All he can find wrong with the pacers is he thinks Ronnie is due for a blow-up, our depth won't help us, and our point guard situation? I must be watching a completely different season from this guy.....But I will say at least he says in the first paragraph that he believes someone from the east could win this year, however reluctant he is to say it.
It's hard to imagine any of the imperfect contenders winning the NBA title
Posted: Wednesday March 10, 2004 11:49AM; Updated: Wednesday March 10, 2004 12:07PM
I hate to pass on the opportunity to analyze that thrilling race for the bottom playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. But with the season three-quarters complete, it is time, once again, to play ...
I Don't Think Any of 'Em Can Win It.
Kevin Garnett will again find himself overburdened and over-defensed in the postseason.
John W. McDonough/SI
This is a theoretically impossible exercise, of course, since by the third week in June we will have a champion. (By that time, Kerry and Bush will be just about out of insults and Shaquille O'Neal will be just about out of implosions.)
But it's not hard to build a case against any of the potential champions this year, the interesting news being how many potential champions there are. I recall many occasions when, at most, there were three teams that could've conceivably won the NBA title, even from the start of the season.
This year the race is wide-open, especially since -- and I offer this reluctantly -- I can imagine a scenario in which a club emerges from the Eastern Conference to win it all, a statement I would not have made at any point in 2003.
But I digress. This column is about flaws and blemishes.
Take the DETROIT PISTONS, for example. They can't win because coach Larry Brown is sniping at two of his starters, Tayshaun Prince and Chauncey Billups. They can't win because Mehmet Okur will grow weary at the increased attention being bestowed upon Rasheed Wallace and because Wallace will eventually blow up during a crucial situation.
The NEW JERSEY NETS? Now, you might think the back-to-back Finalists can win it all, but they can't. The Lawrence Frank coaching magic will disappear when he faces some of the sly foxes in the West; the always shaky offense of Kenyon Martin will get shakier in the clutch (as it did in last year's Finals); and the Joisians just don't win enough tight ones (1-5 in games decided by three points or fewer) to prevail in June.
And the INDIANA PACERS, the popular pick out of the East? Can't happen. Ron Artest is due for a boil over; the deep roster will make no difference in the postseason; and their unsettled point-guard situation will eventually haunt them.
Now, for the West ...
The DALLAS MAVERICKS are entertaining as hell but they can't win it. Without being obvious, they don't play enough defense, they don't play enough defense and they don't play enough defense. Plus, it's a burden for them figure out whether point guard Steve Nash or point forward Antoine Walker will make the team's key offensive decisions during important games.
The MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES have made giant strides, but they can't win it. Fitting Troy Hudson and Wally Szczerbiak back into a rotation that played so well without the duo will be a problem in May; Michael Olowokandi, as soft as a marshmallow, will be as unsuccessful as Rasho Nesterovic, Cherokee Parks or any of the other centers who have gassed out during the T-wolves' seven straight first-round exits; and Kevin Garnett will again find himself overburdened and over-defensed, and consequently, over by early June.
The SACRAMENTO KINGS have the league's best offense and deepest rotation. But they can't win it. The shots that Chris Webber will take away from Peja Stojakovic will prove to be a negative; the Kings' tendency to lapse into Dallas-like defense from time to time makes them susceptible to defeat; and they will once again turn to jelly when Shaq and the other lads in Purple and Gold show up.
Speaking of which, the LOS ANGELES LAKERS can't win it. Karl Malone will return from injury too late to re-integrate into the L.A.'s system; Gary Payton's unwillingness to buy into said system, i.e., the triangle offense, will prove fatal; Kobe Bryant's injuries and off-the-court distractions will keep him from being the force he was during the Lakers' three-peat; and Shaq is just too fed up with the whole darn thing to dominate the way he has in the past.
Finally, the SAN ANTONIO SPURS? The defending champs? They can't win it, either David Robinson's D will be missed during the postseason (Nesterovic, now a Spur, is called for many of the fouls that weren't whistled on The Admiral); Speedy Claxton is no longer around to man the point guard position when Tony Parker goes haywire (as he does from time to time); and all of the Spurs, Tim Duncan included, will miss too many free throws when it counts. OK, who do I really think will win it? That's an analysis for a different day.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jack McCallum covers the NBA for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.