What We Knew About the NBA’s 2nd Half

We asked some friends a few days back to send us their thoughts on the NBA’s 2nd half.

We’ll check back in after a while to see how wrong/right we were, and what we learned in the meantime.

sportschump.net/
sportschump.net/

Stephen Clifford

Russell Westbrook comes back to our lives on 02/20/14.

One word: TERROR

More words:

He’s like Lance Stephenson if Lance were one of the 10 best players in the league.

He’s like a cross between Derrick Rose’s speed, beast mode, a stick of dynamite, and JR Smith’s soulless shooting.

Fuck Kevin Durant.  Russ has known for years he’s the more talented of the two and the team only goes as he goes.

I sort of wish (in the sort of way you wish for something that you wish would NEVER happen) that KD had gotten hurt and missed something like 20 games just so we could see what would happen with Russ at the wheel. Am I the only one that can envision a 20 game win streak?

He’s swagger incarnate.  He’s like a permanently rabid dog that just got let loose on the NBA.  I fear for the Western Conference, nay, the world with him back.

Goddamn, got myself hyped.

basketwallpapers.com
basketwallpapers.com
Christian Edwards

I thought about writing on LeBron’s run as the best, KD’s transformation into a pseudo-Nadal, John Wall’s Olympic squad snub and/or my growing love for Joakim Noah.

Then this came out, and now all I can think about is Tim Duncan aka The Big Fundamental aka The Most Underrated Player in Any Sport Ever aka The Best NBA Player Whose Entire Career I Can Remember.

Hit me pretty hard.

The following narrative is played out, but fuck it.

In the modern sports era we have so few examples of guys who spend their entire career with one team.  So few “faces of the franchise”, whole lot more “went and got paid”/”left to chase a ring”.

Three come to mind when I think of the above. They go by one name, pseudonymous with competitiveness, sportsmanship, and the completely irrational but terribly important trait of “playing the game the right way.”

They’re the basketball, baseball, and football players that I will immediately think of when I consider my teenage years and early 20s.

Brady.
Jeter.
Duncan.

All champions. All conssumate teammates. All world class competitors.

If this is Duncan’s last year (a big if considering how well he’s playing) does he get the walkoff championship he was able to give David Robinson?

Doubtful. Just not in the cards. Not in this Western Conference. Not with the injuries.

But that’s okay. Duncan’s got his. History will look fondly on his career.

All I hope is that, whenever it comes, he gets the ending that he deserves.  An ending that isn’t full of standing ovations, midgame tributes or elaborate gifts.  A quiet, undercover ending that underscores a magnificent career.

huffpost.com
huffpost.com
David Magruder

The Heat are going to push for the #1 seed, and they will get it. Per the following, this probably seems counter intuitive:

  1. The Miami Heat lost 16 games last year. This year, they dropped 14 before the All-Star break, and only a few of the 14 were “quality” losses.
  2. Their second best player missed more games in the first half of the season (15) than he did all of last season (13) and it’s no secret that dude’s knees are crumbling like a Nature Valley granola bar that spent all of first semester in the bottom of a middle school student’s backpack.
  3. Their glue dudes might be done.  Shane Battier’s age is showing (albeit, gracefully); and Ray Allen is shooting abysmal percentages all over the floor.

All that…and the defending champions sit only 2 games behind the dangerously hot Pacers (and that 2-game gap might be even tighter by the time you’re reading this).

Again, the Heat will grab the 1-seed by the season’s end.  Why?  Because the only way they can three-peat is by having home court advantage throughout the East.  Having a first round bye, aka the 1-seed in the East, will allow the Heat to rest Dwayne Wade FOR THE ENTIRE FIRST ROUND.

Hell, they could probably rest LeBron if they really wanted to.

The Heat have been tired.  Three straight trips to the Finals while everyone else was home resting certainly put them at a disadvantage coming into this season.  Riley knew that.  So did Spoelstra, and he has coached accordingly.  It almost seems as if the management used the first half of the season as somewhat of a heat-check (get it?) to survey where the rest of the East (more specifically the Pacers and Knicks) would be.

Well, the survey is over.  They’ve found themselves breathing down the Pacers’ neck and have both the motive and opportunity to make a run for the #1 seed down the stretch.

We’ve all been salivating over the prospect of another Heat-Pacers Game 7.  Should this Game 7 rematch happen (it probably will), no one in the Heat camp wants to play in Indianapolis.  The only way to ensure that is by getting the #1 seed.

fansided.com
fansided.com
Brendan Newland

Wizard (Formerly Known as Bullet) Points

  • Two good teams are going to be left out of the dance in the West. Likely Memphis and Phoenix.
  • A major injury will change the landscape of the whole thing.
  • Teams with great depth but questionable starting lineups (Clips, Dallas, New York) will have trouble in the playoffs, as shorter rotations nullify their depth advantage.
  • If Tony Parker is out for an extended period, Kawhi Leonard will establish himself as the future face of the San Antonio Spurs.
  • The Nets will finish as the 3-seed in the weak Eastern Conference and give King James and Miami all they can handle in Round 2.
  • Durant and/or Curry will go off for 50 in a playoff game.

Bonus Dubs Predictions

  • Klay Thompson’s shooting slump continues through the season and he is not awarded a new contract by the Warriors, who will let him play out his rookie deal.
  • Andre Igoudala continues to regress and makes last season’s signing seem like huge overpay.
  • Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry will further establish themselves as top-3 players at their position.
  • The Dubs sneak into the playoffs as a 7-seed with a 48-34 record, and lose in the first round to their playoff nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs. (But if they get the Blazers, round 2 here we come!)

#godubs

 

huffpost.com
huffpost.com
Denny Gallagher

The 76ers will be the worst team of the 2nd half. Granted, they were supposed to be one of the three worst teams of the season, but since their 3-0 start, they’ve basically given up, going 10-36 and riding a 9 game losing streak. They are what we thought they were!

Staying with the Sixers (for reasons unbeknownst to me), I’m not sure MCW keeps it up. He’s only the 4th dude to lead all rookies in points, assists and rebounds at the break.  That’s certainly impressive, but I think Olidipo, Burke, and maybe even Otto Porter (who?) will have a bigger impact in the 2nd half. At least we all know Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett won’t be challenging him.

Re: halfway decent teams. I think the Clips ride the Chris Paul return wave to the 2-seed in the West. Two games back, almost 250 points. CP-ZOMG.

nikebasketball.com
nikebasketball.com
Richard Lamondin

A Three-Oh-Fi-Ku
(that knowingly follows zero traditional rules)

Undisputed king
Laying the smack down on thy candy ass
Lebron James. Three peat

Pasu 850x350
Kevin Osman

The Lakers will not trade Pau Gasol (but I really hope they do).

Unfortunately, few teams are fighting for the right to give up a first round pick and pay $9 million for half a season of above-average post play.  Still, as a Lakers fan, I desperately want to see Pau back in the playoffs and competing at the highest level.

Whether it’s letting out barbaric YAWPS! at every point of contact, dealing with a coach that thinks starting Earl Clark gives a team a better chance to win, or absolutely abusing undermanned frontlines, Pau Gasol has been a productive and entertaining employee.

He deserves the chance to compete in May, not to stumble towards the finish line of a lost season and get ignored in free agency.

The odds on Gasol being in a Laker uniform next season are chillin at +12000 right now, so regardless of what the Lakers might receive, they need to pull the trigger on a trade to avoid losing Pau for nothing. Besides, a year from now not one Lakers fan will remember whether we lost a mid-March game to Sacramento by 8 or 22.

I say we cut our losses and do right by a great professional. I’ve always felt that every successful Laker deserves a fair send-off, and, while it may not seem like it, discarding Gasol for another team to scoop up is the kindest thing the Lakers could do for all parties involved. (Especially for Laker fans in Staples, who will be “treated” to a few extra Swaggy-Threes per game.)

Other thoughts:

  • Kevin Durant’s attempt at creating his own nickname has been very sad, indeed (‘The Servant’? That movie came out last summer.  It was alright.). Durant needs to embrace his inner Slim Reaper and go full-force to the dark side..
  • The Clippers will lose in the second round of the playoffs and  Chris Paul will, deservedly, start to take some serious heat for never making it to a conference finals.  Does Cliff Paul sell a home/auto/Conference Finals discount package?
  • Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden will play head-to-head during the conference finals, creating a game in a game known as “Please Don’t Touch Our Knees,” and it will be fascinating.
  • Bill Simmons will continue to ask leading questions and provide his own answers before the person being asked the question gets a chance to speak.
sportsonearth.com
sportsonearth.com
Charles Qian

Growing up, basketball was always my favorite sport, and Jordan my favorite player.

I soon realized that my enthusiasm for the sport would pretty much be limited to spectator status, and that as great a player as he was, MJ was/is a pretty terrible dude. Basketball is still my favorite sport, and the NBA is certainly my favorite professional sport to watch, analyze, and enjoy.

As the enjoyment I get from NBA games increases with the incredible star power and increasingly advanced strategies, so does the pleasure I get from the league as a whole, as obsessing over how franchises build their teams and poring over advanced statistics allows for plenty of ways to maximize my engagement when no one’s playing on TV (and often when they are).

The NFL is great, but I’ll always love USC football more than the Falcons, the season isn’t long enough to be sure advanced stats mean something, and I can’t completely get over the league’s hypocrisy towards concussions.

The MLB is great, but there are entire months when I don’t care, and the stars aren’t as compelling.

The NBA, on the other hand, is as close to perfect as it gets.