Last year I wrote that, hopefully, the NBA Playoffs would be as wide open as they had ever been and that there was a chance that we might not see a Spurs-Heat rematch. I was very wrong. As long as I am admitting to mistakes, Jameis Winston made me look like quite the fool when he reversed field and decided to throw at the combine. In my defense, he was about to get an MRI on his shoulder and had previously been listed as undecided or doubtful.
I’m going to try and go one for three. To do so, I’ll have to cheat and go subjective. You know what? I’m sticking to observations.
The NFL, after an atrocious regular season, gave us a sensational finale. And the NBA this year has been as wide open and massively exciting as I can ever remember it. Sure, I’m slightly biased as a Warriors fan, but when was the last time we had four or more legitimate MVP candidates — in no particular order, Steph Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook? Had Anthony Davis not been injured, he would almost certainly top that list as well. The very fact that I had to leave out the likes of Marc Gasol, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry and a pair of Trailblazers by the names of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge pains me. Heck, I wish that I could put Angry Kevin Durant (also injured) up there with Klay Thompson, but unfortunately there is only so much room.
The league is simply saturated with talent. Where else can a man spend four years milling around in the D-league and transform into a stud? Hassan Whiteside might be the best story to fly under the radar this year. The 25-year old spent his time on eight non-NBA sides that took him everywhere from the D-league to Lebanon and even China before he eventually achieved NBA stardom.
Yes, this season truly has everything. The comedic relief of the 76ers tanking like the Titanic. Josh Smith cut like a dead weight from the Pistons, only to have them go from almost dead last in the East to making a legitimate run at the playoffs. The hilarious and now years-long disparity between the floundering East and ridiculously stacked West, to the point of new commissioner Adam Silver having to actually propose that, you know what, maybe just the best teams in general should make it. The bizarre saga of the Kings; had DeMarcus Cousins not contracted viral meningitis, Vivek Ranadive might not have had an excuse to fire coach Mike Malone, and the Kings might (emphasis on might) still be in the playoff hunt. The tumultuous and furious movements of the trade deadline that saw several stars change cities in the closing hours of the deadline.
And like any great story, the season is not without its tragedy. The heartbreak of Derrick Rose is as painful as it comes. We lost Davis and Durant in the middle of the season for extended periods of time. Chris Bosh and Kobe Bryant are done for the year. The Suns went from playoff hopefuls to a yard sale. Promising rookies Julius Randle and Jabari Parker have to spend their first year rehabbing injuries.
But despite those setbacks, I can’t help but remain giddy about the possibilities. The NBA’s current leaders by record and in the West no less, the Warriors, whom you should totally be watching, are playing fantastic ball and still sweating the possibility of having to face the Oklahoma City Westbrook/Durant duo in the first round of the playoffs. Before the All-Star break there were 11 teams with 20/1 odds or better at winning the finals, and only three from the East. Seven of those teams had 10/1 or better odds and six were 15/2 or below. Crazy parity.
I really hope that this is the trend. No matter who you rooted for, I think we were all tired of the “super teams” dominating the basketball landscape. Unless you were a Heat fan. Which you probably aren’t any more (sorry Miami fans, I couldn’t help myself). It wasn’t like there wasn’t a history of one or two teams ruling them all.
The Lakers and Celtics owned basketball for decades. It was the Jordan Bulls and everyone else. So the new state of basketball should be nirvana to sports fans everywhere. Every night is a marquee matchup. In fact, almost every game is a marquee matchup. So, sit back my friends and enjoy, because the time may again come when two teams rule the rest of the league. But for now, winter is leaving, the playoffs are coming, and chaos reigns to the delight of fans everywhere.
Nic Radoff may now be 1-for-3, which matches his career hitting performance from his short, ill-fated high school baseball career. Give him some hitting tips at [email protected]