No fuss, no sweat, no tears , no problem …
Having almost reached the midway point of the NBA season , the divisions are now becoming a little more competitive on the whole. Needless to say, that the defending NBA champions the Miami Heat , in spite of a few hiccups along the way are plodding along nicely . Albeit, that there now seems to be doubts as to whether or not the current roster has the resiliency of the team that won he title last season in defeating the San Antonio Spurs .
A two-game losing streak for the Heat , and the doubters have already began to question the mindset of Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff . Those losses to the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets on successive nights in New York City and Brooklyn , may well have had the victorious fans of the teams in question now licking their lips , with thoughts of being capable of taking down the champions in a playoff series this season. For the moment, let’s not think too far ahead , for what is in all honesty an arduous and grueling eighty-two game schedule for each of the NBA’s thirty teams . While LeBron James remains the “heart” and ” soul” of this Miami Heat ensemble , then the team itself , will remain the best in the NBA , in spite of their current record (27-10) , standing within the conference and league .
The first of those two back-to-back defeats , came against the New York Knicks came last Thursday night at Madison Square Garden , New York City , New York , in front of a raucous Knicks’ crowd . Miami was subjected to a ten-point loss in a 102-92 defeat . James led all scorers with 32 points , six assists and five rebounds, but this teammates’ productivity in this contest can be best described as being sub-par. Carmelo Anthony for his part, has repeatedly shown why all season long, the Knicks would be an anemic force , were he not on this roster . He sets rhythm for the team and if they are not on the same page , it becomes the matter of another poor performance from the Knicks. It would now appear, that after an anemic start to the their season , New York is now finally on a roll. Next up for the Knicks, will be a game against the high-flying Indiana Pacers (30-7) , currently the best team in the Eastern Conference record-wise.
That second loss by Miami , may well have come out of the blue , as the Brooklyn Nets have been just as erratic as their divisional counterparts the New York Knicks. Consider the fact , that in the aftermath of the victory , Jason Kidd and his players headed up to the Air Canada Center (Rogers Center) in Toronto , to be hammered in a sixteen-point 96-80 defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors . Anyone under the impression that Kidd as a rookie coach has the Nets heading in the right direction , really has to rethink that mindset .
Erik Spoelstra has now become his own man , as a head coach , having no longer to look over his shoulder to see if his mentor Pat Riley still observes his every move . Back to back NBA titles , as the team now chases a third championship , now gives the head coach a great deal of security in terms of his position within the organization and its structure . Riley as the team President and a minority stakeholder in the franchise , has seen the Heat’s value rise , along with their revenues and profitability over the past five seasons. With that in mind , as the league’s most popular and visible team , the executive knows that any disruption, in that all too high-profile , knocks off the All Star image that organization has successfully portrayed. The team once seen as the ” Big Three “ ” has now become an All Star quartet with the addition of Ray Allen , who became an instant hero . with his postseason heroics in last season’s NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Suffice to say, that NBA’s best three-point shooter in league history , will be looking to further cement his legacy during the season .
Miami in light of the losses in question , will get the chance to rebound, when they face the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center in Washington , DC on Wednesday evening . The Wizards led by John Wall , will be seeking to make light of a series between these two teams, that has favored the defending NBA champions over the years.
Someone will have to convince me, that the brand of basketball now played in the Eastern Conference is actually conducive to the health of the NBA fan. David Stern , continually seeks to sing the praises of this league , but year in and year out , the NBA brand has become more about individualistic achievement , rather than of team achievement and success. The NBA title may well have been won by a team. In reality however, the fans relished the exploits of LeBron James as the Finals’ MVP , more than they remembered what was achieved by the Heat as a team or namely members of the team’s roster and how each fared during the series. Much of what has been exhibited within the conference and the very fact that only four teams possess a record above . 500, has to be seen as a blight to the NBA , rather than being viewed as a positive.
Team scoring is up , but at the same time, the defensive strategy of the teams are on the wane . So much so, that highlight reel dunks have become the cannon fodder for the league to entertain the fans in attendance and those watching by way of the broadcast or cable networks .
The Los Angeles Lakers , alongside the Boston Celtics , are by far in a way the two most successful franchises in NBA history . These two teams have combined for more than half the NBA titles won. Finals showcasing , the two celebrated and revered teams have produced some of the most memorable highlights in league history. Halcyon days of Magic Johnson , Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy , as they gazed across court to match wits with Larry Bird , . Kevin McHale and Robert Parish , has now become a thing of the past. And the last postseason match-up, in an NBA Finals’ series, now seems a distant memory. That last occurrence took place during took place in 2010, when the Lakers led by Kobe Bryant prevailed in a thrilling 4-3 series’ win .
Both the Celtics and Lakers are in a season of transition, Boston in particular , with a new coaching staff headed by rookie head coach Brad Stevens and a revamped roster under the leadership of point guard Rajon Rondo . Rondo has yet to be on court this season , still recovering from an injury sustained last season . In his absence, those leadership responsibilities have fallen squarely on the shoulders of Jeff Green and Avery Bradley . Yet, it has been all-round contribution from just about every player on the Celtics’ roster, which has seen the team post a 13-26 record within the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference . That mark places the franchise out of a playoff berth, that sees them lying in the twelfth spot of the conference, 1 ½ games behind the eighth seeded Charlotte Bobcats (16-23). Coming off a /. twelve point loss to the Houston Rockets on Monday night , the team will play host to the Toronto Raptors at the TD Banknorth Center in Boston Massachusetts, on Wednesday night. A victory would serve this young team well and set them in a positive direction, while Brad Stevens seeks to find a footing in this league , among his more experienced and noted peers.
The Celtics’ most recent visit to the NBA Finals came in 2008 and there , once again the opponent cross-court were their perennial adversaries the Los Angeles Lakers . It was left to Paul Pierce , teammates Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to provide the franchise with their most recent title , Boston’s seventeenth overall , leading their closest rival the Lakers whose tally of sixteen remains second all-time .
It is pretty much safe to say, that a struggling Los Angeles Lakers’ team is not good for the NBA. Likewise, the same is also applicable to the New York Knicks, as two of the league’s most recognized teams. Mike D’Antoni , is still under the gun, as he seeks to find a group of players that can execute the strategies he believes they are capable of putting into place. . A record of 14-24 , at this point of the season , and I believe that this team can be now left for dead ! A seven-point loss last night to the Phoenix Suns , pretty much sums up one of the numerous reasons why the franchise is in a maelstrom of inconsistency beyond the continued idiocy of that the front office led by Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak are seeking to bolster the roster by acquiring a marquee free agent during the off-season. Hopes of acquiring either LeBron James , Carmelo Anthony , two players who can choose to opt out of their existing contracts do appear to be a pipe-dream. Yet needless to say , in Los Angeles and its close proximity to Hollywood , leads me to believe that the Lakers’ fans and the front office executives are just dreamers, seeking to weave their own pieces of fiction in order to create their own personal “Utopia” . A lack in developing talent by way of their drafts over the past eight years have essentially shown why the franchise is now in period of transition and inconsistency . Never mind, the very fact that D’Antoni struggles to get the best out of his players from a defensive standpoint.
The Los Angeles Lakers next scheduled game will be on Friday night, when they are the guests of the Boston Celtics. In a regular season series , that now sets a new chapter in motion, the changes in their respective environments and of the rosters in question.
They may not be the runaway trains , but the consistency now being shown by both the Portland Trailblazers coached by Terry Stotts and as always , the perennial contenders within the Western Conference , the San Antonio Spurs , leads me to believe that based on current form, both of these teams will be part of the postseason foray ! Spurs’ head coach , Gregg Popovich remains the best coach in the NBA, albeit , that Miami Heat fans will believe that Erik Spoelstra has become his equal , because of his body of work over the past three seasons. Valid as that point may well be , until Spoelstra takes his team to twelve consecutive postseason appearances , the debate becomes moot.
With both the Spurs and Trailblazers on a considerable role within their divisions and the Western Conference , it remains to be seen whether or not any other contender is likely to step up and make that race within the West more entertaining and actually suspenseful. Granted, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are back to the their very best , while guiding the Oklahoma City Thunder(28-10) to one of the best records in the conference and league. Scott Brooks and his players , are on a mission to simply erase the aberration of last postseason . And while the talk may well be about the rise of the Los Angeles Clippers (27-13) , let us analyze that team’s current situation under their head coach Doc Rivers , who took over after the abrupt firing of Vinny Del Negro .
As good as the Clippers appear to be , it is highly debatable, as to their likelihood of taking down the Spurs or Thunder in a seven-game postseason series , with their being n a great deal on the line. Teething problems remain for an experienced roster that is still finding its way , even with the coaching acumen of Doc Rivers and the playing experience of Chris Paul. Exuberance and a great deal of overconfidence remains one of a number of flaws on the team alongside being unable to commit themselves to playing defense as and when needed.
The Clippers coming off a high scoring two- point victory over the Dallas Mavericks , they will now take their game on the road to face the New York Knicks on Friday night in Madison Square Garden . Having signed veteran guard, Hedo Turkoglu , it will be interesting to see how the team acquits itself against their Eastern Conference opponent. San Antonio and the Portland Trailblazers for their part, will parlay their prominence into a anticipated and eagerly awaited contest when the two meet at the AT&T Center in San Antonio , Texas on the 17th January, 2014. A precursor, to the conference finals perhaps or just a another regular season game on the calendar? Well, that remains to be seen, but one way or another, it should be a good enough guide in telling us what we are likely to see from both teams over the remainder of the season.
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The NBA continues to march to the beat of its very own drum and with David Stern due to step down after a close to a three-decade tenure as the league’s commissioner. His heir-apparent Adam Silver will now have the unenviable task of taking on the next phase of the league’s evolution , while trying to remain relevant amongst its existing fan-base and seeking to increase the game’s popularity on a global scale . Stern has brought to the NBA brand into greater prominence, than one could ever have imagined, from the days when a televised game was something of a novelty. Today, those broadcasts, have become a sports’ staple, along with a growing number of former players parlaying their ex-careers into a highly respectable second vocation, as a NBA broadcast analyst . As to what, may well now be expected be over the remainder of the schedule could be very well be summed up the level of the play seen over the first half the season.
Picture and slideshow details below .
(1) Greg Oden (20) of the Miami Heat dunks the ball during a game played against the Washington Wizards played at the Verizon Center in Washington , DC. Miami lost the contest and their third consecutive road game on their schedule . John Wall of the Wizards and LeBron James of the Heat led all scorers in the contest played on the 15th January, 2014 . Getty Images / Rob Carr ……
(3) LeBron James of the Miami Heat looks up at the scoreboard during the first half of the game between the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat. A third consecutive road loss seems to have created some amongst Heat fans . Yet the team still remains atop of their division as well as having the second best record in the Eastern Conference . Getty Images /Rob Carr ….
(4) Paul Pierce of the Brooklyn Nets goes up for the offensive play during a game played against the Toronto Raptors this past Saturday at the Air Canada Center in Toronto , Canada,. The visiting team would end up on the wrong side of sixteen-point 96-80 loss to their hosts . AP Photo/The Canadian Press/ Chris Young ….
(5) NBA Commissioner David Stern is seen here alongside Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver during a press conference convened prior to last season’s NBA Finals . Stern made the announcement that he would be stepping down in his role, with Silver succeeding him as the new NBA Commissioner, as of the 15th February 2014,. AP Photo/ Josh Rogers …
(6) Jodie Meeks (20) of the Los Angeles Lakers makes an offensive play over the Suns’ Gerald Green during an NBA game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night . The Suns defeated the Lakers in that contest. Subsequently , former Lakers’ great Magic Johnson was openly critical of the coaching staff , GM Mitch Kupchak , but in particular of team owner Jim Buss , and the lack of direction of the franchise. AP Photo/ Ross D Franklin …..
(7) Portland Trailblazers’ point guard Damian Lillard is seen here alongside head coach Terry Stotts , court-side, as they discuss an upcoming play. The Trailblazers have been one of the surprise teams in the NBA this season , showing a great deal of consistency as the schedule approaches its midpoint . Portland will be the guests of the San Antonio Spurs when the top two teams within the Western Conference meet at the AT&T Center on Friday evening . Matthew Arnold /UPI …
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