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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NBA Preview: Condensed & Tangential

The NBA season is upon us. Last season the league went from fledgling arena for die-hards of pituitary cases to professional sports' most vibrant young league. This season, the fans will actually care about the Larry O'Brien champions' quest for a title defense. The upstart youth will track down and possibly surpass their elders. And Isiah Thomas will throw each of his children under the bus for each subsequent overdose. Good times indeed.

Three games tipped off this evening. Aside from Greg Oden continuing his quest to become his generation's Bill Walton, there wasn't much to report. The favourites won their games and big names were slow out the gates. That said, I've compiled some notes about each team in the NBA. My preseason picks have been lacking. Thus, they'll become early season picks. Tonight is the Eastern Conference.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
I love Jesus Shuttlesworth (ie. Ray Allen). He has one of the great all-time shots and he was one of the only good players post-Jordan for the Jordan Brand (I'm looking directly at Darius Miles and Q-Rich right now). But he's the stick in the spokes for the Celtics. Did you see those stinkers he threw up in the playoffs last season? His legs are gone and he's become one-dimensional. If the shots not falling, he becomes useless on the floor. Look for Leon Powe to break out.

Philadelphia 76ers
I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid on these guys. Individually I like their players. As a team, they even have some swagger after last year's finish and performance against the Pistons. But aren't they a bit too much of a rag-tag group of kids? They're like the Little Rascals of the NBA. Their guys are all pretty good. But no one player is going to bowl you over. Look out, however, for Thaddeus Young. I sense an MIP season from him.

Toronto Raptors
Colangelo swung his balls on that O'Neal deal. It was great to get rid of Ford. He had to go somewhere. The Raptors faithful would prefer he take his neck sprains south of the border. But depth, which hadn't been a problem the past couple seasons, is a weak spot. Who steps up between Ukic/Solomon? That makes me queasy. And losing Delfino, who could've functioned as a point forward behind Calderon, is a bigger loss than most realize.

New Jersey Nets
The elder statesman to your 08-09 New Jersey Nets? Vince Carter. Mentor to Yi. A former all-star without the hops to carry him in his senescence. Their roster list made me pop a Xanax. It's that bad. Outside of Chris Douglas-Roberts and Sean Williams, I see no reason why anyone would watch this team. I think they're headed for the Eastern Conference basement.

New York Knicks
It won't get better for basketball's version of the Jackson family. But I like that d'Antoni is kicking the fat guys (ie. Curry) to the curb in favour of speed. The thought of Nate Robinson throwing up eight 3-pointers per game is salivating. And David Lee will get some burn. There are so many bad teams in the NBA worth watching and the Knicks are one of them.

Central Division

Detroit Pistons
I'm one of the few people who thinks the Pistons have a legitimate shot at going deep. Their older players are on the down slopes of their careers, but still have some good basketball in them. And with the system Joe Dumars has created, a number of key role players can step in and lighten the regular season load for guys like Rasheed, Chauncey, and Rip. Both Amir Johnson and Rodney Stuckey will garner votes for the MIP.

Chicago Bulls
Let's forget about last season. Let's call a mulligan. This season is a do-over. They're young and deep. Tyrus Thomas is going to be a homeless man's Shawn Marion, albeit without crippling insecurity. I love Joakim Noah, unlike 90% of the basketball-loving population. They need to shed some weight in the guard category, but otherwise, I can't see how they miss the playoffs on consecutive years.

Indiana Pacers
The Pacers have finally completed their white-out in the post-Auburn Hills era! This is another team, like New Jersey, that is without personality. Why would I watch them? How could Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy interest me? Unless Marquis Daniels takes them to Jamal Tinsley's favourite hang-outs I'll never show an interest in this team.

Cleveland Cavaliers
The Mo Williams acquisition is bigger than people realize. For the moment, he provides the Cavs with a second scorer. And when they unload Szczerbiak's (the spell check is going bonkers of that one) expiring contract for a player of Michael Redd's calibre, the Cavs will be poised for a deep run in the playoffs. You can pencil them into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Milwaukee Bucks
Welcome to the land of small forwards! Apparently the state of Wisconsin has a penchant for dudes in the 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 range. How long will it take before the Joe Alexander pick looks like a joke? Wow, he can put it through his legs and dunk! He's like a white Gerald Green! (By the way, being a white Gerald Green is not good.) Once again, we have a team of capable players and some borderline all-stars, but cohesion is the main problem here. Another season of missing the playoffs.

Southeast Division

Orlando Magic
Here's something I haven't written on: the acquisition of Mickael Pietrus. I've always liked this guy, only he got buried in that deep run-and-gun Warriors team. I think Pietrus will surprise people. And J.J. Redick could make his way into the line-up. What's the over/under on his point average? a 6.5? I might take the over on this one. Look out ladies of Orlando!

Atlanta Hawks
I really don't like the Hawks to make any noise this season. Al Horford is a beast in training, but Atlanta's upswing kind of reminds me of the Clippers when they had that one-off season when they lost to the Suns in the second round. The only thing keeping them on the cusp of an eighth spot is Horford's improvement from first to second seasons.

Miami Heat
I like this Miami team, mostly because of how dysfunctional they look on paper. On one hand you have bona fide stars, on the other you have Chris Quinn. But with a healthy D-Wade they should contend for a playoff spot.

Washington Wizards
Gilbert Arenas keeps this team in the news. But to be frank, I haven't done much thinking about them this off-season. Arenas got his money. Jamison got his too. I like Tough Juice and Nick Young, but there's something missing. In the end, I think it'll be that financial motivation from last season.

Charlotte Bobcats
Christ. The Bobcats. They might be the most poorly run franchise in the NBA. How can Charlotte even support these guys? Individually there's a lot to like on this roster (and their rosters from the past couple seasons), but in true Bobcats fashion, they'll disappoint. And Larry Brown will find a scapegoat. Raymond Felton, I have a feeling it could be you. And Adam Morrison cut his hair. Dammit! I was holding out for an awkward five-game road trip when Morrison rocked corn rows courtesy of Gerald Wallace's sister.

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