NBA Mid-Season report

Also posted over on Reading & Writing is for Dumb People

All-Star weekend is upon us, which means a couple of things...

  1. Some marriages will be ruined in LA this weekend.
  2. Phlip presents a mid-season report despite the season being closer to 70% done than "halfway."

For my mid-season NBA report, I am here to eat some crow as well as to be able to say “told you so” at the same time.
Odd, I know…

In my pre-season post, I said that the San Antonio Spurs were not dead yet, and my prediction was that they would turn it up in the playoffs. Scarily, however, they have had it on all the way through the season, all while Popovich is resting Tim Duncan so effectively that he is having the worst regular season statistically of his career. This is scary because he is being rested for the long haul. That said, I am EXTREMELY surprised at the Spurs’ success of this season, at least in the regular season. As a fan of the Lakers, the fact that Tim Duncan’s effectiveness is being sandbagged for the time that matters, I am a bit more worried.
In all, though, I was right about the Spurs. They just made it so sooner than expected.

You know who ELSE I was right about?
The Miami Heat!

That’s right… According to them and the media coming into the season, there WAS “no time to gel, they will be a juggernaut from the beginning.” Lo and behold, I knew that a team where the oldest player could have realistically played on the same high school team as the coach would have chemistry issues. Tossing in the offensively challenged-ness of the coach himself and you have the problem of a team who shows off time and again that they can be eaten alive with an offensive system that consists only of a sloppy pick-and-roll and shot clock-eating isolations.
Flashes of brilliance have come, no doubt, and times have been that the Miami Heat looked like the scary-good team that they thought that they would/could be, but the moment they turn that on and leave it on is when I eat my crow. Their regressing to what they were – usually on the tail of LeBron James’ inserting foot to mouth – will remain to be one of those things I am apparently to come to love about the NBA for the next few seasons. Until they stop Boston from punking them for their lunch money, I stick by this.

I was wrong about Boston and Chicago…

Boston was too old, and were not supposed to be this good anymore.
Chicago was too young and untested – not to mention injured – and were not supposed to be this good yet. For that, Doc Rivers should be considered for coach of the year for how he has coached his team, and Derrick Rose is in the MVP conversation for how he has carried his.

I was not as right about the Lakers as I would have preferred to be…

As it were, the Lakers are on pace to win as many games as they have in any of their recent (since 3-peat) title years save for two – one of which they blew the title – and look like the SAME team that backed into the playoffs losing 7 of 11 last year and then turned it on and got it done.
So why are we worried?
Well… I say blame the media.

  • Yes, defense has been uninterested
  • Yes, offense has been deviating from the triangle
  • Yes, “trap games” are almost guaranteed losses
  • Yes, two of the 3 Texas teams are/were looking impressive this season
  • Yes, the Lakers are old
  • Yes, there is a Ginger-haired sideshow sharing the Staples Center
    [Phlip note – more on him in a minute]

With all that in mind, the Purple and Gold are supposedly on their deathbed, since ESPN is telling us so.
Why, then, is all prognostication that there is only 2 teams in the whole league – Boston and San Antonio – with only minorly passable chances at knocking the Lakers off in a 7-game series?

I have been a Lakers’ fan for the whole of the 25 of my 31 years that I have been watching sports – save for that one year in 1993 that I was on the Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp bandwagon – so I will face this doom-and-gloom with but one image.

I will maintain that until the Lakers have lost 4 games in two weeks AFTER mid-April… Never has the champion been crowned in February.

So, based on that pre-season post where else must I eat crow?

  1. Conference standings
  2. The Clippers will not make the playoffs this year
  3. Kevin Durant will not win MVP

Where else was I right?

  1. Cleveland is a mess.
  2. Detroit is still not to be taken seriously.
  3. Denver is and will be in disarray because of the Carmelo situation, and it is only getting uglier now with less than one week until the trade deadline.
  4. Kevin Durant leading the league in scoring

Yes, I said it… Sure, the reasoning is different from what I THOUGHT they might be before, but the result is the same. Admit it, NONE of you were interested in the LA Cripples before he got there, but now they’re understandably covered nightly.
20+ points and 12 rebounds a game are hall-of-fame career numbers, and rookies just don’t do that. Provided the boy doesn’t kill himself, he will be in MVP consideration when he either takes the Clippers to the playoffs in the next couple years – provided that being damned by having the worst owner in the NBA doesn’t hold him back – or escapes to the Lakers at the end of his rookie contract.

[Phlip note – don’t judge me, I would feel guilty if one of my favorite players in the league played for the Cripples]

Who do I think will take the post-season awards other than that one?

Most Improved Player

Kevin Love
somewhere in him existed a 6’8” dude who could get 15 rebounds a game… That equates to the fact that ANY ball he can get his hands on belonging to him [pause?].

6th Man of the Year

Glen Davis, Boston.
with the season Lamar Odom is having, he could get consideration, but his early-season starts may remove him from eligibility. I will forgive Glen Davis and his zesty mannerisms he displays at times, he is valuable off of the Celtics' bench.

Shannon Brown could have gotten BOTH of the above if things had continued as they started.

Defensive Player of the Year

Dwight Howard
this one will remain his to lose, if only due to his disinterest when he does.

League MVP

This one is tough…
Derrick Rose
he gets this on the “more with less” aesthetic. He started the season without his shiny new power forward and still won… When said PF returned, he lost his center and KEPT winning, despite even playing with stomach ulcers for a period.

Kevin Durant sharing the superstar’s role on his own team took him off of it for me. This also hinders LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as well, just to a lesser extent.. Rajon Rondo’s inability to make his free throws at a rate better than even Shaquille O’Neal killed his. Kobe playing fewer minutes and statistical regression as a result stopped his bid – same applies to Tim Duncan.

If ANYONE other than Rose wins MVP, it will be Amar’e Stoudemire…
As a dude who famously called the Knicks 5 different brands of stupid for giving him 100 million, given our understanding that he MIGHT not be able to create his own shot. Sure, he still can’t be bothered to defend his own lunch, but he plays in a system where such sensibilities are almost frowned upon. As long as he is putting up the numbers he is putting up in the situation he is in and the team he plays for soon returns to their surprisingly winning ways of earlier in the season, he will be in the conversation.

I am of the opinion that the standings will remain as they are at current, even if Denver DOES manage to get Carmelo Anthony off before the trading deadline. I will not kill you all to death with my opinion of playoff seedings.

Know that, however, a wise man named Ric Flair once said “MEEEEEEEEEEEEEAN!!! GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENE!!! TO BE THE MAN, YOU GOTTA BEAT THE MAN… WHOOOOOOOOOO!!!” so in my mind, it remains that the team to beat still calls the Staples Center home and knowing the makeup of the team, it is WELCOMED that there is a circus down in Miami and geriatric surprises transpiring in South Texas and New England. Let THEM have the ESPN coverage while the most underrated 3-peat contender ever flies under the radar.

And with that, the first 2/3 half of the season is behind us, and we can look on with genuine surprise at a great many things.
This weekend, we will be ensconced in the leagues annual 3-day sneaker commercial, an event wherein young ladies the country over will converge on Los Angeles in hopes of being impregnated with the key to their financial futures.
That is another post for another time.
As it were, most teams have roughly 28-30 games remaining in their seasons, and that leaves a TON of room for movement in the standings. Returns from injuries and the waning days in which players can still be traded will factor heavily in how things play out around the league. I plan to enjoy it with all I can, knowing that we MIGHT be without it next season. Stay tuned, folks!



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