Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Let me tell you a little story about a boat.
A couple of years ago, I got an idea from a friend of mine who, with some ingenuity and a little hard work, built a raft that he and his friends could party and camp on. I heard about the idea in the Spring of my junior year in college, and I was understandably enthusiastic. True to form, I stole the idea and planned on building my own luxury liner, capable of supporting a campfire and possibly some sort of ballistic device (a potato cannon). It was an ambitious idea, for sure, but I thought it would pay off in the end.
Needless to say, I was strapped for cash at the time. I called up the lumber company and a company that made barrels (to hold the raft afloat) and priced the whole thing out. I was looking at a best-case scenario of at least $600, which I immediately realized could buy a lot (a boatload!) of beer. ($600 would buy four Keystone Lights every day...on leap year). I scouted locations to put my boat, which were surprisingly difficult to find (apparently in New Jersey, home of my alma mater, lakeside privacy is a little more important than in my home state of Vermont). The process was disquieting and frankly, useless. My enthusiasm waned. Eventually, I gave up.
Why am I telling you about my crappy raft idea that never got off the ground? Because I don't want this blog to become another failed raft. I'm going to built this blog and sail it and enjoy it and party on it and no one can stop me. Now let's get on with the show. Don't ever give up.
The season is here.
I'm excited. It's been quite an off-season in terms of player movement and league-wide issues. I'll spare you the summary, because everything has been covered pretty exhaustively by the major sports media. What I hope to do in this space is take care of the stuff everyone always forgets - the smaller player movements and stupid issues that make you think "oh yeah, I forgot insert athletic sixth man went to insert crappy team last year..." Even though the moves are kind of unimportant in the broad scope of off-season coverage, they often become important come playoff time.
To get everything and avoid being too long-winded, I'm going to go from East to West division by division, day by day, and try to get a little perspective on what will be new this year in the National Basketball Association.
Today: The Pacific.
Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors are kind of like a west-coast version of the Knicks. They have no true power forwards, their centers are big, stiff, white guys, and they have about 21 guards.
The difference is, the Warriors have one of the NBA's treasures, beer-swigging, small-ball- playing Don Nelson. Lineup inconsistency is not a problem for a man who once made Manute Bol his designated three-point threat.
This year, the Warriors come back with largely the same lineup. As a matter of fact, the only interesting players not seen on last year's squad look to be Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli (who is apparently referred to by some opponents as Bellini...like the drink). I think one of these people might make an impact and if I had to choose, I'd take Wright since SF/PF is probably a better position at which to gain playing time.
One interesting situation is how and where the hell everyone is going to play. Baron is clearly the PG and Biedrins is clearly the center, but everything in between is all screwed up. Despite having a million G/F, the only true shooting guard on this team is probably Belinelli. He sucks, so it's going to come down to PG/SG Monta Ellis and SG/SFs Kelenna Azubuike (underrated and having a great preseason), Matt Barnes (playoff hero), Stephen Jackson (toughest), and Michael Pietrus (best defender). All of those guys can make a good argument why they should start at shooting guard or small forward, but only two will. One of them will be Stephen Jackson, who was named captain in the least-important but most-covered move of the last two weeks. That leaves five good players fighting for time and I don't see how that will end well. But if anyone can make it work, it would be Old Nellie.
The fighting doesn't stop in the middle of the lineup, because it's hard to see who will start at PF. Will it be Al Harrington, who looks terrible? Austin Croshere, who is a tool? Brandan Wright? Kosta Perovic? (I've never heard of him, but he's listed as a 7-2, 240 pound forward....the kind of player Nelson would love to use if he could, I think.) Hard to say but it will be important in the Western Conference, which continues to be the home of many good power forwards despite the loss of KG and Zack Randolph.
Despite my respect for Don Nelson and the plethora of talented shooting guard/small forwards on this team, I don't see them making the playoffs. Baron Davis is still only 28 but I don't think his body will last the season, and he is the only guy who can carry them. Also, though no one will say it, he's probably the best point guard in the league (if only because he can play defense when healthy). It's a shame he's not on a better team.
Los Angeles Clippers
The LA Clippers made my favorite move of the season when they acquired an excellent point guard: Brevin Knight. This will work well for them as Sam Cassell is old and injury-prone and Shaun Livingston looks to be hurting (it was recently reported that he is now able to shoot around for 45 minutes at a time...not good).
Player wise, the Clippers may have the most balanced team in the Western conference. Sam and Brevin make a good point guard duo (and third stringer Guillermo Diaz is a scoring machine...a great player to watch back when Miami was in the BIG EAST). Cuttino Mobley and Quinton Ross are a good offensive/defensive combination shooting guard unit. Corey Maggette seems to be a bit of an asshole, but he gets to the line better than anyone since Jerry Stackhouse (oh wait, he still plays) and Al Thornton and/or Ruben Patterson will be good backups. Center is solid with Chris Kaman and Aaron Williams both providing good hustle and a high ugliness/talent ratio.
Obviously, power forward will be a big problem if Elton Brand can't come back soon, and that will be a bigger problem because any team that starts Tim Thomas (the JD Drew of basketball) sucks (not including the Phoenix Suns who could plug anyone from Jim Jackson to Marcus Banks in and get good production). Brand should be back by the end of the season, though, and I don't forsee him being a problem.
The Clippers underperformed so badly last year, I don't think anybody is anticipating much from them. In my opinion, this is a huge mistake considering the roster. With Houston losing Van Gundy, I think the Clippers are the fourth best team in the West behind SA, Dallas and Phoenix. They are as good as Utah and Denver and if they can play together with a little good coaching and a point guard with a pulse, they will be a force to be reckoned with. I'm slapping the second round tag on these boys, with the conference finals if they have a good matchup.
Lost Angeles Lakers (har, har)
Other than Kobe, this team is more awful than a turd covered in Velveeta. Derek Fisher starts at point guard. He sucks at everything but hitting open threes, which he won't get as much of because of the Lack of Shaq. Luke Walton is okay but not on a team where can never touch the ball and make plays with it. Lamar Odom, last year nonwithstanding, is not consistently good and also needs the ball to get people involved. Kwame...Bynum...nothing useful on this team whatsoever.
Can Kobe take them to the playoffs? Honestly, who cares? People keep asking this question, but it's clear they're not going to the finals, so who gives a fuck? Even Kobe knows that, and that's why he wants out. This space would be better-used to campaign for an LA-based football team than to even talk about this mess.
My second favorite acquisition this off-season happened when the Suns picked up DJ Strawberry. I can only pray he sees the floor, as his lineage dictates athletic perfection.
The Suns also added a guy named Grant Hill, and like the Randy Moss trade to the Pats this year, it almost seems too logical to work. The Randy Moss example makes me tend to think that the chances of lightning striking twice are not good, but who knows - everyone wants Grant to do well and he'll be in an offense that is very well-suited to his strengths (doing everything well and being a good team player).
Phoenix has pretty good talent at shooting guard with Raja Bell and everyone knows Marion and Stoudemire are excellent frontcourt players. Diaw and Barbosa will continue to be good subs, but beyond them, there are few good players on this bench...Marcus Banks, Sean Marks, Alando Tucker....Eric Piatowski....for a team that likes to run, these guys certainly aren't going to be going ten deep. As a matter of fact, due to salary constraints (I presume) they only carry 12 players.
The Suns have been almost like the Red Sox to the Spurs' Yankees in the playoffs these past three years. They fight hard, everyone roots for them, but they seem to have terrible luck, get no calls, or get outplayed at precisely the wrong time. For the past three years Steve Nash has been taking beating after beating (both physical and emotional) and he has kept coming back with a competitive drive and his usual good skills and personality. Will he keep it up? If he can, maybe this will be the year...
This is definitely the strangest team in the West. They have a very good offensive backcourt that can't play a lick of defense in Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin. They have the best defensive player in the league at small forward. They have an older muslim power forward that holds the ball for a long time and can be quite streaky. They have a center that has been on more Olympic teams than I care to think about.
The bench is crap. Orien Greene, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Kenny Thomas, Mikki Moore....they're all at about the same skill level - they all have given either college or pro fans glimmers of hope with good nights in their careers, but deep down, we know they are crappy. I do like the new guys on the team (Quincy Douby and Mustafa Shakur), but they probably won't get any burn unless the Sacramento charter plane crashes.
This team will certainly have nights where they're fun to watch, but in my mind, it's just too much mismatched talent with a coach (Reggie Theus) who doesn't have the tools to make it all work. If Kevin Martin becomes a truly elite scorer this year, there's a chance they could sneak into the playoffs if they develop some semblance of chemistry, but as always, in the West, you have to have your shit together and these guys most certainly did not last year.
That's the pacific conference. Look forward to continued discussion on a semi-daily basis.
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Posted by Jimmy at 10:31 AM