The NBA is up for grabs in 2014


The NBA is a completely different league today than it was three years ago — and I like it.

Teams that were title contenders are now bottom feeders, and it seems like owners are more apt to buy — rather than build — greatness.

The Dallas Mavericks won the championship three years ago. Dirk Nowitzki was the talk of the town, and Jason Kidd was a starting point guard, not the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

In 2014, the Mavs are sitting in third place in the Southwest Division behind Houston and San Antonio.

So let’s talk about Houston.

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The Rockets were nothing a couple of years ago. The team had a lot of young promising players, but no results. In 2012, they finished second to last place in the Southwest division, barely above .500. They didn’t even make the playoffs.

Fast forward to this year. Houston has more talent than it can afford. Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin — I could go on. These players work well together and are fun to watch. The fan base is growing, and I for one would love to see this team make a deep playoff run and give the reigning champs a run for their money.

Houston is 38-18 and only two games behind the Spurs in the race for the Southwest Division. This never could have happened three years ago.

And oh my goodness, what happened to the Lakers? Well, Kobe got hurt. That’s the easy answer. But the Lakers’ decline over the last couple of years has been hard to watch nonetheless.

L.A. had created a dynasty. They were royalty. Winning three championships in a row in the early 2000s and then back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010 demands respect. Geez, talk about hardware.

Now, the Lakers are in last place in the Pacific Division. They played Boston last week, and the game meant nothing. There was no extra hype. It seems like the “Lakers brand” doesn’t mean much anymore.

But maybe that’s because the Celtics are also tanking. That rivalry used to be legendary. But fans can’t really get excited when both teams have abysmal records, and playoff hopes are slim to none.

Even as recent as 2011 and 2012, playing in the Eastern Conference meant running the gauntlet. The Heat, Celtics and Bulls were all title contenders, and it just didn’t seem fair that the two best teams in the NBA couldn’t play each other in the finals.

The Bulls are hard to talk about. Even without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah has Chicago playing with enough tenacity to keep them sitting at second place in the Central Division, though 13 games separates them from first-place Indiana. Yikes.

Consistent teams? There are a few. Oklahoma City has been good year in and year out. Kevin Durant can — and does — put up 30-plus points on any given night.

But OKC is still coming into its own. Back when the Lakers and Celtics were dominating, Durant was just out of college and still a member of the Seattle SuperSonics.

It seems to me that part of this shift stems from players choosing money over loyalty. It’s not surprising. After all, basketball is a job, and athletes put themselves first.

But never did I ever think I would see Steve Nash in a Lakers uniform or Ray Allen in a Miami jersey.

Teammates probably feel such a sense of betrayal, and there has to be some bad blood the first time they play their old team. Either that or the NBA is filled with exceptionally mature individuals.

Don’t make me laugh.

Change over time happens. Trust me, I get it, I’m a history major. But this is a massive change.

The NBA is all topsy-turvy, and I kind of like it. Sports are boring if we see the same teams winning every year. And while I might be okay with it if it were the Bulls, I’m ready to see Oklahoma City, Houston or Indiana upend Miami.

The NBA, like others professional sports leagues, operates cyclically. And until those titans of the past — looking at you Boston — get their act together; it’s fun to watch new teams succeed.

Aryn is a senior in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @arynbraun.