Forget football, forget baseball, forget hockey (well don’t forget any of those, but…) GIVE ME BASKETBALL!!! The best sport around is back in action, and I, for one, am delighted. I like the pick-and-roll, I like the give-and-go, it’s basketball… (Thank you Kurtis Blow).
The season is just getting underway, and already I’m getting a sense of how things are going to go. The East is the dominant conference this year, with teams like the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks. As well as up-and-coming teams like the New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, and Chicago Bulls.
The Celtics are the team to beat in the East (yes I know Miami is there). They are the defending Eastern Conference champs, and came withing a horrible 4th quarter of Game Seven of being the NBA Champions. But they are also the oldest team in the NBA. Nights like the one you saw against the Cleveland Cavaliers will happen often to a team averaging 31 years of age and playing back-2-back games. But they are a playoff team, and don’t be surprised if they are a 4 seed again as they rest their aging bodies during the regular season.
The Orlando Magic feel as if they have something to prove… and they do. They are a good team, and could be a great team. Dwight Howard learned new moves from The Dream this summer, which means he might have a little more offense than put-backs, dunks and alley-oops. Stan Van Gundy is a good coach and the funniest man on the bench. I still feel letting go of Hedo Turkoglu was a huge mistake. The man is a 6-foot-10-inch cold-blooded shooter. And Vince Carter, as good as he is, has a problem with dribbling, and dropping his head when things go wrong.
The Chicago Bulls are just all-around good. And when they get Carlos Boozer healthy, they are going to be very dangerous. Derrick Rose is a top-5 point guard (top-2 according to a certain chicago-friend of mine). Joahkim Noah has proven he is a dangerous center in the NBA (something I did not see coming). And as far as a starting-five go, the Bulls are right up there. They’ll run away with the Central division and be a force to reckon with when the playoffs come around.
As for the Miami Heat… we’ll see. Obviously they are going to beat up on the lesser competition. They have enough talent to do that. But that talent needs to gel to make a deep run in the postseason. Everyone (including this writer) has been harping on LeBron James, who just seems to make things worse for himself. (Twitter pages, new Nike commercial) But I’m not going to back down. The way he announced his decision was just terrible. It was all his people who made the decision to make an hour-long special and use one of the worst interviewers in the game “Do you still bite your nails?” Really?! Come on Jim Gray… It showed what a spoiled, egotistical brat he is. “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach” Who says crap like that? But what everyone is missing is the best part of this whole thing.
Just how brilliant Dwyane Wade is! He didn’t have to do anything except call Chris Bosh and ask him how the winters are in Toronto. Then call LeBron James and ask him how the winters are in Cleveland. “They both suck!” Is what I’m sure they said. And Wade says “Well it’s 75 and sunny in December here, why don’t you guys come on down!” I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it went, but you get the idea. The man brought two great players to Miami and saved a fledgling franchise. Simply brilliant. But then again, he did go to college. So Miami has their new Super-Friends, and sidekicks (Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, etc.) And they are going to need time to mesh. They’ll win plenty of regular-season games, it’s the playoffs that should be interesting. I’m not sure they’ll get by Orlando. And I really don’t see them getting past the Celtics.
Regardless, the East will be a lot of fun to watch in the 2010 season.
In the West, there are of course the Two-time defending NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers, with the best player on the planet in Kobe Bryant. And I’ll talk more about them in a minute, but there are a couple western teams trying to stand in the Lakers way of making it a four-peat as Western Champs. The Dallas Mavericks are supposed to be dangerous (we’ll see if they actually make good on that for once). The Oklahoma City Thunder are young, brash, athletic and lead by the most-likely-candidate for MVP, Kevin Durant. However, it’s Russell Westbrooke that makes this team go. They impressed a lot of people by taking the Lakers to six games last year in the opening-round of the playoffs. They won’t be an eight seed this year, so we’ll see how they do against other competition.
The Denver Nuggets are always dangerous, but aside from Chauncey Billups, they are a team full of headcases. Carmelo wants out, J.R. Smith wants more tattoos, and their head coach wants a hospital bed (sorry, bad taste). But unless Chauncey can rally them to play as a team, they aren’t going anywhere deep. The San Antonio Spurs are seasoned, lead by Tim Duncan and are starting to add some some young-blood to their aging team. But is it enough? Father-time catches up with everyone and the Spurs look like that might be a problem. Tony Parker deserves a long contract and San Antonio should give it to him. Richard Jefferson should be much better this year, as it’s his second year with the offense and he should be more comfortable. He’s too good to not produce. And the Utah Jazz are… the Utah Jazz. Great team at home, and pitiful on the road. And if it wasn’t for the Lakers, they might actually win the West with home-field advantage. But L.A. knows how to play them in their own building, so forget that.
The Phoenix Suns are going to be interesting. Everyone keeps saying Nash is done, they’ve lost Amar’e, blah, blah, blah. Nash is the heart-and-soul of that team. Where he goes, they go. And he sure doesn’t look done to me. They’ll be good enough to make the playoffs, and as long as they don’t have to face the Lakers early, they’ll probably make a run.
The Los Angeles Clippers finally have their number one pick in Blake Griffen. And he looked great all preseason and looked great on their opening night… but the Clippers still lost by 10. Everyone seems hyped up on the J.V. L.A. team making the playoffs this year. If they do, it will probably by the 8th seed and then they get knocked out by the REAL L.A. team in 4 or 5 games. The Golden State Warriors finally have Monta Ellis back and he looks fantastic. Him and Steph Curry are going to be a very fun tandem to watch and could lead The City back to the post-season.
And now for the main course. The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. First of all, have you seen those rings?! I want one. I’ll use it as a dinner-table. That’s how large it is. The Champs return with their starting SIX intact. And they finally added some depth to this team. The additions of Steve Blake to play the back-up PG role is huge. He has been a starter on other teams, and knows how to run an offense. So there won’t be a slip when Derek Fisher goes to the bench. Matt Barnes is a fantastic pick-up for a team that plays good defense like L.A. does. He’s fast, lengthy and scrappy. He’ll be able to give rest to Artest and Odom, and the defense won’t miss a beat. And bringing in Theo Ratliff is just awesome. Great shot-blocker, and adds even more height to an already tall team. With the West down a little from years past, I expect the Lakers to have an easier time (even though everyone brings their A-game when they play the champs) making it to the best record in the West. However, I could also see them doing what the Celtics did last year, and rest their guys to get ready for the playoffs.
So as to my ridiculously early predictions. They go like this:
MVP: Kevin Durant. ROY: Blake Griffen, barely over John Wall. 6th man of the year: Jamal Crawford Coach of the Year: Probably Sproelstra Western Champs: Los Angeles Lakers Eastern Champs: Boston Celtics NBA CHAMPIONS: Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 over Boston.