Soon the euphoria of the NFL opening its season will die down. Finally. Seriously, a lightning delay would never happen in basketball. In due time the NFL’s red-headed step child will have its chance to take its own stage. Yes, it’s the NBA. It may not have red-hair but it does have baggy shorts. Before we know it training camps will begin and we will be looking forward to another full season of basketball. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things I hope from the NBA this season. I may be a writer, but I’m also a fan. So David Stern, do us a favor, lower the ticket prices. While you’re at it, the parking prices are just a little ridiculous.
Changing of the Guard (One Can Only Hope): As I have described in previous columns, it is typically large markets clubs that are consistently competitive while the smaller market ones tread water. However, right now, there are several smaller market teams who have a lot of talent and can make some noise. My hope is that Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Golden State, Cleveland and Indiana can slay the goliaths of Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The Thunder and Pacers have found success recently, but I want more. I want at least half of the playoff teams to represent David (it’s how the Bible would have wanted it.)
I admit that I am a Timberwolves fan and I believe that if they stay healthy, they will be a playoff team in the west. Love is arguably (one year ago it was unanimous) the best power forward in the NBA. The addition of Kevin Martin, along with Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger will give Minnesota the ability to stretch the floor. Add Love into the mix and the T-Wolves look like Stretch Armstrong. Nikola Pekovic, though not the prettiest player, is the perfect fit in this system. He does all the dirty work inside the paint and he and Kevin Love form one of the best rebounding front courts in the NBA.
Cleveland will make a leap. How high? Well, that depends on the health of Bynum. I still feel that they will be a playoff team regardless of Bynum’s injury. The Cavaliers were having a decent season until Anderson Varaejo went down with a wrist injury. When Bynum is healthy, he is a very good player. He could lead the Cavs to a 5 or 6 seed in the East. Without Bynum, they will still get in the playoffs and could be the dangerous lower seed team in the east. T
The team I expect to make a Dick Fosbury-esque leap will be Golden State. The addition of Andre Iguodala was brilliant because he will give that team what it lacked - defensive toughness. With a healthy David Lee and Stephen Curry, this team has the ingredients to make a top 4 seed stew.
We Ask For Replay, Not a Hollywood Epic: In most sports, I am a very big proponent of replay. I believe in fair and equitable calls. Referees get unfairly hammered in sports. It’s either about passion, or people living out their fantasy of zebra-hunting on an African safari. They don’t really get a “2nd chance” like the rest of us do at our jobs and we expect perfection. The NHL is the Steve Jobs of replay. The league has a centralized authority who monitors every game. In the time it takes to microwave popcorn, a decision has been made.
I despise the NBA replay system. It’s important to make the right call, but not when it interrupts the flow of the game. The league tries to make replay calls during timeouts, which can make it more confusing. If I want to throw a bag of popcorn in the oven and I return to find out my team is now in deficit (pity the popcorn). The NHL and professional soccer only review potential goals. That’s why it works. If the referee calls an off sides penalty that’s wrong, so be it (pity the referee and in soccer’s case, hope he avoids threats.)
I enjoy the human element of professional basketball. I hope the NBA decides to stick with referees instead of replay (isn’t there a union or something). The big problem is that timeouts should be enough for referees to make the call. If it’s not, maybe they should stick to micro waving popcorn. Allow the human element to stay in the NBA. Keep the replay limited.
The West is the Best, Right? Over the last few years, the Western Conference has always been seen as FAR superior to the Eastern Conference. If you recall last season, everyone assumed Miami would walk through the Eastern Conference. Many experts were wondering if the Heat would be ready for a challenge since they would coast through the east. We all know the experts are always right! Let’s take a look at the standings from last season, if you will indulge me:
The 8-seed in the West, the Houston Rockets, had a record of 45-37.
That was good enough to tie Chicago for the 5-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Utah and Dallas, who were .500 or better, missed the playoffs.
The 8-seed in the East, Milwaukee, was 38-44. That is an 8 game difference!
This year though, I anticipate something entirely different. The Western Conference is still the deeper conference. Some of the bottom feeders (Pelicans, Wolves, Blazers) will be better.
I think the East could rise like a phoenix (not the Suns, the bird). The Heat are the legitimate favorites as they look for three rings, but Dwayne Wade needs another ring like he needs another hoodie.
If Derrick Rose is the player he was before, the Bulls will be a very, very tough out. The Pacers will get back Danny Granger on a team that is loaded with talent.
Even if it’s a very short-term solution, I love what the Nets did this offseason. A starting five of Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams is still very formidable, like what you get when you hit on Beyonce in front of Jay-Z.
If Bynum is healthy, the Cavaliers will be a formidable team. I haven’t even mentioned the Knicks who will certainly win and be able to score (even if they can’t play a lick of defense or rebound and can’t get Spike Lee to sit down and shut up). From top to bottom, the east is still not as deep as the west. Most of the teams above could compete with anyone in the western conference and it will be awesome to watch those teams battle all season long.
If It’s Broke, Fix It: My declaration – The NBA Lottery is the dumbest thing in sports and it needs to be gone. I might go a little Keith Olberman or Bill O’Reilly here – but that thing is as rigged as the 1919 World Series. Speaking of Chicago, the Bulls are magically saved from their post-Jordan era blues by hometown kid Derrick Rose? New Orleans, owned by the NBA, gets the number 1 pick? Cleveland, right after LeBron leaves, gets the next superstar to come out of the draft? In case you didn’t know, I hate the lottery and it needs to disappear like Miley Cyrus at the VMA’s. Just be like every other league and let the worst team get the first pick. It will give you more parity. Not even the Kings or Wolves can screw up the number 1 pick when it’s plainly obvious. The lottery doesn’t make you unique. It doesn’t make you better. It just makes you look stupid.
Let me know what you want to see in this upcoming NBA season! Keep reading the awesome content we have here at TJRSports.com, and hit me up on Twitter @weigel_a.
This video is in here because it's one of my favorite songs ever!