Updated: Feb. 9, 2007, 11:39 AM ET

Second semester report cards

After 50 games, are they who we thought they were? Let's assess each team's season so far, taking into account its preseason goals.

ATLANTIC

Raptors: After a 2-8 start, Team Canada has left the Titanic wreckage behind with an ideal combination of Bosh, grit, Euro know-how and dynamic point guard play. Someday they may even get on TV. Grade: A

Nets: Charles Barkley picked New Jersey to win the Eastern Conference. And there's nothing the Nets could use more than Prime Chuck right now to provide some muscle in the middle. Grade: D

Knicks: From what I hear, the Bockers are bouncing back ... yeah, with a 36-win pace and a "star" center who averages seven boards. Grade: C

Sixers: A tale of two seasons, and of two Andres, who are finding that happiness is A.I. and C-Webb in your rearview mirror. Grade: D-plus

Celtics: A 16-game losing streak gets an F, but the C's are developing their promising kiddies (and positioning themselves for Lottery Love). Grade: C-minus


CENTRAL

Pistons: No jackrabbit start this season, which is probably for the best. Maybe this year slow and steady wins the East, as in 2004 and 2005. So far, the C-Webb addition has provided a chemical boost. Grade: B

Cavaliers: There's plenty of concern in Cleveland, and for good reason, but the team is still on a pace to win 47 games and they still have LeBron. If they can make the offense functional, they're dangerous. Grade: C

Bulls: Scary, deep, gritty ... and inconsistent. If they can find a higher offensive gear, or get another scorer, they can take the conference. Grade: B

Pacers: Controversy aside, Indiana is a serious sleeper, having won six of nine and standing just four games back of conference-leading Detroit. Grade: C

Bucks: Redd's injury derailed a promising run, meaning Milwaukee is probably left to hope for a favorable bounce of the ping-pong balls, a la 2005. Grade: D


SOUTHEAST

Wizards: Plenty of thrills, but ... 'til 'Tawn's return, even Agent Zero and Caron can't produce those 110-a-night pointfests. Grade: B-plus

Magic: They once led the conference, but now it's not clear that this odd collection can avoid the lottery -- which has been a disaster for Orlando the past two years. Grade: B-minus

Heat: D-Wade's giving his all, but the rest of these under-.500 jokers are once again making a mockery of the regular season . . . and apparently getting away with it. Grade: C-minus

Hawks: The Bouncing Baby Hawks have put together enough highlights to serve the legacy of Dominque and Spud Webb well. It's not clear they have a team, though. Grade: C

Bobcats: Some nice pieces and nice wins for MJ's squad, but Morrison's catastrophic season has undone a lot of good work by Okafor, Wallace, May and Carroll. Grade: C-minus


SOUTHWEST

Mavericks: The perfect team for the long haul of the season? Not as spectacular as the Suns, but the reigning West champs seem to have the winning formula. Grade: A-plus

Spurs: Sleeping giants or fading stars? The Spurs still spook the West, but no one imagined they'd be seven games back and trying to stay out of the fifth seed. Grade: B-minus

Rockets: The NBA's most overlooked team has thrived with Yao sidelined, as T-Mac's back and Van Gundy's D have made them the West's best dark horse. Grade: A-minus

Hornets: Somehow the Hornets -- apparently supported by Byron Scott's backbone -- have stayed in the playoff race even with injuries to a number of key players, including CP3. Grade: B

Grizzlies: They have the worst record, play no D, fired their coach, tried and failed to sell the team, and are trying to trade their disenchanted star. Funny thing is, you can see the seeds for a quick turnaround if they can make some savvy deals and get lucky in the lottery. Grade: F-plus


NORTHWEST

Jazz: The occasional controversy aside, this has been an almost perfect bounce-back year for Sloan's style of ball, with players like Boozer, Williams and Okur working his methodical system. Grade: A-minus

Nuggets: We really won't know about this team until we see Iverson and Melo play together for a stretch. Question: Can their offense overcome their defense? Grade: Incomplete

Timberwolves: There have been bright spots, but Minnesota needs a good look in the mirror. Despite some dramatic wins and a new coach, they're still out of the playoffs. Grade: C-minus

Trail Blazers: Yes, it's been a very encouraging season, and, yes, we're grading on a curve, but the new and improved Blazers are still somewhere shy of mediocre. Love those rooks, though! Grade: B-minus

SuperSonics: No organization west of Atlanta seems more lost in space. Coming or going? Buying or selling? Building or rebuilding? Hill or Wilkens? And what of Ray and Rashard? Grade: D-plus


PACIFIC

Suns: Their depth is an issue, but otherwise the Sublime Six -- Nash, Marion, Amare, Diaw, Bell, Barbosa -- and D'Antoni are having a dream season and re-creating the game. Grade: A-plus

Lakers: It's not quite clear yet what they've got there, but Phil and Kobe's big achievement is that the league takes the Lakers seriously once again. Should be a formidable playoff foe. Grade: A-minus

Clippers: They're slow, uninspired, and overrated, and yet the Clips have climbed back into the race and could give a smaller team like Phoenix trouble in the postseason -- again. Grade: C

Warriors: No team is more fun to watch, as long as you're not too hung up on winning and losing. They play faster than Phoenix, no lie. Grade: C

Kings: They're infuriating to watch, with the kind of chemistry you see in the last pickup game of the night. If there's a program, Artest and Bibby aren't with it. Grade: D

• Talk back to The Daily Dime gang

• Dimes Past: Feb. 1 | 2 | 3-4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


CP3 4 2
Mikki Moore
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
Two years ago, the Bucks selected Andrew Bogut over Chris Paul as the first pick in the draft. So this coast-to-coast drive past Earl Boykins (background), Bogut and the Bucks must have been sweet for the Hornets guard, especially since it tied the game 90-90 in the last second of regulation. The Hornets eventually won in two OTs.


Daily Dish: General Managing The Magic
Daily Dish

The Orlando Magic are slipping, and Chad Ford talks to Magic GM Otis Smith about their problems. Hear what Smith has to say about Darko Milicic, J.J. Redick, Fran Vasquez, Dwight Howard and the rest of the gang in Orlando.

• Listen: Daily Dish with Chad Ford



Long-Distance Coach
Sometimes what readers want to know from David Thorpe of Scouts Inc. is how they can improve their game when they go to the gym ...

Jay (Chapel Hill, NC): What is the best way to get the "spring" back into your legs after not playing for several months?

David Thorpe: Assuming you once had spring, then just start working out slowly but increase the duration and intensity every few days.

Terence (Raleigh, NC): Hey David, I am trying to improve my vertical leap for shot blocking, rebounding, and just getting above the rim. What's the most efficient training exercise for this?

David Thorpe: Lots of sprinting and 2 foot vertical jumps. Also be sure to trim excess fat.

Octavio, (Panama City, Panama): Hello David, we got love for you down here!!! Hey, how many hours or shots do you have your pro players take daily for practice?

David Thorpe: No set number -- but plan on spending hours as opposed to minutes.

Complete David Thorpe chat


Records At A Glance



East's Best Handle Hollywood's Finest

Webber, Pistons outpace Kobe, Lakers


Rip The Rim
Richard Hamilton
Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images
It was that kind of night for Detroit: Even mild-mannered Rip Hamilton threw down in the Pistons' 93-78 dissection of the Lakers.



Extreme Behavior
David West

Thursday's Best
Hornets forward David West: Is this the best player no one ever talks about? In any case, overcoming an injury, scoring 21, grabbing 19 boards, putting in some big buckets and winning in double-OT is a good night's work.

Ben Gordon

Thursday's Worst
Bulls guard Ben Gordon: Gentle Ben became a little less "untouchable" in trade talks on Thursday with his abysmal 3-for-16 shooting for seven points in the Bulls' 86-77 loss in Sacto.

Quote of the Day
"He's a phenomenal passer. It's fun to watch him, unless you are actually trying to stop him."
-- Lakers guard Kobe Bryant on Chris Webber of Detroit, which is 9-2 with Webber in the starting lineup.

See how all 58 who played stacked up
Playoff matchups if season ended now

-- Royce Webb



Trade Chatter
Chad Ford

Chad Ford's Thursday chat was a treasure trove of trade talk:

LAKERS
Andy (Orlando): The Lakers have an abundance of expiring contracts and in need for a PG and a PF. Do you see any trades coming to LA?

Chad Ford: I really think folks should watch them closely. The team is playing well enough that it's worth exploring. Teams like the Magic and Raptors have an abundance of point guards right now.

BULLS/GRIZZLIES
KC (Los Angeles): Are the Bulls waiting to see if Kevin Garnett would be available before settling for Gasol? Is that a smart move?

Chad Ford: No ... I think the consensus around the league is that KG isn't going anywhere. The Wolves are respectable enough that they'll keep trying to bail out the ship with KG at the helm.

I think what's happening with Gasol is that the Bulls are waiting until we get closer to the deadline to put their best offer forward for Gasol. They don't want Jerry West shopping or leaking their offer around the league.

I think they'll make one more push for him around Feb 20 and then we'll see if it's enough.

I remain in the camp that says West will only pull the trigger if it's a good deal for Memphis ... but owner Michael Heisley may force his hand.

Robbie (Chicago): So, Chad, if you were Paxson, what would be your final offer to the Grizz for Gasol?

Chad Ford: Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and P. J. Brown. That gives West two young lottery picks and more cap relief. I wouldn't include Luol Deng in a trade.

If the Grizz wanted the lottery pick of the Knicks instead of Thomas, I do that as long as it was top-two protected.

SONICS
Dave (Winston-Salem, NC): The Sonics have the fourth-worst record in the NBA and two huge trade chips in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Are they really not going to cash in on their value while they can simply because they're pretending to try to get a stadium built before bolting for Oklahoma City?

Chad Ford: To me the Sonics are the sleeper team. They're going nowhere. Lewis can opt out of his deal this summer and the Sonics could lose him for nothing. Ray Allen is in the same situation as Paul Pierce, great player on a bad team. And the Sonics aren't quite bad enough to earn one of the top 2 picks.

The whole situation reeks of fire sale ... but it has been eerily quiet. If I was a GM looking to get a star injection at the trade deadline, I'd be calling Rick Sund.

NUGGETS
Joe (Denver): Chad -- Love your work! Are the Nuggs going to make a move before the deadline? Nene, Camby, or J.R. Smith?

Chad Ford: They're trying to move Nene ... but he has one of the worst contracts in the league right now ... good luck.

BLAZERS
Bradley (Bellingham, WA): Your podcast with Kevin Pritchard was interesting. I've heard rumblings the Blazers won't do anything before the trade deadline. But I can see all kinds of trades that make sense on both the large and small scale for the Blazers. Your thoughts? Any way Boston would want to pair Randolph and Pierce if Gasol goes to Chicago?

Chad Ford: They remind me a little of the Celtics in that the team is filled with young assets, but I'm not really sure they have a team. I actually think they have more talent than Boston which suggests that they could be players.

Zach Randolph is the guy they'd like to move, but other teams are targeting some combo of LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw and the expiring contract of Jamaal Magloire.

Complete Chad Ford chat



This Magic Moment


It was 15 years ago Friday when Magic Johnson returned to the court for perhaps the most warmly remembered All-Star Game ever.

February 9, 1992
Magic Johnson, playing for the first time since announcing his retirement on Nov. 7, 1991, scored a game-high 25 points and dished off for a game-high nine assists to lead the West to a 153-113 win over the East in the 42nd annual NBA All-Star Game at the Orlando Arena.

For his memorable effort, Johnson was honored with the second All-Star Game MVP award of his career.

-- ESPN Research



Elias Says


The Pistons defeated the Lakers 93-78 in a game in which Kobe Bryant didn't take a shot until the final 30 seconds of the first quarter, with the Lakers already trailing by 12 points.

It was the furthest into a game that Bryant failed to take shot since Dec. 3, 2004.

Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias

 

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