Saturday, October 28, 2006

2006-2007: Eastern Conference Preview

Once again the East gained the NBA title. It can't be said that the
East is the top conference from top to bottom, but it has to be said
that the best teams in the East are easily as good as the top teams in
the West. And the East keeps getting great draft picks, so the
conference should continue it's rise back to balancing out the East.

1. Shaq-fu delivered on his promise to bring a title to Miami. But
really it was the continued development of the new-Jordan, Dwayne
Wade, that brought the title to Miami. Wade continued to amaze in the
playoffs. He started hitting threes. He developed a bank shot
seemingly out of nowhere. Only Kirck Hinrich was ablet to contain him
at all as Wade could just will a basket whenever Miami needed. Unlike
the year before, Reilley didn't tweak this roster at all. I like
that. The only troubles are that Shaq probably packed on a few pounds
in the offseason, and Wade recently admitted to being tired after
going through the Finals and playing in the FIBA world championships.
He's bascially had no time off. If he or Shaq are worn down at
playoff time, all bets are off with this top dog status.

2. Detroit Pistons - This is still a team to be reckoned with, but
they lost their heart and soul in Ben Wallace. Hopefully this means
that Rasheed Wallace will take the time to reaquaint himself with the
area below the foul line. He should because he's an unbelievable post
player with so many moves he can't be stopped if he doesn't want to.
They still remain one of the best perimeter teams in the NBA with Rip
and Chauncey holding down the back court as well. I like their
chances of being in the Eastern Conference finals this year.

3. Chicago Bulls - They had a big offseason in getting Tyrus Thomas,
an animal with hops and defensive ability but little offensive game,
and Big Ben. Ben is slipping a bit, but he fits in with the team
oriented hard-nosed brand of basketball that these Bulls play. There
are no outsized egos. Kirck Hinrich is as unselfish as they come at
the point and he can score when needed and proved against the Miami
Heat that he's one of the leagues best perimeter defenders (the only
person to even remotely contain Wade). Now, add to all this that the
Bulls also own the Knicks pick this year, which will likely be a
lottery pick and you can see why the future is bright in Chi-town for
years. I still think they're a little too unseasoned to make a
serious run at the Finals as some have predicted, but that will depend
on how stellar Ben still is and what Thomas can give them.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - The King James era is now in full effect.
James willed his team to a nice defeat of the Wizards and nearly of
the Pistons, giving them all they could handle. Still this team is
quite a bit flawed as James doens't have a lot of help on the
perimeter. They're still lacking the elusive floor spacing shooter
(The Butler isn't it) and the low post game could use some work. Big
Z clogs the lane and doesn't bring enough post D. Sideshow Bob brings
great energy and proved in the playoffs that he's not affraid to step
up. But really, this is not a team that's ready to compete with the
big dogs. But look for James to have another great season and maybe
even an MVP season if Cleveland wins 50+ games and he can reprise his
incredible 30-6-6 season, or dare I say, improve on it.

5. New Jersey Nets - I think New Jersey had a great offseason. They
got lucky in the draft with Marcus Williams falling to them at 21.
Now they have a respectible back up to Jason Kidd who can likely
handle a Princeton-type offense. Kidd should be able to save
something for the playoffs. Richard Jefferson should be healthier.
And of course, the biggest thing is that this is a contract year for
Vince Carter. Look for him to have monster production and do a lot of
stupid fake motorcycle revving.

6. Indiana Pacers- Okay. This probably shouldn't happen. This team
is a mess. Stephen Jackson is blazing guns at strip joints not long
after taking part in the NBA melee at the Palace. But they brought Al
Harrington back into the fold to play a complimentary role to J.
O'Neal. I like that front court combo a lot. Carlisle remains a
great coach so I see them getting to the playoffs and then not making
much noise there.

7. Washington Wizards - Gilbert Arenas is the craziest player in the
league. He's very talented, but his team will never be great because
he dominates the ball. He single-handedly shuts down the beautiful
Princeton-style offense because he's not talented enough to run it.
And it's a shame because they have the kind of wing players you need
to run it. Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler can both shoot it, score
down low, and move without the ball. They can also handle the rock a
bit too, so there's no excuse for this team to not be running a motion
offense. But hey, Gilbert's got to get his and continue to prove that
everybody underrates him, from the NBA, to team USA. The problem is,
we all know exactly what he is.

8. Milwaukee - Michael Redd proved more than worthy of his contract.
Andrew Bogut showed that he's going to be a commodity in this league
and because he can run the floor, the Bucks should be able to continue
their transformation into an uptempo team. There's a lot to like
about this team. So get some fried cheese, a $1 PBR, and tuck in
Milwaukee. This is the team to follow until the Packers can resurrect

Welcome to the Lottery (order not important)

Boston Celtics - Let's see. They brought in a point guard with an ego
and posse bigger than most in the NBA. Oh, he likes guns too. Did I
mention he may be implicated in ordering a shooting? And hey,
remember Tony Allen? He's implicated in a shooting too. What are
the other problems with this team? Well the biggest one is that they
have one legitimate NBA starter (any guesses who that is?). The
problem is that everybody else is either over the hill (Wally World,
Theo Ratliff) or entirely promise with no chance of becoming much
better (West, Jefferson, Green, Rondo, Telfair, Allen, Powe, Dickau).
Danny has built a great team for March Madness, but the problem is
that this is the NBA. Paul will continue to put up MVP type numbers,
work hard, fight off nagging injuries, and the result will still be
the same. Welcome to the lottery. Oh did I mention that the Celtics
raised ticket prices for a non-playoff team and have committed the
ultimate sin of getting a dance squad. Needless to say you won't find
me at any Celtics games anytime soon. Larry Bird is rolling over in
his grave.

Atlanta Hawks - What's that? Marvin Williams totally sucks? You mean
a guy who couldn't get off the bench in college shouldn't have been
the overall number one pick? Oh, he's got a broken hand right now?
Chris Paul is a future halll of famer? Nice job Atlanta. At least
Josh Smith is turning into a Kirelenko of the East. Joe Johnson
worked out okay, but he didn't translate into more wins. This team is
a total mess. Oh, they also drafted too much nerve tonic Griffey (aka
Shelden Willams), and he looks like a total bust. What a total mess.
Well, maybe they can land Ogden in the next draft.

New York Knicks - This should end Isiah Thomas' run as doing anything
in the NBA. He ruined the CBA, he ruined some pretty good Indiana
teams with some horrible coaching, and he help drive the Knicks into
what will be at least another ten years of nothingness. The biggest
NBA market will have no team for ten years. That hurts. Oh yeah,
Thomas shipped multiple lottery picks to the Bulls for Curry, who has
heart problems, and immeadiately rediscovered the buffet line after
getting his big money contract. Great.

Orlando Magic - Grant is the past. Dwight Howard is the current and
future. He is a total monster on the boards and keeps getting more
tricks in his offensive bag of tricks. Jameer Nelson proved to be a
great improvement over Francis. The only thing I question is using a
lottery pick on JJ Redick. They could have picked him up three years
from now for bargain basement prices. Well, unless DAnny Ainge is
still a GM. He would have given Reddick a 10 year max money contract
for being white.

Charlotte Bobcats - I wanted to put them in the playoffs, but it's not
time yet. They are testing my firmly held belief that drafting
college blue chippers and proven Madness commoditites is the way to
go. They've got 4 NCAA champs on the roster and added to that Adam
Morrison. This reminds me of the route the Bulls started taking a few
years ago. If they get a good coach, I think they're going to be in a
very good place soon. Plus, Gerald Wallace averaged 2+ spg and 2+ bpg
last year. That's simply amazing from your two guard. But they're
still too young, and Morrison is going to take a year or two to adjust
to the NBA, much like Dirk did.

Toronto Raptors - The good: Chris Bosh is a great power forward and
is young. He wants to be in Toronto. TJ ford could be Nash-lite.
Brian Collangelo has a proven track record as an NBA GM. The bad:
Well, Ford hasn't really lasted a whole season yet, and after Bosh,
the pickings are little bit thin as far as talent goes. Sam Mitchell
doesn't seem to be a totally stable coach. And that Italian player
they drafted is a ways off. But there's hope on the horizon.

Philadelphia 76ers - They couldn't unload Iverson this offseason.
Their attempt to make one more good run at it with Webber and Iverson
backfired miserably. Their stuck with surly and overpaid players and
aren't going to do anything this year. I think it will be a miracle
if they make the playoffs. I've also got the over/under at 3 bust for
pot this year for C.Webb. But his posse will take the blame. God,
it's great to be in the NBA.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

2006-2007: Western Conference Preivew

The East took the title again for the the second time in three years.
While overall it's not the stronger conference, it does have some of
the stronger teams. That has to do with a few things. One. The Big
Aristotle came home to the East where he belongs. That helps. Two.
D Wade apparently went down to the crossroads and sold his soul to get
every call in the NBA finals. Worked for Robert Johnson and Eric
Clapton, so I guess I'm okay with it. Thirdly, Eastern teams have
been drafting okay because of high slots. But don't get me started on
Danny Ainge. Anyway, on with the Western Conference Preview.

1. San Antonio - My old rule was that as long as Shaq is breathing,
his team is the number one threat for the title. My new rule is that
as long as Timmy, Now! is anchoring the 4 spot, his team is a
legitimate threat for the title every year. His game is so sound and
so unselfish. It's a joy to watch and a reason that everybody who
hates on the NBA should just shut up. Even Larry Bird admitted to
hating bank shots. Tim Duncan lives by the bank shot. That's the
most purist move in the game. Plus he boxes out, hustles on defense,
and rubs guys head. Big. Manu should be healthier, Le Petit Point
gets better every year (though you can knock him around to intimidate
him), and Pop finds a way to work in veterans and Euro picks. Last
year almost worked wiht the Finley experiment (it was close versuses
Dallas) so I think this year shakes out okay.

2. Dallas. I think what dissappointed me most about these guys was
that Jason Terry dissappeared in the finals. He had been bigger than
Dirk. More than made up for an absent Nash. Come finals time though,
he looked a little scared. Dirk raised his game consistently, but the
referees and Cubans coxswain routine wore thin. Dalls choked and
combined with a seriously atrocious officating performance, they lost
the finals after going up 2-0. Almost unthinkable. So why aren't
they number one? Timmy is healthy. Last year his ankle was hurting.
Should be good this year. And Timmy is better than Dirk. That's how
it works.

3. Phoenix. How's your microfracture treating you Amare? Really?
You could Tomhawk on Megatron if needed? Okay. Even with Nash's back
spasms I'll give you the three spot. Thanks. [This prediction is null
and void if Amare cannot raise his game again. I heard Diaw got fat
off his contract this offseason, literally and figuratively. I will
concede that it may take Amare a while to come back so regular season
struggles may be present, but I think good things will happen in the
playoffs if Amare is right by then]

4. L.A. Lakers. The Zen Master worked his magic again and somehow
the surly and undertalented Lakers blew a big lead in their series
against Phoenix. I put that squarely on Kobe. But Phil's coaching
helped get them this far. And though he's only a rookie, I like the
addition of Famar. Odom should be more familiar with the triangle,
and perhaps they can get some Jordan-Pippen style action going with
Lamar initiating much of the triangle. Also too, maybe Kwame is
getting better.

5. Houston Rockets - Welcome to clutch city Bonzi. No player had a
bigger playoffs than Bonzi, as he decided to wake up and earn a new
contract with a few weeks of work. It didn't pay off. Too many teams
have been burned by Bonzi at this point. Sacto let him go and Houston
got him for $2.1 million with a player option for next year. This
means Bonzi has one year to earn himself basically his last big fat
contract. He's going to play, and he's going to play hard all year.
I like that for Houston. They have a potent trio of players, and if
they stay healthy, they should be in the mix for some good things this

6. Utah Jazz - These guys have been fooling me for a while. But I
love the all around game of AK47. Deron Williams started to step up
at the PG position towards the end of last year too. And Deron spent
the offseason working out with John Stockon and learning from him.
That's a great sign about the young fella, he's willing to work and
learn, and learning from maybe the greatest pure point of all time is
a nice opportunity. And Boozer, well, maybe he's ready to start
playing up to that contract that at one point he earned. And finally,
I find it hard to believe that a Jerry Sloan coached team could miss
the playoffs again. I won't accept it.

7. Los Angeles Clippers - This was a very nice offseason for the
Clippers. They brought in Tim Thomas. They didn't ship out Corey
Maggette (yet). They weren't in the lottery for the first time since,
umm, I don't remember. Why am I not putting this team higher then?
They did go to the conference semi-finals after all. I think that stems
from the fact that they have two extremely fragile point guards. Sam
Cassell is a leader par excellence and an outstanding point guard.
Wherever he goes, winning happens. But he's getting up there in years
and it seems unlikely he'll be able to hold together for the whole
year. So I think the playoffs will happen, but the Clips will need to
rest Sam for a significant stretch during the regular season. And who
backs him up? Well that crazy kid that everyone keeps comparing to
Magic Johnson, Shaun Livingston. Let's forget for a minute that this
kid has thrown 12 sick passes in his lifetime to garner this mention.
He has yet to play an NBA season. And he's not even the sole point
guard. He's lithe and that means injury. I seriously doubt his
toughness as well. So without a reliable point, I think the Clips
will struggle during the regular season. Come playoff time, things
may be different.

8. Sacramento - Okay, so their new coach just got a DUI. Will there
be extreme moral outrage over the DUI of a middle-aged white guy?
Just wondering how WEEI will treat that one. Maybe it hits a little
too close to the bone. So here's the thing about this team. The
coach is an unproven commodity, but the talent is here to be a very
good team. Bibby, Honky, Artest, Abdur-Rahim, and most importantly
Vitaly Potapenko. The thing is, the Kings contending days are well in
the rear view mirror. They'll be competitive and give good show, but
they're not causing major damage in the playoffs. Just scaring a team
or two. Especially with Artest on the floor.


Sub playoff teams -

NO/Okc Hornets - Chris Paul led this resurgent team. He's a brilliant
young point guard, and worth seeing play. They brought in Peja to
shore up the offensive attack, but Byron Scott likes defense, and I
don't see Peja playing much of that. Plus, when clutch time arrives,
Peja can be found clutching his man-purse. Not much worth saying
after that.

Memphis Grizzlies - I'm not totally sure what the logo was up to this
offseason. He brought in Stoudemire (a bad test away from a
suspension), he brought back Stromile Swift in the process of getting
rid of the franchises blue collar guy, Shane Battier. I like the
drafting of Rudy Gay who is supremely talented, but his attitude and
will to win have to be questioned. These guys always make the first
round and get wiped out. Gasol is the new Garnett in that respect.

Minnesota T'wolves - The Big Ticket wasn't shipped out of town, and
I'm not sure why. He's a great player, but he's got a lackluster
supporting cast. I think Randy Foye was a nice draft pick, but he's
not really going to contribute a whole lot. Mike James is an erratic
point guard. IF you like score first PGs with a propensity for TOs,
well he's your man. There's a reason James hasn't stuck with a team
in this league yet. And he doesn't exactly boost your winning like
Sammy Cassell does. So it's another season of frustration for Garnett
and another season of speculating when he'll get traded and when
McHale will finally be shown the door on his horrible GM career.

Portland - I'm not sure what's going on here. They've drafted some
character guys, but have Randolph and Darius Miles locked up, so what
does it matter? The team is a wreck, and some of their draft picks
aren't panning out. This is going to get ugly before it gets any

Seattle - Hey, do you want a 7' prospect? How about the last few
Seattle drafts: Johan Petro, Robert Swift, Mouhamed Sene. I think I
could do a better job. And now one of the more rabid sports markets
in the country is going to lose the team to an OKC conglomurate
because the Starbucks owner is a big pussy, expecting the citizens of
Seattle to pay for his desired new stadium. Wisely, they passed up
the chance to give millions to a billionaire.

Golden State - New coach. New players. Old players. Whatever.
They're going to suck. They always suck. Can Nellie re-instate
RunTMC? Is it too late?

Denver Nuggets - I really like George Karl. I really like Carmello
Anthony. But something seems foul in the Rockies. Karl is already
wearing out his welcome and some of the players on this team just
don't seem to gel all that well. I think they might be the 8th
playoff team if Melo has a great season, but I'm not expecting a lot
out of this bunch because the whole team just doesn't strike me as
that great. Boykins, Andre Miller, Mr. Glass, Nene ($60 million,
enjoy that Denver), a fat Veshon Lenard. Whatever, not really buying

Friday, October 13, 2006

Danny Ainge loves him some white boys

Welcome to the club Luke. Grab some pine down there by Veal, Raef,
and Wally World. How long before Danny trades Rondo and Tony Allen
for Swift and Nick Collison? Not long I'd say.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Doc Rivers one of Big Ben's Favorite Coaches

Well, we know the players certainly love Doc, but here's the quote
from an piece:

Wallace mentioned Jim Lynam, Doc Rivers, Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown
as the favorite coaches he has played for, going on to say Skiles
reminds him of Brown because he does not play favorites and sees
himself as a teacher at both ends of the floor.

The gist of the piece is that Ben Wallace does not like Flip Saunders
one bit. Hard to see how a coach could piss off a guy whose entire
game is based on hustle and heart, but he did it. I've always viewed
Flip as a decent coach (and the Pistons hot start last year certainly
boosted that opinion) and his many playoff failures in Minnesota as
being a product of not having enough talent beside KG (Kevin McHale's
fault naturally), but to hear Big Ben complain about Flip certainly
changes my opinion a little bit. Hard to say what went wrong between
these guys and maybe more will come out as camps and preaseason
begins, but how does Joe Dumars go with Flip given what Wallace has
said and the fact that he left the team? Maybe Flip and Joe save a
little face because Wallace left for more money in Chicago, but I
suspect that Flip has to be on the hot seat from the moment the first
ball is tipped.