Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hawks Success Good For Atlanta, Good For The NBA

Atlanta Hawks
Projected Finish: 50-32
There are a certain group of teams, I have always referred to as "Toxic Franchises." These teams find themselves most often in the NBA Draft Lottery, and usually ending up with the eleventh or twelfth selection. They may for a time period make the playoffs, but they are usually eliminated in the first round. They are never close to winning anything. You know the teams I am referring to; the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, (sorry to our buddies at 3 Shades of Blue but unfortunately true) Charlotte Bobcats.
Every once in a while a team gets to climb out of that primordial ooze, and become legitimate contenders. I covered the Cleveland Cavaliers in both phases. Before the arrival of the "Chosen One" you could hear the squeak of the players' sneakers in the nose bleed seats. When providence shined down on the Cavaliers, and they drafted LeBron James they had instant credibility.
The Hawks have gone around the task in another way, building around a free agent young star in Joe Johnson and then augmenting him with the NBA Draft, and trades. Still not sure whether Bibby is a good fit for this team, short or long term. The Hawks did not deserve to make the playoffs with their horrible season record. But they showed they belonged by taking the eventual NBA Champions Boston Celtics to seven games. The Hawks have arrived!
You know that old saying "I hate to say I told you so?" It's a lie! We love to say I told you so! It validates our beliefs, it tells not only ourselves but others, we know what we are saying. It gives us credibility, especially important to those of us who are in the media. I want you to trust what I am writing, that there is knowledge behind the words you see on your screen. That's how I gain your trust, and your loyalty. My credibility is my greatest asset, it served me well as I traversed the locker rooms of Cleveland's three professional sports teams. It allowed me to ask questions from athletes, that other reporters were afraid to ask. That trust does not come quickly, it must be earned.
Although it is still extremely early in the young NBA campaign, so far Atlanta has validated my faith in them. If you have not been following the standings, the Hawks have started out the season 6-0 as of this writing. Atlanta will take on the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, and that streak could very well end. However if it does, it still does not diminish what they have done to open their season. The Hawks are once again a viable NBA franchise, making Atlanta a viable NBA market.
Most of the early success is due to three players, shooting guard Joe Johnson, big man Al Horford, and veteran point guard Mike Bibby. Although I was unsure if Bibby was willing to buy into head coach Mike Woodson's game plan so far he has. Johnson is already an All-Star in the Association, and Horford is one in the making. Add forward Josh Smith , and Flip Murray who seems re-energized coming off the bench, the Hawks play tough every night.
Atlanta will not stay this hot all season. I think my preseason prediction of 50-32 will prove to be pretty accurate. But Atlanta has taken a moribund franchise and turned it into an exciting team. The person who is probably most excited about that fact is NBA Commissioner David Stern. He realizes that the stronger each individual team is, the stronger the Association as a whole will be.
There has been a whole lot of speculation about where Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James will end up in 2010 since the end of last season. Do you know what team NBA Commissioner Stern wants LBJ to sign with? The Cleveland Cavaliers, because if he doesn't you might as well sell the team, and shut down the Q Arena. The Cavaliers will never draw a single fan if LBJ leaves the team. The Cavaliers brain-trust knows it, as does the Commissioner. If LeBron James leaves Cleveland, the Cavaliers will be headed to Seattle. And truthfully, I don't know if Cleveland sports fans could maintain their sanity.
A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. The fact that the link that resides in Atlanta has gotten stronger is good for Atlanta, and good for the NBA.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Checking In With TSC

As if my life did not have enough complications; now I have a buddy who just took over operations of a NBA franchise. Rather than try to explain it myself, I'll give the floor over to the latest power broker in the NBA Kyle Slavin from The Second Coming:

Greetings, Readers!
We have some exciting news; someone has given TSC run of an NBA franchise! The Second Coming goes through all the rules and processes that any NBA owner should keep in mind. Don't alienate the fans, keep the players motivated, and have a little fun while you're at it.
A must read for any NBA game regular, this one is sure to make you laugh out of your price-inflated seat!
Thanks for keeping up with The Second Coming. We have some exciting changes coming in the future! As always, read, comment, and enjoy.

Cheers, and take care.
Kyle Slavin,
Writer, Creator
The Second Coming.
You can check out Kyle's plans for his new team at The Big Announcement - A Franchise of My Very Own.
Now Kyle, you are hereby on notice! Just because we are buds, don't expect the Sackman, to cut you any slack. When you do well, I'll sing your praises to the heavens. When you do badly... well just ask Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry, who I have known since his playing days! Check out all the fun at The Second Coming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Checking In With TSC

The Second Coming run by our buddy Kyle Slavin is quickly turning into one of my routine stops as I surf the Internet. Kyle has a very unique perspective on the NBA, and he is guaranteed to entertain, educate, and inform, you! In my book any NBA website that can do that is definitely worth frequenting. Kyle's latest article is entitled; Stories to Love: The 2008-09 NBA Season.

Here's a taste:

The NBA’s history is like a Rolodex. Flip to a year, and you know exactly what’s on that card. The cards are titled by champions, and cross-referenced by their storyline. Dynasties are color-coated for easy reference. Facts about strong teams exist only for comparison, and losers are forgotten forever.

But, for each of those seasons - for each card - there were over 1,500 games played: opening games, Christmas Day games, conference finals, all forgotten about. Almost all of the great stories must have been swept under the carpet…we simply don’t have the cranial square footage to keep the information. There is no longer talk about the magical night a no-name scored 50 points, or the underdog caught fire and beat the favorite in overtime. Superhuman efforts and improbable moments have been lost. Sadly, inevitably, the memory fades under the weight of large numbers, as the games begin to pile upon themselves.

Kyle goes on to tell the stories that may make the Rolodex card for the 2008-2009 . Check out the entire article at The Second Coming.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NBA Preview; Southeast Division

Orlando Magic
Coach: Stan Van Gundy
Projected Finish: 53-29
Projected Starters
C – Dwight Howard (14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
PF – Rashard Lewis (4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
SF – Hedo Turkoglu (30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg)
SG – Mickael Pietrus (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PG – Jameer Nelson (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.3 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Keith Bogans
F/C - Tony Battie
This team proved the critics wrong last year who said that they could not play with both Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu in the starting lineup. Neither player is close to being a power forward, and in may ways have the same skill set. But when you have arguably the best center currently playing in the Association in that same lineup in Howard, one can get away from a traditional lineup. Two big questions remain; Does "The Batman" veteran power forward Tony Battie have anything left in the tank? The other question is have Cleveland and Philadelphia now surpassed Orlando in the Eastern Conference pecking order?

Atlanta Hawks
Coach: Mike Woodson
Projected Finish: 50-32
Projected Starters
C – Al Horford (10.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
PF – Josh Smith (17.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.8 bpg)
SF – Marvin Williams (14.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 apg)
SG – Joe Johnson (21.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.8 apg)
PG – Mike Bibby (13.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.0 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Acie Law
G/F - Maurice Evans
There are a certain group of teams, I have always referred to as "Toxic Franchises." These teams find themselves most often in the NBA Draft Lottery, and usually ending up with the eleventh or twelfth selection. They may for a time period make the playoffs, but they are usually eliminated in the first round. They are never close to winning anything. You know the teams I am referring to; the Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, (sorry to our buddies at 3 Shades of Blue but unfortunately true) Charlotte Bobcats.

Every once in a while a team gets to climb out of that primordial ooze, and become legitimate contenders. I covered the Cleveland Cavaliers in both phases. Before the arrival of the "Chosen One" you could hear the squeak of the players' sneakers in the nose bleed seats. When providence shined down on the Cavaliers, and they drafted LeBron James they had instant credibility. The Hawks have gone around the task in another way, building around a free agent young star in Joe Johnson and then augmenting him with the NBA Draft, and trades. Still not sure whether Bibby is a good fit for this team, short or long term. The Hawks did not deserve to make the playoffs with their horrible season record. But they showed they belonged by taking the eventual NBA Champions Boston Celtics to seven games. The Hawks have arrived!

Miami Heat
Coach: Erik Spoelestra
Projected Finish: 46-36
Projected Starters
C – Udonis Haslem (12.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
PF – Michael Beasley (Rookie)
SF – Shawn Marion (15.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SG – Dwyane Wade (24.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 6.9 apg)
PG – Mario Chalmers (Rookie)
Key Reserves
G - Chris Quinn
G- Shaun Livingston
C - Mark Blount
Yes, I am well aware of how the Miami Heat played last season. Yes, I realize that a lot of NBA prediction columns are putting the Heat dead last. Yes, I realize that outside of Mark Blount, they have no true center, and their starting lineup is unconventional to say the least. But look at the talent! D-Wade being back healthy will add easily another 10-15 wins from last season's "lost season." Watch out for Miami, they will surprise a lot of folks.

Washington Wizards
Coach: Eddie Jordan
Projected Finish: 44-38
Projected Starters
C – Etan Thomas (6.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
PF – Antawn Jamison (21.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SF – Caron Butler (20.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4.9 apg)
SG – DeShawn Stevenson (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PG – Antonio Daniels (8.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.8 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Juan Dixon
G - Nick Young
The greatest team that almost was? The Washington Wizards should have at least made the Eastern Conference Finals by now with all that talent. Injuries, however have made the team a first round victim three years straight. Agent Zero again has problems with the knee that has plagued him for the last two seasons. The window of opportunity is closing quickly.

Charlotte Bobcats
Coach: Larry Brown
Projected Finish: 37-45
Projected Starters
C – Emeka Okafor (13.8 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg)
PF – Sean May (11.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg)
SF – Gerald Wallace (19.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG – Jason Richardson (21.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PG – Raymond Felton (14.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.4 apg)
Key Reserves
C - Nazr Mohammed
F - Adam Morrison
The question now becomes will Brown turn the Bobcats around and get them into the post season, before his insecurities, and ego have him looking for a new home? No one will ever deny at Larry Brown is one of the best game day coaches of his generation. However because of those inner demons, he keeps on running. Brown has the goods with the Bobcats to make the team a contender. Two young stars in Wallace and J-Rich, a more than serviceable point guard in Felton. And a player who has truly never lived up to his potential in Okafor. Does Brown make him a power forward instead of a center, something Emeka is probably more suited for? One thing for sure with Brown, you will never be bored!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Checking In With TSC

Our buddy Kyle Slavin over at The Second Coming has some very intriguing personnel changes in his latest article NBA Tip-Off: 5 Trades That Should Happen. Here is a taste;

1. Jamal Crawford ($8.6m till 2011) for Raja Bell ($5m till 2010) and Grant Hill ($1.9 till 2009)

Fact: David Lee should not be the first Knick on the trading block. The dude could be an All-Star. He is young, healthy, ambitious, and would be willing to share the spotlight with LeBron or whoever they sign in 2010. Besides, he might be the best white American in the NBA, he’s playing in NYC, and I dig that. You do too, don’t lie.

Furthermore, I have long believed that Jamal Crawford needs to play for a west coast team with a killer point guard. I saw him when he scored 51 points, and the kid is the perfect running mate for Steve Nash. Can’t you see it? Amare and Shaq clog up the middle, and JC is free for the three. They get a fast break, JC is a finisher. He’s no more of a team killer than Shawn Marion or even Raja Bell. He’d be perfect.

On the flip side, the Knicks get some veteran leadership and some quality production in Grant Hill’s skeleton, and a hard-nosed defender with an attitude in Bell. Let me tell you, Raja Bell has New York written all over him. He’s a little short, sneers, shaves his head, talks a lot of “ish”, and can produce decent numbers. Plus they both come off the books by 2010 and free up some cap room, whereas Crawford would be a holdover for one year with the Potential LeBron before bolting town. Crawford’s absence makes LeBron to NY more of a possibility, as does Lee’s staying in NYC. It’s common sense, but hey, it’s the Knicks. So who knows.

(BTW, I will officially refer to this LeBron-to-NY situation as the “Potential LeBron” from this point forward. It sounds like an Econ 101 term, and the Knicks are playing with his specter for the next two seasons anyways. I like it.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NBA Preview; Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers
Coach: Phil Jackson
Projected Finish: 58-24
Projected Starters
C – Andrew Bynum (13.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
PF – Pau Gasol (18.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
SF – Vladimir Radmanovic (8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 apg)
SG – Kobe Bryant (28.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.4 apg)
PG – Derek Fisher (11.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.9 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Sasha Vujacic
F - Lamar Odom
F - Trevor Ariza
It is truly scary how much depth Los Angeles has. The only two legitimate threats they should have of representing the Western Conference again in the NBA Finals are the New Orleans Hornets, and the health of the Lakers team. If Gasol, Bynum, and Kobe can all play at peak performance, it will be a fun ride for the fans at the Staples Center

Phoenix Suns
Coach: Terry Porter
Projected Finish: 53-29
Projected Starters
C – Shaquille O'Neal (13.6 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.4 bpg)
PF – Amare Stoudemire (25.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
SF – Grant Hill (13.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.9 apg)
SG – Raja Bell (11.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PG – Steve Nash (16.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 11.1 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Leandro Barbosa
F - Boris Diaw
I am going to pose the same question I have had since I first heard the announcement; what prompted the Phoenix Suns Team Owner Robert Sarver to hire Steve Kerr as General Manager? The Suns are now without Mike D'Antoni, and Shawn Marion, instead they have Terry Porter and Shaquille O'Neal. The decline starts this season.

Golden State Warriors
Coach: Don Nelson
Projected Finish: 49-33
Projected Starters
C – Andris Biedrins (10.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
PF – Al Harrington (13.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 apg)
SF – Corey Maggettee (22.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.7 apg)
SG – Stephen Jackson (20.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.1 apg)
PG – Marcus Williams (5.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.6 apg)
Key Reserves
F - Ronny Turiaf
G - Monta Ellis
Monta, Monta, Monta! Oh what you have done! Not only does Ellis miss the first two months of the season after his moped escapades, he opens a divide between team ownership and management. Ellis will be suspended without pay while he rehabs, a move Chris Mullin Warriors General Manager was against. You can never count out a Don Nelson team, but right now Golden State is a ship without a rudder.

Los Angeles Clippers
Coach: Mike Dunleavy
Projected Finish: 35-47
Projected Starters
C – Chris Kaman (15.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 0.6 bpg)
PF – Marcus Camby (9.1 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 3.6 bpg)
SF – Al Thornton (12.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SG – Eric Gordon (Rookie)
PG – Baron Davis (21.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 7.6 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Ricky Davis
F/C - Brian Skinner
Mike Dunleavy loves to come off as victimized. He still can't stop whining about losing Elton Brand. This team could be a lot better than the record I have predicted for them. Lots of "ifs" though, if Chris Kaman truly had a breakout year last season. If Al Thornton, shows more of what he showed in his rookie year. If Baron Davis and Dunleavy can maintain a good relationship. If Eric Gordon can have a good rookie campaign.

Sacramento Kings
Coach: Reggie Theus
Projected Finish: 30-52
Projected Starters
C – Brad Miller (13.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
PF – Mikki Moore (8.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.6 bpg)
SF – John Salmons (12.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SG – Kevin Martin (23.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg)
PG – Beno Udrih (12.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.3 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Bobby Jackson
F/G - Francisco Garcia
The Maloof brothers own casinos, you would think they would know better than to let Tru-Warrior call their bluff. The Maloof Boys blinked and Ron Artest is now in Houston. Reggie Theus was a pleasant surprise in his first year as coach. Beno Udrih was the steal of the campaign, and Brad Miller is one of the most underrated centers in the Association. K-Mart will again score a lot of points, but this team is back at square one.

NBA Preview; Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers
Coach: Mike Brown
Projected Finish: 57-25
Projected Starters
C – Zydrunas Ilgauskas (14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
PF – Ben Wallace (4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
SF – LeBron James (30.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 7.2 apg)
SG – Wally Szczerbiak (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 apg)
PG – Mo Williams (17.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.3 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Delonte West
F - Anderson Varejao
G - Daniel Gibson
This team is better than the team that went to the NBA Finals in 2007. Cleveland General Manager Danny Ferry finally addressed the team's deficiencies in the back court with the acquisition of Mo Williams. Do not be surprised to eventually see two changes eventually in the starting lineup. A back court of West and Williams will be the Cavaliers future, with Gibson as sixth man. If all is truly forgiven between Varejao and Cleveland, he will eventually be the starting power forward on this team.

Detroit Pistons
Coach: Michael Curry
Projected Finish: 54-28
Projected Starters
C – Rasheed Wallace (12.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg)
PF – Amir Johnson (3.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.5 bpg)
SF – Tayshaun Prince (13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.3 apg)
SG – Richard Hamilton (17.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.2 apg)
PG – Chauncey Billups (17.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 6.8 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Rodney Stuckey
F - Antonio McDyess
F - Jason Maxiell
I can not tell you how many e-mails I have received, telling me not to overlook Detroit. Does this look like I am over looking the Pistons? However, by standing still they are now looking up at Cleveland as the new power in the NBA Central Division.

Indiana Pacers
Coach: Jim O'Brien
Projected Finish: 46-36
Projected Starters
C – Jeff Foster (6.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 0.7 bpg)
PF – Troy Murphy (12.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.2 apg)
SF – Mike Dunleavy (19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG – Danny Granger (19.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.1 apg)
PG – T.J. Ford (12.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 6.1 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Jarrett Jack
G - Brandon Rush
C - Roy Hibbert
C - Rasho Nesterovic
I like what Larry Bird has done with this team in the off-season. Ford is one of the toughest players in the Association. The rookies will help become the core of a good young team. Shawne Williams gone, and Tinsley surely soon to follow, this team will be going places.

Chicago Bulls
Coach: Vinny Del Negro
Projected Finish: 40-42
Projected Starters
C – Joakim Noah (6.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
PF – Drew Gooden (12.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 0.8 bpg)
SF – Luol Deng (17.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SG – Kirk Hinrich (11.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.0 apg)
PG – Derrick Rose (Rookie)
Key Reserves
G - Ben Gordon
F - Andres Nocioni
G - Larry Hughes
Vinny Del Negro? As coach? Why? Is John Paxson after a promising start at the helm of the Bulls turning into a clone of his brother Jim, one of the worst General Managers in the history of the Association? Hughes, hurt yet again, Rookie Rose also injured. Very strange mix of players, seems transient, does Paxson have a deal in the works?

Milwaukee Bucks
Coach: Scott Skiles
Projected Finish: 32-50
Projected Starters
C – Andrew Bogut (14.3 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 0.8 bpg)
PF – Charlie Villanueva (11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.5 bpg)
SF – Richard Jefferson (22.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg)
SG – Michael Redd (22.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.4 apg)
PG – Luke Ridnour (6.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 4.0 apg)
Key Reserves
G - Charlie Bell
G - Joe Alexander
New Bucks General Manager John Hammond and new coach Scott Skiles have their work cut out for them with this rebuild project. How will Jefferson, who last year became the number one option for the Nets deal with being at least second, after Redd. He might be third option after Bogut.

Monday, October 27, 2008

NBA Preview; Northwest Division

Utah Jazz
Coach: Jerry Sloan
Projected Finish: 57-25
Projected Starters
C – Mehmut Okur (14.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
PF – Carlos Boozer (21.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 0.5 bpg)
SF – Andrei Kirilenko (11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG – Ronnie Brewer (12.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg)
PG – Deron Williams (18.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 10.5 apg)
Key Reserves
F- Paul Milsap (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.0 apg)
F- C.J. Miles (5.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.9 apg)
Deron Williams will start the season on the injured list, but should be back after the first two or three regular season games. They have two Team USA members in Boozer and Williams, plus the always dangerous Andrei Kirilenko. Amazingly Jerry Sloan's message never gets old, even though he is the longest tenured coach in the Association.

Portland Trail Blazers
Coach: Nate McMillan
Projected Finish: 50-32
Projected Starters
C – Greg Oden (DNP injury)
PF – LaMarcus Aldridge (17.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
SF –Travis Outlaw (13.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.3 apg)
SG –Brandon Roy (19.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.8 apg)
PG – Steve Blake (8.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 5.1 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Jerryd Bayless (Rookie)
C- Joel Przybilla ( 4.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
They were the "feel good" story of the first half of last season, before fading down the stretch and missing the playoffs. A healthy Greg Oden, along with rookies Bayless, Sergio Rodriguez, and Nicolas Batum should give the Blazers a much better end result this season.

Denver Nuggets
Coach: George Karl
Projected Finish: 48-34
Projected Starters
C – Nene (5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.3 bpg)
PF – Kenyon Martin (12.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
SF – Carmelo Anthony (25.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 3.4 apg)
SG – Allen Iverson (26.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 7.1 apg)
PG – Anthony Carter (7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.5 apg)
Key Reserves
F/G - Linas Kleiza (11.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg. 1.2 apg)
G- J.R. Smith (12.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg)
The Denver Nuggets are a team that may be heading on the downward slope of the NBA mountain. This team has some major issues. When times are going good, you can not find a better teammate than A.I. However when things turn sour, Iverson's attitude usually does also. Nene is recovering from cancer, K-Mart has had an attitude since playing for Bobby Huggins. Carmelo looked like he would end up in another city, at the beginning of the Summer. Team management assured Anthony, and his agent no move would be made this season. Unlike Utah's Jerry Sloan, George Karl's message does get lost after a few seasons. Milwaukee, and Seattle can attest to that.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Coach: P.J. Carlesimo
Projected Finish: 24-58
Projected Starters
C – Nick Collison (9.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 0.8bpg)
PF – Chris Wilcox (13.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.6 bpg)
SF – Jeff Green (10.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.5 apg)
SG – Kevin Durant (20.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.4 apg)
PG – Earl Watson (10.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 6.8 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Russell Westbrook (Rookie)
F/C- Johan Petro (6.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 0.6 bpg)
Could somebody please tell David Stern OKC is not in the Northwest? "The Team Formerly Known As The Seattle SuperSonics" have a lot of young talent on their roster. However it will take some time for them to become a cohesive unit. P.J. Carlesimo may not be the right coach to take this group to the next level.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Coach: Randy Wittman
Projected Finish: 22-60
Projected Starters
C – Al Jefferson (21.0 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 1.5 bpg)
PF – Kevin Love (Rookie)
SF – Ryan Gomes (12.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SG – Mike Miller (16.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 3.4 apg)
PG – Randy Foye (13.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.2 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Sebastain Telfair (9.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 5.9 apg)
G/F-Corey Brewer (5.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.4 apg)
Anoter team where the individual pieces are greater than the combined sum. There is talent on the T-Wolves roster, as they head into year two of the post Garnett era. Love will bust his tail, Miller is a talent, but again this is a long term project not an over night success story. Randy Wittman, is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, but he is not a head coach. He would have problems leading people out of a phone booth.

NBA Preview; Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
Coach: Doc Rivers
Projected Finish: 60-22
Projected Starters
C – Kendrick Perkins (6.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.5bpg)
PF – Kevin Garnett (18.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.2bpg)
SF – Paul Pierce (19.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.5 apg)
SG – Ray Allen (17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.1 apg)
PG – Rajon Rondo (10.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 5.1 apg)
Key Reserves
G-Eddie House (7.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.9 apg)
F-Leon Powe (7.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.3 bpg)
The reigning NBA Champs are still the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They will miss the defense and clutch shooting of James Posey, who signed a free agent contract with the New Orleans Hornets. Boston is helping that rookie swing man Bill Walker can help fill the void that Posey's absence has created.

Philadelphia 76ers
Coach: Mo Cheeks
Projected Finish: 52-30
Projected Starters
C –Samuel Dalembert (10.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.3 bpg)
PF – Elton Brand (17.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 1.9 bpg)
SF –Thaddeus Young (8.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.8 apg)
SG –Andre Iguodala (19.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 4.8 apg)
PG – Andre Miller (17.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 6.9 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Louis Williams ( 11.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.2 apg)
C- Theo Ratliff ( 4.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg)
The acquisition of forward Elton Brand, has made the Sixers the hot pick in the East for the upcoming season. Questions on center Samuel Dalembert's health remain an issue, as he has a shoulder strain which has bothered him all preseason. Theo Ratliff is incredibly happy to be back in Philadelphia, but what does he have left in the tank? The Sixers challenged the Detroit Pistons big time in the first round of the Eastern Conference Finals. The addition of Brand now puts them in elite staus in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto Raptors
Coach: Sam Mitchell
Projected Finish: 48-34
Projected Starters
C – Jermaine O'Neal (13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
PF – Chris Bosh (22.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
SF – Jamario Moon (8.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SG – Anthony Parker (12.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PG – Jose Calderon (11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 8.3 apg)
Key Reserves
C/F- Andrea Bargnani (10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg. 0.5 bpg)
F- Kris Humphries (5.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
The Raptors decided that Jose Calderon, would be their team's starting point guard, so T.J. Ford proved to be expendable. In a trade that should help both teams Toronto traded Ford to the Indiana Pacers for disgruntled big man Jermaine O'Neal. O'Neal should be part of a very strong front court alongside Chris Bosh. Calderon, and Anthony Parker, make up for one of the better back courts in the Association. With Bargnani coming off the bench Sam Mitchell has instant offense coming off the bench.

New Jersey Nets
Coach: Lawrence Frank
Projected Finish: 30-52
Projected Starters
C – Josh Boone (8.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
PF – Yi Jianlian (8.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.9 bpg)
SF – Bobby Simmons (7.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 apg)
SG – Vince Carter (21.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 5.1 apg)
PG – Derin Harris (10.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.7 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Keyon Dooling (8.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.8 apg)
F/C- Stromile Swift (6.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.0 bpg)
The New Jersey Nets remind me of one of my favorite bits from the Late Great George Carlin. He talked about discovering something in your refrigerator that you could not identify. Is it meat or is it cake? It's meat-cake! The Nets are not a contending team, nor really a rebuilding team, they are meat-cake. It will be a long cold winter at the Izod Center.

New York Knicks
Coach: Mike D'Antoni
Projected Finish: 27-55
Projected Starters
C – Zach Randolph (17.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 0.2 bpg)
PF – David Lee (10.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.4 bpg)
SF – Quentin Richardson (8.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.8 apg)
SG – Chris Duhon (5.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 4.0 apg)
PG – Jamal Crawford (20.6 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 5.0 apg)
Key Reserves
G- Nate Robinson (12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.9 apg)
G- Stephon Marbury (13.9 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.7 apg)
The good news is the New York Knicks may have already bottomed out. The bad news is it may take eons for this team to reach sea level. The "Zeke Era" is over in Gotham but it is going to take Team President Donnie Walsh, and new head coach Mike D'Antoni, lots of time and lots of effort to make the Knicks respectable again. Starting lineup is still in flux, Marbury could end up being the starter at point. If you look at the Knicks as individual players, there is talent on the roster. But when it is combined they become one of the most dysfunctional families in the Association.