The New Year's hangovers have finally passed, leaving teams around the NBA to get around to acting on their resolutions. And frankly, some have done a much better job of correcting last year's issues than others so far in 2013.
The Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers have furthered existing trends, be they of the ascending or descending varieties.
The Boston Celtics and New Orleans Hornets have turned things around for the better while welcoming in new faces.
The Miami Heat and New York Knicks have taken turns for the worse with the same casts that lifted them to great heights prior to the turn of the calendar.
My resolution? To sort out the winners from the losers, as I've done here for your reading pleasure.
The Clippers got off to a rough start in 2013. They dropped back-to-back games on the road to start the year, both of which turned out to be blowouts.
This, after putting together a 17-game winning streak that made them just the third team in NBA history to enjoy a perfect month.
Never fear, though, Clippers Nation. Lob City has been back in full force over the last seven days. They started off their latest winning streak with a 107-102 win over the rival Lakers on Jan. 4. It was their second victory in the Battle of L.A. this season, and it wasn't nearly as close as the final score would suggest.
The very next night, the Clips got their revenge against the Golden State Warriors, who had embarrassed them in Oakland a few days prior by a final score of 115-94. L.A. took its beatdown even further, building a lead that reached 37 points at the end of three quarters.
That particular whoopin' gave way to a much grittier game against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 9. The Mavs led by double digits in the third quarter, but they were helpless to stop Chris Paul (19 points, a season-high 16 assists) and Matt Barnes (19 points) from bringing the Clips all the way back.
With Grant Hill nearing his L.A. debut and Chauncey Billups still on the mend, this Clippers squad still has yet to reach its ceiling.
That is scary to think about, since the Clips are already an NBA-best 28-8 on the season.
It's bad enough that the Lakers and their fans have to watch the Clippers take center stage at the Staples Center this season. But when it rains, it pours. And boy, did the basketball gods make a mockery of the Purple and Gold this week.
This latest seven-day stretch began with another loss at the hands of Lob City on Jan. 4, but it didn't truly deepen until Jan. 6 (112-105 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets).
The defeat was merely an insult on top of the injuries suffered by this not-so-glamorous group. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all sidled up to long-time trainer Gary Vitti after that game and haven't been heard from on the court since.
In that time, the Lakers came up empty from their shorthanded Texas two-step, losing to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. The defeats extended L.A.'s current slide to five games, its worst since April 2011.
Those Lakers were simply bored after three straight trips to the NBA Finals in anticipation of a fourth (which didn't come). These Lakers stink.
Perhaps Kevin Love has finally learned the lesson that Mike Ehrmantraut taught Walter White (and, by extension, millions of Americans) on Breaking Bad: no more half-measures.
In Love's case, the half-measure was his decision to come back from a broken hand after missing the first nine games of the season and ditching the protective cast just a few games thereafter.
Unfortunately for Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves, the two-time All-Star is due to pay a hefty price for his impatience. The team announced Jan. 10 that Love would miss eight to 10 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair the two bones in his shooting hand that he re-broke in Minny's 101-97 win over the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 3.
The T-Wolves lost two of three games immediately thereafter, with graver concerns yet to come.
This team has done wonderfully to hang around the .500 mark amid myriad injuries so far this season, but with Ricky Rubio battling his body since returning from a torn ACL, and Love now sidelined until March, the T-Wolves will be hard-pressed to stay afloat in the ever-competitive Western Conference.
Leave it to the Maloof family to piss off two towns in the same week without accomplishing anything.
On Jan. 9, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports broke the story that the much-maligned ownership of the Sacramento Kings was in talks with a group led by hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to sell the team for $500 million.
The sale would've cleared the way for the Kings to move to Seattle—the sixth stop in franchise history—and resurrect the SuperSonics.
Sacramento mayor and former NBA veteran Kevin Johnson, who's worked so diligently to keep the Kings in California's capital, responded that very day by imploring the Maloofs to consider relinquishing the team to local investors, including billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle.
Naturally, the Maloofs seemed to misplay the whole situation. Word broke that the sale wasn't as imminent as earlier reports had suggested. Wojnarowski's warning proved prescient:
The Maloofs' history of changing course late in negotiations still has some uneasy about getting the sale completed. The Maloofs previously neared a deal with Sacramento leaders to help finance a new arena in the city before backing out.
To recap, the Maloofs managed to piss off the good folks of Sacramento by instituting talks for the team with get-out-of-towners and the people of Seattle—who were jilted five years ago when Clay Bennett ditched the Sonics logo and moved the team to Oklahoma City—by apparently reneging on their original intentions.
All without moving the Kings themselves even an inch. Well done, Maloofs. You might officially be the worst owners in all of professional sports.
Elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Trail Blazers are busy streaking their way into the heart of the Western Conference playoff picture. A 92-90 win over the defending-champion Miami Heat was Portland's fourth in a row and 12th in its last 15 games.
This recent run has the Blazers, now 20-15, sitting in a virtual tie for the sixth seed in the West.
That is rather remarkable when you consider Portland's expectations coming into the season. A collapse over the second half of the 2011-12 season had the Blazers looking like a sure thing for at least a partial rebuild. Cobbling together the NBA's least-productive bench didn't seem to make matters any easier in PDX.
Yet, here the Blazers are, thanks in no small part to Nicolas Batum's development into a near-All-Star, LaMarcus Aldridge's return from injury, J.J. Hickson's dominance on the glass, Wesley Matthews' hot shooting from beyond the arc and, of course, Damian Lillard's Rookie of the Year campaign at the point.
On the other end of Portland's latest surge was an end to a historic streak for LeBron James.
The reigning league MVP fell one assist short of a triple-double, but, more importantly, came up five points shy of the 20-point mark.
For most mere mortals, scoring 15 points during a two-point loss at the Rose Garden wouldn't be anything to write home about. But for LeBron, this particular performance snapped a streak of 20-plus-point games that had reached 54 straight, dating back to Game 2 of a first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks.
In the grander scheme, James' poor scoring night left the Heat with their third loss in their last four games and just a half-game cushion ahead of the slumping New York Knicks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Speaking of the Knicks, they're not exactly setting the basketball world on fire anymore. They've dropped eight of 13 games, including their last three in a row, since getting off to a scorching 18-6 start.
The week wasn't exactly a pretty one for Carmelo Anthony either. He shot 6-of-26 from the field during a 102-96 loss to the Rajon Rondo-less Boston Celtics on Jan. 7 and needed 32 shots to pile up 39 points in a 108-101 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Jan. 11. In between, 'Melo spent a night in street clothes while his Knicks dropped a grind-it-out affair to the hard-charging Indiana Pacers.
Not on account of an injury or anything. Rather, 'Melo was banned from the game by the league in response to the All-Star's ill-advised decision to wait by Boston's team bus after a rough game against the C's on Monday.
And why, pray tell, would 'Melo do that? Because Kevin Garnett allegedly made some rather inappropriate, breakfast-cereal-related comments about Anthony's wife, reality TV star La La Vasquez. Apparently, Anthony couldn't bee-lieve that the Big Ticket would say such things...
I'll show myself out.
Not that KG much cared whether he upset Carmelo or not. All that mattered was that he got under Anthony's skin enough to throw the scorer off his game and tilt the odds ever more in Boston's favor.
That win was the third in a streak that's since been extended to five while moving the C's two games above the .500 mark. Such a leap forward might not seem all that consequential in the bigger picture.
But for the Celtics, this latest run is indicative of a bigger, more important turnaround that could shake up the 2012-13 status quo in the Eastern Conference. Avery Bradley's return has injected new life into Boston's once-moribund defense while allowing the rest of the team's pieces to snap perfectly into place.
With the Heat, Knicks and Atlanta Hawks all struggling, and the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets dealing with injuries (and coaching changes), the time is nigh for the Celtics to strike.
As they proved last season, when they stumbled out to a 15-17 start, the C's may well be capable of parlaying this run into a sneaky streak through the Eastern Conference playoffs.
For now, the Pacers won't have to worry about the Celtics coming on as long as they continue to take care of their own business.
Indy had better hope to avoid Boston, though. The C's handed the Pacers their last loss—by 19 points, no less—before Indy went about ripping its way through the Bucks, Heat and Knicks.
Paul George has been particularly prolific of late. The third-year swingman out of Fresno State went for 29 points and 11 rebounds against Miami before registering 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, six steals and a block against New York sans Carmelo.
With George's help, the Pacers won their 11th game in their last 14 tries to move within two games of the Heat for the top seed in the East.
All with Danny Granger still sidelined.
The New Orleans Hornets are finally starting to look like a team with serious potential. A 104-92 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 11 was the fourth in a row for the Pelicans-to-be.
The difference? Eric Gordon.
New Orleans has won five of the six games in which Gordon has featured this season, and he was integral in helping the Hornets sweep their three most recent games against the three Texas teams.
He scored the game-winning bucket against the Dallas Mavericks in overtime, dropped a game-high 24 points to skewer the San Antonio Spurs and chipped in six assists during a slug-it-out affair with the high-flying Houston Rockets.
Gordon's impact on New Orleans' success isn't limited to just his own scoring and assisting, though. His mere presence has meant less playing time for rookie Austin Rivers, who's on track for one of the worst individual seasons in NBA history.
At 11-25, the Hornets are already too far behind the eight-ball to contemplate a playoff berth. But if they continue to jell and Gordon works his way back into proper shape, New Orleans can spend the rest of the season playing spoiler while building toward a postseason run in 2014, a la the Oklahoma City Thunder of 2008-09.