With the excitement from this past NBA All-Star Weekend slowly dying down, basketball enthusiasts are excitedly preparing themselves for the second half of the season. As of yet, this year in the NBA has been one to remember. Between teams struggling to find consistency, and the heated on-court altercations, this season could only be seen for what it truly is, “dramatic.” Although true as that may be, this word isn’t used as a form of negativity. On the contrary, the most prominent element of the NBA is similar to a drama, because they have put on a show.
In the crazy and confused world that is the Eastern Conference, normality has become a concept that is rarely witnessed. In the competitive Atlantic Division, a surprisingly good New York Knicks team leads the pack with a 32-18 record. After trading up-and-coming standout Jeremy Lin to the Houston Rockets in the off-season, many people saw this as a step back. Matters only appeared to be worse after power forward Amare Stoudemire injured his knee in the pre-season. Nearly everyone expected the team to fail, except the Knicks. Riding the shoulders and back of small forward Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks have silenced naysayers, and made it clear they’re looking for a run at the title. But along the way, the Central Division leading Indiana Pacers are sure to become an obstacle.
Yes, the Indiana Pacers have a pretty good squad this year. But, considering the Pacers are leading their division and holding a solid third place spot in the conference, “pretty good” might be an understatement. At 32-21, the Pacers have literally come out of thin air and placed themselves in playoff contention. As a team with no household name, or star players, the Pacers weren’t initially given a second thought. But instead, the Pacers have exploited one of the oldest rules in the book: “one star player doesn’t win games.” Through a very balanced offense, the Pacers have branded themselves as a team not to be taken lightly. Surprisingly, the younger players on the team have been much of the heart of this team. Averaging 17.6 points per game and only in his second year, Paul George has set himself on a path for greatness. Also making a statement, starting guard George Hill has averaged 14.7 points a game, ensuring him as the future of this franchise. Perhaps, the scariest thing about this Pacer team is their youth. Only Danny Granger and David West have played more than five years in the league, and scarier still, West “17.2 points per game” hasn’t even reached his tenth year yet. With their team equilibrium and youthful legs, the Indiana Pacers could not only see a playoff entry, but could also become a dominant team in the future.
Like in all dramas, this season has seen much tragedy. The Philadelphia 76ers are prime examples of this. In perhaps, one of the most unbalanced trades in recent years, the 76ers traded Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson in a four-team off-season trade. Unfortunately for the 76ers, they’ve gotten what they asked for. Along with losing their best player in Iguodala, the City of Brotherly Love has, yet to see Bynum set foot on the court for even a minute of play. Not to mention Iguodala’s new team, the Denver Nuggets, love him as an addition to the team and are playing great basketball at 33-21. Great job Philly. You’ve given your best player away to a team who is now a forerunner in the playoff battle. Drowning in the cutthroat Atlantic Division, the Philadelphia 76ers are struggling to stay afloat as they go into the second half of the season at 22-29.
Amongst all the confusion of the Eastern conference, one can find some sanity in knowing that the Miami Heat is still the best team in the east. Will their conference reign continue for the remainder of the regular season? Some believe it is safe to say that it will. But, the dramatic story that is the NBA season is far from over. Few will rise, many will fall, and only one will prove to be the hero of the Eastern conference. So, before any assumptions are made, fans must remember this was only Act One. Act Two of the season has yet to begin.
By Evans Sparks