The NBA Reset – 4/11/2011

Oh how the tables do turn so quickly. I feel like I could just take last week’s Reset, hit Ctrl – F to find and replace “San Antonio Spurs” with “Los Angeles Lakers” and I’d be done. Watching Los Angeles have a semi implosion was a kick to the groin for the Lakers faithful, but fear not purple and gold nation. If this season has told us anything it’s that there is no dominant force in the NBA at the moment.

With that in mind, let’s go to the starting five:

1. Role Reversal

Overreaction is an art form in the NBA blogosphere, but seriously isn’t it warranted here? The Lakers win 16 out of 17 to open after the All-Star break then suddenly their level of play over the past 5 games has dropped like a brick thrown into a lake (not sure if I’m intending the pun or not). Even with a more spirited performance against the Thunder on Sunday night, they still basically self destructed down the stretch (9 fourth quarter turnovers).

I suppose Lakers fans can take solace in the fact that both the Heat and more recently the Spurs both went on supposedly season threatening losing streaks that they eventually both snapped out of. The lesson: yesterday’s pretender can still be tomorrow’s contender.

It’s also worth noting that the Lakers own the tie breaker versus OKC and Dallas, meaning they’d have to lose their last two games for it to even be possible for the Mavs or Thunder to catch them. I guess after they realized they couldn’t catch the Spurs the Lakers eased off the gas pedal. WAY off.

2. Broadway Revival?

Who is  tied with the Bulls for the longest current winning streak in the NBA? Your New York Knickerbockers, winners of 7 straight and suddenly becoming a trending pick to make some noise in the playoffs. It’s funny how winning a few games seems to cure everything that ails you. Earlier this week it almost sounded like ‘Melo was gushing about the recent improvements, “Defensively, everyone seems like they are on the same page right now,” Anthony said. “We are playing hard and we are giving a lot of effort out there. We are scrambling, rebounding, and as far as rebounding goes, that is something we have been harping on in video sessions this week.”

Right. That’s why you gave up 109 points and got out rebounded by 6 against the vaunted Indiana Pacers on Sunday night. My Prediction? Whoever their first round opponent is, either Miami or Boston, they’ll most likely get rolled over in 5 or 6 games in a vastly over-hyped affair. D’Antoni may ride out the storm and make it to coach another year but with ‘Melo, a ball dominating iso-specialist, on board the notion that this squad is going to run the coaches quick hitting offense has become exponentially less likely. And they still can’t play a lick of D! In the end, as is usually the case, star player > high profile coach.

3. Awards Season

Write it in sharpie. Derrick Rose is the league MVP.

If the Bulls win out they may hold the league’s best record, allowing any naysayers to be swayed by the best player on best team argument. But really that won’t even matter. You can dissect the numbers, the advanced metrics like PER and win shares, and maybe you can come up with an MVP alternative. But really Rose just nails it when you judge by the eye test, the gut feeling you get when you watch the guy play.  He may or may not be the league’s best player, but this was certainly his season. When NBA historians look back at the 2010-2011 campaign they’ll remember it as the year D. Rose took his game to another level.

Yet, as Henry Abbot at TrueHoop points out, don’t discount how good the Bulls as a team.  They wouldn’t exactly be a train wreck without him. And that, more than anything, speaks volumes about their chances of going deep in the playoffs.

4. The Man Behind the King

In the wake of news that LeBron James will be acquiring an ownership stake of Liverpool FC,  Jason Whitlock wrote a profile of James’ business manager Maverick Carter.

Carter was skewered (rightfully so I might add) for the debacle that was ‘The Decision’ and the ensuing backlash. But what’s made clear  from Whitlock’s piece is that Carter is no dummy. He is smart and curious and driven, but he was also vastly inexperienced to take the helm of a hundred million dollar operation at the tender age of 23. Yet the trust James showed (some might call it naivete) by handing Maverick the reigns exhibits one of the truly fascinating angles of the LeBron saga. His most redeeming trait seems to be the loyalty he has to his friends, and yet it’s his lack of loyalty (at least as Cavs fans see it) that makes him such a villain in Cleveland.

5. Race to the Bottom

Don’t look now but we’ve got a tank job alert in the Western Conference. The T-Wolves are riding a 13 game losing streak that has them neck and neck with the Cleveland Cavaliers for worst record in the league.  With games at Phoenix and at home vs. Houston (both easy losses) it appears at worst Minny will tie for the most ping pong balls in the upcoming draft.

Of course in typical David Kahn fashion, the Wolves couldn’t have picked a worse year to play the tank card. The draft class this year is exceptionally weak, without a single can’t miss star in the bunch. Even the consensus top prospect at the moment Kyrie Irving is a point guard. But hey, Kahn is saying, he’d be a perfect fit to play along side Ricky Rubio and Johhny Flynn! Poor Kurt Rambis. Poor Kevin Love. And most of all, poor T-Wolves fan.

Next Page: Bits and Pieces

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