Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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Last week, the NBA All-Star starters were revealed. On Thursday, Feb. 3, the reserves were showcased.

The Eastern reserves are:

  • Jimmy Butler: Miami Heat, sixth appearance
  • Darius Garland: Cleveland Cavaliers, first appearance
  • James Harden: Brooklyn Nets, tenth appearance
  • Zach LaVine: Chicago Bulls, second appearance
  • Khris Middleton: Milwaukee Bucks, third appearance
  • LaMelo Ball: Charlotte Hornets, first appearance
  • Fred VanVleet: Toronto Raptors, first appearance

Meanwhile, the Western reserves consist of:

  • Devin Booker: Phoenix Suns, third appearance
  • Chris Paul: Phoenix Suns, 12th appearance
  • Luka Dončić: Dallas Mavericks, third appearance
  • Rudy Gobert: Utah Jazz, third appearance
  • Donovan Mitchell: Utah Jazz, third appearance
  • Dejounte Murray: San Antonio Spurs, first appearance
  • Karl-Anthony Towns: Minnesota Timberwolves, third appearance

In other roster news, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics will replace the injured Kevin Durant in the East’s starting lineup. Dejounte Murray is also a replacement, as he is stepping in for the injured Draymond Green for the West.

While all of this is happening, the trade market is ramping up. On Friday, Feb. 4, the L.A. Clippers acquired Robert Covington and Norman Powell from Portland.

On Sunday, Feb. 6, the Indiana Pacers shipped off Caris LeVert and a 2022 second-round pick to Cleveland for injured guard Ricky Rubio and picks.

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the Portland Trail Blazers said goodbye to CJ McCollum and some bench players. They went to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package centered on Josh Hart and picks.

Finally, Indiana made another move in sending Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb and Justin Holiday, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Sacramento Kings for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson. It will only be getting more intense and the trade deadline is Thursday, Feb. 10.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

Both times after LeBron James left Cleveland, the Cavaliers were absolute garbage. Then again, restructuring a team without the franchise’s all-time greatest player isn’t easy.

The good news is that Cavs fans can stop worrying about the Cleveland Browns and how quarterback Baker Mayfield has more Progressive commercials than career wins. Cleveland is tied with Chicago for third in the Eastern Conference with a 33-21 record.

Like I said in the opener, Caris LeVert, a more efficient scorer than Ricky Rubio, will be joining the team after approximately a season and a half with Indiana.

Besides the ascension of Darius Garland, rookie center Evan Mobley has made Cleveland very happy. The 20-year-old Mobley is averaging 14.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks (I’m still in shock that I’m now older than this year’s draft picks).

With the first seed still in play for the Cavs, home-court advantage throughout the playoffs would be beneficial. The next few games shouldn’t be too bad for them, so that top seed might be closer than they think.

Things are about to rock in Cleveland– well, besides the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Lowlight

The Denver Nuggets are in a peculiar position. Unless some of the other playoff teams drastically move around in the standings, Denver won’t be a top Western seed, nor will they be a lower-level play-in tournament team. They currently sit at the sixth seed with a 30-24 record, sandwiched in between Dallas and Minnesota.

Anyone can see the impact that Nikola Jokić had on his squad. Besides averaging a near triple-double as a center, he had a 33.56 player efficiency rating (PER) for this season, which would be the best in NBA history if the season ended right now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 31.86 PER two years ago was second best.

To be honest, I was wondering why no one has talked about Jamal Murray lately. Why is that? Because he’s recovering from his ACL tear last season. Without Murray, the Nuggets were swept by the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

I don’t want to write off Denver prematurely, but they certainly have an uphill battle in a tough conference. This season will be categorized in one of two ways: as gold nuggets or chicken nuggets.

Random Stat

Climbing up Mount Everest is an extremely difficult feat. Not only is it 29,032 feet high, but only a few have done so successfully.

San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich has officially conquered Everest in his own way.

Popovich is the first coach in NBA history to surpass 1,500 wins (combining regular season and postseason). He’s only six victories away from surpassing Don Nelson’s 1,335 all-time regular season wins and only two victories away from leaping over Pat Riley’s 171 postseason wins (Phil Jackson holds the record with 229).

What Popovich has done in his career is amazing. He named himself head coach of the Spurs in 1996 and led them to five championships. Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan, a.k.a. “The Big Fundamental,” was present for all five titles. Popovich even beat the aforementioned LeBron James twice in the Finals, with the first one being a sweep.

When the time comes for him to retire, the bench will look weird as a new coaching staff takes command. Although many thought Assistant Coach Becky Hammon would succeed Popovich, she is now the head coach of the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. Whoever is next in line for the Spurs job will have big shoes to fill.

Expect a special edition of “Diehlman at Halftime” next week!

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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