Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA Weekly Column

Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Jana Jackstis

And, we’re back. Highlight, Lowlight and Random Stat have returned after a well-deserved week off.

You know what else is back? A college team winning March Madness.

With Baylor grabbing the NCAA men’s basketball title over previously-undefeated Gonzaga, it ends another year of watching rising stars, jaw-dropping buzzer-beaters and getting your hopes and dreams crushed because a school you’ve never heard of beat the team you had winning the tournament. Trust me: we’ll see these guys get their chance to shine when they get drafted.

For the time being, though, the NBA is on its way to the tournament to compete for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Despite some teams being more of a lock than others, there’s still plenty of time before the clock hits zero on the regular season. The league is still holding the play-in tournament before the playoffs again, so lower seeds have a better chance.

I think they should get rid of it. However, the league probably needs to make up for lost profit somehow.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

1 Highlight, 1 Lowlight, 1 Random Stat

Highlight: What an improvement the Phoenix Suns have seen this season! Phoenix hasn’t had a lot of success in the Devin Booker era. It’s not his fault, but his team over the years has, um… seen the moon more than that bright star during the daytime.

But then, the Valley struck gold with the addition of the “Point God” himself: Chris Paul. At 35 years old, Paul is averaging 16 points, 4.7 rebounds and 8.8 assists. If you want to see the difference CP3 made in one year, the Suns played their final regular season games in the Disney bubble before being booted out with the other below-average teams by His Royal Majesty (and NBA Commissioner) Adam Silver. They weren’t a playoff team.

Now, they’re the second seed in the West, only behind Utah. Impressive! The Suns seem to have found a groove that they can work with.

Despite this, it’s true that Paul is aging and declining. He won’t be able to help them forever. But, it should be good experience so that when he does hang the sneakers up, they can rack up wins by themselves. The moon isn’t coming back to the Valley for a while.

Lowlight: In the words of the late Little Richard: Good golly, Miss Molly!

The Golden State Warriors were in Tampa on Friday to face the Toronto Raptors. They were without the services of Steph Curry and Draymond Green, so Andrew Wiggins had to take over as the “star of the show.” (For the record: Wiggins isn’t bad, but I think being a former No. 1 overall pick has put a lot of pressure on him).

If you only said the Warriors lost, that’s being too kind – they got WRECKED! Toronto’s 53-point victory, 130-77, which is the largest in franchise history, came on their star forward Pascal Siakam’s 27th birthday. Forget the cake and presents; the Raptors probably blasted some Drake songs in the locker room (since the Canadian rapper is a Raptors superfan).

I understand that none of Golden State’s stars were playing, but they couldn’t lose by 10 or 20 points? Head Coach Steve Kerr, in a post-game interview, said it was “humiliating for everybody involved.” Yeah, that’s one way I’d put it…

Random Stat: Something ain’t right here. I know LeBron James has played for multiple teams in his career, but I don’t remember him being in the Big Easy… I’m kidding, it’s Zion Williamson.

Fans have drawn comparisons between James and Zion, but I think it depends more on their style of play. The New Orleans Pelicans star forward is more of a paint dominator, while “the King” is a scorer and playmaker.

Zion, the former Duke phenom, is continuing to bulldoze his way into history books. On Tuesday, he notched his 25th straight game in which he scored at least 20 points and hit 50% of his field goals. The only other person to do that is Lakers’ legend Shaquille O’Neal, who also did it 25 times in a row.

Although we’ve seen Zion do spectacular dunks, his paint presence shows how much of a bully he is. Don’t even try to block him – he’ll make you want to go down to the G-League!

The Pelicans have some room to operate in the future with new Head Coach Stan Van Gundy. Brandon Ingram was extended not too long ago. Don’t worry about New Orleans being 11th in the West this season, Bourbon Street will be celebrating sooner rather than later.

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