If there is one person that is probably grinning from ear to ear right now, it is David Stern. After the Tim Donaghy scandal, not to mention Kobe Bryant's rewrite of "Prison Break:L.A. edition", he has seen the NBA finally get back to what it had in the 90's. It finally has a group of teams in both conferences that are worth watching.
At this moment one could make a case for the Hornets, Spurs, Jazz, or Celtics to be the frontrunner in the race for the NBA title. Sadly, that race is turning into a marathon, not a sprint. The fact that the NBA playoffs could go on until June 1st is only matched by the stupidity of the MLB World Series moving into the month of November.
But back on topic, this season has brought us an entertaining battle in the Western Conference where it once seemed that 50 games would put you OUT of the playoffs, an MVP race that will be debated for years to come, and a ROY competition that has Hawks and Rockets' fans screaming conspiracy. Finally, someone can say "I love this game" and mean it.
Taking a closer look at the NBA playoffs, if there are two teams that have impressed me the most so far in the tournament they would be the Hornets and Lakers. Chris Paul has solidified himself as the best PG in the game. Did anyone really think New Orleans would be in the title discussion? While I still believe Rick Adelman deserves Coach of the Year after his guiding of a Yao Ming absent Rockets second half, there is no doubt that Byron Scott has worked magic in the Big Easy.
Is there a player who has had an extreme makeover more than Kobe Bryant? There have to be points on the court where he thinks "So, THIS is what it would have been like had I been a team player the last 5 years!" Still, I am not totally sold on Kobe's team first attitude. Too often do we hear him make comments in interviews that scream "I'm underrated!" How can the franchise player on L.A. be underrated?
A team that may be underrated, but not for much longer, is the Atlanta Hawks. With the addition of Al Horford, who has big game experience from his Florida Gator days, and an experience point in Mike Bibby the Hawks have gone toe to toe with America's darling Boston Celtics. The road seems to be coming to an end for Atlanta after last night's punishing in Boston, but the ATL deserves a ton of credit for the success they had.
You can't spell dynasty without D, and you can't win a title without it either. Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni and Avery Johnson are learning that the hard way. While Johnson had Dallas in the top ten in defense this year the Mavs had no answer for Chris Paul and David West's pick and roll offense. We should push for a hybrid of the Suns and Mavs squads. We would have the ultimate high scoring/non-defense playing team of all-time. Imaginethe starting five of Amare Stoudemire, Shaq Ethanol (Due to gas prices and injuries he can no longer afford to be called Shaq Diesel), Steve Nash, Dirk "I am going back to my perimeter shooting ways after the Warriors owned me" Nowitzki, and Josh Howard. Somewhere the 80s Denver Nuggets would be cheering.
I may be getting greedy but I can only hope and pray that we don't end of with a Spurs-Pistons or Spurs-Cavs or Spurs- Any team in the playoffs NBA Finals matchup. Last year's Finals made watching "So You think You're Smarter than a Fifth Grader" interesting.