Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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You gotta love the NBA, right?

There’s the excitement of the game, players with all kinds of personalities, major “Woj bombs” every five minutes and legends building stronger resumes.

There’s that…and then there’s the downsides.

One of the major issues this year, obviously, has been the coronavirus. Fortunately, the Disney bubble was so well thought out that nobody tested positive while inside.

We’ll have to see how this plays out in the near future, but the league has been setting double standards for protocol this year. Last month, the Philadelphia 76ers were forced to play games with almost none of their starters. Rookie Tyrese Maxey decided it was his time to turn into an All-Star, dropping 39 points, but the team still lost to the Denver Nuggets that night.

Yet other teams’ games were postponed because of a lack of players. Fans even accused NBA Commissioner Adam Silver of having a vendetta against the 76ers because of “The Process” years, in which Philadelphia tanked on purpose to get better draft picks.

On Friday, it was the Brooklyn Nets’ turn to be humiliated. Superstar Kevin Durant was taken out of the starting lineup.

He came off the bench for the first time in his career… just to be pulled out again later in the game because of contact tracing. He sat out the rest of the game. Wouldn’t it be nice if the league was, I don’t know, consistent? No wonder players have been frustrated.

Besides those incidents, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: The Toronto Raptors…oh excuse me, the Tampa Bay Raptors (they’re playing in Tampa this season because of Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions), are doing much better as of late.

After a horrible 1-6 start, the team has won their last four of five. Toronto is 6-4 in their last 10 matchups, and they are now 11-13 on the season; that’s good for eighth in the Eastern Conference.

This comes after the Raptors were disappointed last year in the playoffs after a heartbreaking second-round exit, losing in seven to Boston.

Critics point out that Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka signing with the L.A. Lakers and Clippers this offseason respectively hurt them defensively. However, they still have Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to lead the way.

Last Tuesday, VanVleet dropped a career-high and franchise-best 54 points in Toronto’s win over the Magic. He hit a career-high 11 three-pointers as well. It’s still early in the season to make definitive judgments, but some more wins would make up for the slow start.

Lowlight: Before the season began, do you guys remember when Dallas Mavericks’ superstar Luka Dončić was supposed to be the undisputed MVP candidate? I guess the team figured once the bettors tell you that, you’re automatically the MVP.

One criterion of being MVP is having good stats. Dončić can check that off, considering he drops 27.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game, and leads the league with six triple doubles.

Another major criterion is your team’s placement in the standings. An 11-14 record, which is good for 13th in the Western Conference, is not ideal. Dallas is 3-7 in their last 10 games, and Dončić recently said that “…it’s looking like we don’t care…if we win games or not.”

Yeah, that’s not what you want your best player saying about the team’s overall effort. The Mavericks are in the middle of a seven-game home stretch, including games against Atlanta, New Orleans and Portland. Let’s see if they decide to put effort in those.

Random Stat: On Thursday, Lakers superstar LeBron James passed the great Wilt Chamberlain for third most made field goals in NBA history.

If you aren’t familiar with the stats that Chamberlain put up, I recommend you do a quick Google search. The man has records that, quite frankly, will never be broken.

He scored 100 points in a single game, averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds in his rookie year, and put up a mind-boggling 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season.

Here’s the thing that’s scary, though: there wasn’t a 3 point line in Chamberlain’s time.

James isn’t known as a sharpshooter from 3, but he still hits them pretty consistently. In fact, he’s averaging a career-high 40.9% this season. If James wants to be the all-time leader in field goals made, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stand in his way. Abdul-Jabbar has the most made field goals with 15,837.

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