Sports Column- NBA playoffs are fast approching

Between Kobe’s ridiculous game winning shots, LeBron’s come from behind blocks and Kevin Durant’s 29 game streak of at least 25 points per game, the first half of the 2009-2010 NBA season has yet to disappoint.

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By Daniel Torres / Asst. Sports Editor

By Daniel Torres / Asst. Sports Editor

Between Kobe’s ridiculous game winning shots, LeBron’s come from behind blocks and Kevin Durant’s 29 game streak of at least 25 points per game, the first half of the 2009-2010 NBA season has yet to disappoint.

Several surprises have caught fans eyes these past four months.

For one, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have risen out of ignominy to, at this moment, claim the sixth spot in the western conference posting a 36-24 record.

A team so young that just one year ago they ended the season with an abysmal 23-59 record.

Young, agile and quick, the Thunder are without a doubt causing a storm throughout the league.

Two teams stand out this year, the Dallas Mavericks and the Atlanta Hawks.

Both teams have stepped off the level of mediocrity and onto the plateaus of championship contender in a league in which certain teams are supposed to have all the greatness.

The Hawks are flying high this season.

Atlanta is just one game behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 3 spot in the East.

New addition Jamal Crawford has been nothing but a plus for the team averaging 17.3 points per game, second behind leader Joe Johnson.

The Mavericks began the season strong with new addition Shawn Marion who has been shooting a consistent 50 percent from the field albeit only scoring 11.6 points per game.

Point production isn’t much of a factor when you have Dirk Nowitzki on your team anyway.

The real turning point for the Mavericks came during the trade deadline when they acquired Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from the Washington Wizards.

Butler and Haywood are scoring 26 points per game combined and since the trade the Mavericks have posted an impressive record

It comes as no surprise that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers sit on top of their respective conferences.

They’ve shown night in and out that they have what it takes to emerge victorious.

LeBron James has been having another remarkable season leading the league in scoring at 29.8 points per game.

Because of his play, his team currently owns the best record in the league; just three and a half games ahead of the Lakers.

Not only that, James has shown that he can also be the leader of a team.

He’s getting his teammates involved in the game, throwing alley oops to players like J.J. Hickson and Jamario Moon.These players might have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for James.

The Lakers are right behind the Cavaliers in the standings despite Kobe’s recent struggles.

He’s been the complete antithesis of the way we view Kobe Bean Bryant.

Bryant started off the season well in the absence of Pau Gasol, scoring 30 points per game, but has struggled as of late with his shooting.

Lakers fans can give a sigh of relief though seeing that their team went 4-1 in games in which Bryant did not play. This means Bryant can sit out a few games.

Maybe to rest that broken finger or the torn ligament on the other finger, or the bruised elbow or the groin strain or whatever other injury he has that fans don’t know about.

It appears that the tables have turned this year in conference dominance.

The Cavaliers appear to be the clear cut leaders in the East.

Cleveland enjoys a strong five and a half game lead over the Orlando Magic for first place in the East.

That lead looks very unattainable for Orlando given the way that Cleveland has been playing as of recent.

Meanwhile, in the West, the Lakers are barley holding on to the top spot by two and a half games over the Mavs and three and a half games over the Denver Nuggets.

The big three in the East of last year, Cleveland, Boston and Orlando, are now Los Angeles, Dallas and Denver.

The Lakers of last season, the favorites to take the conference from start to end, are now the Cavs in the East.

Now it’s time to talk about the top rookies this season.

Yes, the novices of the league, some who have shown great potential on the court, and well, the not so quite there yet.

My top rookies this season are Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans and Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings.

Evans has shown very consistent numbers throughout the season averaging 20.3 points per game.

Evans, 20, has been developing very quickly on young team.

The teams average age is only 24 years old.

Evans and the Kings are going to be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years along with Oklahoma City.

Jennings is the so-called project player. Jennings is one of the very few players in the NBA to skip college.

Jennings decided to play professional ball in Europe right out of high school only to come back to the states to play in the NBA.

So far, he’s been a success averaging 16 points per game with six assists per game. It’s his explosiveness that has critics raving.

He has the ability to drop 55 points in a single game, which he did last November.

This fact shows he’s not afraid to take control of a game.

A must watch player for the next decade or so without a doubt.

A rookie flop this season definitely has to be Memphis’ Hasheem Thabeet.

Picked No. 2 overall in last year’s draft, the former Connecticut star has yet to show any latent talent.

Once a robust center who was supposed to be franchise player for the Grizzlies, has now been shamefully demoted to Memphis’ developmental league team.

It’s been a great first half to the season.The second half should carry more energy and excitement as teams battle for top spots and even last day playoff contention.

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