Only halfway through the 2006-07 NBA season, we've already seen a superstar change teams, another unneccesary melee, and the return of the new old basketball. Here are five of the first half's best:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. New York Knicks (Nov. 13): In one 30-second span, Cavs forward LeBron James completed an and-one, then stole the Knicks' inbounds pass for a dunk. Following the Knicks' next possession, James grabbed the rebound, raced the length of the floor and pulled up to hit a three, then turned to Spike Lee on the sideline and proclaimed, "Ballin!" The Cavs won, 102-96.
2. Miami Heat vs. LA Lakers (Dec. 15): Following the disappointing Christmas Day blowout in which Kobe Bryant only managed 16 points, we were treated to Kobe vs. Flash II for the MLK holiday. The game featured 20 lead changes, seven Lakers in double figures and an outstanding 35-8-5-4-1 stat line for Wade. In what is becoming a marquee rivalry, Bryant accepted the challenge of defending Wade down the stretch and lead the Lakers to a 124-118 victory.
3. Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns (Dec. 28): With five seconds remaining, Dallas' Dirk Nowizki sank an 18-foot jumpshot over Phoenix's Shawn Marion to seal the victory. Not only was the game a possible preview of the Western Conference Finals, it was a transcendent MVP performance from Nowitzki: With the game on the line, the Mavs' (and arguably the league's) best player delivered in crunch time against the opponent's best defender.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Phoenix Suns (Jan. 11): Consider this: If not for a freak 54-point performance from Gilbert Arenas and Nowitzki's aforementioned game winner, Phoenix might be in the midst of a 30-game winning streak right now. How good are the Suns? Cleveland found out the hard way, giving up 21 assists to Steve Nash in what looked like a Suns' layup drill rather than an NBA contest. Nash could have broken the all-time assist record (30 dimes dished out by Orlando's Scott Skiles), if the game hadn't been such a blowout.
5. Utah Jazz vs. Washington Wizards (Jan. 15): After missing two infamous free throws in last year's playoff series against Cleveland, Washington's Gilbert Arenas has made this season his re-coming out party. He is currently ranked second in the league in scoring after registering 51, 54 and 60-point games this season. More importantly, his Wizards are sitting atop the Eastern Conference. After attempting the game-winning three against Utah, Arenas actually began raising his arms in celebration before the shot went in. The similar clincher he hit against Milwuakee the week before must have given him confidence.