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Zesty
11-04-2004, 10:47 PM
LOTTERY TEAMS

15. Charlotte
Just so you know, I had to re-write this section after the big Keith Bogans-Brandon Hunter trade on Monday night. Initially I had the Bobcats pencilled in for 8 wins ... now I'm thinking 9 sounds more realistic. These guys already had their highlight of the season -- back in June, when Jahidi White was on the front page of ESPN.com after the expansion draft. The only way that's happening again is if he kills someone.

Regardless, they're doing the right thing -- tank a few years, hope a few of these young guys pan out, stockpile lottery picks and conserve that excess cap space. Remember when Phoenix unloaded Googs's contract on Utah (for luxury tax purposes) and handed them a No. 1 pick for their troubles? If I'm the Bobcats, I'm actively seeking those deals this winter. Heck, they should buy ad space on TNT's telecasts. They could play out like those ambulance chaser commercials for cheesy lawyers, like the great Jim Sokolove on the East Coast.

Need to get rid of a ghastly contract? Need to get under the luxury tax? Hi, I'm Bobcats GM Bernie Bickerstaff ...

14. Atlanta
The Hawks crack me up -- they're making a fuss about major cap space for next summer, only nobody in their right mind wants to play there. I mean, they had cap space LAST summer. Know what it got them? About 2,500 shots from Antoine Walker over these next six months. Has anyone ever gone 10-for-31 for 82 straight games? I think it's about to happen. What chain of events needs to happen for this team to move to Vegas? Can I do anything to help?

(By the way, if I read the sentence "Al Harrington's breakout year" one more time, I'm calling the police. There's a reason The Man traded him. He's all sizzle and no steak. Watch his numbers this year. This is D-Miles in Cleveland all over again.)

13. Milwaukee
My buddy Chipper lives in the underrated city that gave us the Violent Femmes, the Zucker brothers, Latrell Sprewell, Laverne and Shirley, Dwyane Wade and Jeff Dahmer. I give him input for this paragraph before every season. Here's what he came up with this year:

"It's never a good thing if people are saying your team is going to miss Brian Skinner."

12. New Jersey
We all know what the Nets owner is doing: Gut the team, stockpile some lottery picks, build around Richard Jefferson, then make a splash in Brooklyn in 2007 and try to break the "Most hats and jerseys ever sold by a single team" record. Just one problem ... why build around Jefferson over Kenyon Martin? How does that make sense? If you were choosing sides in a pickup game, who would YOU take?

(Yeah, I thought so.)

Three other notes:

# If Jason Collins and Brendan Haywood can sign four-year contracts for a combined $49 million, it's only a matter of time before Michael Clarke Duncan switches careers, right? Don't you think Chris Mullin would offer him $20 million sight unseen?

# J-Kidd could have signed with the Spurs, the Nets promised they would remain competitive, so he stayed ... and then they broke their word with K-Mart and the Kittles-Harris moves. You know what? I would have done exactly what he did: Waited right before camp for knee surgery, then taken my sweet time rehabbing. Screw those guys. He's almost been too diplomatic. If it were me, I would have been re-enacting Pacino's speech in "Scent of a Woman," right down to the "If I were half the man I was ten years ago, I woulda taken a FLAME-THROWER to this place!!!!!" part. Hoo-hah.

(So what happens to Kidd? He probably gets moved this winter for 50 cents on the dollar, making him the X-factor of X-factors. It's like 12-15 contenders are playing chess right now, but one of them could end up with an extra Queen. Portland seems to make the most sense -- something like Kidd and Mourning for Van Exel's expiring deal, Shareef's expiring deal, Telfair and six of Qyntel Woods's prized pit bulls -- but what do I know?)

# On the Riddick Bowe "Every Time This Guy Comes Back, I Lose the Will to Live a Little Bit More" Scale, Alonzo has to rate a solid 9.9, doesn't he? When I read about his latest comeback, I actually groaned out loud at breakfast. Seriously. One of those "Oh, no!" noises. When is Zo fighting Trevor Berbick in the Bahamas?

11. Chicago
Here's a question: With the exception of the Pistons, Pacers, Cavs and Heat, if you could take any roster in the East for the next 6-7 years, would you take Chicago's nucleus? (Raising hand.) You already have four bonafide blue-chippers in place: Hinrich, Gordon, Deng and Chandler. I'm not an Eddy Curry fan because of his body language -- he's the kind of guy who gets angry during timeouts because someone's blocking his view of the Jumbotron -- but at least he has trade value. They even have a token Argentianian guy (Nocioni) and a token white guy (Piatkowski). Interesting team. Maybe a year away.

(One note on Chandler: Remember when Marcus Camby was traded to the Knicks for Oakley, then made The Leap in the '99 playoffs? That's happening for Chandler. Not sure when, not sure with who ... but it's happening. Mark my words. Unless his back gives out. Then, don't mark my words. He's one of my favorites -- a natural rebounder with a mean streak. There isn't exactly a plethora kicking around.)

10. Orlando
Getting a surprising amount of Sleeper Heat. And no, that's not one of those late-night Cinemax movies with Jacy Andrews and Kira Reed. Sleeper Heat happens when everyone spends September and October searching for a sleeper, so they start talking themselves into things like "If they can get 82 games out of Grant Hill, look out!" and "Don't be surprised if Dwight Howard averages a double-double" and even "Stick Kelvin Cato in the East and he's probably a 15-10 guy!" Hear it enough times and you start to think these things can actually happen.

Unfortunately, Hill's ankle has been operated on more times than Dyan Cannon. Poor Howard has to deal with the rebounding burden, as well as living on his own, paying bills, finding a Christian posse and fending off hundreds of groupies testing his relationship with the Lord. And from Cato's per-minute averages, you can tell that he won't average double digits in anything other than "Most Ticked-Off Roto Owners." If that's not enough, Francis, Mobley and Cato were the nucleus of a Rockets team that won 28 games and ended up with the first pick. That was two years ago. I know the East is bad ... but it's not THAT bad.

9. Washington
The one team I can't figure out. Are they a roto team or a real team? I'm leaning towards roto team. By the way, did anyone else notice that Les Boulez reunited the three best guys from a 21-win team in G-State two years ago? Sure, Hughes made The Leap last year, and Jamison turned out to be an underrated character guy in Dallas. But this can't be a good sign. It's like HBO announcing that Robert Wuhl, Sandra Oh and Michael Boatman are teaming up for another sports sitcom. And yes, I had to look up two of those names on IMDB.com.

(FYI: My buddy House, a lifelong Boulez fan, swears that Steve Blake will be running his own NBA offense some day. Warrants mentioning. Looks like we have a dark horse for the Token White Guy spot with the 2008 Olympic Team. Think Brian Cardinal and Kirk Hinrich are nervous?)

PLAYOFF TEAMS

8. Toronto
I'm banking on the inevitable Vince trade, followed by the Ewing Theory carrying them to the playoffs. Done deal. Etch it in stone. I don't care if they trade him to the Clippers for Kerry Kittles, Mamadou N'Diaye, Papadou N'Diaye and Frankie Muniz ... they're making the playoffs. I'm not sure how many times this needs to happen before you believe me.

Here's the bigger issue ...

Now that the Sox have won the World Series, here's my new sports wish for 2004. And I'm not kidding about this. Just once in my lifetime, when this situation unfolds like with Vince and the Raptors, I want to see the team say, "You know what? Screw you. You signed a contract to become our franchise player, and now you don't want to live up to that obligation? Fine. You're sitting on the bench. Don't worry, we'll pay you. You'll get your checks. You're just getting a DNP for the next five years. We're making an example out of you. You will never play for us again. And you won't play anywhere else, either."

Imagine that. Vince banished to the bench, game after game, month after month, until he shapes up and stops *****ing about playing for Toronto. It would be the sports equivalent of sending a prisoner to the hole. Like every NBA fan wouldn't be rooting for the Raptors after that?

7. New York
Congratulations to Isiah Thomas, who managed to construct an NBA team with the exact same problems as the 2004 USA Olympic Team. Did you miss guards battling each other to take bad shots? What about five guys playing defense like they just met three days ago? Or a barrage of ghastly threes bouncing into the 10th row? Or an entire team made up of players who look better on paper then they actually are?

(Ladies and gentleman, yourrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr 2005 Knicks!)

At least the Olympic team went away in three weeks. Knicks fans are stuck with five untradeable guys (Houston, Crawford, Hardaway, and the Thomases); one semi-untradeable guy (Marbury); four more crippling contracts (Anderson, Mohammed, Williams, Norris); and a transcendent head case (Baker). Fortunately, guys start coming off the cap in 2006, although I'm pretty sure Allan Houston's deal runs through 2027 (with a two-year player option through 2029). Only 2 questions remain: A) Is Trevor Ariza for real, and B) when will Isiah push Lenny Wilkens under the bus and take over this mess?

(Now you're saying to yourself, "Wait a second, how can I rip a team and then pick them to make the playoffs?" Have you SEEN the Eastern Conference? It's a train wreck. Three 35-win teams could still be playing in late-April. From a competitive standpoint, even the Real World/Road Rules Challenge isn't as lopsided as the NBA right now. And the Knicks don't even have someone like Tonya.)

6. Boston
I had them winning the Atlantic as recently as last week, right up until Pierce spat at the Cavs bench during that war of words with LeBron. Sad moment for me. I used to like this guy. Watched just about every NBA game he ever played. Sat five rows from the court for just about every home game from his first four seasons. I'm telling you, the old Paul Pierce never would have done something like that. This used to be a happy guy. Wore his heart on his sleeve, played with a smile on his face, never stopped having fun. He was the kind of player who helped up an opponent if they fell down, even if play was still going on. That guy is long gone.

His head isn't on straight. Hasn't been since they nearly made the Finals in 2002. If you want to psychoanalyze the whole thing, I wonder if the stabbing incident messed with his head more than he wants to admit. Think about it. The dude nearly gets knifed to death by a gangbanger, ends up back on the court in three weeks, plays an entire season, nearly leads the team to the Finals ... it's like he never dealt with what happened. Maybe he should. Or maybe it's simpler than that - maybe the NBA can corrupt anybody. Even a guy like him.

(We'll be back on the Sports Reporters after this.)

Does this mean I'm writing him off? Of course not. I'm just worried about awarding the Atlantic to a team whose best player has been visibly troubled for two-plus years. There are other reasons, of course. They're going to get killed on the boards again. Once LaFrentz gets hurt, rookie Al Jefferson will be getting big minutes at the 4-spot, which is good and bad -- good because he's an absolute stud who resembles the Young Moses, bad because he's completely lost on defense right now. And GP couldn't guard ME at this point. Regardless, they should be an entertaining team with an energetic coach, as well as some quality young players, a decent center, some swagger and an extra trade to make in February. Vegas has them listed at 41 for a reason.

5. Philly
The perfect Jim O'Brien Team: Overachieving veterans and frisky young guys breaking a sweat for him on defense, coupled with a superstar who can create his own shot. I watched Obie for three years in Boston -- he let Pierce and Walker chuck up bad threes and hoped they went in. That was the offense. Now he gets to do the same with Iverson, who could become the first player to win the scoring title and shoot under 35% in the same season. Get ready for 45 wins, the No. 3 seed and a neverending maze of 71-65 games. You will HATE watching this team.

By the way, Philly wins the award for "Worst Trade Ever" this summer -- dealing a solid rotation guy (Eric Snow) for two TERRIBLE players (Kevin Ollie and Kedrick Brown), and only because they were worried about the luxury tax. If they were so worried about the tax, why spend the last two years overpaying for guys like Thomas, Skinner and Buckner? Seriously, how many NBA teams know what they're doing right now? Three? Five? Have you ever seen anything like this? It's like handing $20 bucks to a little kid in a candy store, then watching him pick $80 worth of candy. There can't be a dumber group of executives in any walk of life. There just can't.

4. Miami
My whole "Shaq will obliterate the Vengeance Scale and win an NBA title in Miami" argument was a lot more fun before I realized that Udonis Haslem, Rasual Butler, Christian Laettner, Keyon Dooling and Wesley Person were prominently involved. Yikes.

So let's think about this.

At his absolute apex, Shaq's ceiling is probably 30 points and 13 rebounds a game With the exception of Moses in 1981, no superstar center ever made the Finals with a crummy supporting cast (and that '81 Rockets went 40-42 and caught some major breaks in the playoffs). Check out Kareem's pre-Magic career with the Lakers, when he won the MVP in '76 and '77 and those teams won a combined 93 games. That's a pretty fair litmus test.

Here's the point: You can match a dominant center with an up-and-coming star (D-Wade), but you can't make it to mid-June without getting something from at least 4-5 other guys. Ever watch some of those old Lakers from the past five years on ESPN Classic? Did you notice how many big shots Shaw and Horry made? What about Stephen Jackson with the 2003 Spurs, or Kukoc, Kerr and Paxson with MJ's Bulls teams? What about Horry, Cassell and Kenny Smith with those mid-90's Houston teams? At some point, the supporting guys need to step up beyond the Top Two.

Miami's crunch-time lineup: Shaq, Laettner, Eddie Jones, Damon Jones and D-Wade. Eddie has been a notorious choke artist in big games for his entire career. That's just a fact. If Laettner's name was "Tom Franklin" and he wasn't carrying the Duke baggage, we would think of him as another run-of-the-mill, overpaid white guy who lasted in the league too long. As much as I like Damon Jones -- that was one of the best signings of the summer -- it remains to be seen whether someone who's played for eight teams in eight years can suddenly turn into one of those Shaw-Horry types. And I don't like anyone on their bench. Not one guy.

Only one thing saves them: Thanks to realignment, the division champs get the 1-2-3 seeds in the playoffs, meaning A.) Indy and Detroit square off in Round 2, and B.) Miami gets easy draws for Rounds 1 and 2 (did you see the mess above?). As an added bonus, they'll be getting every call because the NBA will be doing everything possible to facilitate a Heat-Lakers Finals, even if it includes flying Dick Bavetta around in a private jet to referee two games in the same day.

The final verdict: This isn't a team that should make the NBA Finals. But you never know.

(How was that for a cop-out?)

3. Cleveland
Look, I was sold on LeBron laying the smack down this season, and that was BEFORE Stanley Roper inexplicably squeezed his PT in Athens. Just the extra motivation Bronnie needed. Now I'm thinking 47 wins and a possible MVP for him. If we could only find him his own Ahmad Rashad.

Anyway, I'm torn on the Boozer Debacle. Much like the budding R Kelly-Jay Z feud, I can see both sides here.

The Anti-Boozer Argument: He screwed over a blind guy ... he could have spent the next 12 years playing with the next MJ -- winning titles, making dozens of ESPN Classic appearances, going down in history like Pippen and McHale did -- yet sold out for the cash ... they're replacing 80% of his numbers with Gooden and Varejo for one-third the price, so screw him.

The Pro-Boozer Argument: The Cavs were idiots for trusting any NBA player to keep a verbal committment which was illegal in the first place ... Jim Paxson shouldn't be running a video store, much less an NBA team ... Booze's market value was higher that $41 million, so the Cavs tried to take advantage of him with the wink-wink deal ... Booze is from Alaska and always dreamed of playing in Utah and following the Mailman, so you can't really blame him for wanting to jump ship.

(You know what? I think I'm in the Anti-Boozer Camp. I can't get over the fact that he stabbed a blind guy in the back. He should have just hit him over the head with a steel chair as Jim Ross screamed "Nooooooooooo! Noooooooooooo! My God, what's happening! Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!")

2. Indiana
Same team that almost outlasted the Pistons last year, with four exceptions:

A.) They finally handed the car keys to Jamaal Tinsley for the entire season. Even signed him to an extension. Feels like a breakout year for him. Then again, I'm wondering if he's like Taye Diggs or Jessica Alba, where you keep waiting for their careers to take off and it never happens.

B.) Just from the natural aging process, it's safe to say that Ron Artest is probably 5-7% less crazy than he was last year.

C.) Jon Bender finally gets some run. Intriguing player: Strange body, strange game. I'm not sure what to make of him. The Brad Lohaus parallels are just disturbing enough that it makes me nervous.

D.) They brought in Stephen Jackson to solve their biggest problem -- other than Reggie Miller, who's 55 years-old, everyone on the team was afraid to take The Big Shot last year when it mattered. Problem solved.

And with all of that said, I still don't like them as much as ...

1. Detroit
How many games will they lose within the conference? Five? Eight? Let's give them 44-8 in the East and 22-8 against the West. Seems reasonable.

FYI: That's a 66-win team on paper.

In other words, there's a solid chance that Darko could be selling not one but two championship rings on eBay in ten years.

Link (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/041103)

Fool
11-04-2004, 10:58 PM
It took till the last sentence of the article but he got to Darko. At least he seems to have begun to leave out the "these guys should have Carmelo" part, finally.

Kegboy
11-04-2004, 11:08 PM
Here's the west. LOVE the Houston part. :love: :lmao:

Also, finally someone has called all the Brent Barry worship. And glad to know I'm not the only one who hates Detroit's PA guy. :rolleyes:

The rest of the West

By Bill Simmons
Page 2


When I'm running ESPN some day, I plan on switching our announcers to different sports for November sweeps. Imagine Joe Theismann broadcasting NBA games, saying things like "You're not gonna last too long in the National Basketball Association by making passes like that" and "I want to tell you guys something, that turnover was caused by the defensive pressure of assistant coach Dick Harter, who's been doing an extra-ORDINARY job all game"? Comedy would ensue. Everyone would live happily ever after.


Sadly, this can't happen. They won't even put me in charge of ESPN6. Still, I was thinking of Joe when I typed the following paragraph last night: "In the National Basketball Association, the East and West conferences are like the Hilton Sisters. Maybe they look alike, and maybe they're both overrated products that receive far too much hype, but one of them is ten times more interesting than the other. And in this case, the West is Paris Hilton."


Why did I type "National Basketball Association"? I don't know. Will this ever be repeated? Again, I don't know. Right now I'm like Jack in "Lost," seeing ghosts and desperately in need of some sleep. So let's bang out Part Two of my annual NBA Preview, breaking down the West from worst to first:


LOTTERY TEAMS


15. LA Clippers
If they win 25 games, it's a borderline miracle. You know things are bad when you're sitting there saying things like "Uh-oh, the lead is slipping away, they need to put Rick Brunson back in." Just about any other time, you would blame Elgin Baylor and Donald Sterling here, but they were definitely double-crossed by Kobe and his agent last summer. I'd tell you more, but considering that I'm a season ticketholder now, we'll have PLENTY of time to discuss this franchise over the next six months. In glorious, copious detail. Tell the concierge to get the waterskis and the shark ready for me.


(One bright spot: I watched Shaun Livingston for a grand total of 10 minutes in person before awarding him "Most important rookie point guard to come into the league since J-Kidd" status. I'm not saying he's a lock for the Hall of Fame or anything. But if you enjoy cerebral throwbacks who care more about making a nice pass over anything else -- I'm talking those Magic-style "How did he see that guy?" looks -- then start rooting for this guy. Trust me.)


14. Seattle
If the Sonics win 30 games or less, this will be the worst Sonics team in 31 years. In other words, this is going to be the worst Sonics team in 31 years.


Here's the big X-factor: They need to trade Ray Allen before his contract expires. Why pay someone first banana money when he's clearly a second banana and you're already paying a third banana (Rashard Lewis) second banana money ... unless you're bananas? Why not maximize his trade value close to the deadline, when teams are desperate to make a move? Remember, not only did Allen nearly lead the Bucks to the Finals three years ago, he once filmed a movie scene with Chasey Lain and Jill Kelly. In chess terms, maybe he isn't an extra queen like J-Kidd, but he's definitely a rook. They should wait until February, then package him with Danny Fortson's ghastly contract to a contender for expiring contracts (Portland?).


(Note: Since this makes way too much sense, I'm sure they'll re-sign him for way too much money. Hey, speaking of dumb front offices ... )


13. Golden State
Congratulations to Chris Mullin, who won the Wes Unseld Memorial "I Wish That Guy Was In My Roto League" Award for shelling out $200 million in contracts for Derek Fisher, Adonal Foyle, Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson. Given that this was the strangest sequence of moves in NBA history -- an inexplicable quest to finish 30-52 every year through 2010 -- I spent an inordinate amount of time wondering about his motives here. We definitely know he's not drinking again. We're pretty sure he's aware that the salary cap exists. So why? Why would this happen?


Here's what I came up with: You know that person in your family who "settled" with their choice for a spouse, just because they were afraid of dying alone? That was Mullin this summer. He had a choice between gutting the team (like Kiki Vandeweghe in Denver) and rolling the dice with the unknown ... or "settling" for 30 wins every year. He chose the latter. Now he has to sleep with this team every night while everyone wonders behind his back if he's actually happy about it.


(Note: Not only have the Warriors missed the playoffs every year since 1994, they only made the playoffs 6 times since 1977 ... and unlike the Clippers, this was a team that spent money and tried to win for that entire duration. Isn't that worse than rooting for the Clips? At least with the Clips, you know what you're getting -- it's like a divorced woman settling for a cheap boyfriend with a weave who takes her to Outback Steakhouse once a week. The Warriors keep giving their fans hope and ripping their hearts out. And they have great fans, too. This is terrible. Let's just move on.)


12. New Orleans
I would have picked these guys fifth in the East. So there you go.


(By the way, the Hornets have two members of the Bill Simmons Team for "Guys I Inexplicably Like that Haven't Hit the Big-Time Yet": David West and Chris Andersen. They're joining Damon Jones; Tony Allen; Kyle Korver; Earl Watson; Andres Nocioni; Dan Gadzuric; Steve Blake; Michael Ruffin and this year's captain, my illegimate brother, Bobby Simmons. I'm also sticking Rafael Araujo on the IR to start the season -- haven't seen him yet, but I know I'm going to love him. Anyone who can get four technical fouls in a summer league game is my kind of guy.)


11. Portland
I love the NBA. I really do. Over the past two years, the Blazers made a big deal about two things: A.) We're adamant about creating cap space, and B) We're changing the character of our team. So what happens?


They trade Rasheed (who was playing great) for Ratliff and Shareef, then force Shareef to play out of position until he has the Private Pyle face going 24/7 and becomes pretty much untradeable.


They bring in Nick Van Exel, who makes Morrissey seem jovial by comparison.


They draft Sebastian Telfair and his 500-person entourage to get tutored by Van Exel, Damon Stoudamire, and Damon Stoudamire's eight-foot bong.


They keep Qyntel Woods, whose recent pit bull scandal could lead to him becoming the first Blazer ever to get A.) investigated by Don Yaeger and Lester Munson, and B.) his own segment on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."


They sign Ratliff to a $45 million extension, then Zack Randolph to an $86 million extension. Sayonara, cap space.


Out of all those events, my favorite was the Randolph signing. Here's a guy about whom his high school coach said, "I just don't want the day to come where I pick up that paper and it says [Zach] shot someone, or that he was shot. Every day that goes by that I don't see that, I feel good" ... and they hand him $86 million? I'd be afraid to loan the guy 20 bucks. Seriously, who's a shakier investment than Zack? Anyone? On the bright side, it led to the following phone call with my buddy House:


-- Me: Did you see what Randolph signed for?
-- House: (uproarious laughter)
-- Me: Can you believe that?
-- House: (giggling like a madman)
-- Me: Were they saying to themselves, "Maybe the prospect of becoming obscenely rich will calm him down?"
-- House: (hyperventilating).


10. Sacramento
Can't you see the "What's wrong with the Kings?" story in Sports Illustrated coming in about six weeks? The full-page picture of C-Webb screaming at a ref, along with the headline, "ROYAL PAINS" or "KINGS OF DYSFUNCTION"? These guys have just been together a little too long.


A quick recap: Peja has been demanding a trade since Vlade left. C-Webb missed 102 games over the past 3 seasons, can't jump anymore and still took the time to blast his teammates this summer. He's a delight. There isn't a more untradeable guy in the league. Also, the Bibby-Jackson leadership issue has never been entirely resolved. Doug Christie is still around, which means Mrs. Christie is still around. Rick Adelman's "Ultimate Adelman: The 25 Most Memorable Playoff Collapses of the Last 15 Years" is being released by NBA Entertainment this Friday. And if that's not enough, the Maloofs are *****ing about a new arena.


You know what? I feel good about this one. That was easy.


(Where's the old guy and the blonde lady from "The Apprentice" when I need them?)


9. Houston
I am having trouble playing with the lanky African-American who uses an acronym for a name. I feel like someone is extracting my molar without the use of novacaine. This lanky man with the acronym seems to bristle when I am teamed by two defenders, believing that he is the one who should be drawing such attention. He attempts ill-advised field goals with plenty of time remaining on the shotclock and nobody standing under the basket. And his lackluster efforts on the defensive end have left the bald gentleman guiding our team frustrated beyond recognition.


There has been screaming and conflict on more than one occasion. Even my efforts have been targeted by the bald gentleman with three names, although the rebounding chores have fallen into my hands and I have no assistance. I miss playing with my diminutive friends, Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. I am very lonely. I wish I could play for the Lakers.


PLAYOFF TEAMS


8. Utah
When your starting five hails from Turkey, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Moscow and Croatia, and people are STILL picking you for the playoffs, you know you're good. These guys need three translators just to execute a chest-bump, yet they'll probably win 49 games together. Well-constructed team.


Other random thoughts: Why haven't we nicknamed Memo Okur "Mr. Big" yet? ... Isn't it strange that this is Carlos Arroyo's third NBA team? Really, he was practicing for Golden State and Washington every day and they had no idea he was this good? ... Speaking of Arroyo, when he sprained his ankle last week and they were scrambling for a starting point guard, was anyone else thinking "Stockton" and "10-Day Contract" in the same sentence? Can you imagine? How could they possibly lose a game at home with Stockton pulling the Tom Skeritt in "Top Gun" and telling Sloan, "And if you can't find anyone, give me a call, I'll fly with you."


(Wait, there's more!)


Does that $87 million contract make Andrei Kirilenko the most successful Russian of all-time? He just doubled Russia's GNP, didn't he? And how has Anna Kournikova not made a run at him yet? Did his number not come up in the deli-style line yet? ... I know it's a nice story and all, but I'm not even sure of Boozer is the poor man's Karl Malone ... How is it possible that Jerry Sloan hasn't coached a U.S.A. team yet? ... Imagine if the Jazz lured away Detroit's PA announcer this summer, then he started screaming "Youuuuuuuuuu-tahhhhhhh Bas-ket-balllllllllllllllll" 50 times a game as 20,000 Mormons sat there in shock?


(Okay, we're good.)


7. Memphis
There's old Jerry West, stockpiling assets, biding his time ... waiting ... waiting...


(I mean, at some point, he's making a 3-for-1 or a 4-for-2 and making a run at an All-Star, right? Peja, Pierce, Allen, Ilgauskas, Davis. He's pouncing on one of these guys in February, right? He doesn't really think he can win with this team, right?)


(Right?)


(Um ... right?)


6. Denver
Here's the sleeping giant in the West. Forget about Voshon Lenard -- I'm pretty sure that they can find another 2-guard who can shoot 42% (and they have Tschkivivivivlllllli as trade bait). Besides, if they want to compete for a title, they're better off playing Melo at the 2 in crunch-time, then going big upfront with Nene, K-Mart and Camby. I see them playing .500 ball for two months while everyone gets used to K-Mart, then taking off in mid-January. They're just too tough upfront, and with a nasty streak to boot. These guys could definitely intimidate teams like San Antonio and Minnesota in a 7-game series. Heck, they got in KG's head last spring, and that was before K-Mart.


Of course, they need a monster season from 'Melo, who should jump a level in his sophomore season (simply because that's what happens). Emphasis on the word "should."


Not since the Greg Brady cigarettes-in-the-jacket episode has there been a mix up with such a great guy.
Here's what we know: He looked terrible in the playoffs. Just awful. Played like a starstruck rookie. In Athens, he sulked about PT to the point that he pulled a Nomar on the bench during one game. And there was the mysterious pot incident a few weeks ago, the old "Um, my friend left it in my knapsack!" routine. I'm not making judgments, just pointing out a series of red flags. If we're banking on 'Melo pulling a "Bird and Magic" with LeBron over the next 12 years, it's important to note that these "incidents" (for lack of a better word) didn't happen to Bird and Magic. Those guys came through when it mattered; they didn't screw around. So either we need to re-adjust our expectations for him, or 'Melo needs to start laying the smack down. Personally, I still think the kid is going to be great.


But I didn't have any doubts last season. Can't say the same now.


5. Phoenix
Any time you construct a free agent offer that's so insane, Mark Cuban studies it for a few minutes, then throws up his hands and says, "You know what, I can't match that thing" ... I mean, that's a pretty good sign you went overboard. Which is exactly what the Suns did by guaranteeing Steve Nash and his bad back $60 million. Crazy contract. Just crazy.


But you know what? They still ended up with one of the best point guards in the league. And yeah, maybe they overpaid for him. But that was the only way they were getting him. If you're spending $60 million on a $45 million luxury yacht, you may have overpaid, but you're still the owner of a $45 million yacht, right? That's what happened with the Suns. I watched them in person at the Staples Center last week, probably the happiest team I've seen in four years. And Nash was in the middle of everything. Suddenly Marion gets to do Marion things, and Johnson doesn't have to run the offense, and Stoudamire gets rewarded when he's running the floor, and Q gets his open looks ... everybody wins.


Of course, if Nash goes down, all bets are off. But this feels like a 50-win team to me. You will enjoy watching them. I promise.


(And by the way, if you haven't seen Yuta Tabuse in action, make sure you TiVo the next Suns blowout. I don't want to spoil it for you. Just imagine if you crossed Earl Boykins with a sushi chef, pumped caffeine into him and threw a uniform on him. Would you be interested to see what transpired? I thought so.)


4. Dallas
I'm not going to attempt to understand Mark Cuban, since this was the same man that just inflicted "The Benefactor" on us. But something doesn't add up from last summer ... and no, I'm not talking about how the Mavs failed to pursue Shaq, which only would have meant two or three titles. Whatever.


As described above, Cuban opted against matching the Nash contract, then made two cost-cutting deals -- dealing Jamison and Walker for Terry, Stackhouse, Henderson, the No. 5 pick and a lower payroll starting in 2006. I didn't like either trade. But when it happened, we all assumed that Cuban was tired of overpaying players, on the heels of the LaFrentz/Bradley/Eshemeyer signings, the Juwan Howard trade and everything else. Cubes was turning a new leaf. Being prudent.


So what happened? A month passed and Cuban was roped into $72 million for Erick Dampier, the quintessential example of a player who should only be paid on a year-by-year basis. Remember the caution with the Nash contract? Out the window. Maybe Cuban is bipolar. Maybe he has amnesia. I don't know. But how can you give away the heart and soul of your team over money, then immediately overpay a con artist like Dampier? How does that happen? And why would you keep overhauling a 50-win team year after year? Why would you think a rookie (Devin Harris) could replace Nash when there hasn't been a successful American rookie starter at that position since ... since ... Mark Jackson in 1988? I can't even remember.


So many unanswered questions. Why not pursue Shaq? Why bring Don Nelson back when he's fallen short so many times? Why stick three shoot-first guards (Terry, Daniels and Stackhouse) in your backcourt and think this isn't a problem? And why do I still think this team wins 50 games just because? Aarrrrrrrrrrrgh.


3. Los Angeles
Look, we got what we wanted: Shaq and Kobe have their own teams. Should have happened two years ago. Maybe we needed a rape charge, multiple backstabbings and a controversial police interview to grease the skids, but it did happen. So what if Kobe has been revealed as a calculating, petulant, manipulative loner with a dark side? So what if he threw Shaq under the bus? There isn't a better running subplot this season then Kobe running his own team. Sure, watching him go down in flames would be almost as fun as seeing Qyntel Woods getting jumped by a pit bull. But that's probably not happening.


The wheels should fall off the Lakers season right around the time of MLB's Opening Day.
Here's what WILL happen: Kobe springs for 33 a game. The first wave of "Wow, the Lakers are better than we thought" start popping up in mid-December, as people realize that Odom, Grant, Butler, Divac and even Chucky Atkins are quality supporting guys. You'll hear about how Kobe has taken on a much more active leadership role, and you'll see SportsCenter features showing Kobe slapping butts and rubbing heads in slow motion. By February, Kobe will make himself cry in an extended interview with Jim Gray, just to prove to everyone that he's capable of human emotions. By March, everyone will be saying, "Maybe Kobe WAS better off without Shaq." By April, the Lakers will be losing in the first round of the playoffs...


(Sound of a record screeching to a halt.)


2. Minnesota
Four random thoughts...


1. Every time I wonder if the NBA ran out of ways to amaze me, we get something like Spree's "I've got a family to feed" quote. Who's better than Spree? First he chokes his coach, then he buys a yacht, now this. What a run. I might have to retire his jersey in the Sports Guy Mansion.


2. With Troy Hudson and Wally Z healthy again, this should be a better team than last year's group. Emphasis on the word "should." You never know with Spree and Cassell and these contract extensions. Which reminds me, has there been an preseason where Sam Cassell didn't complain about his contract? It's almost like the NBA's version of the groundhog seeing his shadow. Yep, Sam's complaining about his contract again, I better schedule my roto draft.


3. Did they just give Eddie Griffin Gary Trent's old locker? Was it like a "Brooks Was Here" moment for him, like with Red at the end of Shawshank, only with collosal NBA head cases instead of aging ex-cons? I need to know these things.


4. You know what I like about KG? He won the MVP and nearly made the Finals, yet we barely heard a peep from him all summer ... except for when he inexplicably sucker-punched Rick Rickert in a summer workout, which was covered up in Minnesota faster than the Iran-Contra investigation. On the bright side, at least John Feinstein has a subject for his next book.


5. Just for the record, I didn't think Spree and Cassell could hold up for seven months and 100-110 games last season.


1. San Antonio
Michael Jordan, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Brent Barry, Clyde Drexler...


Sorry, I was just re-adjusting my Pantheon of 2-Guards after hearing the reactions to the Brent Barry signing this summer. I always remembered him as a fun guard and a solid complimentary player; apparently I was missing the modern-day Pete Maravich. Was it a good signing? Absolutely. But you can't tell me that a 32 year-old complimentary player with 13 career playoff games on his resume suddenly swung the balance in the West. As the Wolf said in "Pulp Fiction," let's not start (deleted) each other's (deleted) yet."


(Man, that quote NEVER works when it's heavily edited.)


Do I think the Spurs will win the West? Absolutely. But not because of Brent Barry. These guys should have won last year -- basically, it came down to Derek Fisher making an insane shot. If you're making a list of reasons why the Spurs will win the West this season, Duncan goes first. The Shaq trade goes second. Ginobili and Parker having an extra year of experience goes third. Team defense goes fourth. And the Brent Barry signing goes fifth. A distant fifth.


Finals prediction: Pistons over the Spurs in 6.

link (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/041104)
---
Asked afterward if O'Neal's absence contributed to Charlotte's win, Knight bristled.

"What about Primoz? They didn't have Shaq, but we didn't have Primoz," he said.

Lord Helmet
11-04-2004, 11:59 PM
Will everyone get off of Artest!!!He is not a pyscho! :mad: And everytime I hear Reggie's name mentioned its all about how old he is well I can accept the fact he is 39 but people act like he is being strolled onto the court in a whellchair :unimpressed:

skyfire
11-05-2004, 05:59 AM
that was by far the funniest wrapup i've read.

i'm still giggling over the yao inspired houston review :laugh:

DisplacedKnick
11-05-2004, 08:57 AM
Simmons is always good - liked the Sprewell statement myself (though "dimunitve friends" was pretty good too.

Anthem
11-05-2004, 11:16 PM
I laughed out loud several times.

The Yao impersonation was great. The Portland lines were great. But the best was "Any time you construct a free agent offer that's so insane, Mark Cuban studies it for a few minutes, then throws up his hands and says, "You know what, I can't match that thing" ... I mean, that's a pretty good sign you went overboard."

Ragnar
11-06-2004, 02:52 PM
Only one thing saves them: Thanks to realignment, the division champs get the 1-2-3 seeds in the playoffs, meaning A.) Indy and Detroit square off in Round 2, and B.) Miami gets easy draws for Rounds 1 and 2 (did you see the mess above?). As an added bonus, they'll be getting every call because the NBA will be doing everything possible to facilitate a Heat-Lakers Finals, even if it includes flying Dick Bavetta around in a private jet to referee two games in the same day.

:laugh::laugh::laugh::laugh:

Sherlock
11-06-2004, 08:14 PM
(By the way, if I read the sentence "Al Harrington's breakout year" one more time, I'm calling the police. There's a reason The Man traded him. He's all sizzle and no steak. Watch his numbers this year. This is D-Miles in Cleveland all over again.)


He just show no love to Al, which I do not totally agree. I think Al may have a 18-7 year.