Shit does roll downhill, but it is even harder to try and push it uphill …

Shit does roll downhill, but it is even harder to try and push it uphill …

It has to be either naivete’ or a complete lack of intelligence , when fans try and suggest a team “tanking” their season and then hiring a legend will actually lead to an immediate turnaround for that franchise. Rarely does that happen in the world of sports today , and much the premise is predicated upon the staff being in place and their being able to acquire the right talent to put their plan into play. In the NBA this season, we are seeing that the New York Knicks is an organization still in transition , but even more so, a complete mess in terms of their performances during the schedule. While the hiring of Phil Jackson has to be lauded, the hire is no guarantee of success down the road , in spite of his legacy and the level of success achieved during his coaching career. This current chapter of Jackson’s career is completely a new one in its entirety and we should be reminded, he will have deal with one of , if not the most incompetent owners in the NBA , with James Dolan presiding over this franchise as its senior most executive and owner. Dolan’s ineptitude can be measured in a litany of ways , with perhaps the most infamous being, the decision to hire Isiah Thomas to head the Knicks’ Basketball Operations. A chapter which failed miserably on so many counts, with Thomas himself, having assumed the head coaching position during his tenure. The less said about those episodes , the better the case can be made the franchise is now in a better position, but not by much based on their current play.

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Twenty games into the season and the New York Knicks are an abysmal 4-16, and based on their current pace this team is unlikely to win more than twenty games when it is all said an done. Granted, Jackson hired a rookie head coach, with Derek Fisher succeeding Mike Woodson into the coach’s roll, but here too, it is hard to fathom what type of coach Fisher is likely to be, given his lack of experience then assessing his staff of coaching assistants. As experienced as many of them are said to be, it is likely to Fisher’s decision and his alone likely determine the strategies we see on the court , even with the input of Phil Jackson there for him to fall back on. Carmelo Anthony remains the lone offensive threat for the Knicks, but here too the team has failed miserably , with no one else on the roster willing to step up to the plate on nightly basis for this franchise. From a defensive standpoint the team has been woefully inept at home and on the road.

In one of the Knicks’ most contests the team just hhappened to be on the wrong side of a heartbreaking loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James had less than memorable performances in the in the match-up of two of the Eastern Conference’s less than competitive franchises this season .

Derek Fisher’s team will get the chance to redeem themselves when they face the Charlotte Hornets at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte , North Carolina on Friday night , in one of the NBA’s night of scheduled contests. New York currently leads their season series 1-0 , having won their first meeting by a narrow three-point margin 96-93 on the 2nd November , 2014. Friday’s contest might not prove to be as compelling, given their present status within the conference or their respective divisions.

A one game win-streak doesn’t season make, but in the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, it could be the victory that either defines the Sixers’ season or continues their morass as the worst team in the league at this point of the NBA schedule. Head coach Brett Brown remains forever optimistic, trying to suggest his young corps of the players , the youngest in the league are still capable of being competitive. Having gained their first victory of the season, defeating the Minnesota Timbeberwolves the climb out of the depths mediocrity has just become slightly less embarrassing, but not my much.

At 1-17, it is hard to imagine how things could get any worse for the Sixers , beyond the fact the league hierarchy seems to be condoning this style of ineptitude by several teams around the NBA. Changes in the format of the NBA Draft Lottery has done little to dispel this type of ongoing charade by Philadelphia , when you bear in mind their standing at the end of last season and their draft position in the first rounds of the drafts of 2013 and 2014. Sixers’ team owner Joshua Harris and GM Sam Hinkie suggest they are showing the inclination that the franchise’s wish is to build for the future , but I find that concept hard to believe when there is no veteran experience on the roster to lead by example for young players such as Joel Embiid , Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. Carter-Williams , last season’s Rookie of the Year has proven to be good , but not great or a leader by example. Granted , he might just be the best player on the Sixers’ lineup , yet that is by no means of any real consolation for a team that has been a constant reminder of sheer ineptitude in the NBA this and last season .

Philadelphia will have as their guests the Oklahoma City Thunder when the two teams meet on Friday evening and where Russell Westbrook will hope to lead his teammates in the absence of Kevin Durant , who remains sidelined by an injury. After an ignominious start the Thunder are back to playing some semblance of competitive basketball. The point guard has been very impressive upon his return to Thunder lineup this season. Westbrook is averaging 26.5 ppg in his last two outings, and providing the offensive firepower sorely missed by the team with Durant out of the lineup.

Currently lying in third place of the Northwest Division of the Western Conference 9 1/2 games behind the division leading Portland Trailblazers (15-4), Oklahoma City Thunder will have to make some inroad in to the lead if they are place themselves in contention a competitive assault on the second quarter and half of the season. Scott Brooks and his coaching staff will be looking to his players to remain consistent as well as competitive in what is turning out to very tough divisionand conference.

I may well be mistaken , but Flip Saunders and team owner , Glen Taylor created the mess that has engulfed the Minnesota Timberwolves this season . Saunders the Timberwolves’ head coach , minority stakeholder and Head of Basketball Operations in conjunction with Taylor, made the decision to trade Kevin Love , rather than seeking build a competitive roster around the power forward. There has been nothing at all endearing about the Timberwolves this season and with the never ending rumors as to the dissatisfaction of Ricky Rubio , it simply makes you wonder whether or not , the mercurial and talented Spaniard might be bold enough to seek a trade. Can the Timberwolves do enough to dissuade the player from leaving the franchise. It as not as if the head coach brought in any refreshing ideas that might be of benefit to the team ? Having been the first team to fall at the hands of the 76ers was bad enough, but it has been plain enough to see , Flip Saunders remains clearly out of his depth as a head coach , along with his coaching staff.

Going into Friday night’s game against the Houston Rockets the Timberwolves must be aware their season is on the line for this franchise along with its long-term well-being. A playoff berth has eluded the Minnesota Timberwolves for the past several years , with their last appearance coming during the 2003 NBA season . first-round loss to the Los Angeles Lakers sealed their fate (4-2) in the NBA Playoffs , where they were the top seeds in the Western Conference that year. Hard to imagine a decade later and the team entering into the playoffs during that season was led by Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, Sam Cassell, Fred Hoiberg, Mark Madsen , Wally Sczerbiak ,Michael Olowokandi and Oliver Miller , to name but a few.

If it is December and the Los Angeles Lakers are playing badly , then expect Kobe Bryant sooner or later to begin to harangue and chastise the organization and indirectly a number of his teammates. There is not a great that can or needs to be said about a team so lacking depth and overall talent. Needless to say, you can point an accusing finger at Mitch Kupchak and the exceedingly poor job he has done in drafting players over the last few , seasons as well as the failures of free agent acquisitions , most notably Dwight Howard . The center’s failure to acclimatize himself to the rigors and task of playing in a major market , indicated that he not only lacks the maturity to perform on the “big stage”, but the hyperbole surrounding him was never really justified , even with his having won multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards .

A year on from his departure , Howard is now playing “second fiddle” to James Harden of the Houston Rockets’, while his former team , the Lakers continue to look for semblance of consistency , character and dare I say it , leadership ? Kobe Bryant still yearns to be viewed as a winner , but clearly this team is not going to provide him that all elusive sixth NBA ring and title . Head coach Byron Scott and his staff have their work cut out for them in having coach one of the worst defensive teams in the entire NBA. Needless to say, with Bryant supplying the brunt of the offense, while customarily throwing up more bricks than a bricklaying mason , the question has to asked, who on on the team steps up to the plate to share the load with Kobe Bryant , or are we likely to see the player repeatedly just put on a one-man show night in and night out over the remainder of the season ?

As of the 5th December the Los Angeles Lakers held the bottom rung of the Pacific Division of the Western Conference , while clinging to a mediocre record of 5-15. Pretty much sums up the Lakers’ season so far. Kobe Bryant has signaled his wish to sign on with the team for another two years , but I am not sure he is willing to offer home town discount , with his now averaging just over $24.25 million per year on his existing contract. May be , the Los Angeles Lakers can live with that type of risk-reward , but given the stage of his career where Bryant now finds himself at, there seems to be no real advantage in taking the player up on the offer at the time he becomes a free agent in 2016 and it is not as if the organization has used any type of due diligence in assembling a roster to complement Kobe Bryant over the last two seasons. A seventeen-point loss to the Boston Celtics summed up the ongoing issues the Lakers continue to face with any last vestiges of dignity, having been flushed down the crapper after another dismal display . When they face Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Staples Center on Sunday , I can only hope for the sake of the Los Angeles’ Lakers fans’ sake, their team actually show them (fans), they do possess a backbone . This season, there has been little evidence to suggest the Lakers even have that amongst their artillery.

Just as the Los Angeles Clippers can be considered to be the Lakers’ bi#ch or lapdog ,whichever colloquial term you feel fits the the persona. Then, so too, do the Brooklyn Nets as it equates with the New York Knicks. Granted, neither the Knicks, Nets or Clippers have won an NBA title in the last two decades and their combined appearances in the league’s showcase finale in the time-frame mentioned , would amount to two visits , all by the Nets.

Bearing a record of 8-10 the Brooklyn Nets are struggling and for GM Billy King and team owner Mikhail Prokhorov this has already become another season of discontent , with a team payroll among the highest in the NBA. I have to believe that some drastic changes are needed for the makeup of this roster, either before the trade deadline or at the time of its being. A twenty-three point loss to the Atlanta Hawks was not only a cause for concern, with Lionel Hollins and his coaching staffobviously bewildered why this team has performed so poorly to start their season. With experienced players such as Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett , Andrei Kirilenko , Jarrett Jack and Brook Lopez there is clearly a disjoint as to why a team thought to be so talented cannot get out of the way of their own mediocrity on both ends of the court .
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Personally, I have never had an inclination to believe the Nets were ever good enough to win an NBA title, even with the wealth and resources of their billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov. The Barclays Center ,home to the Brooklyn Nets and the NBA’s most lavish venue remains an extravagant edifice to opulence and a “White Elephant” . Attendance levels notwithstanding, there is little to suggest the Nets’ front office has the wherewithal to place a competitive product on the court, much less having an economic template to make this franchise a profitable endeavor beyond the value of the commercial and residential value of the entities which surround the Barclays Center, many of which are owned by the Russian billionaire , Prokhorov,through his US business holdings, Onexim Sports & Entertainment Inc and parent company Onexim Group .

Next up for the Brooklyn Nets will be a home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn , New York when they will have as their guests LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers . With the Cavaliers on a six-game winning streak and point guard Kyrie Irving recently scoring a season high 37 points in the team’s demolition of the New York Knicks on Thursday night in a road victory , there is every reason to believe Cleveland’s winning streak is likely to be extended against a Nets’ team completely devoid of any defensive capability. LeBron James and Deron Williams will also get the chance to renew an under-appreciated player rivalry in the NBA .

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Picture gallery.

Given what you have seen up to this pointof the NBA season do you believe there can be room for improvement among the teams as they enter the second quarter of the schedule in the build up to the All Star festivities and thereon after ? Simply chime in with your thoughts as you see fit on this particular subject matter and anything else you believe relevant to the NBA.

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below.
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(1) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets center Jefferson (25) shoots the ball over New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire (1) during the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets defeated the Knicks 103-102. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports ..

(2) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA;New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher looks on during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hornets defeated the Knicks 103-102. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports ….

(3) Dec 5, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) shoots the ball over Charlotte Hornets center Cody Zeller (40) during the first half at Time Warner Cable Arena. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

(4) New York Knicks’ owner James Dolan, left , is seen here alongside Phil Jackson who returned to the Knicks in the capacity of Head of Basketball Operations &SVP within the Knicks’ hierarchical structure . GM Steve Mills will take his lead from Jackson and cede to him all personnel decisions made concerning player personnel . During the off-season the Knicks will have several decisions to be made concerning the makeup of the team’s lineup entering into next season. AP Photo / Marty Cooke ..

(5) PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 5: Nerlens Noel (4) of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against the Orlando Magic during the game on November 5 , 2014 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Noel along with Joel Embiid and Michael Carter-Williams it was hoped would make a solid impact for the Sixers , but instead the team has failed miserably, while having the league’s youngest roster , where the average age is twenty-two, as well as seven un-drafted making up the twelve-man roster. Even with the experience of head coach Brett Brown , formerly an assistant to Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. NBAE Photo by Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

(6) Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Ricky Rubio is having an indifferent season as is the team in general . Flip Saunders might well be left contemplating the trading away of the talented Spaniard who is not due to become free agent until 2018 . There has been a great deal of indifference among the fans of the Timberwolves’ , who have seen the departure of Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers. AP Photo / Mary Morris ..

(7) Kobe Bryant (24) is seen here court-side as he and head coach Byron Scott discuss a game plan. Not much has gone right for the Los Angeles Lakers this season . The team has struggled on both ends of the court , with only the guard seemingly providing the brunt of the offense. Unfortunately, it has not been all to the benefit of the Lakers, but more so to the personal benefit of the player as he recently broke the 30,000 career points’ plateau , leading active players and ranking him inside the all-time top ten in NBA history. UPI Syndicated Press …. @ copyrighted material …

(8) From left to right , Joe Johnson , Deron Williams and Bojan Bogdanovic are seated court-side during a game this season. The Brooklyn Nets have been adisaster on the court with their being little resilience being shown with a team that is the highest paid in the NBA. Team owner , Mikhail Prokhorov for the past two years has been willing to have his franchise carry that dubious honor, while failing to gain any type of meaningful success . The Nets’ most recent NBA Playoff appearances have ended with the players showing little appetite to perform to the best of their alleged abilities . AP Photo / Chris Hendricks ….

(9) Brooklyn Nets’ head coach Lionel Hollins, left, is seated next to GM Billy King, as Hollins is introduced the convened press announcing his signing to succeed Jason Kidd as the head coach. Kidd was abruptly fired by organization after the former Nets’ player made it known he wished for more input /on all personnel decisions concerning the team . The Nets made the NBA Playoffs last season, but fell short of their goals that year . Getty Images / Amy Hughes … …

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Tophatal 2014-12-07

Tophatal’s Blog on Facebook.com

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NBA news and the season’s important dates

NBA schedule 5th December

NBA schedule 6th December

NBA schedule 7th December

NBA results 4th December

NBA standings (division)

NBA standings (conference)

NBA free agents

NBA team cap hits (2014)

NBA teams’ salaries (2014-15) [salary cap $63.075 million]

NBA player stats

NBA teams’ offense

NBA teams’ defense

History of NBA champions chronologically

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This month in NBA history

On this date in the NBA

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The Larry O’Brien Trophy . A championship, each of the NBA’s teams will be in pursuit of this season .