NBA: Questions remain down the stretch 

Well into the final quarter of the NBA’s regular season, here are nine burning questions that are just begging for answers:

Nash or Nowitzki — who’s the MVP? Last week’s classic between the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns may be a microcosm of the season. It took two overtimes before the two best teams in the league settled things, and they were settled in favor of the Suns because of the most clutch player in the league: The two-time defending MVP. It’s not fair to argue in favor of Nowitzki just because he’s the best player on the team with the best record. Nash makes the good players around him look like stars, and the stars like superstars. Make it three in a row.

So, which of them will emerge from the flames of the red-hot West? Actually, neither. The Mavs and Suns are the two best teams, but neither of them will reach the Finals. That’s because the most fundamentally sound team, quiet and efficient all season, then lethal in the playoffs — when defense matters — is the San Antonio Spurs.

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Will the Detroit Pistons hold off the hard-charging Cleveland Cavaliers for the top seed in the East? Probably. But that doesn’t mean they’ll win the conference. Detroit is the deepest team, which will keep it on top in the regular season, but when it’s seven-game series time, they will have no answer for LeBron James. LBJ sent a 41-point, eight-assist, seven-rebound message when the Cavs won in Auburn Hills two weeks ago, andgave Detroit more than they wanted in their seven-game series last year. The King may earn his crown this time around.

But what about the surging Miami Heat? Are they actually better without Dwayne Wade? Don’t be stupid. The Heat’s sudden surge in D-Wade’s absence is nothing more than a temporary realization by Miami’s complimentary players that they can no longer buy tickets and watch the show. Oh, and Shaq has decided it might be time to earn some of that $20 million he’s been eating this season.

Do we owe Shaquille O’Neal an apology for writing him off? Why? For pointing out that he’s been lazy, fat and riding D-Wade’s coattails for the last two years? Just because he finally decided to show some pride in his performance, it doesn’t erase the embarrassment he’s been up to this point.

Does Isiah Thomas have dirty pictures of James Dolan or something? What, you don’t think a 29-36 record and third place in the weakest division in basketball is enough "significant progress" to warrant a multi-year contract extension in New York?

Now that the Answer and the Dancer are starting to click, are the Denver Nuggets a threat? Not unless George Karl applies for emergency realignment into the Eastern Conference. Yes, the Nuggets sure look fancy with AI and Melo capable of combining for 70 points on any given night, but the West is full of high-scoring teams, at least five of which are more fundamentally sound than they are.

Is the NBA out to get Kobe Bryant? No. But it is interesting that a league known far and wide for its preferential treatment of superstars is suddenly throwing suspensions at one of its premier attractions for a couple of questionable elbows. What’s next, calling Shaq for all the wrecking-ball offensive fouls he commits on the low block? Limiting guys like Tracy McGrady, LeBron James and Vince Carter to the required 1½ steps off the dribble before calling traveling? Bwahahaha!

Are the Warriors legitimate playoff contenders ... or a bunch of brass pole dancers? Don’t you just love how they smile at you, making you feel like it’s finally your lucky night as you continue to throw money at them ... just before they laugh and send you home lonely and depressed? Yeah. Strippers do that, too.

Sports personality Bob Frantz is a regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at

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