ESPN always seems to have the market cornered, when it comes to those, “if you’re into that sort of thing” articles. Almost as if they have Scott Van Pelt, sitting in a dimly-lit, corner office, pushing a “generate” button on their latest Power Rankings. These are the type of rankings that drive fans nuts, giving them enough message board fodder to fill two entire pumpkin pie aisles at Trader Joe’s.
Well, if their latest offering is any indication, the folks in Bristol, Connecticut, have figured out the we’re witnessing the birth of a new NBA.
The Boston Celtics, winners of 19 out of their last 21 games, are now the imposing force in the Association, a team that will become the barometer for success, even before the Golden State Warriors fall in defense of their championship. If and when that day comes. Another surprise team, the Detroit Pistons, are up next.
If necessity is the father of invention, then certainly, this year’s offseason, and the realignment of forces in both the East and West, was in direct response to teams getting sick of seeing California and Ohio represented in the NBA Finals. The Celtics, Cavs, and the Houston Rockets, all came into the 2017-18 campaign with new-look squads, all in the interest of taking the final step in forcing their respective cities to allocate time in planning a parade route.
Gordon Hayward’s grizzly injury notwithstanding, the Boston Celtics are doing the best job of this thus far. I always felt as though Brad Stevens would be the guy to bring about a philosophical overhaul in this organization. Even before Kyrie Irving arrived, Stevens had in place a team that just works harder like its always got something to prove. Even if it doesn’t. Teams vying for a title must learn how to win in order to be considered a serious contender. After the Celtics stunned the Warriors, a compelling argument could be made that this squad is ready for the next step.
Detroit can speak to this. Once a permanent fixture in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Detroit Pistons, evaporated from the collective sports conscience, like rain droplets on a windshield in Arizona. Stan Van Gundy wasn’t necessarily dead on arrival when he came to the city, but did not produce the savior-like results fans hoped he would. Perhaps his path was overloaded with traffic from “The Lodge” freeway, but his club places third in the East, and at six, boasts the most double-digit comeback wins in the NBA. The most impressive of which, coming against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Pistons who surprised the Celtics at the Garden Monday night sit at 14-6, good enough for second place in the East. They will have to significantly tighten things up on defense to be taken seriously. Apparently Stan Van Gundy is not a big fan of adages.
Chalk it up to the leadership of shooting guard Avery Bradley, or the fact that despite their brief disappearance from the upper echelon, Detroit is a proud organization with a winning pedigree. It’s certainly not the attendance at the new, Little Caesar’s Arena.
Change will always come. Unless, that change comes in the form of a humble Lavar Ball. While the matchups in the past three years between the Cavs and Warriors were tense, enthralling, and inspirational for journalists like me, parity and intrigue were the sorely-needed missing link in this league
Young talent and hungry teams have changed the landscape of the NBA for the better, and have offered up a reason to pay more attention to the real sport, rather than its virtual, Nintendo Switch, counterpart.
December is upon us, and a whole slate of marquee NBA matchups will be coming down the chimney this year. With the advent of parity in the league, there has never been a better time to unwrap all of it this winter.