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News » Has East turned the tables on West?


Has East turned the tables on West?


Has East turned the tables on West?
While we've been busy watching Shaquille O'Neal muscle Mark Cuban away from headline-snagging supremacy, the NBA is attempting to redefine itself.

One of the seemingly biggest character shifts thus far has occurred when emissaries from the Eastern and Western Conferences have met for play dates. To understand what is happening this season, let's hark back to last season when the Western Conference puffed its collective chest by winning 256 games and losing a reasonable 192 against the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately for proponents of the West-as-varsity-conference philosophy, the Boston Celtics clocked the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Anyway, despite the Cs playoff domination, most watchdogs agreed that the Western Conference sponsored enough powerhouse teams to qualify as the nastiest gauntlet in professional hoops. But through nearly a month of renewed inter-conference skirmishes, the Eastern Conference has managed to triumph in 31 of 49 scheduled games with Western Conference squads.

An immediate reaction would be the presumption that teams in the East are significantly better than they were a few months ago. And the evidence to support this hypothesis is there. But before we investigate the reasons why certain teams are beating up on franchises from the allegedly superior conference, let's take a look at some contributing variables.

We'll begin with three obvious factors in Western Conference slippage ... location, location, location. The East has been the home team in 29 of the 49 showdowns with the West. Given the impact of harsh traveling on private planes and the mediocrity of room-service dining, the numbers could begin to ease toward equality when more Eastern teams begin switching time zones.

It also should be noted that bad or injury-compromised teams have represented the West in nearly half of the encounters with the East. The roll call begins with the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder (0-7), but includes the hardcore Sacramento Kings (0-3), impressionable Memphis Grizzlies (1-3), confounding Dallas Mavericks (2-3) and gimpy Utah Jazz. Please realize that Jerry Sloan's Jazzmen are 1-4 against the East, a trail of woe that featured three games without point guard Deron Williams.

But now that we've conjured some excuses for the Western Conference, let's visit some of their conquerors and look at why these squads have become so regionally formidable.

NBA roundup


Wednesday's action

  • Pistons stop Cavs' streak at 8
  • Without Yao, Rockets fall to Mavs
  • Billups, Nuggets shoot down Spurs
  • Raptors overcome 40 by Wade
  • Hawks end skid by nipping Wizards
  • Salmons, Kings surprise Hornets
  • Wolves beat Sixers for second win
  • Kaman, Clippers clobber Thunder
  • Jazz pull away from Bucks late
  • Blazers blow out Bulls by 42

FOXSports.com analysis

  • Rosen: Pistons' new personality
  • Kahn: Top 10 MVP candidates
  • Rosen: Are Magic for real?
  • Galinsky: NBA power rankings

Photos

  • Celtics celebrate 17th title

We'll begin with the Chicago Bulls, who were 3-0 in inter-conference play before getting trounced by the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday. After proving to be quite a bit more awful than expected last season, the Bulls now are working under a guy (Vinny Del Negro) who never coached before.

The tribulations of the previous season — teamed up with some timely Ping-Pong fortune — enabled the Bulls to employ the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. And while point guard Derrick Rose certainly smells like the real deal, please understand that the Bulls' three victories have come at home against Memphis, the identity-seeking Phoenix Suns and Cuban's stumbling Mavs.

Rose was a swell pick and the Bulls are better, but until they hire someone to do work inside, don't expect Chicago to challenge the East's elite.

One of those elite teams seems to be LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs are 3-1 against the West, LeBron has the poll position in the MVP chase and the main reason for this general improvement is easy to spot.

In Mo Williams, Cleveland finally has a point guard capable of delivering the ball to the right place at the right time. OK, so Mo isn't exactly all that selfless when it comes to parceling out shots, but — with James and Cleveland's interest in playing defense — he could be good enough.

The Detroit Pistons are 3-1 against the West and issued the Lakers their first defeat of the season ... in L.A. But Allen Iverson and Rasheed Wallace seem more like future cap relief than a 1-2 title punch, so let's not declare the Pistons as remarkably improved just yet. By the way, Rodney Stuckey is not a point guard; but is having a card-carrying point guard crucial for playoff success? Is a point guard essential for a team to be efficient on offense?

A fourth team with Western Conference blood on its hands can be found in Milwaukee, where the Bucks sit at 3-2 in that particular category after Tuesday's defeat in Denver. Interestingly, the Bucks and first-year general manager John Hammond — who worked with Joe Dumars in Motown — may have improved the team by shipping the aforementioned Williams to Cleveland. First-year coach Scott Skiles, who has convinced the Bucks to behave with an edge, has replaced Williams with better-than-advertised holdover Ramon Sessions and newcomer Luke Ridnour.

First-year Buck Richard Jefferson has held down the go-to-guy duties in the absence of Michael Redd, who missed all but four of the first 11 games. Hammond also struck the second-round Mother Lode by taking UCLA defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who's working 30 minutes per game while first-round pick Joe Alexander checks in at only 11 and change.

But while the Bucks seem to be a bit sturdier against the West, it should be noted that they are a messy 2-5 against teams from their own conference.

This suggests that while early trends are fun to ponder, true superiority can be expected to find its way back to where it belongs.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 19, 2008

 

 
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