This Is The NBA’s Strangest Season
Following a late start due to labor negotiations the National Basketball Association is rapidly approaching mid-season.
With only 66 games instead of the standard 82, as we get around 30 it’s already time for my annual halfway evaluation.
My first observation is this is the strangest season ever.
That’s because of new labor rules which led teams to dump salaries, only one week of training camp, only two exhibition games instead of eight and even elite teams bringing in a batch of new players.
In the early weeks it was chaotic. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks couldn’t win a game, the Clippers were suddenly good, the Lakers struggled, a pushover such as Utah kept on winning.
Now things are settling down a bit, but it’s still not easy to see where we go from here.
The Clippers and Mavericks played a terrific game Monday night in Dallas, and my thought was this could be a preview of the Western Conference playoff finals.
The Clippers are different than a few weeks ago. They no longer have Chauncey Billups, and they may not be able to win a championship without his veteran leadership and clutch shooting. But they now have Kenyon Martin, and he provides the toughness they lacked.
The Mavericks have the highest scoring reserves in the league, and when newcomers Lamar Odom and Vince Carter fit in they could repeat as champions.
The San Antonio Spurs started slowly and Tim Duncan wasn’t even picked for the all-star game. But when Manu Ginobli comes back from an injury they could be a playoff factor.
It’s frightening for Laker fans that the Clippers and Oklahoma City figure in the top four, and if Dallas and San Antonio do too that leaves the Lakers and Denver battling for the No. 5 and 6 playoff berths, with no home court advantage in any series.
This leads me to suspect the Lakers will do something, possibly sign Gilbert Arenas before it’s too late. He could provide scoring they need even though he’s had three operations on his left knee since 2006.
Without doing something they don’t match up with any of the top Western Conference teams.
Looking East, there are two intriguing stories.
Are the Miami Heat good enough to win the championship they didn’t win last season?
They did all the right things in the off-season, significantly improving their depth. By signing free agent Shawn Battier, they acquired the league’s best player in defending Kobe Bryant. He’s the perfect complememt to superstars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
And yet, the Heat lost three games on a West Coast trip, including one to the Clippers. So we really don’t know about them yet.
The other big story in the East is the shocking emergence of point guard Jeremy Lin with the New York Knicks.
He wasn’t drafted out of Harvard and he was cut by the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. But he’s been sensational with the Knicks, averaging more than 25 points and eight assists in his first five games as a starter.
Is he for real or a flash in the pan? A lot of people I regard as NBA experts say he should keep on doing well because he’s 6-foot-3, strong enough and brimming with confidence.
“He’s in the right system where he can showcase his skills,” said Laker coach Mike Brown.
People are wondering if Lin can keep it up when injured star forward Carmelo Anthony returns from an injury. Anthony says there’s no problem.
“He’ll continue to have the ball,” said Anthony. “He’s a blessing to our team.”
Whatever happens with the Knicks they’ve added drama to this unique NBA season.
I don’t know how it will end. I think Miami will make the championship series but any of five or six Western teams could be the Heat’s opponent.