Friday, November 05, 2004

Fast-Breaking it Down



11/5/04
By Paul Benedict


Please explain to me what the hell David Stern was thinking when he decided it’d be a good idea to ring in the NBA season ON THE SAME NIGHT AS THE ELECTION? Does this mean the Commish has acknowledged that nobody cares about opening night of the NBA? C’mon Sternie, the NFL got it right this year by having a monster showdown the Thursday before Sunday’s kickoff, and the MLB scheduled a monumental rematch between the Yanks and Sox for opening day next year. On the bright side, it could be worse…(insert NHL joke here)

Speaking of the NHL, how is it possible that I can’t purchase NBA League Pass? For some odd reason my satellite cable provider doesn’t carry it, yet it does offer NHL Center Ice! Are there really that few NBA fans that Mr. Tele-Media decided it’d be better to offer a package containing NO GAMES?

Looks like it might take the Rockets a little while to gel. I didn’t catch Wednesday’s game against Toronto, but from the highlights I saw there to Tuesday’s opener in Detroit, the offense appeared entirely out of sync. I understand Charlie Ward is running the show, but how does the team manage just 8 assists on Tuesday? And last night, Yao has 3 field goal attempts through the 3rd against a team that’s throwing Loren Woods and Rafael Araujo at him? Van Gundy will have things in place eventually, but look for the Rockets to continue to struggle until TMac and Yao become more comfortable together.

Quick fantasy league story…last weekend I was at a bar in New Haven with some friends, four of which are in the same fantasy league as I. One of my buddies comments on the ESPN Bottom Line, pointing out Robert Traylor’s ‘breakout’ game of 31 points, 10 rebounds. Now mind you this was last weekend, the last night of preseason action to be exact, when most starters are resting up for the real thing the following week. The same friend comments that he knows SOMEONE will go and grab Traylor, and of course we all have a good laugh. So I come home the next morning, go to check out the league homepage, and voila…Traylor is snatched up by the one guy at the bar with us that apparently didn’t get the joke we made about the weighty power forward. (And then of course Traylor goes on to play twice as many minutes in the season opener as Drew Gooden…my 4th round pick).

I’ve heard two conflicting viewpoints on the Nuggets in the last day, each by personalities I happen to trust a lot. Charles Barkley claimed last night after a lackluster first half against Minnesota that Denver was “the most overrated team in the NBA”. Bill Simmons wrote yesterday in his Western Conference Preview that Denver is “the sleeping giant of the West”. I know, I know…Barkley is an NBA Hall of Famer and a damn good analyst to boot, and Simmons is basically just a huge fan of the NBA, but I see both sides to their argument. Denver definitely has the talent to be a major player in the West, but will the parts all fit right? I’m going to go with yes, and for this reason: Andre Miller…team player. Marcus Camby…team player. Kenyon Martin…team player. Carmelo Anthony…team leader. It seems like a long time ago that ‘Melo stepped up in March and carried this Nuggets team into the 8th spot in the West, and an even longer time since he shocked the college basketball world by leading ‘Cuse to an NCAA Championship. But the guy is already a proven winner and leader, regardless of his antics off the court. When you surround a player like this with excellent team-first players such as Miller, Camby, and Miller…you’ve got the right recipe for success. It might not be this year…but the Nuggets are certainly a team to keep a close eye on.

Since I forgot to tell anyone, here are my award predictions…
6th Man- Jonathan Bender (Stephen Jackson was interestingly enough my initial choice, but I don’t see Regg taking that starting spot back)
Most Improved- Udonis Haslem
Coach of the Year- Sam Mitchell (Toronto’s coach, in case you weren't sure)
Rookie of the Year- Dwight Howard (By a nose over Emeka)
Defensive Player of the Year- Kevin Garnett (Here’s my thinking…Wallace and Wallace split votes, as do Bowen and Duncan, Artest clothleslines one too many officials, so that leaves...KG? Yes, it does)
MVP- Kevin Garnett (Bryant 2nd, Duncan 3rd, Shaq 4th, Iverson 5th…my All-NBA team if you will)

While we’re discussing accolades, I think it’s reasonable to believe that Kobe will win the scoring title by at least a hefty 5 point margin. Think about it; there’s no way TMac scores more than 26 in that offense, A.I. is running the point in Philly which (hopefully) means less shots, and I just can’t see Dirk, Baron, Pierce, or Peja breaking through for 27 a night. I have Kobe pegged at 32 per game by the way.

Right, I forgot my team predictions as well. Here, and without any explanation…
East- 1. Detroit, 2. Indiana, 3. Miami, 4. Philadelphia, 5. Toronto, 6. Cleveland, 7. New York, 8. Boston
West- 1. San Antonio, 2. Minnesota, 3. Dallas, 4. Utah, 5. Los Angeles, 6. Denver, 7. Sacramento, 8. Houston

And the title goes to…San Antonio over Detroit in 6 (yeah, yeah I know…real original).

Here’s 5 guys I see being major busts this year…

1. Erick Dampier- the quintessential contract/breakout year in 2003-2004...he’s a fluke, you’ll see.
2. Jamal Crawford- He might put up semi-gaudy numbers, but look a little closer and you’ll see two things: A- He has horrible shot selection, thus awful shooting percentage. B- He still won’t play defense, even if you send him to the world's greatest arena and pay him $56 Million to do so.
3. Tim Thomas- Yes, another Knick. Thomas has never lived up to the potential he showed after leaving ‘Nova, and he’s about to get lost in the Knickerbocker Shuffle when Houston comes back and Wilkens lets Ariza play a bigger role.
4. Jerry Stackhouse- And another Mav. Did you realize this guy scored a shade under 30 a game in 2001? (With a 40.2 FG% mind you, but still).
5. Mike Miller- Saw his stock drop when Posey morphed into God at the end of last season. Don’t see it coming back up anytime soon while he struggles to find his niche in that (fantasy) frustrating hockey rotation Hubie Brown runs.

To close, I would just like to ask that everyone be sure to tune into an NBA game sometime this week or next for at least 20 minutes or so. And please don’t flip the channel during commercials, because you will be witness to unintentional comedy at its absolute peak. Thank you, Richard Jefferson.

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