The Later Than LeBron Wants To Be Playing NBA Preview Edition
First, keep in mind that the last unbeaten team has made it to the NBA Finals the last three years. (This is not an excuse for anyone in New Orleans or Atlanta to go out making any plans for the Finals...unless you're going to see the Lakers.)
Second, don't believe the hype with Miami. Or do so. I need people to point at and laugh hysterically when they burn out in May. (I'll give you the single biggest reason why you're going to lose if you have any money placed on Miami winning it all.)
Third, Cleveland, I wish I could tell you there's some positive to pull out of LeBron being gone. But reality is, you should be furious that in 7 years, management's best efforts to get your beleaguered city a title resulted in Delonte West, Mo Williams and Old Man Shaq. Oh, can't forget about Grandfather Clock Wallace. Silly me.
Fourth, Denver. You'd best pray the Rich & Creamys go on a MAJOR run before February. By MAJOR, I'm talking the kind of run that has Melo thinking "ya know what? I'm staying put. I can help this team exorcise one of two demons that stand between me and a title" rather than "I really can't wait to get the fuck out of here at the end of the year.
Fifth, David Stern. I know you're like months away from once again, beating that nice piece of trim you call the Players' Association into submission. But seriously, you're killing your product by giving the zebras too much power to throw out T's. The Rasheed Wallace Rule as I'm calling it, is utterly ironic in that the year you institute it, the guy you institute it for is no longer ballin'. HA. Still, I say at least THREE playoff series will be altered for the worst because of this rule. And you'll still have to answer questions about whether or not your zebras have snakelike tendencies post-Donaghy.
Sixth, Isiah Thomas. I don't know of many Knicks fans, but let me tell ya something. They're willing to post people at the airport if you so much as THINK about heading towards NYC or even around NYC. Nobody outside of Jimmy Dummy, err, Dolan wants you back with the Knicks. Nobody other than you believes you could've gotten LeBron to New York this past Summer nor does anyone believe it'll happen in 2014. (And if Dolan really does believe this, if I hit the Mega Millions or Powerball, I'll buy the fucking Knicks just to ensure this doesn't happen. Or talk Magic into going in with me. Either way.) Stay at FIU, coach the youngins and maybe, just MAYBE I can watch you on Selection Sunday as your team appears on that 15 or 16 line opposite a Duke, UNC or Butler. :)
Seventh, of all the new coaches taking the reins of teams this year...I pity Byron Scott (for obvious reasons, beyond having a disillusioned owner and the most depressing fan base this side of the Clips). I give him three seasons before he's fired or just quits outright. Keith Smart...eh. Sucks having to follow Nellie. Sucks even more being stuck in the Lakers' division. But the talent's there with Ellis, Curry & Lee to shock some folks. Larry Drew in Atlanta will probably make the playoffs, but won't do much else beyond that. I think Tom Thibodeau will be fine. Has a great cast to coach, much like another first timer did once upon a time, some guy named Phil Jackson. Things worked out alright for that guy.
And to complete The Grimey Eight...
Seperating What Is From What Isn't. It's important to maintain a sense of well, common sense when looking at things in the early going. Those that come roaring out the gate like New Orleans and Atlanta, will inevitably sputter out because their track meet mentality will tire them out over the marathon they must run.
Or when looking at rookies. People need to remember, John Wall's the guy who couldn't run a Kentucky squad ripe with FOUR FIRST ROUNDERS excluding himself beyond the Elite Eight. He's stuck on a crap Washington team and simply put, they suck. He will give them some nice highlights, but not much more beyond that. Simply put, Wall is FLASH, not SUBSTANCE. Double R (Rondo), Fish (Fisher, quietly underrated), CP3, Dee-Dub (DeRon Williams), Big Shot Billups (CHAUNCEY!!! :P) are all about SUBSTANCE. The great teams that win championships have PGs who are all about substance, not flash. Flash gets you highlights by the dozen, it's substance that wins you championships. Get my drift?
Blake Griffin appears to be the absolute truth in the early going. Now it's time for the first ever Grimey Greatness Rankings. Yeah, I know, "Power Rankings" are usually flawed beyond all recognition. My rankings well as implied in the title, ranks GREATNESS. So we'll look at 8, maybe 10 teams that exude that or have shades of it. If you're in the top four or five, you're great. No question about it. So without any further adue...
Grimey's Great Eight =
1) The Lake Show
- Hangover? Maybe it's in their DVD collection or something, because anyone thinking they'd be hung over after their second straight title, was wrong. DEAD WRONG. All the attention that Miami got this offseason, me thinks pissed off the champs. Righteously. Because they're playing with a newfound Eff You edge that I haven't seen from a defending champion since the Bulls in the 90s. So when they say "72 in jeopardy?", I don't laugh it off. They have a LOT of talent and simply put, if we hit April and they're in the 65+ win range...they're winning the West. Cancel Memorial Day, OKC, love ya...but don't bother showing up. You won't like the end result.
They will run through the West and await the East kingpin. Oh and if they win 72, just hand Kobe and Derek their 6th ring, hand Phil his and let the discussion begin about which group's more dominant? The 90s Bulls with MJ or the Millenieum Lakers?
2) Double R & Da C's (Boston, 6-2)
- They were the first to put Miami in their place. They'll engage in Round 2 with the pretenders to the throne tomorrow night in South Beach. They won't have Kendrick Perkins until possibly at the end of this month, but I think he'll be held out possibly until the end of this calendar year. If I were Doc Rivers, I'd tell Kendrick this...
"Look. We're loaded enough to where we can run through this season and lock down at least a Top 3 seed. We need you healthy for the playoffs and as such, will sit you for at least the first half of this season."
Double R is clearly on another level and appears to have taken that snub (perceived or not) over the Summer with Team USA personally. He's the proverbial "Straw That Stirs The Drink" and there's more than enough cubes in this drink to keep them cool. Don't believe the hype, they're the best team in the Eastern Conference until further notice.
3) Orlando (5-1)
- The Magic are Team Dangerfield of the Association. No matter what they do, they can't get no respect. Get to the Conference Finals a year ago, won the Conference the year before that and with just two "marquee" additions in the offseason by Miami, they're immediately tossed aside and disregarded as legitimate title contenders. Even though they're hurting to a point, they remain deeper than just about every other team worth a damn aside from Boston in the East.
4) San Antonio (5-1)
- If this team had a theme, it would be "Forgot About Dre", because they're clearly the forgotten squad in the Association. Maybe not so much "forgotten" as it's more of a "will you all just go away forever, now?". Parker's been resigned and is going nowhere. We're just over two weeks into the season and they're sitting on just one loss on the year. Pops remains the second best coach in the game behind the Lord Of The Rings and as long as their Big Three remains intact...how do you write them off?
5) Oklahoma City (3-3)
- Yes, I'm a believer in the Thundercats. These young whippersnappers are being built the old fashioned way and Kevin Durant is legtimate. The mere fact that he wouldn't do the cover of SI's preview edition without his teammates tells you all you need to know about this guy. Yes, they're average right now recordwise. But to dismiss them over the long haul would be foolish on a HeatSPN level. They're the youngest team to appear here, at least alongside the likes of Chicago. But there's a reason they're being touted as the most likely to threaten LA's reign. If you didn't see last year's 1st round series, they were a box out away from forcing a Game 7. Aside from Boston, they're the only team that has legitimately threatened the Lakers over the last TWO YEARS.
They'll be fine. Trust me.
6) Miami (5-4)
- (Note, this is slightly updated, but the rant you're reading is my abbreviated one from a few days ago...but it still holds true.) Yeah, the Heat is on. But as I have openly wondered aloud...
When your two biggest acquisitions have been labeled quitters by their former employers, can you really chalk those up as wins? (Even if they are LeBron and Bosh?)
Jay-Z said it best when he said, "Y'all respect the one who got shot, I respect the shooter". ESPN OBSESSES over the one who got shot, I respect the shooter. Yeah, they've got star power. Dallas had star power, ask Jerry Jones how that's going for them. Star power gets you a lot of attention through the year, but won't win you a title. The 2004 Lakers had TONS of star power, didn't win shit. Miami this year has been exploited by teams with exceptional PG play and there's a reason for that.
PGs are commonly referred to as floor generals. What do field generals do in football? They see the field, identify weaknesses and attack them. Double R, CP3 and Dee-Dub all saw the glaring weaknesses Miami had and attacked it. The end result were career nights for Emeka Okafor and Paul Millsap, while the C's basically enjoyed putting the upstarts in their lane. Let me tell ya something, great teams don't blow 22 point leads. Great teams don't give up 11 points in a 30 second span to no-name 4s named Millsap.
Oh and Miami, all the suckage from HeatSPN will not get you your first trip to the Finals since 2006. It will get you the same result as the Cavs from 2007-2009...just ask LeBron. ;) Oh and just a Cleveland related FYI...
If you guys are making excuses against the likes of Boston and Ooo-tah, can you imagine how motivated the Cavs will be to show you guys up in just a few weeks in Cleveland?
7) Utah (6-3)
- I put them this high for a few reasons. Firstly, the spirit of John Stockton is alive and well in DeRon Williams. Second, Jerry Sloan still coaches them. Thirdly, the spirit of Karl Malone may very well be alive and well in the bodies of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. They're deep enough to where they'll be around and well, that's about as far as I'm willing to go with it.
8) Chicago (4-3)
- Yeah, I know. They're looking up at Cleveland early here. They're still the best team in that division and will win it going away. They will emerge as probably the 3rd seed in the East and depending on how well Boozie asserts himself as Chicago's top big alongside Noah and Deng...I think they can seriously push Orlando in the 2nd round. They have one of the game's great young floor generals spearheading them and I think they're going to come back to win the Central. However...they're going to need one of the other two (most likely Orlando) to falter if they hope to creep past #3.
Ultimately, I see things coming down to another Boston/Los Angeles series. (Also note, things are updated as of last night's action. Damn procrastination. :P)
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