston thrashed the Phoenix Suns 104-87 behind 23 points by Rajon Rondo to improve to 34-9.

TOP 10 POWER RANKINGS

1. ORLANDO MAGIC (33-8)

Sweeps of the Lakers and Spurs speak volumes as Howard and Co. take over the top spot.

2. L.A. Lakers (32-8)

Kobe and the Lakers celebrate MLK Day by thumping Cleveland by 17 at home.

2. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (31-8)

A lack of size and health limit the LeBrons in Monday’s defeat in Los Angeles.

4. BOSTON CELTICS (34-9)

After five straight wins, the defending champs appear to be back on track.

5. SAN ANTONIO SPURS (27-13)

The Spurs, thanks to Roger Mason Jr., topped the Lakers last week and have won 12 of 15.

6. DENVER NUGGETS (27-15)

The Nuggets go 4-3 without the injured Carmelo Anthony.

7. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (25-13)

The Hornets are up and down this month, going 6-4, and didn’t get consecutive wins until Monday.

8. HOUSTON ROCKETS (26-16)

Minus Tracy McInjured and Ron Artest, Yao-led Houston has won three of its last four games.

9. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (25-16)

Despite recent injury woes, the Blazers are just 1 1/2 games back of Denver for the division lead.

10. PHILADELPHIA 76ers (20-21)

Despite a sub-.500 mark, Philadelphia is the hottest team this month, winning seven straight before losing Monday.

LOTTERY WATCH

SPAIN’S RUBIO BUILDS ON STRONG SUMMER

Already on the radar of NBA teams from the time he was 15, the 18-year-old Barcelona native further boosted his stock with strong play in the Olympics, especially when he showed off his skills against the U.S. Redeem Team. Rubio, who plays professionally in Spain, has rebounded from a wrist injury that forced him out the first month of the season, and many NBA officials call him “a franchise-changing point guard.” The only issue is the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder’s large buyout from DKV Joventut. The belief, however, is that if he’s drafted among the top three this summer, he’s coming to America.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Oklahoma City8-345-525.0

Washington8-322-819.9

L.A. Clippers9-311-915.6

Sacramento10-313-711.9

Memphis 11-291-98.8

*Chances of landing No. 1 pick

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

0

Three-pointers made by Dirk Nowitzki during a 39-point performance in Dallas’ 115-108 victory over Utah on Saturday. It was the 16th time in his career that Nowitzki has scored at least 39 points in a game but only the second time he has done so without making a 3-pointer. Nowitzki, who was 16-for-20 from the floor Saturday, didn’t attempt a single shot from the arc.

TROPHY TRACKER

MVP

1. Kobe Bryant: Against LeBron, he posted 20 points, 12 assists, six rebounds - all with a dislocated ring finger and ligament damage on his shooting hand.

2. LeBron James: His 27.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 6.7 apg and 1.3 bpg continue to fuel the Cavaliers.

3. Dwight Howard: He shoulders the load for the league’s top team with 20.2 ppg, 14.1 rpg and 3.2 bpg.

Rookie of the Year

1. O.J. Mayo: The Memphis shooting guard continues to lead all rookies in scoring with 19.4 points a game

2. Derrick Rose: In his last five games, the top pick is averaging 17.2 points, 8.4 assists in 39.6 minutes a game.

3. Russell Westbrook: He’s steadily proving himself as a floor general (14.1 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.3 rpg) for the young Thunder.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide