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Fastbreaks: 3/5 Edition

Washington Wizards  v Philadelphia 76ers

Allen Iverson back in Philadelphia for his jersey retirement ceremony. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

Every week a group of writers for the Bad Man Bureau will discuss several topics regarding both the NBA and basketball at large with quick, paragraph-long responses. This week, we’ll be focusing on a variety of stories focusing on the Eastern Conference, including the Charlotte Bobcats’s tough schedule ahead and the recent rumors about a change in the Pistons front office. The panel for this initial edition of the Fastbreaks column are Andrew G, Anthony, Jordan and Matt.

Question 1: The Charlotte Bobcats are currently in the midst of a seven game stretch against the league’s top teams or hottest teams (Memphis, @San Antonio, @Oklahoma City, @Miami, Indiana, Cleveland, @Memphis). What will this stretch of brutal competition tell us about the Bobcats? Will Charlotte maintain their playoff seeding after this period?

Andrew G: We’re going to get a good idea about how this team might function in the playoffs, which is where they’re going to stay after this brutal stretch, due in part to only one team outside the playoff race threatening for a spot (Cleveland).  However, this Charlotte team has an elite defense and has already proven it with the win over Memphis and keeping games close against San Antonio and Oklahoma City (pay no attention to the final score, it was a single digit game until late into the fourth).  I look forward to seeing Big Al and this stingy defense do their thing in this year’s playoffs.

Anthony: I do not think this stretch will tell us much about the Bobcats that the previous 56 games already did. At this point in the season the Bobcats are who they are and what that is a mediocre team that is going to make the playoffs because the majority of Eastern conference teams are an embarrassment to the game of basketball. With the Hawks losing nine of their last ten, Pistons losing 4 in a row, and the Knicks losing 6 in a row, it looks like the Bobcats will be safe as far as securing a playoff spot.

Jordan: I’ve been a firm believer in Mike Dunlap’s Bobcats for a while now. Their defense is above average, and they’re no short on young talent with players such as Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Al Jefferson. Coming up they have several major tests. It will truely show whether or not they are a legit squad, or are simply a product of playing in the Eastern Conference. I believe that they will be able to win a few of these matchups, and maintain their spot at the bottom of the playoff picture.

Matt: The Bobcats have been a surprising team in the East, despite it being a very weak conference. The fact that they’re hovering around .500 at this point is a big step for this young squad. They’ve been good defensively and Al Jefferson has been a complete beast. They’ve only won one of their last four in this tough stretch, but I think they’ll still be good enough to sneak into the playoffs at one of the bottom seeds.

Question 2: What is your favorite Allen Iverson memory?

Andrew G: 

It’s impossible to talk about Allen Iverson without talking about his practice rant, which is both so hilarious and so clearly frustrating for all parties involved–Iverson for being asked about a practice, the 76ers for Iverson skipping the practice, and the fans for seeing a divide emerge so bitterly that Philadelphia’s franchise player for the new millennium would end up getting traded for Andre Miller.  Free Darko even made it their definition for practice!

Anthony: My favorite Allen Iverson memory would have to be game one in the NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Philadelphia 76ers were the underdogs going into the series and for a good reason, the Lakers were 11-0 in the NBA playoffs up to that point and Shaquille O’Neal was as ever averaging 30ppg 15rpg . The Lakers would go on to win the series, but what Iverson did in game one was incredible; he put the team on his back scoring 48 points and led them to victory in OT. Truly, a bad man performance.

Jordan: I was very young when Iverson was in his heyday, so I only remember watching him late in his time. However, I still have a fond memory of him. When he first teamed up with Carmelo in Denver, I remember how happy I was because I loved Carmelo, and Iverson was supposed to be pretty good. I watched them every chance I got and Denver evolved into my favorite team. I remember asking my parents if I could get corn rows like the duo; thankfully they stopped me (I’m white). When Iverson and Carmelo moved on, my love for the Nuggets faded, but I still remember the good times watching them play together.

Matt: AI is definitely one of the greats, there’s no denying that. For my favorite memory, it’s close between the infamous “Practice?” interview or him stepping over Tyronn Lue in game 1 of the Finals en route to an upset win. The “Practice?” interview is probably the first thing I think of when it comes to AI, just such a classic interview. The game where he went off and stepped over Lue was epic as well. It’s crazy how small AI was and how much he dominated.

Question 3: What are your thoughts on the rumors that Isiah Thomas will be the next Detroit Pistons general manager?

Andrew G: It makes absolutely no sense.  Joe Dumars could very well be the worst general manager in the league with the dismissals of Bryan Colangelo and Otis Smith in recent years, but Isaiah Thomas is no upgrade.  The Pistons are approaching a crossroads of sorts, with the likes of Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey up for free agency.  I shudder to think how badly Isaiah Thomas could end up throwing this messy iteration of a Pistons team with a low ceiling over the luxury tax threshold.

Anthony: I spoke about this topic yesterday, looking to replace Joe Dumars is not a bad thing because he has been one of the word GMs over the last few years but Isiah Thomas was a mediocre GM for the New York Knicks. He has a solid track record when it comes to drafting but every year he seemingly found a way to add more pieces that did not fit and were on large contracts. You had Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Zach Randolph, Steve Francis, and many more during Thomas era in New York.

Jordan: I want you to picture the worst car you’ve ever driven. Maybe it was the old family station wagon you drove in high school. Maybe it’s a crappy Camry you pushed into the garage more times than you did out. Maybe it’s a beat up Chevelle that had more sentimental value than physical value. Now, lets say your parents announce they’re buying you a new car. You’re pretty excited, right? Well, it turns out they’re giving you a 1995 Honda Civic with duct tape covering one of the turn signals. This is essentially an analogy for the Pistons “upgrading” from Joe Dumars to Isiah Thomas. When you first got the car, you were just happy you had one and didn’t see the flaws (Detroit winning the title early in Dumars’ career). Then, it started to break (Darko Milicic, trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson) and you realized how bad it was. It dragged on and on (Josh Smith anyone?). Eventually, you got a false glimmer of hope, the idea of what shiny new vehicle your parents could buy you, and instead, you got stuck with Isiah Thomas a crappy Civic.

Matt: I don’t really have much to say on this other than it’s a disaster in the making. He was never very successful as the Pacers coach and was nothing to brag about when he was with the Knicks. He made some questionable moves and made comments on turning the Knicks franchise around that would backfire on him. I just can’t see this as a good thing for the Pistons if they ended up having him as their next GM.

Question 4: Which team will end up with the third seed in the Eastern Conference?

Andrew G: The Toronto Raptors have continued to defy expectations and win games, even sometimes when they find themselves behind quite a bit in games.  Their schedule isn’t all that bad, so they should be able to seize the third seed for the playoffs.  However, don’t sleep on the Chicago Bulls.  Tom Thibodeau continues to be a basketball wizard in rebuilding an offense around Joakim Noah with the losses of Derrick Rose (injury) and Luol Deng (trade), and the Bulls defense continues to clamp down on their opponents.

Anthony: The Washington Wizards are playing their best basketball to date, and John Wall just named player of the week. They have a relatively easy schedule going forward; they do play the Heat, Pacers, and Blazers this month but between those games are a bunch of games against many sub par teams.

Jordan: I believe that the Toronto Raptors will be able to come out and win the third seed in the East. Kyle Lowry has elevated his game to another level, DeMar DeRozan is an up-and-comer, and Jonas Valanciunas is playing at a solid level. New GM Masai Ujiri is making his presence known north of the border, and the Raps are improving every day. They faced one of the tougher schedules in the league in the first half of the year, and still managed to be above 12 other teams in their conference. While the East is thinner than Tommy Tutone’s discography, this is still an impressive feat. They certainly have the talent, coaching, and momentum to stay atop the non-Indiana or Miami East.

Matt: I originally said in a previous Fastbreak that the Raptors would fall off in the second half of the regular season, but being 7-3 in their last 10 isn’t helping my prediction. I don’t see them falling off as I had previously thought but I’m going to stick with my pick of the Nets snatching the third seed. They’re also 7-3 in their last 10 and only 3.5 games from the Raptors. One swing of records could easily put the Nets as the third seed. I wouldn’t count the Bulls out either, they’re getting hot too.

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