West's dominance leaves NBA dramatically out of balance

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2013 - 7:26 AM

The NBA is dramatically out of balance this season, the Western Conference dominating.

 

Veteran NBA forward Corey Brewer has played his entire seven-year career for Western Conference teams, winning as few as 15 games in his third pro season with the Timberwolves and as many as 57 games with Denver last season.

And still he and the Nuggets got knocked out in the playoffs’ first round last spring.

“It’s tough in the West,” he said “The last few years, it has been like that. If you’re over in the Eastern Conference, you can make the playoffs if you’re below .500. But the Western Conference, you have to win like 50 games to make it.”

Then there is this season, during which the difference between the two conferences has reached truly lopsided proportions.

Ten teams in the West are at .500 or better while only three in the East have done the same so far.

The 10-12 Boston Celtics lead the East’s Atlantic Division, by a game and a half over a Toronto team that on Monday traded its best player — Rudy Gay — to Sacramento of the Western Conference in a salary-cap-clearing move that also probably makes the Raptors competitive in an Eastern arms race for the 2014 loaded draft’s lottery contest and the chance to draft Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins.

Western teams are 67-31 against Eastern teams going into Monday’s games.

The Wolves are 1-5 in their past six games against opponents — four from the West and the top two from the East — who combined have won 72 percent of their games. In their next two games, they play Eastern Conference foes Detroit on Tuesday and Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Pistons are 10-11, the 76ers 7-14.

“I’ve not seen this much disparity in a long time,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman. “But it’s still early, too.”

An Eastern Conference team — the 18-3 Indiana Pacers — owns the league’s best record. Two-time defending NBA champion Miami, with its 16-5 record, is in the East as well.

But so, too, are the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks, two teams once considered playoff teams if not longshot NBA title contenders. Together, they have started 11-28. The Knicks are leading the Nets in a chase for the Atlantic Division’s bottom, by a half-game.

“The teams in the East, the way they’re built, when you look at ’em on paper, they have very good teams,” said Wolves newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute, who played his first five NBA seasons with Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference. “But that’s another thing about this league. You never know how things will go. It’s still early, most teams have played 20 games. That leaves 62 yet to go. A lot of things can happen.”

The Knicks are playing without injured defensive-minded center Tyson Chandler. The aging Nets have been hit hard by injuries themselves: All-Star point guard Deron Williams, star center Brook Lopez, former Sixth Man of the Year Jason Terry and former Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko all have missed seven or more games.

“Some teams are one healthy guy away from turning it around,” Mbah a Moute said. “It’s too early to go deep into all that stuff.”

Still, the Nets and the Knicks are just one notable winning streak away from not just a playoff spot but from getting home-court advantage as well.

“I’d think they’d right themselves,” Adelman said, referring to the Knicks and Nets. “But you’ve got to play consistently. It’s just the way the league is. If you don’t play consistently, you’re going to go through really rough periods.”

If the season had ended Monday, those 10-12 Celtics would own home-court advantage in the playoffs, the 8-10 Bulls would earn the East’s final playoff spot and the 9-11 Wolves would be a playoff team if they played in the East.

“That’d be nice,” Brewer said about that prospect.

A season ago, 43-39 Utah was the last team left out of the playoffs in the West while 38-44 Milwaukee claimed the last playoff spot in the East. But Miami came out of those Eastern playoffs to win the past two NBA titles.

Wolves assistant coach Terry Porter hasn’t played an NBA game in more than a decade, but he suggests the more times have changed the more they have stayed the same.

“Even back in my day, the West from top to bottom was the better teams,” Porter said. “But for a while Chicago won championships and then Detroit won championships. Sometimes what happens is the West just beats up on each other, so it’s good for the East. They like that. They don’t have to go through as many challenges in the playoffs as some of the teams in the West do.”

The Wolves are 13th in the 15-team West. They’re also just 2½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot after a rugged schedule that turns more favorable starting in January. They also are expected to get injured Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf back by then.

“We’ve got to fight over here,” Brewer said. “We’re still good with the position we are in.”

Or considering how close in proximity the Wolves are to Milwaukee, Chicago or Detroit, maybe they could petition the NBA to adopt them into the Eastern Conference, if only for a season.

“No,” Adelman said, “I don’t think they’ll do that for us.”

 

Staff writer Kent Youngblood contributed to this report.





 

  • related content

  • Video: Wolves Daily: Love ready for Pistons

    Tuesday December 10, 2013

    Topics from another fireside chat: Love returns to team, Budinger travels with teammates to Detroit for Tuesday's game, Brewer...

  • Love returns to Wolves practice: Brewer fined for flop

    Monday December 9, 2013

    Kevin Love was back at Timberwolves practice Monday after missing Saturday's game following his grandmother's death.

  • Gameday preview: Wolves at Detroit

    Monday December 9, 2013

    wolves gameday6:30 p.m. at Detroit • FSN, 830-AMPreview: Kevin Love was back at practice Monday after he missed Friday’s practice...

  • By the numbers: NBA West vs. East

    Monday December 9, 2013

    west vs. east ...• Ten Western Conference teams hada record of at least .500.• Three Eastern Conference teams hadrecords of...

  • New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson, left, leads a team that was considered a playoff contender and instead is languishing a half-game from the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings.

  • Minnesota’s Kevin Love

  • wolves at Detroit

    6:30 tonight FSN (830-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 38 2nd Qtr 8:31
Houston 34
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 0 1st Prd 15:52
Winnipeg 0
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 67 2nd Half 1:22
Connecticut 71
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 38 2nd Half 15:53
California 36
South Florida 31 2nd Half 15:55
Houston 46
Marquette 29 1st Half 0:37
Providence 40
Michigan State 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 26 2nd Half 11:00
Drexel 38
Illinois State 27 2nd Half 20:00
Bradley 27
Southern Ill 20 2nd Half 20:00
Loyola-Chicago 29
Northern Iowa 32 2nd Half 16:18
Wichita State 36
Minnesota 37 2nd Half 20:00
(17) Iowa 42
(15) North Carolina 40 2nd Half 20:00
(16) Duke 29
Alabama 30 2nd Half 18:00
Auburn 44
(9) Florida State 38 2nd Half 20:00
Miami-Florida 22
Arkansas 11 2nd Half 20:00
Missouri 24
Georgia 28 2nd Half 20:00
Florida 19
Dayton 49 2nd Half 15:50
Saint Louis 44
Drake 28 2nd Half 18:30
Missouri State 47
Colorado 2 1st Half 16:11
(10) Arizona State 5
(19) Stanford 0 1st Half 18:47
Oregon 0
Marquette 3 1st Half 17:26
DePaul 11
Southern Miss 0 1st Half 18:41
Texas-El Paso 2
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which is your favorite 'return' by a Minnesota athlete?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close