McCallum, Jack
February 2005
Sports Illustrated;2/21/2005, Vol. 102 Issue 8, p72
The author comments on the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its star power. For much of the sports-watching population, the following assertion will inspire outrage, scorn and an avalanche of dissenting letters. But here it is: At the midpoint of the 2004-05 season the NBA appears to be well on its way to rehabilitating its product on the court and its image off it. For a few crazy moments let's assume that an entire sport should not be defined by a single Friday night fight (as ghastly as the Malice at the Palace was) and that the NBA will not commit labor suicide this summer when the collective bargaining agreement expires (as its ice-skating counterpart has done). Let's take a look at all that's going right. After years of subscribing to the belief that 100 is, like 666, a figure to be avoided, teams have discovered that piling up points can yield stunning results--that a winner can be built around the fast break, rapid ball movement and, in the case of the resurgent Phoenix Suns and Seattle SuperSonics, three-point shooting. If you're a running team, the San Antonio Spurs will shut down your break. If you play deliberately, they'll push the tempo. If you don't like it rough, they'll body up on you. If you do like it rough, they'll play rougher. One hesitates to mention Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill's recovery from left ankle surgeries, for fear it will jinx him. The Chicago Bulls, irrelevant since Michael Jordan's last retirement, have risen in the East behind rookies Luol Deng, 19, and Ben Gordon, 21, whose spirited play has rejuvenated a couple of creaky 22-year-olds, Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler.


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