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ISSUE 120 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/17/2006

Inside the Lines: NBA storylines

By Matt and Mark Everhart
Staff Writer

Friday, November 17, 2006

The NBA season started about two weeks ago, and things are already off to an entertaining and unpredictable start, featuring some interesting rule changes.

Matt: So I think the biggest new rule change is the new ball. They changed the ball from the old leather ball to a synthetic ball. It’s drawn a lot of criticism from players, including stars like Lebron and Shaq.

Mark: The new ball is creating controversy. Personally, I hate the new ball. You can change their dress code, you can call the game tighter, but the most important thing is the ball. Why change a ball that has worked for a half-century?

Matt: I agree. Why “fix” something that isn’t broken? For as much as I think that David Stern is the best commissioner in sports, I question this decision, especially because he didn’t consult the players first. But, in the end, it’s still an orange, round ball. The players will adjust.

Mark: Another rule change that has already had an effect on the young season is how the refs are calling technical fouls. The league is trying to cut down on players whining after fouls, so refs are T-ing people up after even the slightest reactions.

Matt: So far this season the league has handed out three times as many techs as in the same time span last season. I think it’s over the top and ridiculous when you’re giving even the robot-like Tim Duncan technicals for arguing.

Mark: I really like the new rule. It decreases the undesirable dissent which has been getting worse and worse the last couple years. Who doesn’t want to see Rasheed Wallace break the all-time record for most techs in one season? He already has five.

Matt: Mount Rasheed will erupt again? Excellent. How about the tendency for NBA teams to play with smaller lineups? Ever since Phoenix succeeded with their faster, smaller gameplan, we’ve been seeing this trend, but especially this year. Gone are the days of the post-up big man.

Mark: This style of play is exciting, but I hate how there are no dominant centers in the league anymore, except for Yao, and Shaq when he cares. I think there are few things greater than seeing a dominant big man down low, gobbling up rebounds and getting dunks, like Shaq did five years ago.

Matt: You’re too old-school. I love the new change, because it makes the game all the more exciting to watch. It opens up the floor. There’s more movement and more athleticism on display. And while this trend is happening, there are still some bastions of great down-low play. Orlando is doing well with Dwight Howard and Darko, and Utah has one of the best records in the league so far with their huge frontcourt.

Mark: Speaking of Utah having one of the best records, it seems the standings are upside down this year! Teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, like Orlando, Utah, New Orleans, and even lowly Atlanta, have started off better than title contenders Dallas and Detroit, both of which have losing records right now. I think this is great because on any given night any team can win. Even the perceived bad teams are doing well. I think this shows the depth and quality of the NBA.

Matt: I think this parity is just a phase.There’s no way that New Orleans is making the playoffs this year, much less Atlanta. I’m not too surprised about Utah and Houston’s hot start, as the only reason they did poorly last year was injuries. The title isn’t won in November. In another month, we’ll see things righted: Dallas will have a good record and Atlanta will, once again, be awful. Last thing: picks for MVP and champions. Who will win it this year?

Mark: I’m going to go with Yao Ming because he’s the most dominant big man in the league, period. Now that he has fixed his toe, he’s playing better than ever. No one can stop him. I’m taking Phoenix for champion, because of the resurgent Amarè Stoudemire. If he can play at even 75 percent of his former self, they’ll win.

Matt: I can’t see anyone but Lebron winning MVP this year. He should have won it last year. For eventual champion, it’s really anybody’s title this year. I’m going to take the Caveliers. Lebron will be completely unstoppable, Larry Hughes will be back to 100 percent soon, and if they get anything off the bench, they’ll win.

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