After a classic Super Bowl, stale commercials, and likely, a forgotten halftime show, it's time to shift our attention to hoops.
All-star weekend has come and gone, and many people are still marveling at the display of Zach LaVine. If you are a basketball enthusiast like me, you probably got out of your seat for some of those eye-popping dunks! After the excitement of his performance wore off, I began thinking about how the rest of the participants, with the exception of one Victor Oladipo dunk, flat out stunk. This seems to be the theme of the contest for years.
So, as an NBA fan, I find myself continuing to question why the stars don't show up for the contest, like back in the day. After all, it is the fans that help these players make their astronomical seven to eight-figure contracts, and All-star weekend is supposed to be for the fans. If 8 of the best shooters can engage in a 3-point contest, then give me a handful of the best dunkers! It seems as though players egos and social media has gotten the best of this event, but here's hoping LaVine's performance sparks some of the greats to enter.
As we turn the page to the 2nd half and get to business, let's take a look at five story lines for the rest of the season and the playoffs:
Splash Brothers and Co.
While this name could make for a great law firm, we are talking about the Golden State Warriors right now. This is a team playing as well as anyone in the league, with depth for days. Steve Kerr, along with two top-notch assistants, Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams, have resurrected the team from last year's debacle. At 42-9 with the best record in basketball, the question becomes if the team can keep up the pace and ultimately, win the conference and the championship.
It's a tall task in a loaded Western Conference, but if healthy, they certainly leave little reason for doubt. I said before this year that they would reach the finals within four years, and it might not take that long. The key is Bogut's health. They can get by in the regular season with him being absent, but come May, his presence is the key to defense and rebounding, two of the top keys to winning a championship. Perhaps, they make a move to get even better, dealing a David Lee or an Andre Iguodala to help fill any holes they may have.
Okay, maybe I'm overreacting, but the Eastern Conference is light years ahead of the last handful of seasons, in terms of quality and excitement.
In a conference that many thought would be a two-horse race between Chicago and Cleveland, the Hawks, Raptors and Wizards have stepped up and made it a real battle for supremacy. All three of these surprise teams are led by three young floor generals and are extremely well-coached. They make up for talent in sheer hard work and will. But, the story line becomes if they can keep it up and topple Chicago or Cleveland?
I still believe the Bulls and Cavs are the teams to beat out east. When healthy, they both possess the best collection of players and/or quality experience of any team out east. It is hard for me to envision either losing in a 7-game series to anyone other than each other. But, that's why they play the games!
The 8 Seed
Normally, this is a dreaded spot for the team that lands it, squaring off with the top dog in the conference. But, this year, it may just be the other way around. If Oklahoma City can erase their small gap and grab the spot, it could be the Warriors or Grizzlies who are lamenting the matchup. I still believe the one seed will hold on, but it will take a strong effort to move on. We all know the Thunder are only there because of early injuries, and they've shown signs of strong play of late. Maybe a move by the deadline vaults them into their customary playoff berth.
Right now, the MVP is being talked about as a two-horse race between Curry and Harden. I would back the breaks up a bit. With a lot of the season still to play, there's nothing to say that a Rose or LeBron can't take their team on a monster 2nd half run.
You know it's a wild NBA when the Clips, Spurs and Thunder all represent the six through eight seeds, three teams who are accustomed to home court advantage in the first round. Throw on top of that the Hawks and Warriors leading their conferences, and you have what seems like a fun and unpredictable four months ahead.
My original prediction wasn't so original, with the Spurs beating the Cavs. I will stick with my prediction, as the Spurs are just two games back of the 3 seed, and the Cavs are playing great basketball of late. But, I must say, the west will truly be a war come playoff team, and the east should be competitive too.
I think we all thought the Spurs age would get the better of them the last couple years, and until they prove that to be the case, I cannot stray away from their greatness.
The NBA regular season may be hard for many to invest time and energy into, but this year seems different. If you are a big fan like me, you're in for a real treat down the stretch. Enjoy the hoops!