NBA Eastern Conference Update

We’re at about the quarter-pole in the long haul that is the NBA regular season, which paves the way for what can seem like an even longer playoff run. All of which is to say we can’t get too excited about an early results, but the first returns do suggest the NBA Eastern Conference is headed for a historically bad season.

The East has two greats teams, with the two-time defending champion Miami Heat off to a 16-6 start, and the prime challenger, the Indiana Pacers out at 19-3, including a head-to-head win last night over the Heat in the first meeting of the season. Problem is, the Heat and Pacers are the only two teams in the East with a winning record.

Atlanta is at .500 and holding the 3-spot. The Charlotte Bobcats are 10-12, with the Washington Wizards at 9-11. Everyone else is at least four games under the break-even point.

At the start of the season, the question about the Boston Celtics was whether they would tank and go in the lottery. They still might–heck, at 10-14, maybe they’re even trying to, but right now that’s good enough to be leading the Atlantic Division. The final two spots in the Eastern Conference’s top eight are held down by the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls.

The Eastern Conference has been well behind the West for several years now, but this is really out of hand and threatens to jeopardize the credibility of the postseason. We’re going to have teams that miss the playoffs by four rungs in the West able to make reasonable arguments that they’re the #3 team in the East, and perhaps–in spite of an unbalanced schedule–even have a better record.

If the playoff bracket lacks credibility, that ultimately casts aspersions on any championship won out of the East. While the top contenders in the West have to slug it out right from the opening round–after a longer, more grueling regular season–the Pacers and Heat can relax and coast into a conference finals battle with each other.

That’s the current status of the East. Here’s hoping the conference teams, especially disappointments like the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, who have the talent to be much better, can turn it around and start winning some games.