It’s Fantastic

The SEVEN
28 October 2013

We’ve got an exciting World Series going on between the Red Sox and Cardinals –  but since we’re in the midst of the World Series, that means it’s time for The SEVEN’s NBA Preview, which we will begin with a look at the Eastern Conference.

I.  New York, New York – Big City of Dreams

Pictures of LeBron James are filling magazines, newspapers, and websites as the 2013-2014 NBA season approaches with the basketball world and fans wondering if  anyone can knock off the Miami Heat in their quest for a three-peat.

As it turns out, there are two teams in New York City that would raise their hands in the affirmative – and their fans would say with good reason. Knick fans would think it only fitting to commemorate the renovated Madison Square Garden with a spot for the Knicks in the 2014 Finals – and with two of the most electric offensive players in the game in Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, along with two of the best defenders in Tyson Chandler and the newly-acquired Metta World Peace, it just could happen.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, the rebranded Brooklyn Nets have lost a part-owner in Jay Z but assembled a starting five of All-Stars in Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and former Celtics Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  It would seem that if anyone can cool the Heat, it would be Brooklyn.

II.  …But Everything in New York Ain’t Always What It Seems

Each of the Nets’ starters have been an all-star at one time or another – but they definitely weren’t all all-stars last year. How much do Pierce, KG and the other Celtic addition, Jason Terry, have left in the tank?  Personally, I think quite a bit – especially KG – but their minutes and games will need to be monitored.  Whether Deron Williams’ sometimes sub-par play was due to injuries, weight, or some combination of both, he needs to step it up this season – as does Joe Johnson. They should be very good – but probably not quite good enough.

Back at the Garden, will Tyson Chandler reemerge with a Top 3 center-type season?  Will Carmelo Anthony emerge unscathed, injury-wise, in April…and what position will he play?  Will J.R. Smith play like the player throughout much of the regular season or the virtually invisible player – except for the bricks – that was in uniform for the playoffs?  Will they get a really solid year out of Raymond Felton, whose best time in the blue and orange was when he was feeding Amar’e Stoudamire?  And will Amar’e stay on the floor enough to be effective…and if so, can he be effective in conjunction with ‘Melo?  They should be good, but probably not quite good enough.

III.  Best Of The Rest

Only two other teams in the Eastern Conference – aside from the Heat, that is – have anywhere near what can be described as a good chance of emerging from the East.  The Chicago Bulls are getting Derrick Rose back, and probably at full strength.  He may very well have delayed his return beyond when it could have occurred in order to come back as himself.  Their top foursome of Rose, Noah, Boozer and Deng are no joke.  And down the road in Indianapolis, the Pacers – who undoubtably feel that they should have played the Spurs in June – re-signed David West, get back prime scorer Danny Granger and strengthened their bench with the addition of Luis Scola. A trip to the Finals is by no means out of the question for them.

Western Conference

IV.  Battle for L.A. or Go West, Young Man

For years there was never a question of which Staples Center team was the best…or if there was such a question, it might have been about whether the Clippers were more exciting to watch than the Sparks.  But now not only have the tables turned, but the Clippers are contenders and the Lakers (with a still-recovering Kobe Bryant and without Dwight Howard) are pretenders.  

The Clippers’ greatest off-season addition was that of coach Doc Rivers, one of the best in the business.  Expect him to get be an awesome mentor to not only point guard supreme Chris Paul but high flyers Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan as well.

Memo to NBA GMs…next time perhaps you might refrain from labeling Kobe as the second-best shooting guard in the game.  Upon his return I imagine he will be attempting to prove you guys wrong…and some of you, in the hunt for playoff seeding, might need the game you lose to the Lakers as a result of Kobe’s heroics.

V.  Gold Rushers

They haven’t won it yet, but every year the Denver Nuggets bear watching as one of the deepest teams, with some off the chain athletes in Ty Lawson, Kenneth Faried and Shaqtin’ a Fool star JaVale McGee, as well as an extreme home court advantage.  The addition of Nate Robinson will help…although the loss of Andre Iguodala will hurt – not only due to his not being in Denver but his going to the talented Golden State Warriors.  Before long my prediction is that the Warriors will hoist the championship trophy at center court…and if it winds up being this year, he may be the missing piece of the puzzle as he joins the incredible backcourt of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

VI.  Best of the West

Adding D12 to newly-minted superstar James Harden and the up and coming Chandler Parsons makes the Houston Rockets a force to be reckoned with.  Naturally the Oklahoma City Thunder are a force, even while awaiting the return of an also still-recovering Russell Westbrook.  Years ago I predicted that Kevin Durant would someday be the top player in the world, and while that day is not here yet, I believe it is on the way as he continues to improve and stretch his game. 

Oh, and there’s this other team that scribes write off each year due to the age of their Big Three.  For some reason they have seemed to be able to prove the experts wrong – and now the San Antonio Spurs have a young rising star and possibly superstar in Kawhi Leonard, who may eliminate all that senior citizen talk and extend the Spurs’ conference dominance into yet another decade.

VII.  Hope not…

Hope Shaq’s purchase of a share of the Sacramento Kings – the team he formerly referred to as the Queens – will not keep him off Inside The NBA.

 

Out In Left Field

The SEVEN
24 October 2013

I.  Fall Classic

With the first pitch of the second game of the World Series just hours away, let me open with my prediction that the pitching staff of the St. Louis Cardinals, along with the addition to the lineup of the previously-sidelined run producer Allen Craig, will enable the Cards to win their 12th World Series title. After last night’s 8-1 game, this may seem strange – but I had anticipated Big Papi would probably be responsible for one Red Sox win, and Pedroia  and Ellsbury another.  Still, I expect that St. Louis will be able to win in seven games.

II.  What I Wanted To See…

Perhaps due to my crossing one item off the bucket list a couple of months ago – seeing a game live at Dodger Stadium – I was hoping that the Los Angeles Dodgers would have enough Magic left in the tank to make it to the Series. The emergence of Yasiel Puig and the resurgence of the team had made them must see TV for me…and I was hoping they would face the Detroit Tigers.  Lost on both counts…at least this year…but don’t count the Dodgers out for next year.  Any team that can go 42-8 over a third of the season has got real talent in that locker room.

III.  Try, Try Again

First thing for the Dodgers, though, is to give manager Don Mattingly the extension he so richly deserves and stop twisting him in the wind.  The Yankees re-signed Joe Girardi before the ink was dry on the newspapers which reported the season was now over – and with good reason.  Girardi did a Manager of the Year-type job in keeping his injury-plagued team in the playoff hunt all season.  And in terms of that team, it may not be quite time to blow it up now; when one considers the fact that four of their five most prominent everyday players – Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson – missed virtually all or most of the season, it can be argued that if healthy, this can still be a playoff team.

IV.  The Jets Won?

Not that it’s a surprise that the New York Jets could win a game, but the type of game that they won against the New England Patriots – in which their winning field goal came after a most unusual penalty against a New England player for pushing a teammate into a Jet player.  These are the type of games the Jets usually wind up losing…and the Patriots are the team the Jets usually wind up losing to.

The play in question may wind up being known as “butt penalty,” following on the heels of last season’s Mark Sanchez “butt fumble” and this summer’s “butt tag” by the Reds’ Brandon Phillips.  If you haven’t seen all of these, YouTube them, especially the hilarious butt tag by Phillips, who is – according to some accounts – a possible trading chip by Cincinnati management. Really?  If so, there’s a team housed in Queens, NY that could really use the best defensive second baseman in the game – if they can afford him.

V.  Way Out

Last week I was so happy that the idiotic government shutdown was over and overwhelmingly attributed to the Republicans – and rightly so – that I decided to turn to Fox News, thinking that perhaps the truth would have finally invaded their studios. 

Unfortunately, it had not. One tea party evening show host was so delusional that it left him further out in left field than the left fielder in Fenway Park in front of the Green Monster.

VI.  Could It Be Magic?

While you’re up on YouTube, check out the crazy goal scored by Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks against the New York Rangers.  Not only was it his fourth goal of that game, it was Magic/Nash-like. Made me a fan of the young guy…

VII.  Not Too Magical…

Memo to CeeLo: Loved your “Mary, Did You Know,” but spiking the girl’s drinks at the club…if that is what happened…not so much.