The National Basketball Association’s season is a couple of weeks away from a much-needed pit stop at midseason. And there’s already trouble brewing again in Washington, this time about available fan seating at the All-Star Weekend’s various festivities at MCI Center.
There is no seating for the public to watch the All-Star game, but then who would pay to see Theo Ratliff run up and down a 90-foot wooden rectangle?
There’s anxiety in La-La Land with Kobe and the Lakers falling to third place in their own division, and stirring within the city about the Lake Show being the second most entertaining program in their own city to, yes, the Clippers.
Then there’s the formidable presence of Philadelphia Sixer Ratliff, projected to be the Eastern Conference’s starting center. Ratliff is a guy who only made the team after Alonzo Mourning went out with an injury, Patrick Ewing got old and left, and Rik Smits retired.
And of course, there are the Chicago Bulls, who fell to 6-28 after blowing a 19-point lead in the second half to lose in triple overtime against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night.
There hasn’t been this many nauseating soap stories since, well, Shawn Kemp ate the Cleveland Cavaliers’ bench before heading onto the jet to Portland and eating the spread by another 300 pounds.
Yet there is still the NBA, and that’s what counts. When I wake up in the morning, I’m satisfied that there’s still a professional sports league out there that is less interesting than tape-delayed coverage on NBC showing frogs mating, with special in-depth analysis by Knight, er, Bobby Knight.
At least Knight might put a chokehold on the Budweiser frog that will rejuvenate his career and land him next to Dick Butkus on the sideline of the XFL.
Here are four of the most interesting stories of the wonderful, wide (at least for Kemp) world of the NBA:
The Clippers might not be turning heads today with a less-than-stellar 12-24 record, but the team will be a legitimate threat to the rest of the NBA if the team resigns superstar Lamar Odom and makes the playoffs. If Odom becomes disenchanted and leaves the city, the youngsters will follow like dominoes out the door, in the order their contracts run out. With very promising players, including Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, Keyon Dooling and Corey Maggette in the fold for the next few years, the Clippers will be one composed veteran and a starting center away from making the playoffs.
Rick Pitino, All-American pretty boy and sideline screamer, decides to resign in the wake of another lousy start by the Boston Celtics. Maybe Pitino figured out that he’s not that motivating of a coach after all. When he doesn’t have the power to take away players’ scholarships and threaten his players as he did at Providence and Kentucky, he’s just another screamer and a chump for whom the players refused to work hard.
The Sacramento Kings might be the strongest team in the NBA after floundering for so many years when Mitch Richmond wasn’t around to see it. And Richmond’s stuck up with the Washington Wizards. The Kings, at 22-9, have the third best record in the league and own one of the deepest and most exciting benches in the league. With Chris Webber tearing things up in the paint, and Jason Williams as his Sundance Kid, the Kings might be contenders for the NBA Finals in June. The Kings also have strong role players, including Peja Stojakovic, Doug Christie, Lawrence Funderburke, Jon Barry, Jon Pollard and Bobby Jackson who make the Kings fun to watch – a rare phenomenon in the NBA these days.
Yet the story of the season has to be the sudden influx of dominating scorers in the league. Antawn Jamison of the Golden State Warriors, Vince Carter of the Toronto Rapters and Allen Iverson of the Sixers are all ripping apart the scoreboards. Jamison scored more than 50 points in two straight games, Iverson is shooting better than 53 percent from the field since hurting his shoulder, and Carter is drilling in almost an automatic 30 points plus a night, and a daily clip on Sportscenter is part of his package. Who’s going to be the next Michael Jordan? If you ask me, my sleeper pick is Bonzi Wells of the Trailblazers; just lose the headband, Laettner.
The NBA definitely has a plethora of stories and side stories that are passed around more than horror stories round a campfire in the Catskills. And since Jordan has nothing better to do than rip his own team, I might as well do the same to the rest of the league.