Each week, the Five-Man Weave takes a look at some of the top storylines in the NBA. This week's topics include the Miami Heat's incredible win streak, the injuries to Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant as well as the Andrea Bargnani era in Toronto.
1. Can the Miami Heat best the 1971-72 Lakers 33-game win streak? Who will stop them?
Josh Lewenberg: If that was their ultimate goal, I don't see why not. They're good enough and their relatively friendly schedule is not exactly standing in the way. However, the objective is to win championships. "Not one, not two, not three," sounds vaguely familiar. Remember, the Lakers' record streak was set at the beginning of the season. With playoffs around the corner, the Heat are in it to win it and they're bound to take a night off (intentionally or otherwise). Based on little-to-nothing, I'll say the streak ends in Boston on Monday.
Duane Watson: No, they will go on to win 29 games in a row, but lose to the Spurs at the end of the month. Last time the two teams met, Gregg Popovich sat half the team. I'm sure he'll use this game as a gauge to see where the Spurs are at.
Mitch Ward: The only team that can end Miami's win streak right now is Miami. There are very few teams in the NBA that can beat the Heat on a given night when Miami is playing at, or even near, their best level and that's where they've been for over a month. That said, I don't think they'll break LA's record, but I think if they really wanted to, they could. I see them losing a weird game, where no one looks quite focused, against someone like Boston or Chicago in the next couple of weeks.
Tim Chisholm: No. The Heat would need to reel off another 13 straight to match LA, a feat that unto itself would be difficult enough without having the baggage of an active 20-game winning streak hanging over them. Make no mistake, after a certain point a winning streak starts to be more of a burden than a benefit, as it creates all kinds of distractions that aren't conducive to winning basketball games. While the Celtics would be the easy choice to pick to end the streak considering their resurgent 15-6 record since January 27th, it'll probably wind up being some lottery team like Toronto, Cleveland or Detroit that catches Miami off guard to end their torrent of wins.
Will Strickland: No. Competitive parity, or lack thereof, played a huge role in the 71-72 streak as the NBA had gone through serious expansion between 1967-1971, adding 8 teams in 4 years (Bulls, Sonics, Suns, Bucks, Blazers, Braves, Rockets and Cavs) . Miami, while acknowledging the streak, don't seem to be phased by it. The goal is singular: Win The Title. The streak could be snapped on the road to either Milwaukee on The Ides Of March (Et Tu, Monta?) or Boston, though I doubt it. We might see it reach 29 before the Heat face the team who may end up being their Finals opponent, the San Antonio Spurs on March 31. For now, the cliche of "All Good Things Must Come To An End" will dance in the minds of fans and fanatics alike.
2. Andrea Bargnani's season is likely over and he may never play another game as a Raptor. How would you sum up his tenure?
Lewenberg: Maddening and mind-numbingly vexing ought to do it. He's always been unfairly judged as a first-overall pick, a title he holds thanks in part to a poor draft class and one he's never been able to live up to because of inconsistent effort, wavering focus and a long list of injuries. He's had brief stretches of brilliance that are almost immediately derailed by one thing or another. One step forward, two steps back. And here we are, after seven seasons of false hope, Bargnani's value is as low as it's ever been.
Watson: Lackluster, much like his game, and devoid of passion. Not sorry to see him go, yet hardly surprised he's going out like this. He will take Vince Carter's place as the most booed ex-Raptor when he comes back to Toronto, if he sticks in the NBA.
Ward: A huge disappointment. He never became the player the Raptors thought they were drafting with the top pick. If you are 7-feet tall and average over 30 minutes per game yet fewer than five rebounds for your career, something is wrong.
Chisholm: Disastrous. It's easy to speak through the lens of lowered expectations when discussing Bargnani nowadays, but there was a lot of optimism inside the organization about him when he was drafted back in 2006 and again at the start of this season after he seemed to have turned a corner last winter. His lack of overall development is a rarely-cited but absolutely relevant factor in what has kept this team so mediocre for so long. His lone shot at redemption now comes in the form of whatever return he can bring to Toronto in a trade. It won't give the Raptors back all of those wasted years, but at least there is a chance that they can collect a useful asset to help setup their future.
3. Which team should be more concerned about their injured star - the Lakers about Kobe or the Knicks about Melo?
Lewenberg: The only team that should be concerned about Kobe is the one going up against him. Sounds like he won't be out for very long and that should come as a surprise to no one. If it's physically possible for Kobe to play, he's playing, and somehow he always manages to be effective in spite of his various ailments. Meanwhile, Mike Woodson has admitted to being worried about Melo's recently drained knee and he probably should be. The Knicks are in a tailspin, decimated by injuries they're starting to resemble an old YMCA team. Without Melo at full capacity they're beyond toast.
Watson: The Lakers. Kobe has carried this team throughout the season by scoring or drawing attention and facilitating. The Lakers offense has been a big problem this year and throwing Jodie Meeks into the starting line-up doesn't scare anybody.
Ward: The Knicks by far. They have aspirations of making noise in the Eastern Playoffs and legitimately (if unrealistically) think they have a chance to beat the Heat. Without Melo they are a first round exit waiting to happen. As for the Lakers, I actually think a few games without Kobe dominating the ball might do some good for the rest of their roster - Dwight Howard and Steve Nash in particular.
Chisholm: New York by a mile. While the Lakers have been a basket of dysfunction all season, they still have a bevy of All-Star calibre players that they should (in theory) be able to lean on if Kobe has to miss time. The Knicks are a retirement home masquerading as an NBA franchise, and the only reason it has worked as well as it has is because of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. The machine has been sputtering for weeks, though (the Knicks are 7-10 since February 10th), and without Anthony to anchor this geriatric band they are going to continue their out of sync and out of tune.
Strickland: The Knicks. Melo's knee injury came out of the blue. Mike Woodson may have lost his job and killed their chances to compete for second place in the East, since they weren't going to win the East anyway. Kobe's injury could be a blessing in disguise to see if the resurgent Dwight Howard is the franchise player he imagines himself to be as the Lakers push for better playoff seeding.
4. The Memphis Grizzlies have won 14-of-15, are they a better team without Rudy Gay?
Lewenberg: They are a less talented team that is now better suited to play to their strengths. How's that for dancing around the question? Even with Gay, formerly their best scorer, the Grizzlies were never an offensive-minded team. By cutting him loose, they've become a more efficient version of the defensively driven club they've been for a while. Similar to the post-Melo Nuggets teams, they've embraced their identity and have bought into playing as a cohesive unit. In this case, less is more. I still don't think their style of play will carry them deep into the postseason, but they weren't good enough to take out the Thunder/Spurs with Gay on board either, so no harm done.
Watson: Memphis was always a good team and they proved that they can excel without Gay in the playoffs a couple of years ago. They didn't need the offense he provided, but the Raptors surely did. I don't think they're better without him, but the Raptors are definitely better with him.
Ward: They were a very good team before and they are a very good team now. I don't know that I'd say they're a better team now talent-wise but the franchise is in a better position going forward after unloading Gay's salary.
Chisholm: Without a doubt. Gay worked in such opposition to what Memphis liked to do that it was only ever a matter of time before they were forced moved him along. What you see now is a far more balanced and cohesive lineup that is better equipped to compete in the grueling Western Conference. This club needed to make post play their bread and butter, but with Gay in the lineup they had an awkward blend of interior play and perimeter freelancing that too often took the team away from the things that they did best. When you have Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph anchoring the post for you, you do not want the ball sticking in the hands of a low-efficiency isolation artist on the perimeter. Now that he's gone you can see why.
Strickland: Is this a rhetorical question? Memphis didn't just shave salary; they shed dead weight from their roster AND received the intended effect of doing so: THEY GOT BETTER! Lionel Hollins could be Coach of The Year. If there is a Rookie Executive of The Year Award, John Hollinger wins hands down. The Grizzlies' minority owner Justin Timberlake must clearly be on more than his Suit and Tie Ish in the former Home of the Lose.
Lewenberg: Forget about the posters, DeAndre Jordan's mug has already inspired a T-shirt. The Jamal-to-Blake connection was an impressive dunk contest-caliber routine (unlike most of the attempts in this year's competition it actually went in) BUT DeAndre's masterpiece occurred in the natural flow of a game. You won't see something like that in any dunk-off, on any practice court or in any empty gym. It ignited the Twittersphere, it sparked controversy and it immediately took on a life of its own. Thanks for the memories Brandon Knight!
Watson: Jordan's easily. Anytime someone gets dunked on it's a better highlight. Did you make an "oh" face when you saw the dunk or a "stinkface?" The nasty face expression always wins, and what Jordan did to Knight was downright nasty.
Ward: Jordan's. The through-the-legs alley-oop pass from Crawford and windmill finish by Griffin made for a fun, impressive dunk. But it didn't have the raw power and meanness of Jordan's, nor did it involve getting owned the way Brandon Knight did.
Chisholm: This really comes down to personal aesthetic preferences, but I'm going with Jordan. Open court dunks are like ballet: you have an unobstructed stage with which to perform and all eyes watching, so you'd better bring out something spectacular. The Crawford-Griffin alley-oop was nice, but a little awkward for my taste. Dunks in the half court, though, are more like jazz: improvisational, reactive and they seem like they come out of nowhere. The power and control of Jordan's dunk simply appealed to my tastes more.
Strickland: Breakaway dunks are cool. But when you detonate on someone like DeAndre Jordan did on Brandon Knight, despite the size differential, it's always impressive. The multitude of reactions not only from Jordan, the Clippers, their bench and fans but from the Pistons themselves only enhanced the filthy nature of what had just occurred. Exhibit Eh: Greg Monroe.
The Five-Man Weave is made up of TSN.ca Raptors blogger Tim Chisholm ( @timpchisholm), TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050), Duane Watson (@sweetswatson) and Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) from TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, and TSN.ca NBA Editor Mitch Ward (@jmitchw).