As we slip further into our mundane and football-less lives, there is one flare shooting brightly through the darkness; a beacon. Light blazing through the pitch-black firmament and beating back that icy tendril of dread that is the upcoming wasteland known as “baseball season.”
That beacon is basketball. Cling to it. Dig your nails into it like Gail Devers and catwoman duking it out.
For now, and only for a brief moment, I’ll pass on talking college hoops. The blitzkrieg of b-ball that is March Madness is a measly few weeks away. I’ll get to that later. However, this year’s NBA season has been a very good one. Some might argue that, depending on the postseason, this season has been great. At the very minimum, the storylines from this year have been very good.
Here are the top storylines at the NBA’s official mid-way point:
After blowing out his knee prior to his rookie year, NBA fans and pundits weren’t sure what to make of Griffin. Some worried that he’d lose his explosiveness, the hallmark of his oft-dominant college career. Some whispered that his promise would be remembered over his on-court exploits.
In case you’ve been sub-letting the basement apartment from someone who lives under a rock: Griffin is breath-taking. While it’s still too early to stamp his career with inane amounts of praise, I can’t help myself. He’s Charles Barkley plus P-90X. He’s Shawn Kemp minus 8 illegitimate children. I’ve been trying to get my nickname for Griffin to go big time: The Cold War.
When my parents were growing up they frequently had to practice putting their heads down between their legs and crawling underneath their desks which, presumably, could save you from the impending Soviet nuclear carpet-bombing. Griffin’s savagery at the rim makes people react the same way.
They flinch. They duck. They cover. He’s in the air long enough for people to construct make-shift fallout shelters, grab canned goods and bottled water and head below decks.
The crazy part is: he still has room to improve. Griffin’s like that fist-sized, uncut diamond that Leo DiCaprio di-Capped all those South Africans for in “Blood Diamond.” A once-in-a-million find, but still in need of polishing and cutting.
He’s already a very good scorer and elite rebounder — averaging roughly 21 and 12, respectively– and his overall potential for more resides somewhere in the stratosphere.
The 2-time defending champs’ season reads like a failed psychiatric evaluation. They’re all over the map, riding high early in the season and bottoming out with a loss to the Cavs and a bizarre dude-on-dude perfuming incident in the locker room involving Ron Artest.
(*Author’s Note: Did anyone not expect a sentence involving man-on-man perfuming in the locker room to somehow involve Ron Artest’s crazy ass?)
The Lakers have looked, in turn: disinterested, un-caring, and really tough to beat. Their body language, which has fluctuated more than Anne Hathaway’s Oscar wardrobe, has ranged from Kobe-Bryant-intense to we-all-just-smoke-Phil-Jackson-personal-stash lax. In short, they will have to ratchet up their intensity to stay in the hunt.
The Spurs, however, have looked to be every bit the consistent force that the Lakers have not been. They look fresher and healthier than they have in years. It’s as if the team jumped into a Delorean stretch-limo time machine and gotten younger. Manu Ginobili’s bald spot almost looks smaller. Tony Parker almost looks less divorced to Eva Longoria. And Greg Popovich looks…well, like Greg Popovich.
Barring a collapse down the stretch, the Spurs look to be extremely tough as the 1 seed come playoff time.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are an almost equally terrifying matchup in the West. With Serge “Air Congo” Ibaka guarding the paint, Russell Westbrook rapidly developing into an elite-level point guard, and Kevin Durant pushing Carmelo and Kobe for the “best pure scorer” title in many peoples’ minds the Thunder are a force to be reckoned with.
The Dallas Mavericks are also lurking and would present a Marc-Cuban’s-wallet-sized challenge for whomever they draw in the playoffs as well.
With all the Charlie-Sheen-meltdown level of media attention focused on the Miami Heat during the offseason, the Boston Celtics have picked up right where they left off. Defying age, knee-issues, and my near-constant “Jesus Shuttlesworrrrth!” screams every time Ray Allen hits a trey, they have continued to win. They’ve done it with a gritty team defense that borders on dirty at times. Junk-punching dirty. However, the Celts lost the left jab of their interior 1-2 punch, trading Kendrick Perkins away to the Thunder.
The Miami Heat came into this season with an insane amount of expectations. With LeBron predicting assinine levels of titles, famously counting on his ringless fingers how many the heat were destined for, and Chris Bosh looking more and more like a velociraptor from the “Jurassic Park” movies, the Heat’s play has finally caught up to the torrid pace their mouths set this offseason.
(*Author’s note: That “Jurassic Park” thing really doesn’t have much to do with the Heat’s season. But c’mon, man…have you seen Chris Bosh?)
However, before I get too effusive with my praise, here’s a stat to chew on: the Heat have lost only twice all year to sub .500 teams and are 14-16 against squads with winning records. Pat Riley, anyone?
Not far out of the mix in the Eastern Conference are the Chicago Bulls. With Derrick Rose’s unparalleled athleticism at the point, and his MVP-caliber performances night in and night out, and the health of their big men getting better day by day the Bulls are as good as they’ve been in years.
Since this post is rapidly spiraling into “War and Peace” length, I’ll do my best to keep things brief.
The Knicks traded: Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, Mozgov’s translator, Mozgov’s birth certificate to see if he really spelled his first name like that, Spike Lee, the Empire State Building, Saturday Night Live, the entire Mets roster, and their limited edition Knicks seat covers for: Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
And the Knicks probably made the right choice.
The last month of the NBA season teams were in full on ho-down, Do-si-Do mode, swapping partners every second and fourth beat.
When the dust cleared ‘Melo was in NYC and Deron Williams, the star point guard from the Utah Jazz, was in New Russia. I mean New Jersey. Well, New Jersey with a Russian owner.
The NBA season has been a fascinating whirlwind of intriguing stories and wild trade deadline shifting. And the best part is: it’s only going to get better as the playoffs approach. Keep your eyes peeled and you’re bound to see an incredible finish to the 2011 season.