Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quickie: The NBA at Midseason and More

Aside from the Arenas-like newsy flare-ups or YouTube moments, the NBA -- like baseball -- settles into a daily rhythm that is hard to lift out of to get a macro view.

The midseason mark is a pretty good moment for it -- and with every team hitting 41 games at a slightly different moment, I used the defending champs as my proxy for a moment to review the league at midseason, leading today's SN column.

It's fortuitous, because the Lakers are not only trying to keep their title, but they remain the overwhelming favorite to win this year's title. Last night's win over the Magic provided a nice symbolism, bridging last season to this season.

I'm trying not to be too cynical, but I find it hard to envision any team beating the Lakers in the playoffs -- it feels like the biggest done deal in regular-season sports of the past year.

Being a fan of the Celtics or Cavs or Mavs or Spurs must be maddening: Oh, sure, you'll have a playoff season. But good luck winning the title. It's like being a fan of the San Diego Chargers.

To the extent that being a winning team can be dreary, there is a monotony to those non-Lakers contenders, like they are going through the motions before ultimately being dispatched.

That's why at the midseason, I find myself gravitating toward the over-achievers -- the players, teams and storylines that are independent of championship aspirations in 2010.

Kevin Durant and the Thunder. The rising Hawks. Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings. There are no expectations beyond upside -- there is something liberating about that.

As a Wizards fan, my midseason is -- unbelievably -- a worst-case scenario. I thought this team was a playoff lock, with even an outside chance at making a run in the playoffs.

Now: My favorite player, Arenas, is likely banned for the season. The team is trying to unload him, as they are Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. They are Lottery-bound. I can't believe that my lone-standing rooting interest is that they luck into John Wall.

Above it all is the Lakers: Slicing their way through the league. As long as they worry about everyone being healthy for the playoffs, they make the regular season nearly irrelevant.

Check out the rest of today's SN column here, featuring: An homage to Kansas State, NFL Coaching Carousel movement, admiration for the Mariners and more.

-- D.S.

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