Anyone who has been tuning into the NBA this season knows it. Everyone who has been ignoring the league for the past few years needs to reevaluate their stance. The NBA is back. And this is coming from a Knicks fan.
Last night I watched Lebron James single-handedly dismantle the Knickerbockers, and although it wasn't the outcome I was looking for as the Cavs pulled away late, it was pretty damn entertaining. Lebron lit up the Garden, dropping 50 points on an array of deep three pointers (including one at the halftime buzzer that he shot like a normal pull up from about 40 feet out), dunks and layups. At one point, David Lee took both hands and shoved James in the stomach as he rose for a dunk. LBJ didn't fall back, but simply lowered his hand from dunk position and as his feet were about to touch the floor, hoisted in a shot off the backboard. Also last night the Celtics and Pistons (the two top teams in the East) battled in Boston in a very entertaining contest that could be a playoff preview. The funny thing is, this is the Eastern Conference. It's by far the inferior conference depth wise, but holds some serious weapons at the top of the standings.
While watching Lebron has been truly marvelous, what has really drawn me back into the NBA has been the teams of the Western Conference. The past few years I sort of agreed with some of the NBA cynics who harped on the negative aspects of professional play such as the lack of defense, the isolation one-on-one plays, lack of teammwork, etc. I'd usually tune in for just Knicks games and the occassional primetime matchup. But this season, the league has returned to "must-see TV" status. The top 8 teams in the West are separated by 5 1/2 games (the 8th place team's record is 37-23). The pace of the games out West is frenetic. Teams, even those weighed down by Shaq, run up and down the court. There are tons of superstars, from the loud (Kobe Bryant) to the quiet (Brandon Roy). There are great, highly watchable point gaurds: from Derron Williams to Chris Paul to Steve Nash to Baron Davis. Thanks to the solid play from the court leaders, the squads in the West play a great brand of team ball...and score...a lot. And seemingly each team has at least two real stars, immediately making each game full of flair and storylines. The teams play hard night in and night out. While I'm not sure I can say that for my Knicks, I'll still say the NBA is definitely back. Now, just fire Isiah.