This year's Eastern Conference, in the NBA, is having one of its worst years in history. The current sixth seeded Wizards, and seventh seeded Sixers, are playing .500 ball, and that is light years behind the current ninth Nuggets of the West.
Pulling up the rear for the eight seed in the East are the Nets (28-38), with the Hawks (27-38), Bulls (26-39, Pacers (25-41), Bobcats (24-41) and fading Bucks (23-43) all still in possible playoff contention.
People have suggested a revamped playoff system, and blasted the notion of teams with such poor records in postseason play. I too, was really down on the idea of having these teams in the hunt, until I though about it a bit more. Maybe this year is actually a blessing in disguise.
In the NFL many people are pleased with the increase of parity in the sport. Many cities that were used to being out of it early, get to hold on hope until the last few weeks. Instead of watching your team call it a year and pack up, teams often battle until the very end.
This may be exactly what the NBA needed as well. By this time in the season, most Bobcats fans are paying all their attention to Duke, and UNC, or getting ready for the Panthers draft. This year they still have hope that their young team can get hot, and host its first NBA playoff series since the Hornets left.
The same goes for the Hawks, who never seem to be in any positive NBA conversation. The Sixers were expected to be terrible this year, but are still be discussed on talk radio. The Nets were said to be giving up by trading Kidd, and the Wizards and Pacers with all of their injuries,should have faded completely out of the picture.
But here we are in the middle of March still discussing these teams, and checking the standings to see were your team sits in the hunt. Granted the teams haven't been all that impressive, but they still keep you watching and paying attention. The NBA needs to keep the excitement up, and keep its product in the local newspapers, on talk radio, the Internet, and on the news. That is happening this year, across most of the country.
Besides keeping the NBA conversation at the dinner table and in the media, their may be something else to gain, the experience. This year in the West the surprise team has been the Hornets. Pushing for the playoffs last year prepped this team to be even more competitive this year.
It can do the same for many of these young Eastern Conference teams. The Sixers, Nets, Bobcats, Hawks, Pacers, Bulls, Bucks, and Wizards are playing with a slew of young pieces. Right now they get to see what the pressure involved is in battling every night for your playoff lives.
Coaches aren't packing it, veterans are still giving their all, and GM's haven't gutted their teams. So these young guys get to truly feel what's it like to go after it for 82 games. Three of these teams will get to feel it even longer. Many teams have are creating the depth, mixed with the experience, savvy, and will needed to be an actual good NBA team.
So before we bash the East, or scream for a playoff make over, take a step back and think about the benefits. Your team is still in it (sorry Knicks and Heat fans), the NBA is still a hot topic across the country, and it should get better. They say in sports nothing can replace experience and now many teams and fans are getting theirs. Yes, the East is down, but maybe's that's not all that bad.