To the East, Shaqwards
One of the major problems we face here at FreeDarko is territorial rights. For instance, when Flip got canned, everyone looked to THC for the Twin Cities' feelings; with Zo touching down in South Beach again, only the Caine himself was fit to pass judgement. And as someone forced to watch the Sixers for five years, I suppose I'm as qualified as anyone to react to C-Webb's arrival.This isn't because we believe in absolute homer authority; it's more that, given our, well, peculiar priorities in reporting the ways and goings of the National Basketball Association, it's only fitting that the local, blinded by emotion, investment, and ennui, would have the last word.
But today I come to you in a much broader ghost costume. It concerns a long-rumoured shift in the balance of power, one first hinted at when LeBron went East, and then given new, frantic urgency by Shaq's migration. And now, with trading season in the books and teams bracing themselves for the stretch run, it's finally happened: the East is not only competitive, but more interesting, than the West.
Think about all the storylines coarsing through a conference that, as recently as last season, was synonomous with 35 pt. first halves and turnovers that had nothing to do with freewheeling fast breaks. Coming down to the wire, all the drama and strangeness in the league seems to emanate largely from the East, while the West, professional and stunning as ever, has lot some of its novelty and yes, plenty of shine.
The East has to offer, in no particular order:
-Shaq, Wade, and Zo's incredibly distinguished drive for that big basketball-shaped trophy
-The Pistons funcitoning like mad, spurning their coach, and proving, for themselves, that it wasn't all a dream
-AI and Webber, the league's unoffical main attraction for those in the know
-LeBron, LeBron, LeBron
-The reunion of the Toine/Pierce duo that single-handedly proved (then and now) that the basketball gods have a sense of humor. If Payton shows up back in Boston, we may be looking at the first NBA team to double as a sitcom
-The Wizards, upstarts of all upstarts, who in Gilbert Arenas have the one player incapable of scoring in a meaningless prime-time exhibition but more than ready to drop 40 on any given night and carry his team to the playoffs.
-The possible return of Artest; the thought of him and Jackson on the court together is borderline Biblical
-The Net Show: If RJ indeed rejoins Vince and Kidd, this team will be a walking Nike commercial.
-The Knicks: Can you play an undersized PF at every position?
-A Raptors squad about to mutiny?
The West, on the other hand, boasts:
-The utterly peerless Suns, who, without a healthy Nash are just the maddening bunch of talent they were last year.
-The Spurs, not as annoying as in past year's but still the Spurs. I am about the start a free Manu! movement. Just imagine. . .
-The newly vacant Kings-Webber's pathos was that team's version of heart
-The Mavs: enigmatic or over-acheving in the post-Nash era?
-Kobe fighting for his life, which is pretty much what he wants us to think
-Yao's stagnation: He's putting up numbers, but that's a guard-based team. With "the next great center?"
-The Grizz: I have given up trying to understand them, in the same way I give up on my homework after an hour or two.
-I can no longer watch the Wolves stumble
-Ditto for the Nuggets, but I'm not even sympathetic towards them
I never want to think I'm alone in this world, but today I feel especially not so. This list signals a dream left off the map, the map carved up with the fine filaments of curse. And now, o dwellers of the REAL United States, we have rightfully reclaimed what is ours: basketball that is both funny and accomplished, where the colors blare and the contours grow fierce!