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NBA Round-Up: Jan. 4

James Harden

Dec 26, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) dribbles against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the first quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat might be the best team in the NBA, but concerns about their inability to rebound seem valid (they are the league’s second worst rebounding team according to ESPN.com). Hey, that’ll happen when you’re undersized. Has an NBA club ever been more infatuated with players of 6-feet-8-inches? The bottom line is that when you jack up hasty shots and don’t, well, rebound, poor stats follow. Forward Chris Bosh said the team needed to figure out a way to fix the problem. Here’s a suggestion Chris – try rebounding.

Houston Rockets superstar, James Harden, no longer second fiddle in Oklahoma, has taken the league by storm since his relocation. Harden top scored for the Rockets in most of their December games and also dropped 20-plus points in a 14 straight contests (at the time of writing). His beard, too, continues to be the benchmark for NBA facial hair, and has moved past Bill Walton’s werewolf era fuzz on the all-time list.

Like Washington’s politicos, the city’s Wizards face an unnerving precipice, one which could see its entire future fall into disarray. Okay, let’s be honest: the Wiz haven’t cast a good spell since Harry Potter sought the Philosopher’s Stone. And yet, amid all the turmoil, the ineptitude and disgrace, rookie Bradley Beal has been a beacon of hope on The Hill. Beal led all Eastern Conference rookies in scoring (13.4 ppg) and total assists with (41) in December. He also had six games with 15-plus points during the month.

It took an unlikely opponent in the Brooklyn Nets to upend Oklahoma City’s 12-game home winning streak with a recent 110-93 victory. This was, in part, helped by the ejection of a rather conversational Kevin Durant. The other part was a combination of Joe Johnson scoring 33 points, and Deron Williams taking charge with 19 points and 13 assists. Amazing how quickly he’s adjusted to his new coach, isn’t it?

Don’t look now but the Detroit Pistons are motoring, winning five of six en route to a 12-22 overall record (as of January 4). Sure, their record is still woeful, but we’re talking about the Eastern Conference here folks, where a sub-500 record is fashionable, and making consecutive free-throws is cause for All-Star consideration.

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are flat out of luck, losing four straight and dropping below .500. Most alarmingly, the Cs have lost each of these game by an average mark of 20 points. Things haven’t been this bad in Beantown since the Celtics 15-win season of 1996-97 on the back of Antoine Walker’s 33% from three-point land. Good times.

Portland Trail Blazers point guard, Damian Lillard, has fast become Rookie of the Year favorite. With the Blazers playing mid-tier ball, it was surprising to see them rattle the New York Knicks at home, let alone beat them. But Lillard is a big reason for that. He’s fearless, and plays an all-around game—scoring, rebounding, passing, you name it. For the Knicks, Amare Stoudemire returned to a standing ovation. He then proceeded to light up Madison Square Garden with 6 points, one rebound and two turnovers. Spike Lee was beside himself.

No round-up would be complete without something about Kobe Bryant. In recent days, the league’s best scorer has called his Los Angeles Laker team “old” and “slow”, and admitted that their Staples Center roomies, the once lowly Clippers, are in the mix for the NBA crown. Kobe even called the Clips, currently among the Western Conference’s elite, “one of the top contenders”. Presumably L.A. reporters are now seeking Bryant’s view on Daniel Day Lewis as an Oscar favorite, and his take on other outrageousness circling the internet.

jppelosi