Don’t look now, but there are a host of teams that many of us counted out by the end of November, who are now showing signs of life. They’re not necessarily going anywhere, but their recent surges are invaluable building blocks towards the future.
Philadelphia – Winners of their last five, the Sixers haven’t just whooped up on the League’s garbage – they beat Houston, Atlanta (on the road) and Portland pretty handily. It could be that the Eagles’ success is rubbing off on their Sports Complex counterparts. (Watching Weapon X in action brings out the best in everyone…) But it could also be that Philly is vibing in the same way that they did towards the end of last season without Elton Brand.
It’s hard to imagine that a team gets better when a player of Brand’s caliber is out of the lineup, but Andre Iguodala (23.2 ppg over his last five) has played his best ball of the year since EB went down with that horrific shoulder injury.
Minnesota – What the hell’s going on with Randy Foye? SI‘s Steve Aschburner argues that Foye’s starting to show signs of being the player who was once swapped for Brandon Roy on draft night. He’s tallied 20.6 points over his last 12 games to go with 4.5 boards and 3.6 assists. Foye is still by-and-large a confused combo guard, but he looks like he’s playing more freely, no longer concerned about Randy Wittman‘s criticism for taking a bad shot.
“He’s easy to play for,” veteran swingman Mike Miller said recently.”He always preaches that practice is his time, games are our time. He’s always got your back and every shot’s a good shot. Anytime you have a confident coach like that, it definitely helps.”
Chicago – It sure helps when Tyrus Thomas is grabbing rebounds 12-feet in the air and swatting LeBron’s lay-ups. But the difference for the Bulls in their last two has been their level of energy. Last night Craig Sager interviewed Vinny Del Negro before the fourth quarter, asking how the Bulls have been able to stay with the East’s best team, and his answer was simple: energy.
Indiana – Danny Granger has become one of the most exciting players to watch in the entire League. Sure the Pacers are only 4-4 in their last eight games, but they can rest assured that Granger is a bona fide NBA centerpiece.
Charlotte – On paper, the Diaw-for-Richardson trade looked God-awful. But it’s turned out to be pretty good for the Bobcats. They’ve quietly gone 4-2 over their last six with wins over the Celtics and the Pistons. And during this stretch, the Ray Felton trade rumors have translated into outstanding play from the UNC-product. In fact, the Felton-D.J. Augustin combination have been excellent on the floor at the same time.