NBA: 5 Things We Learned This Week

December 15th, 2008
By: Travis Heath
It's Sunday which means it's time to take a look at what the wonderful world of the NBA taught us this week.

Melo Makes History

"I just watched it," Anthony said of his record tying 33-point quarter the morning after lightening struck.  "I didn't get a chance to watch it (Wednesday) night.  I got a lot of phone calls, though."

"It was quite impressive," Melo said with a chuckle.

Quite impressive, indeed.

"When you're going through it you're in the game, you're making shots, the crowd is going crazy, your teammates are going crazy and you don't really realize what you're doing until you get in the locker room and it's on TV and you've got everybody talking about it," Anthony added.  "I've never done anything like that or felt that way in one quarter."

Leave it to your friendly columnist to rain on Melo's parade, but I couldn't help but ask him about the two free throws he missed in the quarter.  At the time, they seemed rather innocuous.  However, all it would have taken is one of those free throws for Melo to be alone in the record book.

"I did what I could do, man.  My elbow was hurting during those free throws," Melo quipped with a smile.  "I wish I could have made them now that I look back like you said, but it is what it is."

While Melo was in a joking mood the day after his record setting performance, his sore right elbow is no joking matter.

"As long as I keep hitting it and bumping it I don't think it can really get any better," Anthony explained.  "I don't really think it can progress.  The only thing I can do is keep getting treatment and hope it gets better."

When asked if he was going to take some time off to rest the elbow, Melo blurted out with a smile before the question could even be completed: "No."

Say what you want about Melo, and lord knows people have throughout the course of his five-year NBA career, but the dude can flat-out score the rock.  And whether you're a Melo fan or not, you have to give him some props for his toughness in fighting through this elbow injury because it is affecting him much more than he would prefer to let on.

The Crazy Coaching Carousel

P.J. Carlesimo, Eddie Jordan, Sam Mitchell, Randy Wittman and now Mo Cheeks.  The NBA coaching carousel is spinning around as fast and erratically as ever.  At this pace, we're basically losing a coach a week.  At some point, you have to wonder if there will be anyone left to fire.

Welcome to the modern era of professional sports where coaches are so often the scapegoats.

"If I was writing a philosophical book on coaching, it is now so easy to put the target on the coach," explained Denver head coach George Karl.  "Anytime a coach gets fired there's a sadness.  I know firing the coach is the easiest and quickest way to change your philosophical path.

"It's sad to me.  So many avenues of scrutiny and criticism is now the coach.  Coaches that win 50 games are getting fired now."

The most perplexing part to me is the people who are replacing these guys.  Often times they are coaches with little or no coaching experience.  Is that really the best route for teams like Philadelphia or Toronto who are still very much in the playoff picture?

"You never know the way a team is going to be with another guy," said Karl.  "I personally don't like that challenge.  I think I'm pretty good at knowing coaches and knowing how coaches coach.  I study coaches.  In the summertime I researched assistant coaches.  I like that.  It's a big part of what (Denver assistant Tim Grgurich) and I do.  And I don't know if I want to be pulling a coach out of a hat."

Right now, though, the pull a coach out of the hat method seems to gaining ground.  Not saying it's the best way to go, but it's an unfortunate byproduct of today's instant gratification existence.

Fools' Gold in Cleveland?

Yes, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been playing good basketball and deserve some credit.  A record of 20-4 is certainly nothing to sneeze at.  Heading into play Saturday night, the Cavs had won 11 straight.  However, the Atlanta Hawks put an end to that streak with a 97-92 victory.

While Cleveland's 11-game win streak was impressive, they didn't exactly play the best the league had to offer during that stretch.  And while a lot of fans in Cleveland are excited, there is still a lot of basketball left to be played.

Certainly it's safe to say the Cavs are the second best team in the East right now.  That said, the Orlando Magic are nipping at their heels.

And let's not forget, the goal is to win it all.  In order for Cleveland to do that, they're going to have to beat the Boston Celtics.  Count your friendly neighborhood columnist among those who don't see that happening.

Sure, Cavs' fans will point to the fact Cleveland took the Celtics seven games in the playoff last season.  Of course, that's not saying much when you consider the Atlanta Hawks did, too... that same Hawks team that just so happened to knock off Cleveland on Saturday night.

It's been a very good start for the Cavs, but there is still much work to be done.

Did McDyess Make the Right Decision?

Antonio McDyess is a quiet and sensitive guy.  As such, he hasn't said much about why he didn't want to join the Nuggets when he was traded to Denver last month.  Sources close to McDyess have said it was a personal decision and that he didn't want to have to move to another city again so late in his career.

Many fans assumed that it was all about winning a title for McDyess.  As such, they said going back to Detroit would give him that chance.  Given how things are playing out, if McDyess' goal truly was to win a title, it's becoming pretty apparent he made the wrong decision.

Simply put, the Pistons aren't playing very good basketball since trading for Allen Iverson.  That's not to imply it's all Iverson's fault, but the fact of the matter is the Pistons have been average at best since Iverson's arrival.  Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics look to be head-and-shoulders above the Pistons right now in the East.  One could also make a strong argument the Orlando Magic are substantially better than Detroit, too.

Certainly there's still plenty of time for Detroit to right the ship, but with a record of 13-9, the Pistons aren't exactly striking fear into the hearts of anyone around the league.  And in an ironic twist, McDyess could likely have been better positioned to win a title this year had he decided to stay with the Nuggets.

Moreover, if McDyess' goal really was to win a title, signing with the Celtics, Lakers or Cavs -- all teams that were rumored to be interested -- would have given him a much better chance.  If it really was all about winning, something tells me McDyess is going to regret making the decision to return to Detroit.

Happy Trails, Cuttino

It seems like just yesterday Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis teamed up to the form the Houston Rockets' backcourt of the future.  Now, 10 years later, Mobley's career is suddenly over due to a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  This is the same condition that took the life of former Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers back in 1990.

Mobley was aware he had the condition when his career started and had been permitted to play by doctors in all of his previous NBA stops in Houston, Orlando, Sacramento and Los Angeles.  However, when he took a physical after being traded from the LA Clippers to New York Knicks last month, tests revealed Mobley's condition had gotten worse.  Simply put, had Mobley continued to play basketball his life could have been in danger. 

One can only imagine all of the different emotions Mobley is experiencing right now.  On one hand, the trade from the Clippers to the Knicks very well could have saved his life.  On the other hand, Mobley scored 23 points on November 19th as a member of the Clippers against the Oklahoma City Thunder in what turned out to be his final game and looked to have plenty of basketball left in him.

While Mobley said he loves the game of basketball, he also said he had to think of his family first in this situation.

"Every single day just being scared for you, I think that's a selfish thing," Mobley told media in New York when thinking about his 8-year-old son.  "Even though you love something so much, and I am in love with basketball, sometimes you have to get a divorce."

Covering the NBA last season out of Los Angeles, I had a chance to get to know Mobley fairly well.  He was always very professional to deal with even in the midst of one of the worst season's of his career.  To see the game taken away from him like this hurts.  However, it would have hurt a lot more for everyone involved had Mobley's worsening condition not been discovered.

Happy trails, Cuttino.  Good luck with whatever path you choose in the future.