Friday, October 28, 2005

2005-06 Eastern Conference Preview: Part 2

This is the year of Jermaine and the Pacers


8. Washington Wizards

Optimist:
Several times last season, I couldn’t help but wonder why Gilbert Arenas was still running the point for this team. He seemed much better suited for the 2, since all he did was bomb 3’s from 35 feet or constantly slash to the hole to draw contact. Rarely did he ever pass the ball, unless it was an outlet pass to a wide-open teammate or when he got triple-teamed in the paint. So after losing Larry Hughes to free agency, what does Washington do? That’s right, they brought in two veteran point guards, Antonio Daniels and Chucky Atkins, subsequently sparking the beginning of the Arenas at the 2 era. So here’s a guy who scored over 25 PPG last season manning the 1, and now gets to shift over to the 2 and fire away even more. He has instantly transformed into my sleeper pick for the scoring title. In addition, obtaining Caron Butler from the Lakers to fill Hughes’ void was a very solid move. Butler has underachieved throughout his career and perhaps an opportunity to shine in the Nation’s capital is all he needs. Plus, the pressure from incumbent 3’s, Jarvis Hayes and Jared Jeffries, should spark his game even further.

Pessimist:
There are a ton of question marks surrounding this team. For instance: is Arenas taking between 25 and 30 shots a game a good thing? Remember that he only managed to shoot 43.1% from the floor a year ago. Can Daniels be trusted to run the point on a full-time basis after sharing the Seattle load with Luke Ridnour? Also, what’s thinner, Jeffries’ waistline or Washington’s frontline? Will Etan Thomas even be able to see the court through his mop of hair this season? And who will back up him and Brendan Haywood? Calvin Booth? Michael Ruffin? Peter John Frank Douglas Richard Hal Gregory Ramos? While I have the Wizards penciled in here for now, don’t be surprised if Chicago, New York, or Boston ultimately takes their place.

Prediction: 42-40


7. Philadelphia 76ers

Optimist:

Okay, so doctors are saying that Iverson’s knee problems shouldn’t be a problem this season. Also, team officials are rejoicing over the fact that Chris Webber managed to play 34 minutes the other night without experiencing any pain in his quad. So now that both players appear to be healthy, the lingering question remains of whether or not these two can co-exist. Honestly, I believe it is going to work this year. Iverson just turned 30 and has to realize that his better days might be behind him. This may in fact be his best chance at a title and in order to make that happen he’s going to sacrifice shots in order to get C-Webb more involved. I strongly believe that a Sixer offense flowing through Webber is one that can compete with anyone in the league. That however, is all up to Iverson.

Pessimist:
“Earlier this month, Iverson was diagnosed with chondromalacia, a softening of the cartilage under the kneecap, but he and the Sixers are optimistic that it won't be a lingering problem.” I don’t know what’s funnier, imaging Iverson trying to say that word or the Sixers really believing it’s not going to be a problem this season. I’m actually dying thinking about AI coming home to his family and being like,” Yeah, dey said I got condom malice in my knee, but it aint nuttin to werr about.” If he misses any more than 15 games, count this team out for the postseason. There is no way they can rely on John Salmons or Olu Famutimi to pick up the slack.

Prediction: 44-38


6. Milwaukee Bucks

Optimist:

Okay, so I didn’t have them at 6 before Thursday’s Mason-for-Magloire trade went down. But I did have them penciled in the top-8—obviously since they didn’t appear on Monday. So how good can this team be after this transaction? Well honestly, is there anything this team doesn’t have? Solid, pass-first point guards (Ford and Williams), a legit outside scorer (Redd), an excellent defensive wing (Simmons), an all-around good 4 (Bogut), a bonifide center (Magloire), and a solid bench (Williams, Charlie Bell, Toni Kukoc, Joe Smith, Dan Gadzuric, and Jiri Welsch). Call me naïve, but with all of this talent that GM Terry Harris has brought in, am I alone in predicting this team as a legitimate sleeper come Playoff time? Guess we’ll find out…

Pessimist:
The problem with putting so many new faces in the same place is that they are all looking to prove their worth rather than emphasize team play. Magloire really didn’t play much last year and will undoubtedly be looking to boost his stock with his contract up this summer. Simmons, after just one productive season, could prove to be a one-hit wonder. Ford (although not really new), faced spinal injuries over the last season and a half and who knows if he’ll be able to withstand an 82-game schedule. Bogut absolutely dominated the college circuit a season ago, but is he really ready to bang with the Shaqs, Yaos, and Ben Wallaces of the pro game? And finally there’s Bell, a player who hasn’t—just kidding, no one gives two shits about Charlie Bell.

Prediction: 44-38


5. Cleveland Cavaliers

Optimist:
C’mon, is there any ceiling whatsoever for LeBron James at this point? The guy could turn in a 50, 12, and 12 game and I honestly wouldn’t think twice. And now as if his talent wasn’t enough to carry the Cavs into the postseason, the team acquired Larry Hughes to help shoulder the load and perhaps conserve James for the stretch run. Also brought in were Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall, two savvy veterans, Playoff tested, and ready to help get this team ascend to the upper-echelon of the conference. In addition, the re-signing of Zydrunas Ilgauskas was a move that surprisingly flew under the free agency radar this summer, despite Big Z being a 17 and 9 center, a player of rare form in this league. Together these moves have seemingly solidified a starting lineup that a season ago fell short of helping LBJ reach the postseason. Not only should the first five more ferocious, but the bench: Eric Snow, Marshall, Anderson Varejao, and Luke Jackson appear to be capable of rivaling the league’s best. Anything short of the second round for this team should be considered a disappointment.

Pessimist:
Whenever you have a talent like LBJ gracing your team uni, it’s always risky to add certain types of players for fear that the two won’t be able to co-exist. And while it appeared that Hughes and former teammate Gilbert Arenas remained on good terms a season ago, one wonders if Larry and LeBron will be so fortunate. Also, the battle for minutes at the 4 between Marshall and Gooden could become quite distracting. We all know that Gooden isn’t the friendliest player when things don’t go his way and so what happens if he struggles early on? And what if new Head Coach Mike Brown sends him to the pine for Donyell? How will that smooth over?

Prediction: 47-35


4. Detroit Pistons

Optimist:
Any time a team can reach the Finals in consecutive years there isn’t much room for anything but optimism. This is a Playoff tested ball club that has seemingly gotten even stronger this offseason. Detroit has done an excellent job of adding both veterans: Dale Davis and Maurice Evans, and youth: Jason Maxiell and Alex Acker. Also among the “new talent” should be Carlos Delfino and drum roll please…Darko Milicic. Delfino missed a hefty portion of 2005 with various nagging injuries, but this season hopes to solidify a backcourt that can become shaky at times (i.e. Arroyo and Hunter). Darko on the other hand, has absolutely shit the proverbial bed thus far in his two-year career. While LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade are all helping to carry their teams to new levels, Milicic is merely being counted on to carry Ben Wallace’s duffle bag on road trips. And while we hear how incredible his game is in practice, we have yet to see that translate to impressive minutes in real games. Oh shit, this is the optimistic section. Well, with Larry Brown now pacing the sidelines in MSG, perhaps this is Darko’s chance to shine under the watchful eye of Flip Saunders. The former Wolves’ coach has made a point of giving Milicic an extended look this preseason, hoping that it will lead to a boost in confidence, and in turn, production. If these two can provide a boost off the pine along with the new rookies and vets, I think we’ll see the Pistons in the Finals for a third straight year.

Pessimist:
This team cannot reach the Finals three years in a row, can they? Both Wallaces have eclipsed 31 years of age, Rip Hamilton’s face is one blow away from crumbling, and most importantly, they have to venture on with a new Head Coach in Flip Saunders. Without Larry Brown’s elite expertise in the X and O department and savvy play calling in big games, this may be the season that another team represents the East in the Finals.

Prediction: 48-34


3. New Jersey Nets

Optimist:

No sense in breaking down the prospects of this team’s success again. Check out the article I wrote for the “30 Reasons” segment a few weeks ago.

Pessimist:
If the Nets really thought that Jason Kidd’s knee was 100%, then they wouldn’t have brought in Jeff McInnis this summer. Like Paul has said several times, there is no player in the history of professional sports that has returned from a serious knee injury to maintain his former level of play. Any sign of that hinge breaking down and Lawrence Frank is going to make Kidd come out faster than Sheryl Swoopes. NJ needs Kidd, there’s no two ways about it. If he can’t play at an All-Star level, I have a hunch some other Atlantic team will be in this spot.

Prediction: 48-34


2. Miami Heat

Optimist:

Most experts believe that adding head cases like Jason Williams and Antoine Walker will ultimately lead to more distraction than success. But remember how Shaq physically broke down in the latter stages of last season? And can Wade, in just his third professional season, be counted on to progress on his implausible “leap”? With players like Toine, Williams, James Posey, Gary Payton, and a full season of Alonzo Mourning, Ron Jeremy and co. will finally have the depth to let Shaq play less than 35 minutes a game. Wade won’t have to be Superman on every possession, and youngsters like Udonis Haslem won’t have to dominate the paint for more than 25 minutes a night. Depth is good, depth is always good. Especially when you have a player like Shaq, still the most unstoppable player in the League, but only when 90-100% healthy. This season the Heat will certainly be cautious with the Diesel and make sure he’s rearing to go come May.

Pessimist:
As a Celtics fan, no one knows exactly what Walker and Payton bring to the game at this stage of their careers better than I do. Walker’s shot selection is something we have discussed countless times on this site, and a topic I really don’t need to touch on it again. And while he remains one of the more intense competitors throughout the league, the Heat don’t need another leader in the locker room. Then there’s Payton, a guy 37 years of age, who still thinks he should be the starting point guard of Team USA. So with J-Will getting starters minutes and GP rotting away on the pine, how long will it be before GP becomes a distraction? Believe me, when things are going well, these two can be very influential in a team’s success. But as soon as losing streaks begin to mount, they’ll be the first two pointing fingers and deflecting the blame off of themselves. Are those guys you can really count on down the stretch?

Prediction: 58-34


1. Indiana Pacers

Optimist:
Remember after the Malice in the Palace went down almost a year ago? I recall most of our sentiments to be, “Damn, Indy is DONE!” But that wasn’t really the case now was it? Rick Carlisle did an incredible job of getting his players on the same page and determined to make the postseason. And after knocking off the Celtics in a Game 5 on the road, then giving the Pistons a run for their money in the first few games of the EC semifinals, Indy showed they are perhaps the most mentally tough team in the NBA. So let me ask you, with Ron Artest returning, Sarunas Jasikevicius backing up the oft-injured Jamaal Tinsley, and Danny Granger bolstering an already stacked bench, can anyone knock off the Pacers? And though it may sounds nuts, the x-factor for this squad come Playoff time may just be the play of Jonathan Bender off the bench. If they can count on the 6-11 forward to provide quality minutes in replace of (or right next to) Jermaine O’Neal, that frontline may be impossible to stop. (This was Paul’s theory, one that continues to grow on me)

Pessimist:
Artest missing practically a full season of play could start to hinder him come midseason. Anytime you’re away from your profession for a year’s time, one has to expect to encounter a few bumps in the road. Besides that, the health of that frontline, preferably O’Neal, remains the single most important issue surrounding this club. If Carlisle can count on guys like Scott Pollard and David Harrison to provide some relief for JO, then they should be all set. But it seems every year that the big man starts to wear down during the closing months of the season. Indy hopes that trend will come to an end in ’06.

Prediction: 59-23

15 Comments:

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Good writeup. Except you guys and all american media presumes that Sarunas came over to backup Tinsley. What makes you say that? No really tell me..I want to know? What commitee decided that one of the best PG's in the world, and a proven winner will backup tinsley. Now stop reading and tell me!!!

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Haha, settle down Pete. I'm pretty sure Tinsley is starting for that team. I didn't decide it, Carlisle did. Don't get mad at us. Plus I think Sarunas is more of a shooter than a playmaker, making Tinsley the better option to start--if healthy.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger LL said...

Hey Anthony-
I like your site alot, and you guys do a good job, so don't think i am only critizing. However, do you think you could possibly sound like more of an ignorant racist idiot than you did in your 76ers pessimist column? Your humorless imitation of how AI might speak is something Howard Eskin might say. For a funny writer like yourself, it is below you. Nothing else bad could happen to the Sixers? AI 2 couldn't get hurt. Or, Kyle Korver forgets how to hit 3's. Or, Sam Dalembert finishes up the yr w/ everyone saying, "He could really breakout next yr". The point is, rather than make articulate, intelligent comments about the 76ers like you did every other team, you fell back to the easy "let's make fun of the brother in ghetto" attempts at humor. It just makes you look ignorant and unprofessional, values I can't find anywhere else in this site.

 
At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarunas was unreal against the TEAM USA in the olympics the last go around. That being said Marbury is not exactly the best defensive PG the NBa has to offer, and it was only a couple of games. Still, I would be more than happy to have this guy on my squad. Wasn't he the guy who made the dagger 4 point play while Odom was hanging all over him?

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

LL, you're absolutely right. Looking back, I think being rushed for time just made me try and come up with quick and humorous. Unfortunately I did not stop to think that what is funny to some make be thought of as offensive to others. I will keep this in my mind as I go forward and thanks for presenting this to me in such a tactful way. I'm no better than anyone as a writer and so I'm always open to learning more to advance my hobby. Sorry for any offense you took and before the season starts I'll take the time to come out with a more thorogh piece on the Sixers. Have a great weekend...

 
At 7:03 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Everybody loves Sarunas now, huh? I think he'll be absolutely great for that team. I can see him being the 4th quarter catalyst for Indy in the Playoffs while Tinsley's on the sidelines with a chipped nail.

 
At 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ant, quit hitting the Yager at 3:00. Drunk.

 
At 10:17 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Yeah you're right, I'm outta control. I'm actually down in DC visiting a college buddy and yet still managed to deliver an article today. If that's not dedication I don't know what is.

 
At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, I thought the AI joke was great. Not because it's racist, but because that's something that I can imagine Allen Iverson doing...and that's with him being one of my favorite players in the NBA, not because it's perpetuating stereotypes. If you'd want to go that route, then fine, Allen Iverson is the stereotypical thug black man. So what? He's still an incredible athlete and (seems like) an incredible person. Just because he fits a stereotype doesn't mean that it has to be negative.

-Robb.

 
At 2:12 AM, Blogger larry bird said...

I'll be telling Carlisle to start Sarunas as soon as possible, he's just too good to be sitting on the bench.

Good predictions however Detroit should win over 50 and finish with more wins than the Nets.

Does anyone think the Cavs can finish first in the East?

 
At 2:44 PM, Blogger LL said...

Anthony-
Thanks for the response. Way to take constructive criticism. Just reinforces my opinion that you guys put out one of the best basketball sites on the web. And, I wasn't even here last yr for the string of ATS winners!! I can't wait for this year. As for anonymous's comment...u can imagine AI saying that why? Cause you know him? You converse w/ him on a regular basis? AI is the stereotypical thug black man why? 'cause you say so? Cause the media does? AI is the farthest thing from the stereotypical black man. I would say the average thug (black, white, green or yellow) robs, steals, assaults, rapes. I would suspect that he is probably poor. I would assume that by the age of thiry, he is either dead or in jail. Now, what does AI have in common w/ that. What, he was charged w/ some BS inciting a riot charge thirteen yrs ago? So what. Get over it. He has never raped, robbed or assaulted anyone. He has 50 million dollars. At the age of 30, he is considered the toughest athlete in the NBA, a surefire 1st ballot hall of famer. The greatest little man ever to play the game!!!He has NOTHING in common w/ your "stereotypical black thug man" except for the color of his skin. It's to bad that, despite your protest to the contrary, that is all you really see. Too bad. Ignorance is bliss, they say.

LL

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

I think it's time we all agree to disagree. Like I said before, somethings funny to some may be offensive to others. Just because one person found my writing funny does not mean its acceptable. Sometimes you have to take chances to achieve humor, but those risks sometimes come back with negative responses. Once again I apologize to LL and any others who felt disrespected.

 
At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not being ignorant. Stereotypes aren't ignorance and they're not negative, although sadly, the word "stereotype" has a negative connotation. I think Allen Iverson is a stereotypical thug black man. Is there anything to the contrary? You chose to look at the negative aspects of being a stereotypical thug black man, I didn't, so who's being ignorant.

I said Allen Iverson is one of my favorite players, mainly because, like you said, "he is considered the toughest athlete in the NBA." I'd agree. I also said that I didn't know him, but that he seemed like an incredible person, did you miss that?

I think you need to broaden your horizon's about stereotypes, mainly that they don't have to be negative. The stereotypical thug black man is mainly driven by honor and respect (I'm reading a book about it right now, trying to get more educated). I see that in Allen Iverson, and him being an incredible athlete. I think he's a role model to other "stereotypical thug black men," because he's channelled those passions into being an incredible athlete and from his amazing interview with Steven A. Smith on Quite Frankly, and with all that I hear, he's also an amazing father, husband and community member.

I'm not trying to be ignorant. I just think that he is a member of that stereotype (just like I'm a member of the "white, eclectic, male college student" stereotype) but who says that that means negative things? I think you're close to the right track, but it seems like you're trying to place blame.

I won't take up any more space of Anthony and Paul's, so if you want to email me and continue this dialogue, I'm robb.jones@students.greenville.edu.

Nice work with the articles boys, sorry for taking up your space.
-Robb.

 
At 7:09 PM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Robb-
Never apologize for taking up space. We wish all of our articles could spark these types of debates.

 
At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny to read this now. Detroit has the best record in the NBA 22-3. So much for your wisdom.

 

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