With college football finishing, and NFL season winding down, the sports landscape is quickly shifting into a time when basketball comes to the forefront of significance. No longer must we suffer through a week fourteen matchup of the Titans and the Giants, but can now channel surf and see our favorite college and NBA teams playing most nights a week! As much as I love college basketball, I have always been and always will be a sucker for the NBA. ever since I was six years old and watched my beloved Memphis Grizzlies battle the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001, and win a thriller in overtime–I was hooked. Now most nights a week, you can see me glued to my computer or TV, watching all teams from the lowest of the lows, the New York Knicks, to the greatest of them all, the Memphis Grizzlies. With all this being said, here are the five things I like most from the first half of the NBA season:
The Cleveland Cavaliers struggling - Nothing makes me more happy than watching LeBron James struggle and not get what he wants. Leaving a franchise behind that had made the NBA Finals four years in a row and had won two championships during that time was a bold move. LeBron most assuredly knew that, but chose to bank on two younger stars, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, to get him more rings than his older teammates, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. He attempted to make this switch based on the notion that he was “coming home,” but let’s be honest, he was going to switch to any team that he thought could get him more rings!
New Superstars Taking over the Reigns - After many years of the NBA being dominated by players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant, we are beginning to see new stars emerge to surpass their older counterparts. James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry have been simply amazing this season, and prove that the NBA is in good hands after the former generation of stars finally burned out, although we haven’t nearly seen the end of Durant or James.
Jason Collins retiring - About this time last year, sports fans and frequent ESPN watchers had to suffer through the media frenzy that was Jason Collins coming out of the closet. Not only was this glorified role player suddenly called a “hero,” but NBA lovers then had to suffer through reports on his every move. Putting all of your beliefs aside, he is a terrible basketball player. However, for the first few months of his play, fans were treated to frequent highlights of his one rebound a game, or wide-open layup. Ultimately this story lost footing after fans became a bit tired of being force-fed a player who averaged 1.1 points a game, and 0.9 rebounds.
The San Antonio Spurs’ Resilience - For each of the last five years, NBA fans and media have constantly written the same story that each year would be the end of the Spurs’ unbelievable dominance, but each year, they are wrong. With Coach Popovich and company seeming to have found the fountain of youth, each year they dominate the Western Conference and see their star players who have been on the team for years, dominate the younger players and teams. This year, Tim Duncan, thirty-eight years old, is averaging 15.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks a game, and looks like the favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year Award. Many reading this will say, “But the Spurs are the 7th seed?” They have indeed been a little worse than expected, but no one could foresee the injuries that have plagued the Spurs this year, with Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, and Patrick Mills all missing significant portions of the season. With all those injuries, it is amazing that the Spurs have done as well as they have. Look for this team to make a late season push once they get all their players healthy.
Memphis Grizzlies’ Title Contention - Outside of the hallowed land of Memphis, TN, most people who watch the NBA know nothing about the Grizzlies, constantly remarking about how boring they are to watch and how they have no stars. Because of these beliefs, the uneducated masses constantly predict that the Grizzlies will miss the playoffs, or at the best be a 7th or 8th seed. Much to the chagrin of 2k loving NBA fans, a team that doesn’t feature flashy scorers or dangerous three point shooters really is doing damage in the incredibly tough Western Conference. Marc Gasol, an early season MVP candidate, and Mike Conley have led their team to an impressive 27-11 start to the season, and the lead in the best division in basketball. Not only have Conley and Gasol elevated their games to become stars, but the lovable cast of grit-n-grinders surrounding them has been exceptional. Zach Randolph continues to defy his age and post 20 point -10 rebound games seemingly every week, and the Grindfather, Tony Allen, has continued to put the handcuffs on nearly every elite perimeter scorer he faces. With all these exciting things surrounding the Grizzlies, perhaps none have caught as much attention around the league as their recent acquisition of Jeff Green. The combo forward from the Boston Celtics made his debut for the Grizzlies, and looks to add perimeter scoring and playmaking abilities that the Grizzlies have lacked since the departure of Rudy Gay. These are truly exciting times in the Bluff City.