NBA at Midseason: Can Anyone Stop the Knicks (From Completely Losing Steam)?

Categories: Jockbeat

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I love Stephen A. Smith, I really do, and it's great fun watching him play the Harlem Globetrotters to Skip Bayless's Washington Generals on ESPN's First Take. (And I really love Jay Pharoah's impression on SNL).

But I'm getting a little tired of The Kobe Bryant Show. It isn't like the Lakers are one or two games or even one or two players away from being a serious contender. You know things are really bad when Metta World Peace is the one guy on your roster who seems to have it together.

The Lakers are 25-29 and in danger of falling into complete insignificance. Please, to Stephen A. and Skip: Kobe is not going to get any younger and Shaq isn't coming back. The Lakers are dead -- for this season and probably for the rest of the decade.

The West is the interesting conference, with three teams -- San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and the LA Clippers -- closing in on 60 wins. If this happens, it will be the first time since Clinton became a lame duck during midterms. The Spurs have in Tony Parker the best point guard in the league and the best French basketball player since Marcel Proust (who could pass but couldn't play a lick of D).

There just isn't a feeling that there's anything surprising to look forward to down the stretch. Or stated another way, the NBA has now become what it was when Michael Jordan was at his peak: What most fans around the country -- or at least those not in San Antonio, Oklahoma City or the part of LA that roots for the Clippers -- want to know is, "Are the Heat on tonight?"

Most of the early season euphoria over the Knicks has now faded, and it looks to me like the best they can look forward to is the third spot in the East. I haven't seen Spike at the last couple of home games (though, of course, he was at the All-Star Game). This is Jason Kidd's last gasp. His 3-point percentage for the month of February -- barely over 20 percent -- doesn't bode well for having much steam by playoff time.

C'mon, you know it: the Knicks are a third-place team with Indiana poised to surge past them and maybe Brooklyn, too, if the Nets pass the hat at Barclays to take Mr. (and maybe even Mrs.) Whammy on the road with them.

And yes, dammit, LeBron is at his peak, and his peak is better than Michael Jordan's. But there's time to address that debate when James wins his second championship ring. (He'll be 28, same age as Jordan when he won his second.)


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