Liberty Ballers has talked ad nauseam about the Sixers' recent winning ways. We'll talk even more about that going forward, especially considering we're 3 times closer to a playoff spot by record than we are to the worst record. Today's tank watch, however, will focus more on the competition, starting with the worst of the worst.
Melting Down in Milwaukee
The only things properly heated in Milwaukee right now are tempers. The Milwaukee Bucks have the worst record in the NBA, and things seem to still be going downhill. Our former partners in mediocracy have more than a 3 game lead in the standings right now. They are solid favorite to finish in the cellar of maybe the worst conference in recent memory and to finish with the greatest odds for the number 1 pick in one of the league's most stacked drafts.
Even with their best players returning from injuries, they still aren't playing well. And the losing has worn on a veteran-laden squad that expected to compete for a playoff spot this season. Backup guard Gary Neal and starting center Larry Sanders got into a heated altercation after Saturday's game in Phoenix, and with so many odd fits and bad losses this was bound to happen.
In the argument, Neal reportedly said to Sanders: "I earned my money. Why don't you try it?" Sanders signed a $44 million dollar deal over the summer, has missed most of the season due to a thumb injury sustained in a barroom brawl, and hasn't played especially well even when healthy. Gary Neal mainly just shoots a lot, and has been in and out of the Bucks' rotation. If they continue to play like they have recently, it could get even uglier.
The Kings Might Be Fighting, Too
I'm shocked that this would happen to a team that employs DeMarcus Cousins.
So a few things: This Kings team chemistry is teetering badly. Factions are being formed in the locker room. Not a great situation.— Carmichael Dave (@CarmichaelDave) January 5, 2014
I believe over the next few days/weeks, these infights will come out. Guys are frustrated with each other and it is spilling onto the floor.— Carmichael Dave (@CarmichaelDave) January 5, 2014
There is one common denominator to most of the player on player confrontations. I'll leave it to you to guess who.— Carmichael Dave (@CarmichaelDave) January 5, 2014
Cleveland's Strange Urge to Compete
Kyrie Irving missed the Cavaliers' past three games with a knee injury. Andrew Bynum is all but gone due to his behavioral issues. Mike Brown doesn't know what to do with himself. Dion Waiters thinks that he's the savior. There's a lot of problems here that need addressing, and entering the weekend with an 11-22 record, the Cavs would seem to be a candidate to clean up some of the muck, get a new mix of players involved with the core of their team (just Kyrie Irving, nobody else but him).
But instead of maybe trying to tear things down, the Cavs are looking to add a rotation player with Bynum's non-guaranteed (until Tuesday!) contract. This can make sense if the player projects as a potential long-term piece alongside Irving. Instead, the primary targets identified so far in media reports place the targets as Pau Gasol (okay) and Richard Jefferson (wait, what?). Both are on the wrong side of age 30, and both haven't been, shall we say, productive.
My stance: why not just cut Bynum, open the cap space that his $6 million should provide, and then use that space to maybe acquire an asset of future use? The future is not now, and a first round sweep is not going to change things.
Better for us, though.
Pelicans Pick Update
The Pelicans currently sit 3.5 games behind the 8 seed in the Western Conference. If the season ended with the same standings order, the Pelicans would enter the draft lottery with the 12th best odds. Also, Ryan Anderson suffered a scary injury in Friday night's game in Boston, and as of Sunday was still getting tested for symptoms.
A Quick Recovery?
A Quick Recovery?
Tanking Rankings (records as of Sunday morning)
4. Orlando Magic (10-23) - no drama, but slow and steady can win the tanking race. Orlando embarks on a Western Conference road trip this week. While they get the struggling Nuggets and Kings, they also play the Clippers, Blazers, and Mavericks. If they lose 4 of those 5 games, it'll be a good trip for their tank. As the Sixers showed last week, it's not that easy.
3. Utah Jazz (11-25) - recent success in spite of a largely negative point differential still can't drag them out of the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
2. Sacramento Kings (10-22) - the Kings seem likely to shake up the roster even more going forward. While that could quell the previously mentioned locker room tensions, mid-season change makes it difficult to establish chemistry and experience in both the offensive and defensive systems. And I still contend this roster is talented enough to be in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (7-26) - still sinking to the bottom in spite of themselves.