New year, new views on NBA season

I never bought into the "He is our most important player" angle that Erik Spoelstra tried to sell throughout last season. Please. Try winning a Game 7 with a scoreless LeBron. That doesn't mean Bosh is nothing more than an ad on the side of the Heat bus, either. Let's just agree that Bosh is useful. And let's hope for more Good Bosh ... just because it makes the pictures so good.

Israel: Well, you've got to be more than "useful" if you're an All-Star, right? And I think people remember Bosh more for his scoreless Game 7 and somewhat empty series against Indiana, and that translates into "he's not that good." When really, the guy who showed up in Portland is more the true Bosh -- at least, that's the guy you'd see if he were featured. But Bosh cares more about winning, and the "sacrifice" Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra talk about is exactly that, sacrificing public perception of yourself for the betterment of the team. And I just think, once and for all, folks should recognize that of Bosh.

I also think it's a good time to reassess the supposed predictability of the NBA. Yes, the playoffs rarely have stunning results. But I'd say what the Suns are doing in the regular season is pretty stunning. It's refreshing to see we can still be surprised, that young talent can mature quickly, that coaching actually matters and that tanking isn't for everybody. The fact that it's January and the Suns are squarely in the playoff picture in the ferocious Western Conference is the most surprising element to this season.

"

The only thing with Phoenix is they're winning so many games with superior effort, and that won't cut it in the playoffs when everybody tries hard every game.

" -- J.A. Adande

J.A.: I wouldn't call it more surprising than the Celtics having a better record than the Bulls, Nets and Knicks. But because the Suns actually have a winning record and their status doesn't involve injuries or implosions to other teams, let's call the Suns the most pleasantly surprising team. Then there are the pleasant surprises within the surprise, such as Jeff Hornacek's effectiveness as a coach and Eric Bledsoe's ability to be a full-time starter. The only thing with Phoenix is they're winning so many games with superior effort, and that won't cut it in the playoffs when everybody tries hard every game.

The Suns aren't better than the Clippers, but they sure outworked them when they blew them out in L.A. this week. The Suns were so dominant that the Clippers starters sat on the bench in the fourth quarter, which brought at least a temporary halt to another emerging story: the elevation of Blake Griffin.

In his previous six games he averaged 29 points and 12 rebounds, and most significant of all hit 81 percent from the free throw line. If he can shoot like that, if he can move his "good game" ceiling from 20-29 points up to 30-40 points, doesn't that alter the perception of what the Clippers can do in the playoffs? Dare I say he might even have a bigger impact than your guy Bosh, or would that be too hard for you to process?

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