Well, I just figured I'd go through every team in the L today—in alphabetical order, no less—and just post some random thoughts about them. OK, half today and half tomorrow. I know Lang did the game-by-game thing on the Links, and the über-prolific Sports Guy just went through every team on ESPN.com, but hey, I'm just tryin' ta live (Devin Tha Dude is awesome). And is it just me, or is ESPN.com just trying to take over via blanket coverage? Sports Guy, Scoop, Ric Bucher, Chris Broussard, Chris Sheridan—I mean, I like all those guys (and know all of them except SG personally), but damn, how many words can you run a week on basketball? And then there's John Hollinger—early MVP picks? In DECEMBER? It's bad enough you can vote for the All-Star team now. Whoever approved that story is out of their freakin' mind. Kind of curious to look back to last season and see who was playing at an MVP level on December 1st and how they finished, but not that curious. Anyways...
ATLANTA HAWKS. I haven't watched them yet this year, at least not a full game. (Um, that's going to come up a lot.) I know they're young and athletic, and everyone including the concessions and media relations people are 6-8—and if they get the number-one pick next year they'll probably add UConn sophomore Rudy Gay, who also fits that mold. Bad enough that they're the Hawks, but starting center Jason Collier DIED before the start of the season. That's not good.
BOSTON CELTICS. Nope, haven't watched them either. I know Paul Pierce has been playing out of his mind and Mark Blount simply IS out of his mind. And Ricky Davis may very well fit into both of those categories. While Kendrick Perkins played quite well last night, Al Jefferson remains the big to watch. And Gerald Green may not be getting much burn, but he's still the best nine-fingered player in the L.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS. Say it with me, haven't watched a game. John Hollinger called Gerald Wallace an early MVP candidate, and while I think that makes ol' JH certifiable, Gerald has been tearing it up. Wait, or was it Kareem Rush? Regardless, both of them have about the same chance—that of a snowball in hell. Emeka Okafor is continuing to do his thing, despite the fact that defenses know him a little better now. And I like the pick of two teammates from North Carolina, although Sean May and Raymond Felton aren't quite Sam Perkins and Michael Jordan—or even Rasheed Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse. At least, not yet.
CHICAGO BULLS. These guys I've definitely watched. Michael Sweetney is a more than capable replacement for Eddy Curry (although it would be nice to see him go down a size or six before he has heart troubles of his own), Kirk Hinrich is becoming an elite guard, and Luol Deng is healthy. And despite getting posterized by Trevor Ariza last night, Andres Nocioni gives considerable muscle and swagger. It would be nice if Tyson Chandler could find at least a TINY scoring touch, and if Ben Gordon could recapture some of his rookie magic. But let's face it—in a division with Indiana, Detroit and Cleveland, all they need to worry about is being one of the top eight in the East. Why not? (Tim Thomas, ha ha ha ha.)
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS. Watched them, too. LeBron James finally has a supporting cast, and he's just gotten better himself. With Donyell Marshall outside the arc, a miraculously fracture-free Zydrunas Ilgauskas inside and Larry Hughes providing even more athleticism in the backcourt, you can count on this—no one, and I mean NO ONE, is going to want to face them in the first round. And they'll be there for sure.
DALLAS MAVERICKS. Haven't watched these guys, but I don't have to in order to know that Erick Dampier is underachieving and Dirk Nowitzki is still really good. Oh, and Pavel Podkolzine is big. I also can't think of a more unlikely duo than Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels. Both acquired the same year, and both major contributors. Jason Terry is a badass, too. Unfortunately, you just can't trust a team with Keith Van Horn on it. Just ask Kenyon Martin.
DENVER NUGGETS. And speaking of Kenyon...actually, forget Kenyon. Marcus Camby is out of his freaking mind. Well, Marcus has always had that kind of ability, it's just that he always gets hurt. Maybe this year he finally stays healthy? I'm sure it would suit Denver fine, since this is the second straight year they've lost a starter on opening day. This year it was Nene, who opened up more minutes for Kenyon and Mr. Camby. He also managed to get hurt RIGHT after turning down a big extension. Oops. Now he'll never be able to buy his last name back. And extra points (literally) for the vanity signing of Earl Watson. Nope, I don't get it. (Carmelo, stop hurting yourself.)
DETROIT PISTONS. It's sort of nuts, but they really didn't miss a beat. Rip is still running off screens, Chauncey is setting people up better than ever, Rasheed is still Rasheed, and Ben Wallace is still scary. They're probably just so happy to not get henpecked every day that they'll go on to win the championship. For the record, Rip Hamilton is my second-favorite superhero in a mask after MF Doom. I do have to say, I thought Darko would be getting more minutes by now. Not that he's necessarily doing much with them—and that's a hard lineup to crack—but the potential needs to turn into actual skill before it curdles.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS. Goddamn. Between these guys and the Clippers, the whole West is turned upside-down. Well, except for the Spurs, of course. But Baron Davis came to the Yay last year like a Jose Canseco steroid shot, spiking a team that hadn't been much to watch since the Run-TMC days. They got a team to the playoffs in the meantime, unfortunately it was the Washington Wizards. Now, with a locked-up core under 30 (Baron, Troy Murphy, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy), and a guy with rings (Derek Fisher), they just need to see if they can win anything with Adonal Foyle as their starting center.
HOUSTON ROCKETS. Talked about them a few entries ago. Disaster! T-Mac's hurtin', Yao ain't franchisin', and the Stro Show ain't what it was supposed to be. Jeff Van Gundy is gonna need a miracle—or a new playbook—to last the season in H-town. Hurts even more that they swapped Mike James (who?) MIKE JAMES for Rafer Alston and watched James become an offensive juggernaut in T-dot.
INDIANA PACERS. Ron Artest is even crazier than we thought. I definitely like the new 'do, though. And I still like the Pacers to win it all, although I'm not sure who takes the big shots down the stretch. Jermaine O'Neal? Ron-Ron? Stephen Jackson? The new uniforms are nice, too. About time they got rid of the pinstripes, too—they served their purpose in slimming Reggie Miller.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS. I'm suspicious. It seems like every year they start hot, then go up in flames sometime after the All-Star break. At least that's how I remember it. Sam Cassell is definitely an improvement over Marko Jaric, and Elton Brand is being Elton Brand only even more so. He'd better be an All-Star this year or else. Meanwhile, they also hope that no one tests Corey Maggette as to whether he's actually human or not.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS. Anyone not see this coming? Kobe taking 50 shots, Phil not really caring too much, Lamar Odom probably becoming homicidal. Meanwhile Kwame Brown is whatever, and Andrew Bynum is 17. Love Smush Parker, though. And enjoy the 82, because that's probably going to be it.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES. I can't see anything else through Pau Gasol's beard.
MIAMI HEAT. A season-long episode of "I Used To Be A Superstar—Get Me Out Of Here!" Maybe not if they keep rolling, but if things fall apart, prepare for an implosion of epic proportions. (Gary Payton?) They'd also better hope Shaq is healthy come playoff time. And I wish I could be happier about the resurrection of Alonzo Mourning, but I still hate him for what he did in leaving New Jersey (and refusing to report to Toronto). Straight-up bitch move. Lucky for Riles, Dwyane Wade will be around longer than anyone.
TO BE CONTINUED...