NBA Halfway Point: There's a Lot More to This Season Than Jeremy Lin
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I just woke up from the strangest dream.
I dreamt that nearly the entire NBA fan base had become transfixed on the exploits of a good but not great point guard in New York City. It was almost as if an entire nation of basketball fans had completely forgotten that there were other basketball players having great seasons or other basketball teams besides the New York Knicks.
It was probably just a weird dream though, right?
Real basketball fans aren't ignoring the fact that the best rookie point guard is either Ricky Rubio or Kyrie Irving are they? After all, Rubio's team plays in a better division, has a better record and he's fifth in the league in assists per game at 8.4.
Irving for his part has changed what was an awful Cleveland team into a more watchable one. He leads the team in scoring and his assist numbers will climb when his team acquires some better scorers for him to pass to.
Have NBA Fans not been watching what's been going on in South Florida? Don't look now, but even if you hate the Heat and LeBron, the team is playing some fantastic basketball. Watching LeBron and Wade dominate on both ends of the floor while getting great contributions from Chris Bosh have turned the Heat into the league's most dominating team.
They already share best the best record in the league with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat and Thunder are both having fantastic seasons, but the Heat entered this season with more pressure on them. That's a circumstance that the members of that team are largely responsible for but it doesn't diminish the impact of their current response to it.
The one difference between the Heat and the Thunder is the end result. For Miami, if this season ends with anything less than an NBA title, it will be considered a failure. As mentioned already, that's something that the members of the Heat are somewhat responsible for since Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook never held well publicized pep rallies in which they counted off the number of titles they'd eventually win.
Even with that being the case, to watch the Heat dissect teams these days is regardless of one's affiliations an impressive basketball exhibition. The Heat are a menace on the court. They can easily roll off 10-20 points in bursts of spectacular skill and athleticism and they can also be a shut down defensive team in bursts as well.
Then there's the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have the second best record in the league and they've gotten to that point all while missing the reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose for considerable time. The Bulls aren't surprising anyone by having an impressive record, but not many would have predicted they'd be at that point even with Rose missing 10 of the team's 35 games.
How are the Bulls getting it done? Defense, of course. Only the Sixers allow less points per game. The Bulls also play clean defense allowing a second-in-the-league best 14.2 free throws to their opponents per game.
Did you happen to read about the Sixers in that previous paragraph? Jeremy Lin has been a nice story but the first place team in the Atlantic Division isn't the New York Knicks. It's the Philadelphia 76ers. New coach Doug Collins has them playing defense at a high level and the team is an exciting mix of talented, smart players.
The Sixers' strength may very well be their eventual weakness. The Sixers have a very balanced attack in which a core group of players do a little of everything. Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young are all key parts that do some of everything. The team has been without its best big man Spencer Hawes for most of the season.
The Sixers look well prepared to gut out the fast-paced regular season, but come playoffs, there will be times when the teams needs an individual player to step up his level of play and take over a game. Is Andre Iguodala that guy? He's going to get a chance to show everyone if he is.
In Oklahoma City, fans are able to watch one of the best pure scorers the league has seen in quite some time. Kevin Durant is only 23 years old but with his shooting ability, athleticism, height and determination to improve, he could be on a path to becoming one of the all time scorers in league history.
He's been partnered with a lightning fast point guard named Russell Westbrook. Westbrook shoots a bit too much at times, but the pair have such prodigious talent that even as they try to figure out how to best utilize their considerable talents together, they've also managed to tie the Miami Heat with a league best 27-7 record.
Finally, there's the LA Story—that is the new rivalry and unusual trajectories of Los Angeles two teams. The Clippers and the Lakers are both historically relevant franchises. One, the Lakers because of their history of great players, great teams and titles. The other, the Clippers because of missed opportunities, bad draft picks and losing seasons.
Yet, the Lakers are mired in an unusually mediocre season with internal discord caused by a fractured relationship between the front office and the players on the team. Meanwhile, the Clippers are all of a sudden one of the league's best stories.
The preseason acquisition of Chris Paul coupled with the reigning NBA Rookie of The Year Blake Griffin have turned the Clippers into one of the league's best attractions. Dishing, dunking and running their way to way to first place 20-11 record.
With all the NBA news seemingly all Lin, all the time. It's easy to forget how many different story lines are developing within the NBA. This serves as a reminder.
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