Friday, December 23, 2011
Back-to-back-to-back games. My wife is going to hate me. Probably worth it.
It's going to be a sloppy, wild ride this NBA Season. I imagine it to be something like a night with John Mayer.
Here's what I'll do. I am going to breakdown the teams that I think are going to be worse than people think and teams that I think will be better than people think. Then I will break down my beloved Utah Jazz.
Memphis Grizzlies - The bandwagon is still over-flowing after an exciting and surprising playoff run last year. The pundits are lumping them in somewhere near the front of the West. They resigned Marc Gasol which only helped that opinion along. Here's the thing though: the run was a fluke. It was a team of guys who had never done anything playoff wise before that season. They were missing their best player which at times can lift the rest of the team (see The Ewing Theory). It was also a team of guys who were not getting paid. This season: Z-Bo PAID, Gasol (PAID). I don't what a rich Zach Randolph on my team. I just don't.
Boston Celtics - This team is done. Rondo is disgruntled. Allen was beginning to look washed up two years ago. Paul Pierce was terrible in the playoffs last year against a team/player (Heat/LeBron) he usually thrives again. KG has no legs. Jeff Green's heart doesn't work. And still ... this team is picked to be in the top of the East somewhere after the Heat and Bulls. I think there is a legit shot this team doesn't make the playoffs. Mark my words.
New York Knicks - It's no secret that I think Carmelo is junk. So take this with a grain of salt, but I think that after the Melo trade last year, this team legitimately sucked. I think that Amare and Carmelo don't complement each other at all. People seem to think that Fat Baron Davis still has some games left in him. I don't. I don't think the players like D'Antoni or their Donnie Walsh. I think they'll make the playoffs, but they are certainly not contenders as many believe them to be this year.
Philadelphia 76ers - Like Memphis, they made a nice little run last year. Where in the playoffs, played decent against the Heat. Like Memphis unfortunately, some guys got paid this year (Thaddeus Young). I think young teams like this once they get a little taste of success lose their scrappyness. This team was scrappy this year. I think it's gone this year. I don't like Igoudala. Also, Doug Collins has the reputation as somebody who has a great first year with a new team and is fired within the next two season. I can't see anyway this turns out any differenly.
Minnesota Timberwolves - I never thought I'd say this ... but I like the Wolves. I think Rubio is going to be great for this team. Kevin Love seems to have become a better rebounding version of Memo Okur (RIP). I have had a man crush on Wesley Johnson since he was trying to avoid eye contact with Bernie Fine at Syracuse. B-Easy can score. Darko is tall and servicable. BOLD PREDICTION: 8th seed - Minnesota Timberwolves. There. I said it.
Milwaukee Bucks - I think we get a good/healthy year out of Andrew Bogut this year. That will make most of the difference. However, I love what GM John Hammond has done. I think Stephen Jackson is perfect fit on this team (underrated defender/great shooter). I love Mike Dunleavy for them ( needed change of scenery, place he could become a playmaker). Then they surrounded those guys with good defenders. Bucks ... also in the playoffs.
New Jersey Nets - I think Deron is going to have vengeful season this year. He has two legit shooters to throw it out to (Morrow/Stevenson). He has been reunited with his pick-n-pop partner Memo Okur. He has a scrappy rebounder (Humphries) who can share Kim Kardashian stories. Nice backup PG's to spell him. Most importantly I think he has the chip back in his shoulder. I think he wants to go out and prove that he is the best PG in the game. The Nets will be the 8th seed in the East this year. Bang.
Sacramento Kings - The Jimmer is going to be fun. I really want the Kings to sign AK so that they can officially become my 2nd favorite team to watch this year. I like the Jimmer, Isiah Thomas rotation at point. Isiah I think is going to be phenom in terms of popularity with the fans. He owned the Jimmer Jam in Provo last summer. I like the JJ Hickson additon. I think DeMarcus Cousins is going to breakout this year. I think the Kings will compete for the playoffs early in the year before falling off considerably. BOLD PREDICTION: Jimmer Fredette wins ROY. (Chances I regret saying that in about 4 months? 95%.)
Washington Wizards - I am frisky on the Wiz this year. Wall, Jordan Crawford, Nick Young, Jan Vessely (hustle, lob guy), Javale McGee (block and lob guy). Sign me up. They have done a nice job of surrounding Wall with shooters and guys who can catch passes up at the rim. I don't think they make the playoffs, but they will be tough. I think this team makes the playoffs if you switch Wall with Derrick Rose. Wall just might be the poorman's Derrick Rose.
The UTAH JAZZ
The Jazz are not going to be good this year. They are too young. The veterans that they do have don't fit the season. This is going to be a growing pain year. This team will have a Top 10 pick in next years draft (which is loaded). This team is not going to win often. It's going to be fun though.
With the trade of Mehmet Okur (RIP) to the Nets. It appears that the Jazz have embraced a full-on rebuild for the first time since perhaps they traded away Adrian Dantley in 1986. Derrick Favors is going to be the guy. CJ Miles I think is going to have his best season. Jeremy Evans will be fun. Gordon Hayward I think is going to have repeat of last year (slow start, strong finish), Alec Burks is going to be a phenom once he gets comfortable (see: Gordon Hayward). Jazz fans will have fun losing this year because it is going to be awesome watching this team develop.
Jefferson is the next to get traded by the way. KOC I think is going to pull a shrewd move and move Jefferson to a desperate team for a 1st round pick. (I see the Rockets as the likely place). Then the rebuilding will completely be in full swing.
The only thing that scares me: I think Raja Bell plays 30 minutes a night. Yikes.
1. Miami Heat 1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Chicago Bulls 2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Atlanta Hawks 3. Portland Trailblazers
4. NY Knicks 4. LA Clippers
5. Indiana Pacers 5. LA Lakers
6. Milwaukee Bucks 6. Denver Nuggets
7. Orlando Magic 7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. New Jersey Nets 8. Minnesota Timberwolves
Heat over Nets in 5
Thunder over Timberwolves in 4
Chicago over Magic in 6
Mavericks over Grizzlies in 7
Hawks over Bucks in 6
Blazers over Nuggets in 7
Knicks over Pacers in 6
Clippers over Lakers in 7
Heat over Knicks in 6
Thunder over Clippers in 7 (GREAT SERIES)
Chicago over Hawks in 5
Mavericks over Blazers in 5
Heat over Bulls in 7
Thunder over Mavericks in 6
Heat over Thunder in 5
Friday, December 16, 2011
Things looked up though. The Jazz received the 6th pick in the draft which Kevin O'Connor brilliantly parlayed into the 3rd pick giving the Jazz their pick of either Chris Paul or Deron Williams. They also drafted early in the second-round a promising shooting guard that was being targeted by the San Antonio Spurs by the name of C.J. Miles. The subsequent Rocky Mountain Review (R.I.P.) gave us our first glimpses of the future. It was the Jazz's Stark Expo.
The season began against the Dallas Mavericks. Dirk was there, so was Devin Harris, and a young wing player out of Wake Forest: Josh Howard. Keith McLeod started this game. The Jazz were electrified by the entrance late in the 1st quarter by their star rookie Deron Williams who ended the game 18 points including a half-time buzzer beating heave from half court. It seemed that the future had arrived. The Jazz beat the Mavericks that night.
But it was not so. Jerry Sloan stuck to starting Keith McLeod who continued to look worse and worse compared to his backup rookie. Then Sloan started Williams ... at shooting guard, and began playing the legendary Captain Crunch: Milt Palacio. Things went grey in Jazzland. Deron began to fume at Sloan, setting the stage for a battle that would last 6 years, his play diminished. His playing time too. Keith McLeod remained. During a game late in the season against rival Chris Paul and the Hornets, McLeod and Palacio (what? This still makes no sense) had a disappointing first half (one in a long series). Sloan went with Deron to start the second half. The rest was history. At the time I believed that Keith McLeod was history as well. The Jazz went a run after Deron started at PG, falling just short of the post season. Things again were looking up.
The Jazz seemed poised for greatness. A young roster. Another great draft pulling in Ronnie Brewer who looked dynamic during a great Rocky Mountain Review (R.I.P.), Dee Brown, and the little known Paul Millsap.Then something curious happened. Keith McLeod was traded. It made sense, until it was revealed that the trade was for Derek Fisher. It didn't make sense. Why pull in a veteran PG making a lot of money when we had the PG of the future on the cheap right now? Either way the season looked promising. Sophmore C.J. looked to be the starter at SG, Brewer looked poised for an All-Rookie team run. Then the Jazz coaching staff pulled another curious move. They pulled C.J. from the starting lineup after he had started hot and then gone cold, and gave all the SG minutes to Derek Fisher. This is curious for one reason. Derek Fisher is 6'0 and is not a SG. The rest of the minutes went to basically useless veteran Gordan Giricek who was curiously not traded to this point despite his poor play, fighting with Sloan, and routine smoking breaks during timeouts and half times. Nevertheless the Jazz had a successful season, making all the way to the Western Conference Finals.
Again the future looked bright. And it was. For four years. Brewer developed nicely. Millsap became a beast. Deron became the best PG in the league, and Memo was Memo. Then the Chicago game happened. And it all fell apart. It was time for the Jazz to start over. The seemed poised to do so.
They received Derrick Favors from New Jersey, Gordon Hayward developed at the end of his rookie year as a legit scorer and playmaker. The Jazz had exciting second rounder Jeremy Evans, and then drafted big-man Enes Kanter and swingman Alec Burks in the lottery. It seemed that the Jazz had fully embraced the OKC Thunder model and were going to let their young core develop together and hopefully create another golden age of Jazz basketball.
Then a name appeared. A name I hadn't heard in a very long time. A name I thought I would never hear again. Keith McLeod. This didn't make sense. Why here? Why now? Old demons filled my brain.Visions of Deron Williams sitting grumpily on the bench. Still, McLeod doesn't have a guranteed deal. Even if he made the team it would be as a 3rd stringer. Still I couldn't shake the feeling that this was a bad omen. However I remained steadfast in my faith that the Jazz were committed to letting our young guys play and develop like the Thunder had done with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Harden. I ignored Jamal Tinsley, a minor blip on the rader, a strange blip, but just a blip.Word began trickling out of Jazz camp that Raja Bell was impressing. THE Raja Bell. My mouth was beginning to go dry. Surely Corbin wouldn't play that corpse instead of Burks, Hayward, or C.J.?
Then for the 1,000 time in my Jazzfan career, something curious happened. Something curious indeed. The Jazz signed Josh Howard. Yes. That Josh Howard. The Jazz Howard who admitted to smoking marijuana live on SportsCenter, the Josh Howard who was once too hungover to play a game for the Dallas Mavericks, the Josh Howard who couldn't tolerate standing for the National Anthem, the Josh Howard who had barely played any games in the past few years. This Josh Howard. I have seen this before. I can see Burks and Hayward sitting sourly on the bench and Bell and Howard struggle to defend or score points. I see Corbin losing his young players. I see the Jazz relying too much on their "trusty veterans". I see mediocrity.
I see the ghost of Keith McLeod. It should haunt you as it does me.