Don’t believe everything that you have read, heard, or even seen. Don’t believe the little playoff simulators, the odds makers, trends, blah blah blah.
The NBA second season has officially arrived, and everyone thinks they have it all figured out. Cavs-Lakers, Cavs-Mavs, Magic-Lakers… honestly you don’t know nothing.
The reality is that the last three weeks of NBA basketball was not only boring and uneventful, but it lulled everyone to sleep and has given fans, players and writers a false sense of security. Once the top 8 clinched in the west, teams were “jockeying” for position when in reality it didn’t matter who was playing who in the first round as long as it wasn’t the Lakers. The Jazz, Nuggets, Spurs, Suns, Blazers and Thunder could’ve finished 3-8 in any order and it wouldn’t have mattered (and still doesn’t, it’s either the Lakers or Mavericks in the finals). No team is dominant; they have issues somewhere and won’t stand a chance in the Western Conference finals… see that’s what you are supposed to be thinking right?
Ok I’ll stop messing with your heads and get down to it… ANY TEAM CAN WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR! THERE IS NO FAVORITE! No team is truly dominant, every team has a big problem, anything can happen, whether your coach and GM get into an MMA fight, or your center and alpha dog two guard are beefing (again) or you’re just counting the days until your star players bolt for greener pastures (ahem Miami, Cleveland) there are concerns on every team that could eventually kill their chances.
There are chemistry issues in Chicago and Los Angeles, concerns about lack of experience in Oklahoma City, questions of age in Boston and San Antonio, injuries in Portland, Denver, and Milwaukee, and teams that may put too much pressure on themselves knowing that things could be different next year in Cleveland and Atlanta.
Here are some logical yet crazy situations that could happen over the next two months:
Oklahoma City can beat the Lakers. Even though Phil Jackson just mind-bleeped Kevin Durant. The concern is youth for the Thunder, but what about the dysfunctional family that is L.A.? Are they focused enough to repeat with Kobe chucking up shots again, Pau Gasol spewing venom at Kobe and Ron Artest fading late in games. Couldn’t you see Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor off of the bench going hog wild into the paint and creating havoc? This isn’t a chip in for the Lakers, the Thunder are Hungry and ready to jump on whoever is in their path. Plus this is the most underrated defense team in the league, Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha will give Kobe fits.
Boston could get to the Eastern Conference finals. Everyone has them left for dead due to age and health. They won’t be together past next year as Ray Allen looks to be gone and Doc Rivers may leave. I just have a feeling that the Celtics have been playing dead for months. They got off to a hot start then hit the cruise control button and had some questionable losses to horrid teams. Yet last week when they played the Cavaliers you saw the fight come out in them, KG cursing up a storm, Allen dropping 33 and just an all-around gutsy performance. They understand that 60 of the 82 games of the season are pointless and the real season is the postseason. Maybe after game 30 they just said you know what, we’ll get a top 4 seed just let everything fall into place. Crazy, but not out of the question.
San Antonio could win the NBA championship. See Boston. Just in reverse
The Nuggets could pull it together and make a finals run. The first 40 games of the season this was the true life scenario of the NBA: Carmelo was MVP, the Nuggets were neck and neck with the Lakers and no one team in the NBA could matchup with them. After Carmelo’s injury here’s what happened: George Karl gets cancer, Kenyon Martin gets injured (again) and goes batty on a trainer, Ty Lawson gets injured, Chauncey Billups gets injured, and the Nuggets fell apart. The Mavs, Suns and Jazz all past them in the standings and left the Nuggets for dead. Yet they have home court in round one and seem to be in good health, plus we know how iffy Utah is even with a MVP-like season from Deron Williams. It’s possible that they can regain some steam and make a run even past the Lakers.
The Jazz, Suns, Mavs, and Hawks could all get bounced in the first round. The Jazz are terrible on the road, the Blazers can keep up with the Suns even without Brandon Roy. The Hawks and Mavs are interesting and here’s why:
- Both teams are versatile at all five positions and off the bench.
- They have superstars that put up numbers, but have a reputation of fading in close games.
- They both had great runs from the midseason on, Dallas through the Caron Butler trade and Atlanta finally coming together after years of playing together.
Yet I don’t feel secure in trusting these guys in their first round matchups at all. Dallas draws San Antonio in the first round and Atlanta draws a scrappy Milwaukee team without Andrew Bogut, both Scott Skiles and Gregg Popovich are better coaches than Mike Woodson and Rick Carlisle and most importantly… ITS DALLAS AND ATLANTA! They’re underachievers! They may get to the second round and that’s it. I have no faith in either of these teams, especially Atlanta which is highly combustible and Joe Johnson may have a foot out of the door already.
Chicago could beat Cleveland… in 5 games. Don’t laugh. I know Vinny Del Negro and John Paxson almost beat the crap out of each other a week ago. I know you couldn’t get a lick off of that bench. I know there isn’t a being on earth, let alone on Chicago, that can guard Lebron James, but in 3 of 5 positions on the floor, Chicago is better that Cleveland. Consider this if you will, did you watch Cleveland without Lebron down the stretch? Terrible. Awful. Without James they are a 36 win team period. Mo Williams can’t guard Derrick Rose (and will go into hiding around game 3), Big Z, Shaq and Anderson Varejao will get housed by Joakim Noah, it’s almost amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten the motor on this guy. When the games get tougher, Noah steps his game up. He’s been a big game player since his days at Florida and its finally coming out in his third year in the league. The biggest piece though is Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich has almost been dealt 85 times in the last 3 years and has been shuttled in and out of the lineup the last two years. He’s now playing off guard and guarding the opponent’s best shooter and making their lives hell. If Delonte west, Boobie Gibson or Jamarrio Moon can’t shake Hinrich, then Lebron could be making plans for New York sooner than we think.
Orlando will win the title. They’re angry. Dwight Howard led the league in blocks, rebounds, and technical fouls. Stan Van Gundy is chipping away at other stars credibility. Matt Barnes is grilling Kobe Bryant and picking fights with other team’s big name players. J.J. Redick has grown an angry new do… okay so some things are more fearful than others. The Magic still made a bad deal in essentially letting Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee go and thinking that Vince Carter is a go to guy this late in his career (and that its Vince Carter, he normally mails in it around February). Yet this team of any in the league is the most complete and the most focused. There is no chatter between Howard and Stan Van Gundy, no crazy side story involving an injured point guard, no big injuries, no nothing. Their quite normal compared to everyone else in the playoffs. They beat L.A. at home in a rough and tumble game that saw the fight come out of the Magic. They’ve only lost three times since March all to three playoff teams. They’ve been the most consistent team all year long save for losing 7 of 9 early in the year. You go into Magic games knowing what to expect from minute one to forty-eight, Redick giving you points off of the bench, Mikael Pietrus shutting down the opponent’s best player, and no one getting anything inside on Dwight Howard. They’re the model of consistency that most teams crave to be and want, and it should carry them to a title…
Or Los Angeles could win, or Dallas could prove me wrong, or Cleveland will whip Chicago. Who knows, just be glad that the slow crawl to the end of the regular season has past and that the real season is about to begin. Just don’t be surprised by whatever happens until June. You think you know what’s going to happen. Keep in mind, you don’t.