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NBA storylines more than just Lakers
On Sunday night, when Mike D’Antoni makes his coaching debut with the Los Angeles Lakers, maybe the attention on this NBA regular season can start to focus on, well, the entire NBA regular season.
Don’t get me wrong. Whether D’Antoni and his up-tempo, decidedly-not-Phil-Jackson tenure as the Lakers' head coach works or fails will have huge and interesting ramifications for Los Angeles, the Lakers, the Western Conference and the NBA.
The league has forged for itself another great era because it has buttressed a deep reservoir of talent, storylines and interesting teams with a few key narratives stemming from its best and most marketable teams, most notably Miami, Los Angeles and, this season, New York.
This Lakers team in particular, with its addictive mix of uber-talent, dysfunction and uncertainty, will command the attention of fans this season regardless of what happens. They have an all-time great starting lineup, four future Hall of Fame players and enough hype to make Showtime Redux must-see TV, whether it’s unparalleled success, a season-long train wreck or something in between.
But it’s equally true that the drama surrounding the Lakers’ awful start, Mike Brown’s trigger-quick dismissal, the Jackson snub and the choice to hire D’Antoni have overshadowed a league with a bumper crop of other compelling storylines and teams.
Start with the other team in the Staples Center, right now the best in Los Angeles. The Clippers couldn’t be more fun to watch, with Chris Paul running the offense, Blake Griffin playing above the rim and a cast around them that has made L.A.’s other team 6-2 and a true Finals threat.
The San Antonio Spurs -- who already have lost to that Clippers team in a great game two weeks ago -- are 7-2 and seem as ageless as ever, particularly Tim Duncan, who’s again a 20-and-10 machine.
The Memphis Grizzlies have the best record in the NBA for the first time in franchise history, a mark of extra distinction because they’ve used big-man basketball to beat teams like Miami, San Antonio and the Knicks – proof, perhaps, that the idea of a positionless NBA isn’t exactly a sure thing.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are still formidable and fun to watch, especially with Kevin Martin finding his groove and Durant still one of the surest scorers out there. Teams like Minnesota, Houston and Dallas are interesting to watch if inconsistent.
And that’s just the Western Conference.
Out East, the Lakers’ drama has overshadowed a Heat team that has gotten off to a somewhat predictably sluggish 7-3 start but is still the team to beat and still boasting the best player on Earth.
The Knicks are 6-1 now that Linsanity has been sent packing and they’ve been wholly turned over to Carmelo Anthony’s care. The Brooklyn Nets have so for christened their new-arena season with a 5-2 record worthy of all the pre-season, New York-style hype.
Watching Boston try to figure out its new team and squeeze the last from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Chicago move on without Derrick Rose, Charlotte surprise at 4-3 and Philly battle to stay at .500 while waiting for Andrew Bynum’s return have made for compelling and interesting basketball.
This is the nature of the NBA, where the sexiest storylines – and the Lakers' melodrama is certainly great stuff – eclipse some other fascinating and formidable teams. Two years ago, the Heat’s Big Three-driven dysfunction, drama and adjustments let a team like Dallas go way too unheralded.
So in that light, yes, it’s very cool that on Sunday we get to start seeing what D’Antoni’s arrival will herald for the Lakers.
Can’t wait to see Howard thrive in that system, to figure out how Kobe gets folded into the up-tempo style, to see whether the Lakers can also play gritty defense and start assessing whether this is a team that can make a real title run.
All the drama of these first few weeks has been the build up to what comes next.
But it’ll also be nice to get one step closer to more of the spotlight shining elsewhere, from Miami to Memphis to New York to San Antonio, across a league that has a lot of great things unfolding.
You can follow Bill Reiter on Twitter or email him at email@example.com
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