Found December 06, 2012 on Fox Sports:
The Heat, Thunder and Lakers entered the season as the NBA's so-called super teams, but they're hardly dominating the league. Miami and Oklahoma City have played up to expectations, while Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Co. are muddling along at 9-10. Meanwhile, several other teams have proven they deserve consideration among the league's Towers of Power. Let's take a look at each and say whether they belong. SAN ANTONIO SPURS Record through Thursday: 15-4. Tower of Power? Yes. They probably deserved a spot among the NBA's super teams from the beginning, given their championship pedigree and league-best record the past two years. As usual, we wrote them off before the season. They just had to be too old by now, right? And then the season started and the Spurs have been as successful as ever. Tim Duncan, incredibly, is playing like a superstar again. Tony Parker has turned it on after a slow start and Manu Ginobili leads perhaps the deepest bench in the league. Gregg Popovich's decision to rest his stars against the Heat - followed by a near-upset of the champs and David Stern's absurd $250K fine - only galvanized the franchise and confirmed its way of doing things. Who's Hot: After several years of decline, Duncan is having a throwback season, averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. His 27-point, 15-rebound performance in Saturday's overtime win over the Grizzlies was vintage Timmy. He was an old 34 but now a young 36. Who's Not: After a strong start, Danny Green has shot 17 for 59 in his last seven games, including an 0 for 7 against Memphis. Now he's on the shelf with a hamstring injury. What's Next?: Starting Saturday, they go on a road trip to Charlotte, Houston, Utah and Portland. All are winnable for the Spurs, who are 9-2 on the road. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES Record through Thursday: 13-3. Tower of Power? Yes. We knew the Grizzlies would be pretty good, but not this good, with impressive wins over the Heat, Thunder, Knicks and Lakers. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph form the best frontcourt duo in the league, while Mike Conley and Tony Allen comprise the most tenacious backcourt. And that's not even mentioning Rudy Gay, the team's leading scorer. Who's Hot: Zach Randolph has been a double-double machine this season, averaging 17.7 points and 13.3 rebounds. His 38-point, 22-board outing in Tuesday's OT win over Phoenix may be the most impressive performance of the NBA season. Who's Not: Though Gay is averaging 18.8 points, he's shooting 42 percent from the field and has made more than half his shots just three times this season. The Grizzlies are better off working the ball inside to Randolph and Gasol than relying on Gay for offense. What's Next?: Four of the next five are on the road, including a three-game western swing in Phoenix, Denver and Utah. NEW YORK KNICKS Record through Thursday: 13-5. Tower of Power? Hard to say. The Knicks have been a nice surprise this season, exhibiting much more chemistry than last year's dysfunctional team. Carmelo Anthony is playing the best all-around basketball of his life and the oldest team in NBA history is playing with savvy and energy. Question is, will it last? Who's Hot: Anthony is making 43.5 percent of his 3-pointers, easily a career high, and has been hot all season in the absence of star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. He suffered a lacerated left hand in Wednesday's win over Charlotte and missed Thursday's loss in Miami. Who's Not: No one's having a bad season for the Knicks, but if we have to pick on someone, let's pick on Rasheed Wallace. He's shooting just 39 percent from the field and 31 percent behind the arc. But give him a break. He's 38 and hasn't played in two years. What's Next?: This is a challenging stretch for the Knicks, who face the Bulls, Nuggets, Nets and Lakers. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS Record through Thursday: 12-6. Tower of Power? Not quite. The Clips started the season like gangbusters at 8-2, then lost four straight followed by a current four-game win streak. They're just too inconsistent for now to be considered an elite team, having lost home games to the Cavaliers, Kings and Timberwolves. Who's Hot: Who would guess that Jamal Crawford would be the leading scorer on a team with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul? Crawford has been electric off the bench, reaching double figures in every game, and has been LA's go-to guy down the stretch of most close games. Who's Not: The Clippers hoped they were getting the Lamar Odom who won Sixth Man of the Year for the Lakers two seasons ago. Instead, they got the dud who moped through last season in Dallas. He's averaging 2.3 points on 29.7-percent shooting. What's Next?: The winning streak could get much longer with a soft schedule for the next two weeks, but that may not be a good thing for the Clippers, who have played to the level of their competition all season. BROOKLYN NETS Record through Thursday: 11-6 Tower of Power? No. The Nets are much improved from last year after their summer spending spree and have been energized by their move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Yet they've been whipped twice by the Heat and lost at home to the Thunder. The backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson simply hasn't been good enough to make you think of the Nets as legit contenders. Who's Hot: Brook Lopez was averaging a team-high 18.5 points before his latest foot injury, which has to concern the Nets even though it doesn't appear severe. Brooklyn's biggest surprise has been Andray Blatche, a former Wizards pariah who is averaging 10.6 points off the bench. Who's Not: The Nets traded for Johnson knowing he has a horrible contract but hoping he could still play at an All-Star level for a few more years. He's averaging 15.6 points on 40.6-percent shooting, which would be his worst season in 10 years. What's Next?: Two more matchups against the Knicks highlight a soft schedule over the next two weeks. ATLANTA HAWKS Record through Thursday: 10-5. Tower of Power? No way. Atlanta's been better than expected after trading Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, but its record is misleading. The Hawks have played nine home games and their recent six-game win streak includes lightweight opponents like the Kings, Magic, Wizards and Bobcats (twice). Who's Hot: Al Horford continues to be one of the NBA's most underrated players. He's averaging 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds, including a 25-point, 12-rebound performance in Wednesday's win over the Nuggets. Who's Not: Remember when Devin Harris was considered one of the league's top young point guards? Now 29 and on his fourth NBA team, he's averaging 7.2 points and 2.7 assists and has lost his spot in the starting lineup. What's Next?: Back-to-back road games in Memphis and Miami will show whether the Hawks have what it takes to compete with the league's best.
THE BACKYARD
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