Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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

Playing professional sports is an honor. Getting elected to the Hall of Fame is an honor times 100.

ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported last week that six individuals have been elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2023: Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki, Heat legend Dwyane Wade, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, Lakers legend Pau Gasol, Spurs legend Tony Parker, and WNBA legend Becky Hammon. All six of them are great candidates for the Hall of Fame. They gave us memories that will last a lifetime.

Finally, Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was fined $25,000 for comments he made about the officiating during their loss to the Suns last Wednesday, March 29, and Head Coach Chris Finch was given a $15,000 fine as well.

“It’s not fair. It’s really not fair…I’ve been in this league for 10 years, and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard for me to think they’re not trying to help [the Suns] win tonight…” Gobert said.

Wow. Those are strong words from the veteran. While the Suns are an elite team, blurting out that the refs helped Phoenix win is not something you want to be saying out loud. Maybe the Timberwolves should play better?

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

The new era of the Cleveland Cavaliers is officially on their way to the postseason. The Cavs are 49-30, No. 4 in the East and one of the five teams in the conference to clinch a playoff berth.

And here’s another little fun fact for you… Cleveland is going to the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 season (when LeBron James left for a second time) and the first time without James since the 1997-98 season. James was drafted in 2003, by the way. In conclusion, the Cavaliers have not had much success without “The King” in the last 25 years or so.

The force behind this resurgence in Cleveland is former Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell. In his first season with his new team, Mitchell is averaging 28 points, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The Cavaliers have other weapons to scare teams, too.

Darius Garland and Evan Mobley are living up to their top-five draft pick status from their respective draft classes. Caris LeVert is a solid, veteran presence and Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff has done a great job of slowly transforming this team into a playoff threat. I think Cleveland is too young right now to go far in the playoffs, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong!

Lowlight

Hey, would you look at that! It’s that time of the year where the Portland Trailblazers realize they aren’t winning a championship anytime soon.

Portland is 33-45 and No. 13 in the West, and with less than five games left in the regular season the Trailblazers have kept star guard Damian Lillard on the bench. This is to prevent injury for next year, and because the Blazers now have nothing to play for.

We, the fans, do this routine every year when we ask ourselves “why is Lillard wasting his talent in Portland?” Although he’s only played for one team throughout his entire career, Lillard has almost nothing to show for it. He’s had decent teammates during his time in Portland as well with C.J. McCollum, Jusuf Nurkić, Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons. Then, look at his head coaches between Terry Stotts and Chauncey Billups.

Heck, the soon-to-be 33-year-old Lillard averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game this year! I know small-market teams have difficult times in building teams, but this experiment isn’t working. My advice? Trade Lillard to a contender, fire Billups and start fresh. Admitting your shortcomings is a good first step.

Random Stat

The curse is finally over for the Sacramento Kings.

Following a 16-year playoff drought, the Kings have punched their ticket to the postseason. The last time they were there was the 2005-06 season! The drought was so bad that it was the longest-active drought of any major US professional sports team. That title now belongs to the New York Jets after missing the playoffs for 12 straight seasons.

The slogan of the Kings this season has been “Light the Beam.” A purple beam of light is visible from the Kings’ home arena, Golden 1 Center, for each win of the season.

But what about the team itself? Head Coach Mike Brown has four championships under his belt as an assistant coach, including one with the Warriors last year. He knows how to get things done, unlike some of the other head coaches that have come through Sacramento before him.

The starting five of De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray and Domantas Sabonis is lethal in many ways. They are most likely about to clinch a top-three seed in the West, giving them opportunities to host a playoff series or two. Let’s see how many times the Kings can “light the beam” in the postseason.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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