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Mulvena: With LeBron out of the East, this NBA season is special

| Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I love the NBA this year.

I always love basketball season, and I look forward to college basketball and the NBA every year, but for me, the NBA has a special charm that college basketball just doesn’t. The macho, tough guy side of me, which, as everyone who has had the pleasure of meeting me knows, is a large part of my identity, cringes hearing why I love the NBA so much. But I relish nothing more than pouring my soul out on the keyboard in these columns, so I shall continue.

The NBA is like a reality television show, and sometimes they play basketball. I know a lot of people complain about that part of the NBA, about how it’s all drama and everyone travels and no one plays defense blah, blah, blah. The NBA is awesome, and the level of play is infinitely higher than that of college basketball, so for those who hate the NBA for these reasons: Don’t watch it, we don’t want you to anyway. If you think Virginia running the pack line defense against Syracuse running the zone is more exciting than the Celtics and Sixers in prime time, then I don’t quite understand why you tune into basketball games in the first place. But I digress.

The NBA this year is particularly special. The drama is still there, of course, especially considering now-Philadelphia 76ers guard Jimmy Butler’s whole situation. But there’s one more thing that this year’s NBA has which it has lacked in past years: LeBron James is out of the Eastern Conference. And it’s awesome.

Maybe I’m biased because I’m a Knicks fan, so I tend to naturally watch more Eastern Conference basketball, but I think most should agree with me on this. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Eastern Conference is truly wide open and up for grabs. Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Boston all have the talent to make some noise come postseason time, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. You could even argue that Indiana will still pose a threat to some big teams down the road. We are no longer trudging toward the inevitable LeBron James Eastern Conference title, fooling ourselves along the way that maybe the Celtics can take him this year. We actually have a battle, and a good one at that.

Of course, the Warriors still own the West, and I don’t see that changing any time soon, but it’s nice to have a reason to watch regular-season basketball with passion this year. The drama of the Cavs and LeBron, which was already worn out and boring by the middle of last season anyway, has faded, and new, more intriguing drama has emerged. Plus, personally, I don’t like LeBron. I never have and I never will, so it’s nice to be asleep by the time he gets on television most nights. But I think that’s a different column for a different day. For now, I’m just glad that, for once, at least a handful of Eastern Conference teams have to fight it out in a regular season that will really matter later on.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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