In a season when the midpoint of the schedule coincides with the All-Star break, it's as good a point as any to take stock.
In the East, separating the contenders from the pretenders has almost been completed by the centrifuge that has been the first half of this lockout-compacted schedule.
The order probably will change, but it seems like we have our playoff and lottery contestants established. Nothing more to see here, folks.
In some order, the Heat, Bulls, Magic, Hawks, 76ers, Knicks, Celtics and Pacers figure to play into May.
By contrast, the priority will become lottery luck and draft scouting for the Cavaliers, Bucks, Pistons, Nets, Raptors, Wizards and Bobcats.
But in the West, the final 33 or so games will mean plenty, especially at the bottom of the playoff pack.
Your almost-sure-thing: the Lakers.
Your fight-to-the-finish free-for-all: the Rockets, Grizzlies, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, Timberwolves (that sounds odd, doesn't it?) and Jazz.
The already-collected-their-lovely-parting-gifts crowd: the Suns, Warriors, Kings and Hornets.
If ever there was a year to consider a "swing" playoff provision, this is it. Similar to the case in recent years, a good West team will miss the postseason in favor of a not-so-good East also-ran.
The solution: If No. 9 in the West (or beyond) has a winning record and any playoff seed in the East is more than two games below .500, then seed the West teams into the bottom of the East bracket as replacement playoff teams.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The solution: Any West vs. East series before the NBA finals would be scheduled on a 3-2-2 basis. That reduces the equation of, say, Heat-Portland to a single trip as opposed to the Heat having to go twice, say, to Milwaukee (similar total distance, fewer travel days, and a neat little spin on the playoff equation).
Such an approach, regardless of conference race, would have teams in the league's lesser conference (currently the East) fighting to stay within two games of .500 and have teams in the stronger conference (currently the West) desperately competing to at least get to .500.
The reality would be a much stronger postseason field, as well as reduce the sham of awful teams being able to claim playoff credentials.
For now, though, there remains a second half to be played out, with seedings still at issue in both conferences.
PBT: The Grizzlies' Game 2 OT loss to the Spurs was a tough pill to swallow after rallying from 13 down in the fourth quarter, but there's a silver lining.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
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