Monday, February 21, 2011

NBA Second Half Storylines

Now that the All Star Game is over, it's time to look at what the "second half" of the season has in store. I use "second half" loosely because most teams have just 30 games or so left in their seasons.

THE MELO-DRAMA: The "Where Will Carmelo Go" drama started long before the season started. But a lot of the questions could be answered by the trade deadline. He could be a Knick, a Net or still a Nugget. Or he could go somewhere else. This has been the major story surrounding the League but (hopefully) it will have some resolution by Thursday.

CAN THE LAKERS RECOVER?: Another story is the struggle of the Lakers. Have they gotten too old to threepeat or are they just bored? Maybe it is a bit of both. The Lakers really haven't taken the season seriously, as losses to the Cavs, Kings and Bucks would attest. They better pray that "the switch" is real.

MIAMI OR BOSTON?: It is obvious that the Heat and Celtics are the beasts of the East (with apologies to Chicago). We will all be upset if we don't see these two dance in the Eastern Conference Finals. But who will claim home field? Even more important, who will be the better postseason team? Miami is built for the regular season and could have problems going up against teams with size in the pain and a great point guard ... which Boston has. Boston is one of the oldest teams in the league and could burn out before they get to the ECF.

MVP RACE: Right now, Derrick Rose gets the nod. However, he doesn't have it by a large margin. LeBron James' name is up there, as is Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki. It's so open that there is a chance somebody not on this list sneaks up into the race.

RACE FOR FINAL WESTERN PLAYOFF SPOTS: Right now, 1.5 games separate 5th-place Portland from 9th-place Memphis. Phoenix, Golden State and Houston aren't too far behind, either. You also need to factor in the Utah Jazz (currently 8th) and their sudden free-fall after the resignation of Jerry Sloan ... and the fact that 7th-place Denver could be dealing away Carmelo Anthony.

KINGS MOVE: Another story that could get some run is the future of the Sacramento Kings. The team could move as early as next season and one of the sites they are seriously considering is Anaheim. That could open up a bunch of cans of worms as I'm sure the Lakers and Clippers wouldn't be too happy for the Kings to move into their neighborhood.

OH YEAH, THAT LABOR THING: While the NFL's labor war is grabbing all the headlines, the NBA is heading down the exact same path. In fact, theirs could be a lot worse. The union could decertify and cause the entire process to spiral out of control. This has all the makings of dragging on as the NBA notoriously has a short offseason. My gut feeling is that nothing will be resolved at least until September. Probably before Halloween.

CONTRACTION: I don't see this happening, but know that David Stern has this little bug in his back pocket.

POWER STRUGGLE IN NEW YORK: Knicks GM Donnie Walsh has done the near impossible and took a team with horrible contracts and got them under the cap that they could go after the biggest free agents. The only problem is that Walsh struck out with LeBron and Joe Johnson. They got Amare Stoudemire, which is nice, but a swing-and-a-miss on any Melo deal could force ownerships' hands and run Walsh out. It's a shame, as the Knicks are having their finest season in quite a while.

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