Posted Mar 15 2010 9:49AM
Seven questions for the next seven days:
The Toronto Raptors went into the All-Star break full of confidence and momentum. And maybe too full of themselves.
The Raptors are only 3-10 since the break and have fallen from fighting for home-court in the first round to fighting to hang onto the No. 8 spot in the East ahead of Chicago.
What's more, if the Raptors fail to make the playoffs for the second straight season and sixth time in eight years, it could certainly open the door for Chris Bosh to fly the coop and join forces somewhere with one of the other big name free agents.
Back when the Raptors were flying high, it was popular to think that a strong finish would convince Bosh to re-sign in Toronto with a program that was moving forward. But if the Raptors continue their fade down the stretch, the power forward could come to realize that he's not the big dog to carry a franchise by himself and look to move. At least, that's the hope of Miami, Houston and a few other places.
Could it be that we'll eventually look back on the Boston Celtics' season and conclude that they reached their high point on opening night with the win at Cleveland? Was that when all the possibilities were in reach of a veteran-laden team that had added the playoff experience of Rasheed Wallace?
Or were the Celtics still carrying on the charade through Christmas Day when they won at Orlando? They were 23-5 at that point and everyone was still thinking that Kevin Garnett was only going to improve physically rather than often become a shadow of himself.
Either way, this hardly looks like a green machine that's humming along and ready to make a run at another championship when the playoffs start in a month.
Since beating the Magic on Dec. 25, the Celtics are a thoroughly pedestrian 18-19, including recent black-eye home losses to Memphis and New Jersey.
Coach Doc Rivers is looking across the court at opponents who are younger, more athletic and just as driven as the Celtics. Paul Pierce frets about being able to flip the switch in the playoffs. Even LeBron James says that the Celtics look bored with the regular season.
Now Boston has slipped behind Atlanta in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and it's looking like a long way from the optimisim of opening night.
Chris Paul was given the OK to begin running late last week. There was hope in New Orleans that he could return to action by next weekend.
But that's likely already too late for the plummeting hopes of the Hornets, who have gone just 7-14 in Paul's absence and have already fallen eight games behind Portland in the race for the final spot in the West. They started a five-game road trip with a loss in Phoenix with stops still ahead at the L.A.Clippers, Golden State, Denver and Utah.
Can there be room for only one Jordan at a time in the NBA?
As Michael Jordan moves closer to his official takeover of the Bobcats in Charlotte, Eddie Jordan deals with the daily rumors of his impending dismissal as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
One year and done would seem to be a hasty rush to judgment on any coach. But a season that began with last year's free agent plum Elton Brand being pushed aside, and now comes to Andre Iguodala being sent to the bench, seems to be swirling like water circling around a drain.
The only question seems to be whether Jordan will make it to the end of the season with the Sixers and, if not, why would you want to inflict the last ugly month on another poor soul?
Most of the experts would have to admit they've been waiting for the kids in Oklahoma City to eventually take a look around at the heights to which they've soared and then come falling back to earth.
But Kevin Durant won't stop playing like an MVP and coach Scott Brooks won't stop telling the Thunder they're for real. Now this week they face their last road of the season of more than two games -- Charlotte, Toronto, Indiana -- which could even push them into a spot for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Is there a better story in the league this season than 35-year-old Jerry Stackhouse putting his career as a media commentator on hold to return to the court in Milwaukee?
With Stackhouse leading with 20 points on Sunday against Indiana, the Bucks have now won 12 of 13 and 18 of their last 22 to zoom up to the fifth spot in the East. If the regular season was a month longer, they might be a good bet to overtake Boston for fourth place. As it is, with the current standings, the Celtics might have all they can handle with Milwaukee in the opening round.
The San Antonio Spurs put themselves into a difficult spot with their up-and-down play for most of the season. But now it only gets tougher.
Of the Spurs' final 18 games, 11 are on the road and there are few easy pickings among them. From now to the end of the season, they'll play just four games against teams below the .500 mark. They get the Lakers and Magic twice, Cleveland, at Boston, at Denver and at Dallas. If the Spurs, who are currently sixth in the West, hold onto even the No. 8 spot, it might be an achievement.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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