Archive for September, 2009

September ’09 Pic(s)/Quote of the Month

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

September 2009

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world can be as one.” – John Lennon

750 nude women form a heart around the words “No War” on a hillside near the town of Byron Bay, Australia. The women said they wanted to send Prime Minister John Howard a message to recall Australian troops from the Middle East.

Early NBA Predictions Pt. 2

Monday, September 28th, 2009


1. L.A. Lakers

Andrew Bynum
Pau Gasol
Ron Artest
Kobe Bryant
Derek Fisher

Key reserves: Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Adam Morrison

Ron Artest is kind of like T.O. in that there is usually a honeymoon period before he starts wreaking havoc. They are different in nature, though, because T.O.’s antics are usually of the sort of disrupting team chemistry and calling out teammates, whereas Artest is just batshit crazy and starts fights with fans, starves his dogs, etc. But on paper, especially considering he is joining a contending team, Artest figures to make it through the year OK. The Kobe-Ron relationship is littered with red flags, however. Bryant is notoriously hard on his teammates, and Ron might not have the mental wherewithal to handle any indictments of his play or work ethic. It is also unclear what Kobe really thought about Artest jumping in the shower with him, offering to come “help him win a title,” following a blowout loss in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals against Boston. What’s more, having landed in the City of Angels, Artest’s penchant for living the life of a rapper could prove to be an overwhelming distraction.

Trevor Ariza will be missed. Artest is certainly more intimidating to foes, but Ariza proved during last year’s playoffs that he was dependable and ready to knock down big shots. Artest’s consistency will be a key during this year’s playoffs. It is very possible that Jordan Farmar will replace Derek Fisher in the starting lineup by New Year’s, but then again, Phil Jackson may prefer Farmar’s burst coming off his bench. All in all, expect a dominating regular season performance by the Lakers and must-see TV come playoff time.

2. San Antonio

Antonio McDyess; Theo Ratliff/Matt Bonner
Tim Duncan; DeJuan Blair
Richard Jefferson; Michael Finley
Roger Mason, Jr.; Manu Ginobili
Tony Parker; George Hill

The age and health of the frontcourt are really the only concerns here. This team had already been running like clockwork for the past decade, and every piece they’ve added this offseason fits perfectly. Richard Jefferson is in an even better situation than he was playing with Jason Kidd and Vince Carter in New Jersey. On the fast break, he can keep up with Tony Parker (as well as anyone else can at least), but he will really shine in the half-court game, where the Spurs’ ball movement will open up lanes for him to drive and finish. Defenses often collapsed in the paint against those Nets teams he was a part of due to the lack of a legitimate post threat. Tim Duncan alleviates that problem in San Antonio.

Duncan, though he claims he has lost fifteen pounds and his knees are feeling a lot better, is certainly heading down that slippery slope where his body will abandon him more and more. Make no mistake, he’s still an elite player, but at 33, his health is far from guaranteed for the entire season. Antonio McDyess represents a drastic improvement over Matt Bonner at the center position, but both he and Theo Ratliff pack a laundry list of injuries on their résumés. Even rookie DeJuan Blair, while a legitimate NBA talent, famously fell to the second round of the draft because he lacks an ACL in either knee after multiple surgeries. If the Spurs manage to stay healthy, look for them to give the Lakers a run for their money for the Western Conference Crown.

3. Dallas

Drew Gooden; Erick Dampier
Dirk Nowitzki; Tim Thomas
Shawn Marion; Quinton Ross/James Singleton
Josh Howard; Jason Terry
Jason Kidd; J.J. Barea

Marcin Gortat would have looked awfully nice starting at C for this squad, but don’t be fooled into thinking the Mavs aren’t a contender as it is. Those who think Shawn Marion is washed up should stay away from the betting lines when it comes to the Mavs. Playing in half-court offenses in Miami and Toronto (where PG Jose Calderon was injured a great deal), Marion was unable to showcase the abilities he had become known for while playing in the Suns’ “7-seconds-or-less” offense. Now reunited with his rookie season running-mate in Jason Kidd and opposite a healthy Josh Howard on the other wing, Marion is poised to unleash plenty of fireworks this season in Dallas.

Drew Gooden is far from great, but he provides the Mavs with great flexibility. When they need to go super-huge they can always turn to Erick Dampier, but Gooden is extremely mobile for a big man and should only elevate the fast break attack even more. New addition Quinton Ross should be able to slow down some of the league’s elite perimeter scorers. When you look at the rebounding on this team, all five starters are among the league leaders at their position. Even though the Mavs won’t be a great defensive team, this advantage on the boards will allow Dirk to play center at times, surrounded by Marion-Howard-Jason Terry-Kidd. No team in the league wants to defend that.

4. Portland

Greg Oden; Joel Przybilla
LaMarcus Aldridge; Juwan Howard
Nicolas Batum; Travis Outlaw/Martell Webster
Brandon Roy; Rudy Fernandez
Andre Miller; Steve Blake/Jerryd Bayless

Portland needed an upgrade at PG, but time will tell if Andre Miller was the right choice. Miller is not a dependable three-point shooter, and while he has been known to put up gaudy assist numbers, the flip side is that he requires the ball in his hands a lot to be effective. Portland’s primary scoring options, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, are not the type of players who rely on speed and therefore would benefit greatly from a floor general capable of hitting them with sick passes. In the half court, there isn’t that much that Miller is going to do that Roy can’t already do when he has the ball.

Small forward Nicolas Batum showed off some serious potential last season, and reports are that he has looked great for the French National Team this summer. If he could emerge as a third or fourth option for the Blazers, his length could create major mismatches. One would have to think Greg Oden will only improve this season, and Portland has some other sleepers on its bench in Travis Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, and Jerryd Bayless. Nate McMillan is a quality coach, and he will do whatever is necessary to get optimum performance out of this team.

5. Denver

Nenê Hilario
Kenyon Martin
Carmelo Anthony
J.R. Smith
Chauncey Billups

Key reserves: Chris Andersen, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Anthony Carter, Johan Petro, Renaldo Balkman, Malik Allen

The Nugs’ starting five is as potent as they come, but that bench looks awfully thin. Add in sub-par defense on the perimeter and Denver is going to have trouble sneaking up on teams again this year. Nenê Hilario, K-Mart, and the Birdman do provide an intimidating interior presence, but the smart money is on at least one of them going down at some point, which speaks again to the team’s lack of depth. Ty Lawson struggled to adjust to the speed of the NBA game in Summer League, so counting on him to provide scoring punch off the bench is a difficult proposition.

6. L.A. Clippers

Marcus Camby; Chris Kaman/DeAndre Jordan
Blake Griffin; Craig Smith
Al Thornton; Rasual Butler
Eric Gordon; Ricky Davis
Baron Davis; Sebastian Telfair

Say hello to your shocker special. The curse of the Clippers may rival that of the Chicago Cubs and the Madden video game, but just ask the Boston Red Sox: every curse has to end sometime. And Blake Griffin is an absolute guarantee not to be a bust. This guy resembles Amare Stoudemire at times and yet he’s built even more solidly. Baron Davis seems motivated to repair his image, and together with SG Eric Gordon he gives the Clippers one of the physically strongest backcourts in the league. Craig Smith, Rasual Butler, and Bassy Telfair may not be talented enough to be good NBA starters, but they are exactly the types of players a playoff team wants coming off its bench. Finally, the Clips are in a position to add another quality piece during the playoff push by trading one of their three quality centers.

7. Phoenix

Channing Frye; Robin Lopez
Amare Stoudemire; Louis Amundson
Grant Hill; Earl Clark
Jason Richardson; Jared Dudley/Alando Tucker
Steve Nash; Leandro Barbosa

The Suns really picked it up last year after Coach Terry Porter was dumped in favor of Alvin Gentry. Gentry reinstated the run and gun offense of the Mike D’Antoni glory years, and despite Shaq’s revival in the desert last season, his presence conflicted with the uptempo style. Even in spots where the Suns may lack talent, their roster is now well-suited to a hustle-at-all-times attitude. Louis Amundson, Earl Clark, and Robin Lopez should wear opponents down on a nightly basis while Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire revive the pick and roll. Channing Frye, with his ability to knock down the elbow jumper, will fit in well.

8. New Orleans

Emeka Okafor; Hilton Armstrong/Sean Marks
David West; Darius Songaila/Ike Diogu
Julian Wright; Peja Stojakovic
Morris Peterson; James Posey
Chris Paul; Darren Collison

Granted Tyson Chandler was on the sidelines due to injury half of last season, but Emeka Okafor’s game just does not mesh with Chris Paul’s as well as the alley-oop connection of the Paul-Chandler combo did. In Okafor and David West, the Hornets have two tough but undersized players protecting the rim. There is also concern on the wings. Julian Wright is one of the league’s biggest breakout candidates, but MoPete’s time as a starter in the Association has come and gone. New Orleans has put together a solid bench, but unfortunately Peja Stojakovic can’t shake his back problems to save his life.

9. Utah

Mehmet Okur; Kyrylo Fesenko/Kosta Koufos
Carlos Boozer; Paul Millsap
Ronnie Brewer; Andrei Kirilenko
C.J. Miles; Kyle Korver
Deron Williams; Ronnie Price/Eric Maynor

The Jazz have toyed with the idea of starting both Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap at the two forward spots, but despite their rebounding prowess, doing so would team those two with Mehmet Okur to form nothing short of a sieve on defense. So, the Jazz are torn between Boozer and Millsap at the 4, neither of the candidates to back up Okur at center seems up to the task, injuries are already piling up on the wings, and Deron Williams claims he has rested his ankle for months this off-season and yet it’s not 100% healed. The Jazz will still be a tough task on a nightly basis, but they don’t seem to be moving in the right direction.

10. Oklahoma City

Nenad Krstic
Jeff Green
Kevin Durant
James Harden
Russell Westbrook

Key reserves: Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, Shaun Livingston, Etan Thomas, B.J. Mullens

James Harden filled an obvious need for OKC, but to the Thunder’s chagrin the West playoff picture is just too tough to crack this season. Each member of the starting frontcourt could play down a position if needed, which explains the bench’s heavy emphasis on big men. The point guard play of the Thunder will be especially compelling this year, as Russell Westbrook truly exploded onto the scene last season and Shaun Livingston is excited about being as healthy as he has been since his devastating knee injury.

11. Golden State

Andris Biedrins; Ronny Turiaf
Anthony Randolph; Brandan Wright
Kelenna Azuibuike; Corey Maggette
Stephen Jackson; Anthony Morrow
Monta Ellis; Stephen Curry/C.J. Watson

Ohhh, Nellie! Monta Ellis should be ready to go after taking the summer to rest his surgically repaired ankle, but problems loom in Golden State. Stephen Jackson did not back off his demand for a trade during today’s media day. Stephen Curry has an all-world jumper, but I don’t think he has the athleticism to make it as anything more than a kick-out shooter in the NBA. Corey Maggette doesn’t have to worry about Jamal Crawford criticizing his shoot-always mentality this season, but unfortunately for the other Warriors that most likely means he won’t change his ways either. One saving grace for this squad is the über-athletic frontcourt duo of Andris Biedrins and Anthony Randolph. For a run-first team, Don Nelson couldn’t ask for any better specimens in that department.

12. Memphis

Marc Gasol; Hasheem Thabeet/Hamed Haddadi
Zach Randolph; Darrell Arthur
Rudy Gay; Sam Young/Jerry Stackhouse
O.J. Mayo; Allen Iverson
Mike Conley; Marcus Williams

Sorry, Memphis, more dollars spent does not always equal more wins. Budding star Rudy Gay seemed to regress slightly last year, and many people attributed that development to the arrival of the ballhogging O.J. Mayo. Best way to right the ship? Obviously, your first move is to add two more ballhogging veterans. When the ball is in Zach Randolph’s or Allen Iverson’s hands, without a doubt, any defender is going to have his hands full. But the Grizzlies’ roster moves this summer have done nothing to achieve more ball movement to put all of their talented players in positions for easy scores. Mike Conley is going to have his hands full trying to keep everyone happy.

13. Minnesota

Kevin Love; Ryan Hollins
Al Jefferson; Brian Cardinal/Mark Blount
Ryan Gomes; Sasha Pavlovic
Corey Brewer; Wayne Ellington
Ramon Sessions; Jonny Flynn

Even though Mike Miller was gung-ho about refusing to shoot the ball last season, his presence on the perimeter noticeably opened up space for the Wolves inside. Subtract Randy Foye as well, and Minnesota appears to have lost what little punch it did have. Ramon Sessions is a great penetrator, but his jumpshot is suspect and Corey Brewer’s can be embarrassing at times. Al Jefferson is a beast – there’s no doubt about that – but teams will double him more than ever this season. The Wolves can only hope that their two rookies Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington are ready to play.

14. Houston

Luis Scola; David Andersen
Carl Landry; Chuck Hayes
Trevor Ariza; Chase Budinger
Shane Battier; Rashad McCants
Aaron Brooks; Kyle Lowry

Tracy McGrady isn’t even on the depth chart above as it appears unlikely he will play before December. Even if/when he does come back, will T-Mac be ready to carry this motley crew on his shoulders? Rarely have we seen a team lose its entire “Big 3” (Yao Ming, Ron Artest, McGrady) so quickly, but the Rockets made a savvy pickup to build around in Trevor Ariza. Remember, this is a guy who was nearly on LeBron’s level in high school, and last year with the Lakers he finally found his groove. As for him leading the Rockets anywhere pretty much by himself this year? Well, no, he’s not quite King James.

15. Sacramento

Spencer Hawes; Cedric Simmons
Jason Thompson; Sean May
Francisco Garcia; Andres Nocioni
Kevin Martin; Desmond Mason/Donte Greene
Tyreke Evans; Beno Udrih/Sergio Rodriguez

Tyreke Evans is listed as the starter at PG in spite of the fact that Beno Udrih is still the official starter. As soon as the Kings’ season gets away from them, Evans will be given every chance to start developing as the team’s leader. Evans is physical and has good size, but his ability to make quick decisions as a point man at the NBA level is a major question mark. Spencer Hawes is very skilled, but he often fails to make the slightest impact in the paint over the course of a game. Kevin Martin started showing signs of frustration last season, and with the Kings nowhere close to contending, he is a candidate to be moved before the trade deadline in exchange for a bounty of potential.


Eastern Conference 1st Round: (1) Cleveland def. (8) Charlotte, (2) Boston def. (7) Atlanta, (3) Washington def. (6) Toronto, (4) Orlando def. (5) Miami
Western Conference 1st Round: (1) Lakers def. (8) New Orleans, (2) San Antonio def. (7) Phoenix, (3) Dallas def. (6) L.A. Clippers, (5) Denver def. (4) Portland
Eastern Conference Semis: (1) Cleveland def. (4) Orlando, (2) Boston def. (3) Washington
Western Conference Semis: (1) Lakers def. (5) Denver, (3) Dallas def. (2) San Antonio
Eastern Conference Finals: (1) Cleveland def. (2) Boston
Western Conference Finals: (1) Lakers def. (3) Dallas
NBA Finals: (1) Lakers def. (1) Cleveland

Early NBA Predictions Pt. 1

Friday, September 25th, 2009

The competitive landscape of the NBA is probably the easiest to gauge early in the season among the four major American sports leagues.  Eight teams make the playoffs from each conference, and it’s usually pretty evident from the outset which squads are legit enough to have a spot sewn up or at least be in the mix for one of the lower seeds.

In Major League Baseball, the standings at the midpoint of the season are hardly a definitive indicator of what teams will make the playoffs, because there are so many games remaining and there are only four spots to go around in each league. In hockey, goals can be so fluky that extended winning or losing streaks are not uncommon.  And in the NFL, injuries, the opportunity to radically change schemes and/or key personnel in the middle of a season, and the consequences wrought by an untimely loss or two in such a relatively short season make the playoff picture tough to predict.

So, if it’s so easy, why bother?  Because no preseason games have even been played yet!  I haven’t gotten a chance to see who looks good and who looks old, slow, and/or frustrated, so this is a much tougher test.  Bring it on.


1. Cleveland

Shaquille O’Neal; Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Anderson Varejão; J.J. Hickson/Leon Powe
LeBron James; Jamario Moon
Anthony Parker; Delonte West
Mo Williams; Daniel Gibson

It just fits. Shaq demonstrated with the Suns last year that he still has the ability to consistently get the power game working. But he was surrounded by personnel built for run and gun who struggled in the half-court. Now he takes his game to the King’s Court where he will be allowed to work down low early in the game, tiring out the opponent’s big man, before he starts to unleash his over-the-shoulder post pass ad nauseum to a cutting LeBron, Varejão, and others for easy finishes.

And when he misses his requisite 10-20 games for some nagging injury? Big Z can hold down the fort just fine. New 2-guard Anthony Parker fits this team exquisitely. Reliable 3-pt. shooter, able to create his own shot when need be, but totally willing to defer for the good of the team. Mo Williams wasn’t quite good enough to play Robin to LeBron’s Batman all the way to a title, but as the third wheel, watch out.

2. Boston

Kendrick Perkins; Rasheed Wallace
Kevin Garnett; Glen Davis
Paul Pierce; Marquis Daniels
Ray Allen; Tony Allen
Rajon Rondo; Eddie House

The most talented team in the league.  Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, KG, & ‘Sheed is about as potent a crunch-time lineup as one could imagine.  Marquis Daniels will serve as an excellent insurance policy should one of the elder wingmen go down.  But I can’t shake the feeling that this team seems like a beautiful crystal that would shatter should the slightest turbulence hit.

Who’s the leader?  KG would seem to be, but Rondo is certainly on his heels (to say the least) for team MVP, and there have been no definitive indications that Garnett is completely healthy heading into this year.  And even from someone like KG who means well, I don’t see Rasheed taking too fondly to anyone getting in his face and yelling (even when it comes to KG’s trademark bouts of congratulations).  And I already mentioned the firepower of the supposed crunch-time lineup, but since when did Kendrick Perkins start giving the impression that he was down to take a back seat?

3. Washington

Brendan Haywood
Antawn Jamison
Caron Butler
Mike Miller
Gilbert Arenas

Key Reserves: Randy Foye, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Dominic McGuire, DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young, Fabricio Oberto

The Wiz are poised to topple Orlando for the division title. Arenas may be a primadonna, but not in the mold of many superstars who lack the work ethic to take their game to its highest level. Arenas lives and breathes basketball, and by all accounts he is fully healthy and primed for a career season. His absence due to injury doesn’t negate the chemistry he has built with Butler, Jamison, and Haywood over the years.

Add in newcomers Mike Miller, Randy Foye, & Fabricio Oberto to complement the emerging Andray Blatche and this team presents a match-up nightmare for anyone. Haywood should enter the season ready to be the man in the middle as a result of improved focus stemming from the departure of Etan Thomas, with whom he was constantly feuding. New coach Flip Saunders wasn’t tough enough to command genuine respect from the boys in Motown, but his quirky personality will mesh perfectly with this eccentric team, specifically Arenas.

4. Orlando

Dwight Howard; Marcin Gortat
Ryan Anderson; Brandon Bass
Rashard Lewis; Matt Barnes
Vince Carter; Mickael Pietrus/J.J. Redick
Jameer Nelson; Jason Williams

The depth chart of the Magic resembles a Rotisserie fantasy basketball team, as all of these guys have proven themselves capable of producing valuable statistics when given time to play. And therein lies the problem: it appears Stan Van Gundy simply has too much on his plate. Brandon Bass signed to be a starter, yet SVG has already intimated that Ryan Anderson may mesh better with the starting unit. Marcin Gortat signed an offer sheet with the Mavs and publicly stated that he wanted to leave so he could try his hand as a starter, but GM Otis Smith matched to renew the Polish Hammer’s role as Dwight Howard’s 10 min.-a-night backup. Matt Barnes and Mickael Pietrus have both identified themselves to the media as candidates to join the starting lineup. Even face of the franchise Howard publicly questioned his coach last year, but due to Dwight’s non-confrontational demeanor, he quickly reined in his displeasure at the behest of management.

All this before even mentioning Vince Carter (or Jason Williams). Hedo Turkoglu knew his role; does Vince? Turkoglu had no problem feeding the ball to Howard most of the time and creating jumpers off the dribble when his team needed to be bailed out from the shot clock. Although Carter has admittedly matured as a teammate during some recent rough patches in New Jersey, he will undoubtedly want to shine while playing for his hometown team. And his explosion is starting to evaporate as he turns the calendar page once again.
The Magic will be a team that nobody wants to face in the playoffs, but their 2009-2010 campaign could prove to be a trying endeavor.

5. Miami

Jermaine O’Neal
Udonis Haslem
Michael Beasley
Dwyane Wade
Mario Chalmers

Key Reserves: Quentin Richardson; James Jones; Daequan Cook, Chris Quinn; Jamaal Magloire; Joel Anthony

The starting lineup is solid. The bench is not. Miami would be ranked lower except for one small detail: they employ Dwyane Wade. Michael Beasley looks like a solid bet to unleash some of his potential this season as the Pat Riley/Erik Spoelstra braintrust appears to have gotten through to him. Jermaine O’Neal claims he is fully healthy, but what else is new? Udonis Haslem is always underappreciated but excels at doing the dirty work, and Chalmers’ shortcomings as a ballhandler are offset by the fact that Wade usually controls the rock anyway. The bottom line is Wade is easily a top-five player in the NBA, but his supporting cast is arguably bottom-five. He can only carry them so far.

6. Toronto

Andrea Bargnani; Rasho Nesterovic/Patrick O’Bryant
Chris Bosh; Reggie Evans/Amir Johnson
Hedo Turkoglu; Antoine Wright
Marco Belinelli; DeMar DeRozan
Jose Calderon; Jarrett Jack

Hedo Turkoglu is the big name, but Toronto also made some less heralded moves in the offseason that may pay huge dividends as well. Their point guard play looks to be much improved, as Jose Calderon is 100% healthy and Jarrett Jack is around to spell him after establishing himself as a legitimate NBA point man last season with the Pacers. The starting shooting guard spot is still unsettled, but Marco Bellinelli is a major sleeper to explode onto the scene this season and already has GM Bryan Colangelo in his corner singing his praises. Turkoglu’s offense is well-chronicled, but he and Reggie Evans should also help fix the Raptors’ rebounding woes. They may not be ready to topple the big boys just yet, but Toronto may have done enough to receive Chris Bosh’s full attention when the looming Summer of 2010 rolls around.

7. Atlanta

Al Horford; Zaza Pachulia
Josh Smith; Joe Smith
Marvin Williams; Mo Evans
Joe Johnson; Jamal Crawford
Mike Bibby; Jeff Teague

Jamal Crawford probably feels like he has something to prove after his ugly breakup with Don Nelson in Golden State, but how will he go about doing so? This Hawks team seems like a retread that actually needed a more significant overhaul. Bibby’s a year older (and slower), Al Horford isn’t any taller, and Josh Smith and Marvin Williams are still freakish athletes who lack certain basic competencies in their games. This team needed more than just another year to grow together. In replacing Flip Murray with Crawford, the Hawks lost one of their best penetrators and added another guy who opts for low-quality jumpshots. Joe Johnson is good, but his low FG% can be partly attributed to the fact that many opponents realize if they gameplan to hold JJ down, they can count on other Hawks to make unforced errors.

8. Charlotte

Tyson Chandler; Nazr Mohammed/DeSagana Diop/Alexis Ajinca
Boris Diaw; Vladimir Radmanovic
Gerald Wallace; Flip Murray
Raja Bell; Gerald Henderson
Raymond Felton; D.J. Augustin

This team has some question marks, but Larry Brown squads often demonstrate marked improvement in their second year under his tutelage. Tyson Chandler may or may not be better than Emeka Okafor, but he has already been spotted working with Raymond Felton on the screen-and-roll, so he should be set for a bounceback year following an injury-plagued end to his Hornets career. The arrival of Flip Murray adds a cold-blooded closer to a team that desperately needed one, and on that note, D.J. Augustin should be ready to contribute a full season’s worth of explosive performances after letting his abdomen heal over the summer. This team never counted on Okafor to set the tone with interior scoring, and Chandler’s added size could make this a formidable frontcourt if he is indeed healthy.

9. Indiana

Roy Hibbert; Jeff Foster
Troy Murphy; Tyler Hansbrough
Mike Dunleavy; Brandon Rush
Danny Granger; Dahntay Jones/Luther Head
T.J. Ford; Earl Watson

If Mike Dunleavy is ready for opening night as Coach Jim O’Brien is hoping, then slip this team into the playoffs over the Bobcats. But Dunleavy’s knee is tough to trust at this point. What’s not tough to trust is the man holding down the other wing position for the Pacers, Danny Granger. The do-it-all stud is more than just a fantasy dynamo and will keep the Pacers competitive every night. After a stellar preseason a year ago, T.J. Ford was surprisingly bounced to and from the starting lineup in favor of Jarrett Jack, but Jack justified the decision with his outstanding play. Nonetheless, Ford no longer has to look over his shoulder, and he will get this team up and down the court. If Roy Hibbert can stop fouling everybody in sight as if doing so was worth five points, he has the size and skills to develop into a major force in the half-court game.

10. Chicago

Joakim Noah; Brad Miller
Tyrus Thomas; Taj Gibson
Luol Deng; James Johnson
John Salmons; Jannero Pargo
Derrick Rose; Kirk Hinrich

Forget about who took his SAT. Other than Derrick Rose, no one on this team can consistently score on opposing defenses. John Paxson will lament playing hardball with Ben Gordon over the years as he watches his secondary players continually let Rose down. Jannero Pargo certainly looked great at times for the Hornets before embarking overseas, but that was because his speed-driving game complemented Chris Paul’s skills-based game perfectly. In joining another speed rusher in Rose, defenses will have an easier time containing him as long as they get back on defense. If Tyrus Thomas can develop a consistent offensive repertoire, then he may be able to minimize what Joakim Noah and Luol Deng lack in skills. But that is a big if.

11. Philadelphia

Samuel Dalembert; Marreese Speights
Elton Brand; Jason Smith
Thaddeus Young; Jason Kapono
Andre Iguodala; Willie Green/Rodney Carney
Lou Williams; Jrue Holiday

Elton Brand will carry this team to respectability, but the loss of Andre Miller hurts. When given the keys to the offense, Lou Williams either shoots a jumper or flys into the lane hoping he can find a teammate to drop it off to, whereas Miller was great at controlling the tempo and intelligently choosing a plan of attack on each possession. Jrue Holiday will not be ready to take the reins in his rookie season. One possible midseason promotion, however, is Marreese Speights bumping the ever-marginal Samuel Dalembert to the bench.

12. Detroit

Chris Wilcox; Ben Wallace/Kwame Brown
Charlie Villanueva; Jason Maxiell
Tayshaun Prince; Austin Daye/DaJuan Summers
Rip Hamilton; Ben Gordon
Rodney Stuckey; Will Bynum

The three starters in the frontcourt are all able rebounders statistically, but unfortunately on defense they will turn away opposing scorers about as well as a swinging gate. Ben Wallace’s return to Dee-Troit Bas-Ket-Ball will not be enough to revive his fading motor. Ben Gordon can make the big shots, but is Rip Hamilton okay with him taking them? He’s already clearly frustrated with management, and both he and Tayshaun Prince simply aren’t as good as they were in their prescribed roles alongside Chauncey Billups & co. a few years ago. Add in Rodney Stuckey’s consistent inconsistency and this team is in dire need of direction.

13. New York

Darko Milicic; Eddy Curry
David Lee; Jordan Hill/Jared Jeffries
Al Harrington; Danilo Gallinari
Wilson Chandler; Larry Hughes
Chris Duhon; Nate Robinson

Mike D’Antoni will keep it entertaining, but frankly the Knicks just are not any better than last year. And maybe they don’t care if they’re completely honed in on the 2010 free agent class. But even though they won’t make the playoffs, their run and gun style will expose several other teams’ weaknesses. If Danilo Gallinari is healthy – watch out – D’Antoni will play the Italion Stallion and maybe even start him. Eddy Curry is supposedly in shape but who knows what to expect from a guy who’s been through hell and back like he has. At best he will split minutes with Darko Milicic in a position battle between epic NBA Draft busts.

14. Milwaukee

Andrew Bogut; Dan Gadzuric
Hakim Warrick; Kurt Thomas
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute; Joe Alexander/Ersan Ilyasova
Michael Redd; Carlos Delfino/Charlie Bell
Luke Ridnour; Roko Ukic/Brandon Jennings

If this team was completely healthy, they’d probably be a notch higher. When neither Andrew Bogut nor Michael Redd have been cleared to play full contact basketball yet though, the prospects for the upcoming season are especially gloomy. The starting forwards on this team have limited shooting range, although Carlos Delfino, Joe Alexander, and Ersan Ilyasova are all candidates to emerge in front of Luc Richard M.a.M. Possibly the most interesting person to watch during Bucks’ games this year will be Scott Skiles, as he unwittingly challenges the record for most frustrated face in the world.

15. New Jersey

Brook Lopez; Josh Boone
Yi Jianlian; Tony Battie
Bobby Simmons; Terrence Williams
Courtney Lee; Chris Douglas-Roberts/Jarvis Hayes
Devin Harris; Keyon Dooling/Rafer Alston

As a lifelong Mavs fan, to you Devin Harris, I am sorry sir. Brook Lopez will be a bigger part of the offense, and Yi Jianlian appears to have figured out some adjustments he needed to make to successfully play at the NBA level, but Courtney Lee and his mates on the wing are just not ready to scare teams as one-on-one threats (although Terrence Williams will be thrust into the fire and could develop rather quickly). Mikhail D. Prokhorov (the Russian billionaire who just bought this team) better enjoy discussing marketing & real estate developments with Bruce Ratner and Jay-Z for the next year.

Check back on Monday for a rundown of the Western Conference.

Dynamic Ceramics

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Interested in high-quality, hand-made ceramics for your home or office?  Check out  Or, if you’re in Dallas, go take a look at his stuff in person.  Every one of this guy’s pieces that I’ve seen is distinct and would be aesthetically pleasing for years on end.

I will warn you, though, he does have one quirk that I’ve noticed.  Don’t go over there smelling like cigs.  Now, I happen to agree with him – I hate cigarettes – but I couldn’t believe the way he chastised a customer one morning for smelling like them.  He pulled no punches in shaming the guy for his decision to light up in the car on the way over, practically alerting the whole store that this man had a displeasing cigarette odor about him.

Who knows?  Maybe he had a bad experience as a child or something.  But if you and your lungs can handle this foible, I’m telling you, go let him fire something else up for you.  You won’t be disappointed.