NBA Christmas Report
The NBA season has, more or less, officially entered American consciousness as football winds down and the league's five Christmas Day games went down yesterday. So what have you missed so far? Here, SportsGrid plays Santa for the 30 teams of the NBA, putting certain ones on the infamous naughty/nice list...
Naughty: Milwaukee Bucks
Remember when it was such a big deal that Greg Monroe had spurned the allure of New York City and the Knicks for the Bucks? Milwaukee was a trendy sleeper pick in the East, what with Monroe's arrival, Jabari Parker coming back from injury, and Giannis "Greek Freak" Antetokounmpo ready to lead the Bucks further. However, Milwaukee currently sits at 12-18, 13th in the suddenly powerful East. Sure, the Bucks currently represent the "1" in the Golden State Warriors' 28-1 record, but there's not been much to celebrate other than that. Monroe has mostly been a disappointment and Parker has struggled coming back from injury. Jason Kidd came to Milwaukee due to the promise of more power, but could that end up haunting him?
Nice: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks would've been excused if they had a decline this season. Fresh off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Hawks lost their top defender DeMarre Carroll in the offseason, and have had to deal with the newly healthy Cavaliers and Heat. But the Hawks have held tough, currently placing 2nd in the East at 19-12. The Hawks lack the marquee star that teams in today's league, but have gotten by well with Paul Milsap (17.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG) leading the way. Atlanta resumes action on Satuday night against the New York Knicks, where they'll be looking to carry on with a 5 game winning streak they began before their Christmas break.
Naughty: Houston Rockets and Kevin McHale
The Rockets have appeared to righten their ship a bit, as they've won 6 of their past 9 including last night's Christmas win over the San Antonio Spurs. However, it wasn't right for them to dump Kevin McHale, who was fired after Houston's tough start to the year. Frankly, the Rockets overachieved last season, somehow landing in the Western Conference Finals after they came back from down 3-1 to the Clippers. At some points, someone in this organization is going to have to make James Harden accountable for his defensive shortcomings. Yeah, they're cute and funny when they show up on Shaq's blooper segments on TNT, but not when they're costing you games in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture. Also, the sooner the Rockets can trade Dwight Howard the better. We all saw the damage he caused when he demanded his way out of Orlando, and the Rockets can avoid a similar fate.
Nice: Philadelphia 76ers and Brett Brown
How did the 1-30 76ers make the nice list?!?! Simply put, they acknowledged that Brown is in a completely undesirable situation in which he has to go out with a different cast of 2nd round picks and undrafted free agents and somehow piece a win together. Despite the dire record for the Sixers, Brown earned himself an extension, which puzzled some, especially with the Sixers' record-breaking ineptitude. Philadelphia has made some questionable moves during their rebuilding process (i.e. trading Michael Carter-Williams) but Brown's extension is not one of them. Brown is a basketball genius whose intellect has been on display in both American and Australian basketball. Plus, as someone who sat beside the man during the heyday of the Spurs dynasty, Gregg Poppovich has personally endorsed Brown. In today's NBA, there's no better vote of confidence.
Naughty: Rajon Rondo
A new Sacramento King, Rondo is still a dominant prescience on the court, evidenced by his almost nightly double-doubles. However, signed on a team that is still a ticking timebomb with the unstoppable forces that are George Karl and DeMarcus Cousins, Rondo has shown that his maturity and poise is still something he needs to work on. It's bad enough he uttered a homophobic slur at gay official Bill Kennedy, but Rondo's act of contrition came off as insincere, speaking as a man who was only sorry that he got caught. The Kings are sitting at 12-17, one game out of a playoff spot. If Rondo's play can get them to the postseason for the first time since 2006, the Kings will probably look the other way when it comes to his shortcomings.
Nice: Kristaps Porzingis
Reggie Miller himself could've walked into Barclays Center last June and would've gotten a more positive reception from New Yorkers than Porzingis. When the 4th overall pick was drafted by the Knicks, boos reigned down, with one young fan even reduced to tears. However, Porzingis has proved the doubters wrong, currently ranking 3rd in points (13.3 PPG), and 2nd in rebounds (8.8 RPG) amongst rookies. To cap it all off, Carmelo Anthony has stated that he and Porzingis are best friends, and the Knicks have magically inserted themselves into the playoff picture in the East. Without Porzingis last season, it took the Knicks until St. Patrick's Day to capture their 14th win. With him, they have it by Christmas.
Geoff Magliocchetti isn't backing down from a Spurs-Cavs Finals prediction he made back in March. Warriors fans can curse him out on Twitter @GeoffMags5490
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