x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

NBA: Winners and losers as season reaches midway point

Steve Dilbeck picks out his stars and flops on and off the court after the first half of the season.

Eastern Conference All-Star Kyrie Irving, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, goes up for a dunk during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. Eric Gay / AP Photo
Eastern Conference All-Star Kyrie Irving, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, goes up for a dunk during the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. Eric Gay / AP Photo

The NBA All-Star weekend is a perfect time to look back at the first half of the season and cite some accomplishments. The world is awards-show obsessed, so why not one more batch?

Biggest disappointment: Los Angeles Lakers. Always start with the obvious. The Lakers have the biggest payroll in the NBA. They have four players who might go into the basketball Hall of Fame, in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

They also have a 25-29 record. To make the play-offs this would-be super team will need a remarkable finish. It took 46 victories in the last full NBA season (2010/11) for a team from the Western Conference to reach the play-offs. The Lakers will have to win 21 of their last 28 to reach 46 victories.

Earliest and best exit: Mike Brown. The Lakers fired him after a 1-4 start. Not clear how much he had to do with the 24-25 since.

Next superstar: Kyrie Irving. The game's next great point guard has arrived. Clearly, the Cleveland Cavaliers knew what they were doing when they made him the No 1 overall pick in 2011 despite his playing in only 11 games as a college freshman because of a toe injury.

He is averaging 23.5 points and 5.5 assists per game. Plus, he can defend. And he is only 20.

Most likely to be traded before Thursday's deadline: Eric Bledsoe, LA Clippers. It would be a gamble, because the Clippers do not have Chris Paul signed beyond this season. But Bledsoe, their backup point guard, is their best trading chip, and the Clippers believe they have to win now. The Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics are in the market.

Biggest knucklehead: Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic. He is not a cyclist or a body builder or a rugby player. He is a 33-year-old shooting guard just suspended for 20 games for testing positive for steroids. They must not work as well for basketball players. He is shooting 26.4 per cent and averaging 2.9 points per game.

Most over-celebrated birthday: Michael Jordan turns 50. His Airness's birthday on Sunday threatened to overshadow the All-Star game. The "50 Greatest Jordan Dunks" and the "50 Greatest Jordan Moments" and the "50 Greatest Times Jordan Scratches His Ear" were over the top.

Most prolonged story: Sacramento Kings moving. Not to Anaheim or Virginia Beach or San Jose, but to Seattle. Or are they? The NBA commissioner David Stern said Sacramento would be given a chance to match the Seattle deal. Oh, the suspense.

And for traditionalists, we give you the MVP (LeBron James, Miami Heat), Rookie of the Year (Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers), Sixth Man (Jamal Crawford, Clippers), Most Improved (Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers) and Coach of the Year (Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs).

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