Sunday, October 30, 2005

NBA Season Preview

For all you NBA Fans out there, this is the final word. We're setting this blog in motion with our team by team comments for the season to come. We don't care if you agree or disagree, we simply want your worship. Bow down before East and West.

Our playoff picks are found just below, and the team by team stuff is broken down by division, in no particular order, and can be read by scrolling down or clicking the link in the left hand column.


1. Miami Heat
2. Indiana Pacers
3. Detroit Pistons
4. New Jersey Nets
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
6. Chicago Bulls
7. Philadelphia 76ers
8. New York Knickerbockers

Conf Finals: Heat over Pacers

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Houston Rockets
3. Dallas Mavericks
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Denver Nuggets
7. Seattle SuperSonics
8. Golden State Warriors

Conf Finals: Spurs over Rockets

Champ: Heat over Spurs


1. Indiana Pacers
2. Detroit Pistons
3. Miami Heat
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. New Jersey Nets
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Milwaukee Bucks
8. New York Knickerbockers

Conf Finals: Pacers over Pistons

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Houston Rockets
3. Sacramento Kings
4. Denver Nuggets
5. Phoenix Suns
6. Dallas Mavericks
7. Seattle Supersonics
8. Memphis Grizzlies

Conf Finals: Rockets over Spurs

Champ: Pacers over Rockets

NBA Season Preview: Pacific

Los Angeles Clippers
MVP: Elton Brand
LVP: Elgin Baylor

Mr.EAST: The Clips ain’t all that bad. That’s saying a lot for a team which is generally considered the baby left on the Staples Center doorstep in the middle of the night. “Not that bad” for the Clippers is kind of like “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs”. They’ll take “not that bad’ any chance they can get it….sugar coated.

Elton Brand has exceeded a lot of people’s expectations in his career, with only injuries and poor support from his rotating group of teammates keeping him from earning a bigger place on the All-Star stage. The field of players around him has thinned considerably, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing to me. When Brand found himself surrounded with teammates like Quentin Richardson, Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Michael Olowokandi, Bobby Simmons, and Marko Jaric he was often lost in the mix. He was clearly the best player of the bunch, but not the strongest ego by any stretch.

The cast in LA now features legendary ball hogs Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley to go along with Corey Maggette, but unlike the other players, Cassell and Mobley have been winners in other cities. It’s a different breed of greed that we’re talking about now. Brand should benefit from their support, and finally be able to focus on rebounding like a monster and dominating the low block.

The downside of all this is that Elgin Baylor (my LVP) has sacrificed the future of the franchise for some short term success. It’s not to say that the young players on the roster that have departed would have made the miraculous leap to championship contender any time soon, but the aging Cassell isn’t an investment in the future and Cuttino Mobley doesn’t figure to be around when things get good for the Clips. Yeah, they have Shaun Livingston, but he’s already a physical wreck. What happens next is anyone’s guess, but I’m taking bets that this team will look like the 2005-2006 Hornets in about 2 or 3 years.

Mr.WEST: Boy are the Clippers cock teases! Well, I’m not gay but you get the point. Their roster, yet again, looks somewhat filled with talent. And, yet again, they will quietly stink it up. I believe in Elton Brand. I believe in Sammy Cassell (unlike many). I believe in role players like Wilcox and Kaman. Corey Maggete, eh, no so much. But I also believe in reality, and reality says the Clippers win some games and earn some respect but lose far many more, then have the roster altered again next year.

Phoenix Suns
MVP: Steve Nash
LVP: Amare Stoudemire's knee

Mr.WEST: Just win the Suns were starting to convince other ball clubs to actually enjoy the game and score some points, Amare goes under the knife. Lets cut him slack and not oint out that he waited until pre-season to actually get is knee checked rather than take are of it in the summer. Or let's just point that out. But without Amare people are going to wonder if the Suns can really perform another minor miracle this year. I say yes.

In what likely will turn out to be a bad move for all involved, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson are no longer Suns. Maybe those guys should've realized that Steve Nash and the Suns basically made their NBA careers in one season. But now they are gone and instead we have James "Who?" Jones and Raja Bell. I think those two jokers will fill the empty shoes quite nicely. Why? Because the Suns system works. They run and gun. And there are TONS of players in the NBA with incredible talent who can thrive in the right system. Just give those two a chance and watch them score points and fill the stat sheet.

Nash and the Matrix will be scoring as much as they can. The role of Kurt Thomas is now even more important. Can he keep up while hitting shots and rebounding? Yes. Kurt will need to be a rock for Phoenix and will deliver. I'm not sure the Suns will even see Amare this year at all but only a jackass would doubt a playoff appearance so once Amare emerges on the court come Spring, it's gonna get real interesting for opponents.

Mr.EAST: This is still a good ballclub, and you have to want them to succeed. There are too many teams that are unbearable to watch. At least you know you’re going to get some good hoops when the Suns show up. I actually wish that there were only 2 teams in the NBA. Suns versus Kings for 82 games. Make it 83. The extra game assures that one team is guaranteed to win the season series. The Suns will make the playoffs, and Amare shouldn’t come back even if he thinks he’s healthy. It’s not about this year anyway. Take the time to rehab and make sure you don’t pull an Antonio McDyess. The league needs you Amare.

Los Angeles Lakers
MVP: Lamar Odom
LVP: Came Brown

Mr.EAST: At first glance, you may wonder why Kobe Bryant isn’t the MVP of this team. Answer: ‘Cause he’s a beeotch. Sorry, but it’s true. Nothing personal, but the guy just reeks of beeotch. His ridiculous off court persona spills directly into his equally ridiculous on court persona, and poisons the immense talent he possesses. He’s clearly one of the top 5 talents in the league, but he’s not a top 10 player. He’s got the skill, but his head isn’t screwed on straight. Lamar Odom is the key to anything and everything that the Lakers want to do with Phil Jackson back at the helm. Kobe’s talent will win games for the Lakers, but Odom’s presence will have to carry them to the playoffs, if indeed he has it in him. The offense will be better for having the ball in Odom’s hands, because Kobe is a more valuable player when he’s off the ball. He dominates the shot clock too much when he’s in iso mode.

Phil Jackson gets a lot of credit for his teams’ success between Chicago and LA. He’s unquestionably a Hall of Fame coach who can manage egos with the best of them. The triangle was Tex Winters’ brainchild, but he had the foresight to go with it for MJ and Pip, and then Shaq and Kobe. Having said all that, this is a lost cause. He will never win another championship in Los Angeles, and I’m quite sure he’s back for the big payday. Money is his motivator now, and I’d be shocked into a coma if he were the coach in 2 years. Hate to say it LA fans, but your coach is kind of mailing this one in….

My LVP is Kwame Brown. It’s easy to pick Brown because he bragged, after he moved 3000 miles away, that he wanted to slap Gilbert Arenas but was still too scared to stand by his comments and reportedly called Gil to explain that he was taken out of context. Yeah. What he meant to say was, “I almost slapped the shit outta Gilbert Arenas, but they changed the locks on the Washington practice facility and didn’t give me a key.” Now that’s a guy I want on my team. A 5 rebound a game big man that talks out his ass at every turn. Good luck Zen Master.

Mr.WEST: Good, it’s official. We can all hate the Lakers now., even you Lakers fans. Admit it, Kobe is a bitch. He is the Wannabe Jordan but without the appeal,. He just does not get it—people do not like assholes. Kwame Brown and the big men are stiffs. They have no dribblers. Poor Lamar Odom. Maybe Phil Jackson will give you a nice book for reading on the plane.

Golden State Warriors
MVP: Baron Davis
LVP: Mike Dunleavy

Mr.WEST: Rumor has it that the Bay Area hoops fans are stroking their manhoods over the Warriors chances this year. They swear that Baron Davis is gonna keep the team on the tear that they finished last season with. They say they got talent to go with their depth. They say they have built role players now primed to step up. Sigh.

Golden State has been locked in a limbo for, oh, 10 years now and this squad has a ways to go to prove they are set to ascend into heaven. Baron Davis is an incredible talent who looks set to take over that team to lead it—good. A guy like J-Richardson needs to be bitchslapped into reality, a soldier in Troy Murphy needs a general and a wimp like Dunleavy needs to be manhandled. What this team needs to develop is a winning formula—what that formula is. Perhaps they run when the ycan, perhaps they grind it out. But they better get that persona set and ride it out. The West has been opned up by the Suns, so the style of play the Warriros may play will help them.

The thing Bay Area hippies should fear is lack of patience and a haphazard approiach to the game that these players have at times. None of these guys know how to win as a team. It is hard to breed winning the NBA.

Mr.EAST: First, the Warriors need to go back to the uniforms they wore when Run TMC were playing with Chris Gatling, Billy Owens, Tree Rollins, and Terry Teagle. Then, they need to get rid of the pussies and get some real serious ballers to represent them every night. Dunleavy = floating pussy. Foyle = shot blocking pussy. Calbert Cheaney = still in the league? pussy. Derek Fisher = Laker retread pussy. Where’s the Ben Wallace on this team? Where’s the Bill Laimbeer? Is there a single guy with guts on this team? Davis and Richardson are a tough backcourt, and Murphy is a nice player, but I need an ass-kicker to scare opposing teams into respecting the Warriors again. They are called the Warriors after all…..

Sacramento Kings
MVP: Mike Bibby
LVP: Ronnie Price

Mr.EAST: I’ll start with my LVP. Ronnie Price gets the unfortunate distinction of being the Least Valuable Player in a system where every player seems to be valuable. He’s a rookie from Utah Valley State that will start the season behind team MVP Mike Bobby and the newly acquired Jason Hart. By default he loses this race for lack of minutes. Sorry kid.

I love the Kings. I’ve been a fan since they brought in Pete Carril and installed the Princeton offense. I would pay the current going rate on NBA season tickets to watch this club play 41 home games if I lived in the farmlands of California. A prettier brand of basketball has not been so consistently played in the Association since Magic ran “Showtime”. They will plug SAR and Bonzi into the system and they will succeed too. Mark my words. There are plenty of naysayers out there that want to write this team off for too many changes and the wrong personnel moves. Bull. As long as Bibby runs the show, Peja spots up behind the arc, and Brad Miller is holding down the high-low post this team will be a contender.

Mike Bibby went through his growing pains in Vancouver, when there was a ballclub still playing up there, and was granted the NBA equivalent of a gubernatorial stay of execution when he was traded to Sactown. He’s made the most of his time in California, and seems to get better every year. I expect the Kings to be there in the end and the Western Conference Final Four should be quite a bloodbath with the Kings deep in the mix.

Mr.WEST: Mike smokes too much wasabi. Are you done sucking Bobby’s dick, Mike? Good, because maybe he forgot to tell you about his shooting against the Sonics in the playoffs last year as Seattle took him apart. Sacto will be fun to watch but their slide after not making the Finals against the Lakers years ago continues. Webber was shipped out of town as his career collapses in front him. The Four Horsemen of Bibby, Peja, Miller and Bonzi gets you wins but not overall quality. I personally more teams were like Sacto. That is, until playoff time.

NBA Season Preview: Southeast

Atlanta Hawks
MVP: Josh Childress
LVP: Tyron Lue

Mr.WEST: Clippers East. Well, at least Joe Johnson got his. The floundering Hawks have been a perennial NBA joke for years now, and the laughing continues this season after the team stockpiled dudes 6’6”-6’9” in hopes of winning the title for most small forwards. I suppose the decision to give Joe Johnson crazy money and sacrifice 2 first round picks, another player and cash is because he had one good year in Phoenix. But who really doubts the JJ should give half his money to Steve Nash?

The Hawks actually have a nice little nucleus of young talent like JJ, Childress, Josh Smith and Baby ?Al Harrington. Of course, this is the NBA so expecting these guys to play and develop together for a few years is a pipe dream only dimwits like Isiah Thomas can conjure up. With no point guard (Lue Who?) and no center (RIP Collier, hello Zaza!), the Hawks are lacking at key positions that provide a stability no amount of talented swingmen can match.

If you can name the coach of this team, I’ll buy you a drink. If you have ever actually bought a ticket to see the Hawks, I’d buy you two but you must be drunk already.

Mr.EAST: Yeah. I bought tickets for a game down there once. Knicks vs. Hawks. Y’know what happened? The Knicks sleep-walked through the game and roared back from a double digit deficit with seconds remaining. Allan Houston got fouled and missed the free throw that would have tied it and sent it to overtime. That’s the most interesting story you’ll hear about Atlanta this year. This is just one of the many franchises that should be either merged or dissolved. The players aren’t all that bad this year, but they’d all seem a lot better if they were shipped to other teams that actually matter.

MVP: Dwight Howard
LVP: Grant Hill

Mr.EAST: Dwight Howard is a stud. How many times have I heard that word used in association with the young man’s name this offseason? It’s almost as if he’s poised to appear in a series of Jenna Jamison flicks instead of manning the post for the Orlando Magic in 2005-2006. The fact is, it’s true. This kid is a stud, and he’s actually slightly ahead of the Amare Stoudemire curve, if you can imagine that. Brian Hill’s commitment to inside-out basketball worked with Shaq and Penny, and now he’s hoping to revive his past success with a combination of Howard and Francis. Suffice it to say that the Magic will compete every night and while the playoffs may be a bit of a stretch, they will show a bright future as the young man in the middle becomes an All-Star.

I was tempted to make Stevie “Franchise” my LVP, but upon further review that’s bullshit. Everyone likes to pile on Francis for his decision making at the point and his inability to make anyone but Cuttino Mobley better. Steve Francis is not a point guard and really he should never have been expected to be one. He’s a scorer, and a damn good one. He’s not the #1 star you need to run your team, and the moniker “Franchise” is unfortunate and unfair. It stuck, and so he gets dumped on by the press. He can be a part of Orlando’s future success if Jameer Nelson steps up and handles the point position. I believe Nelson is a super talent and if Brian Hill recognizes it and pairs the two in the backcourt, something special may emerge.

My LVP is actually one of my favorites. Grant Hill can’t seem to get his body together to match his ability. If he could ever stay on the court for 75 games and go all out, he’d be the difference in pushing Orlando into the playoffs. There’s still the off chance that he could do it, but good logic suggests he won’t. For a guy brought in to be McGrady’s Pippen, Grant Hill has seen the fortunes of the Magic fold like his surgically repaired ankle.

Mr.WEST: Wow, Mike again makes sense. At this rate I will only think you are a dork not a moron. Dwight Howard is here. Maybe someone should tell that to Stevie Franchise. The shooting guard position for Orlando is a mess, and the patchwork small forward spot is messy because Grant Hill keeps bringing his Frankenstein ass back. Uh, Grant, hang it up. Orlando could maybe get to 40 wins but I think their coach is the typical recycled old dumb bastard who bores players and myself. The Magic are one swingman away from getting my attention.

Washington Bullets [never say Wizards!]
MVP: Gilbert Arenas
LVP: Brendan Haywood

Mr.WEST: Eddie Jordan was gonna make this team a winner. The Larry Hughes defection hurts but Hughes was no all-star anyway. What truly makes this team go is a model after the NJ Nets recent run to the NBA Finals—motion offense that runs when it can and also lets talent dictate who wins rather than taking talent away. Gilbert Arenas is the focal point on offense for Washington and the dude can light it up. His game may not benefit teammates a bunch but I do not buy this ballhog bullshit.

As the East has gotten stronger, the Bullets have kept relative pace with a telanted group such as Antawn, Caron Butler, and Antonio Daniels. What they need is some size that can go from basline to baseline in less than 20 seconds; Brendan Haywood can’t just be a semi-talented fat ass anymore if the Bullets wanna make Round 2 again.

DC could use a fun, good hoops team. These guys are definitely a tier-3 NBA squad capable of winning games but also capable of dicking around, too. They better stay healthy because that bench is real thin bu guy #7.

Mr.EAST: Good call on the “Bullets” name. This is one hard luck franchise that shouldn’t be merged or dissolved. DC needs a team, and there should be a law that makes it a Federal offense for the team to be under .500. Hughes leaving hurts, whatever you think of his individual value. He fit, and sometimes that’s all that matters. Caron Butler blows. He ain’t no Larry Hughes. What’s happening to Jared Jeffries? Wasn’t he supposed to be good? The only hope this squad has for the future is that Andre Blatche can pull a Paul Pierce are turn a point blank gunshot wound to the chest into 25 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists a night.

MVP: Emeka Okafor
LVP: Kareem Rush

Mr.EAST: I’ll come clean. I’ve never seen this team play. The thing is neither have you. Don’t bullshit me. All I know about the Bobcats is that they played their first year in the league last season and that they sucked. Sure, I know the players names and I’ve looked at the boxscores, desperately searching for anyone of fantasy value in the basketball badlands of expansiondom. I know that Emeka Okafor has a bright future and that they drafted a couple of NCAA champion Tar Heels. I know that they have the kind of uniforms that appear in generic basketball video games which don’t have NBA licensing permission.

The pieces seem to fit on paper though. That’s the thing that interests me. They started with a big man, and have followed up with a good point guard prospect. There’s not much else filling in the gaps in Charlotte, but they can work it all out over the course of the next 5 years. Raymond Felton, Emeka Okafor, and Sean May against the world. I hear Melvin Ely has shed 20 pounds and is ready to play. Primos Brezec has another year under his belt and should improve. Gerald Wallace is still 22 or 23 years old and supremely talented. Yadda, yadda, yadda……

Okay. Enough idle chatter. My LVP is Kareem Rush, because I don’t know what the Bobcats see in the guy. He seems like an undersized shooting guard with poor ball handling skills. Kind of a Gerald Wilkins without the smooth in his game. The team seems to think he’ll turn into a player in the future, but I’ll bet he’s playing with Gerald Wilkins and Harold Miner in a couple of years.

Mr.WEST: No love for the Bobcats. Why the NBA insists on a team in this busted city is beyond me—a bunch of scared crackers engaged in white flight as the city of Charlotte sits stagnant as past racial practices are quickly forgotten. Ha! Why would anyone care about this squad? Oh yeah you play fantasy hoops and you have one of these dudes on your squad. Yawn. 20 win? That’s about right.

Miami Heat

Mr.WEST: Pat Riley saw an opening and took it: this team was one game away form the Finals but he took a chance to rebuild his entire supporting cast for super combo Shaq and Wade. Hello ‘Toine, Jason Williams, James Posey and Gary Payton. On paper, this team has a chance to win 70 games.

But they will win low 60’s. And wisely so. Assuming that Coach Van Gundy continues his tough ways and Riley lets no punk ass player think he is better than the team, then the Heat will look to coast for much of the season. Listen, people, the NBA is all about the playoffs, OK ? So a deep rotation will be used here to ensure that Shaq is not hobbled in the playoffs like the past few years. Big Daddy is an utter force so he must be protected. Same goes for Wade. Look for the Heat to let fatso ‘Toine shine early on and then bench his ass in the 4th quarter as the season progresses.

We all know only the Pistons and Pacers can challenge the Heat in the East. It’s as if 3 tough kids all live in the same area and we KNOW they’re gonna throw down soon. The Heat have the biggest fists around but just have to learn to throw them right. We’ll see.

Mr.EAST: Shaq, Wade, and a big steaming pile of crap. That’s the Miami Heat. They fucked up when they dumped Eddie and Damon Jones. Then, they fucked up again by picking up a couple of total losers in Antoine “The Bride of Chucky” Walker and White Chuck-late. Yeah, Eddie and Damon were, at best, role players balancing on the edge of obscurity with the Heat, but every team needs specialists when they have MVP types like Diesel and D-Wade. They’ll win plenty of games this year, but not as many as people think. They’ll also get bounced in the playoffs because both the Pistons and the Pacers’ lineups make more sense than theirs.

NBA Season Preview: Atlantic

New Jersey
MVP: Jason Kidd
LVP: The Bench

Mr.EAST: This squad will fool you. On paper the skill players are as good as they come at their positions, and the bigs are not among the names you’d consider when listing standout NBA players. The thing is, Kidd, Carter, and Jefferson have all missed a lot of time with injuries in recent years and may have a hard time staying on the floor together all season. The bigs, Krstic and Collins, will have to pick up the slack to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

The way I see it, the Nets can afford to see either Carter or Jefferson miss time, but if Kidd is out the Nets lose. That’s how fragile their season is to me. Krstic and Collins are made better by the league’s top point guard, but without him they become spectators for the Carter and Jefferson show and that’s never a good thing for a team.

The LVP on the Nets is the bench. I can’t single out a particular player that crushes the Nets, but I have no love for their collection of bench players. Cliff Robinson, Lamond Murray, Jeff McGinnis, Marc Jackson, and Jacque Vaughn do not a successful bench make. The only guy I like on the bench is Scott Padgett, and maybe only because he’s a wild man.

Mr.WEST: You bring up a great point, Mike, literally: Jason Kidd makes his teammates much better than they really are, or at least better than they can be on their own. He is so much better than people realize. True fans need to watch him play. Honestly, does anyone think Richard Jefferson is an all-star and Olympic team member is j-Kidd did not make him to seem as such? Please! If Kidd is healthy, this team will fight hard and prevail more often than not. Sheesh, Kidd for Marbury … what a sucker Phoenix was!

MVP: Paul Pierce
LVP: Mark Blount

Mr.WEST: The Celtics have created quite an interesting dilemma for themselves as they have adopted the league trends of drafting real young yet have too many veterans to give the kids playing time. This year it looks like the Celtics can only go in one direction: backwards. While Antoine Walker and Gary Payton leaving may seem like Boston just solved their illness, it is more like bloodletting. Those two assholes filled box scores and, ultimately, would win games. Paul Pierce may now take on even more burdens- not good.

Pierce is a stud. He gets stabbed like he was bayonet practice and still kills you. But the kids like Al Jefferson, Delonte West, and Gerald “The Dunk” Green are gonna get abused by NBA ballers. Coach Doc Rivers is not gonna get these guys over the hump.
For the Celtics to make the playoffs means a few key things: no forced outside jumpers from way too deep by Pierce, no injuries to Ricky Davis or Pierce, and a running style that needs Mark Blount and his cap-eating salary off the floor so that LaFrentz t can spread the floor.

The Celtics got 99 problems but Pierce ain't one.

Mr.EAST: I would ask you to stop sucking Pierce’s dick, but you already used that line. Plus, any guy that gets stabbed 400 times and suits up the next night deserves good oral. I’m confused about this franchise. I used to like the idea of Doc Rivers as a coach. I used to think that the Celtics were about to get it right after 20 years of shit luck and stupid roster moves. Now I just don’t know what they’re trying to do. It seems like the only thing they have going for them is the best uniforms in the sport. They should just take a temporary leave of absence, send everyone to the Developmental League, and vacation in Hawaii for 3 years. Hang a sign on the arena door….Gone Fishin’….

MVP: Allen Iverson
LVP: Chris Webber

Mr.EAST: I’m a Chris Webber fan. Have been since his Fab Five days. My buddy used to call him “Glass Webber” to piss me off, but I can’t front….this guy is made of the same stuff that double-insulates my house. Tough when it’s standing between me and the wind, but a good hard bump from a 200+ pound adult will end it’s season real quick. The Sixers don’t really need Chris Webber to be honest, but a decent year from him will make the difference between a 6th seed and a 3rd seed. In the playoffs that’s huge.

Iverson is too damn good for this team to miss the playoffs and a strong supporting cast of specialists assures a fun team to watch. Dress code be damned, Iverson will kick your ass in a suit and tie quick fast. He could be wearing a full tuxedo and tails and still drop 40 on you. He’s already beat up in the pre-season and one of these years he’s going to leave it all out on the court with nothing left to give the next day. Not this year. He may miss a handful of games, but the Sixers have a better cast of characters to absorb that blow now.

Dalembert should finally do something with guaranteed minutes ahead of him, and the only question mark is health. Korver is a marksman that is showing an improved all around game, and Iguodala is an athletic revelation that will have Sixer fans jumping out of their seats. The best part of this season in Philadelphia is having Mo Cheeks back at the point….er….on the bench. Where are Andrew Toney and Moses Malone when you need them?

Mr.WEST: Forget Moses, where’s Bobby Jones? Iverson is god in my book. He is Alexander the Great in Philly. I’m not sure why they even have a coach, truth be told. Webber is a joke who needs to play soft west coast ball to get his stats up. He is a broke-ass Larry Johnson at this stage in his career. Dudes like Dalembert, Korver, Iguodala should not be main men on your squad. This team is all AI.

MVP: Mikes James
LVP: Raphael Arajuao

Mr.WEST: The Maple Leafs suck. Or the Barneys. Or whatever the hell you call this team. After Vince Carter pulled an inarguably bitch-ass move to get traded, Toronto became the new Hawks of the NBA. “Oh yeah, I forgot there was a team in Toronto” will be uttered by many a casual fan.

Toronto may have assembled a somewhat respectable starting five in new PG Mike James, Jalen Rose, Mo Peterson, Chris Bosh and some dumb fuck in the middle. Of course, they have no idea how to win ballgames. And they have no bench. And they have no fighting spirit as found in other less-than-talented squads such as Seattle and Chicago. Mike James creates order to the chaos that is a team with Rose on it but people are talking about Bosh as the second coming of Garnett need to remember that the underrated tag fits guys like Charles Smith when he was a Clipper better than it does an all-star. Expect Bosh to blossom but he is like a flower in the desert.

If you watch a Toronto game on TV you are either: A) a fantasy nerd with Jalen Rose on your team; or B) one sad motherfucker who has already seen that JAG re-run 3 times.

Mr.EAST: No team that starts Mike James or Mo Peterson is respectable. James is a nice player that plays back up on the big kids team. Mo Pete is just a big waste of a roster space. He’s the kind of guy that fits perfectly on a shit team, ‘cause nobody cares when he jacks up shots that make no sense. He must have naked pictures of you to mention his name and the word “respectable” in the same sentence. No one is watching anyway. The fans in the Air Canada Center keep wondering when the giant stone and brooms are gonna come out so the curling main event can start. They should merge this team with the Clippers and move them to the Turkish League.

New York
MVP: Stephon Marbury
LVP: Starbury

Mr.EAST: Yeah. The MVP of this team is Stephon Marbury, and the LVP is the character known as “Starbury”. The fact is, Steph is the most talented guy on the roster. It’s also a fact, however, that his head is gassed up like a hot air balloon. Steph never quite understood that a star is born from a great player, and not vice versa. His AAU coaches, boosters, entourage, and even his family had him convinced at an early age that he deserved to be a huge star. He never went through the difficult rise to fame that many truly great players have endured. I think if the unheralded Dwayne Wade as an example. He’s humble and great. That comes from being an underdog that went to Marquette, and worked hard before bursting onto the NBA stage.

If Larry Brown can tap into his head and get him to play the right way……stop. How many times have you heard that? It’s got to be the biggest “if” in the league, and it really should be stopped before it gets even bigger. Steph will never catch onto Larry Brown’s philosophy. It’s too late for him. I’m a fan, but honestly I don’t expect Marbury to be the man to save New York. In fact, I expect the team to challenge for a playoff spot this year despite Marbury, Crawford, and Q.

The future appears to be now. I’m expecting Nate Robinson, Channing Frye, Trevor Ariza, David Lee, and Eddy Curry to see big minutes for the Knicks this season. I also expect Antonio Davis to log more time than Jerome James. New York fans will be surprised to see the best runs of the season come when the young guns get more minutes, and the lethargic play that starts games will be reversed when a cast of super subs ignites defensive runs that save games. It’s an uphill battle for the playoffs, but stay tuned.

Mr.WEST: The Knicks hand Larry Brown $10 million/year in the most polite form of robbery I have seen since Thelma & Louise. That old bastard is getting paid to basically be an old jerk and make the game of basketball more like the NFL each day: slow, plodding and each play called out in advance. On paper NY has some ballers but too many of them are mentally fragile or physically slow. Isiah Thomas is like Damien in the Omen II.

NBA Season Preview: Southwest

Phoenix Suns
MVP: Steve Nash
LVP: Amare Stoudemire's knee

Mr.WEST: Just win the Suns were starting to convince other ball clubs to actually enjoy the game and score some points, Amare goes under the knife. Lets cut him slack and not oint out that he waited until pre-season to actually get is knee checked rather than take are of it in the summer. Or let's just point that out. But without Amare people are going to wonder if the Suns can really perform another minor miracle this year. I say yes.

In what likely will turn out to be a bad move for all involved, Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson are no longer Suns. Maybe those guys should've realized that Steve Nash and the Suns basically made their NBA careers in one season. But now they are gone and instead we have James "Who?" Jones and Raja Bell. I think those two jokers will fill the empty shoes quite nicely. Why? Because the Suns system works. They run and gun. And there are TONS of players in the NBA with incredible talent who can thrive in the right system. Just give those two a chance and watch them score points and fill the stat sheet.

Nash and the Matrix will be scoring as much as they can. The role of Kurt Thomas is now even more important. Can he keep up while hitting shots and rebounding? Yes. Kurt will need to be a rock for Phoenix and will deliver. I'm not sure the Suns will even see Amare this year at all but only a jackass would doubt a playoff appearance so once Amare emerges on the court come Spring, it's gonna get real interesting for opponents.

Mr.EAST: This is still a good ballclub, and you have to want them to succeed. There are too many teams that are unbearable to watch. At least you know you’re going to get some good hoops when the Suns show up. I actually wish that there were only 2 teams in the NBA. Suns versus Kings for 82 games. Make it 83. The extra game assures that one team is guaranteed to win the season series. The Suns will make the playoffs, and Amare shouldn’t come back even if he thinks he’s healthy. It’s not about this year anyway. Take the time to rehab and make sure you don’t pull an Antonio McDyess. The league needs you Amare.

MVP: Tracy McGrady
LVP: Rafer Alston/Bob Sura

Mr.EAST: I like this team to challenge San Antonio in the West this year. I’m not sure they have the power to bump the champs out of the top spot, but they will surely compete. The pieces seem to fit in Houston and I think McGrady is ready to shoulder the load on a real contender. It wasn’t so long ago that McGrady was the subject of MVP talk, and although we tend to think of Shaq, KG, LeBron, and a handful of others before T-Mac now, don’t sleep on the sleepy-eyed kid from Mount Zion Academy.

Yao Ming is the most famous person in China. That’s impressive for a nation of 2 billion. He’s probably also the only other Chinese object visible from space. See: Great Wall. He’s been kind of like Chinese food in his first couple of years in the NBA, despite great expectations. Tastes good, but you feel hungry for more after 20 minutes. This year may be different. Stromile Swift picks up some of the defensive slack that Yao seems reluctant to take, and provides awe-inspiring weak side help on anyone that beats the big man off the dribble. Likewise on offense, his athletic ability helps him run the floor and finish with authority, adding another dimension to the club that they sorely needed.

The weak spot is the point, where co-LVPs Rafer Alston and Bob Sura don’t seem to have a complete game between them. They both do a few things well, but nothing truly outstanding. The fortunate part of the Rockets problem here is that T-Mac handles the ball so much that the weakness at the point is minimized. You really need these guys to D-up and hit the open shot more than run the offense. If neither of them can defend the Rockets will have issues.

Mr.WEST: Maybe I dislike Coach Van Gundy too much to realize this team is the #2 team out West. His overcontrolling style and playcalling are more suited for football than hoops. Sad. The Rockets have the pieces in McGrady and Yao. They may even have the tools in Alston and Co. to make the pieces fit. But their coach cannot make these passive types turn on the switch—they must do it themselves. I do not see this team being hungry, savvy or determined enough to beat the Spurs. But I do see them taking it to the next level.

Memphis Grizzlies

Mr.WEST: I’m not quite sure what Jerry West is doing in Memphis but I get the feeling he is bored at his job. The Grizz (that’s the Grixxzzlies to you) were a 10-deep rotation last year which worked to a degree many did not think it could. Perhaps it was good ol’ Hubie Brown or Mr. NBA West himself, but the players seemed to have been instilled with sense for winning games as a team. With many contributors. And to a large degree, their recent facelift keeps that spirit alive. Except now there are fewer players.

A starting 5 of Might Mouse, Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright, Eddie Jones and Shane Battier will keep you in games 9 out of 10 nights. Yes, that lineup may not impress casual fans, the merchandise lady or Sports Center but it will keep teams honest. What may pose the problem is a thinner bench that will struggle to score buckets outside of gunner Mike Miller. What will drive this team is its acceptance that Pau Gasol has the chance to be a top NBA player if they push him properly. They should feed him the ball, set him up in the correct spots, and minimize his banging with larger dudes nightly.

Fratello is overrated, no debating it, but he took the typical tour of ex-coach in the TV booth turned new coach. What makes Memphis better than Seattle, Denver, LA and others? Not much. Perhaps their hustle, defense and competitiveness will make the difference. But at some point you gotta put that high school shit away and outplay the other guys.

Mr.EAST: Fratello can win these guys some games, but at what cost? Doesn’t anyone remember when he was the coach of the Cavs? Remember that “pull your own eyeballs out of your head” style of play that produced nightly scores in the 60s? He’ll do alright with a smarter team on the court than he had last year, but isn’t the point to try to get to the Finals at least. This franchise seems content with a little playoff taste, and then go quietly into the night. Why should Memphis have a team anyway. That’s the question we should be asking ourselves. Forget everything else I said.

MVP: Dirk Nowitzki
LVP: Erick Dampier

Mr.EAST: I was tempted to make Mark Cuban my LVP (Least Valuable Person) for his Jeckyl and Hyde management strategy, but he may just yet have something up his sleeve and I’ll wait it out. He runs the Mavs like his own personal fantasy team, and he’s the knee-jerk owner in your league that dumps an All-Star player 3 weeks into the season for a guy he thinks has star potential. He wants to look smart and has hurt the franchise with his impulsiveness. How do let Steve Nash go, and then Michael Finley in successive seasons? Dallas didn’t play defense and got hurt against teams like San Antonio, but they’ve plugged a lot of question marks into the roles once filled by top NBA players.

Nowitzki can still will this team into the playoffs and his presence should lift guys like Jason Terry and Josh Howard. Marquis Daniels is an intriguing talent, but hardly the caliber player at this stage that the Mavs will need to make a real run at a playoff series. This team has taken a major slide recently, and only a shrewd addition will give them what they need to ascend the Western Conference again. I predict they will eventually trade Dirk and start again. Sad, really.

My LVP is of course perennial disappointment Erick Dampier. He’s a great backup center, but his ego and reputation precede him now as a veteran and any team who employs him will have to deal with his need to start. Plus, his contract prohibits the signing of another center to play in front of him. Ugh. Any guy who is mentioned in the same breath as Dagsana Diop for playing time is a scrub.

Mr.WEST: Dirk is going to blow up even more his year. Watch. When no one from the states was watching, he single-handedly almost won h Euro championships this past summer. The guy is taking it to another level, watch. MVP candidate. Now, he has the unfortunate possibility of being a great talent on a squad that loses more anymore games each year. They need a true power forward. Bad. Letting Nash go is still embarrassing a full year later. I think this squad is too loose and stupid to win in the playoffs.

San Antonio
MVP: Tim Duncan
LVP: Michael Finley

Mr.EAST: The Argentine people believe that Manu Ginobili is the MVP of this ballclub, and have elevated him to the status of national hero. Good for you Manu. Nice to be loved. It still doesn’t change the fact that Tim Duncan is the MVP of the Spurs and probably the league whenever he wants. Without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili would be playing on the Washington Wizards. Duncan’s presence alone makes this team a favorite in their division, conference, and probably the entire league.

Now that I’m done hyping up the Big Fundamental, I have to say that I don’t think this team is as solid as it was last year. They have too many players. Why the NBA champs felt they needed to add Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel is beyond me. It’s that George Steinbrenner/Mark Cuban mentality that you need an All-Star at every position to win that ends up hurting championship ballclubs. Now Gregg Popovich has to worry about managing minutes for his new toys, and that means splitting time between Van Exel, Finley, Horry, Parker, Ginobili, Brent Barry and Bowen. That may fly on the 2nd night of back to back games, but it makes a mess of his rotation and come playoff time expect some guys to be pouting on the bench.

That leads me to my LVP, Michael Finley. Why the hell did he choose to go to San Antonio? I know every player wants a chance at the title, but you want to play too, right? Finley is going to get 15-20 minutes a night on this club and practically Jack Haley his way to a ring if he gets one. I would have loved to have seen him back on Phoenix where he would have played 30+ minutes and scored 25 points a game next to Steve Nash. What a waste.

NBA Season Preview: Central

MVP: Jermaine O’Neal
LVP: Jamaal Tinsley

Mr.EAST: I think this is Indiana’s year. I’m not alone in this analysis, but it just seems right. They are coming off a very trying year, where the franchise could have split and the team may have been very different entering the 2005-2006 season. Larry Bird held his cards and trusted that Rick Carlisle would put a focused and competitive team on the court again, and it seems he will. Ron Artest is a lunatic, but nothing that the league hasn’t seen before. Rodman was a different kind of lunatic, but he was as much of a disruption to his team as Artest is today. However difficult he is for his own team, his presence on the court is more disruptive to opposing teams and as long as he stays on the court the Pacers will be tough.

As much as Artest means to this squad, it’s still Jermaine’s job to carry the load. He’s injury prone and battles his knee, back, and assorted surprises throughout the year. If he stays healthy, the Pacers’ force down low is poised to vault his club into the top spot in the East and a likely Finals date. Injury is the only thing that will slow this club down. Hold your breath Pacers fans.

I’m picking on Jamaal Tinsley as my LVP for a number of reasons. I actually like his game, but I think he’s expendable. He’s injured so often that the Pacers have learned to play with a variety of subs at the point, and do so quite well. I’m a big fan of newly acquired Sarunas Jasikevicius and I think his championship pedigree and deadly shooting percentages will steal minutes and possibly the starting job from Tinsley by year’s end. With Jasikevicius off the pines, or in the starting lineup the toughness of a champion is added to an already deep club.

Mr.WEST: I agree with this, Mike. For once, you are not a blowhard wasting my precious hoops time. O’Neal is a stud, Artest is crazy cool, and Tinsley just does not have “it” to lead the squad from the point. I do think that Rick Carlisle is over controlling and suffocates his team too much which contributes to a brutish style of play that gets them hurt injury-wise. He needs to let the game flow more. But these new coaches are jerks, so nothing new there.

Detroit Pistons
MVP: Staring Five
LVP: Darko

Mr.WEST: With almost the same squad, man-for—man, as the past two years during which they mad Finals appearances, no one doubts the Pistons are one of the beasts of the East. What they doubt is how far they can go without Larry Brown. Oh, give me a fucking break already.

Larry Brown can coach but he is no hoops god; his style is equally as limiting on players as it is limiting on the opponents. Fact: Give Mike D’Antoni this same team and watch them win 65 games the past two years in a totally different system. Epitomizing the word “team” unlike almost all of their opponents, the Pistons have a starting 5 that covers all the bases from defense to shooting to passing to heady play to guts. It’s hard to pick the MVP of this team—Billups leads on the floor at times but Tayshaun does all the little trhings while Big Ben continues defying convention to dominate in his own way.

This is supposed to be the Year of Darko. Hmmm, I’ll take the Year of the Chicken instead. Brown basically suffocated this kid’s career and now he has learned to act like a prick to demand playing time in good ol’ American fashion. As Darko gets in the rotation (#8 man) all eyes will be on him. Expect not so much.

Mr.EAST: No argument on the Pistons. No holes either. The fight with Indiana that they had last year should translate into some of the best basketball the Eastern Conference has ever seen between two teams this year. There may be some pushing and shoving when they get together, but mostly you will be treated to something special. Who figured that Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton would turn into one of the best backcourts in recent memory? Hey West….if Artest fought Big Ben on pay per view, would you buy it? I would. No contest. Artest in a 3 round knockout. Wasn’t he a NYC junior champ or something?

Chicago Bulls
MVP: Ben Gordon
LVP: Tyson Chandler

Mr.WEST: Scott Skiles has this rag-tag group again ready to fight for a playoff spot. I gotta say the Bulls have my respect and even will get me to tune into their games because they play fucking hard and have many guys who contribute on different nights. Perhaps that is not ideal for a truly successful NBA team (I think having a clear 1 ,2, and 3 top players helps) but the Bulls do not have an all-star in any form.

“Better than everyone thought” is what sums up many of the players. Deng, Nocioni, Ben Gordon, Sweetney, and Hinrich all like to prove the experts wrong. Not so for Tyson Chandler, though. Why this bitch boy was kept in Chicago is more a matter of money invested than an expected return. Chandler has not learned how to become an NBA pro as a big man, instead wishing he could be a Garnett-type. I know Kevin Garnett, Tyson, and you ain’t him. Rather than bulking up, hustling, and becoming a force, he has become Camby-lite as he only rebounds and block shots yet does not disrupt opposing offenses enough.

Special tip for real NBA fans: tune in to gamesvs. The Pacers. Why? Just to see the tough andvicious Nocioni take on Ron Artest in what will surely land someone in suspension land at some point ion the season.

Mr.EAST: I still hate the Bulls. I can’t seem to get that bad taste out of my mouth from the Phil Jackson era. I see Hinrich, Gordon, and Chandler in the uniforms now, but all I can picture is Paxson, Craig Hodges, and Bill Cartwright. After MJ’s retirement anyone who wears a Bulls uni seems like a 13 year old kid trying to be cool on the playground. They ought to revamp the whole look. Somehow I feel like last year was a fluke. I feel like it was a bad dream that I’ll wake up from and find that Jerry Krause is still sitting in his skybox burping and farting and looking all bug eyed. That would make me feel better somehow. The Bulls had their run. They should stick to sucking. I guess they’ll make the playoffs this year. Why not?

MVP: TJ Ford
LVP: Joe Smith

Mr.EAST: All the names that are getting bounced around as keys to the new and improved Bucks are just the leather interior and Alpine system in a sports car powered by TJ Ford, the engine. I know. You’re saying, “The guy played one year and then sat out with a spinal cord injury. How can he possibly be the MVP of the Bucks? He’s just lucky to be on the court again.” You may have a point, but I’m sticking by it. TJ Ford is an assist man with skills on defense and more than anything else he knows how to push tempo. The Bucks are full of players that specialize. There are plenty of players on the team that can hit shots and play without the rock. What they need in order to succeed is a guy who understands how to find them and put them in a position to succeed. That’s TJ.

Michael Redd is a great scorer on his own, but he can’t lift his team to a higher level. Bobby Simmons is an excellent complimentary player, but he needs help. Desmond Mason is a circus high wire act, but he needs a ringleader to play to his potential. Bogut is too young to make an impact, but he should force teams to think twice before doubling up on Redd. When I try to add up the pieces on this team I don’t get anything that knocks my socks off, but TJ Ford can change all that if he can stay healthy and push the tempo. No playoffs for the Bucks this season, but there will be Christmas this year in Milwaukee.

I almost don’t even want to mention him, because he’s such a non-factor, but Joe Smith is my LVP because he doesn’t matter. The former number one pick is simply an afterthought in Milwaukee. He puts up fair rebounding and blocks statlines, and occasionally drops a big number in the scoring column, but I’m not impressed. Give me Dan Gadzuric for 30 minutes and I bet you’ll see a bigger impact on the outcome.

Mr.WEST: The Bucks just don’t have the talent to scare anyone. Michael Redd is basically what Alan Houston could have been at a corral of stiff big men and re-constructed PG with no shot (TJ)) means wins in the 30’s. You gotta like Bobby Simmons and maybe even Bogut but making the Bucks a winner is years away.

LVP: Larry Hughes

Mr.WEST: Oh, LBJ is now the king if you had any doubts. Danny Ferry (former Dukies make good GM’s?) assembled some role players for him that seem to fit: Ilgauskas at center, Gooden and Donyell at PF/SF, Larry Hughes at SG, and Damon Jones as a shooter. The only thing stopping us all from calling them a top team in the East is the great unknown: can LeBron make this team a real winner? Nah. Not 50-games, not beating the Pacers or Pistons. Check back next year or so.

Coach Silas is going to be strapped to figure out what is the best 4 to put on the floor with LBJ. Certainly Donyell seems like the best NBA pro of the bunch but can Hughes be counted on? Call me a playa hater but what Larry Hughes showed to those who did not watch him actually play was all good, right? He scored, got tons of steals and the Bullets made the 2nd round, right? Well, keep in mind that Larry thinks he is a stud, which he is not. And he takes too many risks to get steals that expose his teammates. Better watch his ass, I’m telling you. No fantasy box scores will tell you why the Cavs lost to the Bucks that night.

Still, the Cavs are all about LBJ. He is worth the price of admission up close.

Mr.EAST: Hey, West…Coach Silas may be wracking his brain about what the best 4 are to play with LBJ, but he’d be making his moves on NBA Live 2006, since Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown gets to play with the real guys. Jackass. The Cavs wasted their money on Damon Jones and Jones blew his only chance to be a relevant NBA player when he left Big Diesel in Miami. You can’t win with Drew Gooden. He’s a moron of a ballplayer. Donyell is on his last legs as good as he is when he’s on the court for 30 minutes a night. Ilgauskas is a very good center that people sleep on for all the injuries he used to have. I just don’t see this team making a deep run in the playoffs anytime soon. LeBron is the man, but the supporting cast doesn’t seem like a good fit. Watch him bolt to the Knicks in 2008.

NBA Season Preview: Northwest

Denver Nuggets

Mr.WEST: Will the real Nuggets please stand up? Is it the squad who went 32-8 (!) to end last season or the squad who floundered under .500 to kick off the season? Logic would dictate some place in between. George Karl is a fun coach who tends to let players play unlike many of his peers. Without a doubt getting Carmelo under control was the big step after his ego and sot selection went in the shitter earl on.

The talented nucleus of starters and bench is undeniable. For the Nuggets, this is the first time they have almost all the same personnel back with the seemingly small but possibly important re-introduction of Voshon Lenard who missed all but 3 games last season with an injury Perhaps a legit shooter is all Denver needed.

The Nuggets have size, athleticism , spirit and even some girth with K-Mart, Nene and Camby guarding the hoop. As any fantasy nerd knows, the injury bug seems to infect big men in Denver often. If this squad stays healthy, look out.

Mr.EAST: I agree about George Karl. He’s a flake, but he’s no Doug Moe. He lets his guys play, but they play with an idea about how to compete. They got problems though. Voshon Lenard is made of paper mache, and Kenyon Martin’s knees are already giving him problems in the pre-season. Camby is made of the same shit they use to make Necco wafers, and Carmelo is overrated. I’m not saying that this team isn’t good, but people are quick to jump on the bandwagon of a bunch of guys that have more question marks hanging all over them than the Riddler. Good squad though. Keep your fingers crossed Kiki.

Portland Trailblazers

Mr.WEST: Does anyone else think that the Jailblazers seem to be treading water when it comes to cleaning up their image? Normally “image” would not mean shit to me but there seems to be a direct correlation between image and the ability to in win Portland. One look at this squad just screams “bitches.”

The players are no one you’d want as teammates: can we all just admit that Darius Miles does not deserve the “underdeveloped special talent!” he gets at this point in his career? Can Zach Randolph become Elton Brand instead oh John Hot Plate Williams? Can Sebastian Telfair refrain from being a lesser Starbury? Coach Nate McMillan took the billionaire’s money and inherited a family of retards along with it.

Perhaps this team will follow the Sonics lead and allow unselfish big men like Ratliff and Pryzbilla do the dirty so others can fill it up. The problem is that the “others” are not Ray Allen here. Bless your harts, Blazers fans, for still going to games. You dumb bastards.

Mr.EAST: Why the fuck did Nate McMillan take over this team? Was he that pissed of at Sonics’ management that he had to go to the “other” Pacific Northwest franchise. I went from liking Zach Randolph when he was a sleeper, to hating his idiotic guts now. He and Ruben Patterson keep whining like bitches about not having enough talent on their team. Hey asswipes, you guys are supposed to be the talent. Earn your ridiculous salaries and take over a few games. This team will never win with this mix of players. They should pull a New Orleans/Oklahoma City/Tuscaloosa/Pittsburgh Hornets and ship out Miles, Randolph, Patterson, and Ratliff to get a few draft picks. Play Telfair, Webster, and Przybilla and take your chances until you find a free agent that is actually a player.

MVP: Andrei Kirilenko
LVP: Gordon Giricek

Mr.EAST: How is it that the Jazz lack a decent player at the one position easiest to fill in the NBA? How many decent shooting guards are floating around in the league, and on various benches, and the Jazz have none of them on their roster? Gordon Giricek is my LVP for the Jazz, but it’s hardly his fault. He sucks, but who ever said he was any good. As far as I’m concerned, the Jazz will not compete without a better player at the two. Where’s the shooting to soften up the post for Boozer and Okur? How will Kirilenko take advantage of his slashing/driving skill if the defense is sagging off Giricek to cut him off?

The MVP is obviously Kirilenko. There isn’t another guy that combines the all around game he features in the league. He’s kind of like Ben Wallace meets Dominique Wilkins. I’m not prepared to put the guy in the Hall of Fame, but he’s a perennial All-Star in the making and Utah needs to continue to build around his defensive fire and athletic ability. Boozer is a good low block scorer and rebounder and although he gets beat up for his handling of the Cleveland situation, he’s a keeper as well. The forward slot in Utah is well taken care of….

The point will be manned by Deron Williams, who is going to be a flat out player…..someday. I’m not all that convinced he can be effective on a consistent basis as a rookie. At first, I thought he might challenge for the ROY award, but after seeing him in the pre-season, I can see the holes in his game. The Jazz will be tough in a year or two, but the guard play just ain’t there. Sorry Utah.

Mr.WEST: Oh just fucking say it already—no one likes Utah! Weird white people and a coach that is old school only other hustling white dudes love his style. AK-47 gets too injured to earn my respect. He is a paper tiger. Boozer is an asshole who played down to expectations. And they got no one under 6’6” who mildly scares you: Deron Williams has the head of J-Kidd and the talent of Jacque Vaughn. Try as they might , this squad can’t over the hump.

MVP: Michael Olowokandi….just kidding. KG, of course.
LVP: Wally Szczerbiak

Mr.EAST: This team is a sad story. I like the T-Wolves so it pains me to write this downer of a commentary, but it must be done. KG is an all-time great and a ferocious competitor, but he is the Lone Ranger without Tonto. He doesn’t even have Silver in Minnesota. Cassell and Spree were such a good mix their first season together and the T-Wolves looked bad ass. The offense was like an Aston Martin and they had some much needed grit in crunch time. Unfortunately that grit got in the crack of their ass, like a bathing suit at the beach, and the team was forced to divorce. An ugly picture.

Now, they have jack shit and may as well start over. Trade KG and give the man a chance at a better NBA life, McHale. Please do us all a favor. Marko Jaric, Trenton Hassell, Michael Olowokandi, Troy Hudson, and Nicolas Tshikitichvoliailioliakialioli aren’t an NBA roster. In fact that whole bunch of bums should get shipped off to the D-League for reprogramming. The only guys on that squad that have any skills at all are Eddie Griffin, who’s a headcase, and Mark Madsen who thinks he’s a crash test dummy.

I’ll save the last word for a decent guy by all accounts, but still my LVP. Wally Szczerbiak is a handsome guy, so he gets his mug plastered all over Timberwolves promotional materials like Thunder Dan did in his Suns’ heyday, but the guy is like Tim Legler 4.0. He shoots well. That’s it. They should revive Baywatch and give Wally a starring role, so he can quit the NBA and open his roster spot for someone who can get KG back into the playoffs.

Mr.WEST: Am I the only thinking that Garnett is finally due for an extended injury? Not because he should be hurt but more because he wants to b hurt, a la Vince Carter before the Nets got him. This team took a total dive in 2004-2005, and things look even worse for this season on paper. Give me Speedwell and Cassell over Rasher McCann’s and Troy Hudson any day. Garnett is all alone here, people. Throw the man a line!

Seattle Supersonics [I know they dropped the “super” but I think that’s lame and putit back for them]
MVP: Ray Allen
LVP: Luke Ridnour

Mr.WEST: I’m sure you, like me, was such an NBA genius that you also picked the Sonics to win 50+ games last year. Yeah, right, and Lindsey Lohan’s nose has never touched a line of blow. But there they were, winning their little division and fighting the Spurs hard in the playoffs by round 2. This year the Sonics will surprise no one as they inevitably have to take a step backwards. Why? Well, how the hell do they keep up thet play with all the same plsyers minus Antonio Daniels and Jerome James? Those guys may be perennial NBA backups but they delivered meaningfully for Seattle last year.

Ray Allen is the best shooter in the league, sorry Peja. And his teammates in Rashard Lewis, Radmonovic and company did what few teams in the NBA have done in recent memory: they actually shot the ball well night in and night out. Plus, they have a 3-headed rebounding goon in Collison, Evans and Fortson who are cool with others scoring. They will win games because they bring it each night.

What holds them back are two key things: coaching and point guard play. Nate McMillan left his Mr. Sonic nametag on the floor, and old Wally Weiss is typical NBA circle bullshit. More importantly, Luke Ridnour is not set to lead this team. He is too frail, too “not there” to do it right. I foresee a struggle for him even with more PT with Daniels gone.

Mr.EAST: The only hustle in the Key Arena this year is the hustle that Coach Weiss put on the Sonics’ front office to give him another job in the league. Without Nate the Great cracking the whip on his guys, and commanding discipline from the sidelines you’ll see Fortson go bonkers and piss someone off, Lewis get preoccupied with the three point line, and Radmonovic milk a turned ankle into a 3 week vacation. They can still win, but the motivation has to come from within and in my experience with the NBA, guys need artificial motivation to compete every night. Whether it’s a great coach, a contract year, or a tough as balls teammate there has to be something to make these guys care about playing the Bobcats in December. I’m not sure it’s there, and I’m not sure you’ll see more than 43-44 wins for the Sonics this year.