LeBron Heroics Aside, The Eastern Conference Is Still Wide Open

    Kyrie Irving went down. Cleveland stumbled to the finish line with a revamped supporting cast thats trying to develop chemistry on the fly. Joel Embiid is healthy and rocking a Darth Vadar mask. Philly won its last 16 games of the regular season and after tanking for three seasons is finally thinking title. A reality show load of stuff is going on in the Eastern Conference this season resulting in an increased intrigue surrounding the playoffs. 

    Ever since Lebron entered the league in 2003 and transformed a downtrodden Cleveland Cavs franchise into NBA title contenders, whatever team hes been on has either reached the finals or been considered challengers to the throne. 

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    Though LeBron added to his personal highlight reel last night with a buzzer beater for the ages, the conference is wide open for the first time in recent memory. Philly is riding high on Ben Simmons and Embiid; the rebirth of Shaq and Penny. The teams basketball journey has been magnified by the political undertones and emotions emitting from the Meek Mill situation and his ceremonious release from prison on Tuesday. The lingering pride associated with a Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl championship in February is also driving the energy behind Philadelphias first NBA playoff series win since 2012. 

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    Miami wasnt much of an opponent as Philly dispatched them in four games, but the multi-faceted and equally youthful and exuberant Boston Celtics will be much more formidable second-round foes. First, they have to finish off a scrappy Bucks squad that is facing a 3-1 series deficit. Once that business is complete we will see a clash of the NBAs young gunners and that series will give us glimpses into the NBAs playoff future with Simmons and Embiid going against Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. 

    Can’t wait for that. 

    Toronto and Cleveland faced tougher opponents than Philly and Boston and are paying for it. Both teams are fighting for their playoff lives and tied at 2-2. The Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards, to go up 3-2, but it could very well go seven games if John Wall and Bradley Beal stay stir fry hot. 

    Cleveland and King James are in a dogfight with Indiana and Brons old nemesis Lance Stephenson.  That series is truly a toss-up at this point, but you have to give James the benefit of the doubt. If Cleveland advances what’s bad news for Toronto. The Raptors cant beat Cleveland for some reason and LeBron destroys them. The Raptors would definitely rather face the Pacers in the semis, so a lot is riding on that series. 

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    Theres no favorite to win the East right now. I cant identify one squad that is hands down superior, because much depends on the matchups. Everyone outside of Toronto is pulling for the Wizards to snatch the upset. Eliminating the Eastern Conference regular-season champions would be huge for Washington, but an even bigger boost for Cleveland and Boston and Philly. Torontos departure would boost their title hopes.  

    With a few key injuries and some chemistry malfunctions, the East which was once locked down by LeBron James is now open for business and searching for a new CEO. The road to the bag will be a classic hoops journey where the young stars of today take center stage and blaze their paths to becoming the legends of tomorrow. 

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.