We are a couple nights deep into the season and there are so many different narratives already in play. Out East, it always starts with Lebron and the Heat, who displayed new found poise against the Celtics – the best rivalry in the league. James Harden began his 82 game journey of proving to the world that there is no way he should be playing third wheel on any team. Raptors and Blazers come out the gate with great performances lead by their new PG’s, Lowry and Lillard. The Lakers issues have been exposed so early in the season, but if I hear the words “Princeton Offence” one more time, I might have to mute every LA game. Other than that, I couldn’t be happier to have the NBA back!
Raging Rondo: Can Rajon lead the Celts to the top?
100% they are a better team than last year, but the only question is if they’re good enough to beat Miami. KG was playing every other night, Peirce was hurt, Allen was on one leg, Bradley was out, and Boston was up 3-2 with Game 6 at home until Lebron “grew up”. Everything I’ve heard and read (which is a lot) coming out of the Celtics camp is that Rajon has turned a new leaf in terms of leading the team, arranging group bowling nights and dinners, being more vocal in practice and straight up working his tail off to get better. These are all encouraging bits of news considering it’s the same Rajon Rondo whose name was dragged through mud about being anti-social, climaxing with the Ray Allen beef and departure (more on that in a sec). But if the 2012 playoffs were any indication, Rajon realizes it’s his time and his team with the help of KG until he leaves. Rondo is already the best time/pace game manager alongside Chris Paul, but he will have no option but try to score more along with his 10+ assists a night. I expect him to make a push for MVP buzz, keeping his TO’s down, assists and steals consistent, while upgrading his scoring. Don’t think for a second that being left off the Olympic Team didn’t piss him off either, I’m hoping for a huge “F-U” year.
Ray Allen: Couldn’t leave without touching on this, I get the “grown men can do whatever they want” and “it’s a business” mantras. This wasn’t about the ring (he has one), it wasn’t about the money (Celtics offered double), it wasn’t about minutes/touches (still 4th or even 5th in line), the anger from Celtics fans come from going to the Heat. It’s the best rivalry in the league right now, after going to war against them over the past two years, the KG/Bosh beef, the Pierce/Lebron hatred, it’s not saying much, but it would have been just slightly easier to see him in purple and gold. That’s why I think Ray will get boo’d in his return to Boston. He still might get his jersey retired, but he will be ran out of town when he comes back for the first time. No more on Ray Allen and Boston this year, I promise.
Hello Brooklyn: Will the new look Nets make a splash?
All new everything in BK. Mr. Carter hasn’t gone about opening up Barclays Center quietly over the past month. NBA TV is doing their annual “Association” series on the new look Nets, and they did their best to keep and surround Deron Williams to match the hype on the floor. What does it all equate to? What would Nets fans consider a “successful” year? Their starting lineup can run with any team when healthy, Gerald Wallace is a nice piece to plug in with the NBA playing it’s Lebron’s and Durant’s at the four spot, Johnson is the best player DWill has ever played with and swears he wants to shake the “ball-stopping” stigma around him. They rounded up some vets in Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, and the 85 year old Jerry Stackhouse. To me, Brooklyn’s success will lay on the 15-20 minutes from their younger bench core. CJ Watson, prospect Marshon Brooks, and ex-Wizard, Andray Blatche, whose tenure in Washington lead to one of the funniest articles I’ve ever read. It will be crucial for the bench to produce when called upon. In defense of Blatche, despite all the jokes thrown at him, everything I’ve ever heard or read was prefaced with how talented he is, and how good he could be. Two things would make this year a “success”: first is doing better than the Knicks, (I predict thtat one of the two NY teams will fall well short of expectations) and second would be to win a playoff round. They have to push for a high seed to avoid Miami/Boston, and take their best shot against Philly or Indiana, especially with Chicago clearing the path, which brings us to …
The Return or the beginning of the End?: Derrick Rose and the Bulls
The Bulls are hopeful of a return by Jan/Feb (season ends in April), but as time goes along, it seems like the chances of playing this year keep getting slimmer and slimmer. All of this was summed up by Derrick getting emotional over the summer at his shoe release press conference. The pressure of coming back, mixed with the uncertainty if he will be the same, must be getting to the 23 year old. He’ll continue to rely on hard work and rehab until his return, just have to hope for the best. If he doesn’t play all year, might slide the Bucks into the 8 spot. And I’ve also mentioned a couple times, if they’re under .500 heading into Christmas with Rose nowhere near ready…pull a ’99 Spurs, tank the season, get a lottery pick and move on to 2013.
Who got next: Who makes “the leap” this year?
Switching gears here, as much as I would like to pick a team, the leap comes from the next “chosen one” in Cleveland, Kyrie Irving. He’s going to have to do everything, without much surrounding him. Tristan Thompson hasn’t shown any sign of progression yet, Anderson Varejao is always a workhorse but can’t take any pressure on the offensive end and with the jury still out on Dion Waiters, his two best wing players are C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee (yikes). Kyrie is a franchise player without a doubt and with all the athleticism at PG (Westbrook, Rose, Rondo), reminds me more of a younger Chris Paul because they are both so crafty. There’s no other way to put it, his handles are fucking amazing! The way he manoeuvres around the floor and how he takes such high percentage shots around the bucket, he’s the only reason to catch a Cavs game. With Rose out, you can lock Irving in for the All-Star game; it’s just too bad he’s a Blue Devil.
Stadium Status: Lebron isn’t satisfied with one, he’s chasing the Legacy
The legacy is all that matters from here on out. The first one to shut up every fan and media critic who said he couldn’t. The next 2-5 are for him to take and enjoy all by himself. We’ve all heard how he’s relaxed now, the burden is off his shoulders and the league should be terrified. I am completely on board with that sentiment. The topic has been beat to death because it’s the truth, just look at how different he played in the Olympics. The game is coming even easier to him now, which I never thought could happen. Let’s leave the MJ talk until 2016, but he’s on his way. We can talk about potential big matchups with the Celtics, Thunder, Lakers, but there’s no point to break down stats and playbooks, none of them have Lebron, and the scariest part is he knows it.
1 – Heat
2 – Celtics
3 – Pacers
4 – Sixers
5 – Hawks
6 – Nets
7 – Knicks
8 – Bulls
On the Bubble: Bucks, Raptors
Fantasy Sleeper: Move over Andrea Bargnani!!! There’s a new buck in town to use my mid draft pick on the hopes of having a breakout year. Three years running, you continue to fail me, even with your stock dropping so much last year. Now I’m not taking Jonas Valanciunas mid draft, but from the couple mock drafts I’ve done, he’s always sitting there at the end, and I would take him with my twelfth pick everytime! Through the preseason, he’s getting the minutes, solid percentages, boards, and a block or two a game. Somebody on that team has to say “screw it”, I’m gonna battle every day in practice, take 20 shots a game and crown myself captain of the team, Bargnani and Derozan aren’t going to.
Fantasy Bust: Danny Granger, since his rookie season, he had career lows in minutes, FG%, 3pt %, points, assists, and rebounds, not a good look. On top of that, the emergence of Paul George has really eaten at his fantasy production. Wouldn’t be surprised if Granger is dealt mid season if George keeps progressing, a change of scenery may do him best.
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