Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

March is here, which means that some have better luck than others.

Let’s start with the positive news. Kevin Durant made his debut for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, March 1 against the Charlotte Hornets. This is Durant’s fourth team in his career, as he’s also played for Oklahoma City, Golden State and Brooklyn.

Durant had 23 points in 27 minutes of action in the Suns’ victory. Phoenix is one of the favorites to win it all this year following the blockbuster trade to acquire the 16-year veteran. So far, so good.

Now for the unfortunate news. LeBron James will be sidelined for at least three weeks with a foot issue. James said he heard a pop when the injury happened, which is never a good sign.

Remember when he hurt his hand on the rim in the All-Star Game a few weeks ago? James is simply running into bad timing with these injuries. In order to make the play-in tournament, the Lakers can’t afford more losing streaks.

Finally, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies was suspended for two games after waving a gun on his Instagram Live Saturday morning. Despite the initial timeline, reports are now saying that Morant will be away from the team indefinitely.

The former Murray State guard apologized, but he noted he’d step away “to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and [his] overall well-being.”

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

After a down year last season, the New York Knicks appear to be back in business. They are No. 5 in the Eastern Conference with a 39-27 record and are currently riding a nine-game winning streak. While the top three seeds still seem far away, the Knicks and Cavaliers are only one game apart to decide the recipient of the No. 4 seed.

New York’s prized acquisition in free agency last summer was former Dallas Mavericks guard and Villanova Wildcat Jalen Brunson. They have been rewarded for giving the 26-year-old New Brunswick, New Jersey native a big contract, as he is averaging 23.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per contest.

Even if you hope to contain Brunson, you still have players like Julius Randle and R.J. Barrett to worry about. Both of them can give you 20-25 points on any given night. For a team that has been one of the NBA’s laughing stocks for years due to owner James Dolan’s incompetence, the Knicks have rebounded nicely in the last couple of seasons — no pun intended.

New York has some Western Conference playoff teams coming up on their schedule. It’ll be
interesting to see how many wins they can accumulate across those games.

Lowlight

Oh, Charlotte. Back in the NBA’s dungeon, aren’t you?

The Hornets are 20-46 and No. 14 in the East. Like I mentioned in the opener, this is a case of bad luck.

Star guard LaMelo Ball just had season-ending surgery to repair a fractured ankle. He gave them 23.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 8.4 assists per night. In Ball’s absence, the Hornets will rely on other options like Kelly Oubre, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward. While Hayward is on the wrong side of 30 years old, he can provide 15 points per game. Rozier and Oubre are quality options when need be.

Even when former franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker was still around, the Hornets were just not able to find annual success. It’s as if the team is allergic to winning!

With Charlotte in the running for a top three or five pick in the draft in June, they have to hunt for the right formula. No one takes the Hornets seriously even though this is a team owned by Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player in league history. Not taking Charlotte seriously will continue if things don’t change.

Random Stat

Pete Maravich, aka “Pistol Pete,” is an NBA legend. He played for LSU in his collegiate days, and he suited up for the Hawks, Jazz and Celtics in his professional career. Maravich is known for averaging an absurd 44.2 points per game in college.

Fast forward to the present, University of Detroit Mercy guard Antoine Davis almost broke Maravich’s Division I men’s basketball career scoring record on Thursday. Davis fell four points shy.

What’s even crazier than that? Maravich played in a time with no three-point line and no shot clock. He also wasn’t on the varsity team in his freshman year due to the NCAA rule at the time that freshmen weren’t allowed to play at a varsity level.

Despite Davis coming short of making history, there may be a happy ending. Rick Giles, president of the College Basketball Invitational, is considering adding Detroit Mercy to the tournament so that he can break Maravich’s 53-year record.

I cannot imagine what kind of force “Pistol Pete” would be had he played in later eras of the NBA. Unfortunately, he passed away at age 40 after collapsing during a pickup basketball game due to heart failure.

I bet, though, that Maravich would be proud of Davis and the hard work he’s put in.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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