Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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Happy 2023 to my readers! We’re truly getting to the heart of basketball season.

How about this for a story? Shams Charania, a well-respected NBA insider, reported on Dec. 30 that Atlanta Hawks’ head coach Nate McMillan is strongly considering resigning.

Between McMillan and superstar Trae Young arguing, and the fact that there are reports of Young possibly hinting at a trade request, Atlanta might be in trouble. McMillan denied talking to Charania, but he said retirement is an option at the end of the year.

Depending on your age, you may remember the infamous “Malice at the Palace” between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers that occurred in Detroit back in 2004. It was a huge brawl at the end of the game between players and some fans.

Well, during the Orlando Magic-Pistons game in the Motor City last Wednesday, we had a sort-of sequel. Eleven players were handed a suspension, nine of whom were from Orlando.

Pistons guard Killian Hayes and Magic forward Moe Wagner had the most severe punishments, as they got a three-game and two-game suspension, respectively. Everyone else involved only got a one-game suspension.

What makes this incident even more interesting was that the PA announcer wanted to avoid a full-on “Malice at the Palace” encore. He told the crowd, “Do not move. Stay in your seats. The moment you move, you’re going to jail!”

If you’re going to a game in the future, make sure you’re a good, rule-following fan.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

Wait a minute. Are the Indiana Pacers for real this time? Or is this just a mirage?

Regardless, Indiana is 20-17 and holding the sixth Eastern Conference seed. They’ve been a consistent first-round exit for years, but perhaps things could change in 2023.

Head Coach Rick Carlisle, who’s on his third stint with the team, is highly regarded in the league. He coached the Mavericks when they won the championship in 2011.

About a month ago, our “Random Stat” discussed Tyrese Haliburton. He’s a force on the Pacers, averaging 20.9 points, a league-best 10.2 assists, and 1.7 steals. This is Haliburton’s first full season in the Hoosier State after being acquired from Sacramento at last season’s trade deadline.

Also brought in from that deal was sharpshooter Buddy Hield, a former No. 6 overall pick in 2016. Hield and Myles Turner have been included in ongoing rumors about being shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers. If I were Hield or Turner, I think I’d prefer to stay put in Indiana considering the criticism of Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles.

I’ll consider this season a success if the Pacers advance to the second round. Prove me right, gentlemen.

Lowlight

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been known across basketball history for the wrong reasons.

Their move to Oklahoma City in 2008 removed an NBA team from Seattle, where they were named the Supersonics. The core of the Thunder — Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant — couldn’t win a ring in the early 2010s. Durant bolted for the super-team Warriors in 2016. Westbrook was traded to Houston in 2019. I’ll leave it at that.

Currently, Oklahoma City is in a tanking or “trying to be competitive” phase. They are 15-21 and 12th in the West.

General manager Sam Presti is hoarding first-round picks like a madman to transform the Thunder into a dynasty. However, players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are leading the way in the meantime.

Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging an incredible 30.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game. He’s also adding 1.7 steals and one block per game.

Their top draft pick this year, Chet Holmgren, hasn’t played yet. He’s out for the season due to a Lisfranc injury. I’m interested to see what OKC plans to do with that enormous amount of draft capital.

Will they draft young talent? Will they send a ransom to another team for a proven superstar to come to their small market? Thunder fans shouldn’t expect a postseason appearance anytime soon.

Look on the bright side, though. At least you don’t have to set your expectations too high!

Random Stat

In the NBA, sometimes there are super-human performances. Luka Dončić just had his.

Last Tuesday, Dec. 27, the Dallas Mavericks’ superstar exploded against the New York Knicks in a 126-121 overtime win with a monster triple-double — 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists.

The 60 points and 21 rebounds were career highs for the 23-year-old. This is only the second 60-point triple-double in NBA history, with James Harden doing it in 2018. As a reminder, Dončić is a 6’7” guard.

His other teammates pulled down 26 rebounds combined! Let’s keep the jaw-dropping stats going, shall we?

It was also the first time a Dallas Maverick scored 60 points in a game. Yes, not even Dirk Nowitzki did it. Dončić has continued to amaze the NBA fanbase since he was drafted. However, the time he spent in the EuroLeague as a teenager certainly helped. He won EuroLeague MVP right before going to the NBA. The kid from Slovenia is slowly building a Hall-of-Fame resume.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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