The 2001-2002 NBA regular season has come to a close, and it was one filled with great excitement and surprises. Fans were taken by the great athleticism of the young players and the return of a legend, Michael Jordan.
Many young children had not seen the great Michael Jordan play, but his return to the game allowed them the opportunity to view one of the greatest players of all-time. Instead, Jordan looked surreal wearing a Washington Wizard’s jersey pf the traditional Chicago Bull red. Along with the excitement of Jordan’s return were the numerous teams awakening from the dead and making the playoffs. The Boston Celtics suddenly became a contender in the Eastern Conference with stars such as Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker leading the way. Also in the East, Jason Kidd must have packed some whoop-ass in his suitcase when he joined New Jersey and led them to the top of the Conference. The Detroit Pistons surprised many by racing to a second place finish in the East and producing award-winning performances.
The Pistons’ coach, Rick Carlisle, won the coach of the year award, while power forward Ben Wallace took home the award for defensive player of the year. Not to be forgotten is power forward Corliss Williamson who won the sixth man award.
While the Eastern Conference was packed with quick guards, the Western Conference was filled with big guns. Once again Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers got off to a fast start but faltered in the end as Chris Webber and the Sacramento Kings took first in the West. The Dallas Mavericks proved that a run and gun offense can succeed as they finished fourth.
Both Conferences featured drastically improved teams that still failed to make the playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers filled with great young talent and athleticism improved their record of wins by over eight games. The Washington Wizards, with Jordan’s help, improved over ten games and barely missed out on the playoffs.
Many teams, projected to be wonders, failed to live up to expectations. The Milwaukee Bucks and the Indiana Pacers disappointed many. The Bucks had been predicted to advance to the NBA finals after they fell one game short of reaching the finals the year before. Instead, the Bucks finished ninth in the Conference and missed the playoffs. The talent-rich Pacers, expected to be a big time contender in the East, barely made the playoffs as the last seed in the Conference. The Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the New Jersey Nets.
Once again the NBA filled arenas all over the country with supportive fans. So, with the regular season over and the playoffs already beginning, nobody doubts the Los Angeles Lakers chances of becoming a three-peat champion. There are many teams capable dethroning the defending champs such as the Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs. Only time will tell if we will have a new champ or the same one once again.