We have been under a spell for years, the trance that has taught us the Western Conference is the only one that matters in the NBA. While LeBron has been dominating the East for more than a decade, the other coast has been the true power brokers. That may be a relic of the past soon enough.
Thursday night the Celtics hung their 14th straight win by knocking off the Warriors 92-88. While the defending champs have at times looked clunky and bored for the first month, this was still a seismic win by Boston. Despite losing Gordon Hayward on opening night to a gruesome injury, the C’s have found a way to rip off more than a dozen straight. Two more victories and the Celtics would claw their way into one of the 25 longest win streaks in league history.
Not only was Thursday a bat signal sent from New England that the C’s will be a force to be feared in the playoffs, but also a potential passing of the baton. Not that Boston is suddenly better than the Warriors, the most talented team ever assembled. But instead that Boston can play toe-to-toe with the baddest kid on the block, and thus has to be considered a threat to win it all.
This is a year early for the Celtics in the traditional timeline to be talking title, but they have every right to be giddy in Boston. It’s not yet Thanksgiving so all declarations may be painfully premature. But beyond this season, the Celtics will undoubtedly be a champion contender. The combination of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kyrie Irving look to be formidable, and still rising. Add Hayward to the rest of a solid roster and the Celtics have tremendously bright days ahead.
But let’s look at the rest of the East, a playland of gifted beasts. Joel Embiid just dropped 46 and 15, looking like a young Hakeem on Wednesday night against the Lakers. He’s a huge personality, seeking the big stage and notoriety in a charming way. Combined with Ben Simmons, the Sixers have the look of a future power (if those two stay healthy).
How about the breakout star of the league’s first month? The Greek Freak in Milwaukee has forced basketball writers to reassess what’s possible from a big man. Breathless columns have been written about when Giannis becomes the most powerful, unstoppable force in the NBA. The Bucks went and added Eric Bledsoe as well to be his running mate. Fear the deer, indeed.
Don’t look now but the Knicks (yes, this seems like an alternate universe) have stoked the old flames of the Big Apple hoop heads. Kristaps Porzingis has become a terror, and his rookie running mate from France has helped front a fiesty, young team that plays hard every night. (Phil Jackson and Carmelo must be gone.)
The Wizards have John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Pistons shockingly have the second best record in the East. And the Raptors still hold the Demar DeRozan/Kyle Lowry combo. And now for the real mic drop moment: we have spent nearly eight paragraphs describing all the fun, shiny objects in the conference and have yet to bring up the Cavs.
LeBron is still LeBron (at least on some nights) like we saw Monday at Madison Square Garden. The Cavs are still the center of the East’s universe. But that window can’t stay open for long. Either King James will leave after the season rendering Cleveland back to irrelevancy or he stays and the dominance begins to wane with each passing season.
The West still has the best team in the league (Golden State), the best coach (Pop), the most intriguing chemistry (OKC) and another title threat (Houston). But all of the West’s squads are gunning with players in their primes. The future belongs to the East (and the Timberwolves).
Don’t look now, but everything we’ve known about the last ten years in the NBA may be changing. The East is about to explode.
D.A. hosts 9am-12 pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.