Alrighty ballers, the fun is over.
You’ve had two months to remember how to play basketball, learn to play alongside your current teammates, and use the fact that you were without an organized off-season as an excuse for playing poorly. We all had fun watching the All-Star weekend festivities. We laughed, we cried (well, hopefully not, but I’m sure somebody did) and it seemed like the players enjoyed themselves (sans Kobe’s nose), whether they were in Orlando or relaxing elsewhere and taking advantage of the time off.
With all of that nonsense out of the way, it’s time to quit playing games and step up it up on the court. After nearly 40 games of the 66-game schedule played thus far, most teams have not impressed during this truncated season. The Bulls, Heat and Thunder are the cream of the crop, but there’s a significant drop-off after the top three. The difference isn’t necessarily in wins and losses, but in consistency.
Oklahoma City is fresh and fierce. These young bucks have finally honed that killer instinct mentality allowing them to demoralize the opponent and kick it in to high gear down the stretch if need be. I’m interested to see if the Thunder will lose any firepower once the playoffs start as teams with older rosters will benefit from the rest between games.
Miami is out of this world when all of the guys are healthy and have their heads screwed on straight. As most pundits said from day one (and I agree), it’s the Heat’s championship to lose. Aside from last night’s loss to Utah and the occasional slip-up, I’m curious to see if Miami can maintain the standard they’ve set for themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it all come crashing down at some point, but as usual, that would most likely come not in the regular season, but in the playoffs where it counts.
I think the Bulls are the most fun team in the league to watch (with the Timberwolves right behind them, believe it not) because they have blended fight and finesse together, creating a smooth yet edgy style of play. Obviously, if Derrick Rose suffers any relatively long-term injury, the team is in trouble, so lets all say our prayers at night that that doesn’t happen. For now let’s enjoy Rose, the great team around him and the sweet sounds of Tom Thibodeau screaming about defense from the sidelines.
As for the other 27 teams in the league, get your act together! I know it can’t be easy, going from couch potato to NBA player once the owners lifted the lockout, but you should be properly conditioned by now. If not, perhaps the coaches need to re-evaluate how they rest their players (see Greg Popovich in San Antonio).
The time is now to put aside any differences or bulging egos in the spirit of team sportsmanship and winning. Quit hogging the ball and pass it to the open man or someone with a higher shooting percentage than you. It won’t kill ya! I promise. Well, I guess that applies to everyone but LeBron. Sorry dude.
Sure, some teams aren’t even in the running to make it through April, but so what? That wouldn’t stop the Honey Badger from playing his butt off, would it? No. He don’t give a s*** about the playoffs! He just wants to kick ass and take names.
Charlotte, I KNOW you can win at least 12 games this season. Seriously. If not for your own pride, do it for the poor media that has to cover you and somehow find a different way to write about losing evert night. A few years ago, the Nets were on the brink of finishing the season with the worst record in modern NBA history and even they managed to escape that fate. Bobcats, you can do it!
All of the teams in playoff contention today are talented and worth watching, but the team that excites me the most here in the second half is the Minnesota Timberwolves. They are only two games out of the final playoff spot out West and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sneak in as the last few seeds could easily shuffle around several times before the post-season begins.
They remind me of the 1999-2001 Clippers teams that only won maybe 20-30 games a year, but were so fun to watch. Those teams had some wonderfully talented guys and decent role players too, they just never found a way to win together, but gave it one hell of a shot on most nights making their games very entertaining.
I love Kurt Rambis, but Rick Adelman seems to be a better fit for the TWolves, a team with an astounding six players who were Top 5 draft picks. With a coach who knows how to harvest talent, this team is a move or two away from a Thunder-like assent over the next few seasons. For now, I’ll watch Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams and a red hot Michael Beasley any night. Rubio is a highlight reel all on his own and once he has an NBA season or two under his belt, WATCH OUT.
Instead of watching players get injured and burned out, I’m hoping the rest of the NBA regular season is fruitful with skill, drama and competition. After all, that’s the way it should be.