Five Questions for the Second Half of the NBA Season

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5. Are the Memphis Grizzlies Better After the Rudy Gay Trade?

In a word, yes. Memphis took a big risk when they traded star forward Rudy Gay and many argued that the trade was more for salary cap availability than for play on the court. Fact is, prior to the trade the Grizzlies had an impotent and individualistic offense ranking near the bottom of the league in both points and assists per game. Since the trade the Grizzlies have scored more points and have continued to be a top-five defense holding all but one opponent to less than 100 points in February. And the addition of Ed Davis to the frontcourt makes the Grizzlies dangerous both this year and moving forward in the West.

4. Will Derrick Rose Return this Season?

Reports surfaced around the All-Star Break that Rose was behind schedule on his recovery and did not yet have a timetable for his return. Going so far as to say he “wouldn’t mind missing this year.” ACL injuries are serious and every athlete recovers at a different pace, but I was reassured by Rose saying he would not return unless he was “110 percent.” He understands the severity of the injury he sustained and plans to take the necessary time to return healthy. But I do expect him to return at some point this season. When he makes his debut, it will take time for him to get back up to game speed. If the Bulls are lucky enough to get Rose back before the beginning of April, we may see glimpses of a pre-ACL Rose in the run-up to the playoffs. If not, Bulls fans and NBA fans alike will be forced to wait until next season to evaluate the health of Rose’s knee.

3. Can the Lakers Make a Serious Playoff Push?

As a Celtics fan it’s hard to not feel a little dissonance watching the Lakers struggle as they have this season. This past offseason Los Angeles brokered a trade that brought in seven-footer Dwight Howard, making the Lakers the sexy pick to win a championship. The problem was, all of those analysts had not seen the team actually try and play together.

Howard has been dominant when he makes it to the floor, but that has not happened nearly often enough. The team is on their third coach, Mike D’Antoni. And despite being one the most potent offenses and having the “new” Kobe assisting teammates before looking for his own shot, the team is three games under .500.

Experts say that they will need to win nearly 70 percent of their remaining games if they hope to make the playoffs. The Lakers now have something to rally around, following the passing of team owner Jerry Buss. Maybe his memory can be the catalyst for turning their season around. I expect a seventh or eighth seed for the Lakers, and once the post season arrives anything can happen.

2. Are the Celtics Still a Threat Despite Losing Rajon Rondo?

Since Rajon Rondo went down with an ACL tear on January 25, the Celtics have gone 8-1 including wins against the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers. Rather impressive for a team that has been decimated by injuries this season.

In addition to losing Rondo the team is also missing forward Jared Sullinger and guard Leandro Barbosa for the remainder of the season. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have stepped up and become the focal points of the offense again,getting their teammates involved. And although it is difficult to admit, the team seems more excited to play every night following Rondo’s injury. Nine games is not a long enough stretch to evaluate whether Boston is in fact a threat in East – not even their upcoming west coast road trip can. Time will answer that question, but early signs make the Celtics appear to be a team to fear even without their star point guard.

1. Are We Witnessing a “New” Lebron James?

Since winning his first NBA Championship last season, a weight seems to have been lifted from Lebron’s shoulders. It certainly helps that critics can no longer claim he has never won anything. And with the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Heat are the odds on favorite to again represent the East in the Finals. Lebron has looked dominant, putting together another MVP-caliber all season. But the Lebron that we have seen in his past ten games has been transcendent. That included a seven-game stretch where he scored more than 30 points including six games where he was shooting 60 percent from the field. James is one of the game’s best passers, scorers and defenders, and was even before this most recent stretch. This will be different if Lebron is able to prolong his success through the rest of the season. If he does, the debate over best player in the game may begin to shift to best player ever.