Inside The NBA- 3/29/12

With the regular season headed towards the home stretch, let’s head out to the west coast to hear what SprungOnSports NBA writer, and L.A. native, Aron Jacobowitz has to say about the burning issues around the league.

1) Which Los Angeles team is in worse shape and why?

I don’t know if either of the teams are in bad shape really. I mean, granted, all the hoopla surrounding Mike Brown benching Kobe Bryant, and then Andrew Bynum the following night, have dominated the headlines and make people want to believe that there is trouble in LaLa Land. But come on, unscripted controversy is not new to LA. For instance, Kobe & Shaq circa 2004. They have received a jolt at the PG position with Ramon Sessions and he is flourishing while surrounded by the towers and Kobe. He gets into the lane, draws and kicks just as well as anyone else. However, I think they’re only 4-4 since the trade. So, who knows if it’s really helping in the long run. Bynum better not hoist any more threes, because then the Lakers will definitely be worse off.

The Clippers, however, despite three consecutive wins, still have one glaring problem: head coach Vinny Del Negro. Clearly the team has responded to the rumors swirling around his firing and their three-game losing streak last week, but it just overshadows the fact that their offense too often is stagnant, they lack anyone who can set a traditional pick, and their defensive effort is inconsistent.

Having said that, they have been playing very well as of late. They blew out the Phoenix Suns last night in a game they very much needed to win after dropping the first two meetings. Blake Griffin has finally responded to all the hard foul he has fallen victim to by throwing down another Mozgov-style flush on Channing Frye. Those plays inject something into this club – it remains to be seen if they can continue this hot stretch with back-to-back games vs. Portland and Utah this weekend.

Who’s worse off? Right now, it’s the Lakers. They are only two games ahead of the Clippers and it seems as though they are growing up while the Lakers are falling victim to their immaturity.

2) The Knicks have won eight of nine game under Mike Woodson and are now just 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead. Is New York the third best team in the Eastern Conference behind Chicago and Miami? Explain.

To put it simply, No. First of all, if last night’s blowout win is the reason for all of this speculation, then quit it. NOW! Orlando is known for throwing you a dud after playing relatively well for a long stretch. They have the fifth best record in the league. I’d take Orando in a seven-game series over New York. I’d even take Boston over New York.

Carmelo Anthony has yet to prove in his career that he can be ‘the guy’ to lead a team. Paul Pierce is a guy who has proven it over and over again. And if I had to put money on the team taking the Atlantic, I’d take both Philadelphia and Boston before New York. Also, with the glaring hole they’ll have at PF now and when Amare’ Stoudemire is a mere shell of himself when he attempts to come back from the bulging disc too soon, it’ll answer this question just as easily as I did now.

The Knicks are not the third best team in the East, they’re the eighth. You are only as good as your record. Yes, as of late they have won eight of nine and are playing with effort and energy since the resignation of Mike D’Antoni, but come on. Third best in the East? Hell no.

3) Minnesota big man Kevin Love is averaging over 31 points and 14 rebounds per game in March while shooting over 45 percent from three. How many players are actually better than Kevin Love right now?

Man, that’s tough. Kevin Love is K.I.L.L.I.N.G. it. He’s no longer arguably the best PF in the league, he IS the best PF in the league. In this day and age, however, you are judged solely by your team’s results. And Minnesota is a measly 4-8 in their last 12. But in terms of better players right now? There are probably only two, and coincidentally, those two lead the MVP ballot: Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Yes, LeBron is having in a bit of a lull, but I can guarantee he breaks out of it tonight versus Dallas. And even with that recent slide in production, he’s still posting incredible March numbers: 25 points, nine boards, six assists, 2 1/2 steals, one block and 50 percent shooting. So yes, LeBron James.
As for Durant? He’s only putting up 28, 8, 4, 2, 1 on 48 percent from the field in March. Plus he gets to the line eight times a game, hitting 89 percent.
But this shouldn’t take away from what Love is doing. In his last four games? 37.5 points, 16.3 boards and 53 percent from three. Staggering. Unreal. He could just end up being a much better version of Dirk Nowitzki in as soon as a few years.

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