I must be hallucinating or something, but I could swear that when Denver played on Wednesday night, I saw Kenyon Martin, and he was looking every bit as athletic as he ever has. He also looked pretty rusty, but if he can come in and continue to jump around, block shots (three in 17 minutes!), dunk, and cause general havoc, that will an important development in the west.
I was also very surprised to see that Blazers play well against the Spurs in their opener despite bad performances from Jarrett Jack and Brandon Roy, who I think are the two best players in their lineup. Yes, the Blazers lost, but Martell Webster and LaMarcus Aldridge looked freaky-deaky on offense against a top defensive team in the league.
Here's the thing, though, and the reason why I still think these guys can't carry the team: they had six rebounds. Combined. If your frontcourt does that against the Spurs, or any other decent team, you simply cannot win without a great deal of luck.
Some random notes:
-Paul Millsap looks like he is developing nicely in Utah after a strong rookie campaign.
-I have now returned to despising Derek Fisher. I hope the rest of the world is with me.
-I think Chris Bosh is going to have an off year. I don't know why, it's one of those nagging feeling kind of things.
-I like Ike (Diogu)
-Every televised game thus far has been atrocious unless you're willing to stay up until 1:30 a.m.
-Television camera angles continue to concentrate on meaningless things (reaction to a jumper) while missing important things (fast break!). TNT and ESPN seem to be determined to find a new and better camera angle, and this results in making many good plays look bad (last night's Kevin Durant 1st quarter double-pump- underhand-layup-in-traffic is a good example).
-Damon Stoudamire dropped 18 points two nights ago starting ahead of Conley (DNP) and Lowry.
-The Kings are playing an extremely unorthodox lineup that features Kevin Martin at forward in order to get John Salmons on the floor. The logic of this is debatable but Salmons did have 23.
-Jarvis Hayes will be this year's "Detroit gets an excellent bench player at a great value" player.
-Tracy McGrady's back is okay.
-Amare Stoudamire's knee is okay.
-Someone get Steve Francis some Excedrin.
And now for the continuing and continually tardy preview:
The Atlantic Division
The Atlantic is just awful.
The Celtics have been pretty extensively previewed this year, so I won't waste your time. Some things to think about with them:
-They actually have a very good bench. Eddie House, Tony Allen, James Posey, Leon Powe, Scot Pollard, and Big Baby provide a wealth of options. There's only one problem.
-There's no point guard! Who's supposed to run this team when Rondo sits? Gabe Pruitt? On a team with three scorers, you have to have a good point guard on the floor at all times, especially with Garnett and Ray Allen.
-I can't fathom how Brian Scalabrine makes out so well with his supposed "fan favorite" status. The real reason he gets big contracts and minutes? I have no idea, but I have a guess: "he's white."
I think the Celtics will win the finals. I had thought it would be the Bulls but I am under the influence of Randy Moss, who has taught me that once in a while, getting the best player(s) really does work.
New Jersey Nets
The Nets have the horses. They also have their share of problems.
The big news is Nenad Krstic coming back this year after showing signs of developing into an excellent offensive center last year. He's still not much of a defender, but he'll give you 16 points, which is not the case with many big men in the East.
The problem with this team is that they continue to have no identity. They're not very good at defense, they're not very good at offense, and any benefits they derive from Jason Kidd's excellent passing and decision-making is undone by Vince Carter's selfishness and fragility. A second round team at best, especially if they continue to start Jason Collins over Jamaal Magloire and Josh Boone, both of whom are superior. (On a side note, I think this team may be the least fun to watch in the NBA.)
New York Knicks
I really dread doing this preview, as I am, technically, a Knicks fan. Where to begin...
There is not a single good defensive player in the starting lineup. Stephon is the only player who does anything other than scoring (except perhaps Quentin Richardson, an excellent rebounder), and there's not enough shots to go around because every guy in the starting lineup needs to have the ball in his hands to score.
One thing the Knicks do have is plenty of quality reserve power forwards! David Lee and Renaldo Balkman hustle, play hard, and are very athletic and strong. They are the only players on the team that are reminiscent of the glory days of Knicks beat-em-up basketball.
Everything else is polished shit. Nate Robinson is streaky but exciting. Fred Jones is a good dunker who can't shoot. Randolph Morris and Jerome James are...Randolph Morris and Jerome James. Jamal Crawford has all the tools but none of the discipline and can't play defense. Zach Randolph is a random ingredient without a tough bone in his body. Eddy Curry is a soft-handed, better version of Todd MacCullogh.
There's no way this team does anything. I'm embarrassed to be a fan, I hate the coach, I hate the owners, and I hate anyone who perpetuates the travesty that is this team. There is simply no worse team in the NBA, though the Knicks will win 25-30 meaningless games by virtue of their status as Atlantic divisions losers. This team is a mockery of everything that is good and decent about sports. The only thing they haven't managed to do is cheat (that we know of). FUCK.
Well, here's a team that's worse than the Knicks. There are essentially no changes to this roster other than the signing of Reggie Evans, a bully who will at least get this team some respect. Andre Iguodala should be an all-star this year, but he isn't saving this sinking ship. Sorry, Philadelphia...you're the worst team in the East!
There is some hope, here, though. Nobody on the Sixers has any personality problems, there aren't many selfish players, and despite the lack of talent, Billy King has at least managed to get a group of guys that kinda sorta fits together. They're good for 29 games, in my book, just a tad better than the more-talented and less-sensible Knicks.
They were the class of the division last year in what turned out to be the worst Atlantic ever (quite a feat!). The Raptors have a great team, featuring:
-A quick point guard (TJ Ford) who isn't selfish
-A strong defensive shooting guard who can drive and shoot (Anthony Parker)
-A small forward who can defend and shoot 3s (Jason Kapono)
-A top 5 power forward who is very versatile (Chris Bosh)
-A living, breathing center (Bragnani)
The team also has a solid, almost all-foreign bench (Calderon, Delfino, Joey Graham, Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Maceo Baston....) that excels at the same thing the starters do: shooting and playing defense. It's kind of a funny thing in the East...if you can shoot and play defense, you can win 50 games. Almost no teams trot out even 3 guys that can do both things well, and the Raptors have at least 8 deep, with a good point guard to run the team in transition or half-court offense. I really like this team.
The problem is in personnel. They're still one go-to guy away from being a real threat, and they'll continue to be a regular-season team until they can find someone to really change opponent's game plan. I don't think Chris Bosh is that guy and I'm not sure Andrea Bargnani can become him. Whatever the case, this is a team that has reached its apex, for now, which should meaning making the playoffs as a 3, 4, or 5 seed. I'll take....4 and 48 wins, about on par with the Wizards.
As always, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org