Why the NBA title race is wide open | Good Word with Goodwill
As the basketball calendar turns to the second half of the season out of the All-Star Break, Yahoo Sports senior NBA reporter Vincent Goodwill explains why this year's championship race is the most competitive the league has seen in years.
VINCENT GOODWILL: A little over the halfway mark, and the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy feels more open for the first time since 2015, the first year of the Golden State dynasty. Are the champs rounding into shape or still reeling from a gut punch in the preseason, unable to catch their footing?
The Boston Celtics have rebounded from their coach's missteps to step into first place in the East, looking ahead to June but keeping their focus on 82. It's hard to see most guys playing 82 anymore. An [? All-Star ?] team of players have missed significant time-- [? AB, ?] Zion, Steph, KD all spending too much time in suits than dazzling home crowds.
It's opened the door for exploding numbers. Can we say 60, Luka, or how about 70, Donovan? The scoreboards can't keep up, and offenses are ruling the day, defense optional until the weather breaks. Will the two-time MVP have history broken this year? Nikola Jokic is a certified great, but the Denver Nuggets still have work to do in the playoffs. Only the Birdman and Wilt have won three straight MVPs, and each had trips to the Finals and titles during that run.
It's not the Joker's fault, but the most valuable conversation has so many contestants. Jayson Tatum has grown up. Joel Embiid doesn't want to be second best anymore. And Giannis, let's just say we better be careful not to take his excellence for granted.
He has the Bucs back in the hunt. And if they're healthy, who's betting against him in a seven-game series? That used to be what we said about LeBron James, the man who keeps racking up individual honors while fighting Father Time and taking down an impossible record.
The Lakers, though, seem to be a zillion years away from contender status. If you ask most NBA stars their relationship status with their teams, it would say, it's complicated. Kyrie put his foot in his mouth again, then had his hands in destroying the promising Brooklyn Nets. He heads to Dallas.
And Kevin Durant soon hit the exits himself to the valley of the Sun. Could Durant be angling for one more showdown with his former mates in the Bay, or will he have to see how fine Jah is in the West first?
There's always surprises and some mainstays re-emerging to say they're not done. We see you, [? Dane. ?] We know more than what we did in October but not nearly enough to guess who will be playing in June. And that's what makes this all the more fun.