(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
Before I get started with part two of my NBA predictions, I’ve got a bone to pick with the programming brainiacs over at TNT. I’m fully aware of how this column is circulated around TNT’s and David Stern’s offices, so bear with me while I use my questionable influence to effect some change.
Miami and Memphis opened their seasons last Wednesday in beautiful FedEx Forum in the land of the King. In case you might have missed it, Memphis traded three players to the Heat for Eddie Jones and a ‘good luck’ handshake.
The Grizz also acquired Damon Stoudemire and Bobby Jackson, upping their ‘I know who that guy is’ quotient at least 50-percent.
The Heat retooled their Eastern Conference championship team with Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and ex-Grizzlies James Posey and Jason Williams. Not to mention they’ve got those guys named Shaq and Wade.
And they were playing each other on the second night of the young season!
You (and mostly I) would think that game would be some must see TV, right? Wrong. Instead, we got stuck with the sleep-inducing Philadelphia and Detroit game.
I know that I’m a Memphis fanatic, but I bet if you polled the rest of the NBA fans across the country, they would’ve chosen the Grizz game over what the network executives thought was riveting hoops action.
Oh well, what’s done is done. Memphis kind of got blown out anyway, despite leading for much of the game. I just hope this doesn’t start a season long trend of Memphis getting the shaft (Shut your mouth! Hey, I’m just talkin’ about the shaft!).
San Antonio Spurs – Ok. They won it all last year and they still have Tim Duncan. Added to the mix were Michael Finley and Mr. Clutch Nick Van Exel. Barring injuries or a meteor hitting the Earth, they’ll be back in the Finals.
Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki is the main reason I’ve got them second in the division. Josh Howard is a good young player, but that’s where it ends. Case in point: they’re depending on Eric Dampier and Doug Christie.
Memphis Grizzlies – Pau Gasol will prove to the rest of the league why he’s one of the best players in the world this year. Improved chemistry with Eddie Jones and (gulp) Damon Stoudemire will help the clubhouse. Word to Fratello: Keep Bobby Jackson off the floor!
Houston Rockets – I’m not entirely sold on the T-Mac/Yao combo yet. McGrady needs to prove he can play a whole season, and Yao needs to prove he can get angry.
New Orleans Hornets – Ok, I refuse to call them the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, let’s just get that out of the way. They traded their only All-Star in Jamaal Magloire. At least they’ll be good in the future with Chris Paul and J.R. Smith.
Los Angeles Lakers – Ok. I’ve lost my mind. I’m actually rooting for Kobe to do well this year (will explain in a future column). This division was leveled with the Amare Stoudemire injury, which clears a path for the Zen Master and a revitalized Bryant.
Phoenix Suns – When Amare comes back, watch out. The question is can Steve Nash and Shawn Marion keep them afloat before the best big in the Western Conference returns.
Sacramento Kings – I like role players, but every team needs at least one go-to star. There are none on the Kings, plus they added Bonzi Wells! And by the way, I’m not buying the whole ‘Shareef Abdur-Rahim as savior’ drivel.
Golden State Warriors – Baron Davis can’t stay healthy, plus they have former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery as the coach. Name the last coach to jump from college to the NBA successfully. I couldn’t think of one either.
Los Angeles Clippers – They have a good line up in place (Mobley, Brand, E.T. – I mean Cassell, Magette), but they’re still the Clips. If Shaun Livingston can’t get on the floor, no playoffs again this year.
Minnesota Timberwolves – KG will remind the league why he’s possibly the best player on the planet. If Marko Jaric can wake up now that he’s not in Los Angeles, and Wally Szczerbiak can just keep his mouth shut and rebound and shoot 3’s, a playoff berth awaits.
Utah Jazz – Jerry Sloan should be mentioned in the same breath as Phil Jackson, Larry Brown, and Greg Popovich as the best coaches currently in the game. AK-47, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams will put Utah back on the NBA map.
Denver Nuggets – Let’s get something straight: George Karl’s record in the last 40 games (32-8) was an aberration. It will not happen this year. Too many volatile whiners on the roster. This team combusts by January.
Seattle Supersonics – They don’t play defense, they lost Coach Nate McMillan, and Ray Allen’s not in a contract year anymore. If the 3’s aren’t falling, they’re getting blown out.
Portland Trailblazers – McMillan left Seattle for Portland. You’ve got to wonder what he was smoking. Until complete roster overhaul, implosion imminent.
Western Conference Champion: San Antonio Spurs.
NBA Champion: Miami Heat
All-NBA: Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal.
Rookie of the Year: Deron Williams.