Steve Kerr got me thinking about the competition. Are they really that much better than us? (no) Are we really that much closer to the Hawks than to the Pacers? (no) Could everything fall apart, thus leaving the C’s looking up at the rest of the league by the end of the season? (yes, but we’ve been over that already)
So time to turn our attention to the rest of the East. One caveat- I’m nowhere near as informed about other teams as I am about the Celts. So please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Plus, before camps open, I don’t have the privilege of knowing any new developments. On the flip side, writing this so early gives me the distinct advantage of not being polluted by reading too many alternative previews.
Everyone says that the class of the East is the Pistons, Pacers, and Heat. As well they should. However, at any point Artest and/or Rasheed could go Chernobyl on us, effectively bringing the leaders back to the pack. Shaq could run out of hush money or come up with one of his annual injuries. Or perhaps his supporting cast will live down to their reputation. However, for now, lets just accept that these guys are the head of the class and move on.
Here are my top 5 competitors for the 4th spot:
1. Philly 76ers
2. New York Knicks
3. Cleveland Cavs
4. Milwaukee Bucks
5. Toronto Raptors
O’Brien is back and he’s got just the kind of team in Philly with which he will thrive. You think I’m kidding? Allen is gonna get all the looks he wants. The playbook’s first 5 pages will be "give AI the ball and get out the way." The rest of the team is made up of role players and rising younger players willing to buy into the team-first, all-out defensive philosophy O’Brien sells. I was never a huge fan of the guy in Boston, but I do respect what he can do for a team. They won’t challenge for the title, but they won’t be easy to play.
The Knicks are about the worst team all that money could buy. Don’t get me wrong; Marbury is about as talented as they come. But he’s gonna have to show me he’s a winner one of these days. Ditto for Crawford (a less talented version of Marbury). At best Houston is a spot up shooter, if he can make it to the court without crutches. If they don’t win now, they are toast for years to come. They’ll win a lot now, but not enough to matter in the end.
Boozer definitely kicked the feet out from under the Cavs' rising status. Still, I give this team a great shot because of one man. Nope, not LeBron. Coach Silas. He’s a field general coach and he’ll motivate these kids to play together. He’s even got a solid vet at the point to lead them. Oh yeah, and there is that James kid.
The Bucks played above themselves last year, and Kerr doesn’t think that they can repeat it. I disagree. Redd is a legit All-Star, Van Horn is soft but good, Mason is just good. I think they’ll continue to play above their heads.
On the other side of the coin are the Raps. They play below their talent, and should continue to do so. Vince and Rose just can’t get it together for a whole season. Bosh is still cutting his teeth and Marshall is old enough to need new ones. Actually he’s very solid, but I couldn’t resist. I never take these guys too seriously and they keep proving me right. On the other hand, you can get a much better feel for this team by reading the RaptorBlog.
Two teams that could very easily threaten to compete are the Bulls and Wizards. Both have the talent, but the Bulls are perpetually one year away (for a better review, read the BullsBlog) and the Wiz suffer from the curse of les Bullet (sadly, nobody cares enough to blog them – it’s a Redskins town).
One last caveat: I’m opening myself up to the same kind of abuse that Kerr is. To paraphrase of my favorite writers – I’m wrong about some of this stuff. I just don’t know which things I’m wrong about. So take this all with a grain of salt the size of Gibraltar and go easy on me.