Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No such thing as a slam dunk

The euphoria of finally - FINALLY - making the championship round of the greatest basketball league on this simultaneously wonderful and bleak planet was quickly washed away by a silver and black tidal wave marshaled by a cadre of non-Americans (including - egads! - a Frenchman! Qui a gagné le MVP ! Sacré bleu ! Please don't cry, Troo 'murrikans, it'll be alright) that surely upset some of the maroons in this red state that I call home more than they otherwise would've been. But that was last year, and with the following list of major upgrades -


- well, there's always next year. I should have that tattooed on my ass.

Atlantic: Boston. Duh. Kevin Garnett + Ray Allen + Paul Pierce + a bunch of Jim McIlvaines and Matt Maloneys would win this division. Of course, if any of the three miss extended time, quite a different tale, though I'm sure once they've raced to a sizable lead, there will be a plethora of suitors willing to be bench help. New Jersey still has Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter and healthy-again Euro-surprise Nenad Krstic, Toronto remains relatively deep but continues to lack that killer outside scorer (no, Jason Kapono doesn't count - he's not shooting 51.4% from three-land again), the Knicks have some talent, but what a fucking cloud of grim depression that hangs heavy over MSG, the North American sporting world's very own House of Usher - Isaiah Thomas, for all of his greatness as a player, is just a lousy GM and an even lousier human being. And then there's poor Philadelphia, busting their ass but lacking enough quality players.

Central: Chicago. You have no idea how much that pained me to type that for obvious reasons that need not be talked about here - this is a pro-family blog, after all - but the fact remains that the Bulls have a much deeper team than we do. LeBron cannot do everything on his own. Perhaps Shannon Brown or, more likely, Boobie Gibson, will take his game to the clichéd next level. Detroit has quietly been adding infusions of young talent, and although their big-minute guys find a few more greys each season, our brutal, early-season schedule and the continued absence of Tweedledum and Tweedledumber Varejao and Pavlovic won't help with the wins and losses. Milwaukee can score but allows the other team to score more and Indiana is just a mess. Think Jermaine O'Neal's trade demands might ratchet up a bit on the Volume-O-Meter? Would you trust Jamaal Tinsley to run your point for 82 games?

Southeast: This division is garbage, but garbage with potential! Orlando, by signing Rashard Lewis, probably vaulted ahead of the rest, but their long-term ceiling will be a division title and no more unless Dwight Howard becomes the next Bill Russell. Washington, led by Agent Zero, can light it up and though not the immovable object as a team, Caron Butler is nasty enough to patch up any holes here and there. Miami has oft-injured Dwayne Wade, a broke-down Shaq and pieces parts. Atlanta and Charlotte should, on paper, bring up the rear, but both teams, especially the Hawks, are collecting some nice, young talent, but is Acie Law ready to step in and eliminate their glaring weakness? The loss of the underrated Sean May should keep Charlotte in last.

Southwest: San Antonio. The New England Patriots of the NBA minus the rank arrogance, the Spurs have tweaked their roster just enough to remain on top, but will their cost-cutting trade of Luis Scola to division rival Houston come back to haunt them in the way that - no, better not go there. The Rockets, if they stay healthy, and with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, that's a huge if, have the talent to push the Spurs for the league's best record and the title. The question with Dallas, after last season's spectacular flameout against an inferior opponent (it cannot be overstated just how much of a joke performance and a crappy coaching job from one of the best that was) is completely psychological. New Orleans remains a borderline playoff team, but with Chris Paul, anything is possible in the lower half of the West. Memphis won't, barring alien intervention, sniff the postseason, but in a few years and with a few more savvy moves, they certainly will.

Northwest: Utah. A lot of folks like the Nuggets, especially if Kenyon Martin can come back and fill a sixth-man role to aid the high-flying trio of Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and J.R. Smith, but the Jazz can flat out brutalize you in the paint, though the Jerry Sloan/AK-47 soap opera might mess with their always buoyant and hijinks-filled locker room. Plus, Marcus Camby is about due to miss a brobdingnagian amount of time. Man, is Kevin Durant going to be fun to watch in Suicideville. Too bad their asshole owner will probably get enough corporate-sucking judges to allow him to break their lease and escape to Oklahoma. The Timberwolves finally set KG free, replacing him with a bushel of young, inexperienced talent. It's going to be a long year in the land of militant atheism and Al Franken. Watch out though for Al Jefferson. Speaking of a long year, the Jail Blazers finally become a legitimately-run, classy franchise and Greg Oden's knee goes wonky. But with LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy and another high draft pick next season, look out in 2008-09.

Pacific: Phoenix. Hey, Shawn Marion? Shut the fuck up and play. You'll never have it as good as you do now with The Amazing Canadian 'Do tossing you beautiful, poetic passes and Amare destroying lesser men near the basket, thereby freeing you up to be all Matrix-y. But their owner, ugh. I wish these rich fucks would stop buying professional sports franchises with the sole purpose of making money. Go start some millionaire loan firm in Monaco or Dubai instead of selling draft picks and your only interior tough guy and pissing off the fan base who struggles to pay sick cash for one lousy game a year. The rest of the division? Kobe (for now) + Odom + crap, a Warriors team that'll run like Republicans after the newest talking point but won't duplicate last season's miracle run, a Clippers team that has a severely injured Elton Brand and a point guard in E.T. who'll be traded by the deadline, and a Kings team that's Kevin Martin, an extra from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and not much else. Besides missing Mike Bibby for 1-2 months.

Eastern playoff teams: Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Orlando, Cleveland, Washington, New Jersey, Toronto.

Western playoff teams: San Antonio, Phoenix, Houston, Utah, Dallas, Denver, L.A. Lakers, New Orleans.

NBA Finals: As much as I'd love to see us get another crack at the Spurs, I don't see it happening unless LeBron moves from merely spectacular to transcendent, from Robert Schumann to Ludwig van Beethoven. Or the supporting cast - when it shows up - yes, I'm looking at you two idiots - improves enough to where he doesn't need to take 30 shots, rebound like a power forward and be a reasonable facsimile of Bob Cousy. And I know the Spurs historically do a Saberhagen and only kick world-class ass every other year, but they'll buck that bizarre trend this time around. San Antonio over Chicago.

The drink of the Cleveland sports fan is a bitter bromide.
Bottoms up, mes amis, and numb the pain.

Early evening update:
Tweedledum signed. That's one clown down.


TomCat said...

The Portland Tailblazers are going nowhere. :-(

Randal Graves said...

Not this year, but look for LaMarcus Aldridge to bust out. Once Oden gets back next year, add in Brandon Roy, Sergio Rodriguez, Channing Frye, they could get real good real quick.

kip said...

I'd rather see Utah than the Spurs again. BTW, Beethoven was overrated!