With the start of the NBA season only a month and a half away, it’s time for teams to start making final adjustments to get ready for opening of the pre-season (Jason Terry in Utah??) also time for players to start talking as already Gilbert Arenas has guaranteed a Wizards playoff berth.
All the talk early on will the same as it was all summer, Kobe Bryant. How Kobe will react in game situations will all this added pressure and media attention, anything that goes wrong for him will immediately be tabbed as a cause of the soon to be trial. With the Lakers adding so many weapons (Malone, Payton) will it even matter as to how good or bad Kobe is playing. As long as the big guy, Shaq, is back and playing healthily, superior effort may not be needed from Bryant.
The defending NBA champs will be back and are looking better then ever. With additions of scoring swingmen Hedo Turkaglu, and Ron Mercer, plus another year a maturing for Tony Parker and Emmanuel Ginobilli, the Spurs seem to be ready to make a run at a repeat. Never forget about the team that in my estimation could have defeated the Spurs had Chris Webber not gotten hurt against Dallas. Sacramento has all the tools necessary to make another deep playoff run and maybe finally this year breakthrough and make it to the Finals. Even with the trade of Turkaglu, the addition of Brad Miller adds much more muscle and interior scoring which in the West you can never have enough of.
A new contender may be coming together in the West, Minnesota has made many moves this off-season to bolster their roster. Led by Latrell Sprewell,the newest T’Wolves will look to give Garnett all the help he needs and more to finally get the Wolves out of the first round of the playoffs. Sam Cassell is an obvious upgrade over Troy Hudson who is more of a off-guard and Michael Olowokandi is a solid replacement for the departed Rasho Nasterovic. The run-n-gun Dallas Mavericks made significant upgrades as well, in a huge 9 player deal with Golden State they acquired another big time scorer in Antwan Jamison. he Mavs did have to part ways with Nick Van Exel who was the key player in Dallas’ playoff run last year, but with Jamison’s added inside scoring and the free agent signing of Travis Best , Dallas will again be a playoff favorite.
In the East let’s be honest it really is a crap shoot, and as it has been the last couple of seasons the true NBA Finals will probably be the Western Conference Finals. The East just has too many question marks and not enough answers. The Nets have been the team for the past two years and with Jason Kidd staying aboard that keeps them the top dog, but until they straighten out the Kenyon Martin situation and find a half-court offence the Nets will continue to be just an after thought in the Finals. With as wide open as the East is, Philadelphia is trying another route to NBA ringship, for the third time in 3 years the 76ers have added another new piece (Mutombo-Van Horn) in Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson. Iverson may have finally got the player he needs to perfectly compliment his immense talent, Robinson is the spot up shooter the 76ers have needed and can take over a ball game on any given night. The New York Knicks also think that with Sprewell gone, and Keith Van Horn aboard that they
have a shot to get in the thick of the Eastern playoffs. The key for the Knicks will be whether or not Antonio McDyess is fully healed from his knee injury and can return to the form that made him one of the more exciting player in the league a couple seasons ago.
In closing this out I just wanted to throw out this idea. With the ever growing popularity of street ball game, in such formats as the And One Tour, why hasn’t the NBA jumped on board with this?? Every summer goes by and all you hear about are players getting arrested and millionaires fighting over more millions. It’s time for the NBA to recognize the fans of not only the NBA but the game of basketball itself with a summer basketball league, not just the ones they run in select cities for draft picks and guys who’ll never make the team. But do it as a tour, get a NBA player or two on each team, team them up with some college all-stars maybe even some stand out high school players. The tour would be outdoor courts across the country, displaying the roots of the game, while still bringing in some of the structure of the NBA game. It’s time for the NBA to wake up and realize their losing their once immense popularity, football is now the favorite among many, basketball needs to go
back to it’s beginnings on the outdoor courts where all our favorite players got their start, and let the fans come back and realize how much the players respect not only one another but the game itself.