We're halfway home.
Now that the calendar is edging closer to February and with our love affair with football reaching its climax in a few days, the time has come to focus the majority of our attention towards basketball. Yes, there will be time to still catch up on the college scene, but the NBA's first half has been an awesome experience thus far. Some teams are terrible, and some are better than expected. Some players have broken out, and some have just been broken. It's been a first half for many fans to enjoy, while others are already looking to enter the Shabazz Muhammad Sweepstakes.
The fellas gathered together in the TSFJ e-office and put together a list of the six storylines that you should be hip to, as the All-Star Game in Houston is around the corner and then … playoffs. Like Bart Scott said, "Can't wait!"
Jrue Holiday Should Be An All-Star But: With Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams gone, 2012-13 was supposed to be Jrue Holiday's time to shine and pair with Andrew Bynum in a young, dynamic point guard-center one-two punch. Holiday has absolutely lived up to his part, leading the Sixers in scoring (19 ppg), assists (9) and minutes. Not only that, he's put up all-star worthy numbers: He's fourth in the NBA in assists and trails only Kyrie Irving in scoring among Eastern Conference point guards. He's been so good that Grantland's Zach Lowe has him as an all-star starter, and many folks were clamoring for Holiday to get an invite to Houston.
But, as great as Jrue has been, he also leads the league in turnovers, still takes too many quick shots, particularly at crucial moments late in games, and doesn't play the level of defense he is capable of on any sort of consistent basis. He's so close to breaking through that next level of stardom, but every time it looks like he might, he comes back down to earth a little. Of course, he also absolutely has to score a lot and play remarkable just to keep the Bynum-less Sixers competitive, so it's understandable that he can't do everything all the time. Still, that's the next step for Jrue — to become that do-it-all point guard once he gets a slightly better supporting cast … or a healthy center with the most absurd hair in sports. (Also, for those of you not paying attention to the Sixers — and who could blame you with that pathetic record? — Thaddeus Young been quietly fantastic this season himself.) -- @RevPaulRevere
The Denver Nuggets Yellow Jerseys Are Incredible: There’s not all that much different in the NBA this season. The Lakers are struggling, and oh god I know how much I wish Twitter would keep me up to date on their season. It seems like people use the purple and gold the same way a jilted lover would treat the ex. The Clippers are still throwing lobs and that’s cool. No one in the Eastern Conference aside from Miami matters even though Knicks fans think they do.
About eight teams are legitimately good. The rest kind of remind me of the NBA Jam teams you thought were okay to play against but really would never choose. Such as Vin Baker and Eric Murdock in Milwaukee.
The most noteworthy development in this season is far and away the yellow Denver Nuggets uniforms. They’re weird, they’re yellow and they’re great. Denver’s skyline with the mountain backdrop is a classic design. Numbers on the chest? Fantastic. Also, the Marquette-like block pattern on the sides of the shorts just seal the deal. All hail the Nuggets’ yellow jerseys. They alone are worth the price of admission. -- @MTrible
In the most blueblood of all professional sports leagues, the biggest turnout of the early season is that there is such parity around the league … in an NBA-type of way. Over in the West, it’s business as usual, (with the exception of one major hole that’s the second best team in the building that holds all of their war medals by 14 games). There’s the usual fight in the middle, and a few squads on the curb that are in shape to push their way into the party in the second half.
Over in the projects in the Eastern Conference, it’s a minor miracle that the fight for the runner-up to the Heat has only one sub-.500 squad. That’s a miracle. Actually, there’s divine intervention all through the east side, with two New York teams actually living up to their billing (at once, none the less), the Hawks not totally tanking without Joe Johnson (stop laughing in the back) and the Chicago Bulls actually playing inspired, hardcore, D. Rose-less basketball, all led by Carlos Boozer.
I'm not even sure how to explain that last comment, but anything is possible out here this year. -- @CheapSeatFan
The Minnesota Timberwolves AKA The Great White Hopes Of Hoops: As the resident Timberwolves fan here at TSFJ, I'd like to say a few words about my moribund franchise. To the surprise of many, the T'Wolves have overachieved so far with a record of 17-22. Of course, it's not a good sign when five games below .500 is considered “overachieving.” But hey, we have a better record than the ex-Minnesota basketball team so all is not lost. How many lakes are there in LA again? I don't know, but they clearly have enough water to drown their playoff hopes.
I'm not here to rag on another franchise, though. I'm here to rag on my own. When Kevin Love is healthy, he's a 20-20 threat every night out. When he's not, which has been far too often for Minnesotans, he's complaining about the team's direction.
Then there's the notion suggested by a local civil rights activist that the Timberwolves are “Too white.” Too white in the NBA, as in you might be racist or you're trying to lose. But with J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Ricky Rubio, Lou Amundson, Nikola Pekovic, Luke Ridnour, Greg Stiemsma, Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko and a healthy Kevin Love (holy shit are we white) we'll continue to strive for mediocrity and thus overachieve. -- @NoClassFriday
The Showstopper That Is Kevin Durant: The most common occurrence of the first half of the NBA season – all things aside from the Lakers, of course – is this: Kevin Durant has a ridiculous game, and we in turn watch him do these things and find it impossible assign the right superlatives to his performance.
There are no words. This is unreal. This is incredible.
LeBron is the better player. He is the greatest player. But watching Durant ascend and make us realize that the potential of his game may be even greater than what we’ve set for him has been the most enjoyable thing in the first half.
The efficiency, the improvement on the defensive end and the list goes on. On most nights when he’s putting on a show, the most incredible thing is to check the box score and realize that he’s not even leading his own team in shot attempts.
The Harden trade didn’t destroy this team – it never was going to – but many including myself expected a setback.
Instead, Durant’s improved his game in every facet this season and basically is telling the fans that it’s OK to get behind what he’s doing and that it’s OK to believe that there are still better days ahead for him … and for the Thunder.
Sometimes a story doesn't need to be grand or require superlatives. It speaks for itself. -- @Steven_LeBron
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