Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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Trying out new ideas is crucial for a sports league to be successful, and it seems the NBA has one in mind for the near future.

The league is looking to play a preseason game in Africa as soon as next year, according to Basketball Africa League (BAL) president Amadou Gallo Fall. The NBA has previously experimented with international locations for preseason games, such as Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and Rio de Janeiro. Although it isn’t clear where in Africa a potential game could be played, the report added “…[it] would likely be at a venue already hosting BAL games.”

The Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls played a game in Paris on Thursday, Jan. 19. As previously mentioned, the NBA likes to experiment with venues outside of American soil. Teams that go outside the U.S., however, prefer to have all of their players.

Detroit rookie center Jalen Duren lost his passport before the Pistons flew over to France. Thankfully, the team was able to get him there in time, and he got to play following a five-game absence.

Lastly, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is finally making his return to the court on Monday, Jan. 23, against Boston. He’s been out with an array of injuries since the “Orlando bubble” in the summer of 2020.

What a recovery he’s made! I hope he plays better than before the injuries.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

Miami is “Heat-ing” up as we’ve passed the halfway point of the season (I hope you enjoyed the pun). The Heat are 26-22, good for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Despite a slow 2-5 start to the season, and previously hovering in and out of play-in tournament contention, the guys in South Beach are climbing back up the standings. If you recall, they finished as the top seed in the East last year. Miami is always a threat because of its multitude of weapons that includes Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and sharpshooter Tyler Herro.

Butler and Adebayo are arguably one of the top defensive duos in the NBA. Both can give you around 20 points per game and solid on-the-ball defense. Herro, who has become a full-time starter this year, can also give you 20 points a night while draining 37% of his triples. Veteran guards Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo are tremendous assets as well.

Although the Heat still has some work to do to capture a top-four seed so that they could host at least a first-round playoff series, you can never count them out until all 82 games are complete.

Lowlight

Remember two seasons ago when the Phoenix Suns were two wins away from their first title in franchise history? Yeah, that was fun.

Fast forward to the present, it isn’t so fun anymore. The Suns have struggled since Devin Booker was sidelined due to a groin injury.

Phoenix is 24-24 and tied for seventh in the Western Conference with Minnesota. Booker’s absence is a huge factor in the equation, but there’s more to the situation. Chris Paul, their star point guard, has been dealing with hip soreness and has missed some games. Paul will be 38 years old in May.

And who could forget about the Deandre Ayton issues? For those of you who may have forgotten, Dallas destroyed the Suns in Phoenix in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals last season. Despite being down well into double digits, head coach Monty Williams wanted Ayton to go back into the game. The latter refused.

As a restricted free agent over the summer, Ayton signed an offer sheet to join the Indiana Pacers, but Phoenix matched it in order to retain him.

Considering that a good portion of Western Conference teams are close to one another in the standings, the Suns have a chance to make a run. However, they have to win some games until Booker returns. Otherwise, they’re doomed.

Random Stat

The name of the game in the NBA, especially now in the 2020s, is the three-point shot. If your team isn’t chucking up shots from beyond the arc, you’re not going to get far.

Some players around the league take up a hefty portion of their squad’s attempts. Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, LaMelo Ball and Klay Thompson (in that order) are the top four players in regard to three-point attempts this season. Curry and Thompson, who make up a dangerous duo on the Warriors, combined for 21.9 attempts by themselves!

Seeing Lillard and Ball on this list is not surprising at all. The one thing teams need to understand, though, is that bad shots still exist. For example, people use the excuse of “analytics” to justify teams attempting more triples. “The data says this” and, “the data says that.” However, that doesn’t mean you have to attempt “x amount of threes per game.”

Remember when the Houston Rockets missed 27-straight threes in Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against, ironically, Curry and Thompson’s Warriors? What did the analytics have to say then?

While I have no doubt that three-point attempts for players and teams will continue to soar, they need to make sure the quality of shots doesn’t plummet.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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