The League Is Stacked this Year
I mean, it is an interesting trade—Iverson for Billups. The wonderment stops there, though. The Nuggets will not beat the Lakers and the Pistons will not beat the Celtics tonight (Friday, November 14 at 8pm EST on ESPN). And at this season’s end, the Lakers’ Bynum/Gasol tandem will be too tough for the Celtics’ frontline—the Lakers in six games for Phil Jackson’s tenth championship ring. But you knew that already, right?
So, "where is this year’s NBA excitement going to come from," you ask. "From the novelty of it all," I answer.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to. A brief run-down of the Eastern Conference—the Atlanta Hawks 7-game series against Boston helped Atlanta evolve—they are playing a premier team in the NBA. Dwight Howard’s recent triple double that included 10 blocks (November 12 against Oklahoma City) sent the statement that the Magic will be a hard out in the playoffs. Lebron James consistently demonstrates that he cannot be stopped. Yes, that does mean that the Cavs’ playoff opponents will have to deal with him scoring 40 points a night. The Raptors have a front-line that can compete with anyone. Not to misrepresent the Iverson for Billups deal- it gives the Pistons a consistent 25 a night scorer with the ability to go for 50 at the drop of a dime. And he might just have to do that to win the 12 games necessary to get back to the Finals. The playoffs just need to start tomorrow, really. A Knicks versus Hawks first round match-up would look like a video game: speed versus speed.
Out west, everyone is waiting patiently to see what Greg Oden can do. He is a combination of the finesse of Garnett and the power of Dwight Howard. The new-look Rockets will eventually right their ship. Perhaps the tussle on Wednesday night (November 12 against Phoenix) will help spur emotions in Houston. They need to play like there are actually three all-stars on that team. Chris Paul continues to improve his game. With him playing well, the Hornets might be able to overcome the disappointment of last year. It is as if Kobe is just yelling at them, "Catch me if you can!" Chauncey Billups provides Carmelo and the Nuggets with a floor general who makes great decisions in the clutch. As long as Nash is running the show, the Suns can throw up 100 points a night against anyone. And I’ve got one word for Utah: consistent. Meanwhile, west coast perennials like the Mavericks and the Spurs are playing JV ball. Don’t expect that to last too long.
One thing is certain; the teams in the Finals will have to be warriors. The league is stacked this year.
Back to my Finals prediction. Bynum returns to the Lakers and the Lake-show is now the best team in the NBA. Bynum makes them unstoppable. Their play shows that they have great chemistry. With Kobe playing mistake-free ball, I envision them going the distance.
The Lakers have to take the title from the hands of a team with 3 definite first-ballot Hall of Famers. Good luck. Losing Big Game James was bad, but the other Celtic reserves got better. They bring youth off of the bench, youth who improved with every minute of last year’s championship run.
Now, let’s just hope that they televise some good games this season. FYI: The Celtics play the Lakers on Christmas day this year (5pm EST). But hey, it’s only Christmas dinner. Tell the family to hush up and enjoy the Finals’ preview. Tell them this rivalry is engrained in the cultural history of the United States. Heh. They’ll only be mad for another year, they’ll get over it.
This brings us to tonight’s key games: Boston versus Denver and the Lakers versus Detroit. At this point, both Billups and Iverson have had a couple games and a practice with their new squad and are beginning to demonstrate a level of comfort with the new digs. However, both teams coming off of a back to back, it seems unlikely that either will be able to get a win tonight—the Lakers and the Celtics are just too stacked.
More importantly, these are message games for the Lakers and the Celtics. They need to demonstrate—the Lakers to the Eastern Conference and the Celtics to the West—that it doesn’t matter who faces them in the Finals, that they can defeat anyone. Neither game will have a margin of victory less than 15 points.
But, this is the beauty of the NBA. By this time tomorrow, I could be eating my words because the Lakers lose in overtime and the Celtics get blown out. Now, that would be exciting. Or not. I mean, really, let’s get serious.