Do I Put Much Store In It ? Nah , But It’ll Help For Now ……….
The NBA season is underway and the teams are jostling for supremacy within both conferences. In the Eastern Conference and in the Western Conference , it’s now about the ‘usual suspects’ and the predetermined selected cast of characters. There’ve been one or two surprises, with a number of teams looking to make their mark and there have also been the usual early season coaching casualty. That asides the season thus far has been a competitive one.
The Cleveland Cavaliers (30-10), Boston Celtics (26-10), Orlando Magic (26-12), Atlanta Hawks (24-13) and the Miami Heat (18-18) are the ‘only teams’ within the Eastern Conference that are at .500 or above, in terms of their regular season records. Sadly, as good as the conference appears to be, the underlying quality of the play just isn’t there. And that’s despite the fact, that the conference and its divisional makeup has a plethora of All Stars. With the likes of LeBron James, /Shaquille O’Neal , Dwyane Wade, Rasheed Wallace, Joe Johnson, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce , Rajon Rondo, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. On a night in , night out basis, you may well struggle to find a really good brand of ‘quality basketball’ being played within the conference and its various divisions. And the coaching is most definitely there, in terms of the aspirants thereof. So one can either put it down to the inconsistencies of the teams or just the sheer lack of fundamentals and how they apply themselves to the task at hand.
In the Western Conference, though more predicated on offense, the division does possess the NBA’s best defensive team statistically, in the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-16), who are allowing just a mere 92.9 points a game. Who’d have thought that from a Western Conference team ?
And with the mid-point of the season not that far off , all things are pointed towards the NBA All Star break and who’ll be part of the makeup of the respective conference rosters. That asides, teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers (29-9), Dallas Mavericks (25-12), San Antonio Spurs (23-13), Denver Nuggets (24-14), Phoenix Suns (24-14), Portland Trailblazers (23-16) and the Houston Rockets (21-17) are all vying to show their worth within the conference. And with all of the top eight teams within the conference all posting a better than .500 average. One can clearly see where the dominance is , as far as the quality of the basketball that is being played lies within the NBA . The Eastern Conference may well have its supporters who’ll lay claim that they’re the better conference but clearly the teams’ records doesn’t bear this out.
The West also has its posse of stars led by Kobe Bryant , Carmelo Anthony, Tim Duncan , Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Pau Gasol , Andrew Bynum , Brandon Roy, Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups, Steve Nash , Dirk Nowitzki , Jason Kidd, Deron Williams and Chris Paul. And just looking at those list of names alone, adding a few key defensive players and in essence you’d have perhaps in large part the roster for the Western Conference’s ‘roster’ for the NBA All Star Game ?
As an avid supporter of the Spurs , I’ve closely watched as GM R C Buford and coach, Gregg Popovich have gone about tinkering and retooling the roster somewhat. Undeniably, the team was beginning to show its age and the very fact that they weren’t able to keep apace with the likes of more athletic teams such as the Trailblazers and Lakers, showed that action needed to be taken. With the acquisition of Richard Jefferson via a trade from the Milwaukee Bucks , the improving play of Roger Mason , Manu Ginobli’s regaining full fitness and the unexpected play of rookie DeJuan Blair. It’s my belief that they are now where they need to be. Lurking ominously close on the heels of the Los Angeles Lakers and making sure that any slip-ups made by Phil Jackson’s team will not go unpunished. Though there are several pundits around the league who no longer view the Spurs as a once dominant team , they’d be well advised to look at the level and competitive edge as to the team’s play at present. If ever there was a time to rethink that thought process , then now would most definitely be it .
The recent ’20 point drubbing’ that the Lakers suffered at the hands of the Spurs would suggest that the once perceived divide between the Los Angeles Lakers and the rest of the Western Conference isn’t as great as some had first thought. In light of that 105-85 ‘beat-down’ , I still view the Lakers as the ‘team to beat’ in the conference and the entire NBA as a whole. After-all they are the champions and until they are knocked off that pedestal they’re the ones who everyone else will continue chase. That bullseye on their back has now become somewhat larger , instead of diminishing in size. That’s what tends to happen when a team becomes somewhat over complacent and don’t play at an optimum level. The victory itself was a collective one for the Spurs’ team as everything seemed to go their way. But that’d be somewhat naive to suggest that this was just simply serendipity , as Duncan, Tony Parker , Jefferson and George Hill coming off the bench, all contributed greatly in the win. The Lakers as a team were completely outplayed in every facet of the game. And Kobe Bryant was shuttered defensively, by the Spurs throughout much of the event itself. His contribution was a somewhat pedantic 16 points from an 8 of 11 shooting, night. Stop snickering, Kobe’ll get his when he chooses to but on Tuesday night, it wasn’t going to be his night. ‘nough said !
Manu Ginobli looks to drive the lane against the Lakers’ Luke Walton in an NBA game played at the AT&T Center, in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio Spurs would go on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers emphatically with a lopsided 105-85 victory over the reigning NBA champions. picture appears courtesy of NBAE/Getty Images/ D. Clarke Evans ………….
Now as such I can either choose to place a lot in this one display or simply look at the body of the team's work over the season so far. And from what I've witnessed , I've got to say that I'm extremely happy with the direction that Gregg Popovich has the team going in. The only caveat to this all, would be down the ‘stretch run as the final leg’ of the regular season approaches. Can the likes of the team’s triumvirate of Duncan, Ginobli and Parker remain healthy ? If the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’ ,then they can most certainly challenge the Lakers for post-season honors. However, if the answer is ‘no’,then they will most certainly struggle in the NBA playoffs. As to the remainder of the aspirants in the conference, let’s just say that they too harbor the same hopes as the San Antonio Spurs. My concern isn’t with those teams at all, as I am merely here to suggest that thoughts of the Spurs’ eagerly awaited demise has yet to materialize. So for now just watch us we play ‘possum’ with the conference as well as the rest of the ‘ rest of the NBA’. I know you all may find us somewhat boring to look at but at least we aren’t the New Jersey Nets or Minnesota Timberwolves for god’s sake. They’re now treated as everyone’s doormat across the league. And whatever else can be said about those two teams can be later discussed when we’re all of the same mindset as to their impending fortunes.
As the season slowly approaches the All Star break and league commissioner David Stern will no doubt look to put behind him the problems that he’s had to deal with during the season. You can be sure that he for one will be singing the praises of the young NBA rookies, such as Brandon Jennings , Steph’ Curry , Tyreke Evans and others who are all now aspiring for NBA stardom.
Without these future stars the legacy of the NBA might not be as anticipated.
Click here to view the 2009 NBA Rookies.
Alan Parkins aka tophatal …………… 🙂