I am finally back from my travels and survived the Blizzard Juno. I was recently in Atlanta watching the first place Hawks break some franchise records and continue their dominating play against the Thunder and the Timberwolves. Now it’s time to take a look around the league with my weekly column.

Boston Celtics Successful Road Trip

The Celtics will finish their 5 game road trip with a game against the Timberwolves tonight. So far on this West Coast trip, the lucky charms have worked. Boston won 3 of the 4 games including one against the 3rd place Portland Trailblazers. What is more impressive is they almost walked out of Golden State with a victory, they fell 114-111 for their only loss on this trip so far.

The revolving door of the Celtics roster is such a different challenfe for Brad Stevens, as he has to work with whoever is available for him with the amount of injuries and trades this roster experienced. The one thing that hasn’t changed for this club is their effort.

We are seeing a nice bounce back season from castaway, Evan Turner. He was once the second pick overall. Turner has struggled to find a role on the 76ers (team that drafted him) or the Pacers (the team that traded for him then let him walk). Stevens has always discussed that he tries to find what players are good at and utilize those skills instead of to dwelling on what a player can’t do and try to improve that.

We have seen the Celtics give Turner the ball and run point, especially lately with Rondo gone and Smart battling injuries. Turner’s ability to create his own offense has been a spark on this run. Turner is putting up 12 points, 6.25 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game on this road trip so far.

The stat that jumps out to me when looking at Turner this season is his passing, averaging 4.4 assists per game so far. Stevens is using him at the point guard position, which is something he sees in Evan that other teams did not. He primarily played shooting guard or small forward for other clubs. Turner isn’t the only one who is passing the ball well, the entire team is. The Celtics rank 4th in the league with 24.9 assists per game.

The total team effort has been a pleasure to watch. They are getting double digit scoring from Sullinger, Bass, Bradley, Turner, and Tyler Zeller on this road trip with Tayshaun Prince not far behind. This team is only 2 games out of the 8th seed and 3 games from the 7th seed.

They most likely miss the playoffs with Miami and Charlotte holding those last playoff seeds but if there is one thing that we’ve learned from this Celtics team and Brad Stevens is that this team will not quit. They’ve been fun to watch with their 10th ranked offense and team effort.

Don’t take my word for it though, listen to what their opponents have been saying:

“Celtics weren’t out there trying to play like Michael Jordan or be the hero. They just played solid team basketball. They were efficient with their ball movement. They didn’t make many mistakes. Each one of them knew their roles.” – Klay Thompson

“They kept fighting. That’s what makes their team impressive with Brad and his staff. They really do a good job of fighting and competing. They stayed with us and made it uncomfortable in the end.” – Steve Kerr Warriors Head Coach

“Boston did a good job and played physical and we didn’t respond to their toughness.” – Quinn Snyder Jazz Head Coach

NBA All Star Festivities

All Star Weekend is approaching fast. If you have not booked your hotels then I hope you have deep pockets because New York City and Brooklyn will be buzzing all week long. We finally have our contestants for the Slam Dunk. The league is going back to the old style of judging the event with 4 dunkers each getting 3 attempts per dunk, no time limit.

Their will be 5 judges with score cards ranging from 6-10. The two dunkers with the highest combined score will move onto the final round. The player with the highest combined score from their two dunks in the final round wins the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

Slam Dunk Contest Participants

Giannia Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks
Zach Lavine – Minnesota Timberwolves
Victor Oladipo – Orlando Magic
Mason Plumlee – Brooklyn Nets

If you are taking the popular opinion poll, it would probably look something like this:

Who will win the Sprite Slam Dunk contest?

Giannia Antetokounmpo – 45%
Zach Lavine – 40%
Victor Oladipo – 10%
Mason Plumlee – 5%

Honestly, I wouldn’t disagree with the national poll. By the way that is not a real poll.

I couldn’t tell you who is going to win this contest. Every player has a different angle. Giannis is just a freak of an athlete. He has long arms and legs. He is capable of doing something we have never seen before because no one could do it before.

Zach Lavine can jump out of the gym. I don’t even need to dive into his credentials here because we have all seen the youtube videos of him through his journey to the professional level.

If I had to break up these players in groups, I would say Giannis and Zach are the favorites while Victor Oladipo and Mason Plumlee would be the underdogs. Regardless, I think Victor and Mason are going to shock a few people with this athleticism. Let’s just see who can get the most creative without selling out.

Rising Stars Rosters Released

The news is just doesn’t stop. I take a few days off for travels and everything happens. Games get cancelled because of a blizzard and the World vs US Rising Star game rosters are out. Let’s take a look:

Right off the bat I can tell you this game will be an interesting match up. In a nut shell it is: Will the US roster’s guards play better than the World roster’s forwards.

The US roster is guard heavy. They have four young talented point guards, although Olapido plays at the two often. They also appear to have the speed with Olapido, Payton, Burke and the slender guards of Zach Lavine and Shabazz. Where the cherry on the top comes in terms of speed for this roster is their centers: Nerlens Noel and Mason Plumlee.

The hole in the roster for the US team is right in the paint, their interior defense and offense in the half court set.

The World roster is very beefy. Led by the strong man, Steven Adams (7’-0” 255lbs). It will be fun to watch him next to the stifle tower, Rudy Gobert (7’-1”) and Gorgui Dieng (6’-11”). The guards for this team are tall as well with only one player under 6’-6”, Dennis Schroder.

If I had to create the money line I would put World Roster (-7) vs US Roster 260 o/u.

And I wouldn’t even touch that game with my money. It’s going to be an exciting all star weekend as they combine New York City and Brooklyn for the events. We haven’t even heard the three point contestants or the all star reserves yet.

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