As you all know by now, I live for the NBA.
Even though David Stern disappointed me by handed over the commissioning reins of his league to Adam Silver instead of me, I’m not bitter, even though I was just as qualified. I mean, I’m geeky, Jewish, a huge basketball fan and have no hair. Besides, if Roger Goodell can commission a league, so can I.
While I’m looking forward to another competitive year in the NBA, I’m not entirely convinced this season will hold much intrigue. Unlike the NFL and Major League Baseball, so much of the basketball season just seems like a foregone conclusion. Therefore I thought I’d put together a list of surefire predictions bound to come true for the 2015-16 NBA season.
Shelve the crystal ball, sports fans. These are no-brainers.
LEBRON AND THE CAVS WILL DOMINATE THE EASTERN CONFERENCE, LOCKING UP AT A MINIMUM A TOP THREE PLAYOFF SEED
Not much to see here. Presuming Kevin Love and Uncle Drew can both stay healthy, the Cavaliers should run through the Eastern Conference with ease. Even if they can’t, LeBron’s talented enough on his own in a relatively weak East to make sure his team finishes well above .500, which is more than enough to make the playoffs. I know he’s a little banged up (his body is finally starting to show some wear) but I’m really hoping we see “Pissed LeBron” this year. You know, the determined LeBron that reminds us why he’s far and away the best player in the league while dunking on people’s heads. Despite his excellence, this is why many fringe NBA fans find the regular season anti-climactic. We know the Cavs will be there in the end so why sit through 82 otherwise meaningless games to prove it? It’s like the intentional walk in baseball. Just get it over with already. There might be a few challenges to their dominance here and there, them losing a game they clearly should have won but come June, in a seven-game playoff series, their talent in the East will win out. Book it.
CARMELO ANTHONY WILL LEAGUE THE LEAGUE IN FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS AND THE KNICKS WILL ONCE AGAIN BE MEDIOCRE AT BEST
What are we to make of these Knicks? Fortunately, New Yorkers will still be on a high from the Mets making the World Series so they might be slightly more willing to ease up on a team that hasn’t won a title in over forty years. Now, to the real problem at hand: Carmelo Anthony has never averaged more than four assists a game. Even the league’s most notorious chuckers have stumbled upon an assist every now and then so why can’t ‘Melo? If the Knicks want to be legit, Carmelo will have to average more than four assists. That’s the bottom line. I’m just not sure he has it in him. Knicks coach Derek Fisher may have to teach his star player what an assist is, that is when he’s not fist-fighting with Matt Barnes about who slept with whose wife. Ah, the Knicks, a reality TV show all their own. But back to ‘Melo. Anybody who has ever seen him play expects him to shoot first and not defend later. That’s what he’s getting paid millions to do. But he’ll have to shoot better than 47% from the floor, which is something he hasn’t done the last seven seasons. He must learn how to play efficiently. He also might want to get that Porzingis kid involved. So those are my two numbers on the season. If Carmelo can average more than four assists a game and shoot 47% from the floor, the Knicks will turn some heads. If he doesn’t, they’ll turn heads… in the opposite direction, for the Knicks will once again be unwatchable.
KOBE BRYANT WILL SHOW HIS FRUSTRATION IN A DIFFICULT WESTERN CONFERENCE, MISSING THE PLAYOFFS AND CAUSING HIM TO FLIRT WITH RETURNING FOR ANOTHER YEAR
It seems we say this ever year but man, the West is more stacked than a night out with at the Bunny Ranch with Lamar Odom. This is supposed to be Kobe Bryant’s last season but who knows. I’d say the likelihood of him pulling a Brett Favre is pretty high. I’m sure the desire to tie Michael with six rings still burns inside but his body, which has now played 19 full seasons (Kareem played 20), is breaking down. The Lakers do have young talent that’s waiting for the old man to retire before they can ask to shoot the basketball. I’m just not sure how many of them Kobe has introduced himself to yet. Before going down to injury mid-season last year, Kobe was shooting 37% from the floor, a career low. If Kobe’s ego can grasp that his body can no longer do the things it once did AND if he can learn to trust his teammates, the Lakers can win some ballgames, not many but some. If this season becomes Kobe’s personal quest to see how many points he can score, Byron Scott will have a tough time monitoring his minutes. Regardless of whether Kobe passes on knowledge to the next generation, the Lakers still miss the playoffs leading to an off-season where he and more importantly ownership must determine whether they want him back for one last run at nothing.
THE WESTERN CONFERENCE WILL BE LOADED WITH TEAMS BEATING THE CRAP OUT OF EACH OTHER, MEANING ONE OF TWO REALLY GOOD TEAMS WILL MISS THE PLAYOFFS WHILE A SHITTY TEAM EKES INTO THE EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFFS WELL UNDER .500
Towards the end of last season, Golden State winning a championship became more and more obvious for anyone who was paying attention. This year, if I asked you to choose between Golden State and the field, you’d have to take the field. Last year’s Western Conference saw seven teams win over 50 games. You’re about to see that happen again. There were good teams out West who outright missed the playoffs last season, meanwhile the Nets made it in the East because of the unevenly balanced talent. It’s why the league revisits playoff reseeding every year, which they’ll do again next off-season as the same thing will happen. The NBA won’t budge, however, because that means two Western teams would be playing in the Finals and nobody on the East Coast would watch. Things will ultimately even out and the Eastern Conference will be good again. Although it sure seems like we’ve been saying that for a while now.
KEVIN DURANT AND STEPHEN A. SMITH WILL KISS AND MAKE UP
There was a pretty interesting war of words this off-season between Stephen A. Smith and Kevin Durant. I guess Smith, one of the many mouths that roared at ESPN, got his panties in a wad because Durant said he never talks to Smith, which Smith called a lie considering he’s interviewed him on several occasions. I’m not sure what’s going on with Durant but the good people of Oklahoma City better hope for a peaceful, copacetic season. The former MVP is in a contract year and playing for a new coach with virtually every other team in the league salivating over the chance to offer him a max contract. Smith said on air that Durant doesn’t want to make an enemy out of him, which he doesn’t considering he makes his living in front of a microphone and Durant is a far more subdued and non-confrontational cat. Durant can pour in fifty a night and Smith can still make him out to be a bad apple. Even if Durant does crap the bed this season, which is highly unlikely, he will have a big decision to make at the end of the season. And the fans of Oklahoma City should be very nervous.
THE ROLE OF SECOND BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE IS WIDE OPEN
Speaking of Kevin Durant, there was once a time where he was clearly the second best player in the league, behind obviously LeBron James. These days, I’m not so sure that’s the case. Last year we saw Steph Curry and James Harden duke it out for MVP honors and that doesn’t take into account the pretty incredible seasons that Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook had. Then you have your people who think Chris Paul is the best player. So if you’re a GM drafting a team and LeBron has already been taken, who are you drafting with the second pick? It’s a tough call and an argument can be made for a number of players. Who will step into that role is anyone’s guess but will definitely be fun to watch.
THE BULLS WILL NOT MAKE THE EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Every year, Derrick Rose adds another injury to his brittle, Operation Board of a body that makes us question his durability. This guy’s doctor is working overtime. This preseason, it was an orbital fracture. In fact, Rose hasn’t played a full season since 2010-11, the season he won MVP. He’s either not made for the long haul or incredibly unlucky. The Bulls still have talent with Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol but the question mark of Rose’s health looms over the city of Chicago like a bad Jay Cutler contract. One can’t help but think the Bulls’ window is slowly starting to close. And LeBron’s the one closing it.
THE WASHINGTON WIZARDS WILL BE REALLY GOOD
My favorite young team in the league is the Washington Wizards. They should be yours too. They swept the Raptors out of the playoffs last season and nearly took down the top-seeded Hawks. The Wizards are a perfect example of a rising young team that will eventually be broken up because they won’t be able to beat the Cavs. The Wizards’ back-court combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal is a pleasure to watch in transition. Blink and you’ll miss something. They’re tough down low too with Nene and Marcin Gortat. They have the size and guard play that could at least push the Cavs to the brink, which is about as much as we can ask out of any team in the East. They’ll ultimately lose but they’ll be fun as hell to watch while doing so.
AT ONE POINT DURING THIS SEASON, LAMAR ODOM WILL TAKE A BOW TO A ROUSING OVATION AT STAPLES CENTER
We’ve already discussed how I feel about this. We can move on now.
DWIGHT HOWARD WILL MISS 300 FREE THROWS
This one was pretty easy. After all, Howard has missed that many free throws every year he’s played. Plus he gets to the line a lot and will continue to do so this season. I try to keep an open mind about things but it just baffles me that players who get to the line as frequently as Dwight wouldn’t work on their free throws in the off-season. I mean, wouldn’t you think if you shot 500 free throws a day every day, you’d eventually get somewhat good at it? Not if you’re Dwight. I know the guy really wants to emulate Shaq who also played for Orlando, Los Angeles, has a Superman fetish and couldn’t hit a free throw either but he’ll continue to deal with the Hack-a-Dwight until he shores up the clankability. And it might just end up costing Houston a chance at a championship.
I think we can safely pen (not just pencil) these in. I will look forward to Kobe melting down upon his teammates trying to win a handful of games, LeBron and the Cavs trying to avoid potential injuries on their way to an otherwise inevitable Finals slot…against? As long as it isn’t the Warriors I’m down with anybody else versus Cleveland. I still hold it against Golden State for sending Mark Jackson straight back to his ABC/ESPN analyst chair and making STEVE Kerr look like Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach. I could handle some diva displays from the defending champs.
No more pics of Silver please. He scares the wife and kids (and me too). My NBA prediction is that he won’t look any better handing the trophy to the champs
The Wizards could end up being the surprise team in the East but I expect the Bulls to contend ! Fred Hoiberg is there and the team seems to be playing with a more balanced style. Rose is suddenly realizing he can now defer to the likes of Butler , Noah and Gasol.
Cleveland remains the class of the crop within the East , but I don’t believe they the depth or talent to beat out the best of what the West has to offer. Golden State toyed with them during the NBA Finals last season and it wasn’t even close. Steve Kerr is a damn good coach and the fact year in and year out fans are simply salivating over LeBron rather than looking at the fact David Blatt’s inexperience played a part in the Cavs’ failings is one of the reasons why I don’t believe they can win a title in their present guise. Idiotic decision to even pay Tristan Thompson they money they’re paying when this guy has done little to prove himself in the league much less play at a high level .
Officiating in the NBA still sucks and what Dwight Howard recently got away with in a recent game was intentional assault otherwise known in the league as a flagrant foul (intentionally setting out to harm an opponent -making sure he’s thrown to the ground ?) and the officials having seen the act, did absolutely nothing. That’s the NBA for the fans , I suppose.
Mediocre coaching alongside four or five marquee players and now Adam Stern can continue to stir the pot of fecal matter and urine David Stern sold the fans as a lemon.
The West will continue to be competitive with the ball being played there , far better than anything the East will have to offer. Is anyone really interested or prepared to watch the Lakers all season long ? The team can’t shoot, can’t defend and Kobe Bryant is on his last legs . So who there steps up to the plate when he is not playing well , Clarkson , Randle and dare I say it Roy Hibbert ? Byron Scott must be wishing for the days when he was wearing the nut huggers while playing for the Lakers, rather than coaching the team in their present guise. The Lakers aren’t even the best franchise in the state of California and that is all you need to know apart from it being a damning indictment as to how mediocre they have become .
Mitch Kupchak , Jim Buss and Jeanie Buss are no longer behind the wheels of a Ferrari. Think of the Los Angeles Lakers now as more of beaten up old Dodge Pinto or a crappy Ford Fairlane . Looks good from the outside (Fairlane) until you get behind the wheel and then realize the engine itself is blown.
Stephen A and Skip Bayless …. is there anything else we need to know when these two are on the air ? All the utter crap being espoused and not a drop of common sense ever comes into being. ESPN , putting shining light on bull#hit and a whole lot more . The ESPY’s were a prime sign of that, when Caitlyn Jenner won the award for Courage And Bravery . Several weeks before the sports’ broadcast outlet , did an informative piece on military vets overcoming adversity after suffering horrific injuries to compete in a wide array of athletic endeavors but somehow Jenner gets their award for courage and bravery. I guess none of the military vets in questionm were seen as brave enough to be deserving of the award in ESPN’s judgment ?
Arthur Ashe must be pi#sing and spinning in his grave bearing in mind the award was named after him .
Fair and Balanced and now we have dumb and listless within the world of journalism (sports and otherwise) .
It’s already happened in LA, Burnsy.
Did you see their opener at Minnesota? Lou Williams takes the last shot… and missed. The cameras pan to Kobe who is clearly disappointed with it all.
Would he have made that final shot had he taken it? Perhaps? Should he have taken it in that situation? Again, perhaps.
But these kids are going to have to learn how to win, and lose, so it’s perfectly okay for him not to take every shot ever.
Its how Kobe consoles that kid after a loss that I’d like to see. And that, not him rushing to Lamar Odom’s bedside, will tell me what kind of man Kobe is.
I forgot to list that I was also far better looking.
Now that you mention it, Silver does have a little Crypt Keeper in him.
I wonder if you threw a greasy, thin wig on him, whether he’d look like Bud Selig.
MAYBE THEY’RE THE SAME PERSON!!!
Nah, can’t be. SIlver has already proven far more competent in one year than Selig did in twenty.
At this point, Al, I don’t think the Wizards are sneaking up on anyone.
That team is pretty solid and now they’re at least somewhat battle-tested.
Chicago will be a force as long as Rose stays healthy (big IF) but I don’t think either of them are capable of winning four out of seven against Bron Bron.
The Bulls have proven they can win without Derrick Rose and what they lack is a leader . Rose was never going to be that at all. If anything Gar Forman (GM) and John Paxson (Head of Basketball Operations) know they hit lightning in a bottle , when Jimmy Butler hit that rich vein of form last season . Now with Pau Gasol on board , Rose needs to defer to his teammates more, while Fred Hoiberg and the coaching staff make the team more resilient , defensively .
Steph Curry goes off for 53 points against the Pelicans and it gets about as much media attention, as a sighting of a Jay Cutler game winning touchdown pass or Matt Stafford’s thought process during a game this season for the Lions.
Seven touchdown passes for Drew Brees in the Saints’ game against the Giants. Was there any defense being played by either of the teams ?
What the hell happened in the game between the Packers and Broncos ? Only one team turned up to play and it wasn’t Green Bay , that’s for sure . What a complete sham in terms of the Packers’ performance.
To the Mets’ fans out there , the Royals don’t have anyone of the defensive capability (liability) of Bill Buckner. How’d you like them apples ? LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL !!! Five come from behind wins during the postseason for the Kansas City Royals , equaling the postseason record of the ’96 New York Yankees. Indicates to me , how good the Royals were this postseason !
This World Series wasn’t even remotely close , including the fourteen inning game.
Kobe , Kobe, Kobe ! Hell no , I just like Kobe Beef , that’s all .
C’mon, Al, have the Bulls proven they CAN win WITH Derrick Rose? Clearly he makes them better but does he make them better than the Cavaliers better?
I don’t think so.
Kobe has admitted he has sucked to start the new season and is in a slump. He has vowed to shoot his way out of it…unfortunately that won’t be until next year in his driveway.
Oh…and for Moose and his family…be very careful if Scott Van Pelt is on the awards podium with Silver at season’s end. You think just Adam is spooky…
Carmelo is currently 7th in the league in field goal attempts per game. Kobe is 15th.
I expect both those numbers to climb.
FYI, Russell Westbrook leads the league and Steph Curry is number two.