Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

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During the Miami Heat and Golden State Warriors game on Wednesday, March 23, things got a little heated.

Miami teammates Jimmy Butler and Udonis Haslem, along with Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, got into an argument on the bench. Although we don’t know exactly what was said, supposedly Butler called Haslem “a cheerleader.”

Haslem doesn’t play much anymore, given that he’s 41 years old. He did, however, respond to Butler with threats of his own.

Additionally, Memphis Grizzlies’ superstar, Ja Morant, will be out for at least a week or two with a knee injury. Ironically, Memphis is 17-2 without Morant. Since they’re only the second team in the league with 50 wins, along with the Phoenix Suns, the Grizzlies don’t have too much to stress over.

Finally, the New York City vaccine mandate has eased up. Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets played his first home game of the year on Sunday, May 27, in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight, Lowlight, Random Stat

Highlight

The Philadelphia 76ers are in the right place at the right time.

They’re the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, where the top four seeds are still up for grabs. After hovering around third and fourth place in the East for a good part of the season, the 76ers’ acquisition of James Harden has been a sigh of relief.

Although there have been hiccups after the first few games, Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid should be a force when the playoffs arrive. While Embiid’s averages stand at about 29.9 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists, Harden has put up 22.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 9.9 assists per contest in a 76ers’ uniform.

Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is quite forgiving, as they still have two dates with the Indiana Pacers and two with the Detroit Pistons, both of which are Eastern Conference bottom-feeders.

Now, you might be wondering how the 76ers have managed to take a hold of the fourth seed. Miami has lost four games straight, including last week against the 76ers who were resting Embiid and Harden. The Heat also took rough losses to the Steph Curry–less Warriors, the Julius Randle–less New York Knicks, and got blown out by Brooklyn.

The race to the finish line will be intense because the 76ers, Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, and Boston Celtics have similar records, with Boston in command of the top seed. Which team will have a home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs this year?

Lowlight

I hope you haven’t been mistaken for all these years, but do you realize that Sacramento is the capital of California and not Los Angeles? Or Hollywood? Or Beverly Hills?

Okay, I just wanted to make that clear. I know we spend more time worrying about what LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are doing than watching five seconds of the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings are about to miss the playoffs for the 16th season in a row!

That is currently the longest playoff drought in the league. Even though the Hornets are next on the list with five consecutive seasons, they’re in contention for the play-in tournament, so they could theoretically make the playoffs before reaching six seasons.

The Kings are 13th in the Western Conference at 27-48. Earlier in the season, we talked about how Sacramento trading Tyrese Haliburton was not the smartest idea. A return of Domantas Sabonis is nice and all, but Haliburton had so much potential for this struggling organization. Now, his potential can be used on the Indiana Pacers who are, ironically, 13th in the East.

Having a core of De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell and Sabonis is a good starting point, but they need more. Get it together, gentlemen.

Random Stat

It was announced this week that, after being expired for about a year, Nike has reached a new deal with the estate of the late Kobe Bryant to continue making his merchandise.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, said that Nike will be donating 100% of the net proceeds for Gianna’s shoes to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation (M&MSF), a nonprofit founded in the honor of Gianna and Kobe that aims to provide a positive impact on underserved athletes in youth sports.

Besides obviously making shoes of the Lakers’ legend, Vanessa talked about Gianna, their daughter, getting her own sneaker line. Gigi, as she’s more commonly called, passed away in the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her, Kobe and seven others.

Not only do I think it’s touching that Gigi is receiving her own shoe brand, but the fact that 100% of the proceeds are going to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation is also a great tribute to the late young athlete.

Two years later, it’s still hard to believe that Kobe isn’t here anymore. However, he left behind a legacy that goes beyond the basketball court. His philanthropic work has touched many people, and I’m sure it will live on for future generations. 

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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