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Linsanity Runs Wild
Short of something that will dramatically change the landscape of the NBA - Dwight Howard, we’re waiting on you - the rise of Jeremy Lin will likely go down as the biggest NBA storyline of the year. The fact that it happened in the first half of the season makes him and the Knicks must-watch basketball for the remaining 30-something games on their calendar. The story behind Lin’s dramatic ascent to stardom is about as confounding to rationale thinking as we’ve seen given the way his career had played out before being given a (somewhat loose) chance in that one game against the New Jersey Nets. Well, we know what’s happened since then.
It hasn’t been the “Melo-Drama” that clouded the Denver Nuggets and the NBA last year, but Dwight Howard has nevertheless been successful confounding and making fan bases in Orlando, New Jersey, LA, and whatever city he's in, chew off their nails in anticipation on where he’s going to play the second half of the season. Put a gun to our heads and tell us to pick two teams and we’ll give you Orlando and New Jersey, in no particular order. Wherever he ends up, here’s to hoping that Dwight finally ends his waffling and makes a decision before those fan bases run out of nails to chew.
Who’s the MVP?
Right now, it’s a three-horse race between LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul. KD Clutch has been absolutely bananas this year. CP3 has proven once again why he’s the one true “Point God” of the NBA. But despite their successful seasons, we can’t turn our backs on what LeBron James has done in South Beach this year. Not only is he dominating games the way he once did in Cleveland, he’s doing it with Dwyane Wade and a rejuvenated Chris Bosh by his side.
And by the way, we don’t understand how advanced metrics are calculated in the NBA, but when a guy like John Hollinger - the PER guru of ESPN - tells us that LeBron is having the most efficient NBA season in HISTORY and leading what’s shaping up to be a run-away train in the East, that’s grounds for MVP to us.
Who’s Coming Out of The West?
The last time the Western Conference was this wide-open, Tim Duncan was still a freshman at Wake Forest, Kobe Bryant was a gangly teenager sporting a ridiculous afro, and Dirk Nowitzki still looked like a Backstreet Boy. Been a while, hasn’t it?
But that’s what we’re looking at with the West this year. Our favorites are the Oklahoma City Thunder at this point in the season, but we all know that nothing is definitive until we see how the seeds play out for the play-offs. Further adding to the drama is the fact that the LA Clippers at 20-12 and the Minnesota Timberwolves at 18-17 are the 3rd and 10th teams in the conference, separated by a grand total of 3-and-a-half games. Oh, and the Wolves just beat the Clips at Staples --- again.
You want high season drama? Tune in to the Western Conference play-off race.
Heat - Bulls Part Deux
While the West has around six or seven teams that can go hot at the right time and ride that all the way to the Finals, the East is looking like a two-team sprint between the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. The Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers have been surprise teams, but they won’t be able to compete in a seven-game series without a go-to-guy in the clutch. We’re disqualifying the Orlando Magic until the Dwight Howard mess is over.
The Atlanta Hawks should just change their name to “The Overrateds.” The Boston Celtics will probably break down soonest among all these teams. And the New York Knicks still need to figure out what they have with Lin, Carmelo Anthony, and Amare Stoudemire.
Even if one of those teams catch lightning-in-a-bottle and ride it deep into the play-offs, we don’t see any of them getting past the Bulls or the Heat. Far be it for us to “book” anything on this site, we’re doing it on this one: Miami and Chicago for Eastern Conference supremacy. Book that.
A Shake-Up in Beantown and Hollywood is Coming
From the 2008-2010 NBA seasons, the NBA was a Kevin Garnett knee injury away from seeing the Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers play in three straight NBA Finals. It feels so long ago, right? This year, both teams have completely underperformed and with their current roster and we don’t see anything other than first-round exits for the Celts and the Lakers. Both teams need a shake-up in the worst way and from what we’ve heard, it could come at the expense of each other.
Don’t set your new NBA 2K12 rosters yet, but don’t be shocked if the rivals drop a trade bombshell of Pau Gasol and Rajon Rondo swapping places before the trading deadline elapses.
Kyrie Irving is G-O-O-D
Between the current crop of elite point guards in the game, the arrival of Ricky Rubio, and the emergence of Jeremy Lin, Kyrie Irving has become sort of a point guard afterthought in the minds of NBA fans. But don’t sleep on this dude because he’s a bona fide stud. He doesn’t get the love he deserves because he’s been overshadowed by his peers for the better part of the first half of the season.
Certainly, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t do him any favors either but if we had a choice to watch one point guard for the rest of the season outside of CP3 and D-Rose, we’re watching Kyrie Irving.
The Battle of Los Angeles
It’s the classic case of younger brother rounding into his own and giving big brother a run for his money. Nobody’s going to confuse the history of the Los Angeles Lakers from the Los Angeles Clippers but with the arrival of Chris Paul to the Clip Joint, the question on who’s the better LA team isn’t a joke anymore.
It’s still not a rivalry, but judging how testy the games have been between the two Staples co-tenants, it won’t be long before we see some genuine dislike from these two teams. We’ll take CP3 versus Kobe as the main event, but we’re certainly not sleeping on watching a six-man tussle between Metta World Peace, Matt Barnes, and Josh McRoberts against Blake Griffin, Kenyon Martin, and Reggie Evans.
The Portland Trailblazers Keep Defying the Injury Jinx
Not a lot of people have dived into this storyline because the Portland Trailblazers have been really good this year. But once you go past this feel-good run of theirs, you can’t help but wonder if they’re the most cursed team in the history of the NBA. This year alone, resident superstar Brandon Roy was forced to retire because of a debilitating knee injury and now we learn that former number 1 pick, Greg Oden, had to go through yet another - his third overall - microfracture surgery on his knees.
And we’re not even counting the plight of their past bigs in Bill Walton and Sam Bowie. If LaMarcus Aldridge somehow remains healthy for the rest of the year and leads the Blazers deep into the play-offs, they should just build a statue of him outside the Rose Garden.
The Rest of our Mid-Season Awards
We already covered our MVP choice so now we’re picking the rest of our mid-season award-winners.
Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Iguodala (76ers) - Best defender in the best defensive team in the league.
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers) - Nobody’s even close, really.
Most Improved Player: Ryan Anderson (Magic) - Close call over Detroit’s Greg Monroe.
Sixth Man of the Year: James Harden (Thunder) - Send him his award already.
Coach of the Year: Doug Collins (76ers) - Tough to put Erik Spoelstra because the Heat haven’t separated themselves from the Bulls in the East.