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Second-Half Preview of the NBA

As we head into the NBA All-Star Break, here is one person’s opinion of what to expect in the second half of the season.

(1) The Lebron James Sweepstakes Begins: There’s been much publicity as of late on high-school superstar, Lebron James and the free jerseys he received from a local store in Akron, Ohio. Now that the ridiculous situation has been put to rest, the focus now is on which NBA team truly wants King James on their team next year. Over the next few months, there will be tough, hard-fought battles each night between the lower echelon teams to determine which team can demonstrate the most ineptitude. Will it be Chicago? Will it be Cleveland? Will it be Memphis? Stay tuned. Random question: How can people tell if Cleveland is truly trying to lose games on purpose? Is it really any different than how they are playing right now?

(2) Rookie of the Year Honors: There’s been a lot of hype since the beginning of the season for Yao Ming and now we realize that much of the praise was truly deserved. His blocked shots and assists totals are starting to rise, as they complement and truly define the complete game he brings to the table. However, in the past month, there has been substantial press about Amare Stoudamire and the athletic talents he has brought to the Suns. I truly believe that Yao Ming will end up winning the trophy. However, I think the battle will not be one of greatness, but instead a war of attrition, as both players will stumble to the finish line with tired legs and physical exhaustion from an 82-game schedule.

Random question: Wasn’t Jay Williams supposed to be the next Isiah Thomas? Better yet, wasn’t Mike Dunleavy supposed to be the next Bird? By the way, why do all white, tall ballplayers who can shoot a jumper automatically be denominated the next Larry Legend?

(3) MVP, MVP, MVP: Bottom line. Is there any doubt that Shaquille O’Neal is the most dominant force in the NBA? However, he won’t win any prizes this year for simply being dominant. Look for Kobe Bryant to try single-handedly to bring the Lakers back to the playoffs and defend their championship. He will also win the MVP along the way. Special kudos to:
Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber.

(4) Battle in the West: First and foremost, the battle in the East (I’m sorry Celtics fans) are a complete joke. I mean seriously, does anyone truly believe that the Nets, Pacers or Celtics can beat any of the top Western Conference teams in a 7-game series? This will be very similar to last year where it will simply be an honor for the Eastern Conference representative to be a part of the Finals. As for the West, look for the Kings and Mavs to duke it out for the best record. However, it won’t matter much, because the Lakers will squeeze into the playoffs like the Rockets did back in 1994-95 and win the whole thing again. Random question: Does Antoine Walker truly believe he is a three-point shooter or does he simply like to shoot?

(5) MJ going, going, gone….It will be really interesting to see whether Jordan can push and carry his team to the playoffs in his final season. As a fan of the game, I certainly hope so. One last time. One last hurrah. It would at least add another segment to the ESPN SportsCentury piece on Michael Jordan.

So that’s it. The next few months should be lots of fun watching how the season develops. As much as I do hate how the NBA has started to turn, the one fact still remains true: I love this game.

Final random thought: Watch out for Louisville and Kentucky to make serious noise during the NCAAs.

February 18, 2003
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