2nd Half of the NBA Season and Beyond

The lockout took away 16 regular-season NBA games, creating a grueling schedule with no practice time and more importantly, essentially no recovery time. Despite the negative consequences of last years’ selfish negotiations that no basketball fan could understand combined with the numerous critics of All-Star roster snubs, the Dunk Contest and the festivities altogether, NBA All-Star Weekend remarkably posted double-digit ratings across all networks (NBA TV, ESPN, ABC, TNT), plus hundreds of millions of social media impressions with hundreds of millions of YouTube views. Even attendance is very strong, up slightly over last year (a strong year) and merchandise sales are going great. The resilience of the National Basketball Association reminds me of the United States economy. As long as there are still stories, both can continue to capitalize and prosper.

Congratulations to Kevin Durant for winning All-Star Game MVP, to Dwayne Wade for posting the 3rd-ever triple-double in an All-Star game, and to Kobe Bryant for passing Michael Jordan as the all-time scorer in the All-Star Game.

Also, congratulations to the city of Sacramento for their last-minute negotiations with the Maloof family to retain the Kings and formalize plans for a new stadium. They have some of the best fans in the league and while there are many who wanted to see the team pack up to return a franchise to Seattle, most Sonics fans wouldn’t want to accept new club at the expense of another city. At least the rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings will remain. There were whispers that if the Kings had moved out, the Dubs would’ve considered moving their North Dakota D-league affiliate to Northern California.

“..if you are in a market, and over years, you consistently underperform in the market, then you’re going to have to look in the mirror.” — David Stern

Looking ahead, I expect that the league-owned and operated New Orleans Hornets with financially implode and be forced to move to Seattle. Either that or the Charlotte Bobcats waive the white flag, Michael Jordan gives away the reigns and their franchise is transformed. The NBA also really needs in a team in Las Vegas…and in London, and in China.

Keeping with the trend of predicting the future, the March 15th trade deadline is fast approaching and there were quite a few rumblings over All-Star weekend that added kerosene to the crackling kindling. The Lakers are working close with Toronto to arrange a three-team trade with Orlando for Dwight Howard, but apparently aren’t willing to do so at the expense of both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. Orlando is trying to swing a trade for Steve Nash, but the 2-time MVP sounds comfortable on the Phoenix Suns with no intent to leave. If Dwight Howard isn’t traded by the deadline, he’ll stand to lose almost $30 million due to limitations in his new contract versus a trade+contract extension. I anticipate that he’ll be moved the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets for Brook Lopez and 3 first-round draft picks (and probably a few more items since Orlando isn’t that hot on Brook).

The Los Angeles Lakers will definitely make a move, there’s just not certainty as to how big. Gilbert Arenas, Raymond Felton, Michel Beasley, Jose Calderon or…Lamar Odom? He’s clearly unhappy in Dallas and there are rumors swirling that his wife is forcing him to ask the Mavericks for a buyout. Mark Cuban definitely won’t oblige, but he might trade Lamar if he can’t work through his personal issues.

There are also rumors that Brandon Roy is contemplating a comeback. I guess his love of the game and his dislike for watching basketball from his couch on the television is enough motivation for him to start working out in his hometown gym. It doesn’t seem like the Portland Trailblazers have enough available minutes on their roster to fit in Brandon Roy, but it’s hard to see him in any other uniform. I’m cheering for a comeback regardless.

My playoff predictions are as follows:

Western Conference:

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder (Durant and Westbrook can go for 40/40 every night)
  2. San Antonio Spurs (Popavich has to be coach of the year, right? … watch when Manu Ginobli catches up to speed)
  3. Los Angeles Lakers (almost certain to make a move at the deadline and have yet to play their best ball)
  4. Los Angeles Clippers (Lob City doesn’t play enough defense, especially on the perimeter)
  5. Dallas Mavericks (reigning champs could get hot, Dirk needs to amp it up)
  6. Houston Rockets (Kyle Lowry is having a phenomenal year, but their roster is too confusing to make a serious run)
  7. Memphis Grizzlies (Rudy Gay has returned and Marc Gasol has traded skill sets with his brother, but squad lacks depth)
  8. Portland Trailblazers (Really deep, ability to beat and lose to any team on any night, Brandon Roy comeback?)

Eastern Conference:

  1. Miami Heat (changes from last year: limit the three-point shooting, dial up the speed of the offense, better point guard play and a true commitment to defense…team is close to unstoppable)
  2. Chicago Bulls (Franchise doesn’t look as strong as last year, but with Derrick Rose and Tom Thibedeau, they can go places)
  3. Indiana Pacers (surprise team in the league by far, all players seems to complement each other well and it’s a different hero every night, gritty defensive attitude could contribute to an upset or two)
  4. Orlando Magic (Dwight already has to be surprised how good this team is, and their roster is pretty deep, but with him being a distraction, the club’s potential is limited)
  5. New York Knicks (Linsanity, Amare and Caremlo both healthy and Nick Novak doing discount double check celebrations? lookout…)
  6. Philadelphia 76ers (Lou Williams serious candidate for 6th man of the year, nice bounce-back year for Evan Turner, but Iguodola isn’t enough to take-on the elite)
  7. Boston Celtics (They won’t trade Rondo, but their roster right now is good enough to squeak in….barely)
  8. Cleveland Cavavaliers (huge surprise to see them only 2 games out at the All-Star break, watch Kyrie take him game to a new level with his fresh, rookie legs and limited minutes last year on Duke)

Beyond

  • NBA Finals: San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat (Miami in 5)
  • MVP: LeBron James
  • Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving
  • 6th Man: James Harden
  • Most Improved: Jeremy Lin
  • Deron Williams signs with Dallas Mavericks (if Dwight doesn’t end up in New Jersey)
  • Jason Kidd signs with Brooklyn Nets (if Deron bolts)
  • Javale McGee signs with Golden State Warriors (please!)
  • Anthony Davis is drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats, team still misses the playoffs
  • Regular season NBA game hosted Europe
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