Feeling that I needed to at least try to address the World Series, I had planned to write a piece on that today. It was this faux-script in which Joe Buck and Tim McCarver describe the game at first, mixing in promos for Fox, until the commentary slowly devolves into a commercial for Fox shows. Eventually, the fourth wall breaks down; it turns out Joe Buck is actually Peter Griffin of "Family Guy," etc. Anyway, once the Red Sox are out, I don't even care enough about baseball to do that. I'm told that people who run a basketball and hip-hop blog are supposed to preview the upcoming season, so with a modicum of research, that's what I'll do instead.
Tonight, we'll be taking a look at the Eastern Conference, analyzing by division and then predicting how it will all shake down for the playoffs. Jells, I know you wanted to finish what you started with that Raptors post a few months ago, but the season's starting Tuesday, dude.
The perfect soundtrack for reading this preview is, of course, Joe Budden's old "NBA" freestyle. A lot of people have sampled the John Tesh NBA on NBC theme--among them Golden State and Jin, who is probably the only Ruff Ryders alum more worthless than Drag-On. But Joe Budden kills this beat.
Joe Budden- "NBA"
5. Philadelphia 76ers- The window on Philly being competitive is officially closed. Iverson's thirty-one, C-Webb's thirty-four, and even Kyle "Werewolf at 3:00 PM" Korver isn't enough to keep this boat bobbing in the East's waters. (Wouldn't it have been hilarious if the 76ers had a chance at Jonathan Clay Redick? What would you give to watch two players who never step past the three point line? There wouldn't even be enough players to set the screens those guys run around. On the plus side, Andre Iguodala's going to be awesome for whichever winning team he eventually gets traded to.
This picture was already funny before I noticed the shifty dude in camo.
4. New York Knicks- Here's the thing: they're not going to be as bad as people think. Sure, BabyHead Marbury will dick it up by dribbling too much. Sure, Isiah will make a few deals before the all-star break, probably even sending away Stevie Francis and my boy Jalen for ten fourth-rounders, since he doesn't know there isn't a fourth round in the draft anymore. But there are some pieces here that can work. Channing Frye will be more comfortable in expanding his role in the offense, Eddy Curry might pan out into the player people always think he might. And in the preseason, even Renaldo Balkman has been looking like the impecunious man's Kenyon Martin. Still, with players like Jerome James and Nikiloz Tskitishvilli on your roster, anything can happen. I'm predicting they come one win short of their .500 goal, in true Isiah fashion.
This photo was not altered in any way actually. Shit was just that in Summer Leagues.
3. Toronto Raptors- Lazy sportswriters spent the summer writing stories about how Bryan Colangelo has shaken things up in Toronto and is obviously trying to emulate Phoenix's Euro-centric winning philosophy. Here's what I'm wondering: Why are you patterning yourself after a team that's never really won anything? Even though they're a regular season powerhouse, this Suns team has never made it out of the Western Conference Finals. Do you hear anybody talking about how much they want to be like Pepsi and John Kerry? It's just weird that no one questions this. To be fair, they do have Chris Bosh, who can already pace just about any forward in the conference and is still improving. And if the Suns were in the East, we'd be using two hands to count their Finals bids.
2. New Jersey Nets- A lot of people are ear-marking them for an easy division title here, but I'm not so convinced. The whole team is Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Vince "Half-Man-Half-Amazing/V.C./Baby Jordan/Air Canada/Douchebag" Carter, and if any one of those guys suffers a serious injury--quite a possibility with an aging leaper and recoveries from microfracture knee surgery and a ruptured wrist ligament--the team is hopeless. Much has been made of Carter being in a contract year (and if there were ever a contract-year type of guy, it's him), but when your team made no moves in the off-season and your only interior presence is Nenad Kristic, it's going to be a true test of how much Vince can hog the ball. He's going to make Kobe look like Scott Skiles. Furthermore, it's bench play that advances a team in the playoffs, and the Nets don't have one. Ever wonder what happened to Darvin Ham? He's listening to The Shins at his mom's funeral.
Was the reference not funny because you didn't get it? Or did you not get the reference because it wasn't funny?
1. Boston Celtics- I'm not putting them here just because they're my favorite team. I really like the Celtics' chances because they have an intriguing blend of an alpha-dog (Paul Pierce), guys looking to prove themselves (Wally, Bassy, Delonte West), and hungry kids (Tony Allen, the explosive Rajon Rondo, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green). If Doc Rivers studies some time management and roster balancing, Boston can make some noise. And since I haven't mentioned the Telfair hit, the most interesting part is how my opinion changed of him over the course of a few days. It started with me thinking he was a toolbag for having a $50,000 chain and getting it snatched, then my respect grew when I found out that he didn't recognize anyone at a police lineup. Then I find out that he probably ordered a hit on Fabo by cell phone. By next week he'll be doing mountains of coke and defending his palace with an assault rifle while pacing my girlfriend. Then I'll order a hit on him by cell phone. What goes around comes around, baby.
5. Indiana Pacers- This team is going to implode. I'm not just talking about the distraction of Stephen Jackson either. The talent level is enough to get them to the playoffs, but the lack of chemistry will hurt them down the road. Danny Granger won't contribute as quickly as people think. Big Crazy and Jamaal Tinsley will probably be facing trade rumors all season. Add to that distraction Jermaine O'Neal getting frustrated with the team's direction, and Rick Carlisle not knowing how to handle it, and you've got disaster. The whole point of bringing Al Harrington in was to appease his buddy O'Neal, but once the losses snowball, O'Neal will realize he should have achieved more by now, and all Indiana will have to show for it is Harrington's fat contract. Or they could be really good. What do I know?
"Sweep the leg, Jax."
4. Milwaukee Bucks- Every year I look at the Bucks' roster and say, "Why not?" One reason why not is that they're playing in the toughest division in the league. Another is that Mo Williams and Steve Blake are handling pointguard duties. Another reason is that before I looked it up I didn't know who their coach was, which is never a good sign (the illustrious Terry Stotts, if you were wondering as well). Bogut and Villanueva will be bright spots, but the Bucks don't have enough defense to be a threat in the Central.
3. Detroit Pistons- With Nazr Mohammed coming right in, the loss of Ben Wallace won't affect Detroit as much as I originally thought. Think back to when David Robinson retired and Rasho Nesterovic not only kept the stats where they were, but actually scored a bit more. Translating what he did in San Antonio to a weaker conference, I expect something similar from Nazi. Billups and Hamilton will be more comfortable in Flip Saunders' up-tempo offense too. In fact, I'm kind of talking myself into the Pistons as I write this. Those new rules for technicals should definitely hurt 'Sheed though.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers- They have LeBron James.
"I just told the brother, look: Tank, I'm flattered. I'm gonna take it as a compliment and move on, man. I ain't like that. I never have been. You know, I mean, I just don't like you in that way."
1. Chicago Bulls- As I wrote last month, the Bulls don't seem to have many weaknesses. Ben Wallace should add muscle to what was already last year's number one team in opposing field goal percentage. They have a pointguard who takes care of the ball, a grizzled veteran to hold it together, a change-of-pace hustle guy in potential MVP Nocioni, and a handful of other rangy forwards. The knock against Chicago is that they don't have a dependable scoring option, but what would you call Ben "Why can't I wear an over-sized white tee in the pros?" Gordon? He's certainly not out there to play D. It seems as if every time John Paxson needs a piece to the puzzle, he goes out and gets it. Yeah, the Bulls are tough on the perimeter and have great depth--if only they could finish on the fast break. Hey, maybe they should get Tyrus freakin' Thomas. Incredible job as a GM so far.
5. Atlanta Hawks- Greg Oden's going to be awesome.
Congratulations, Shelden. Until Joakim Noah goes pro, you're officially the ugliest dude in the league. You win an ironing board.
4. Charlotte Bobcats- I keep waiting for the 'Cats to make a huge deal in the offseason, but they don't seem interested. If they (By they, I now mean Michael Jordan in addition to Nelly and Bernie Bickerstaff. Five years ago, who would you have predicted would get a crack at NBA ownership first? The second greatest player to ever live or that dude who wrote "Pimp Juice"? [Nelly, not Bernie Bickerstaff, if you're scoring at home.] Crazy world we're living in.) are committed to winning, they're going to have to sign someone huge or trade some parts for a superstar. I can't criticize any of their drafting decisions, especially since Felton has turned out much better than I thought he would (12.4 points and 4.0 assists per) and Adam Morrison has been lights out in the preseason, but you can't get a significant amount of wins just from the draft. Gerald Wallace is going to step up and have a big year, but there needs to be a culture of winning instilled in a team this young before the players believe in themselves.
I know I'm supposed to, but I don't really trust this man.
3. Orlando Magic- Every year, the report for the Magic begins with, "If Grant Hill stays healthy..." I'm just going to assume that Hill will get injured early on and make my prediction with that in mind. It's a tragedy because he could have been the best of his generation, but it's the truth. There will be a lot of options when he goes down though. I'm not sold on Turkoglu as a starter, but with Dwight "league leader in dunks with 214" Howard and Darko Milicic you can go big, while Jameer Nelson and Trevor Ariza can run. Throw in x-factor Jonathan Clay Redick, and you're in for an exciting young team. As an added bonus, liking Darko is no longer ironic because he's going to prove himself this year. It's kind of like Tom Cruise's career backwards. They also have a bench that's not necessarily good, but is definitely funny (Bo Outlaw and Pat Garrity are still there? One of the Diener brothers?) Basically, this team is the Bobcats next year.
No one ever mentions this, but his name is Jonathan Clay, and he's called JJ because his sister couldn't say it right when they were little and just repeated the first letter. Basically, his name is a legacy of his family's ignorance. I'd drink and drive too.
2. Washington Wizards- The good news is that they have Gilby Arenas and Antawn Jamison, who should account for half of the team's points on any given night. The bad news is that they're both getting a truly unhealthy amount of minutes and there are too many people on the team named Etan Thomas and Calvin Booth. I also don't like Caron Butler as much as I used to. If he was going to make The Leap, he would have done it by now. I'm talking myself out of the Wizards as I write this. One thing's for sure: especially if he can get the air in his house right, Gilby will lead the league in scoring.
I just think this is pretty.
1. Miami Heat- This thing could write itself. Blah blah blah Shaq. Blah blah blah Wade. Blah blah blah Mike Doleac. They should still be in good enough shape to go far into the playoffs, but last year was a perfect storm that can't be recreated. Last season, none of the following elements mattered as much as they will now: the age of O'Neal, Mourning, and Payton (and take into account that when big men get too old they decline rapidly), the inconsistency of White Chocolate and Pancake Face Walker, the absence of any bench dependability, Riles believing in his own hype, Wade getting beaten up every single game, if not every play. Do you really think Miami can click at the right times and make it through another season with all those components working? I'm doubtful.
7. New Jersey
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Chicago over Miami
All that's incidental though. I'm looking ahead to next year. (As if I wouldn't link to this.)