We Know Nothing.
I’ve been following the NBA for quite some time now, but I cannot remember (even when I first started watching and learning about the game) a season where I knew so little. Each day (or night, depending on how busy I am), I will watch game multiple games on League Pass. I know the starters on pretty much each team without having to use Google. I usually, especially at this time of the year, have a really good idea of which teams are good, which are bad, and which are overrated.
But this year, I have no idea.
Before the season started, we wondered if the Clippers could contend. We wondered if Miami could rebound from choking in the NBA finals.We wondered where Dwight Howard would end up. We wondered if the Lakers and Celtics were done. We wondered if the Knicks were actually a factor again. We wondered if Oklahoma or Chicago are ready to win.
(All these questions, and nobody at all seemed to mention Dallas until they picked up Lamar Odom for absolutely nothing, and even then it was all forgotten that this team steam rolled the West in last years playoffs and won the championship.)
We’re nearly at the halfway point, and what have we learnt? The Clippers are adaptable offensively with the ability to score in the half court or by pushing the ball, have excellent depth but are mediocre defensively and have an obviously tiny backcourt. So we still don’t know anything except that they are better, and more popular then ever.
Miami looks sharp, but their real test (as with any team) will come in the playoffs. They do look much more focused in closing teams out on the road then they did last season. Lebron is playing smarter, and he and Wade are playing fantastically together. Chris Bosh is more involved, and they are getting better defensively. Like last year, if they don’t beat themselves, there isn’t a team that can beat them. But based of their history, well primarily Lebron’s history, they can be a much different team in the playoffs to what they are in the regular season. This has almost always been the case with Lebron’s teams. In 2007, they were barely noticeable in the regular season, but made the finals after his ridiculous game 5, 49 point performance in Detroit. In 2008, Lebron put up MVP type numbers but the Cavs finished 4th. In the playoffs though, they pushed the Celtics to the absolute brink in game 7 before losing. Boston would go onto win the championship. The next season they won 67 games before crashing and burning in the conference finals. 2010, another MVP season for Lebron and homecourt, but once again under achieved in the playoffs. Last year, they didn’t live upto regular season expectations but they played great in the playoffs up until the 4th quater of Game 2 in the NBA finals.
Will history repeat itself? It usually does. But this year they do look different. And Lebron, in his defense, he did play well in those playoffs when they underachieved with the obvious exception of game 5 and 6 of the Boston series. But lets dismiss one common misconception about that series: Lebron did not quit. That discounts just how good that Boston team was defensively. They shut down Wade in the first round. They suffocated an explosive Magic team in the conference finals. And despite the loss, they completely took Kobe Bryant out of his game. Had Kobe’s teammates not produced, and Boston rolled them for the championship, would fans be quick say Kobe quit, or deliberately sabotaged his team to get out of L.A? Lets have a quick look at Lebron’s numbers in game 6 against Boston, and Kobe’s in game 7 of the finals:
Lebron: 27 points (8/21 fg), 19 rebounds, 10 assists, 3 steals and a block (he also had 9 turnovers)
Kobe: 24 points (6/ 24 FG), 15 rebounds, 2 assists, no steals, no blocks and 4 turnovers
Now I know there is a lot more to the game then just stats, but it is interesting to look at these numbers and attempt to compare them to what people viewed as definitive conclusions about players (“Lebron is a quitter”, “Kobe is clutch” etc)
Wow, talk about going off topic! OK now onto Dwight Howard. Are we any closer now to finding out where he will be then we were at the start of the season? Of course not. If anything, Orlando would have to be the favourite in keeping him. I heard a rumour that Kobe might have soured the deal when he was talking to Howard about coming to L.A. by wanting him to play a DeAndre Jordan type role. Now, personally I don’t believe it. But just for arguments sake this is true, and Howard goes to Dallas or The Moon in the offseason, what would this say about Kobe? He (and I’m not saying he was in the wrong here) didn’t get along with Shaq, another dominant big man (and that’s putting it lightly, maybe the most dominant ever, especially in the playoffs) and ultimately the Lakers decided to trade him and keep Kobe. Now, and if it’s true, Kobe sours a deal to bring in Dwight Howard? Ouch.
Speaking about the Lakers, what can we make of them? Right now, they’re 17-12 and one game ahead of Houston. Yep, you read that right. The Rockets are 17-13 and the 6th seed. Why am I bringing this up? Think back to the Chris Paul veto. What was the reasoning behind that decision? The other owners felt they weren’t getting enough in return. Scola and Kevin Martin, along with Odom, at the time did not look as good as Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman, but hindsight is a wonderful thing and the very reason the conflict of interest should have been enough of a reason to not veto that deal. Are all those idiot owners going to apologise to the fans of the Hornets for screwing up their season? Better yet, how about they compensate them? Players, Money, have them lined up on the court at half time and let the fans throw eggs at them. I don’t care. The owners who ran around complaining about it should be held accountable for their actions, and their actions directly resulted in screwing up another team, as well as the integrity of the league. Face it, we would not have seen such incompetence in a fantasy league, let alone one of the biggest sporting organisations in the world. It could be argued that the Chris Paul veto in the long run was worse for the NBA then the lockout. The lockout is almost forgotten now, and by the end of next season, no one will mention it. But just say Chris Paul stays a Clipper the rest of his career. Do you think that the Laker fans won’t be haunted by that? Imagine if the Clippers win a title and Paul is MVP. Oh my. And it’s not just the Laker fans that were shafted by that deal. What if Eric Gordon bolts in the off season? Then the Hornets are left with nothing for their once in a generation, pass first Point Guard.
Talk about a mess. I haven’t seen Dan Gilbert write any self congratulatory emails lately.
As for the Lakers and Celtics though. Both teams have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this season. But can we honestly say with any authority that we know how good anyone is at this point? If the Lakers play the Clippers in the first round, right now, who is the favourite? Think long and hard before you answer that. Same with the Celtics. If they play Philly in the first round, are we sold that the 76ers win that series? What if Orlando plays Indiana? If Denver plays Dallas?
Based on this season only, The Clippers, 76ers, Pacers would be favourites. Would anyone be comfortable making those predictions?
I didn’t think so.