WE'RE half way through this shortened NBA season and I'm liking it more with each passing game.
Short NBA season
is just the ticket
Not so much the style of play, mind you, but the urgency.
This 50 games in 90 days thing is something the league could never adopt permanently, but it's playing well this season.
The play gets a little ragged, but it seems as though there are far fewer instances where a team bags the last three quarters after it falls behind by 20 points in the first. That kind of thing had been happening even in the playoffs the past few years. It doesn't seem to be the case this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Orlando Magic Sunday was a good example of what can happen if you just keep playing hard. Down by 20? Play through it. Give the effort and good things will probably happen.
Since there is no all-star game this year, some midseason awards and predictions are in order:
Rookie of the year: Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors. His name alone has made me think twice for years. I half expect his girlfriend's name to be Bunny and his sidekick to be Cpl. Boyle. He's taken the Raptors, formerly the Gomer Pyle of the league, and led them to respectability. He's getting 17 points and about six rebounds a night so far. Great start. Greater future.
Coach of the Year: George Karl, Milwaukee Bucks. Here's a team that traded its point guard, Terrell Brandon, for a guy who is injured, Sam Cassell, and was last seen kicking the living whoopee out of the Detroit Pistons. Karl has gotten Glenn Robinson to tighten up his shot selection and at least pay attention on defense. Ray Allen is a nice young player and Dell Curry can still fill it up at a moment's notice. Today's game against Miami and my coach-of-the-year runner-up, Pat Riley should be a good one, even though the Heat are coming in after playing Utah last night.
FORMER Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy gets a nod here, too. The Portland Trail Blazers are an elite Western Conference team. Their talent pool is as deep as any in the league and Dunleavy makes the most of it.
Player of the Year: Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers. As Iverson goes, so go the Sixers and at 28.4 points per night, which leads the league, Iverson is The Man.
He is third in the league in steals at 2.44 a game and is the quickest player on any floor.
All-league Starting Five:
G: IversonLikely Finals Matchup: Road records generally separate the merely good teams from true contenders. Nine teams had winning road records through yesterday's games.
G: Gary Payton, Sonics
C: Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers
F: Tim Duncan, Spurs
F: Kevin Garnett, T'Wolves
I like Miami against Indiana for the Eastern Conference finals. Riley seems to have gotten it through to Alonzo Mourning that winning is the only thing that really counts. As Riley has written, everything else is misery.
The Pacers were everyone's favorite at the beginning of the year, but it the East comes down to a choice between Mark Jackson and Tim Hardaway, I'll go with Hardaway every day.
In the West, Utah, of course is the defending champ, but Portland and Los Angeles are both better when they are at full strength.
Portland is on the rage right now, but if the Lakers can keep Dennis Rodman on the court -- granted, a big if -- they are clearly the best of the West.
Which leaves Riley and the Heat against Kurt Rambis and the Lakers. NBC will love it.