Well, it’s been a 4 month break but the National Basketball Association is back for another season, only 8 days anyway. I know you’ve read so many previews for the NBA that you’re tired of reading them and I’ll admit, I almost didn’t write this because I said to myself, “Self, what new perspective would you bring to the previewing of the 2011-12 NBA season?” I didn’t come up with an answer to that wonderful question. My preview may be what you’ve read before, it may not. Not everyone thinks the same, even if they agree on certain things. So let’s see how this goes.
Where to start, how to divide the stories, should we go by conference or division or just talk about the teams that matter? Sorry, Bobcats. That I don’t know either; sensing a theme here? Well, to be fair, let’s start with the world champion Miami Heat. LeBron finally got his ring, Wade got his second, Pat Riley has proven to be just as good a team president as he was a coach and they re-tooled by getting Ray Allen (still weird to me) and Rashard Lewis. Now, the obvious question, can they repeat? Only God knows but here’s a better question, can they rebound? Literally. They got more shooting, yes, but still haven’t answered their size deficiency. You might see a lineup, at times, of Wade, Ray Ray, Bron, Rashard and Bosh. Bosh being at the 5. Offensively, that’s great, defensively? Ummm….everyone better crash the glass. If they can work that out AND stay healthy which is always a key to repeating (right, 2007 Miami Heat?), it’s not a stretch to assume they’ll be back in the Finals.
Now, for the runner-up Oklahoma City Thunder, again, no reason to believe that they can’t make a return trip to the Finals. Durant returns, possibly better after going through true playoff wars and the Olympic experience which is bad news for the league and my Lakers. Hell, the entire team returns sans Derek Fisher but….really? The only team that could honestly beat them is themselves. Oh, and the James Harden contract situation. Hmm… but will the defeat in the Finals make them hungrier or will it stick with them throughout the season? I think we know that answer.
Now on to my Los Angeles Lakers. Well, we got Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, some bench help (others might tell you otherwise) and Eddie Jordan on the bench to implement the Princeton offense. Putting a superstar team together doesn’t always and rarely ever translates into a championship that same year. Unless you’re the 2008 Boston Celtics. I hate that team. Anyway, our success depends on two things. Well, more than two but two things mainly. How quickly can they gel as a team, be a team and use this Princeton offense to take advantage of all their strengths and is Kobe REALLY willing to play off the ball. Time will tell. My fingers are crossed.
Let’s head over to Chicago. This is going to be very short. Derrick Rose won’t come back ‘til 2013. He’ll be a different player. For better or worse, who knows. The Bulls lost Asik, a serviceable backup center, Brewer, an athletic wing defender and Korver, their main sharpshooter. With those players gone and without Rose, they couldn’t beat the Sixers in the playoffs. The Bulls won’t make the playoffs.
Let’s see….who else matters….oh, the Clippers. They improved but then they didn’t. CP3 and Blake weren’t going anywhere but they picked up Crawford, a former Sixth Man of the Year and current gunner. The Odom acquisition hurt me a bit until I saw the shape he’s in. I’m okay now. The real key is how Chauncey Billups recovers from his Achilles injury. His age should be factored in that. Their roster’s good enough to be in the West’s top 8 but their coach isn’t good enough to have them be the Hawks of the west. Continual second round trips.
The Boston Celtics haven’t been talked about much but I will say that Miami should be scared. Boston pushed the Heat to seven games with an 80% Pierce, a 70% Garnett and Garnett playing center. Now, Jeff Green returns, as will Avery Bradley, who is a TENACIOUS defender. They acquired Jason Terry who can still give some scoring off the bench and they drafted size & defense in Jared Sullinger & Fab Melo. Oh and it looks like Rajon Rondo can finally shoot. Uh oh.
Since this will be the sexy, new rivalry between Manhattan and Brooklyn, let’s talk Knicks and Nets. The Nets. Well, new city, new era, new shooting guard, new arena, it all sounds great. But is Joe Johnson really 20-30+ win improvement good? For all that money, he better be. Billy King did great by getting Deron Williams to stay, not that good by overpaying Brook Lopez but, he really had no option and getting Johnson. So we’ll see when the honeymoon phase is over in Brooklyn how good this team really is. Or isn’t.
The Knicks….I really don’t know what to say about them. Finally Melo and Amare have a true training camp and preseason to work with each other but they brought in Jason Kidd, who’s 39, Marcus Camby, who’s…well, he was drafted in 1996, Rasheed Wallace, who’s 38 and two years removed from basketball, Kurt Thomas, who’s 40 but still a good low post defender and Pablo Prigioni. A rookie. Who’s 35. Yeah, I don’t know. Playoffs, sure. What seed, who knows. Will Melo and Amare truly be able to play with each other? Unless Melo learned to move without the ball and Amare has learned how to impact the game without just scoring, maybe. They might get out of the first round. Maybe.
Can’t think of any other teams to write about so I’ll get into a fun segment and then I’ll be done.
Which teams are Next? I think there are four of them. The Washington Wizards are one of them. I really think they can make a true push for the 8th seed in the East. John Wall is out for 6-8 weeks & Nene is out for a while which really hurts them but they have a lot of factors working in their favor. 1. Randy Wittman may not be a household name but his players like playing for him and that’s huge because they’ll buy into his philosophies fully and play hard for him. 2. The knuckleheads are gone. Yes, you Javale. You too, Nick. Oh, and Gilbert. 3. There are a good mix of veterans (Ariza & Okafor) and young players (Singleton, Martin, Beal).
The Detroit Pistons. You read that right. They’ve put some good young pieces together through the draft and they could shock a lot of teams if they aren’t ready to play. Greg Monroe really surprised late last year and if, this is a huge if, Drummond continues improving and developing, the Pistons could have the steal of the 2012 Lottery. Those two together would form a formidable frontcourt. If Brandon Knight can get going, they can threaten for a playoff spot. This year.
The Bay Area is back! Okay, not really but I mean “back” in terms of Sacramento and Oakland, soon to be San Francisco, being able to be proud of their teams again. The Kings have talent on top talent and they’re led by DeMarcus Cousins, the second best big man in the West. He has all the physical tools to be a top 10 player in the league. Emotionally and mentally? Well, that’s a different question but the Kings can score with any team in the league. Thornton, Evans and Jimmer can fill it up, Thompson, Greene and Cousins can rebound and defend, Garcia’s a good glue player and Isaiah Thomas has been a huge surprise in Sacramento from the point guard position. I think Keith Smart is the right man for the job as well.
Mark Jackson has done a good job with the Warriors already. Not in terms of wins but with changing the culture and cleaning house so that he could have a team in his own image. No more small ball for the Warriors, a traditional lineup and a team that came ready to play hard every night. Now, Klay Thompson is a STUD already but Stephen Curry’s ankles have proven to be more fragile than Kim Kardashian’s relationships. For them to make that next push, he’s going to have to stay healthy or they’re going to have to have another answer at point guard. But, like I said about the Wizards, the Warriors like playing for Jackson and they’re 10 deep. The Lakers and Clippers have competition up north.
Hopefully, that wasn’t too long but if it was, at least it was a good read. So enjoy the NBA season and my 2013 Finals prediction is….being an unbiased fan, I really see it being a 2012 Finals rematch with the Heat repeating