You know, I can’t be mad in theory that the Miami Heat have gotten so much coverage this preseason. So what if ESPN looks even more biased having reporters embedded with a team. Why even bother reading the Miami Herald when ESPN has a Heat Index of all things MIA. Who cares if everyone is treating Miami like the Yankees – that’s what we expected when LeBron and Chris Bosh signed to South Beach.
But all of that doesn’t matter. All of this is good because it’s probably one of the few times a two-time defending champion is underrated despite getting better and making some of the smartest moves of the summer.
While everybody talks about Miami’s new superstar, you can ignore the Lakers addressing two of the biggest needs – adding Steve Blake to the bench for our true first backup PG since Derek Fisher backed up Gary Payton and Matt Barnes/Theo Ratliff for size and defense to bolster the bench.
Also, the danger with any champion is seeing that hunger die. Ain’t gonna happen. Kobe wants 6. Blake/Barnes want their first ring. Fisher wants 6. Artest wants to auction Ring #2 for charity. Pau Gasol wants to keep proving he’s one of the greatest international players ever.
Not to mention that the gap between them and the West is even wider this year because perennial contenders like the Spurs, Suns and Rockets have taken big hits.
All eyes will be on Kobe Bryant’s knee, however. I’ve said it for a year that Mamba has 1-2 years left before the dropoff comes. This could be the last year of Kobe as we know it and we’re hoping that the break he took this summer will only extend his energy this year. Besides, with all these new weapons, it’s even less work for him to carry the team on his shoulders.
So pretend to be surprised when the Lakers actually are a better challenger to 70 wins than the Miami Heat (E-TV prediction? 67 Wins). We’ll just smile and nod, knowing that it’s not a shock because veteran chemistry + talent = success.
Speaking of the West, Oklahoma City’s ready to be one of the elite teams for a long while. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Co. are gonna do major damage this year as they win 50+ games. Durant’s become everyone’s favorite poster boy for what’s right in the NBA as his scoring touch, humble demeanor, do-it-the-right-way attitude.
Is Durant the best player in the NBA now? No. He’s a few lbs and a year or two away. But once he adds that with maybe some defense? He’s gonna be the new George Gervin – unstoppable scoring machine from inside or outside. Until then? He’s the MVP favorite this year.
(Sidenote – everybody hating on LeBron right now is still forgetting that skill-wise he has NO peer in the NBA. They’re letting their hate overshadow facts. You can like Durant a whole lot more but he’s like the new girl at school. Everyone loves him, fascinated by what he has – yet somehow overlooks what’s already there)
Who’ll finish 3rd in the West? I guess you can say Houston because I think Yao Ming is healthy enough to make one good run this year. Holding my fingers with him just like I am with Blake Griffin, who I’ve heard is back to his athletic freakiness he showed at Oklahoma.
Add him to a mix of Eric Gordon and a possibly motivated Baron Davis, you can make the case for the Clippers reaching the playoffs – that is if Vinny Del Negro doesn’t screw it all up.
Might as well get this out of the way. Miami won’t win the East. Darth James, Flash Wade and ordinary Chris Bosh are a great 3-man team but titles aren't won with big names. They're won with a proven bench and unless Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem and Co. step up to the plate, they're watching the Finals at home like me.
Faith in Mario Chalmers? Old Man Stackhouse who I didn't know was still in the league? If this is the Evil Empire, couldn't the Emperor Riley pick better Storm Troopers. Anyways, Orlando has better personnel. Boston will be deeper and ready for one more run with Shaqtastic goodness. And nobody is talking about how scary Chicago has gotten.
They reloaded with Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. If any team greatly improved this summer it was the Bulls who will not only contend for a Top-4 slot in the East but be the toughest second-round matchup in the postseason.
Derrick Rose has a low-post weapon in Boozer to go along with all-glue man Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson off the bench. He has weapons on the wings with Korver and Brewer to go along with Deng. That's like giving keys and a house to a young, resourceful kid and telling him to make something happen. It's almost scary how much better he'll get.
Is anything sadder than Gilbert Arenas right now? Here’s a man who was one of the best personalities in the game with lethal scoring but knee surgery, those guns and his preseason comments have robbed him of not just goodwill but his identity.
What’s sadder is that the Wizards should be happy all around. They have a star in rookie John Wall and a great backup PG in Kirk Heinrich. The future is bright but it’s sad that Arenas has to go before it becomes completely sunny.
Cleveland’s now a trivia question – what’ll be higher? Their win total or the combined scoring average of Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams? Welcome back to the cellar.
This is probably the most I’ve looked forward to an NBA season since 2003-2004 when the Lakers got Karl Malone and Gary Payton and Darth James was still a Young Jedi making his debut in Episode 1. Throw the ball in the air and let’s get it on!