How dominant would the Celtics be after adding the Big Ticket? Would Kobe find a new home on the East Coast? Might Latrell Sprewell return to choke another day? Ok, maybe that last one wasn’t quite such a major question surrounding the National Basketball Association back in September. Anyway, if you’ve been on cruise control with the league’s happenings, it’s time to come around for that 5,000 mile check. A third of the season is now complete, and this seems like an appropriate time to take a look around the NBA.
The green light’s been on, and Boston’s foot has stayed on the accelerator ever since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen arrived during the offseason. While I have tired of hearing about how Beantown is already deserving of what Stephon Marbury would call “shiny stuff,” it’s important to give credit to those who deserve it. In the franchise’s esteemed 57-year history, they have never even come close to the 29-3 start that began this season. However, the “Green Machine” hasn’t been challenged by a top west power other than Denver and the Lakers.
San Antonio Spirit
Though slightly hindered by an injury to sixth-man candidate Manu Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs have continued to dominate the Western Conference. When you combine seemingly emotionless players with one of the better defenses in the game, it doesn’t always make the most appealing nationally-televised basketball, but can you argue with their results? Another impressive home record (17-2), a 7-1 stint against the East, and a fully healthy triple threat in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili have contributed to the defending NBA champs staying on track for a potential fourth title in the last six years.
A Golden Sun Rises in the West
Much in contrast to the Spurs, the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors average nearly as many points per game as the Santa Barbara Breakers. The Breakers eclipsed the 160-point mark on four occasions in 2007. How do they do it? Well, if you watched the NBA playoffs last year, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the Suns and Warriors continue to epitomize the run-and-gun style with players like Steve Nash and Baron Davis at the helm. The fact that those two teams combine for nearly 18 threes a night could make even Antoine Walker question their sanity.
The Eastern Conference has been without a resident “beast” in some time and now, suddenly, it has two: Kevin Garnett and Orlando’s Dwight Howard. Some might argue that Shaq fit the role when he came to Miami; however I liken him to a steamroller while Howard has more animalistic qualities. To put this man’s ability in perspective, there has only been one other player in the last 10 years to average over 15 rebounds per game and that was Ben Wallace in just one of his prime seasons with Detroit. Mr. Howard may not have the Magic to carry his team over Boston this year, but he just turned 22 years old last month, and his upside is tremendous.
Blazing New Trails
After shipping off temperamental Zach Randolph and effectively cleaning up their image, the Portland Trailblazers have been on a tear as of late. Winners of 16 of their last 17 games, the youthful bunch from Oregon are led by Brandon Roy, last year’s Rookie of the Year, and stat-sheet stuffing sixth-man candidate Travis “Don’t Call Me Bo” Outlaw. If the playoffs began today, Portland would have the 7th seed, but will this be the case come April? The Blazers may want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs to find their way back to this hot streak, because they have a lot of road wins to notch before they can be considered among the West’s elite.
L.A. Love or Hate?
Rumors swirled around Kobe Bryant feeling unsatisfied with the Lakers’ front-office management this summer, but when all the dust settled and the season began, KB24 was still in a purple and gold uniform. Impressively, Kobe hasn’t had to lead the Lakers in every statistical category thus far because the NBA’s resident “baby” Andrew Bynum (born in ’87!) currently roams the paint. Under the tutelage of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bynum has learned patience on both sides of the ball and only a consistent jump-shot (perhaps a sky-hook?) remains for him to take over the League. Although a trade to acquire another weapon may still be needed, Kobe and Bynum are finally sending Los Angeles in a positive direction for the first time in three years.
Now that you’ve been properly updated on selected NBA news, it’s time to get back on the open road to the postseason. Some answers were found in the year’s 28 games and yet more questions arose: Does Gilbert Arenas have the blogging skills to get himself on an All-Star roster? Can the Warriors become any more international? Will the Timberwolves finish with double-digits in the win column, and does anyone care? Only time will tell.