Saturday, October 25, 2008

Questioning the 08-09 Season - Part V of VI

The Western Conference: Pacific Division

Last preseason, all we heard about from the Lakers was Kobe whining about his team. He basically demanded help from the front office to get him a better squad. However, when the season started, Kobe was all smiles, seeing the work his teammates did during the offseason. Andrew Bynum turned into a nightly double double with 2 blocks per game, and the bench, lead by Jordan Farmar and Ronnie Turiaf turned into one of the deepest benches in the league. Will those role players continue to play at the same level? All of a sudden, Bynum went down with a season-ending injury, and left the Lakers with a major size shortage in the middle. Then (some say) Laker-ulum Jerry West got involved and orchestrated a trade for one of the best big men in the game, Pau Gasol. With Pau, it gave the Lakers the best big man since Shaq left town, and immediately made the Lakers the favorite to take the Western Conference. That team did take the Western Conference, only to fall short to a tougher Celtics team. Does the return of Andrew Bynum get the Lakers a championship? There are reports that Bynum and Gasol are having trouble co-existing on the court, but I’m 100% sure that Phil Jackson will be able to sort it out. That combined with Kobe’s disgusting ambition, the Lakers are again favored to take the West, and if I had to bet on who would win the NBA championship this year, I’d choose Kobe and his Lakers.

The “other LA team” had a rough offseason when they lost Elton Brand to the Sixers. However, the Clippers bounced back and made a big signing in Baron Davis, and picked up Marcus Camby from the Nuggets for practically nothing but cap space. This move is going to push Chris Kaman, who had a breakout season this past year, to the 4 where he should be able to improve his stats further. In theory, this team has one of the best starting 5’s in basketball, with a seriously good youngster in Al Thornton at the 3. But can they stay healthy? Injuries have plagued both new pickups their entire careers. Last year was probably the most games B. Diddy has played since he first got into the league. Same with Camby. The types of personality on this team, and the fact that Coach Dunleavy’s starting to sound like another cry baby, Will this team give up on their coach, if they don’t stay in the playoff mix? Not just give up on the coach, but Baron Davis especially has a knack for getting re-injured just when his team falls out contention.

The Golden State Warriors are going to have a very tough season. Their most promising player and winner of the 06-07 Most Improved Player, Monta Ellis, went down in a mo-ped injury this summer and then tried to lie about it. Will he come back the same explosive player as he was last year? This dude was fast, real fast. I loved watching him play last year, especially running with Baron Davis, and flying to the hoop for the layups. It was like Scottie Pippen, if Scottie Pippin was about a foot shorter. The new sole leader on this team is Stephen Jackson. Yes, THAT Stephen Jackson. Their major free agent pickup this offseason was Corey Maggette. How are Jackson and Maggette going to split minutes or stay on the floor at the same time? This signing was a last ditch effort to try and replace the points that they’ll miss with Baron Davis. I just don’t think the two of them are going to play nicely together, and I know what happens when Stephen Jackson gets upset. Dude goes nutso.

I don’t know how he kept them going, but Reggie Theus did a remarkable job with his Sacramento Kings last season. They played hard all season, even when injuries to Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin took them out of the playoff mix early on. Their role players stepped up big time, especially Francisco Garcia and John Salmons. This offseason, the team did nothing to improve, in hopes that their home-grown talent can compete with the rest of the West. Do the Kings have any shot at making some noise this season? No, not really. Sacramento was one of the worst teams in the league last year on the defensive end, ranking 26th in efficiency. Factor in the loss of Ron Artest, one of the best defensive players in the game, and opposing teams won’t find it hard to score. The one bright spot in Sacramento is youngster Kevin Martin, who has been improving exponentially every season. When will they make some moves to build around this young stud? The Maloof Brothers can’t stay content with the team the way it’s currently constructed. When all is quiet in Kings-land, expect the Maloofs to make a splash and bring on some talent to go with their amazing fan base.

Mike D’Antoni and his “:07 or less” offense got run out of town (pun intended) and replaced with a defensive oriented, half-court coach in Terry Porter. Steve Kerr made it clear that he did not agree with D’Antoni’s philosophies and lack of defensive focus during practice and games. Will letting Mike D’Antoni go, be the worst mistake he’ll be allowed to make as a GM? When the Knicks picked up D’Antoni, it was widely thought of as the best possible choice in an available head coach. However, this off-season, the players have been openly praising Porters style and his focus on the defensive end. It almost sounds back-handed the way they talk about taking the game more seriously then they did last year. This year they intend to slow their game to a more playoff-suited pace. Can Steve Nash play ANY defense? Steve Nash is the worst defensive starting point guard in the game. How he won two MVP’s is beyond me. Speeding the game up and getting more possessions worked in their favor last year, because of their high FG% and ability to score easy buckets. Slowing the game down requires more advanced Defensive skills, skills that will only give the Suns a more glaring weakness when Nash is on the floor.

I expect Steve Nash fans to have something to say about that. Well, bring it on then.