It has been a fantastic first half to this NBA season and you can feel that buzz starting to creep in as the All-Star break approaches. Critics have moved on from their hatred of the NBA and young stars and feel-good stories are taking over. As a basketball fan, you cannot help but love what you are seeing and will most likely continue to see in the second half and on into the playoffs.
We’re giving you our top 5 story lines of the first half of the season. Tell us what you think!
5. The Knicks.
One of the most historic franchises in all of sports has turned into a complete joke. The New York Knicks have us all shaking our heads in disgust, but also laughing in shock. The downfall of the Knicks began last year with the contract extension of Isiah Thomas as coach when he had his team in position to possibly make the playoffs. James Dolan forgot however, that the season is longer than 40 games and of course the Knicks weren’t close to a playoff bid as the season wound down.
The off-season gave us some great insight as to how much of an idiot Isiah Thomas truly is. We listened in to the updates of the Anucha Brown-Sanders trial and the eventual embarrassment sustained by the Knicks once the juicy details slipped on out. We realized how crazy Stephon Marbury is through his whack-o interviews and love of limousine sex. We envisioned the termination of Thomas, but then decided that was never going to happen and that he most likely has some great blackmail material on James Dolan.
This season was exactly what we expected and possibly even a little worse. The Knicks of course are pathetic, but their actual basketball play has not been the focus of NBA writers and fans. The front office has had the spotlight and will continue to get it as long as Dolan and Thomas are running this team. There have been rumors of Thomas denying trades and getting into personal verbal battles nightly with players. He’s insisted that he will “never, ever” quit and is the only person alive that can fix this team.
It is a tragedy, but I can’t help but smile a little. Isiah Thomas has been hated throughout the NBA for years and it pleases me to finally have it all come out. Anyone remember the Dream Teams? Ever wonder why Thomas was never a part of any of them? You can bet the Knicks drama will only get worse as the season continues, and man can I not wait!
4. Too Many Injuries.
Each year we deal with significant injuries to some of our favorite players, but this year we’ve dealt with it in waves! Top notch All-Stars have been dropping like flies and many of them started the year on the bench in street clothes and have yet to set foot on a basketball floor.
Gilbert Arenas had off-season knee surgery and was supposed to be ready to play by the beginning of the year. Well, he started the season, played 8 games, had another knee surgery and was within the last couple of days cleared to begin shooting again. You could tell from the get-go that Arenas was not at 100% and soon began to see swelling in the surgically repaired knee. After multiple opinions, Agent Zero shut it down and has been rehabbing since. Lucky for the Wizards, they have been on fire!
Dwyane Wade came into the year after having off-season knee and shoulder surgeries. He was also not ready to come back as soon as everyone had hoped and actually missed the first 7 games of the year. Once Wade had returned, you could see the tentativeness in his game. Major shoulder and knee surgery is never something to take lightly and Wade probably could have used another couple of months to get fully healed. The Heat have been horrific this year and much can be attributed to their not-so-healthy star. Wade has looked close to normal in that last week or so, but unfortunate for him, this season is long gone.
Elton Brand tore his achilles tendon in the off-season and has yet to return. A MAJOR injury and who knows when he is likely to see minutes on the hardwood again. The Clippers have felt this blow more than just about anyone. Brand was coming off 2 MVP caliber seasons only to be halted by this nasty little tendon. He’s been in street clothes all year and will be examined again at the end of January to decide whether or not he can make his comeback.
Greg Oden, the #1 draft pick in 2007, came to Portland to celebrate, was named the “Savior,” played a couple of summer league games, and then had micro-fracture surgery. We’ll never know what the rookie year for Oden could have been like, but we do know the Blazers will be quite the force once he returns. The Blazers have surprised everyone this season, and can only look to the sky once GO returns.
The list goes on and on and includes the likes of Tracy McGrady, Shaq, Andrew Bynum and Mike Bibby. At least we’ve had some great basketball to watch, but these injuries need to stop!
3. The Disappointments.
There have been some great stories so far, but we have also had some huge disappointments through half of the season. Teams came into the season with high expectations not only from themselves but from the rest of us as well.
The Miami Heat, only a year removed from winning an NBA Championship have lost a staggering 14 games in a row! Shaquille O’Neal has been injured on and off, Zo tore a couple tendons in his knee, and Dwyane Wade has been at 80% almost all year. They made off-season moves that only Isiah Thomas could understand and they have reached the gutter of the Eastern Conference. At the half way mark, the Miami Heat have locked themselves out of the playoffs unless they win 40 of their last 41 games. I’m not sure how this can be fixed.
The Houston Rockets should be a title contender every year with their current roster. They hired a new coach, brought in a couple of key contributors and actually started the season off hot! That quickly ended, T-Mac hurt his knee and elbow and they have been sliding all over the board during the last couple of months. They rank 4th in their own division which is probably the toughest division in all of basketball and won’t be easing up anytime soon. Unless T-Mac comes back strong, quits demanding trades to his friends and somehow fits in to their new style of play, this team will find themselves watching the NBA Playoffs on TV.
The Chicago Bulls are a freakin’ mess! This team rolled over the Heat in last year’s playoffs and got bounced in the next round by a much more mature Detroit Pistons team. The future was looking so bright and the Chicago stars were beginning to align; wow were we all fooled. The Bulls have to be considered the biggest disappointment of the year with as much talent and youth as they have. Through the first half the of the season, the Bulls have fired a coach, teamed up on rookie Joakim Noah, and fought off Kobe, Deng, and Nocioni trade rumors without success. This thing is unlikely to turn around, and that’s fine with the rest of the league.
2. The Surprises!
We’ve had our share of disappointments, but let’s not let those bring us down! We have seen some incredible basketball from some unlikely places and have enjoyed the hell out of it!
How about them Blazers! The Portland Trail Blazers have to be considered the story of the year up
to this point. The Blazers grab the #1 draft pick, take Mr. Oden and lose him to season ending micro-fracture surgery before the season ever begins. The season had been written off, and the Blazers were picked to rack up 30 wins, maybe? Well that just hasn’t been the case now has it? After managing just 32 wins all of last year, Portland finds itself atop the Pacific Division with an incredible 25 wins. They ran off 13 straight at one point and have practically locked in the coach of the year honors for Nate McMillan. We’ve seen the emergence of Brandon Roy as not only this team’s leader, but as a foreseeable MVP candidate. Keep it up boys!
The Blazers story has been great, but the other incredible surprise has to be the New Orleans Hornets! At 28-12 on the season, they find themselves only a half game behind the Suns for the top spot in the West. Chris Paul should be in your top 3 for MVP choices and you can put Byron Scott right next to McMillan for coach of the year. The Blazers and Hornets have a ton of young talent and should continue to grow as the year goes on, look for them both to make splashes come playoff time.
Dwight Howard, what a beast! This kid grew up SO fast and has dominated game after game! His points are up, his rebounds are up, his blocks are up and the Magic have found themselves in first place in the South East division. He has to be considered a top 5 or 6 candidate for MVP and has completely revitalized the center position. You thought centers were on the outs? Not so fast says Mr. Howard.
1. The Boston Celtics are back. Just what the NBA ordered! You can give most of the credit to the Boston Celtics for the NBA’s success this year. When Boston is horrible, the NBA tends to be horrible. The media in the east drives everything and with Boston back, so are the writers and so is professional basketball. With 2 major moves in the off-season, the Celtics saw immediate success. Many questioned whether or not 3 giant superstars could play together, and that question was answered from game one.
Boston has the best record in the league at 33-6 and should cruise through the east on their way to a #1 seed come playoff time. They shouldn’t find a challenge from many teams aside from the Pistons and will likely find themselves playing for that NBA Championship. If there was a team out east that could challenge the west, you found it with the Boston Celtics.
Man it feels good to be an NBA fan again!