It's been a while, so let's get right into it.
As I talked about a couple of years ago, we are the lucky generation who has the rare opportunity of watching both the peaks and valleys of the NBA and its journey to a world reknown organization. We can say the prime of the league came with the Bird, Magic, Jordan, Stockton, Malone era and tons of the other 50 greatest ( The Dream, Drex, Admiral, Shaq, Pip, the list goes on)....And then it fell off for a little while when #23 left and we had to watch some nonsense. But it's back. New age restrictive rules are allowing young players to develop before coming into the league so, they're ready to produce once they get there ( Rose, Jennings). We are also starting to see teams stack up on stars again. The result right now is you have a few teams at the top and the others that can't hope to compete.
Let's look at the West.
Everyone wants to say Lakers Lakers Lakers. I'm not so certain. Actually, I think the west will be hotly contested. The Lakers picked up Artest, great. But who else? Let's look at their bench:
Walton, Vujicic, Adam Morrison, Jordan Far- from- more, and Powell? With exception of Shannon Brown, come on. The Lakers have the whitest bench in the league, not sure the last time when that was a recipe for success.
Kobe is going to have to be even better this year. Bynum remains a question mark to me unless I see him starting to beast cats. Some positives are that Odom has increased his range, I guess Kardashian digs the deep ball. Also, with Artest they are tougher and better defensively, and Kobe has really polished his post game ala Jordan, and if he's got it like that, it's over.
Couple things aside from the Lakers:
1. Dallas is alot better and deeper than people thought they would be. Even though Josh Howard smokes way too much weed and doesn't care about basketball, he's still a player and the nucleus of that team should put them at least in the top four in west.
2. My Nuggets- As biased as usual, I'm going to go ahead and say they win the west this year.
Realistically, it will be tough. However, Carmello Anthony was on that workout plan this past summer, he leaned up, worked on a bunch of areas of his game and improved his stamina ( probably while staring at a poster of Kobe Bryant). With him at his best ever, add my main man Ty Lawson who got slept on in the draft...Billups, Smith, Birdman, Nene, KMart, yeah they got a squad. I see them either first or second in the west.
3. San Antonio Spurs- Revamped, re-tooled and ready? The Spurs might be the scariest team in the league that no one really wants to talk about. So what else is new? Health is the only concern. All things equal, a healthy Duncan, Manu, Jefferson, Dice, and the french rapping Tony P can do serious damage. The scariest person on that team is Tony Parker. He got a taste of having to score last year and he proved he could fill it. If Pop lets this guys loose with Manu and Jefferson and has Tim play the utility role this team will fly. I got them at third in the West.
Portland should be in the mix with all the talent they have. Picking up Miller was huge, even though I think Blake does a great job running point. They are deep and exciting, but will they play D?
The East is crap shoot.
The Cavs don't look what they should and it's easy to see why. Number one, Mike Brown, isn't the best coach to show that team how to play with Shaq in the middle. Heck, all his diagrams look the same
( Okay, you stand here, you stand there, and you move out of the way, ok, then, give the ball to Lebron)
I still think they'll figure it out, once they realize Shaq and Illgaga can't be on the floor at the same time. And maybe go to an all shooter line up with Lebron and Shaq on the floor and run pick and roll to death. Or even play Shaq when your resting Lebron, you add some girth to that second unit and let the big man eat. Shaq has got to go to work for him to have any influence on the court, you can't have him running around setting screens and making it to half court on every fast break. They have a multimillion dollar reason why they need to figure it out with 2010 looming.
Celtics- 2010 NBA champs. That should be all I have to say.
But just for good measure, let me add that this is one of the deepest teams ever assembled in recent memory.
Paul Peirce, Allen, Sheed, KG, Rondo, Marquis Daniels, Sheldon Williams, Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House...that's just deep. Daniels himself is a proven scorer and an excellent defender. Rasheed, great defender and a dynamic inside/outside scorer, the Celtics have the best front court in the league, bench included. With all those weapons, all that means is that Paul Peirce will be for the most part completely unguardable this year with one on one matchups all day long. If he doesn't have it going, there are plenty of others on that team that can pick up the scoring slack. But it's Boston's D that will stand out this season when they win 65 plus games. Yeah, I said it.
Please don't sleep on this team. The bench is deep, the lineup is laden with dead eye shooters and they're rolling already without Vince and Rashard. Top 2 in the east for sure, but I still think this team needs time to learn how to win, same with their coach. Dwight has added a couple of wrinkles to his game around the basket, and despite the hate on Vince, put in the right environment, this guy is still Vinsanity.
Can't wrap up Nba talk without discussing some disturbing excerps I read from Tim Donaghy's book, sorry, scrapbook. If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about, if you haven't my suggestion is that you don't read it. To anyone who has watched the NBA for a long period of time, nothing he says in the scrapbook comes as a big surprise. I know people are all up in arms and questioning the validity of the game...blah blah blah. Bottom line to me is the NBA is a show. With actors as players and refs, coaches doing their jobs and a director (Stern) doing his job. Can we question at this point that Stern has done a poor job? Would we rather Gary Betman?
With all that is said, forcing game sevens, favortism calls...
Let me just say, I'm greatful for game sevens and stars need star calls. Calls don't make the star, the star makes the calls and that's what we love to see, stars do their thing, that's what people pay money to see, so the Show must go on.
The Wizards will be a force with Arenas back and Oklahoma City is dangerous because this is officially Kevin Durant's break out year along with Oj Mayo.
Favorite cats to watch right now:
Granger, Roy, Mello, and J. Nelson