|NBA Preview - The Leave Your Guns at Home Edition
||[Oct. 31st, 2006|11:45 am]
New York Knicks Community
|||||John Mellencamp, "This is Our Chevy- I Mean Country"||]|
Pacers' Jackson Fires Gun at Strip Club
Celts' Telfair Denies Role in Shooting of Rapper Fabolous
Wizards’ Arenas Arrested for Disobeying Police:
Guard Reportedly Says 'You Can't Arrest Me. I'm a Basketball Player.'
Redick Apologizes After DUI Arrest
Former Raptor Lonny Baxter Pleads Guilty to Gun Charge
NBA Action. It's FANNN-TASTIC!!! Especially if you're a lawyer.
You know things are going badly for the NBA when the commissioner feels the need to release a statement asking NBA players to leave their guns at home. You'd think that this kind of logic wouldn't need to be spelled out for anyone, but in a league where Stephen Jackson fires a gun into the air during a fight outside a strip club, and then expresses shock when he's arrested, I guess David Stern had no choice. I don't see this statement having much of an impact, though. After all, asking an NBA player to leave his guns at home is like asking Paris Hilton to join a convent. Besides, as John Saunders pointed out, leaving the gun at home can also be a recipe for disaster. Just ask Jayson Williams.
The NBA - I Love This Game!!
Anyway here are some random musings for the upcoming 2006-2007 Season:
Is Kobe psychotic?
First, he nicknames himself "Black Mamba" because he felt that the deadly, venomous, ruthless nature of the snake befitted his demeanor on the basketball court (either that or he thought he looked like Uma Thurman). Oh yeah, he was still facing rape charges at the time. Now he takes "24" as his jersey number after having been "8" since arriving in the NBA. What, is he trying to be like Jack Bauer now? Will he torture his opposing defenders using his shoelaces, a sweat-soaked towel, and air from the basketball? Will he single-handedly and selflessly thwart league-wide conspiracies and plots which, if successful, would be disasterous for the welfare of the NBA? Will he scream at his teammates if the clock is running out and demand the ball saying: "Dammit! Give me the ball! We're out of time!" Actually, I can see that happening. I've also heard that it may be Kobe's way of one-upping Jordan, which would only be natural. I mean, Kobe was positively Jordan-esque last year. Witness the 35.4 PPG Average, the 81 point outburst against the Raptors, and the wonderful performance in the playoffs last year when he quit on his team in the second-half of Game 7 against the Suns. Hell, Jordan never did the last two things, so I guess Kobe is better than Jordan! Long live the Mamba!
Will the Knicks be Worse this Year?
It's hard to imagine that they'll be worse than they were last year. However, this year's squad could do it. As bad of a job that Larry Brown did last year with his numerous starting lineups, his strange in-game rotations, and his constant criticisms of his players to the press (witness "Starbury"), Thomas could very well do worse as coach. Remember, this is the coach that loved using players for 30 minutes in one game and then DNP'ing them the next game when he was with Indiana. Thomas underachieved as a coach of one of the most talented teams in the East during his time with the Pacers, so much so that the year after he left, the same team (with Scot Pollard replacing Brad Miller - a huge downgrade in any calculation), won 61 games under Rick Carlisle. Another thing that people don't really talk about is how Thomas may have encouraged Ron Artest to act out, hoping to turn Artest into the Dennis Rodman of the Pacers. Instead, he may have turned Artest into some combination of Mike Tyson, DMX, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Or at least, Bill Laimbeer.
Anyway, there is some optimism in New York because, on paper, it would seem as if they have too much talent. Starbury seems determined to rebound from last year. They'll have Steve Francis for a full year. Channing Frye was looking good before he got injured. Renaldo Balkman is better than advertised and should become a Garden favorite. However, this is still a team that won't play defense, pass the ball, or dominate the paint. Eddy Curry is still a lazy, unmotivated stiff (with a ticker that could give out at any moment). Starbury and Franchise are still me-first players that don't make their teammates better (and we haven't even talked about Jamal Crawford or Nate Robinson - two additional shoot-first point guards). The Knicks still have too many small forwards and point guards and not enough size in the middle. This team will challenge for the worst record in the league and should be the odds on favorite to secure the #1 spot in the Greg Oden Sweepstakes. Oh, wait a minute...
Why Is Lebron on TV All the Time?
Lebron might be turning into the NBA's version of Peyton Manning. Between "The Lebrons," the "Witness" ads, the Sprite ads with mini-Lebron, and random "Sportscenter" and "NBA on TNT/ABC/or ESPN" ads, I can't get away from King James. Lebron is not particularly charismatic, but he does have a pretty good sense of humor, so those "Lebrons" ads work fairly well. Of course, I'm worried that this will turn into a Clinton Portis thing where Lebron does his postgame press conferences in character as either Young Lebron, Old Lebron, or Ego-Driven Diva Lebron (who I think looks a little like R. Kelly - hopefully, he doesn't celebrate victories like R. Kelly would). I wonder how Dwyane Wade feels. After all, D-Wade was the one who won the ring. Of course, one commercial that you don't see featuring Lebron is "Lebron James, you've just won the Gold Medal at the World Basketball Championships. What are you going to do now?" Another you won't see: "Lebron James, you've just won the NBA Championship. What are you going to do now?"
Who Will Win the Title?
What? A substantive question?! I don't know how to answer this one.
Actually, I do. Out East, the top teams will be Miami, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and New Jersey. The Nets are intriguing, but Jason Kidd is getting older. Additionally, they're a perimeter-oriented team and lack a strong inside presence or a bench. They'll get to the playoffs, but probably won't last too long. On the plus side, Vince Carter will be motivated since he's in a contract year, and they have a weak division. Cleveland is too dependant on Lebron and should run into the same problems that they encountered against Detroit. If Larry Hughes stays healthy, the Cavs will improve from last year. Don't think title just yet, though. Detroit will lose a lot of defense as a result of Ben Wallace's defection. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if Billups remains a team player or whether he starts trying to pad his own stats because he's in a contract year. Chicago improved a lot, but they still have no low-post presence. That leaves Miami. If Shaq and Zo stay healthy, and Wade's wheels don't fall off after last year's extended playoff run and off season of training and playing with the US Team, then Miami should win the East. My prediction is that Shaq gets hurt and Wade misses time as well so Miami squeaks into the playoffs. Once they're in, though, watch out... They can beat any team in the East in the 7 game series.
In the West, meanwhile, we're looking at San Antonio, Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, and Denver. George Karl's act might be wearing thin on the Nuggets. I could see this team imploding this year and Karl getting fired midway through the season. They should have traded Kenyon Martin in the off season because he'll be a distraction. Additionally, Camby will get hurt again, which will adversely affect their team defense. Houston is everyone's sleeper this year. T-Mac is healthy. Yao, who was the best center in the league during the second half of the season until he got hurt, is healthy. Shane Battier is an excellent utility player who gives you hustle, defense, energy, leadership, and the occasional three-pointer. He's the kind of guy you win championships with. Bonzi Wells is a head case, but so far he's said and done all the right things. He's also gambling on a short-term contract this year in the hopes of playing well and rehabilitating his reputation and then cashing in next year. There are too many question marks with this team, though. Same with Phoenix. If Amare Stoudamire is healthy, then they could go all the way (although I'm not convinced that Boris Diaw will be as effective with Amare in the lineup). If he comes back a shadow of his previous self, then not only will the Suns face long odds but no one will ever get that microfracture surgery ever again. The Suns got to the Western Conference Finals last year without Amare, and most of the key pieces of that team are coming back. Still, they need a healthy Amare if they want to get over that hump. Dallas will be good again, as will San Antonio. Neither of those teams have any glaring weaknesses (although Dallas doesn't pass well and San Antonio might pass too much). Duncan will be back and looking to avenge last year's loss. That's good enough for me. San Antonio was looking unbeatable during the early part of last season when they had the likes of Finley, Horry, Van Exel, and Barry coming off the bench. Van Exel's gone, but they still have the others, along with the likes of Matt Bonner and Beno Udrih. I think ultimately, San Antonio will take the West.
Finals: San Antonio over Miami in 6 games.