Posted Nov 16 2009 9:56AM
Seven questions for the next seven days:
How high can they fly? Yes, it was only one game. Yes, it is still only November. But more than a statement, the Atlanta Hawks' win at Boston was the kind that can convince the young team of its potential. It's one thing for the Hawks to put the pedal to the metal on their high octane offense and run opponents off the Philips Arena floor. It is quite another to play the kind of defense on the road to hold the Celtics to just 86 points and only 16 in the fourth quarter.
Jamal Crawford has given the Hawks the consistent jolt of offense that they need off the bench and all of those young legs should give them staying power to still be fresh at the end of the long season. Now the Hawks have to show they can be consistent with their effort. They get a chance to prove themselves this week with a three-game homestand --- Portland, Miami, Houston --- and a road trip to reeling New Orleans. If they run the table this week, the East's Big Three will have to view the Hawks as not just a nuisance but a real threat.
Who's the boss? Can you remember all the way back to the days when everybody was picking the Celtics and Lakers to meet again in June in a rematch of the 2008 Finals? Oh. That was just last week. Now Boston and L.A. are both carrying two-game losing streaks. The Celtics get Golden State at home Wednesday before an early showdown with the visiting Magic on Friday. The Lakers, who are blowing a stretch of 17 of their first 21 at home, get Detroit (Tuesday), Chicago (Thursday) and Oklahoma City (Sunday) at the Staples Center.
Have the Hornets hit bottom? OK, so they no longer have Byron Scott to kick around anymore in New Orleans. But is there any indication that a change in coaches is going to make one bit of difference? This all started to come apart a year ago, when Scott began warning his team to stop acting so self-satisfied after 56 wins in 2008. By the end they had just tuned him out.
Peja Stojakovic is back in the starting lineup out of desperation, the two-guard spot is mostly vacant, Emeka Okafor is already in trade rumors and nobody seems to want to put out the least bit of effort on the defensive end. If they can't get the Clippers at home on Tuesday, then visits by Phoenix and Atlanta and a road game at Miami have the potential to finish the season early. And then the questions about the viability of the franchise in New Orleans will begin again.
Got change for a Buck? Well, Brandon Jennings can drop a pair of nickels on you. Unless Blake Griffin comes off the injured list for the Clippers and begins breaking backboards every night, a la Darryl Dawkins, or unless Tyreke Evans can singlehandedly raise the money and put a shovel in the ground for a new arena in Sacramento, the Rookie of the Year voting might as well be closed. But in addition to the sensational point guard, the Bucks are hammering opponents on the boards and looking like they'll stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
How low can you go? When the Knicks travel to New Jersey on Saturday afternoon, it is possible -- even likely -- that the pair of so-called teams could carry in a grand total of one victory between them. Is this really any way to recruit LeBron James?
Can Rashard bring back the Magic? After serving his league-mandated 10-game suspension for using a banned substance, Orlando's Rashard Lewis returns to the lineup this week for home games against Charlotte (Monday) and Oklahoma City (Wednesday) followed by a playoff re-match in Boston (Friday). Though they've won seven of their first 10 games, the Magic aren't feeling so magical as Dwight Howard has been uneven and coach Stan Van Gundy has already been lambasting the defense. The return of their wingman to create mismatches and stretch defenses comes at just the right time.
Could they put him on eBay? How long can the Golden State Warriors continue with the Stephen Jackson soap opera in their midst? The rumors continue that the Cavs and maybe a few others are interested. But nobody's willing to step up to the plate and meanwhile another Warriors season is already going down the drain amid turmoil. Nellie and Monta Ellis have a spat; Nellie will step down as coach to be a consultant; Nellie and Anthony Randolph can't co-exist. Seems Capt. Jax has been blamed for everything but breaking the Bay Bridge. With four of the next five games at Cleveland, Boston, Dallas and San Antonio, this only gets uglier.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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