It occurred to me recently that writing up an NBA preview before the season actually starts is dumb. You can do a way better job of forecasting how teams are going to play if you wait until after they've started playing for a little while. So here are the results:
Last season Atlanta almost shocked the world by taking the eventual champs to seven games in their first round season. Then they celebrated by letting one of their best players sign with some Greek team.
Prediction: The draw of the Gyro spreads, and in spite of Atlanta's hot start, two-thirds of the team relocates to Athens by February.
Years of frustration finally came to an end when Kevin Garnett and co. brought a seventeenth championship banner to the Boston rafters. Now go back and re-read that last sentence very slowly. I officially hate the Boston Celtics.
Prediction: A slow roast in the depths of Hell
Charlotte Hornets...er, Bobcats
Michael Jordan is affiliated with this team somehow. That's pretty much all I know.
Prediction: They will play 82 games.
Years ago this was an unbeatable franchise, steeped in myth and honor as Air Jordan and the Jordanaires won title after title under wisened sage Phillip Jackson. Now they have Ben Wallace's afro to...wait, nope. He got traded. Did they...oh. Yeah, this season doesn't look too good.
Prediction: When you factor in the wind chill, it looks like this winter might be a bit cold in Chi-Town.
In the offseason Cleveland signed point guard Mo Williams to help get LeBron James and the Cavs over the playoff hump. Williams is a former Jazzman, who played in Utah during a year when our three point guards were named Carlos, Mo and Raul. In a way, I miss those days. In a much more realistic way, I don't.
Prediction: Another season of reaching but not quite getting there, enhanced by the persistent rumors that LeBron James is going to blow town for one of the coasts as soon as he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2010.
Last season Mark Cuban mortgaged the team's future by trading for perrenial all-star point guard Jason Kidd approximately .05 seconds before Kidd put his right foot in the grave. Luckily, like a fine wine, point guards get better with age. Oh wait, they don't.
Prediction: Cuban loses interest in the Mav's by December and returns to reality television.
The mythic tattooed tandem of Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony is no more. In comes traditional point guard Chauncey Billups, who doesn't need his points like AI, and will be more willing to defer to Anthony. Whether he will defer to DUI's and sucker punches remains to be seen.
Prediction: The Nuggets seem to have learned that you can't win by just putting a bunch of good players on the same roster, but this still ain't gonna cut it.
The season was barely out of the gates when GM Joe Dumars traded for Denver shooting guard and aspiring rap star Allen Iverson. Many suspect the move was largely made to clear space for LeBron James when he becomes eligible for free agency in 2010. So AI can pretty much get away with whatever he wants until his contract is up.
Prediction: Hmmm...matching up a nothing-to-lose Iverson with a team who's no-name image is second only to the Jazz? Yeeeeeaaaahhhh....
Every year the experts say this team is going to be awesome, and every year they get bumped out of the playoffs in the first round, usually by the Jazz. Well, on behalf of Jazz fans, I'm sick of having to see these guys in the first round every year. If I've got to pay extra for my playoff tickets, I want to see a different team once in a while. This rivalry is totally boring.
Prediction: First round loss to Jazz
Life has not been kind to the Pacers since Ron-Ron went ape-ape and ran up into the stands-stands to duke it out with those Detroit fans a few years ago. In fact, I really have no idea what's happened to the team since then.
Prediction: Like the Bobcats, I feel strongly that this team will play in 82 games.
Los Angeles Clippers
Eighteen months after leading the Golden State Warriors through a Cinderella post-season which featured a celebrated upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, Baron Davis and his generous beard decided it was time to move on to a team with a higher playoff ceiling...and signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Clippers. Because it's all about winning, baby.
Prediction: Davis is gone by the trading deadline, and Chris Kaman continues to evolve into the token lanky white guy who always shows up to my church ball games.
Los Angeles Lakers
The NBA's entry to the Professional Sports Axis of Evil has high hopes going into this season, as the return of center Andrew Bynum promises ample publicity and the addition of at least seven new A-list Hollywood fans. Sadly, now that Kobe has won the MVP award, he may not retain the proper "me-against-the-world" motivation to get Phil's Kids past the second round.
Prediction: At least twice this season, the Lakers will visit Salt Lake, and hundreds of local LA fans will magically appear at Energy Solutions Arena to cheer wildly for their team, conditional on their above-.500 record.
Last season the Heat acquired forward Shawn Marion, which gives me the opportunity to re-print this quote from former Marion teammate and author Paul Shirley, commenting on class structure within NBA franchises:
“…while paying me the absolute lowest possible salary allowed by the NBA would be frivolous, paying Shawn Marion enough that he can sit around on the team’s chartered 737 wearing earrings that cost $25,000 each is a sound financial decision.”
Prediction: Shimmering water, hot nights, and another losing season.
Last year Memphis turned a lot of heads and burned a lot of bridges when they traded all-star center Pau Gasol to the Lakers for seven cases of Heinekin and Paula Abdul's phone number. They are hoping that this year the sacrifice blossoms into postseason success. It will...for the Lakers.
Prediction: People flock to Memphis for music...not basketball.
I know they got rid of Mo Williams, and I think they still have the Australian guy who used to play for the U and got drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul.
Prediction: This may be a good time to throw your hopes behind the Packers.
They stunk with Kevin Garnett, now they stink without him.
New Jersey Nets
Rap mogul and partial Nets owner Jay-Z has been busy clearing plenty of cap space to become a major player in the LeBron James Sweepstakes of 2010. Unfortunately, it has not occurred to Jay-Z to assemble any major players on the Nets team to make James feel inclined to go there.
Prediction: Vince Carter is now the go-to guy on the Nets, which means he should be dogging it and mugging for a trade to a contender within three weeks.
New Orleans Saints
Ever since their inspiring run to the NFC Championship two years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Big Easy hasn't produced too much on the old gridiron. You also have to wonder how Saints fans feel to watch both of Archie Manning's kids win Super Bowls after he led the Saints to so many losing seasons himself. Of course, maybe Manning was kind of like Dick Butkus...super awesome player on a crap team.
Prediction: Mardi Gras is going to totally rock.
New York Knicks
New York fans were elated to finally see the end of the Isiah Thomas era. Then Isiah almost overdosed a few weeks ago and everyone had one of those moments when you realize that the guy you're booing at the arena and ripping on in Internet posts and comments is an actual human being, and that you're getting caught up in a game where people run around in shorts bouncing a leather ball, and for about five minutes you manage to put life in perspective.
Prediction: Well, they beat the Jazz in Madison Square Garden again, so they've got that going for them.
Oklahoma City Whatevers
I don't know what the new team is called, and I'm too lazy to Google it right now. I know these guys just moved down from Seattle, and they've got Kevin Durant on their team. Other than that, all I know is that there aren't any mountains in Oklahoma City.
Prediction: 20-62, welcome to the NBA.
Sixer fans were thrilled that management was finally able to find a one-two punch compliment to all-star Charles Barkley in the offseason in power forward Elton Brand. Now someone needs to remind them that Barkley was traded to Phoenix seventeen years ago.
Prediction: They play in the east, so they'll make the playoffs probably.
Like the Mavericks, the Suns pulled the trigger on a major trade last season in order to cash in on the last fleeting inches of their championship window. Didn't happen. Luckily, like a fine wine, NBA centers...oh, never mind.
Prediction: On at least twelve different instances over the course of the season, I will vocalize my regret that we let Raja Bell get away.
It didn't seem so long ago that the Trailblazers were setting records for Technical Fouls and getting busted for trying to smuggle doobage through airport security checkouts (wrapped in tinfoil, no less). Now they're this up and coming team with a second-year rookie center who's already injured again. Kind of sixes, if you ask me.
Prediction: At least 326,017 tourists will be surprised this year the first time they stop to get gas in Oregon and discover that the attendant legally cannot let them pump their own gas.
The Ron Artest experiment is officially over in Sacramento, now fans are clamboring for season tickets so they can be a part of the follow-up: The Beno Udrih experiment.
San Antonio Spurs
People keep waiting for this team to get old and die. They aren't as good as they used to be, but they've still got that guy who's married to Eva Longoria, and that's good enough for most of us.
Prediction: Second round exit
Many feel that Sayid's decision to play hit man for Ben was indicitive of a "good guy gone bad" scenario common in a variety of classic dramatic narratives. I feel, however, that Sayid's history of vacilation is more attributable to his deep passion and personal insecurity, which was torn asunder by the death of his childhood friend and long lost love, and that when confronted with any kind of permanent decision as to what side to take, he will align his allegiance to the good guys. As usual.
Prediction: Sayid avoids further romantic encounters with German blonds.
They picked up Jermaine O'Neal, who is becoming the poster child for the "talented superstar endorsed by Nike who gets tons of hype and is always mentioned in trade rumors though you get the feeling that due to a dearth of surrounding talent and perhaps a lack of killer instinct will most likely kick around for a couple more years and maybe make the playoffs but that's about it."
Prediction: 2008-09 NBA Champions
It was made painfully obvious in the Western Conference Second Round matchup with the Lakers that the Jazz are in need of a consistent inside defensive presence. So in the offseason, they drafted another tall foreign white dude. Problem solved.
Prediction: Jerry Sloan impales three members of the media with a bamboo pole he painstakingly sharpened on the side of Energy Solutions Arena under the light of a December moon.
A couple of years ago Gilbert Arenas was the toast of the town and was setting the league on fire with his Hibachi personality. Now I think he's injured or something. They traded a bunch of his teammates, too. Still, he's a pretty funny guy, and I think a lot of people would rather watch him run around a court with a crutch by himself than take in a whole game with most teams.
Prediction: Four years of unmitigated partisan hatred.