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NBA Report Card: Heat get an F
These grades are not meant to be comparative. Instead, they are designed to evaluate how each team is measuring up to preseason expectations. So a C-rated team is playing approximately the way it should be playing. An A-rated team is performing way above expectations. And so on.
Accordingly, an A-team is not necessarily better than a C-team.
ATLANTA HAWKS: Still erratic and underachieving. Still struggling to live up to their potential. Looks like they’ll never get there.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: Experiencing the remains of still another Larry Brown burnout. Even with the healing presence of Paul Silas, this should be the last go-around for this collection of players.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Desolation city. Understandably dispirited but should be playing better.
DALLAS MAVERICKS: No excuses for devolving into a club that's good but isn't a championship contender.
DENVER NUGGETS: The trade hangs overhead like the Sword of Damocles. Who will be suddenly decapitated — and when?
DETROIT PISTONS: The dullest, most agitated team in the NBA is still playing a notch above expectations.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: The absence of Don Nelson (along with the presence of Keith Smart) has given the Warriors’ youngsters room to breathe and grow.
INDIANA PACERS: Have improved from being marginally terrible to being marginally mediocre.
L.A. LAKERS: Actually playing better than they did in the 2009-10 regular season. But still subject to stretches of laziness born of the belief that, as two-time champs, they’ll be able to turn on their A-game come the playoffs.
MIAMI HEAT: This was supposed to be one of the best ballclubs in history. They’d certainly cruise through the season and win at least 72 games. By near-unanimous vote, the championship was ceded to them before the season even began. Meanwhile, the Heat would have to win the rest of their games to reach 69 victories. All that glitters . . .
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: The pieces still don’t quite match. Look for the Grizzlies to be active in the trade market.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: This was supposed to be a breakout season. Instead it’s a breakdown season.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: From last season to now, Kevin Love’s burgeoning powerhouse game has boosted this team’s position from being the league’s 29th-best team to being the 28th-best team. Still helpless on the road.
NEW JERSEY NETS: Couldn’t possibly be any worse than last season. Like the Nuggets, completely discombobulated by the inevitable trade. At least Avery Johnson has injected a semblance of life into his squad.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: Monty Williams has inspired the Hornets to play excellent defense and to believe in themselves.
NEW YORK KNICKS: Amar’e Stoudemire is a hit in the Big Apple and has energized the Knicks. If only Raymond Felton doesn’t play himself into exhaustion, if only the Knicks could play a semblance of defense . . .
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: Haven’t quite achieved the possibilities promised by last season’s playoff performance against the Lakers. Still lacking an adequate center, consistent scoring off the bench and for Kevin Durant to withstand being bullied out of his comfort zone.
ORLANDO MAGIC: Even with the benefits of the trade, the Magic have taken a step backward from the dominance (.720 winning percentage) they demonstrated last season. And they still play like startled rookies on the road.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: A modest improvement under Doug Collins is better than no improvement at all.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: In order to save money, the Blazers should move from the Rose Garden to the Mayo Clinic.
SACRAMENTO KINGS: From bad to worse with no help in sight. Perhaps the brothers Maloof might hit the jackpot if they move the franchise to Las Vegas.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS: Kudos to Pop for opening up the offense and saving the physical demands of TD’s post-up battles for the playoffs.
UTAH JAZZ: Despite replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson, nothing much has changed. Jerry Sloan keeps plugging along. The Jazz are a dangerous team but no threat to overtake either the Spurs or the Lakers. As great as he is, Deron Williams makes too many bad passes when he’s on the move.
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