On the NBA: Musings from the End

 -This season’s become defined—more than anything—by injuries. Some have speculated that the nature of new NBA defenses makes the game too physically taxing for its players, and that max minutes will inevitably lead to more seasons in which the championship favorite (in this year’s case, Miami) got to that claim simply through the miracle of not dropping like flies. Without Rondo, Rose, Kobe, Gallinari, or a healthy Tony Parker in sight, the legitimate challengers to the throne seem limited to a Thunder squad that’s looked dicey in the home-stretch. Here’s hoping that injury research can start moving as quickly as new STATS-like sabermetrics are, and that we can shed expectations of all-out performances during the regular season in order to preserve talent, for a less predictable post-season.

 -Marcus Smart: you’ve put yourself in a position to have to prove everyone wrong. How is staying at OSU for a year a good decision? NBA Life is short; each year comes at a premium, and many a career is jeopardized by injury. You should be counting your lucky stars that you made it through an NCAA season still healthy, and still a top prospect—not counting on those stars to continue their unfathomable orbit. And nothing—nothing—nears the developmental boon of playing with the best in the world. Another year at college isn’t helping your game, your career; it’s hurting both. I’ll be glad if I’m wrong about this, but I doubt that I am.

 -If Kobe never plays again, we’re all losers. His most recent season was one of his most fun ever, as his box-score-stretching shot, point, and—occasionally, amazingly—assist totals all played second fiddle to the incredible amount of minutes he put in, and to the cinematic streaks he’d go through, outmaneuvering whole defenses to drain silky jumper after silky jumper, each time the Lakers reached new nadirs of desperation. But all of it was only made possible by his unparalleled desire to keep at it, and play through injury with the aid of pre-game cortisone shots. No one in the league has pushed their body to greater extremes, and, if we’re to believe the medical reports, the result might be an injury of equivalent damage.

 -On upset watch: Rockets over Spurs, Celtics over Knicks. San Antonio hasn’t been the same since Parker’s injury, and the young Rockets are hungry. I have a hard time seeing the Spurs keep up with them, and expect this series to go to the lower seed, as Tracy McGrady is not the answer to their problems, but a testament to the desperate spot they know they’re in. And the Knicks, pretenders of pretenders, won’t be privy to the three-point feasts that have keyed all of their season’s success, against Boston. The Celtics actually close out on those shots, and the overlooked play of Jeff Green will test their weak perimeter defense further than it can handle; Iman Shumpert can only guard one man. I’ll be stunned if the Knicks can back up their confidence, and none too surprised to see Boston take them down after another underwhelming regular season effort—even if they give Carmelo 45 points per game as they do it.

 -The Washington Wizards are this year’s winners of the non-playoff-bound regular season. With the amazing surge of play from John Wall, and Bradley Beal’s emergence as a top perimeter threat, no team stands a better chance to make huge jumps in the standings, next season, when they’re presumably healthy and more experienced with one another. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that they’re in the historically weak Eastern Conference.

-Please, let the Kings be the SuperSonics, and move to Seattle. The situation in Sacramento is broken, and as long as they’re there, the franchise is a black hole in a league that’s already got too many lost franchises. There’s actually talent on this roster; I’d love to see it blossom from the respect of a city and ownership group happier to have them, and willing to prove it with the only resource that talks: money.

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