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The first half of the NBA season which almost never happened was a roller coaster with ups and downs across the board. From Linsanity to sub-70 point outings with plenty in between, the lockout-shortened season has been eventful to say the least.
Lockout Basketball Rearing Its Ugly Head-While a condensed 66-game season is better than no season, it certainly comes with its duds. It’s grueling enough for teams to play back-to-backs or 4 games in 5 nights, but how about a back-to-back-to-back stretch or 6 games in 8 days? The likely result?
Really. Bad. Basketball.
The most glaring example? The Orlando Magic had a stretch from January 23-January 30 in which they played six games, losing five of them. In three of those losses, they scored below 70 points, including an impressive 56 against the Boston Celtics January 23.
Dwight-A-Palooza-Speaking of the Magic, we have an unusual development, you know, the one where the star player has trade rumors following them around like flies in a dumpster, and instead of diffusing the media frenzy that results from this, the player does everything but.
You know, the development that’s becoming a troubling trend in the league.
Dwight Howard is the latest superstar to “reportedly” want out of his longtime basketball home in hopes of landing a better championship support group. Despite recent claims in which he professes his love for Orlando and desire to bring a championship to Orlando, he has kept his options open and left the extension offered to him on the table. The one that would keep him in Orlando and put an end to the daily discussion of where Howard will play next.
Despite the distraction, Orlando is sitting third in the east, with the fifth-best record in the NBA. Note to Howard: you want to have a say in player personnel and management to put a better support group around you, but there’s one problem with that:
No one will bother looking at Orlando while you continue to waffle.
Why would anyone take a look at your team when you have not made any indication as to whether you will stay or go?
Early Favorites Riding High-Two popular favorites, my NBA finals prediction, Chicago and Oklahoma City, have stormed off to the top records in their conferences. As expected, both teams have taken advantage of the rest of their league thanks to youth and familiarity (again, lockout left teams with high turnover little time to mesh with one another). Derrick Rose has continued where he left off last season while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have become an even more formidable 1-2 punch.
Heat Index Remains High-Last season’s most popular headline has taken a backseat of late to New York’s finest Air Dumplin, the Miami Heat have come out with a vengeance, having won 16 of their last 18 games, the last 8 by 12 points or more. LeBron James, whether by his own doing or simply not as appealing by the media (although he recently didn’t rule out a return to Cleveland), has avoided scrutiny for the most part. Maybe it’s because LeBron doesn’t have anything to prove until playoff time, because James is currently performing at a historic rate according to his player efficiently rating. Questions remain regarding depth and interior presence, but Miami looks poised to make a deep playoff run.
New York KnickerLins-A record of 17-18 at the break is nothing to be too excited about, but Jeremy Lin’s arrival has turned around a once-feared lost season. Prior to the linplosion, New York was sitting at 8-15 and critics swarming around Carmelo Anthony’s field goal attempts. Anthony went down with injury, Head Coach Mike D’Antoni figured he had nothing else to resort to. That dark cloud you see looming around the Knicks in the distance, that’s Isiah Thomas, and Knick fans get chills at the mere thought of him. So D’Antoni throws in Lin, the undrafted player out of Harvard just looking for playing time and the rest is history. Nearly three weeks later, Lin has become a phenomena. It’s a true underdog story that Knick fans are willing to cling to, but expectations should be held in check. Lin has played out of his mind, a rate which even the elite would be hard-pressed to produce consistently. Lin has solidified himself as a player worthy of a NBA roster with his overall skill-set. What has impressed many is his pure point guard play and ability to consistently make the smart play, getting others involved. That being said, Lin needs to sustain this level of play or at least something close in order to be a viable starting point guard for years to come instead of being a quality backup for 20 minutes a game. The turnovers also need to be fixed, as good as Lin has been setting up teammates, he has averaged almost 7 turnovers a game.