A look around the league and the Web that covers it. It’s also important to note that the rotation order and starting nods aren’t always listed in order of importance. That’s for you, dear reader, to figure out.
C: Raptors Republic. Good stuff from Blake Murphy on the Toronto Raptors’ cratering defense, which has not only fallen off a cliff since the end of November — a term that roughly lines up with the loss of All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan to a groin injury — but has undergone “a holistic decline that doesn’t have an easy band-aid or schematic change.”
PF: The Triangle. Zach Lowe on Al Horford returning to All-Star-caliber form after two seasons mostly lost to pectoral tears.
SF: Sports Illustrated. Speaking of those Atlanta Hawks, great stuff from Rob Mahoney on all the little things the Hawks are doing right that have added up to 22 wins in their last 24 games.
SG: The Wall Street Journal. With the New York Knicks in the midst of a lost season that’s headed toward the draft lottery and a likely top-five draft pick, Chris Herring takes a look back at the team’s recent track record with developing and retaining young talent. It is not a very good track record.
PG: The New York Observer. And speaking of those moribund ‘Bockers, Jeff Greenfield makes the legal case for the City of New York seizing the franchise away from owner James L. Dolan via eminent domain: “[…] the Knicks have become a ‘blight’ on the city every bit as much as an abandoned building.”
6th: Orlando Sentinel. Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan talks an awful lot to Josh Robbins about the need for the team to consistently demonstrate a “competitive spirit,” which is the kind of thing that makes you wonder just how much longer head coach Jacque Vaughn’s leash is … especially Hennigan answered a direct question on whether Vaughn’s job was safe for the balance of this season by saying, “I’d say that everyone and everything is being evaluated right now.” Hmmm.
7th: Mavs.com. A neat look by Bobby Karalla at how Dirk Nowitzki’s facilitating game has taken a step forward this season, including the somewhat eye-popping revelation that nearly two-thirds of the German’s assist opportunities have been converted into buckets.
8th: Sports Illustrated. Lee Jenkins on how Nick Young became “Swaggy P,” a “joy-bringer” whose ease has made him both “the smiley face of L.A. basketball” and the sort of Internet cause célèbre that inevitably invokes backlash, and how sometimes we smile to hide.
9th: Hardwood Paroxysm. An interesting read from Jordan White on sophomore Utah Jazz eraser Rudy Gobert, whose dispassionate shotblocking seems to be “not an extension of his personality, [but rather] just an extension of his limbs,” which makes him somewhat unique in a league largely dominated by more demonstrative types.
10th: Searching for Slava. Dave Murphy on what’s become of Robert Swift: “How do you end a downfall story about a homeless seven-foot junkie who decides to put a stocking over his head and knock on someone’s door in Gold Bar?”
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