With All-Star Weekend behind us, here are five NBA storylines to keep an eye on in the second half:
Who will get dealt?
The trade deadline is looming (Thursday at 3 pm EST) and trade rumors are swirling. Who's going where, and for whom? Rudy Gay has been the biggest name to switch teams so far, but that could change in the next 48 hours. Some players who could have new homes by the end of the week include Josh Smith, J.J. Redick, Kris Humphries, Paul Millsap, and Monta Ellis. Stay tuned.
Can the Celtics Keep it Up?
Boston entered the All-Star Break on a roll, having won eight of nine despite losing Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa for the remainder of the season during those two weeks. Everyone is stepping up and pitching in, from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Jason Terry, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee. Everyone knows the C's are heavy on heart and pride, but how will their depleted roster fare over the next two months, when the long season takes its toll on players (especially older ones)? We'll find out soon enough. Ready or not, the Celtics face a challenging travel schedule down the stretch. They kick off the second half with a five-game road trip and play 60 percent of their remaining games away from the TD Garden.
Who's the MVP?
LeBron James or Kevin Durant? Both are having historic seasons--James in terms of overall efficiency and Durant in the art of shooting a basketball. You can't go wrong with either one. While they're not the only ones having MVP-caliber seasons--Chris Paul, James Harden, and Tony Parker are all worthy of consideration-- this is truly a two-horse race headed for a photo finish. Right now it's too close to call, and I don't see either candidate separating himself from the other anytime soon. Expect plenty of heated debate over the next few months, on par with the Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera arguments that consumed talking heads last fall.
Will the Lakers turn it around?
Not as long as Mike D'Antoni is head coach. With Pau Gasol hurt, Dwight Howard not himself and Steve Nash starting to look his age, the Lakers don't look nearly as good as they did on paper six months ago. Kobe Bryant is doing everything he can to keep the ship from sinking, but it's not going to be enough.
Are the Spurs really the best team in basketball (again)?
Every year Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili get a little older, and every season ends with San Antonio at or near the top of the NBA standings. They're like the New York Yankees of basketball. Even with Ginobili riding the pine more often than not, the ageless Spurs rode strong first halves from Duncan, Parker, Tiago Splitter, and Danny Green to the best record in the NBA. Regular season success notwithstanding, the franchise hasn't won a championship in six years and the window for another title isn't opening any wider.