Christmas is coming which means that a little more than 25% of the 2013-14 NBA season has been played. Now’s a perfect time to share with you a few observations I’ve made about the season thus far. I even ran them by outgoing NBA Commissioner David Stern1, who allowed me to type up some of his remarks.
Surprise, Rip City Is Back
Coming into the season, both internal and external projections had the Portland Trailblazers competing for a bottom playoff seed in the Western Conference at best. No one saw that they would have overall best record in the league at 21-4. After transforming the Los Angeles, GM Neil Olshey had done the same for the Blazers in about 15 months. Olshey has turned the league’s worst bench a season into one that can resemble an NBA lineup for small stretches at a time. The strength of the time, however, still rests with the Blazers’ starting five. The addition of Brook Lopez has given them the rim protection they were sorely lacking a season ago. Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard has largely avoided the sophomore jinx, FG% not withstanding. LaMarcus Aldridge has played as if he’s rediscovered his love of basketball. Throw in the white-hot 3-pt shooting of Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews and you have a team that could very well fulfill the promise of the Blazer squads that were fronted by Brandon Roy and Greg Oden. It remains to be seen if their elite offense and sub par defense will translate into a deep playoff run, but Portland residents have every reason to be excited about their team.
Stern’s remarks: “Please don’t let them turn into the Jailblazers of the early 00’s.”
Realignment On The Horizon2
I’ve long thought that divisions in the NBA don’t matter. Anyone care to name all six divisions in the NBA or who won each division in 2009? Go ahead, I’ll wait while you look it up. Separating the league into conferences makes perfect sense, but dividing each conference into divisions is ridiculous. Few teams, if any, set a goal of winning their division before the season starts. The Los Angeles Clippers won their first ever Pacific Division title last season and downplayed because no one’s going to remember they won it in a few years. The division alignment gets even more ridiculous when the playoffs arrive where a division winner is guaranteed a top 3 seed even though another team may finish with a better record. Seeding the playoffs spots according to record would be a much better way to do things. Commissioner-elect Adam Silver has gone on record saying that, “The NBA will consider whether divisions have outlived their usefulness.” Let’s hope they come to the right decision.
Stern’s remarks: “I’m about to be retired, why are you asking me this? That’s Adam’s problem.”
Going to stay on this until something is done about it, but replay reviews have gotten way out of hand in the NBA. Sure, when it was introduced a few years ago I loved the idea. It was initially brought on in a limited basis. Reviews were allowed to determine possession of the ball, if shot was released before time expired, etc. Now the use of instant replay has become much more expanded allowing referees to review flagrant fouls, clear path fouls and whether a defender was in the charge circle. Thankfully, they’ve not allowed coaches to challenge of foul called, but still. This expanded use of instant replay has led to enormous stoppage in plays and making the games much longer than they need to be. It’s gotten to the point that it seems referees use replay as a crutch – they make a hesitant call knowing that they’re able to review they play and change it if necessary. A simple solution to this problem would be to have the alternate referee, who’s already in the building, sit in front of a monitor and review all calls that need to be. Not only would this save time, but it would make games less frustrating to watch.
Stern’s Remarks: “I know. We even talked about during last season’s Finals. We dropped the ball on this one, but um… Yeah, sorry about this”
Only a few short years ago, Lebron James was taken to task after The Decision. Pundits criticized his choice to take his “talents to South Beach” because they couldn’t handle young, rich, Black man who was in control of his own fate. Doubts about his ability to come through in “the clutch” was always empty rhetoric. Two championships and four MVP awards later, James erased any doubt that he’s the best player on the planet. With his spot as top dog secure it appears he also wants to become the most efficient player as well. The King is in his prime now and the NBA will belong to him for years to come.
Stern’s remarks: “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m glad he left Cleveland.”
Cuban To Fund HGH Studies
Last month, USA Today reported that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban wants the NBA to have open discussions about the use of human growth hormone. Cuban also intends to fund studies to determine the effect HGH has on injured athletes hoping that the studies will yield a more informed decision about it’s use. A long standing myth exists that the use of HGH doesn’t benefit NBA athletes, but it’s only a myth. The history and negative aura surrounding the HGH and other PEDs is more than we have space for here, but I’ve long felt that the current rules regarding PEDs need to be questioned. Hopefully, Cuban can help push that discussion forward.
Stern’s Remarks: “Still don’t like Cuban, though I may want to advocate for his studies in retirement.”
New York State of Mind
Me: The Nets and the Knicks stink.
Stern: I know.
Me: NYC is supposed to be the Mecca of basketball though. Wouldn’t it better for the league if they were, you know, good?
Stern: You’re looking at it wrong. It really doesn’t matter what city the best teams play in. The NBA will be successful as long as we have superb, marketable players. If the best teams and players are in the world’s biggest city all the better. If not, you get the current situation. People talk about how much they suck and it’s good anyways.
Me: You’re a smart man. I hope I get the chance to boo you in person before you retire.
Stern: I know
- This conversation took place in my head
- Curse you, Zach Lowe, for voicing this idea before I did. And better, I might add