The World of Basketball

January 25, 2008 |

As the long run of football comes to an end and the dreams of most have been dashed, basketball, which has been diligently prodding along since the end of October, finally grabs center stage from now until the beginning of April, except for that one little football game. And while I’m not the world’s biggest basketball fan, I have found that I follow it a lot more than most. There are plenty of good stories, even in the NBA, which often takes a big backseat to the college game. I mean, I like college basketball more too, but the NBA does have its intrigue. So now with the conference seasons underway, and the NBA at the mid-point of their campaign, here are some things that I think are worth watching in the second half of the roundball season.
  1. The Lakers are good. Real Good. Remember all that talk about trading Kobe for the entire Bulls roster. Nobody’s talking about that anymore. Right now they have some health issues. It seems like all of their big guys got hurt at the same time. But the Zen Master is working it, and Kobe is the best player on the planet.
  2. Kidd will get traded this year. He has to. Because they are in the East, the Nets are still battling for a playoff spot even though they are six games under .500, but even if they get in, do they really think they can play with the Pistons and Celtics? Kidd is 35 years old. Trade him and get what you can get while you can get it. He’s still close to a triple double every night so he has value. The Nets had their run, but it’s time to retool, if not rebuild.
  3. The surprise of the league. Who has the second best record in the NBA right now, on the afternoon of January 25th? The Celtics are first, we all know that. Who’s second? The Mavericks? Nope. The Suns? Not quite. Oh yeah, San Antonio! Guess again. Detroit? Thanks for playing. It’s the Hornets. You remember, Chris Paul and ….yeah, those guys. The thing that I like about those guys as opposed to everyone else is that they can win on the road. The Hornets are 15-5 away from home. Right now Denver and San Antonio, who are supposed to be heavyweights of the league, are under 500 on the road, and the Mavericks, who are close to becoming the Houston Oilers of the NBA, are at an even 10-10 away from the home court.
  4. Miami is brutal. This comes down to a simple question of philosophy, which could lead an entertaining debate for a four-hour talk show. (Hint, hint, Bob Haynie) The Heat was a last place team, basically sold their soul for a shot at the title, which they did win. Now they are saddled with an old Shaq and a big contract that they won’t be able to get out form under. So the question is, is it better to be competitive for a long time, like the Mavericks, without ever winning but having a chance every year, or go throw it all on the line and go from worst to first to worst in a four year span? It’s like asking a guy, would you rather have a three-month fling with a 10, or a long-term relationship with an 8.
  5. Memphis in UNLV reincarnated. Immense talent. Coach with less than holy moral standards. And a pillowy soft conference schedule. Could Memphis go undefeated into March Madness like Grandmama and Stacey Augmon did? I think so. Will they get through it to win the title? I say no.
  6. What happens now for UNC and Maryland? The Tar Heels responded to the upset with a pretty good pasting of Miami, at Miami, but it will be interesting to see how this team does from here to the house. While their non-conference wins (at Kentucky and at Ohio State) look good on paper, we all know that these teams aren’t very good this year, and were worse back around Thanksgiving when they played. The question I have is simply this. Can the Tar Heels keep anyone good from scoring less than 80, and if they can’t, do they have enough weapons on offense to simply outscore everyone every night. That’s a hard way to win in March. As far as the Terps, we’ll see where they go from here. In my eyes they go from a team that was battling for an NIT spot, to a team that should expect to make the field of 65. Seriously, if they can beat Carolina in the Dean Dome, shouldn’t they be able to win 9 games in this year’s ACC? Consistency is the thing that all teams and athletes strive for. Does this team have enough talent to win consistently? Or more specifically, do they have enough offensive balance?
  7. Now, for the comment for which I will get the most flack. Does anyone miss Dick Vitale? I, for one, certainly do. I know he can get a little over-hypie sometimes, and the moniker Dookie V is funny only because it’s sometimes appropriate. But there are three things I’ve always liked about Dick Vitale. 1) He loves his job as much as anyone in the world and you hear it in his voice. 2) He was, as I recall, the first big name basketball announcer to take the selection committee to task. Sometimes after the field was announced, he would become so incensed that he would call the committee everything short of incompetent. And 3) He is actually one of the few announcers in any sport who remembers that there are other players and coaches other than the ones in that particular game. How many times have you been watching a game in any sport, and the announcer will say “this is one of the best players at (pick a position) that you’ll find anywhere in the country!” And you, as a fan, can sit there and rattle off about ten guys who are better. That’s one of the enjoyable things about watching the bad NFL games. You get some announcer telling you how Alex Smith is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, or how Warren Sapp still dominates games. Vitale never does that. If he’s doing a game with a great Freshman, he’ll tell you where that kid ranks among his “Diaper Dandies,” and he won’t just put that kid first because he’s doing the game. He’ll put him first if he actually believes it, but he won’t get caught up in the hype of that game and overrate someone just because he’s at the event.

Now, the one thing Vitale doesn’t do, IMHO, is criticize the game. No one is ever overrated, but half of the conferences are underrated. Also, no coach is a criminal, even when the leave programs in shambles and then goes to the Nets and then back to Memphis. Oh, was that to lightly veiled? I wish sometime he would have taken Bobby Knight to task for anything, or blasted a coach who graduates 6% of his players. Dick never does that. But nonetheless. I miss the guy. He isn’t college basketball, but he’s a big part. Someday, the ESPN/ABC combination should get together with CBS so Vitale can do a Final Four. 


There you have it. Enjoy a hoops filled weekend, while we all take a deep breath for next Sunday.