The NBA season begun last night, although my beloved New Jersey Nets don't kick-off until tonight. As I did last year, I'll be predicting the finishes for the conferences, and, I'm sure, as I did last year, I'll be woefully inaccurate.
1. New Jersey Nets - A cock-eyed optimist am I. Seriously though, while this may be a bit over-optimistic, the Nets do figure to have a good year - rookie Marcus Williams, in particular, is promising to (finally) be the trusted backup to Jason Kidd they've never really had. Add a maturing Richard Jefferson, a Vince Carter in a contract year (read: with something to prove), a primed-for-breakout Nenad Kristic, and a proven runner and shooter in Eddie House and a Nets final appearance is hardly pie-in-the-sky.
2. Miami Heat - As much as I don't like the team, and loathe Alonzo Mourning, what they did last year can't be overlooked. But O'Neal just gets older and Wade won't be able to carry the team all by his lonesome. I'm predicting that last year will be a fluke, an experiment that paid off but that won't again. (Then again, I predicted that they would barely make the playoffs last year - so what do I know).
3. Cleveland Cavaliers - The coronation of LeBron James is coming, but not imminent. He still has no Scottie Pippen to join forces with.
4. Chicago Bulls - A lot of seers are predicting a conference finals berth for the Wallace-fied Bulls. They'll be good, but that good?
5. Detroit Pistons - Like most, I think the loss of Wallace will deal a real blow.
6. Washington Wizards - Gilbert Arenas is the real deal, but what's that old saw about defense again?
7. Orlando Magic - Because I'd like to see Grant Hill get one last swing at the playoffs.
8. Indiana Pacers - A shell of what they were just two years ago, but hardly horrible.
9. Milwaukee Bucks - The team I always forget about.
10. Toronto Raptors - A growth year that leaves them out of the playoffs, but barely.
11. Philadelphia Sixers - A team that needs to rest, badly.
12. - Boston Celtics - Youth that will still be too young.
13. - New York Knicks - I am hoping fervently for the arrogant Isaiah Thomas to fall flat.
14. - Charlotte Bobcats - Still floundering.
15. - Atlanta Hawks - Still hopeless.
1. Dallas Mavericks - Nothing has changed, has it? And they should be just as hungry after a tough fight against Miami in last year's Finals.
2. San Antonio Spurs - Again, the core is still all there - the core that won it all a year ago.
3. Phoenix Suns - I'm guessing that Stoudamire won't be the same post-surgery, and that without him the Suns are very good but not champion-level.
4. LA Clippers - The revenge of the downtrodden!
5. Houston Rockets - Is this the year the lauded McGrady-Ming combo finally gets it all together?
6. Utah Jazz - The Bulls of the West.
7. LA Lakers - Kobe'll get them into the playoffs, but won't have enough to work with for much more.
8. - Denver Nuggets - Dysfunctional. And Carmello Anthony just isn't at the same level as Wade and James, no matter how much the powers-that-be wish he were.
9. - New Orleans Hornets - Chris Paul will need another year or two to make this team playoff-level.
10. - Sacramento Kings - When will Artest implode this year?
11. - Memphis Grizzlies - When your star breaks his foot in the summer . . .
12 - Golden State Warriors - You know, I'm not sure I have any idea who is on this team. Baron Davis?
13 - Seattle Supersonics - Stuck in the mud.
14 - Portland Trailblazers - Will compete mightily with Atlants for the league's worst record.
Nets over Heat
Dallas over Suns
Nets over Dallas
What? A man can dream.