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Tuesday, Jan. 13

Larry Brown and the Pistons are now driving with a V8 (eight straight wins).
(Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

By Rob Peterson,


For a couple of seasons now, it's been fashionable to bash the Eastern Conference. And for numerous reasons -- from five consecutive Finals wins by the West, to a glut of glorious power forwards in said conference, to the top tier of teams in the Western Conference having more talent -- the East has deserved it.

And while the Eastern Conference still has some way to go toward catching the Western Conference, the Central Division is trying to bridge that gap.

Why would Click and Roll even bring this up and risk numerous e-mails telling us we're crazy to even suggest such a thing? (Of course, we welcome said e-mail. Drop us a line.)

Because, even those who cover the NBA have a difficult time assessing the value of some teams in the Central. Take a look at this gem from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Despite the success the Bucks have enjoyed so far this season -- they are 20-17 overall -- they continue to fly beneath the radar across the league.

"Before the game Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, one veteran New York reporter was wondering aloud what top college draft prospect the Bucks might be able to land with their lottery pick next summer.

"When it was pointed out that the Bucks owned the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference, the reporter was dumbfounded.

"Such has been life for the Bucks this season."

To which the perfect response would have been: "And what are the Knicks going to do with theirs?" But Midwesterners are nice. So, don't worry if you haven't noticed, you're not the only one.

But just look at the Central Division. Five of the eight teams are three games above .500. At 28-11, Indiana has the second-best record in the NBA. They traveled through two-thirds of the Texas triangle, destroying Dallas and falling to San Antonio in overtime, snapping a seven-game winning streak. Despite the Pacers' brilliance, they cannot get comfortable.
-- Indy Star

That hot breath on the Pacers' collective necks? That would be the Pistons, who have reeled off eight consecutive wins, including a 115-102 (Wow, 115 points? From the Pistons? In one game?) win at home over the Mavericks on Sunday.
-- Detroit News

Because of this, one Detroit columnist feels it's time to embrace Pistons coach Larry Brown.
-- Detroit News

(Meanwhile, we'd love it if they'd let go of this topic. The three-point line is here to stay. Please, please get accustomed to it.)
-- Detroit Free Press

New Orleans, which has played the whole season without Jamal Mashburn, stands seven games above .500 and in third place in the Central. Toronto, which made over its offense in the middle of the season, has managed to stay three games above .500. And then there are the Bucks, who were picked to be slightly better than the NBDL-leading Charleston Lowgators.

Yes, the Central has it's interlopers ... Chicago (new coach and a trade), Cleveland (young, young, young) and Atlanta (Still cashing those checks, gentlemen?), but so far you can put this division in "Better Than You Think" file.


Backcourt (the week that was)
Frontcourt (the week that will be)
Jan. 14: Midwest clash -- Minnesota at San Antonio
Jan. 14: Nuggets wear Bruin blue in L.A.
Jan. 16: Spurs visit the best-in-the-East Pacers (7 ET, ESPN2)
Jan. 16: Lakers head to Sacramento. Forecast? Loud (10:30 ET, ESPN)
Since losing to Dallas on Nov. 29 to go 9-8, the Minnesota Timberwolves have gone 15-3 to climb within one game of the Midwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs.

And the Wolves can thank their smallest starter for helping in this big surge.

Yaron Talpaz, member of the NBA Blog Squad and commentator for Sport 5 Channel in Israel, mentions that Sam "I Am" Cassell, at age 34, is having his best season.
-- NBA Blog Squad

It's tough to argue with Yaron. Cassell, a point guard, is shooting .501 (12th in the league, right behind Tim Duncan) from the field and .400 from the three-point line (17th in the league), both career highs. With 20.3 points per game, he leads Western point guards and is second among point guards in the West with 7.5 assists per game.

Yet, Cassell is nowhere to be found among Western guards in All-Star voting.

Cassell, who won two NBA titles with the Rockets in the '90s, has never been an All-Star. That should change this season. Just don't expect to see him in the Slam Dunk contest.
-- Minneapolis Star Tribune


One picture is worth 10,000 brush strokes. Who says Darko Milicic can't get into the paint?
--Detroit News


Best headline of the week: Flight Acquires Moon

What's the difference between Ray Allen and Julie the cruise director from "The Love Boat"? According to this, a sweet jumper.
-- Seattle Times

Best of luck to Jerry and Bobbye Sloan. Bobbye is battling pancreatic cancer.
-- Deseret Morning News

One Orlando writer can't wait 'til next year. Slow down there, the Magic are only eight games out of the East's final playoff spot.
-- Orlando Sentinel (Registration required)

A Barry bad lead on this article. (And, what, we're already talking free agents?)
-- Rocky Mountain News

Xavier is an NBA power forward factory.
-- Cincinnati Enquirer

Two Blazers streaks are in jeopardy.
-- The Oregonian

Shocking Shaq realization. The Lakers are his team. (I know, knock you over with a feather.)
-- Los Angeles Times