As February begins there are two major events on the NBA calendar on the immediate horizon. The first is the annual All Star break and attendant festivities that will occur from Feb. 17-22 with the centerpiece All Star game on Sunday, Feb. 19.
But the more important date is Thursday, Feb. 23 when play resumes following the break. That is the date of the trade deadline and there will likely be a handful of trades with Playoff bound teams looking to add depth to their roster. There may or may not be any blockbuster deals but the one player that might be involved in such a trade is Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks.
After a promising start to the season the Knicks have dropped steadily in the standings and are unlikely to make the Playoffs. Starting the week 21-28, seeded eleventh and 2.5 games behind the number 8 seed, Charlotte, the Knicks would have to have a strong start to February for those rumors to subside.
Anthony does have a no trade clause in his contract that requires his approval to be traded. Whereas he has expressed his desire to remain a Knick that stance appears to have developed some flexibility over the past week or so. Despite his limitations on defense Anthony’s scoring ability could be just what several contending teams could use to improve their chances at a deep Playoffs run.
Things are not going well in Chicago and Coach Fred Hoiberg seems to have lost control of his team. Several key players, most notably Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, have spoken openly of issues involving both the coach and the younger players regarding the lack of effort being displayed on a far too frequent basis.
The Bulls started this week in seventh place in the East at 24-25 and should the Bulls continue to slide and miss the Playoffs Hoiberg might be out as coach after just a couple of seasons. The situation appears to be toxic and the Bulls could make for a good “go against” team over the next several weeks until the situation reverses or at least stabilizes.
The month from hell is about to end for the Houston Rockets. Following their home game against Oklahoma City on January 5 that marked the end of a four game homestand, the Rockets played 14 of their next 15 games on a court that differed from the one they played on in their previous game.
In that 15 game stretch, that ends this Tuesday, Jan. 31 with the first of 4 straight home games, the Rockets will have played 10 games on the road and 5 home games, but of the 4 home games prior to this Tuesday only 2 of them were in succession. The 2 other home games were preceded and followed by road games (a win over Charlotte on January 10 and a loss to Memphis on Jan. 13.
The NBA must address – prior to the start of next season – this incredibly poor and unfair scheduling. The Association is tough enough on a nightly basis even when on an extended home stand. But the type of scheduling the Rockets endured during January can be considered both cruel and unusual, a comment borne out in their shoddy performance as the travel regimen became extreme.
Houston won 9 games in a row in a streak that began the day after Christmas and ended on January 11 in Minnesota in the fourth game of their 15 game odyssey. That loss to the Timberwolves began a 4-7 SU stretch through this past Sunday’s loss at Indiana (3-8 ATS). Houston was favored in 6 of the 7 SU losses.
But that rough month of scheduling might present some positive wagering opportunities in February. The Rockets will play 9 games during February and 7 of them are at home. There are no instances of a single home game preceded and followed by road games and there is the mid month All Star break.
This favorable stretch of the schedule will allow Houston to take the court being fresher and better rested than they were during January. And with the Rockets currently second in the Southwest Division, 3 games behind San Antonio, but with the best record of any Western non-Division leader there will exist the need and desire to hold onto that top four Playoffs seeding and the home court advantage it carries in the opening round of the Playoffs. We should see the form and results Houston accomplished in November and December.
Here’s a look at three games to be played over the weekend.
Memphis at Oklahoma City (Fri): The big injury news over the past week was that OKC’s Enes Kanter has been lost for 6 to 8 weeks after punching a chair last week with the chair winning and causing Kanter to suffer a broken hand. These teams have split two meetings this season with Memphis winning 114-80 at home in late December and Oklahoma City returning the favor with a 103-95 home win two weeks later. These teams have nearly identical records with Memphis having played, and lost, one more game.
Memphis has battled through injuries and yet remain one of only 3 teams allowing an average of under 100 points per game. At the same time they are also one of only 4 teams scoring under 100 points per game. OKC has been very strong at home, winning 5 straight and 10 of 12 since Thanksgiving (9-2-1 ATS) with one of the two losses as a 1 point underdog to Houston. Despite Kanter’s absence the Thunder should be favorer in this spot and should be able to get a second home win and cover versus the Grizzlies in three weeks. OKLAHOMA CITY.
Golden State at Sacramento (Sat): Golden State won the only prior meeting this season, defeating the Kings 117-106 and barely covering as 11.5 point road favorites on January 11. The game stayed UNDER the Total of 226 and despite their reputation as a high scoring team that plays plenty of OVERs Golden State has actually played more UNDERS (26) than OVERS (22) this season through Sunday. And dating back to December 7 the Warriors have played 20 UNDERS and just 7 OVERS, including staying UNDER in 7 of their last 8 games entering this week.
Sacramento has also played more UNDERS than OVERS although they were on a 4 game OVER streak entering the week although all were on the road. This is Sacramento’s second straight home game that began with a home game against Phoenix Friday night. UNDER.
LA Clippers at Boston (Sun): After hosting Golden State on Thursday this is the first of a 5 game road trip for the Clippers who face the Celtics for the first time this season. The Clips have been a very streaky team over the past five weeks, with a 7 game winning streak following a 6 game losing streak which in turn has been followed by losing 4 of 5. Injuries have had a major impact on their play with Blake Griffin having returned following a month long injury but with Chris Paul now sidelined and expected to miss at least another month.
Boston has caught and overtaken (by a half game) Toronto in the Atlantic Division and is just 3.5 games behind Cleveland for the top Eastern seed. This is the final game of a four game homestand for the Celtics who next play at Sacramento on Wednesday. The Celtics were 5-0-1 to the OVER entering this week and have played 17 OVERS, 2 UNDERS and a push since Dec. 20 winning 14 of those 20 games. They are in better current form as they host former coach Doc Rivers and have the healthier roster. BOSTON.