Preach, Preacher, Preach …….. The NBA Hits Its Stride And Not Much Has Really Changed !
As an ex-pat Brit who has now been residing is the US for now what will be 18 years on 10th August, this year. I’d like to think that I’ve now become acclimatized to the country, its nuances and a great many of its customs , up to a point. I love the passion for the sports but being that as a kid from elementary school on up , I’ve always loved sports. This particular aspect of life wasn’t really anything new to me. Though being being primarily raised by a single mother with two younger siblings. My mom always ingrained into us that it was ‘education first’, last and always above everything else. Somehow, that failed to have sunk in with my sister. As for myself and my brother , we took it upon ourselves not to disappoint our mother. That asides, I’d link to think that each of us have done well for ourselves along the way !
The NBA is now rounding that last corner in the regular season, as the ‘top contenders’ jockey themselves for the positional seedings in the Eastern and Western Conferences of the NBA. Leading the charge in the East are the Cleveland Cavaliers (48-14) . And record wise they have a 6 game advantage over their closest rival within the conference . The Orlando Magic (42-20) of the Southeast Division lead the third placed Atlanta Hawks (39-21) by 2 games within the division and conference standings. That asides , it gives you something of an overall indication that of the eight teams from each conference that garners a berth for postseason play. Within the Eastern Conference at present seven of the eight teams have an above 0.500 record. And of those 7, two of them are barely over that 0.500 mark. What this says about the state of play within the conference, I’ll leave that up to you, to decide ! But it is clear, that when measured against their Western counterparts , the state and quality of play isn’t on par.
In the Western Conference it’s all about who has the presence to chase down the Los Angeles Lakers (46-15) for the ‘top seed’ in the conference ? Sitting pretty atop of the heap and with a handy 5 1/2 game lead over their closest rivals, the Dallas Mavericks (41-21) . And as good as this Phil Jackson coached team has been playing. I think that everyone feels that there’s still some room for improvement by them overall. I’d mentioned to one of my colleagues within this domain and over at his site , that as good on paper and performance as the Mavericks might appear to be at present. I fully expect them to resort back to their customary selves and just essentially , ‘swoon in June’ ! chappy 81 can you hear me baby ? I repeat again, the Mavs will swoon in June ! Teams that can play in the postseason have to be first and foremost , mentally and physically tough ! And nowhere have I heard any so called supporter of this team actually emphasize that ! Instead all they seem to come up with is the regular season record that has been posted by the Mavericks thus far. And let’s not get into the fact of their lone appearance in an NBA Finals ! They were completely over-matched and outplayed by the Miami Heat duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Dywane Wade in a 4-2 NBA Finals’ series romp. It wasn’t even that close to begin with ! And I’m to expect that four years later , that they’ve improved enough to even usurp the Lakers and then go on to defeat whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference ? There’s more chance of Sarah Palin winning the Republican Party nomination for the Presidential candidate in 2012 , than seeing the Mavericks entertain the idea of making an appearance in the NBA Finals once again ! Finals’ MVP Wade showed why it was, he was so highly sought after by then Heat coach, Pat Riley out of Marquette.
Now the rigors of an arduous NBA season should tell us that the game and season is just as exacting mentally as it is physically. And for the teams who possess the might to win, first and foremost they have to have the frame and mindset to undertake such a task. If you’re found wanting, then that will be your downfall ! .
In the conference standings all eight teams in the West are above 0.500 . And even the ninth placed team , the Memphis Grizzlies (31-30) though some 4 1/2 games behind the Portland Trailblazers (37-27) shows us the sort of disparity there is in the level of play and competitiveness that there is in comparison between the conferences of the NBA. Though one could allude to the fact that in the Eastern Conference there’s a preponderance to play more defense ? That’s not to say that the same isn’t being done in the Western Conference. What we may well have, is a higher standard of play and far more competitive teams. Never-mind the fact that the quality coaching and coaches may well be a hell of a lot better in the Western Conference than it is in the East !
At present there have proven to be two teams , one in either conference that has surprised me in terms of their play. In the West it has been the charge of the Oklahoma City Thunder led by the charge of their ‘formidable duo’ of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook . Coached by Scott Brooks , the sixth placed seeds in the Western Conference currently have a 36-24 record within the Northwest Division of the Western Conference. They currently sit in third place within the division behind the division leading Denver Nuggets (40-21) . This young team may well remind everyone last year’s Trailblazers , in terms of their zeal and play throughout much of the season. And were it not for the play at present of Carmelo Anthony , Kobe Bryant and LeBron James , I’d dare say that most people would not be at all surprised if Durant ended up being the regular season league MVP. He has proven to be that much of an integral part of the Thunder’s success this season. That were it not for him, then quite possibly the team wouldn’t be in the position that they’re in at the moment. Quite literally, they’re on the cusp of obtaining a playoff berth and making their first appearance in the postseason. And it’s something that their fans and ownership are no doubt quite appreciative of and excited about. As to what this will preclude to for the remainder of the season, we’ll just have to wait and see.
In the Eastern Conference the belief was the top contenders would be the Cleveland Cavaliers , Boston Celtics (38-21) and Orlando Magic. Well as always, someone forget to send the script to someone who wasn’t suppose to gate crash the party. In this case the recipients have been the Atlanta Hawks. They’ve played themselves into contention and are no doubt proving to be something of a worrying factor in an equation that wasn’t considered by Mike Brown , Doc Rivers or Stan Van Gundy . And for Hawks’ coach Mike Woodson , this may well be the best coaching performance of his career. He has guided this team with a great deal of verve and they’ve all bought into his chain of thought as to what it takes to attain success. And it has become something that has resonated with the Hawks’ fans at the Philips’ Arena in Atlanta , the team’s home venue.
And with that success in terms of the team’s form there has been the recognition for some of the unsung heroes on this team. All Star , Joe Johnson , teammates Josh Smith , Jamal Crawford , Mike Bibby and Al Horford have all played a part in the team’s success this season. And you’d be hard pressed to think that they won’t press ahead under the misapprehension that they’re there just to make up the numbers. They’re out to shock the supposed contenders who presumably everyone felt would be sitting atop of the pile. And nothing spells upset more, than seeing one of the ‘big-wigs’ taken down by one of the presumed lesser lights within the conference. And there’s a great deal to suggest that the Hawks are the team that will not only quite possibly surprise the likes of the Cavs , Celtics and Magic . But who’s to say that they’re not capable beating ‘either’ of the three in a playoff series ? Stranger things have happened over the course of a postseason series and will continue to do so in the NBA. That’s what makes the NBA postseason all the more intriguing.
Alan Parkins aka tophatal ………
DMX of Ruff Ryders’ fame gives you ….. ‘Slippin’. Pity he couldn’t keep himself level headed , instead the wheels fell of his particular bike ! This can also be a pointer to the teams on the outside looking in as to what needs to be done if they aspire to claim a playoff berth.
More from DMX …..’Ruff Ryders’ Anthem’