With the NBA season nearing its halfway point, several questions have now been answered. I guess that LeBron guy knew what he was doing after all. The Miami Heat and its All-Star trio of LeBron, Wade, and Bosh have shaken off the early season rust and are now officially “On Fire!” a la NBA JAM. James and Wade rank in the top 3 in fast break points this season, while the Heat have established an identity as a defensive powerhouse under second year head coach Eric Spoelstra. Remember when the Heat was 9-8 and it looked like the team was a LeBron shoulder-bump away from imploding? That was so 2010… Miami have now won 21 of their last 22 games, and are beating their opponents by a ridiculous 9.6 points per game. With the Lakers struggling and Kobe looking more and more like a 32-year old guard who is in his 15th NBA season, the Heat must strike while the iron is hot (sorry, I couldn’t help it). If the Big 3 (or is it Miami Thrice?) can remain relatively healthy and find a way to get through Boston in what could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals, I see the Miami Heat emerging as this season’s NBA champions, finally getting over the hump and ending the Lakers’ chance of a three-peat. Bet on it.
The other story that has dominated headlines as of late involves James’ 2003 draft classmate Carmelo Anthony. It seems like every day there is a new trade scenario involving Melo and the Nets/Knicks, with Denver milling over offers like a seller on Craigslist. It is no secret that the Brooklyn-born Melo wants to suit up as a Knick alongside Amare Stoudemire, in what could be New York’s rebuttal to The Decision. However, the Nets and Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov have more enticing trade pieces to offer the Nuggets, but risk the chance of Anthony signing with another team at the end of the season as an unrestricted free agent. Unless Carmelo agrees to sign a 3-year, $66 million extension (the maximum amount allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement), the Nets would be paying a steep price with no guarantee that Anthony will return to the team after this season. If Anthony does decide to leave the guaranteed money on the table and sign with the Knicks next season, the Nets franchise could forever be banished to the NBA cellar, while ruining their chance to make a big splash on the heels of their move to Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 season.
While the Lakers are having a rougher season than many expected, the biggest surprise in Los Angeles has got to be the emergence of super rookie Blake Griffin. After missing all of last season with injuries, Griffin has come out of the gate like a man possessed and is posterizing opposing big men on a regular basis (if you haven’t seen his dunk on Knicks center Timofey Mozgov… YouTube it, now). He is running away with the Rookie of the Year race with only the Wizards’ John Wall getting anywhere near the attention that Griffin is getting on the Clippers. He is currently averaging a double-double with 21.8 points and 12.7 rebounds per game and is in no danger of slowing down anytime soon. What is most surprising about Griffin’s skills is his willingness to pass, as evidenced by his 6 assists that he put up against the Miami Heat to go along with 24 points and 14 rebounds. When it’s all said and done, Blake Griffin could be the special player who finally lifts the Clippers out of mediocrity to become the greatest power forward the game has ever seen. If not, at least it will be a lot of fun watching him try.