What a horrible stretch we’re in right now. All the networks and talk radio guys want to talk about is fucking Roger Clemens. They’re spending hours and hours talking about the guy and his hearings, and while its obvious to anyone with a working human brain that Clemens is lying, the chances of it being proved–ever–are slim. So why are we wasting so much time on it? Probably because there is nothing else to talk about. At least thats what I thought until I realized something.
The NBA’s Western Conference is off to a historic start.
I knew the West was good. But after analyzing the standings, I realize we might be looking at the best conference playoffs in league history later this year. As of today, the top ten teams in the conference are as follows:
New Orleans (36-15)
LA Lakers (35-17)
San Antonio (34-17)
Golden State (32-20)
Amazing, right? How about the first-round matchups, if the season ended today: New Orleans against Houston; Phoenix against Golden State (maybe the highest scoring 7-game series in league history); Dallas against San Antonio (a matchup of two heated rivals which has been reserved for the conference finals in the past); Utah against the Lakers. Denver and Portland would find themselves out of the playoffs–meanwhile, the Nuggets would be the 3 seed in the East right now, while the Blazers would be the 6.
But there’s more ridiculousness in these standings. Phoenix is 15-14 against the West, and 21-2 against the East. (Maybe that’s why Steve Kerr made the trade for Shaq; he knew the Suns, as previously constructed, weren’t going to make it out of the West. So he took a shot). A grand total of 4.5 games seperate the top team and the 9 seed. That means if everything keeps playing out as is, its possible that a team could fall from the top seed in the West to a lottery team with one or two bad weeks. Oh, and check this out: of the top nine teams in the West, all have winning records in their last ten games. All of them. Meaning everyone is playing well right now. Finally, I just love this stat–the Denver Nuggets are currently on a 50-32 pace……and won’t make the playoffs. Its possible, although not likely, that a 50-win team would miss the playoffs and then get a lottery pick!!!! This is insane.
Then you have the off the court competition going on. The Lakers trade for Pau Gasol. The Suns grab Shaq. Now, the Mavs are close to trading for Jason Kidd. Meanwhile, the Spurs will get Tony Parker back in the second half and are the defending champs, so they can be counted on to make a run.
There are other great storylines. Can the suprising Hornets, led by MVP candidate Chris Paul, hang on to a playoff spot, let alone the top seed in the conference? At least one of the following teams won’t make the postseason–Golden State, Houston, and Denver. If that team at least comes close to its current pace, wouldn’t it be the best NBA team ever to miss the playoffs?
Then you have the MVP race. Paul is averaging 20.5 ppg, 10.9 apg, 2.6 spg and only 2.7 turnovers. He has a 11 to 2 assist to turnover ratio. What? Then you have King James. LeBron is having a Michael Jordan-ish year, averaging 30.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.3 apg, and 2.1 spg to go along with 1.1 blocks. Look at those numbers–thats just silly. But how can you completely count out Kobe Bryant? Kobe has led a surprising Lakers team to within a game of the conference lead. He’s averaging 28 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.3 apg, and 1.9 steals while playing first team all defense. Kevin Garnett (19.2 ppg, 9.9 rpg) had transformed the Celtics from a perennial lottery team to the best record in the league before missing an extended amount of time to an abdominal strain. Deron Williams (19.1 ppg, 9.7 apg), Dirk Nowitzki (22.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg), Yao Ming (22.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg), Dwight Howard (21.7 ppg, 14.6 rpg, 2.4 bpg), and Steve Nash (17.3 ppg, 11.7 apg) are also having unbelievable years, and only Howard has even an outside chance to win the award if voting was held today.
So, I guess my long, belated point is…….I know this time of year is brutal for those of us who love football and baseball. From the Super Bowl until March Madness, there isn’t a ton to watch, especially when the Bulls are an abortion. My advice–watch some Western Conference basketball. There hasn’t been a collection of stars and great teams in one conference in league history. The playoffs are going to be something.