Six Things about this Upcoming NBA Season

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I am from Indiana. I live, think, and breathe basketball. I have spent the better part of five years in a severe basketball depression, following the Malice in the Palace resulting in the half-gutting of my beloved Pacers and the career killing of my last basketball hero, Reggie Miller. As it were, I had all but written off the National Basketball Association. It was clear that Larry Bird was going with the all-character squad, which culminated with the legitimate possibility for the first all-white starting line-up since 1950. The Pacers’ year-by-year win total since Detroit’s fans ruined my life and we went squeaky clean: 44 (year it happened), 41, 35, 35, 36. Absolutely mediocre. And since we weren’t completely terrible, we have had picks in the 10-17 range consistently and haven’t been able to pick up a real player to help out Danny Granger, perfectly illustrated by this year’s wonderful selection of Tyler Hansbrough (more on that later).

Why am I telling you this? Because I love basketball. And we are coming upon the single best part of the year: basketball season. So what should we expect? I can think of 6 things:

1. Shaq in Cleveland will not work out well.

No, seriously. As I watched the Lebrons get bounced by the Magic last spring, I kept thinking the same thing: why do Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace keep getting minutes? The Magic continually killed the Lebrons by playing small and driving right around these guys, then hitting wide open jumpers because those two bozos were too slow to rotate to the open man. Meanwhile, their lone chance to match up with the Magic (Sasha Pavlovic) sat on the bench and picked his nose. Or something.  Well, 2009 Shaq is a combination of the worst of Zydrunas and Wallace. He has Big Z’s, er, quickness, and size, and Wallace’s shooting range.  And the best part: Big Z is still on the roster! Which means that Mike Brown will continually have a big, old, slow guy clogging the middle, hampering Lebron from getting all of the way to the basket. I was killing Lebron last spring for shooting so many jump shots, until I realized every time he drove to the basket, he had three guys waiting for him. When your options are a jump shot or a pass to Anderson Varejao or Zydrunas Ilgauskas, I would shoot a lot of jumpers, too.

So now I am supposed to think that a combination of Varejao, Shaq, Big Z, and (eventually) Leon Powe is going to match up with Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis? Or even with Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace and Big Baby? I don’t think so. Meanwhile, the Magic have gotten more athletic on the wing and are just as deadly from three-point range. This will not end well for Cleveland. I repeat. This will not end well.

 

2. There will be (at least) one fire sale by a cost-conscious owner.

This is a phenomenon that really needs to be renamed to “Florida Marlins-ing,” or “fishing” for short. It is an unfortunate reality of our times—there are multiple teams that aren‘t selling enough seats and are hemorrhaging money. And no owner likes it when their bottom line is red. Well, there are five or six teams whose bottom line is going to be very red. So naturally, in an effort to cut costs, I can see the owner for Memphis, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Minnesota, and/ or (gulp) Indiana to start selling off guys with big contracts for expiring ones. My pick of the six would be Milwaukee, for three reasons. First, they’re not going to be great this year (34-48 last season). Second, they are starting a rookie point guard who couldn’t put up numbers across the pond last year. Rookie point guards rarely work out well. Third, they already let three major assets go this offseason (Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions to free agency, and Richard Jefferson in a trade). Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut may want to keep their suitcases packed. And yes, I am totally talking this up to avoid thinking about Melvin Simon selling off the Pacers to some Clay Bennett-type asshole who demands a new stadium and then picks up and leaves for Seattle. I need a drink. Let’s move on. Quickly.

 

3. The over/under on points allowed by the Pacers will be 92.5 ppg.

And I’ll take the over. Look, I love Jim O’Brien. I like some of the pieces he and GM Larry Bird have put in place (particularly Brandon Rush and the thin Roy Hibbert, particularly not Dahntay Jones). But this squeaky-clean roster has got to go. Look, I don’t want another November 19, 2004, either, but who is Tyler Hansbrough going to guard? The answer, of course, is Jeff Foster, who happens to be a teammate. Any time your first draft pick’s primary attribute is “he’s going to bring fire to practice,” you might have a problem. As good as Roy Hibbert may be, if Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford and Hansbrough are ushering the Vince Carters and Elton Brands right to him, Hibbert will be spending his year on the bench in foul trouble. Just like slow, out of shape, fat Roy Hibbert. Which will kill his motivation to stay in shape. Which means he will turn into the next Oliver Miller. Again, I need a drink.

Roy Hibbert

Here's hoping Roy Hibbert isn't doing this too much this season. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

And what is it with the surplus of guards on this team? I understand needing a non-Travis Diener backup for the inevitable injury to T.J. Ford, but is overpaying for Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson, then drafting a one-legged A.J. Price really better than just paying Jarrett Jack? Again, I’m all for defense, but are you going to sacrifice scoring to play Dahntay Jones? He played half of the first and third quarters in Denver because he’s such a liability! And how, exactly, are we going to let Brandon Rush and take the second-year leap if their minutes are being stolen? He now has to fight for minutes with Jones, Luther Head, Granger (when he moves to the 2 with Dunleavy), and Watson (when they go small with Ford or Price)!

Counting Dunleavy and Granger, that’s ten guards on the roster. Ten! And the reality is, when (ok, if) Dunleavy gets healthy, they will go to a rotation at the 2/3 of Granger and Dunleavy, followed by Rush, Jones, and Head splitting the 10-20 extra minutes. Which means we are actually getting worse on defense. So ya, I’ll take the over.

 

4. Rajon Rondo will officially enter eff-you mode this year and solidify himself as the third best option in free agency next offseason

A quick recap of the last month of the Celtic’s season last year: Kevin Garnett goes down with an apparent leg-amputation (seriously, what happened to that guy’s knee? Things don’t look good for him. And all the Celtics fans throw their computers out the window… now). And the player to step up as “the man” in Boston is a young point guard, who wills his team to a first round playoff win and nearly a second-round win by averaging

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo looks like the next Jason Kidd. (AP Photo/Terry Gilliam)

16.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 9.8 assists and 2.5 steals a game. This is followed by Danny Ainge openly shopping him around the league and Doc Rivers openly blasting him as a non-team player.

Wait, what the hell did I miss? Is it new protocol to publicly disgrace your best young player after he nearly single-handedly took you to the Conference Finals? Big mistake, Celtics. Here’s how I see this playing out. Rondo is taking this personally. From the stories I’ve read, the dude is in ridiculous shape. I see him going off this season, averaging like 16/7/10/1.5 for the season, making him the best all-around player since Jason Kidd was in his prime. And then he will promptly turn around, throw up both middle fingers to Danny Ainge, and then bounce out to wherever Lebron goes, making the Clippers the team to beat for the next 10-12 years. (Seriously, a core of Rondo, Lebron, Gordon, Thornton and Griffin would absolutely be awesome. They could just trade away everyone else and run those five guys for the year and win 70 games). Sorry Celtics fans, but you better win this year, because Garnett and Ray Allen’s careers are all but over, Paul Pierce is almost to that stage, and Rondo is gone. Gone! Do you hear me? He’s out of there. I’ll now pause for a moment of silence as everyone in the city of Boston simultaneously kicks themselves in the groin…

 

Ok, moving on.

 

5. Jerry Buss will rue the day he switched Trevor Ariza with Ron Artest.

This is not even an argument. I don’t understand why all the ESPN guys love this signing. Let’s look at the facts:

When the Lakers needed a toughness check during the playoffs last year, it was Ariza that stepped up and made a huge defensive play. Every time.  I can think of three or four huge game changing steals he had during the Nuggets series alone. And now they are replacing that controlled intensity with Artest’s, er, intensity. And who knows when Artest is going to want to “take over”?  Isn’t having a guy who knows his role like Ariza better than a guy who needs 20 shots a game, especially for a team who is already trying to find extra possessions for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum?

Then there’s the mirage that Artest is going to be able to guard the quick guards on the outside. Artest will turn 30 this season, and has lost at least a step (probably between rows 3 and 4). He is not going to be able to guard those quick wings, the Kevin Durants, the Manu Ginoblis, the Richard Jeffersons, or even the (gasp) Trevor Arizas! I think this is a bad move, and is the main reason why they will not repeat as Western Conference Champs, let alone NBA Champs. Which leads me to…

 

6. The NBA Finals matchup will be the Spurs and the Magic.

We’ve already seen that the Cavs cannot beat the Magic. They now have two slow, old centers for Orlando’s team to terrorize, and no one will be able to stop Vince Carter or their shooters. And I don’t think the Celtics added too much ‘crazy’ with Marquis Daniels and Rasheed Wallace to seriously contend, despite Rondo’s monster year. Which leaves the Magic to repeat as NBA runners-up to San Antonio. The Spurs are going to be that “on a mission” team this year. Tim Duncan and Manu are healthy, Richard Jefferson adds some athleticism, DeJuan Blair adds depth on the front line, Gregg Popovich is still the best coach in the game, and the whole team knows that this is going to be Duncan’s last run as an elite player. So the Spurs win the NBA Championship in 6 games.

Which will lead to the greatest NBA offseason of all next year. Will LeBron leave Cleveland? What about Wade, Bosh, and Rondo? How many teams will go bankrupt? Will there be a lockout in 2010-2011? I can’t wait. As for now, we’ll just have to settle for Celtics-Cavaliers tonight at 7:30 on TNT. Let the season begin!

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One Response to “Six Things about this Upcoming NBA Season”

  1. Pacers-Heat… What to Watch « Rivalry Renewed Says:

    […] to win. (Quick tangent- 120 points is a ton of points to give up. I guess my over/under pick of 92.5 points allowed per game was WAY low…. if they keep the Heat under a hundo, they […]

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