Basketball is Back.
Warning here. It’ll take me a minute to round back into form this year, since I’m still feeling hungover from the end of last season, when the Spurs essentially gift-wrapped an NBA Title to the Heat by losing game six in a manner in which no good teams, let alone great ones, ever should.
Of course, some will take longer than I.
Anyway, fast forward to this fall and the narrative has somehow already morphed into something along the lines of “invincible Lebron and his quest for infinite rings!” when the truth is, all it would have taken was one rebound by San Antonio, one made free-throw, one missed desperation 3 by Ray Allen to have made losers of Miami and started a “was LeBron’s one title a fluke?” conversation instead of the endless Jordan comparisons we must suffer through now.
Ah, but I digress. Before I get going on team previews and predictions and all that good shit, I thought it would be a better idea to due a “state of the team” type piece. Here’s what has changed since the last whistle blew, if you will.
Atlanta is Al Horford’s team now. Better than being Josh Smith or Joe Johnson’s, anyway. The Hawks have rebuilt around the Horford-Jeff Teague-Paul Millsap trio and will have enough cap space to add another significant piece next year. In the meantime, they’ll likely win another 45-50 games and without Smith, maybe take a few less bad shots.
Boston is just like starting over. Had to happen sooner or later. The big three (and Rondo…and Doc) had a nice six year run, but all good things must come to an end and when you have a gambler like Danny Ainge running your team, that ending will be swift and decisive. In the span of a few weeks, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Doc Rivers were gone and in a move nobody saw coming, Ainge stole college coaching wunderkind Brad Stevens from Butler with a 6 year contract, all but unheard of for a guy with no pro coaching experience.
Genius move, that. Unlike your prototypical superstar college coaches who win with all-american recruits and end up failing at the pro level where the talent is more evenly distributed, Stevens reached back-to-back National Title games with a roster full of kids you’d largely never heard of. By giving him a long term contract (i.e. job security) and the backing of management, Stevens will be allowed to teach and get the players to buy into his way.
Yeah, the Celtics will suck in 2014, but better days are ahead.
Brooklyn is making it rain. Mikhail Prokhorov is throwing money at players like Pac Man Jones used to throw it at strippers, or whatever, and just like that the Nets are serious contenders.
Well, if they stay healthy, that is.
As of right now, the Nets are paying over 180 million dollars for this team (80 million of it in luxury tax penalties alone!) for what looks like a team that is just as capable of winning a championship as it is either falling flat on it’s face or literally falling apart due to injuries.
Should be fun.
Charlotte has changed…Nothing. They remain a horrible, wretched Basketball team. They’ll have to do more than sign Al Jefferson to be anything but the dried up turd pile they’ve been for the last few years.
The lesson here? Michael Jordan has failed more spectacularly at running or owning an NBA team than he succeeded at playing on one.
Chicago has their superhero back. Finally. Maybe. hey, it was a knee injury. Who knows with those things? Just because former MVP Derrick Rose is healthy enough to play doesn’t mean he’s ready to be the Rose of old. As long as Tom Thibodeau coaches the Bulls they will always be dangerous and overachieve, and the bench looks better and deeper than it’s been in recent years, but this year is probably going to be a lost unless Rose is able to bounce back in ways that no other player ever has from such a devastating injury.
Dallas is in danger of becoming a perennial also-ran. And when you’ve won a title and made the playoffs every year for almost two decades, the proverbial participation ribbon simply won’t do. Has Mark Cuban lost his passion here, or has he simply let his love for his franchise player get in the way of what’s best for business. This much is clear: Watching the Mavs fall flat on their ass in the free agent derby for the last few years has been both sad and quite understandable, considering they were selling Deron Williams and Dwight Howard on the prospect of teaming with a middle-aged Dirk (coming off his worst season) and the hypothetical chance at signing another superstar somewhere down the line. Not exactly a monster pitch.
In the here and now, they’ve gone out and signed Monta Ellis (my favorite trainwreck) and a bunch of spare tires, so that this looks like a 35 win team that could be a whole lot worse than that if Dirk’s body breaks down on him again.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Or aged.
Denver is under new management…And time will tell as to whether or not it was for the better. First, Toronto stole their GM (fresh off winning executive of the year), then they basically showed longtime coach George Karl the door. Now, they start fresh with a first-time GM (Tim Connelly) and a first-time head coach (Brian Shaw), and if you think this sounds risky, that’s because it is. They still have a roster loaded with good (but not great) players, so they should be fine in the short-term. As far as the hiring choices go, we’ll see. Keep in mind this team is now being run by the 33 year old son of the billionaire Owner, and even though he was the one who hired Ujiri, let’s just say that after Jimmy Buss and James Dolan, the track record for Owners’ sons is not too good.
Detroit is selling hope. Are you buying? I might be. I mean, my brother (a pig Piston fan) is trying like fuck to talk himself into this, and I’m actually having a better time doing it than he. The roster has talent because unlike alot of teams right now, Detroit GM Joe Dumars is actually operating under a “win now” edict from ownership. In getting Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the Pistoles only need Monta Ellis to corner the market on talented “star” players that the stat geeks despise for their inefficency. For this team, chemistry will be make or break. If Chauncey Billups can teach Jennings and Smith can lead and share with the young guys, this could be a fun team that will more and more dangerous every year.
If not, it’ll get ugly quick.
Golden State isn’t fucking around anymore. Sure, the new ownership team didn’t get off to the hottest start, but they appear to have hit their stride now. Hiring an agent (Bob Myers) to run the team was innovative thinking, and not only has the move paid off, they have let the purse strings loose enough to let Myers get aggressive.
Last summer was quite the whirlwind for them. Yeah, they didn’t land Dwight Howard, but they made more of an impression than anyone could have guessed and honestly, it might just be better that they didn’t. Instead, they were able to shed a ton of dead contract weight, acquire a swiss army knife type in Andre Iguodala and construct a formidable bench. Even better, they’ll cruise into next summer with enough cap space and/or assets to get a quality big man, the one piece that can bump this team up from good to great in a hurry.
Houston has what they always wanted. If you’ve been listening to Rockets boss Daryl Morey for the last half dozen years or so, you’ve heard him swear up and down that their are two kinds of NBA franchises: Those who possess a franchise player and those that are shit out of luck. Now, thanks to his shrewd dealing and a little bit of luck, Morey has TWO, both acquired in less than a year.
Now, we get to see if his theory floats or not.
On paper, a James Harden-Dwight Howard-Jeremy Lin-Omer Asik-Chandler Parsons starting five looks like a World Class Wrecking Cru. In practice, it might get a little trickier. I mean, if Howard grew tired of running pick & roll in LA last year and basically demanded to be featured in the post more, Houston fans better pray he got it out of his system. As offensive options go, Harden has to be considered far and away the #1 option.
If the Rockets aren’t on the same page here, it will be trouble.
If they are, who knows. There is a ton of talent here and a young enough roster to have time to grow together. Will it work?
The fun is in the finding out.
Indiana is Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On.
Oh, the Pacers were close. Depending on how you look at it, they either gave the series away in Game 1 when Paul George overplayed LeBron on the final possession and allowed him to stroll in for the game winning layup, or they lost it in game 7, when at least half of their key guys withered in the spotlight.
That was then, though. Instead of sulking about it, the Pacer front office got busy making this team better in every way. In place of what was arguable the league’s worst bench, they added Luis Scola, Chris Copeland, CJ Watson and will be bringing back a healthy Danny Granger, once an all-star and the cornerstone of the franchise. Now, they have an advantage where they once were at a severe deficit?
Will it be enough to get over the hump? Boy, it’s a good question. Me, I like their chances, what with Miami barely dragging themselves over the finish line and the Bulls probably being a year away from their peak. 2014 might be the window for the Pacers or even the Nets to sneak into the Finals.
Milwaukee’s roster is like buying a pack of Baseball cards that has nothing but commons in it. How pissed would you be if you got all the way home from the store (on your skateboard, no less) and opened this pack? “Caron Butler…Luke Ridnour…Zaza Pachulia…Ersan Ilyasova…O.J. Mayo? What the fuck is this? Where are the good ones???. Can’t I at least get a rookie card”.
You know what this team looks like? It looks like the GM told the owner that he would bet him $1 he could construct a team that would win exactly 34 games and the owner said “YOU’RE ON, AL!!!”.
Great movie, shitty, shitty team.
Part two coming soon…