Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NBA 2006-2007 Preview

I have decided to write a two part NBA season preview. The first part, the one you get to read today will be all about the entire NBA minus our beloved Mavs. The second part, which I will hopefully be finished with by 5:00 on Thursday (just enough time before tip-off) will preview the Dallas Mavericks plus any and all predictions I’ve got about awards and playoffs.

So let’s get to this thing, in order of how I think each team will finish.

Eastern Conference

Before I begin, I want to point something out about this conference. There are actually a lot of good teams. When I was ranking the teams by division, the Atlantic was easy because it’s pretty pathetic, but then I got to the Central and Southeast. You could make a case that any team in the Central could make the playoffs, and in the Southeast, there are a lot of up-and-coming teams in Orlando, Charlotte, and Atlanta. More on that after bashing the Atlantic.

15. New York Knicks

Who else did you think I’d put here? I never got the pleasure of watching Isiah Thomas play basketball, but I have heard good things. Unfortunately that does not translate into success in building a basketball team. The way he runs that team is exactly what I would want to avoid if I were ever working for any sort of sports team.

Here’s how I see a competent team working: There are three guys who are of the utmost important in pro-personnel operations, the Head Coach, the General Manager, and your salary cap/statistics guy. That cap/stats guy is new, but he is a necessary evil, much like many companies now-a-day are forced to consider environmental ramifications of decisions made. No one wants to include the environment guy in the decisions because he rains on the parade, but in today’s sports world, statistics and salary cap are very much a part of success. The Patriots are so successful because their big three are all on the same page, even if that means cutting key players and saving 10 million this year so you can have room for next year.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Isiah Thomas’ salary cap guy works out of a bathroom stall on the third concourse of Madison Square Garden. When Isiah wants to make a trade, he asks the cap guy, who hopefully says “that would be worst than your last one” but Isiah’s mind is already made up, so it doesn’t matter. They’ve got four legitimate guys in the backcourt, three of which cannot possibly be traded (Marbury, Francis, and Crawford). I can’t wait ‘til the Knicks trade for Allen Iverson.

Luckily, this is his last year. I hate the Knicks as much as the next guy, but watching the Knicks is like watching my dog, when we first got her, constantly running into the wall. Funny at first, but after awhile, I just felt sorry for her.

14. Toronto Raptors

This is more of an indictment on how much I don’t like Brian Colangelo than anything else. People think he’s a genius for rebuilding the Suns as if they are the equivalent of a messiah. I would put money on it that the 2002-2003 Dallas Mavericks would have ran those Suns teams off the court. So Brian Colangelo, I hope you fail.

As for the team itself, it looks pretty decent. Chris Bosh and TJ Ford, two guys who grew up in Texas, I’d root for them any day. Problem is everywhere else. They lost their greatest veteran in Mike James, and they have a clueless coach. To make matters worse, they’re from Canada.

13. Atlanta Hawks

I could have very well put them as high as ten, but I didn’t out of principle. Their drafting has been as deplorable as the Mavs’ was in the 90’s. Let’s recap point guards who they have passed up in the past 2 drafts; Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Raymond Felton, Brandon Roy, Randy Foye, and Marcus Williams. That’s just point guards. But don’t worry, Hawks fans, because your team signed a guy who would be a better point guard than any of those guys to an immovable contract, Speedy Claxton. Oops.

Speedy’s not that bad, but he’s not nearly as good as those guys are now or will be. The rest of the team looks pretty good as long as Marvin Williams can get over his injury and contribute some. Josh Smith is one of the more exciting players in the league, and Joe Johnson is the most unassuming superstar in the league, if only because people forget about him.

12. Charlotte Bobcats

I nearly put these guys at 9, but they are too unproven. I like how they’ve built their team, though, by stockpiling draft picks and using them wisely (Okafor, Felton, and Morrison) as well as snatching Gerald Wallace in the expansion draft. On top of all that, they have mad cap-room, which they can use to re-sign their young guys and maybe go after someone big. Vince Carter’s name keeps popping up, but I think the man in charge knows better.

Oh yeah, about that man in charge. How sick is it that Jordan is running their basketball operations? We may not have heard from him, but I guarantee you that when the season starts, he’s going to be all about winning, and there will be 3 or 4 features about the Bobcats on the right track because Jordan is encouraging and watching over the players. We all know the story about Jordan not making his varsity basketball team in high school, but what about the story we are witnessing about Jordan getting unceremoniously dumped by the Wizards and coming back in his home state to show how basketball is played? I wouldn’t be shocked if these guys made the playoffs, but I’m not risqué enough to put them there.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

This is high as they’re going unless they start playing like a team. No one will doubt the talent on that team. You have one of the greatest players of all time, a former do-it-all man-beast who can still put up 20/10 any night, a bona fide shot-blocker, and a pure shooter. That would be Iverson, Webber, Dalembert, and Korver. Throw in one of the more athletic and better perimeter defenders in the league, Andre Iguodala, and you could have a solid team.

The only problem is that these guys don’t play together. Iverson tries to, but when he passes, he expects that man to do something with the ball. And when nothing happens, that guy doesn’t get any touches. I would like to see a statistic that shows how many times point guards pass the ball to a player after he misses a shot or turns the ball over. Iverson would be third-to-last after Marbury and Francis who don’t pass the ball anyway.

10. Orlando Magic

Call me a sucker. I’d like to think of myself as believer. The same type of believer that Dwight Howard is, one who has full faith in Jesus and Christianity.

Oh, that’s right, I picked the Magic to MISS the playoffs. Give me a break, why would I pick the Magic to finish in the top 8? Because they have a man-child in Dwight Howard? That’s fair, and in a couple years, he’ll be worth a playoff spot just for having two legs and wearing a uniform, but not now. The main reason I’m picking the Magic to play the lottery in May lies in every other NBA Preview out there. Here’s the gist of their Orlando Magic take.

The Magic can make a serious run IF Darko plays up to his potential.

I’m not pinning my hopes on Darko Milicic. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll be a solid player, because I think he will. But let’s be real, would you put money on Darko playing up to his potential after spending two and a half seasons on a bench, half of a season with Flip Saunders as his coach. I’ll wait til next year to put the Magic in the top 8.

9. Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee has achieved Cincinnati status for the city that I can’t spell without checking. But that’s not why they’re missing the playoffs. I’ll be perfectly blunt about it, I think they’re coach is terrible. The guy failed with the Hawks, which is not uncommon, but the Hawks actually got worse under him. He won 24 games in his first partial season with Atlanta, but when he got a full season, the Hawks won 28. I don’t understand how a coach like that gets recycled back into the mix.

And the Bucks, despite their talent, which includes the most humble superstar (yes, superstar) in the game, Michael Redd, will ultimately miss the playoffs because the name on the head coach’s office says Terry Stotts.

8. Indiana Pacers

I have been looking forward to writing about these guys since I began this preview, so let’s get right to the meat of this team.

The Stephen Jackson incident outside of a strip club epitomizes this team, perfectly. You’ve got four guys at a club, and the leader gets hit by a car, so he gets up and fires his gun in the air. No one is quite sure why firing his gun seemed like the right thing to do; regardless, the other three happen to be packing heat, as well, and stand by their friend. Media chaos ensues when people get wind of the situation, and the commissioner has to come out and give a public statement regarding players and gun use.

Yes, that is the Indiana Pacers. I love this franchise because of Reggie Miller, but these new guys are pioneers in finding new ways to make the NBA look ridiculous. First the brawl and now this. And yet, Jermaine O’Neal and Rick Carlisle are going to take them to the playoffs, and they will make some noise there.

7. Boston Celtics

Speaking of guns… Sebastian Telfair.

I think this guy is going to be good. A lot of Boston fans are raving about Rajon Rondo, and he may be good, but Telfair is going to be perfect for Paul Pierce, and vice-a-versa. When was the last time Pierce had a legitimate passing threat? I’m vaguely recalling Kenny Anderson in 2002, and that was a rebirth of sorts. Well, get ready for Sebastian Telfair’s rebirth of the skills he exhibited in high school.

Who else will Pierce and Telfair have around them? The aforementioned Rondo is apparently pretty good, as are Kendrick Perkins and Al Jefferson. But my guys are Gerald Green and Wally Szczerbiak. Green was another sick high schooler along the same lines as Jefferson, Perkins, and Telfair, but Green’s got a little more versatility as noted by his massive wingspan. And Wally is a pure shooter who Telfair can drive and kick to.

Many people are predicting them to suck because they think coaching is crappy and that Telfair is a head case, a notion based on the fact he allegedly was involved in the shooting of Fabolous. But mark my words; the Celtics are going to contend for that Atlantic Division crown.

6. Washington Wizards

My love for Gilbert Arenas began when Sports Illustrated was forced to retract little quarter page blurb about how he tricked out his Escalade after he was drafted because the guy who did all the work on Areans’ car claims he never got paid for it. Then came the Jason Richardson slam dunk contest in 2003 when he got the idea to do a spinning between the legs dunk because Arenas bet him he couldn’t do it. Let’s not forget the fact he gives his jersey to a fan after every game. And then there was last years’ playoffs.

I was convinced Arenas would win that Game 6 and go down as one of the most clutch players of all time. The guy was burying 3’s from all over the court in the fourth quarter, matching LeBron on every possession.

And then LeBron got in his head. Whoops.

I believe that a guy like Arenas will learn from his mistakes, and he won’t let that happen again. But I still can’t put the Wizards ahead of any of the other 5 teams because the other five are either more talented, have championship pedigrees, or play in the Atlantic division and automatically get the 4th seed.

5. Detroit Pistons

This team is the perfect example of sports media overreacting to a weak league. The Pistons won a title in a year where the Spurs were adjusting to life after David Robinson, the Lakers had the Shaq/Kobe/Phil hate triangle going on, the Mavs had Antoine Walker, the Kings had Chris Webber’s knee, and the Pacers were proven to be cursed. So people thought the Pistons were an unstoppable force.

Rather than thanking good fortune and solid coaching, management started patting themselves on the back by not improving the roster and getting rid of their coach for a guy who was so bad he got canned mid-season. By doing that, they ended up alienating the heart and soul of their team, Ben Wallace, who bolted for a division rival. And now the Pistons won’t even have home-court advantage in the playoffs. The only reason why they are head of Washington is because these guys have won a title, and that still counts for something.

4. New Jersey Nets

These guys are sixth. Maybe fifth depending on how involved Flip Saunders is in Detroit’s game planning. A lot of experts are predicting Vince Carter to have a huge year, if only because it’s his contract year, but the catalyst of this team is old. Yes, Jason Kidd is 33 years old, which means he’s gotten to that hot/cold stage of his career. And there’s nothing worse than having an inconsistent playmaker.

I can see players showing up for game day expecting Kidd to get them the ball and be spectacular, but he could be having a slow day, and nothing comes of it. That could kill a few games based on players missed expectations. The flipside is that if Kidd gets it going, he may be difficult to contain. Which is exactly why I pick them to win the division.

3. Miami Heat

I’m so upset that I didn’t post this before Bill Simmons did because he said everything I wanted to about this team.

Here’s how I see this Heat team. Let’s say you’re out one night, and you see a gorgeous girl who you really want to hook up with. You will pull out all the stops to get her. It will start with buying her a drink, then you start small talk (What do you do for a living? Where are you from? Oh, do you know this person?). You may throw in a lie or two make you sound somewhat sentimental, and then Wham! Bam! Thank You Ma’am! You have no reason to stay around and have pillow talk or make breakfast the next morning because you just wanted a hook-up.

Imagine the NBA Championship is the girl and winning it is the hook-up. Do you think Antoine Walker is going to stop jacking up nonsensical three pointers, or Jason Williams quits passing a ball off his head and chest to a wide open Shaq under the basket? Hell no. These guys got what they wanted. That’s why Mourning is going to retire midseason when the team is hovering around .500.

I would feel bad for Dwyane Wade had he not strapped on his flack jacket and thigh pads before throwing himself into every Maverick player during the Finals.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron nearly beat the Pistons by himself last year. Not that that is such a great accomplishment because Flip Saunders was involved, but he is for real. And then Monday’s Daily Show occurred.

Watch it. The guy is all about winning. He truly believes no one can stop him, and he was so confident in his ability to win that he whooped Jon Stewart’s ass in rock, paper, scissors. I think the most underreported story of this year’s season is not about what LeBron could do; rather, what other players think he could do. Dwyane Wade knew right after he won a title that LeBron was gunning for him, and him only.

In his first year, LeBron was young. In his second year, he was learning. In his third year, he put it together. This year, ‘Bron ‘Bron is hungry.

And yet, my obsession with the NBA as a team game forced me to put the Cavs second to…

1. Chicago Bulls

We started with a hall of fame point guard who couldn’t put a better team together than I could have playing NBA Live 95 in fourth grade, and we now end with an also-ran guard from the same era who has put together the best team in the conference, John Paxson.

The Bulls exemplify exactly what I said a team needs to succeed: good coaching, smart drafting, and good cap management all working together. Let’s look at who on their roster they have drafted. Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Tyrus Thomas. As for their free agent signees, Nocioni, Adrian Griffin, PJ Brown, and Ben Wallace. There isn’t all that much “sexiness” among those names, but those guys are all team players. Gordon and Duhon still come off the bench knowing they are contributing, Griffin started on a team that went to the Finals last year, but he still knows his role, and PJ Brown knows he was brought in more for veteran leadership than his basketball skills.

And the kicker to this Bulls team, they are smart with their players. There are three captains on this Bulls team. Guess who they are.

Brown is obvious. So is Wallace. Then you’ve got Kirk Hinrich. Absolutely genius move to take your two best veterans and your budding superstar point guard and make them tri-captains. Kirk Hinrich is going to learn a lot this year, and he’s going to ensure that the Bulls stay good for a long time.

Eyes hurting yet? Mine either. Let’s go on with this thing…

Western Conference

15. Portland Trail Blazers

They have the right idea by trading problem guys for young, impressionable ones. The one thing they are missing is cap room because they unwittingly signed Zack Randolph and Darius Miles to hefty extensions. So you have these two cancers around some good youngsters like Aldrige, Roy, and Martell Webster. I just don’t see the team working this year. But give it a few years, and they’ll be good again.

14. Seattle Supersonics

Talk about a total mess. These guys should be called New York Knicks West. Let’s start from the top, and by that, I mean ownership. The team was just sold to an Oklahoma City investor who has not made it a secret that he wants to put a team in Oklahoma. Then you’ve got the head coach, and his name is Bob Hill. You may not remember him, but he’s better known as the guy who couldn’t get out of the Western Conference with David Robinson, Sean Elliot, and David Robinson in their primes. And then there are the players…

I’ll leave Ray Allen out of this because I like him, and he is head and shoulders above any other player on that team. So the Sonics have Rashard Lewis, Nick Collison, and Luke Ridnour to compliment Allen. Sounds somewhat solid, right? Collison has battled injuries over the past two years, Rashard Lewis has joined the Steve Francis Hall of Fame for players who are deceptively bad, and Luke Ridnour is 2 inches taller and weighs 5 pounds more than me. Beyond that, there’s Earl Watson, Danny Fortson, and their first round draft pick who has bust written all over him, Mouhamed Sene. One redeeming complimentary player is Kareem Rush, but he plays the same position and style as Allen, so the two of them together on the floor probably won’t work.

The only reason why I have Seattle ahead of Portland is Ray Allen. If he goes down, look for the Sonics to win less than 20.

13. Memphis Grizzlies

I really like these guys. I thought they put up as good of an effort as they could against the Mavs last year, and Gasol was poised to breakout and become a legitimate number two in the best foreign players discussion. And then he broke his foot. I bet Jerry West will be campaigning hard for players not to be allowed to participate in international competition (another subject for another time).

I really liked the Battier trade for the Grizz more than I did for the Rockets because I’m a big Gay guy. Battier proved ineffective in the playoffs, and I could see the same thing happening to him again this year. But we’re not discussing the Rockets.

As for the rest of the team, they will probably be lost without Gasol. I could see Hakim Warrick busting out in a big way, but other than that, there really isn’t much. At least Pau comes back in January.

12. Sacramento Kings

Let’s quickly recap the past year of the Kings existence:

Trade best player on team for craziest player in league.
Get knocked out of playoffs by defending champions aided by a shot that consisted luckiest bounces in history of playoffs.
Fire coach who has led your team to playoffs since the end of last century.

I’m a big Maloof family fan if only because I think they’re living the dream, but that’s one turbulent year, and Ron Artest is involved, which makes everything exponentially bad. This team is going to get worse before it gets better, especially after losing Bonzi Wells.

At least Arnold is a Kings fan.

11. Golden State Warriors

Don Nelson makes his triumphant return to the Bay Area, and why not? There is so much talent on that Warriors team with Richardson, Baron Davis, Dunleavey, Troy Murphy, and my personal favorite, Mickael Pietrus. That’s right, look out for Pietrus this year because he’s a French version of Michael Finley, and we all know how well the Fin-master did under Nellie.

But Don Nelson can only take you so far. Even Nellie Ball can’t overcome the fact that Troy Murphy, a natural power forward and nothing else, is the team’s center. I think these guys are going to be improved, but they need Patrick O’Bryant to pan out at center, and then the Warriors are going to be forced.

Actually, in a couple years, the Warriors frontcourt is going to look hilarious with two Irish guys, O’Bryant and Murphy, and Mike Dunleavey. O’Bryant and Murphy should be traded to the Celtics for Perkins and Jefferson just to get some Irish back in that team.

10. New Orleans Hornets

I wholeheartedly agree that this team got better. I truly like the Peja and Tyson Chandler moves, and the Hornets could very well kick ass this year, especially because Chris Paul is on that team. But I can’t possibly justify them getting into the playoffs ahead of the eight that I picked to get in, not in the Western Conference or Southwest Division. I hope I’m wrong about them, though.

By the way, you will not see me calling these guys the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets because that, to me, is a crock of sh*t. This is a New Orleans team, pure and simple, until they are moved out of there. Oklahoma City may be a great basketball city, but the Sonics are going there soon, so let’s end the charade and stop slashing New Orleans.

9. Utah Jazz

Again, another New Orleans situation, which is funny because the Jazz used to play in New Orleans. Ok, it’s not funny, but it is ironic. Anyway…

Deron Williams is from the Dallas area; he went to high school in The Colony, but he rose to a new level of awesomeness this summer. Instead of working out in Dallas, or wherever he lives in the offseason, Deron trekked to Spokane, Washington to work with none other than John Stockton. That’s a perfect example of a young guy understanding that he needs to learn more, and rather than working with other young point guards like Chris Paul or Shaun Livingston, Williams went to straight to the horse’s mouth, the all-time leader in assists in steals. Expect good things in the next few years if he keeps this up.

As for the rest of the team, this is case of talent that just hasn’t meshed yet. Kirilenko and Boozer have hardly played together, and Deron Williams is still only in his second year. The whole deal is a shame because Jerry Sloan is getting old, but maybe it’s time for the Jazz to get a new coach. If they hired someone young and vibrant, and the team started to gel, they could be a powerhouse. Again, I’m not saying the Jazz have no shot of making the playoffs, but with Kirilenko’s and Boozer’s injury record and a stacked Western Conference, I’ll be safe and assume they miss.

8. Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe and Phil should be worth a playoff spot. And then they’ve got Odom, the most underrated and underappreciated player in the league, and Andrew Bynum, an up-and-coming center. They’ve got some guys for Kobe to play with.

Unfortunately, they won’t do anything more than make the playoffs unless Kobe realizes that he can’t be a ball-hog for 82 games in the regular season, and then turn the team switch on as soon as the playoffs start. It may have nearly worked against a shoddy defense like the Suns, but it wouldn’t have against any of the other 6 teams in the West that year.

Something that I completely forgot about going into this season is that Kobe changed his number to 24, probably because I didn’t think it was a big deal whatsoever. There are so many hypotheses about why he did it; he wants to be like Jack Bauer or he wants to be 3 times better now that Shaq’s gone. The only scenario that makes sense is the one about him wanting to be greater than 23. I think there’s merit to that; I mean Kobe is arrogant enough to want to blatantly one-up Jordan. The only thing about that is Jordan wouldn’t be such a dick that he’d miss the season-opener because he didn’t rehab his knee correctly.

7. Denver Nuggets

This will be Carmelo’s make or break year in the league. If he improves, as everybody expects him to do, he will have legitimized is name in the same breath as LeBron and Wade, but if he just moseys along in the season, as he has done in the past, then he will be considered the most overrated player in the league.

I hate buying into the hype, but I feel like I have to in this situation. Not only did Carmelo improbably make the USA National team this summer, but he earned a tri-captaincy along with LeBron and Wade. If Coach K sees a lot in Carmelo, then who am I to disagree?

So, why do I have the Nuggets in the 7th seed if Carmelo is going to have a great year? Because that team is a mess. Just look at what happened during the playoffs. Kenyon Martin got kicked off the team and Reggie Evans grabbed some guy’s balls. Strong effort.

And despite the circus, Carmelo gets them in the playoffs.

6. Los Angeles Clippers

They probably should be the 5th seed, but the Northwest Division is to the Western Conference as the Atlantic is to the Eastern Conference.

But this is team whose hype I’m not quite buying yet. I think they have talent seeping out of their pores, but there’s something that’s rubbing me the wrong way about them. I think it’s feeling of disbelief that they retained key players, Cassell and Kaman, and even signed away another team’s steroid tester, I mean clutch player, in Tim Thomas.

The Clippers aren’t used to a summer like this where good things happen all over the place. No one knows if the team can deal with addition. It will also be interesting to see if the team can deal with high expectations. There are a few people out there, mostly LA columnists who predict the Clips to win their division. I even saw one prediction, granted it was way biased, that the Clippers would win the title this year.

Even more questions linger, like will Sam Cassell’s magic wear off? Can Shaun Livingston step up to be a big time performer? Will there be enough ball for all of their good players? Will Chris Kaman hire the doctors from Nip/Tuck? How long until Congress launches a probe into Tim Thomas’ workout routine?

Many questions. Still a lot of talent. 6 sounds about right.

5. Houston Rockets

These guys can be good. Obviously, McGrady and Yao are going to tear it up, health permitting, and Bonzi Wells was a great free agent pick up. Battier will prove to be worthwhile (though in the long run, Rudy Gay will be phenomenal). They also have one of the better, though bizarre looking, coaches in the league in Jeff Van Gundy.

And yet, the Rockets have no shot whatsoever to make the Finals. None. I would put my Bar Mitzvah money on the Rockets not making the Finals. Why?

And starting, at point guard, for your Houston Rockets, at 6-2 175, from Fresno State and the AND 1 Mixtape Tour where he is better known as Skip to My Lou, Rafer Alston! Now, there are two ways the city of Houston can go with this guy as the point guard to a team with Finals expectations; the people can either be hardcore with him or hardcore against him.

Considering Houston has recently had to endure a World Series sweep, their two best basketball players not playing a full season combined, their football team passing up on Reggie Bush and Vince Young for Mario Williams, and their baseball team making a comeback of epic proportions to try to make the playoffs only to fall short, you’d think Houstonians would be like the Boston fans of the 20th Century. But no, these people are from Houston. They are fat, dumb, and happy. They’ll ride Rafer Alston into a second round loss, and only then, will they realize that they desperately need a point guard.

The only way they won’t get to reach that conclusion? If they realize the team needs a new training staff because Yao and McGrady got injured... again.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

So I had my semi-surprise team from the East, the Boston Celtics make the playoffs. How about the Wolves winning their division?

So how did I come up with this? Well, it’s pretty simple.

Kevin Garnett is one of the best players we will ever get to watch, and he finally has a point guard that is going to hold his teammates accountable, Mike James. When Ricky Davis starts jacking up shots to inflate his numbers, do you think KG, the team player, is going to get in his face? Not until it reaches a boiling point.

Well, Mike James is constantly at a boiling point, so the first Ricky Davis gaffe is a stare with bloodshot eyes and a massive tirade. When James didn’t sign with the Mavs, I was pretty confused because he had a great chance to win a title in Dallas, and the Mavs probably could have used him. But Mike James could reach Sam Cassell status if he can pull the Wolves out of the lottery and into the playoffs. What do those two have in common? The Rockets traded them away, and now they’re stuck with Rafer Alston. James could do it with Garnett, Foye, and I’ll even throw Rashad McCants in there.

The only thing in their way is bad coaching, which is probable with Dwayne Casey, but James and Garnett could coach that team together, so I think a head coach is irrelevant.

3. Phoenix Suns

Did anybody read my NBA mid-season report about the Suns last year? Ditto goes for the first half of this year. Amare’s comeback, though big for the Suns, will hurt the production of the rest of their team. Amare is utterly worthless unless he’s fed the ball in the low post to stuff in the basket. The guy is physically blessed and has some serious talent to boot, but all of that will take away from guys like Raja Bell, Barbosa, and Diaw.

OH! Speaking of Diaw, I couldn’t have been more pleased than to see the Mike D’Antoni’s opening press conference during training camp where he was bombarded with questions about Diaw having gained a ton of weight. D’Antoni’s response? I don’t think he’s picked up a basketball in a month. Priceless. I expect big things from Diaw, and by things, I mean meals. Fatty.

My biggest problem with the Suns is the same problem people had with the pre-Avery Mavs and have with the current Indianapolis Colts. “If they could just play defense, they’d be unstoppable.” Well, guess what? They can’t, so they won’t be unstoppable. Dirk dropped half-a-hundred on the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. The Suns constantly lose close games because they can’t get a stop at the end of a game. So how can a team like that win a title?
I won’t take anything away from what they did last year without Amare, but that was an indictment of Steve Nash’s extraordinary ability more than it was about the Suns being a great team without Amare and even better with him because that fact just flat out isn’t true. As long as Phoenix can outrun any team in the league, they will win 50 games, and that start with Nash. Do you think Bell or Diaw could have played as well as they did with any other point guard? No way, Steve Nash instills confidence in players that haven’t had it in a long time. I saw it in Dallas for 5 years when Nash nurtured Dirk into the superstar he is today.

So expect another spectacular regular season out of these guys. As for the playoffs, the Clippers and Rockets are better suited for postseason play.

2. San Antonio Spurs

There is a big to do about Tim Duncan coming back healthy and hungry, which I totally agree with. As a fan of a team not in San Antonio, I am legitimately afraid of what the Spurs could do this year. They got rid of their crappy centers, Mohammed and Nesterovic, and brought in a solid center, Jackie Butler, and a proven Mavs killer, Matt Bonner. Don’t ask me why Bonner kills the Mavs, but last year, he kept the Raptors in that first game, and he nearly ended a game with a late three in the next game against Dallas. Plus, he’s a ginger kid (he has red hair).

The Spurs are the Patriots and Yankees of the NBA. They have a superstar who’s a winner and nothing else, and they also have a coach that can motivate and game plan with the best of them. And because of those two, players from afar come to play in San Antonio like Michael Finley. They even know the right bench guys like Jacques Vaughn and Robert Horry. And then of course, they draft well, too, with Ginobili and Parker coming through that venue.

The Spurs are flat out good, just as good as our number one team… May Be.

Tomorrow, I will reveal number one (if you haven’t yet figured it out)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please take a look back at the Memphis Grizzlies preview, #13 in the west, second line of the second paragraph. The true BKT is coming out so to speak