Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

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

Even when teams embrace a winning culture, not all of them have a good ending. The Phoenix Suns have fired head coach Monty Williams after four seasons.

Despite winning 64 games last season, and having the 2021-2022 Coach of the Year winner at the helm, Phoenix has been destroyed in elimination games in the Conference Semifinals the past two years. With Kevin Durant on the roster, the Suns need a win-now coach. Finding someone shouldn’t be an issue.

Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant is once again in the news for the wrong reasons. After being suspended a few months ago for flashing a gun on Instagram Live, another video of him doing the same thing surfaced on social media this weekend.

On Sunday, the Grizzlies released the following statement, “We are aware of the social media video involving Ja Morant. He is suspended from all team activities pending League [sic] review. We have no further comment at this time.”

Considering that this is seemingly a pattern with Morant, I hope the Grizzlies can get this situation under control.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Highlight

Remember when the L.A. Lakers were hovering around the 13th seed in the West earlier this year? Then they got rid of Russell Westbrook, and life was breathed into them again? Wow, has this team impressed us!

The Lakers are heading to the Conference Finals after knocking off the Golden State Warriors, the defending champions, in six games. Under head coach Steve Kerr, the Warriors are now 19-1 in playoff series before the NBA Finals.

L.A. now gets to battle it out with the Denver Nuggets to decide who will represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. This is the first time these two will see each other in the postseason since the “Orlando Bubble” Conference Finals in 2020.

Despite being the seventh seed, the Lakers should be able to give the Nuggets a good fight. As long as LeBron James and Anthony Davis have strong performances, they’ll be all right. Trying to stop Denver’s Nikola Jokić is a challenge by itself, but slowing him down will be key.

Game 1 of this series starts on Tuesday, May 16 in Denver at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Lowlight

The Philadelphia 76ers are so predictable that you can pencil them in as second-round exits every year and be correct. The Boston Celtics sunk Philadelphia in seven games, with Game 7 being in Boston.

There’s no denying it now: the 76ers are not a championship-caliber team. It’s the same script over and over. They convince us they’re good in the regular season, win a playoff series against an inferior team, and then forget how to play basketball in the second round.

With Milwaukee bounced in the first round, and eighth-seeded Miami waiting in the Conference Finals, Philadelphia had a cakewalk to the Finals. They decided to blow the opportunity instead.

The team correctly prioritized firing Doc Rivers. He literally has the NBA record for most blown playoff leads as a head coach. My second priority would be to either trade James Harden, or have him decline his player option. Finally, see if a desperate team will trade for Tobias Harris. Harden and Harris have shown that they’re not built for primetime.

I wish that Joel Embiid would take that next step towards greatness, but the fact that he’ll be 30 years old next season is concerning. Thankfully, Philadelphia fans don’t rely on the 76ers to be the city’s best shot at winning titles. That’s what the Eagles are for.

Random Stat

Winning MVP is something every NBA player dreams of. Winning Finals MVP is even better. How about both in the same season, though, with a championship on top?

This has been accomplished by only ten players in NBA history: Willis Reed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Magic Johnson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Larry Bird, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan. Obviously, the ten of them are in the Hall of Fame.

By winning all of these things in the same season, it just shows pure domination. Jordan, for example, did this four times when the Chicago Bulls terrorized the NBA in the 90s. Four times! James accomplished this feat twice during his days with the Miami Heat in the early-2010s and Bird did it twice in the mid-80s with the Boston Celtics.

We haven’t seen this in at least a decade, this is something that not everyone can achieve. It separates the all-time great players from the pretty-good players. But who knows? Maybe our next encounter with this “Random Stat” is closer than we think.

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.

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