Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Monday Morning Shootaround: Bleacher Report's recap of the weekend that was in the NBA.
Check back here every Monday for the top storylines, highlights and more from the world of basketball. And while we'll always have our eyes on the stars, the MMS will also be sure to shine a light on those players that may fly just a tad bit under the radar.
So, with the introductions out of the way, let's get started...
The Opening Tip
-- Not only didn't the Orlando Magic completely implode this weekend, they actually pulled out a hard-fought victory on the road, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 88-82 at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night.
Dwight Howard was clearly bothered by back pain for most of the game, but still found the energy to score 20 points and pull down 22 rebounds. The loss halted Orlando's five-game losing streak, but only served to increase the DEFCON level in Philadelphia, who promptly went out and got destroyed by the Boston Celtics the following night. After beginning the season 20-9, the Sixers have now lost 18 of their last 27 games.
-- Derrick Rose returned to the Chicago Bulls' starting lineup yesterday, but Carmelo Anthony's 43 points (including two HUGE three-pointers) gave the New York Knicks a thrilling 100-99 victory at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon.
New York and Chicago could meet again in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, depending on how the next two-and-a-half weeks play out. But with Anthony playing at this level, however, the Knicks could even make a late-season run at the Atlantic Division crown.
-- It would be a shame if Jeff Teague's performance this season (and in particular, his play from this past weekend) went unrecognized. On Friday, Teague tied his career-high with 24 points (to go along with 11 assists) as his Atlanta Hawks defeated the Detroit Pistons 101-96.
Heading into the homestretch, Teague is the leader in the clubhouse for the NBA's Most Improved Player Award: No one in the league has had a bigger improvement in scoring average from last season to this season.
In his first full campaign as a starter, Teague is averaging 12.6 points per game, a far cry from the 5.2 PPG he averaged last year in a reserve role.
The Two-for-One (Highlights that you may have missed)
We know that posting Los Angeles Clippers' highlights is almost like picking the low-hanging fruit off the apple tree, but this 15-second sequence during their 109-94 victory over the Kings this past Saturday is everything that's fun about the NBA. I'm sure DeMarcus Cousins didn't find it all that entertaining, however.
And while we here at the Monday Morning Shootaround usually like to provide a little bit of exposition along with each video clip, this Kevin Durant dunk over Roy Hibbert pretty much speaks for itself. If nothing else, this is the best sounding dunk of the year..
Full Court Press (News and notes from around the NBA)
After compiling a 26-65 record over three seasons, Isiah Thomas was relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Florida International men's basketball team on Friday. Now that the Knicks have granted former president Donnie Walsh permission to speak with other NBA teams, the speculation on Thomas's possible return to New York has already begun.
Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu will have a courtside seat for the "Stan Van Gundy/Dwight Howard" show as he'll miss at least the next three weeks with a facial fracture (he may return for the playoffs, however).
The playoffs aren't in the cards for the New Jersey Nets or for their starting center Brook Lopez, who will sit out the Nets' final eight contests due to foot and ankle injuries. The 24-year-old Lopez (who will be a restricted free agent this summer) appeared in only five games this season.
Five knee operations may have limited Greg Oden to only 82 games over his first five NBA seasons, but the 7-foot center has no intentions on retiring anytime soon.
Antoine Walker—a 12-year veteran who had his most productive seasons as a member of the Boston Celtics—announced his retirement from professional basketball on Saturday night.
Yes, Zach Randolph says that Gilbert Arenas has been a great leader for the Memphis Grizzlies. No, the world is not about to end.
The 4-Point Play (Notable long reads from around the Web)
-- Former 76ers beat writer (and current espnW contributor) Kate Fagan offers her thoughts on the cause behind the Sixers' recent struggles: namely, the constant nitpicking by head coach Doug Collins. Predictably, Collins wasted little time in responding to Fagan, criticizing her for making such blanket statements without covering the team.
-- Bethlehem Shoals (Bleacher Report, The Classical) does his best to apply logic to the illogical, bizarre, draining, awkward and mystifying rollercoaster ride that Dwight Howard has taken us on this season.
-- Allen Barra (The Atlantic) writes that both the NBA and the NCAA benefit from the current"one-and-done" rule (which may soon became the "two-and-done rule").
-- This doesn't exactly qualify as a long read - or even much of a read at all, but the photography from ESPN The Magazine's "One Day, One Game" special issue (on newsstands now) is absolutely stunning.
Tweet of the Week
And finally, with the presidential election less than seven months away, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson addresses the primary concern on the mind of most Americans:
Now there's change that we can all believe in.
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