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As the NBA Turns

As we all eagerly await the Christmas match up of Kobe and Shaq... Ha. Are you kidding. What a joke. Christmas is the date most analysts point to as the time when teams start to show they are jelling. When systems by new coaches are supposed to start becoming understood. It is also an important date because it marks the point where roughly 1/3 of the season has passed.

What has stood out? 1) The play of Phoenix & Seattle 2) Amare Stoudemire & LeBron James making huge strides 3) The one year wonder Pistons 4) Kobe finally fulfilling his true potential to become the next AI 5) The hum drum Spurs continue to play the role of the sleeping cat ready to pounce.

What does the next third of the season hold?

1) I can see the Spurs continuing to work out whatever kinks they have. Pop will probably start to work some plays, both defensively and offensively, into the mix with teams like Seattle and Phoenix in mind. On that subject, the league in general will probably start to play those teams a little more physically in hopes of tiring out their freight train offenses.

2) Minnesota will start to see if the old vets can really carry the heavy load or will the young guns have to step up. If it turns out that Spree and Sammy aren't up to it, the Wolves will be in trouble. Assuming KG can't raise his game yet again. On that matter: If Garnett ever got a little more selfish, I think could go through that last threshold. Like MJ in his prime, 30 pts a game were expected. KG needs to have that mindset. He can do it if he wants to. Does he?

3) Steve Nash will pronounce that he's officially died and gone to heaven. Can you imagine a better situation to be in as a 30 year old point guard who went to college in Santa Clara? Running with the athletes he has to run with has raised Nash's game to a new level.

4) Look for Memphis and New Jersey to start rising. Memphis started 5 - 11, so them getting to .500 will be a big step. Pau Gasol has a lot of growth left in him as does Stromile Swift. They have potential to become a really good defensive team, especially under Fratello's tutelage. In the East, the Nets will start on the road back to division contention. In the Atlantic, despite being only 7 - 16, they are only 5 1/2 games back of the leading NY Knicks. With a healthy Kidd and Carter in the fold, they are as good as anybody on the wing. Now, who do they have to clean the glass?

5) The Warriors will continue to be pretty bad. That was pretty much a given.

So that's it for now. The NBA looks to be shaking off the effects of the Artest fiasco which indeed makes for a Merry Christmas. At least in this hoops-lover's eyes. Keep it real and pass once in a while. He who gives is more likely to receive. Take Steve Nash as an example. No blocks, but lots of love.