1. Miami Heat
2. Washington Wizards
3. Orlando Magic
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Charlotte Bobcats
Welcome to the Southeast Division, where the Heat got busy and added a whole whack of new talent, and the rest…well, not so much.
If there was any debate that Pat Riley wanted back behind the bench, it officially ended this off-season when he traded away key role players from a team that was one bad Dwayne Wade rib away from the NBA Finals for a pack of inconsolable assholes. While he increased the team’s talent-level, poor Stan Van Gundy now finds himself with a locker room with Molotov Cocktail-like chemistry. Not convinced Riley wants SVG out? He’s talking to Latrell Sprewell. Don’t worry Riles, SVG won’t get choked this year—he’ll slit his throat first.
As Cuban-esque as these off-season moves may seem, they would have been even more dramatic had Riley made them 3 years ago when almost all of these new Heat players were All-Stars. But those are 3 long-ass years. Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, and Gary Payton have slid from greatness to has-been status so quickly that they could be starring in an NBA version of The Surreal Life with bunkmates Penny Hardaway and Sam Cassell.
But if there is one team that these malcontents could conceivably submerge their egos, it is with the Heat. Riley still has juice, Wade is a 1st tier NBA Star, and Shaq is, well, still Shaq. Early indications point to the new teammates beginning to gel, with Shaq referring to his new point guard Jason Williams as “a hip hop Scott Skiles”. Funny, because I always saw Shaq as a Bohemian Deacon Jones.
Despite his latest appearance on 60 Minutes, the Wizards finally managed to crawl out from under Michael Jordan’s shadow by improving by 20 wins last season. Now the Wizz find themselves in that magically mediocre place in the NBA where they are good enough you have to respect them, but not good enough that you actually have to give a shit about them.
I actually expect about the same number of wins from the Wizz this season, despite some major changes in the roster. Antonio Daniels and Caron Butler should fill up the offensive slack left by the departed Larry Hughes, and getting rid of Kwame Brown can only help team chemistry. Poor Kwame. He wore that “Former No. 1 Pick” label like a scarlet letter and was a constant reminder of those painful Jordan years while in Washington. He turned into the equivalent of the Pink Elephant in the room for the Wizards, only this elephant was bigger, blacker, and couldn’t pass out of a double-team.
But this is a legitimate playoff team. A legitimate playoff team who’s one-two punch of Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas will take on all comers in the first round, only to get their Atkins’ Chucked in the second. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy Arenas as a leader on a good playoff team. He just reminds me too much of Steve Francis, if Steve Francis kept his goddamn mouth shut.
Thank God-Shamgod for the Wizznutzz, or this team wouldn’t have any personality at all. And a tip for you readers who are starting their Christmas Shopping early, visit the Wizznutzz Trading Post—the ladies love Jahidi Floss.
The heart-warming storyline for the Magic this season is the franchise making reparations for its past sins by bringing back head coach Brian Hill. If nostalgia plays well in Orlando, they might as well bring back Reggie Theus and Dave Corzine because that will be the only good news this season.
Well there is one lone bright spot: Dwight Howard. This young big man has the frame, athleticism, and attitude to become a star—as early as this season. And to think there were draft day whispers that teams were uncomfortable drafting Howard because his Christian beliefs may somehow negatively affect lockeroom chemistry. Only in the NBA. Look for Howard to average a double-double this season as the team starts to involve him more, particularly with Grant Hill out with a herniated ankle.
The Magic actually tried to get Howard some help this year by drafting Spanish giant Fran Vasquez, only to have Vasquez refuse to leave Europe. Apparently the notion of competing in the NBA was intimidating for Vasquez, as was the idea of leaving his girlfriend who apparently had his nuts firmly gripped in a pair of castanets. Frustrated with the demands of pussy-whipped players, the Magic also bought out Doug Christie in August.
Ok, full disclosure. If I sound overly negative regarding the Magic, it is because of Steve Francis. There are few players that get under The Blue Baller’s foreskin worse than diva. I remember one point last year where “Franchise” was reminiscing about being traded for Tracy McGrady. Stevie! You and half your goddamn team were traded for Tracy McGrady! If this crybaby weeps after getting picked 2nd in the NBA draft and when his best friend gets traded, I can’t wait to see his reaction when this team drops 15 straight. I hope he has nightmares of walking into GM Place, seeing Cuttino Mobley spooning Corey Magette, and David Stern booming a Vincent Price-style laugh over the whole Grizzly scene.
I said full disclosure.
Going into this off-season, the Hawks had compiled a promising group of young athletic players, all 6-8 swingmen. During the off-season, the front office got busy by passing on a much-needed point guard in the draft in favour of a promising 6-8 athletic swingman, and then spending $70 million on yet another 6-8 swingman. Welcome to the Atlanta, home of Billy Knight’s Clone Army.
But that wasn’t the real story for the Hawks this off-season. Attention Raptor Fans, there is an NBA head-office more embarrassing than your own! That’s right, I refreshed my browser on CNN.com/Law all summer long to see if Karl Rove was going to prison or if Joe Johnson was going to Atlanta. What a disgrace. The franchise finally has some cap space, and like a drunk trying to spend his drink tickets at a cash bar, they go all Brewster’s Millions and throw it at Joe Johnson—the Ray Jackson of the Sun’s Fab Five. And Steve Belkin, the one owner who actually sees the absurdity of this deal goes nuts and gets turfed.
Another loss for the Hawks this off-season, was Jason Collier, who was stiffer and whiter alive than he will be dead. Oh fuck off, I know that was terrible! This is a weblog, who invited you here anyway! Just take solace in that wherever Collier is now, it is better than playing for the Hawks.
Forecast: Mostly cloudy with scattered highlights.
“Brezec wins the tip and passes the ball to Brevin Knight. Knight to Jumaine Jones with a kick-out to Keith Bogans for threeee!” Yep, this will be the hardest working, shittiest team in the league again this year.