NBA Power Rankings, Week 18

And down the stretch we come.  Here are the rankings . . .

#30 Phoenix Suns (12-50, -10, LW:  30)

#29 Cleveland Cavaliers (14-47, -9.9, LW:  29)

#28 New York Knicks (12-48, -8.4, LW:  28)

#27 Atlanta Hawks (20-41, -7.2, LW:  26)

A lot was made of the Hawks sending Luka Doncic to Dallas and with the way he has played, it seems appropriate.  But after a slow start the Hawks’ Trae Young has been a bright spot on an otherwise dim season.  Since the calendar turned to 2019 Young is averaging a 20/4/8 on .422/.365/.833 shooting. Makes the thought of Doncic in Dallas a little easier to deal with, as is the fact that the Hawks have Dallas’ first rounder this year.

#26 Chicago Bulls (16-45, -8, LW:  27)

#25 Memphis Grizzlies (24-38, -3.1, LW:  25)

#24 Washington Wizards (24-36, -3.2, LW:  24)

#23 Dallas Mavericks (26-34, -0.6, LW:  20)

#22 Miami Heat (26-33, -1.1, LW:  21)

#21 Los Angeles Lakers (29-31, -1.4, LW:  23)

#20 Charlotte Hornets (28-32, -0.5, LW:  22)

#19 San Antonio Spurs (33-29, +0.4, LW:  14)

#18 New Orleans Pelicans (27-35, +0.7, LW:  19)

#17 Sacramento Kings (31-29, -1.3, LW:  15)

#16 Brooklyn Nets (32-30, -0.3, LW:  18)

#15 Minnesota Timberwolves (29-31, +0.3, LW:  16)

#14 Los Angeles Clippers (34-28, +0.2, LW:  13)

#13 Detroit Pistons (29-30, -0.9, LW:  17)

#12 Orlando Magic (28-33, -0.8, LW:  12)

#11 Houston Rockets (35-25, +2.1, LW:  11)

What James Harden is doing is remarkable, no doubt.  But biggest question remains the health of Chris Paul.  They will not catch Golden State or Denver, which means that a lot of what they need to do to return to the West Finals will have to be done on the road.  It will be interesting to see if they will be able to accomplish that.  Just goes to show you that Game Three of the season counts just as much as Game 65.

#10 Utah Jazz (33-26, +3.4, LW:  10)

#9 Boston Celtics (37-23, +6, LW:  4)

#8 Philadelphia 76ers (39-22, +3.4, LW:  8)

#7 Oklahoma City Thunder (38-21, +5, LW:  6)

#6 Portland Trail Blazers (37-23, +3.6, LW:  9)

#5 Indiana Pacers (40-21, +5.3, LW:  5)

#4 Toronto Raptors (44-17, +5.2, LW:  2)

#3 Denver Nuggets (41-18, +5.4, LW:  7)

#2 Golden State Warriors (43-17, +6.9, LW:  3)

#1 Milwaukee Bucks (46-14, +9.7, LW:  1)

Two big questions loom for this young Milwaukee team:

  1. Can they maintain their lead for the league’s best record?
  2. Do they have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs?

To answer the second question first, whenever you have the best player on the floor you certainly have what it takes.  Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in the league now, and the supporting cast is strong, so yes, they can definitely succeed in the playoffs.  As for maintaining the best record, if the Bucks maintain their current pace they will end up with 63 wins.  For Toronto to catch them (they are second) they would need to go 19-2, the Warriors 21-2, the Nuggets 21-1.  This season that is not easy to do.

So Tim Donaghy has once again come up in the headlines, again amid allegations of fixing games.  I say allegations because the NBA has officially disputed the ESPN article, siting Larry Pedowitz’s report a decade ago regarding the matter.  Regardless of whether the allegations are true or not, I want to look at the allegations in a broader picture.

Gamblers trying to sway the odds into their favor has been fact since gambling was invented.  Greed has always been at the heart of it.  Baseball took it lightly as players threw games left and right, up until they had no choice but to put an end to it with by banning eight members of the White Sox for throwing the entire 1919 World Series.

Basketball’s most famous scandals had been limited to the collegiate level.  The two most famous ones involved City College of New York in the late 1940’s and 50’s when several of the city’s local kids were convinced by local mobsters to shave a few games and Boston College in the 1978-79 season, and that had more to do with who was involved with the fixing than that the fixing was done.  Even then, a prestigious university like Northwestern was not immune to the lure of greed.

Then came 1989, where baseball’s Hit King and hero to many Pete Rose was banned for life for his gambling exploits.  He started his case with saying he never bet on baseball.  Years later he said he did bet on baseball, but not on Reds’ games.  Well, you know where this is going – the man is a pathological liar so we may never know the whole story.

But baseball banned him for life to nip it in the ass.  Many believe that the original intent was to make it a one year suspension and then then-commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti was going to reinstate him, but then Giamatti died and Rose was left to toil as a martyr.  The Donaghy scandal got me to thinking if that was ever really the case.

Back in 2007 when the scandal broke it was learned that Donaghy had been in connections with an unsavory crowd.  Well, good ole Charlie Hustle was hanging with an unsavory crowd as well.  Does anything really believe that reinstatement would just automatically make that group go away?  Me neither.

The lengthy story details a lot of ugly.  What people fail to realize is that professional sports exist not because the participants are of the highest of character or that the games are evenly matched, but that the games are on the level.

It has long been true that financially the players make too much to get them involved; the money would be too astronomical to keep silent.  But officials?  We’re onto something.

How many times have you heard that you can call holding on every play in a football game?  Hell, I watched three football games all season and they were loaded with questionable calls.  Basketball deals with it all the time.  And how many times have you heard fans complain about the strike zone in a baseball game?  It’s simple:  find some guys that have an influence on the game who are either greedy or desperate for money in some way, shape or form.  And NBA officials are not the best compensated of the bunch.

Which brings me back to the Pete Rose “situation”.

Rose has long been a massive gambler.  Most recently Al Michaels wrote in his book “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” about Charlie Hustle’s quests to the track both during the regular season and spring training.  He has done nothing to escape gambling.  He does autograph sessions and owns a restaurant in Vegas.  His last meeting with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred regarding a possible reinstatement took approximately 45 seconds.

Manfred:  Do you still bet on baseball?

Rose:  Yes.

Manfred:  OK, we’re done.

Rose:  Oh.  Do you validate parking?

And there’s this problem, too:  Rose, like most gamblers, isn’t really good at gambling.  Those that aren’t that good at it tend to fall into debt, and Rose doesn’t do autograph sessions every day because he has nothing better to do with his life.  So with Pete Rose you have:

  1. Someone who has a list of unsavory associates
  2. Who at one point had a big impact on the results of games
  3. May or may not have been looking for money and
  4. So far has only been willing to spill so much

Yes, that third part is speculation, and I admit that I only know what the Dowd Report has told us.  But maybe, just maybe, Major League Baseball knows more than even John Dowd found.  Let’s face it:  Major League Baseball has had a history of keeping quiet to the point of fault.  And several accounts have stated that the ban was the final straw since he wouldn’t even curb his habits.

Basically it appears that Rose will never be reinstated.  What dawned on me was that he may have been destined for this regardless of what happened 30 years ago.