Saturday, February 21, 2009

Three random observations ...

... about the NBA:

1. So Kevin Garnett and Manu Ginobili are gone for up to three weeks, Andrew Bynum's probably done until the playoffs, and Jameer Nelson is likely out for the rest of the year. Yes, their starting shooting guard, Delonte West, is injured, too, but this is Cleveland's time. All of the other legitimate title contenders have critical parts of their machinery down for significant periods of time. The Cavs are 42-11, a game behind the Lakers in the loss column for best record in the league. If they don't enter the playoffs with the No. 1 overall seed, they will have only themselves to blame. They have a golden opportunity to take advantage of a home court where they have lost only once this year. In a season otherwise defined by injury, it's starting to look like the year belongs to LeBron's team.

2. The Rockets probably aren't going to win the title this year, but that doesn't mean they won't make some noise in the playoffs. The season-ending injury to Tracy McGrady isn't quite as devastating as it might have been in previous years because McGrady's frequent absences have decreased his value to the team, which is used to dealing with injuries to just about everyone by now. Playing 6-foot-7, 260-pound Ron Artest at starting shooting guard is an intriguing move by coach Rick Adelman that should cause matchup difficulties for other teams, and the deal that sent Rafer Alston to the Magic gives Aaron Brooks a chance to shine. Brooks, in his second year, was impressive in his debut as the team's starting point guard Friday, scoring 19 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds in a 93-86 win over the Mavericks. He put up those numbers despite suffering a cut over his left eye in the third quarter that required two stitches but did not prevent him from returning to the game.

3. Dwyane Wade is a favorite of those who take a strict interpretation of the word "valuable" in the Most Valuable Player award. He was the leading scorer of course Saturday for Miami, shooting 8-for-14 from the floor and a perfect 9-for-9 at the line for 25 points in a 97-91 win over Philadelphia. What made his performance notable was that he served as the primary distributor, as he is often asked to do with no one higher than rookie Mario Chalmers on the depth chart for the Heat. Wade dished out nine assists and blocked three shots as Miami picked up a crucial victory over another team vying for position in the Eastern Conference.

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