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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How's That Working Out For You?

In last week's Give and Go column, Chris Liss and I talked about how difficult it is for NBA teams to handle major personnel changes at mid-season. Comfort level and familiarity with teammates is so crucial to success at both ends of the floor – and that really only comes from practice reps. And yet, several teams with title aspirations decided to roll the dice this year and make major changes at the deadline or just before.

How's it working out so far?

Dallas is 4-4 with Jason Kidd in the lineup, having lost to New Orleans, San Antonio, the Lakers and the Jazz. (In other words, the four teams they'll most likely need to get past in order to make the Finals and justify the Kidd trade.)

Phoenix is just 2-4 with Shaq, and some fans are getting restless, questioning whether Mike D'Antoni is able to adjust his system to a more half court-oriented team.

Cleveland is 3-2 since their extreme roster makeover… but the level of competition they've faced leaves a lot to be desired. They beat Memphis, Minnesota and the Bulls, but dropped games to Boston (the only real elite team they've faced) and Milwaukee.

Phoenix and Dallas are now 6th and 7th overall in the stacked Western Conference… with the Mavs just 2.5 games ahead of Golden State, currently in eighth. (Denver is ninth, 1.5 games behind the Warriors and three in back of Dallas).

Cleveland has much less to worry about – they don't stand much of a chance of catching Detroit for the Central Division crown and one of the top three seeds in the playoffs, and the bottom half of the East is so dreadful there's little chance they could fall any lower than the sixth seed. Besides, the level of competition the Cavs will face – such as tonight's game against the Knicks – is sort of training camp-esque anyway. The Cavs will have a much better chance to jell as a result.

Column continues on


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