For the second straight year, I organized a group of bloggers (which is a little like herding cats) to come up with some NBA Previews in the preseason. It was great fun and there was a ton of great insight into each team that you don't normally get from the mainstream media.
Another thing you don't often get much from the MSM is the humilty to look back and say "Wow, I totally missed on that one. What was I thinking?" Not so with bloggers. We're not concerned with calling ourselves "experts" or "insiders" so we're perfectly willing to admit that sports is too fickle to predict accurately.
I mean, every single Celtics blogger vastly underestimated the number of wins this team would get. Could you blame us for being a little gun shy after a 24 win season? You don't just go out and predict the largest turnaround in history.
Anyway, enough lead-in. I asked the bloggers to return to their previews and react to them in under 200 words or less (not the most popular request for bloggers). The following is just the Atlantic Division. Expect the rest of the divisions next week (starting Monday).
Here is a complete list of the NBA Previews. The Preview Review's are after the break.
CelticsBlog - Jeff Clark
My only mistake was not dreaming big enough. I knew the new big three were going to be the main attraction and that Garnett’s biggest impact would be on defense but I didn't know how perfectly it would all work out. I was sure the team would struggle to blend all these new pieces together and hit some rough patches, but they never did. Depth and coaching didn’t hold us back at all and some might argue they were both strengths.
I believed in Rondo but I had no idea he’d progress so far so fast. I loved Leon Powe but how was I to know he’d become such a stable workhorse? I knew the big three would be motivated, but they went above and beyond to make sacrifices in their own games for the benefit of each other and the whole team.
Don’t wake me from this dream. I’m enjoying this more than I thought. I’ve been walking around in a daze all season long and I’m hoping this lasts right on through June.
Red's Army - John Karalis
Sooooo... I was a little off with the 49 wins thing. But like I said the my preview... I'd much rather be low because I underestimated the chemistry than high because I was blind with homeritis. The Celtics jelled faster than most people thought they would, which is probably good for at least 5 more wins. I'm happy that the Celtics came through as the strong defenders that I hoped they'd be. And if I'm giving myself a pat on the back here... I've got to point to calling bull on the people who thought Paul Pierce would be disruptive. Thanks Paul... for making me look good. It happens so infrequently. Now lets see if the Celts can keep this roll going into the post-season.
Green Bandwagon - Jim
I'm not sure what the most embarrassing aspect of my preview is. Predicting 49 wins? Questioning Doc Rivers' competence several times? Wondering if KG, Tom Thibodeau and company would improve the defense? Well 62 wins (and counting?), a masterful job by Rivers and the premier defense in the league have gone a long way in answering any questions I had. More importantly the Celtics are a lot better than "relevant once again and instant playoff contenders". Instead they are bona fide title contenders. But in the immortal words of Mark McGwire, "I'm not here to talk about the past." Well actually I am. I'd just rather focus on the season's top developments/moments:
- Glen Davis – scoring explosion in Detroit, hitting the deck, defending Tim Duncan and the mohawk.
- Team chemistry
- The Eddie House/James Posey duo.
- Leon Powe's ascension from DNPville to legitimate rotation guy.
- Rajon Rondo's monster rebounds (Dallas and San Antonio), ridiculous ball fakes and speedy development.
- Conquering the Texas triangle, destroying the Knicks on TNT and beating every NBA team.
- Ray Allen's all around game.
- Paul Pierce. He has been awesome.
- Kevin Garnett. Better than advertised.
- Boston's defense.
New York Knicks
Posting and Toasting - Seth Rosenthal
Save for a few mitigating factors, my prediction was dead-on. In fact, if it weren't for injuries, managerial incompetence, a terribly distracting sex scandal, the unquestionable failure of the EZ Money frontcourt, Stephon Marbury's surreal mutiny, the omnipresent pressures of the New York media and the rumor mill, the absence of a real leader on the roster, an utter lack of commitment to defense, and a tendency to collapse in crunch time, the Knicks might very well be at or above .500 and headed to the playoffs. So close!
Straight Bangin' - Joey
36-46. I thought that the Knicks could finish with .500 at least on the horizon. That was ultimately absurd. I suppose I gave the Brickers too much credit and the East too little. Or maybe even I, one of Isiah and Dolan's great critics, couldn't fully comprehend how worthless and inept they are. Ever grows the hope of an off-season, I guess. From the second week of the season, this year was destined to be lost. You don't like reading that your coach and your "star" guard almost came to blows. And you don't like seeing so many guys loafing or so brazenly going for dolo.
But I was also realistic. I foresaw a team that wouldn't play defense and would likely struggle to coalesce as something greater than the sum of its already marginal parts. Concerns about integrating Zach Randolph, blocking shots, and sharing the ball were sadly validated. But worst, the almost comical cynicism in which I traffic and that has come to engulf all-things-Knicks--the players, the coach, the management, the fans, the writers--went from an indulgence of the jaded to simply pragmatic. How can you follow this franchise and avoid it? How terrible.
Passion and Pride - Jon Burkett
Expectations were low coming in to the season, but the Sixers promised to work hard. In the second half of the season, they emerged as the surprise team of the East. They are now 22-8 over their last 30 games after going 18-30 in their first 48.
Their 30th loss came in Atlanta on February 4th. Josh Smith had 19 points, 9 blocks and 9 assists in that game. The Sixers faced the Wizards the next night at home. Down by double digits in the fourth quarter, they went on a 17-0 run to come from behind to win that game. Andre Iguodala points to that moment as the turning point in the season.
While the firing of Billy King instilled a greater sense of urgency, new GM Ed Stefanski really had little to do with this turnaround. Trading Korver turned out well because it gave more opportunities for Thaddeus Young and Rodney Carney to play. A resurgent Andre Miller, maturing Andre Iguodala, consistent Sam Dalembert and poised play from the youngsters all contributed to Mo Cheeks coach of the year candidacy. Sixers smashed expectations and find themselves in the sleeper role heading into the playoffs.
HoopsAddict - Ryan McNeill
Alpha dog in the Atlantic and 52 wins? Wow, what was I thinking last fall? Granted, part of the teams struggles are due to T.J. Ford missing 31 games and Chris Bosh missing 15, but this team isn't firing on all cylinders right now and look to make an early exit from the playoffs. The team has been relatively healthy over the past 20 games and are still a lethargic 6-14. Ouch. This clearly won't get it done even in a weak Eastern Conference.
Even though it looks like my predictions have blown up in my face I would like to reminder readers I did write, "If the injury bug ravishes this squad - or even just Chris Bosh - then this team could be looking at another lottery pick and an abysmal record with less than 40 wins." I think the fact the team survived without Ford and Bosh for extended periods of time speaks to the depth and the solid job Sam Mitchell has done with this team.
RaptorsHQ - Franchise
That sound you hear is us patting ourselves on the back here at the HQ, as looking back at our preview of the 2007-08 season for Toronto, we were pretty bang on regarding most topics.
In terms of off-season moves, we had given the thumbs up to the acquisition of Carlos Delfino and the thumbs down to the price paid for Jason Kapono, worrying that his stats in Miami were over-inflated and that we’d miss Mo Pete’s defence. This has pretty much been the case as Delfino has been a nice boost at times while Kapono has seen limited minutes and his defence has been matadoresque.
We had also identified rebounding as the team’s biggest weakness and indeed, lack of glass cleaning has cost Toronto more than a game or two this season.
On the negative side, the biggest strength that we had identified, Toronto’s depth, hasn’t quite been what was expected and our prediction of 48 wins is out of reach. However we had mentioned that serious injuries to Bosh and other key players could knock Toronto back down in the East standings…and lookee here, that’s exactly what happened.
And our biggest coup? Identifying the Jamario Moon signing as a potential pleasant surprise…
Look out Miss Cleo!
Note: Nobody elected to respond to the New Jersey predictions. I guess they just Vince Carter'ed this project. That's ok. We still love them (the bloggers, not the Nets).