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.
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.