Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant dribbles the ball against Chicago...

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant dribbles the ball against Chicago Bulls guard Lonzo Ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Barclays Center on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Nets and Bulls squared off as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference Saturday night at Barclays, so it seemed the appropriate time to evaluate a shift of the NBA balance of power. Nets coach Steve Nash spent his entire Hall of Fame career in the Western Conference and Bulls coach Billy Donovan got his NBA start in the West with the Thunder, and they agreed things have changed.

Going into their game, there were 10 teams in the East with winning records and eight with records of .500 or better in the West, although Golden State and the Suns have the two best records in the NBA.

"It’s about as strong as the East has been for a long time," Nash said. "There aren’t any ‘gimmes,’ so to speak. The West is terrific and has some great teams at the top, but the East is deep. Every night, it seems like a battle. I think it’s good for the balance of the league and for this kind of depth and parity.

"It feels like since the ’90s, we haven’t seen that, but it’s been exciting to see such a competitive Eastern Conference so far."

Donovan backed Nash up, saying, "Starting out in the NBA, I was in the West for five years and that was every night with what you were playing against. I think the East has turned out the same way [now]. All these teams are really, really good, and everybody is jockeying and fighting for position. The East is really deep."

Johnson questionable with sore shoulder

The Nets listed power forward James Johnson (left shoulder soreness) as questionable for the Bulls, but when asked if Blake Griffin, who recently lost the starting center job and fell out of the rotation completely, might get back in the mix, Nash was noncommittal. "[The Bulls] go small, so it’s not necessarily a team that plays a lot of bigs. I don’t know. We’ll see."

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