I love basketball. I get crazy about March Madness, but the NBA is where the action is. Period. College basketball can get wild, but it does not have the ability to create the kind of storylines that inevitably emerge over an 82-game season — or form rivalries between players and teams that consume a generation (think of the Knicks and Reggie Miller).
That being said, there is something rotten in Denmark; the Eastern Conference was supposed to be much improved this year. Pundits and media analysts were talking about the decline of the Spurs, Thunder, and other perennial West contenders. I realize we have but a small sample size this early in the season, but right now the records are embarrassingly lopsided. Three teams in the Eastern Conference are over .500 (Indiana, Miami, and Atlanta) and two teams sit at .500 (Charlotte and Chicago) as of the writing of this article. Compare that to only two teams not being above .500 in the West.
What is going on?
There are a lot of things in play. The Pacers and Miami simply got better in the offseason. They shored up limitations and deficits in their rotations — and the Heat still have LBJ on the roster. Atlanta wasn’t splashy, but they off-loaded Josh Smith and grabbed Paul Millsap. It is the two teams from New York that are the most puzzling. The Knicks have started a downward trend from which many naysayers and easily shaken fans do not think they can return. Brooklyn proved you can’t buy chemistry among players, or turn back the clock on aging superstars, no matter how much money you throw at it.
Is a Miami three-peat a foregone conclusion? Maybe it is after all.
Let’s shift to the NFL. Someone I know, who shall remain nameless, bet me that the Steelers would win their division. At the time, I laughed and took them up on such a ridiculous notion. Through the first few weeks, it seemed like Pittsburgh was doomed to obscurity. However, as we approach the playoffs, the winds are changing: the Steelers might sneak in as a wild card.
My Patriots revealed a deficit in the Broncos: Peyton Manning. You heard me right. Denver will thrive or die based on how well Manning plays. We know that the eldest Manning does not play well in inclement weather and freezing temperatures. His increasing immobility in the pocket should be a red flag for Denver fans as we stumble into the postseason.
My prediction for a Super Bowl right now: Seattle Seahawks vs. New England Patriots.
And you know who I am picking.