By Paul Sarconi
The All-Star Game is now officially over and thus, the Atlanta Hawks appreciation week has concluded. Yet we still have some time to kill before the games get going again, so let’s check in on how each of the Southeastern division teams next 10 games look. The All Star break is a time for rest, relaxation, and for the teams that had All-Stars, partying. As such, I am going to be using a weighted scale that ranges from, Ok, the team should probably be practicing again to, Keep Partying, based on where the team is at and how tough the opponents are.
Next ten: vs. Toronto, @Milwaukee, vs. Dallas, vs. Orlando, @Miami, vs. Houston, vs. Cleveland, @Philadelphia, vs. Sacramento, @Denver
Just don’t be hung-over for this first stretch.
Okay Atlanta, you had your fun. Everyone saw that you have four All-Stars and now knows your good, but I didn’t forget that you went 3-3 in your last six games before half your team went to New York. Granted, one of your losses was to the Memphis Grizzlies but the last one before the break was to the Boston Celtics The New Orleans Pelicans loss gets a pass, only because you were riding a really long win streak. All will be good in ATL as long as you take that first half chemistry, bottle it up, store it somewhere cold, and take it out right before your first game against the Toronto Raptors. As long as you can make it to the game against the Orlando Magic with a 3-1 record, all that NYC partying you did will be forgotten. The two relatively easy games versus division foes Orlando and the Miami Heat, give you some rest and relaxation before the tests against the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers. Afterwards, you’re playing three of the worst teams in basketball, so party like its All-Star Weekend 2015.
Prediction: ATL goes 7-3
Note: I only talk in first person to the teams are experiencing success for the first time. That way the words have more weight. I want you to keep this going Atlanta!
Next ten: vs. Oklahoma City, @Dallas, @Chicago, @Boston, @Orlando, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, @Brooklyn, vs. Toronto, @Detroit, vs. Washington
Okay, the team should probably be practicing by now
This team really should have been practicing the entire break. They didn’t have any All-Stars and they are a bad team fighting for a playoff spot; that math adds up to staying home and working in the gym. A post All-Star game checkup shows Charlotte still has a head case in Lance Stephenson, is still without Kemba Walker, and lost 106-78 to Detroit in their last game of the first half. Oh, and three of the Hornets first ten games are against the championship caliber opponents. It doesn’t matter that they get a nice break from games 4-7, this team needs every win it can get. This is one of the few teams left in basketball that still values the last two-playoff seeds.
Next ten: vs. Cleveland, @Detroit, vs. Golden State, @Minnesota, @Philadelphia, vs. Detroit, @Chicago, vs. Miami, @Milwaukee, @Charlotte
Everyone except John Wall should be practicing right now.
The Wizards pulled short straw because two of the teams’ first three games are against two of the top three players in the league. But as long as they get through that stretch they have a nice three game window against two of the worst teams in basketball. The NBA is clearly a give and take league. Bradley Beal has to get going in the second half for this team to reach its Eastern-Conference-Finals-potential. He’s been all sorts of injured, yet somehow he’s shooting 43% from the field (Per ESPN.com). If Beal keeps this up and Paul Pierce doesn’t break a hip, and Marcin Gortat stays healthy, this team is still sneaky dangerous. (Think Carmelo Anthony’s last season in Denver dangerous)
Next ten: vs. New Orleans, vs. Philadelphia, vs. Miami, @Atlanta, vs. Charlotte, vs. Phoenix, vs. Sacramento, vs. Boston, @Indiana, @Milwaukee
This team has nothing to lose at this point, other than a top lottery pick. In all reality, the Magic should stop winning, start boosting Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevics’ stats, and start throwing more lobs to Aaron Gordon. Orlando doesn’t even have a permanent coach at this point, so lose Orlando. Keep the party going and end up with Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor or D’Angelo Russell. The city of Orlando will thank you next year.
Next ten: @New York, vs. New Orleans, vs. Philadelphia, @Orlando, @New Orleans, vs. Atlanta, vs. Phoenix, vs. Los Angeles, @Washington, vs. Sacramento
Just get healthy
The Goran Dragic trade has brought this team optimism for this season and beyond, but the Heat’s high has just come crashing down with the news of Chris Bosh’s possible blood clots. If Bosh does have these clots, then Miami’s hopes of doing anything this postseason are over. This team’s bench is as weak as any in the NBA, so this injury is a deathblow to their hopes of making a playoff run.
In the case that Bosh doesn’t have these clots, the schedule is favorable for a team that needs to build up its chemistry in the next few months. Fortunately for Miami, nothing builds comradery like starting the second half of the season against teams the Knicks and Sixers.