An interesting question heard posed earlier today -- is Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder actually better off now that Kevin Durant is gone? There would seem to be two obvious answers.
If Westbrook wanted to pad his own gaudy statistics, he's got to be in hog heaven right about now. The dude's averaging a "triple double"per game. If he keeps it up for the rest of the season, he'll become only the second player in the history of the NBA to accomplish such a feat -- Oscar Robertson of decades ago being the only other.
But if he has any aspirations of ever winning a championship, they first started to disappear when the Thunder let James Hardin (an MVP candidate himself) get away to the Houston Rockets in free agency a couple years ago. When KD jumped ship and headed west to the GS Warriors, any faint hopes of winning a title officially went poof. Ain't gonna happen. So Westbrook wound up a really good player on an otherwise slightly better than average team. And BTW, the man seems to be in desperate need of a fashion counselor. Some of the outfits he's been seen sporting these days are more reminiscent of what the Gabor sisters wore back in Oscar's day, rather than a current NBA superstar. Furs, leopard skin, and polka-dots? Really? What's next -- paisley and bell-bottoms? C'mon, dude. Man up.
Don't look now, but the San Antonio Spurs have closed the gap with the above-mentioned Warriors for superiority in the Western Conference. By the end of the regular season, it's entirely possible, perhaps probable, Coach Pop's crew will hold home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
This is what happens when a team like the Warriors made the decision to go "all-in" by getting Durant, only to see him go down with an injured knee. Let's not forget the Warriors had to get rid of several very good role players to find salary cap room to accommodate the max contract Durant would get. It seemed odd they would have done such a thing in the first place, given they were the best team in the league before. True, they lost in the Finals last year to Cleveland, but they had put up the best regular season record ever, cruised through the playoffs, and were ahead 3-1 when their applecart got upset by Draymond Green finally getting suspended for, shall we say, improper physical contact on the floor with an opponent. Green had it coming, but it completely turned the whole momentum of the series around. Otherwise, why fix it when it ain't broke? And it just might cost them big-time this year before all is said and done.
Also don't look now, but the Boston Celtics are a force that will soon have to be reckoned with. They're only a couple games behind Lebron and the Cavs for superiority in the East. That could flip-flop too. Though the Beaners pretty much have flown under the radar, these guys are good and, more importantly, will continue to get better in years to come.
Danny Ainge, the General Manager, was allowed by ownership to make the decision to pretty much blow up the franchise a few years ago and start over. He got rid of all the aging players with fat albatross contracts holding the team back. Instead, he traded them away for future draft picks. Lots of them. Sure, the Celtics crashed and burned in the short run. That was to be expected and somebody as smart as Ainge certainly knew it. Then he brought in a young innovative head coach, one Brad Stevens, and started the re-build. It has most definitely paid off. The Celtics still have cap space to burn and lots of draft picks in the next few years. As teams like the Cavaliers get older, yes, Lebron's going to slow down too before long, the Celtics are positioned to be serious title contenders in the years to come. True, whoever comes out of the West will be a formidable opponent indeed, but don't sleep on the Celtics for long, because these guys are surely coming.
Somewhere, the ghost of Red Auerbach is getting ready to light up another victory cigar. And even if he is an Indiana guy, you just know part of Larry Bird still bleeds Celtic green. There's just something about that Beantown thing that never goes away.
Personally, I love visiting Boston. If they could just learn how to talk right and drive automobiles like civilized people, it would be a lot better. But all in all, not too shabby.