SIBORSPACE: A look at your basketball future
Before I write anything, I need to present all the facts on what you are hopefully about to read. This column is about the forthcoming NBA season. Last year, I predicted the Hornets (yes, those Hornets) would beat the Celtics in the Finals in six games. Ouch. To be fair, the Hornets and Celtics both had injury problems, but in retrospect not picking the Lakers was a huge blunder on my part. However, I feel so good about my picks for this season that I am going to write the rest of this article as if the last game of this year's Finals just ended. Away we go!
Wow, what a season. The East has finally wrested control away from the West as the superior conference in the NBA, which is a minor miracle given the past decade of general mediocrity from the East. The Eastern Conference saw three elite teams (Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando) battle all season, but Cleveland was able to finally put it all together because it was consistently healthy (swine flu not withstanding). Kevin Garnett's knee and Vince Carter's laundry list of injuries really killed Boston and Orlando, and the teams couldn't count on those guys to bring it every night.
LeBron was LeBron, and he is well on his way to being considered the best ever after winning his second consecutive MVP. The big surprise for Cleveland was Shaquille O'Neal, who was nothing but a great teammate as he gave up big minutes (especially in crunch time) and a lot of touches on the ball just so he could win another ring. What a way for him to go out; I was certainly surprised to hear him announce his retirement to go be a pitch man for Viagra, but I guess you can't walk away from that kind of money.
Dwyane Wade deserves major credit too, as he put up another monster year and looks ready to cash in big time when he hits the free agent market this summer. Miami better bring in someone else to help carry the load if they want to have any prayer of keeping Wade around. Making the playoffs was good, but you just can't expect one person to carry an entire team. Same goes for Chris Paul in New Orleans, who by the end of the season looked likely to choke out any one of his teammates. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets traded and the Hornets look to start all over.
It looks like the era of Texas dominance in the league is coming to an end. We all knew Houston was going to be rebuilding, but Yao being hurt almost all year and Tracy McGrady not ever looking the same really killed their season before it even started. Dallas looked great at times and terrible at others, but it just had too weird a team with too many spare parts to get things rolling. Aging stars Jason Kidd and (gulp) Tim Duncan look like they're finally showing their age. We knew Kidd was bound for a decline, but for Duncan to fall this far, this fast is really shocking. He had spent so long carrying the Spurs; I suppose time was going to catch up with him eventually. Hopefully they find a young big guy for Timmy to work with, like David Robinson did with him, and he can ride off into the sunset with dignity.
The Lakers being the class of the league was no surprise, but how about them Clippers! Baron Davis' pulse returned, and Blake Griffin looks like a perennial all-star already. Making the playoffs was a huge step forward for them, and with that young core they will certainly be back in years to come. Plus, they have enough cap space this summer to sign a big free agent. I sense a LeBron vs. Kobe rivalry for Los Angelos dominance in our future.
The Conference Finals were a pretty big letdown. I have to say it was heartbreaking watching my Celtics get handled in six games by Cleveland, in a series whose result looked inevitable from the start. Getting closed out in Boston was not fun to watch, especially when Rasheed Wallace bit the ref after the game. The Lakers crushing Utah was predictable as well, but I continue to be more impressed with Deron Williams every time I watch him. With apologies to Rondo and Paul, Williams is the best point guard in the league right now. I did take satisfaction in Cleveland's six-game triumph over the Lakers in the Finals, just because I love watching Kobe try to pretend he doesn't want to kill his coach and teammates.
In spite of the success of the NBA in the 2009-10 season, I was not so lucky. After an early streak of victories against the point spread, I suffered what some might call an epic losing streak. Needless to say I may have gotten involved with some of the wrong people, and am currently writing this via Blackberry from the trunk of a car. We've been driving for a while, but I think we've stopped now. I had better go.