Writing second-half story lines
Now that the antics in Los Angeles are over for awhile -- no, not the All-Star game, the annual Shaq, Kobe and Phil whodonewhattowho thing -- we can concentrate on the first day of the rest of your NBA season.
For those racing enthusiasts, yes, here they come thundering down the stretch! Well, actually, limping and aching in a lot of places with Chris Webber and Wally Szczerbiak set to return from season-long injuries, Allan Houston stepping back into it and Shaquille O'Neal hoping not to have any more of those Walter Brennan moments. After all, he is supposed to be the true McCoy.
This is supposed to be the get-serious time in the NBA. No more midseason break to look toward, no more All-Star snubs to consider, no more walls to hit. It's all about statement games and playoff previews. Not in our house, and all that Jazz. And even the Orlando Magic are saying, "Well, we're just 10 games out of the last playoff spot, and if ..." Yes, there still are a lot of big ifs.
So as we consider the last two months of the regular season, there are some questions to ponder and story lines to consider, like the:
Sam Smith, who covers the NBA for the Chicago Tribune, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.