Making Sense of the Phoenix Suns.

I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.

Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.

Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.

Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.

Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.

The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.

Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins). Continue reading

Chronicle of Couch: Three Time Zones, Two Continents, Three Sports and One Couch

You thought the whole Los Angeles feat was impressive. Get a load of this one, one couch for three different sporting events in one day. Yes, more impressive than hosting multiple playoff games by three different franchises in a couple days. I’m taking one for the team and watching the Italy-Germany soccer match followed by (pending MLB Network’s cooperation) the Tigers-Rays game and the NBA draft.

Just to give you an idea, “Chronicle of Couch” was the winner of a very tight race for the naming rights. Here’s a quick peak at the Knowhitter drawing board.

Couchaggedon

Diary of a Couch

The Couch Diaries

And there you have the long, drawn out process of how I got to the highly acclaimed “Chronicle of Couch”.

10:38:

This isn’t necessarily a bunch of playoff games like the aforementioned LA mess, but the games still hold water. Italy-Germany not only figures to be a closer game than people think, but it should be pointed out that the winner gets the right to play the overhyped Spaniards in the Euro 2012 Final. I don’t think the Spanish are bad mind you, it’s just that I watched their 1-1 draw with the Azzuri and they didn’t scream “Winners”. As stated, the game is going to be much better than people think. I’ll take the Italians in an upset, 2-0. This might be a bogus looking prediction because I’m posting this after it all happens, but that’s why I’m putting the respective times in. From an analysis point of view, if the Italians can control the game through Andrea Pirlo, then they have an excellent shot to beat the Germans. However, that certain sword is double sided: if the Germans can silence Pirlo, the Italians could have some trouble.

11:18:

Since I’ll be absorbed in the Italy-Germany tussle, here’s why the regular season matchup between the Tigers and the Rays is so important for Detroit. The Tigers need to take the series and they might as well do it. A quick aside, here is one of the few things that baffle me about baseball, in the last two years the Tigers are 8-2 against Tampa Bay. As good as the Rays have been in recent years, they have only mustered two winners in their last ten against Detroit. It should also be noted that the Tigers beat-every-team-in-plain-sight tear that propelled the squad to its first AL Central Division title last season originated with a strong showing in where? Tampa.

11:33: 

Kickoff coming soon, the tactical lineups are out and the Italians have key defenseman Girorgio Cheiellini back in the lineup after going down with a leg injury versus the Irish in the group stage. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up. Sorry to get all soccer-y on you there.

11:52:

Just wanted to point out that the Germans have never beat Italy in a major competition. I should also try not to make this a twitterfeed. Sorry readers.

12:10:

Mario Balotelli scores with a “noggin toboggan” for Italy, it looks like we’ll be getting the Super Mario instead of the other guy who shows up. Here’s my take on Balotelli. He’s deemed as “disruptive,” maybe the Terrell Owens or Chad Ochocinco of European soccer, maybe even Milton Bradley. The point is, I Wikipedia’d him and his “antics” are bad, but wouldn’t be considered too terrible if he were playing in America. I‘m not saying that I approve of some of his actions, but that just shows you why people are so much nicer and have higher expectations  in Europe than in the US.

12:26:

Balotelli scores again; rocketing it past the German keeper. He got carded for the whole shirt-taking-off celebration, but let’s remember, Germany hasn’t trailed in a game in around two years. They’re down two-nil already. If Mario Balotelli is Super Mario then the Germans are playing like Bowser who keeps getting beat. Sorry, nerdy I know, but it makes works.

1:27:

The Italians nearly scored twice on tries by Juventus mid-fielder Claudi Marchisio. The substitutes have also come on in force. Antonio Di Natale is on for “Super” Mario Balotelli, who left with supposed cramps. Thiago Matta has also checked in for another midfielder, Riccardo Montolivo. The last substitute of mention and the first chronologically was the swap of Alessandro Diamanti taking the place of Antonio Cassano. I won’t say that the Germans have given in here, but they seem a bit sluggish. With all the crosses being crossed in, the Germans have the air of a basketball team down twenty with two minutes left that just starts hucking up threes.

1:34:

Gianluigi Buffon has been spectacular in goal for the Azzuri. As I say this, Frederico Balzaretti got called for a handball in the box and the Germans score on the PK. The German keeper is playing in the Italian half now, but it’s too late. Italia wins 2-1. I honestly did call the win, no going back and editing the previous prediction here. Italy-Spain is going to be quiet a game this weekend.  I’ll take the Italians again. Now a break and then the NBA Draft and the Tigers game.

2:00:

One of my favorite parts of soccer: when the team is down and the keeper plays up with the midfielders.

2:28

We get a break in the break because of news via Jason Beck and other sources which report that Victor Martinez could return in mid-late September. That’s great news for V-Mart and the Tigers after he tore his ACL in the off-season. I’m sensing something along the lines of Martinez coming back and going beenaners (That’s bananas for all you folks who don’t know) in the playoffs.

4:03:

Almost draft time and MLB Network is cooperating, so the Tigers-Draft back-and-forth is going to be tricky. I’ll be flipping back and forth with the analysis/commentary/occasional babble and such. As stated earlier, I’m looking forward to the Tigers playing in Tampa. For some odd reason the Tigers do well against Tampa Bay and if all goes as it did last year, the Tigers should turn their season around tonight.

4:16:

After Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry go down in order, Miguel Cabrera shoots a double into right-center with two outs in the first. The Rays amaze me that they are still contending with an infield cobbled together with the likes of Elliot Johnson, Jeff Keppinger and Brooks Conrad. Hopefully I’ll get in as much of the Tigers game as possible before switching back to see Northwesterner’s favorite commissioner shake Anthony Davis’ hand.

(The Secret Word is… sarcasm).

 4:21:

Joe Maddon’s lineup choices are curious to say the least. This is the guy who hit John Jaso leadoff a fair number of times before the backstop was dealt to Seattle. He now has Carlos Pena in the two hole. Which, you know, makes sense because Pena hits a robust .198.

4:24:

Pena’s first AB of the night currently, and I’ve already been showed up by the Rays broadcasters. Apparently Pena draws a ton of walks. I’m sorry for the skepticism Joe Maddon.

4:28:

Still confused as to why the draft is in New Jersey. I guess that’s David Stern’s way of saying, “I’m sorry for making you drive to Brooklyn to see your team”. Also confused as to why we didn’t have the ping pong balls at the lottery. Stern is asking for conspiracy theories, which most of them about Seattle are probably true.

4:29:

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Sorry had to boo Stern when he came out to talk. Got to take every chance I get. I know Miami just won the title, but Stern’s asking for it by bringing up the Heat.

4:36:

Back to the Tigers game, Cabrera a double in first, Young and Peralta get on here in the second. Shields is striking guys out, but can he keep this up against this good of an offense?

Nope.

4:39:

Anthony Davis is picked first overall. No one, absolutely no one, saw that coming. Otherwise a great piece for New Orleans to build their franchise around.

4:42:

Now here’s where the draft really starts. Does Brad Beal go to Charlotte and play for the ‘Cats? Is he picked and dealt to say Cleveland or maybe, gasp, OKC? Is someone else picked? Say Thomas Robinson? Remember, the Bobcats traded for Ben Gordon, so who knows?

4:44:

Wow, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist goes to Charlotte, a high motor guy, going to outplay you every day of the week. A good pick for the Bobcats, he isn’t going to carry this team, but he is going to be a little Gerald Wallace-esque. So that’s settled, this pick probably isn’t going anywhere. Kentucky is the first school with the first two pick in modern era draft history.

4:48:

A quick check on the Tigers has Max Scherzer cruising through the sides of Tampa Bay’s lineup. By sides I mean this, if the middle of the order is the meat of the order, then the bottom or less potent part of the lineup is the sides, or sides of the meal.

4:49:

Bradley Beal is finally off the board going to Washington. The SEC party continues. I know its Beal’s birthday, but that’s a crap birthday present from the NBA: “Look kid, welcome to the league, say hello to David Stern.” Like I said, great birthday present. Quick side note on the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette deal, have you noticed that he’s (Maggette) played for a good deal of lottery teams in the past couple years? Charlotte, Golden State, Milwaukee and now Detroit. Nothing says “Lottery Bound” like Corey Maggette.

4:56:

Wow, Dion Waters, who didn’t start at Syracuse, going to Cleveland at four. I haven’t seen a lot of tape, but he’s supposedly a potent scorer. That’s a solid, young back court for the Cavs to build on with him and Kyrie Irving.

 

5:00:

Back to Tampa, after Austin Jackson gets on, Quintin Berry drops down a beauty of a bunt to put two men on for Miguel Cabrera. As I say this Jeff Keppinger makes a spectacular play to not only grab the ball out of the air, but to then outrun a fast Jackson to second to double him off. Prince Fielder then gets on after Keppinger can’t make a dandy of a play again in the shift. It must be a little troubling for Tampa seeing as the Tigers’ hitters 1-5 all have two ABs through the third. You give this team that many chances and you’re going to get hurt. And again, as I write this, the Rays get hurt by former Devil Ray’s number-one-overall-pick Delmon Young hits a single through the left side, and Berry beats the throw easily to score from second.

5:05:

Alex Avila is really getting back into the swing of things here, a couple of hits yesterday and today he’s got an RBI double. Fielder comes huffing and puffing around to score. Jhonny Peralta followed up by grounding out, which is unusual because he generally eats James Shields for breakfast when they play the Rays. You know, a little break from the egg-white omelet.

5:07:

Let’s recap the Delmon Young thing for un minuto. What a great deal for the Rays. Yes, he gave Minnesota some nice years and one really good one, but Minny gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to get him. Throw in the ridiculous return obtained by the Cubs for Garza as well as the solid bullpen arms picked up in exchange for Bartlett from the Padres, and it makes the Rays look pretty darn good. Minnesota didn’t get short ended by the whole process though, they picked up Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris in the trade. That more than made up for the other losses.

(The Secret Word, again, is … sarcasm)

5:14:

Great pick by Sacramento. They needed a four, and Thomas Robinson is a great option for them. Real happy for Thomas Robinson after all that’s happened to him. An NBA PF in the fullest.

(If you’re wondering, I don’t have quick typing skills at all here; I’m just pushing my DVR to its limit.)

5:21:

Portland about to pick…(waits for Stern to announce the pick)… Portland selects Damian Lilard. A guy with in-the-gym range gets to the rim. Nice pick for Portland. That whole Andre Miller/Raymond Felton thing the last couple years hasn’t been amazing. Nice pick here. Plus, when is the next Weber State lottery pick going to come along?

5:25:

Gotta love the constant booing of Stern. Warriors take Harrison Barnes, a great pick to add to the wing spot for Golden State. You talk about Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. That’s a lot of offense there. Young offense. Golden State has wanted to run in the past and drive up the score, but now they can do it successfully too.

5:29:

Back to the Deeetroit Tigers, Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup. That’s the one thing with Tampa, if they get behind, and a few guys are cold at the plate… well let’s just say that a shutout or knowhitter (see what I did there?) could come into play. Lots of potential 0-4s in the Rays lineup.

5:33:

Carlos Pena has won some hardware for his fielding, but here he commits a big miscue. Could have tagged Berry on the way to first, can’t get him, Boesch scores. Next play Austin Jackson supposedly tagged out at home on a Miguel Cabrera single. After that, Jeff Keppinger is in the right place for once on the shift and gets Prince out at first. Underlying theme, the Tigers get another run early off “Big Game” James Shields. Commercial time, back to the draft.

5:33:

Toronto takes Terrence Ross, a UW product. Good shot, really good shot, he’s probably a prototypical wing. I know Toronto liked Dion Waters, so maybe they picked Ross as an alternative. Not sure there. I’m obviously not inside of the Toronto brasses’ collective heads so I don’t know. All this Nash-to-Toronto talk with Ross and Bargnani is pretty exciting.

5:42:

Pistons on the clock, Andre Drummond would be potential pick here… and yep, it’s Drummond. Great pick by Detroit. They get the guy they wanted for the third year. Monroe, Knight and now Drummond, a great nucleus there.

5:46:

With the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the David Stern cronies 2.0 select… Austin Rivers. A pure scorer. Nice paring with Anthony Davis to couple with Eric Gordon for a growing nucleus. Anyone else noticed we haven’t had any movements on the trade front? The draft could have gone like this or have trades every-which-where.

5:53:

Meyers Leonard is the pick for Portland. An athletic big guy with good potential. Some nice post moves. He’s got some big potential, but is still very unproven.

5:55:

Here’s the weird part of the draft where guys like Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, guys that could go anywhere from the top ten to maybe the late teens. Not sure who goes here, especially with Houston picking three times in the next half hour-ish. Notice that they didn’t move up? Maybe they are some pieces to throw at Orlando for Dwight Howard (probably) or maybe even Pau Gasol (probably not). It’s going to be interesting. On that note, we’re going back to baseball for the Tigers update.

5:58:

Max Scherzer continues to mow through the Rays lineup with relative ease. As I say that, Brooks Conrad leads off with a double. As we get into the sides. There is potential to get out of this unscathed. And again as I say that, the Rays get on the board. No more damage after that. Tigers batting again with Jackson on base, yet again.

6:03:

Houston on the clock for the first of their many picks, they go with… Jeremy Lamb. Great pick either way. Lamb can fill it up and fill in for Kevin Martin when and/or if he leaves. He could be a really good player for the Rockets, or he could be a centerpiece for a Dwight Howard-like trade. Either way, nice pick.

6:07:

MOVEMENT!… Nope, it’s just Bucher announcing that the Raptors want to get Steve Nash. Right after this Phoenix takes point guard Kendall Marshall. I’m pulling for him to wear number eleven in the league due to all the double L’s in his name. This also proves that the NBA isn’t right with their whole green room ordeal. Marshall wasn’t invited. He won’t necessarily push Nash out, but he might be the heir apparent or what not to Nash.

6:13:

John Henson is going to Milwaukee. On a random side note, maybe my favorite headline on ESPN.com, Gym Henson. Moving on, UNC killing Kentucky so far in players drafted.

6:16:

Back to Tampa again. James Shields goes to pick off Austin Jackson and is charged with an error after the ball goes into foul turf. Shields comes back with a strong throw to get Berry at first on a really good bunt. Nothing Berry can do on that one. Cabrera follows it up with a single that bounces off the mound, Keppinger misses it. The Tigers have now set new career highs for both Roy Oswalt and James Shields in terms of hits allowed in back-to-back games.

6:22:

Philly takes Maurice Harkless. They add yet another athletic wing player to their team of seemingly all athletic wing players.

6:24:

The Rockets are still reaping the benefits of the Tracy McGrady deal, and get Knicks pick here because of it. More future trade piece fodder. Tyler Zeller would make sense for them, though if the picks for someone else, we’re not totally sure. Pick is in… Kevin McHale’s team picks Royce White. Such a versatile player. He could play multiple positions on the offense end and is a great passer. This is a good pick for the Rockets or whoever gets this pick in the end.

6:29:

Dallas picking… Dirk with his lowest point total (21.9) since the beginning of the current century. Ho hum. That’s not too bad, not great for Dirk, but still a good output. Mavs and Tyler Zeller would make sense; I said that for Houston too. I like Zeller, he’s going to go at some point. Also grounds for gambling with a Sullinger or Jones. Nope it is Zeller. Good pick, he’ll contribute right away for Dallas.

6:34:

Another Rockets pick… La di da di da. And it’s Terrence Jones, second Terrence to go here in the draft, athletic power forward. Joins another former Wildcat in Houston: Patrick Peterson. Lamb, White and Jones form a solid group of wings for the Rockets.

6:37:

Tyler Zeller going from Dallas to Cleveland for a host of the Cavs picks. Orlando is now on the clock, Dwight Howard not going anywhere yet. The Magic need to do well with this pick after struggling with their last couple first rounders. ST. BONNIES Andrew Nicholson is the pick for Orlando. When did we have a draft with a St. Bonnies and a Weber State player drafted in the first round? When will we again?

6:43:

Evan Fornier is the first international pick of the draft. I don’t know a ton about the guy, but after his highlight package, he looks like a pretty good player. Good, potential stash pick for Denver.

6:44:

Before the Celtics hogging of the podium, we’ll switch back to the Tigers game for some somewhat, in-depth analysis.

Nothing new to note other than a few stranded base runners and Phil Coke’s comical entrance where he sprints in. It’s pretty funny. Scherzer in line for the win, another run comes home though as the sides of the Rays’ lineup get it done. Coke gets out of a jam and Austin Jackson shows his wheels with a two out triple to the wall in the next inning. Quintin Berry up, he can’t plate the run, but the Tigers stay on top. Back to Boston’s picks.

6:51:

Boston has some interesting decisions.  KG is probably back, but Ray Allen is a different story. Should he come back and maybe come off the bench behind Avery Bradley?  Allen has supposedly looked at Miami and New York as options. If he stays in Boston, the Celtics should be in the playoffs again next year. Boston has the opportunity to take a gamble on a guy like a Jared Sullinger or Perry Jones III here. Toney Wroten, Jr might make sense as a combo-point guard type. Jones is tabbed as the tenth best player available by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. He’s still on the board at 21, worth a flyer here. Maybe. Nope, not there. Sullinger is the pick. Remember when we were talking about him being a lottery pick as late as last year? Either a great steal for Boston, or a low-ish risk here at the bottom end of the first round.

7:02:

Boston goes with seven-footer Fab Melo with the next pick. Another big body to throw out there, he’s an ever-improving player with some potential. A great value for Boston in the first round. I would have gone with Jones, but that’s just me.

7:05:

Atlanta on the clock, the oldest team in the league, lots of puzzling contracts. The pick is in; they go with John Jenkins the sharpshooter. Good pick for the Hawks to improve offensively.

It sounds very unprofessional, but I’m going to go eat.

7:26:

And we’re back. A handful of teams picked, including Miami while I ate, and no one took Perry Jones III. Very surprising. More surprising picks include Miles Plumlee to Indiana and Jared Cunningham to Cleveland, or probably Dallas after the Tyler Zeller trade.

7:28:

The Raiders are on the clock next, and they’re showing the team’s respective contracts, one of which is Thabo Sefolosha through 2013-2014. I can’t fathom the length of that contract. Must be a terrible owner dolling out that money. Oh wait…

7:32:

OKC takes Perry Jones. I’m convinced David Stern published the doctor’s report that said Jones had a bum knee that made him plummet to the Raiders so his little buddy could take PJIII (Does anybody call him that yet?).

7:37:

Bucher gets another morsel of air time as the Heat deal Arnett Moultrie (the 27th pick) to Philly for the 45th pick and a future first rounder. A great pickup for Miami in terms of future trade ammo.

7:41:

First off, I love how the crowd booed off Stern and cheered when he announced that he was done and Adam Silver was taking over. I now love New York/New Jersey fans.

7:42:

Festus Ezeli goes to Golden State at the end of the first round. The pick was acquired in the Stephen Jackson trade, a great name and talent.

7:44:

With the first round over, we are going to go check on Detroit, who I think is done according to the DVR. Sorry Tigers-Rays game. When we left off it was 4-2 Tigers and Detroit was well into their bullpen with the lead. Generally that means a win. Last year the team was lights out when having the lead with their bullpen entering the tail end of the game. Hopefully all goes as planned and the Tigers get a win. As it stands, the Tigers have the lead by the same aforementioned score with a run tacked on going into the ninth. Here comes the Big Potato, and here comes the antics.

7:49:

Tigers win 5-2. Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera each had four hits apiece, and Miguel Cabrera made his sixteenth foray into “Souveeenir City” as the Tigers roll. The Tigers are now 9-2 in their last 11 over Tampa. That’s a rap on Detroit as my teams improve to 2-0 today. Now back to the draft.

7:53:

Got to love the applause for Silver instead. Nobody likes Stern. Well, outside of the state of Oklahoma.

8:00:

Also got to love the Bernard James pick, a great story. He plays hard and is a great rebounder.

8:03:

I’m getting a little more blippy as the draft goes on. I’m not going to comment on everything because I don’t know a ton about some of the second round guys. Just a warning.

8:04:

Jae Crowder comes off the board as well as Draymond Green as the seniors start to go here in the second round.

8:06:

Orlando Johnson can fill it up. No bones about it. Good value for Sacramento.

8:09:

Quincy Acy, big time energy guy going north of the border.

8:10:

Quincy Miller, it’s a “Baylorpalooza”. Thanks Reece Davis.

8:11:

Orlando Johnson actually going to Indiana for cash from Sacramento.

8:15:

Efficient three-point-marksmen Doron Lamb going to Milwaukee, fifth Wildcat taken in the draft. UNC down 5-4 in terms of number of players picked this year. See? I’m getting blippy.

8:24:

Darius Miller going to New Orleans with Anthony Davis. He’s also the sixth Kentucky player to be drafted, modern era record right there.

8:31:

Kyle O’Quinn, a good rebounder goes to Orlando to beef up the Magic’s frontline.

9:03:

Robert Sacre taken with the last pick by the Lakers. Great value pick, the best free-throw-shooting big man in the league right now. You heard it here first.

So that’s it for the “Chronicle of Couch Volume I.” I should throw in other tidbits such as the Rafael Nadal loss as well as the fact that Dwayne Wade is going to miss the Olympics.

I also applaud any of you who are still ready after 4,000 plus-odd words. Thank you and good night.

NBA Off-Season “Hot Topics”

(Never thought I’d write “Hot Topics”….moving on.)

Is it too early to discuss the NBA offseason?

Is it premature to speculate about the goings on in the offseason?

Yes and yes. But I’m delving into it anyways. And don’t think I’m giving up on the playoffs yet, I’m pouring all my energy into jumping on the Spurs bandwagon. I’m not saying this because I’m heavily opposed to the Raiders, which I am by the way.  I’m saying it because San Antonio is the most complete and best team left in the playoffs. There, I said it Heat fans.

Enough about San Antonio, let’s get on to the offseason:

Uncertainty: When I say uncertainty I’m aiming right at Sacramento. David Stern needs to do something right for the first time in a of couple decades. He (and I’m sorry King fans, I feel your pain, I really do) needs to move the Kings north to Seattle. I’d like it done quickly, but honestly just the promise in writing that a team is coming at some point is fine. And no one gives a rat’s whatever about my opinion. Case-in-point-but-not-really-just-wanted-to-say-the-words-case-in-point.

It’s also that time of year when the time-old tradition of imploding-playoff-teams-if-they-can’t-work happens. The Lakers are a sure candidate for this after being bludgeoned out of the playoffs by the Raiders.  Pau Gasol is a likely trade possibility, as is Andrew Bynum if the right return presents itself (read Dwight Howard). The Boston Celtics are probably next in line at the blowing-up establishment. The Big 3 are obviously in their twilight years and even if they win a title, change could be in order. Atlanta has gone through a lot of one-and-done as well as second-round exits in the last couple years. The underlying-theme-spoiler-alert-WRITTEN-IN-ALL-CAPS theme is that the current group isn’t doing it. Joe Johnson is good, but not good to the point of warranting his contract. Josh Smith supposedly wants out, Marvin Williams is an amnesty option and Kirk Hinrich’s contract is up. Al Horford is the one sure thing on the roster. He’s backed up by a solid Zaza Pachulia and will likely be joined by the potentially-potent Jeff Teague. After those guys, and I’m not kidding you, the rest of the roster is one-year, minimum contract guys. That’s how low the Hawks are on cap space. So now that I’m done rambling about them I’ll give you the short version of the story on all the other possible roster-dynamite-lighters. Utah was a surprise playoff team and could move some of their vets toward a larger youth movement. Dallas might blow it up to get under the cap, and Orlando has the whole Dwight Howard conundrum.

If you haven’t heard (because whenever you Google “NBA free agency” you get a load of pick-your-expletive  on the Miami Heat and what not) free agency is almost upon us. That’s right, no LeBrons or Chris Boshs, but very good players none the less. Steve Nash is an option for teams looking for point guard help (just realized that might be the worst lead in on a topic ever). After Nash there’s a guy you might have heard of that kind of took the world by storm and then couldn’t make the tail end of Sportcenter: Jeremy Lin. Not because he played bad, but because he just wasn’t playing at a ridiculous level. In the rest of the free agent pool there are a lot of guys wading (pun intended… eh… not my best) for a big payday. Roy Hibbert could cash in big time after a nice bout of postseason play. Ditto JaVale McGee. Other guys waiting in line for a bigger pay check include Lavoy Allen, Omer Asik, Lopez’s Brook and Robin, Landry Fields, Ersan Ilyasova, Kris Humphries as well as Eric Gordon. Let the speculations begin.

There’s also this little thing where guys get to represent their country called the Olympics coming up, again, not sure if you’ve heard of it. There are plenty of spots available now that Dwight Howard and Derek Rose were lost to injuries. Just thought I’d mention that so you could run to the Y and practice before you try out. Anyways, the loss of Howard is a real blow to the Americans. With a daunting Spanish frontline consisting of the Gasols and Serge Ibalka, it might be a problem without one of the better rim defenders in the league. But the options after him are quite good. Tyson Chandler might be second in everything that Dwight Howard is first in defensively and Kevin Love is a rebounding monster. And I write this as I look at the roster of finalists, you thought Beijing was good? Listen to the potential here, you’ve got almost everybody from ’08. Which means Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Chris Paul, Deron Williams. Then there’s the “new guys” Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Iguodala and Russell Westbrook. This is going to be a really good team and a fun one to watch too.

So there it is, enjoy your off-season folks. Well, enjoy it after the finals, but enjoy it none the less. And let’s bring the NBA back to Seattle while we’re at it. (Looking at you Stern.)

Thanks David Stern (sarcasm, sarcasm, a little passive aggressiveness and, wait for it … sarcasm)

Have you been watching the NBA playoffs? Have you seen the Oklahoma City Raiders, as the politically correct people call them? Have you seen how good Kevin Durant is? Have you seen Russell Westbrook go bananas? Have you seen James Harden’s beard? And have you seen Seattle?

I cringe at the fact that the Raiders are so good. Actually, take that back, I do think they are a decent NBA team, it’s just the constant feeling that they could have been in Seattle. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. They could be the talk of Seattle now, instead the talk of Seattle probably includes the word Robbed.

Take that word and flip it into whatever synonym you see fit, because we were robbed.

It continually kills me to see the Raiders succeed. Yes, that’s right; I’m to the point of not mentioning their name.

It’s not as if this is a city like New York, or Dallas where all of the sports teams generally succeed. The Yankees seemingly always make the playoffs. The Giants won the whole thing last year, and the Jets aren’t too bad either. And in Dallas, the Mavericks went from perennial playoff squad to title winners last year. The Rangers have won the last two AL pennants.

The point with that last blip is that the pill is easier to swallow if a team leaves, and if the other professional teams in and around the area are playing at a high level.

Which brings us to our next point. Where have the big playoff moments been in Seattle? The Storm won a title in the WNBA and the Sounders are a really good side, but our last big-nationally-talked-about-you’ll-remember-where-you-where-when-it-happened-moment was when Marshawn Lynch unleashed the beast and went on a smash-and-dash 67 yard run to clinch the win over the defending champion Saints in the playoffs. And that’s coming up on two years ago. Before that it was a Seahawks Super Bowl should-have-been-win that was botched by officiating, and before that we have to go back to “the Double” by Edgar Martinez. And that’s going back a ways.

But to get back on topic, Stern and his joined-at-the-hip buddy Clay Bennett have robbed us of a successful, Big 4 (that’s MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL) team. One that would have taken the city to a whole new level of sports pandemonium. Instead we are forced to sit and watch the Raiders succeed.

Stern and Bennett not only took away our team, they took away a team that is pretty darn good. And one that might be that good for a while.

One of my favorite moments in Sonicgate is when they flash to a kid showing a sign that reads: “Clay Bennett Ruined My Childhood.”

What we should remember here is that it isn’t just Bennett’s fault. The blame falls on others shoulders as well, people like Greg Nickles and Howard Schultz. But the main culprit not named Bennett is Stern.

Isn’t it funny that when we had the Sonics situation on our hands, David Stern barely lifted a finger? And then when we see Sacramento’s arena deal and team security thrown into uncertainty, Stern does almost everything godly possible to keep the team in Sacramento. He practically got them another year in Sacramento. And that’s the problem. He is in love with small markets.

I know everyone and their dog are rooting for the Raiders in the playoffs in and around the Oklahoma area, and the revenue off that is great and all, but wouldn’t you look a lot better if that were in say, Seattle?

Anyways, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Bennett ruined my childhood. You see, my childhood has been great to this point. But I was in middle school when the Sonics left. I even wrote an essay on it for English class, saying why the Sonics should stay and all that. But that one year in middle school was also the year I really got into basketball. I mean I played it at every waking hour at school when I didn’t have classes. I was, and still am, obsessed with it. And that’s the sad thing. I never got to go to see the Sonics in person and barely saw them on TV. I’ve gone the last Andre-the-Giant-sized handful of years without an NBA team. Because the Sonics left I shifted my attention to the college ranks to get my winter basketball fill. Washington wasn’t amazing at the time so I watched a lot of Gonzaga and Washington State, seeing them both make the NCAA tourney.

And that’s just the thing today. For folks to get their local basketball fix their options are UW, WSU, Gonzaga and Seattle U. That’s it in the state. Seattle U is making the transition back to D1, and WSU and Gonzaga are on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. Not too many people are going to make that trek 2-3 times a week from the Puget Sound area to see basketball. Which leaves us with the Huskies. This is the first team in NCAA history not to make the tourney after winning the regular season championship in a power conference. They lost to South Dakota State by 19…

Let me say that again. They lost to South Dakota State by nineteen whole points!

I tend to get caught up in baseball over the summer, so that makes it a bit hard to follow the Storm intensely.

So, thanks to Stern and his little buddy Bennett (and some others) the biggest basketball draw in the Pacific Northwest over the winter and spring is a team that lost to South Dakota State by 19 points. Did I mention it was at home? Maybe if the Raiders win a ring and the NBA doesn’t come back to Seattle soon you very well may have ruined my childhood, Bennett and Stern.

Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and the Lakers all Wrapped Up Into One (and the defending champs, ho hum, note the sarcasm)

Disclaimer: This is all just a proposition. Just a made-up idea, it probably won’t happen. Don’t get too worked up Suns and Magic fans.

The proposed deal- (emphasize proposed)

Orlando Magic Acquire- PF/C Pau Gasol, C Andrew Bynum and G Darius Morris

Phoenix Suns Acquire- G Rodrigue Beaubois, PF/C Daniel Orton and SG Dominique Jones

Dallas Mavericks Acquire PG Steve Nash

Los Angeles Lakers Acquire C Dwight Howard, F Hedo Turkoglu and PG Jason Kidd

(Phoenix and Orlando also get everyone’s favorite trade fodder: draft picks)

Why it makes some sense- We’ll start at the top for this one (or by the list shown above).  Orlando gets two quality big guys (probably better than quality, more like All-Star, but we’re moving on) to replace another All-Star, Dwight Howard, who is leaving anyways at the end of the season. Just to be clear, this isn’t an even swap. Gasol and Bynum are good, but it takes a lot to replace Howard with one or even two players. Morris has been losing minutes in LA and the Magic could use some youth. Orlando also gets the aforementioned, terribly exciting to write about, draft picks! (Note the heavy, heavy, heavy sarcasm.)

Phoenix is the next team listed, so naturally we will talk about them. That’s not a ridiculous idea right? Back to Phoenix. The Suns return isn’t going to jump out at you. This is Beaubois, Jones and Daniel Orton. The latter being a young big with upside, a guy who Orlando sat on the bench for all of last season. Maybe they were looking for an Aaron Rodgers effect with Orton and Howard. Who knows? But Orton’s contract option was declined (if I’m not up to date in contract-speak, then insert correct term here). He’s going to be a free agent after the season. Phoenix could find some upside in him. After all Steve Nash did turn Marcin Gortat into a legitimate center. (That’s completely contradicting since I have Nash leaving Arizona, but it sounds good.)  Beaubois and Jones give the Suns some infusion of youth in a backcourt that includes Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price and Michael Redd. By the way, I toiled away at this on ESPN’s trade machine and Phoenix saves somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 million. And don’t-forget-about-the-picks.

Dallas gets an upgrade at the point, plain and simple. If Nash doesn’t work out, they can let him walk like they might let Kidd walk. Dallas might lose some picks in this situation, but to get Nash, I think they’ll take that risk.

Here is the one problem with this. If Dallas is intent on pursing Howard in free agency, or even in another trade this doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if the Magic and Lakers agree on a deal, Dallas could still gain from it. And to be honest, the Lakers probably have better trade pieces (cough, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, cough) than the Mavericks do (cough,  Sean Williams and whatever Shawn Marion used to dye his hair, cough).

The Lake Show finally gets Dwight Howard. They also absorb Turkoglu’s contract as well as picking up Kidd to run the offense. This isn’t Howard and some throw ins. Turkoglu will help the Lakers’ instability on the wing next to Kobe. They also get a potential HOF point guard to distribute the ball. A good trade all around for the Lakers even though they didn’t get to unload Luke Walton or the player-formerly-known-as-Ron-Artest’s-contracts.

More trades for teams who aren’t making the playoffs.

Charlotte Bobcats- The Bobcats are bad. The team needs some kind of size. Byron Mullens has been nice, but they need more size, whether they’re contending or not (read not). The rest of their frontline consists of Tyrus Thomas, Mullens, DJ White, Boris Diaw and the rookie-name-sensation Bismack Biyombo. Mullens is 7 feet tall, Thomas is 6-10. But outside of that the rest of the guys are 6-9 and shorter. We also should mention that Michael Jordan’s team has DeSanga Diop. Problem is that the Bobcats don’t have a ton of assets. Someone might want Corey Maggette’s contract. Boris Diaw could be a nice rental. I’m assuming they would like to get out of Matt Carroll, Diop and Maggette’s contracts. DJ White could be another cheapish rental. Unless they want to unload DJ Augustin because they’re fully committed to Kemba (it’s plausible) there aren’t a whole lot of assets here.

Potential Deals-

F Boris Diaw to Miami for Whoever. Miami could certainly use another big, whether that be a more finesse option like Diaw remains to be seen. Miami could have troubling dealing for anyone, let alone the former Sun, because the only non-Big-3 players who didn’t sign this offseason (making them trade-able only after two months or March 1st) are Norris Cole, Dexter Pittman, Joel Anthony, Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem. Haslem and Anthony aren’t being dealt for other bigs. Neither is Cole or Miller. Pittman’s salary isn’t going to match up.

F Corey Maggettee and PF DJ White to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. Maggette gives Boston a big boost on the wing. A boost that is sorely needed in Boston. Sasha Pavlovic and Mickael Pietrus are nice back up options, but the Celtics need some bench scoring. Maggette immediately becomes the best scoring option on the second unit. He also becomes the fifth best player on the team. Yes, this is no screw up. Boston dealing one of their better big men (yikes) in O’Neal. White is younger and cheaper. White can play the four with KG at the five. White can play five with Brandon Bass at the four. Greg Stiemsma has been serviceable. This isn’t a complete loss. Granted this doesn’t help Boston at all for the future seeing as they have to pay Maggette next year, but it certainly would help this year.

The Detroit Pistons have some nice pieces. (Read: Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe). They also have some overpaid ones. (Read: Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.) It should be noted that Charlie V and Ben Gordon aren’t bad options, they just cost a lot.

How about this-

G Ben Gordon, F Charlie Villanueva and F Austin Daye to…….(fake, corny drum roll please…..) Atlanta for G Joe Johnson. Yes, this is terrible for the Hawks and the trade machine spits it out as their projected wins going down by five, but what if they trade their contractual albatross (Johnson) to Detroit for two contractual crows, so to speak. They also get a young guy with some upside (Austin Daye) who is a tweener in every since of the word.

Detroit gets a star player and All-Star to pair with Monroe, Knight and Jonas Jerebko. They also get a ticket-draw, so to speak, in Johnson. One that they desperately need. Think about that nucleus for Detroit, Johnson, Monroe, Knight and Jerebko, plus a likely lottery pick in a deep draft (probably another big man). Sounds pretty good right? Atlanta meanwhile moves to more of a Portland like blue-print. One lead scoring option who’s a good player ,not a superstar yet, (Josh Smith) and a flurry of secondary options that can contribute 10-20 points on a given night (Jeff Teague, Tracey McGrady, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich, Charlie V and Marvin Williams). That’s not too bad, right? Probably still good enough to make the playoffs in the East. Did I mention Atlanta saves like a bajillion dollars?

Next up is the Hornets. Did anyone think that they would be this bad without Chris Paul? They aren’t short of good players. Eric Gordon is a very good two. Chris Kaman is solid. So are Jarret Jack and Emeka Okafor. Point is New Orleans has pieces that some teams might be interested in.

Proposed trade numero uno-

C Chris Kaman to Indiana for …. picks. Indiana has the cap room and is supposedly looking for another center to play behind Roy Hibbert. Kaman provides a more than quality option for Indiana. If it is picks, then  they are TBD. I’m not sure what the asking price for a potential All-Star Center is in the NBA these days.

Or….

C Chris Kaman to Houston for PG Johnny Flynn, C Hasheem Thabeet and G/F Terrence Williams. All three lottery picks who could use a change of scenery. All are also buried on the depth chart by well, depth. New Orleans gets three young pieces with a lot of potential for a guy who is a rental for them at best.

SF Trevor Ariza to Boston for F/C Chris Wilcox, G Keyon Dooling , G E’twaun Moore and a second round pick. Ariza doesn’t have a bad contract by any stretch, but I’m sure the New Orleans management (read David Stern) will want to shed some cash. The Hornets get two guys on expiring contracts who are potential buy-out guys as well as some youth infusion of Moore and another pick. I still can’t stress Boston’s need for perimeter help. Ariza is a bit like James Posey, so maybe that will help the Celtics.

The Washington Wizards. What can be said about the Wizards. They play in Washington, they’re called the Wizards. No, but seriously, the Wizards aren’t very good. They have some cap room, which is a plus, but something probably has to be done about Rashard Lewis and his 21 million dollar salary. That is way too much for a player that isn’t a part of Washington’s future, let alone worth that much. John Wall is a great building block. JaVale McGee can dunk it home. Jordan Crawford and Nick Young can both score. There’s upside, they just need more players with that kind of upside. Plus they could use my favorite thing to write about… Picks.

Deals that might work (just a heads up, I’m running out of synonyms for that phrase)-

PF/C Andray Blatche and a 2012 first-round pick to Sacramento for PF/C DaMarcus Cousins. It’s somewhat of a swap of headaches. Yes,the Wizards give up a likely lottery pick and a potential number one pick. But think of the potential of John Wall and Cousins playing together again. Those two with the rest of their young nucleus, not to mention Jan Vesley. Yikes. Blatche still has some potential. Even though he’s injured now, it still could be there for Blatche.

Jimmer mania has moved to Sacramento. Sacramento is also on their second coach of the season. The Kings have a good nucleus with guys like Cousins, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer, guys like that. The Kings have a lot of cap space, so money isn’t an issue. Here’s what I would do if I ran the Kings-

Trade SG Francisco Garcia and C Jason Thompson to Boston for C Jermaine O’Neal, PF/C Chris Wilcox and G Keyon Dooling. As you can tell I think the C’s could make some moves to help their bench and these guy’s expiring contracts are currently the best assets that Boston can move. Thompson helps them a lot in the frontcourt, and if he doesn’t work out, his contract expires after the season too. Garcia gives Boston their overstated boost on the wing. Sacramento gets out of Garcia’s contract and saves even more money.

So, don’t lose it thinking these deals are going to happen. Some of them might and some of them have absolutely no chance.

Should You Break up the Big 3?

The Boston Celtics won a ring with the “Big 3” that consisted of and still somewhat consists of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

Now the team is a little different. Ok, maybe a lot different. Now the team is in the hands of 26 year-old point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was on their championship team, but was looked at as more of a fourth option.

Gone are role players like Tony Allen, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe. Arrived are their current place holders such as Chris Wilcox, Sasha Pavlovic, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus. Gone also is defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins, only to be replaced with somewhat offensive center (at this point of his career) Jermaine O’Neal.

This team is going to look like the Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green Show in a couple years, with a hint of Avery Bradley, if the Celtics don’t do anything.

This isn’t a bad young core, but let’s face it, the NBA landscape will probably change in a couple of years and will continue to change with time.

Underlying theme spoiler alert: the Celtics need to make changes.

Not necessarily at this juncture, but depending on their play towards the trade deadline, a couple trades should be made.

If the Celtics are sitting at 10th or 11th in the East towards the trade deadline, they should make a move or two. If they’re somewhere in the 5th to 7th range, then maybe they pick up a bought out contract guy (i.e. Antawn Jamison) to boost the team. If the latter happens, then they should aim for turning over the roster to some extent in the offseason.

To get back to the title, yes you should break up the Big 3. Paul Pierce is probably the last to go, but then again is the most marketable to some extent. Kevin Garnett is probably a keeper for now due to Boston’s problems in the post. Ray Allen could be the most useful to other teams due to the fact that his shooting ability would help anyone.

Obviously at this stage in their careers the C’s aren’t exactly going to get what they gave up for players like Allen and Garnett.

(Ray Allen is the exception, because the Celtics really did trade Jeff Green ,at that time the pick, to the Sonics for Allen.)

Nor are the Celtics going to have Al Jefferson fall into their laps in exchange for KG.

Obviously the Celtics would like a return like the previously listed two, to move them into the next couple of years at a competitive rate.

If you look at veteran players who were still productive on the down spin of their careers and were traded, the return isn’t huge, but it isn’t too bad either.

The Wizards got a first round pick, the chance to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s contract (which they did) and a low risk, high reward Al Thornton for Antawn Jamison.

In a three-team deal the Rockets got Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, the chance to buy out Jared Jeffries’s contract (they did) and Hilton Armstrong for Tracey McGrady, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey. This wasn’t a straight up swap, but it was a good acquisition for Houston.

New Jersey got Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie out of Vince Carter via the Orlando Magic. Lee isn’t with the team, but the Nets got Troy Murphy’s expiring contract for him to help them toward Darren Williams and potentially Dwight Howard.

Miami got Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for a declining Shaq. The two were later flipped for Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon. These contracts expired right before the offseason in which they brought in LeBron and Chris Bosh.

Denver got Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. You look at that trade, there is no youth involved whatsoever, but Billups played well in Denver and was certainly a better fit than AI. He was then moved to the Big Apple with Melo for a plethora of young pieces and picks that included Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a first-round pick of the Warriors (potential gold mine!) in 2014.

These are probably easier targets to achieve for Boston. Maybe the trade doesn’t work out at first, but down the road they will gain something out of the pieces or cap space picked up in the trade.

Another underlying theme spoiler alert: Celtics need to build for the future soon.

The Door is That Way, David Stern

The door is the first on the left. Or the right, frankly it could be the door at the end of the hallway. I have no idea seeing as I’ve never been in the league office.

Point is David Stern has fumbled numerous times. David Stern fumbled with the Sonics situation (still bitter about that), fumbled with the first Chris Paul trade, fumbled with the PR on that, fumbled in the second Chris Paul trade and almost came away with Chris Paul still playing for the Hornets. David Stern fumbled, fumbled again and probably would fumble if he had Walter Jones and Jeff Saturday blocking for him against a bunch of pee-wee players.

Stern won his battle in Seattle because of some cheap shots among other things. He also sets off a domino effect of pain and suffering if he keeps his promise of getting Seattle another team. Stern would probably have to take someone else’s team away from them, leaving them in the situation that we are in, in Seattle. (If you can’t tell yet, I’m not David Stern’s biggest fan.) Or he can be smart about it and give Seattle an expansion team, squash the Sacramento/Anaheim business and give Anaheim a team, and everybody’s happy. Because of the state of the economy, Stern is likely to uproot a team and move them to Seattle. It would be terrible if Anaheim got a team before Seattle. Anaheim is a great town, but what is the use of getting them another team if people can sit in the car for a bit and make the trek to LA to see one of the Lakers or Clippers? The closest thing we have is the Blazers who are in an entirely different state.

Back to the commissioner’s fumble-prone habits. Episode two took place recently when he nixed a deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston, Lamar Odom to New Orleans, Luis Scola to…. You get the point. A few days later the Clippers stepped up to the table and made a run at the talented New Orleans point guard — only to come up short when David Stern wanted the Clippers to give up their last viable trade piece that doesn’t throw down ridiculous dunks in point guard Eric Bledsoe. The Clippers thought this to be too much and backed out.

Time passed, albeit two days, and the league and one certain commissioner backed off the Bledsoe involvement and agreed to the Kaman, Gordon, Farouq Aminu, Timberwolves first rounder-for-Paul-swap.

All this mumbling-fumbling almost got Stern one of his star players being irked for an entire year, left another one of his star players (Kobe Bryant) perplexed and not liking another trade that was a domino falling over down the line (Lamar Odom trade). And oh yeah, he still has the Seattle situation to deal with.

The Orlando Magic’s Dilemma

Dwight Howard will play in Orlando at some point. Whether he is on the road team or the home squad remains to be seen.

The Magic are stuck in a rut. Dwight Howard might go somewhere else, or he might stay. The man has not made up his mind, which is terrible for the only major sports team in Orlando. If he stays, then the Magic could pursue another big name guy to pair with him. Darren Williams could be a potential fit if he leaves the Nets, ditto Chris Paul with the Clippers.

The Magic’s present and future hinge on Howard. Without him they are a mess of bad contracts and a couple decent -to-good upside guys on the roster.

Hypothetically without Howard the Magic are a complete and total mess. Think about this for a minute in terms of teams who didn’t make the playoffs-

West-

Houston Rockets

Phoenix Suns

Utah Jazz

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

Sacramento Kings

Minnesota Timberwolves

East-

Milwaukee Bucks

Charlotte Bobcats

Detroit Pistons

New Jersey Nets

Washington Wizards

Toronto Raptors

Cleveland Cavaliers

Most of those teams have some degree of young talent. Top to bottom: Houston has a ton of young lottery picks. Phoenix has a nice piece or two. Utah has an intriguing size and talent. Golden State can score now and can probably score in seven years with a lot of the same group. The Clippers have a ridiculous young nucleus. Despite the DeMarcus Cousins situation, Sacramento has some high octane guards, post talent or no. Minnesota might have the best young group going into the next couple years with an (insert exciting-like adjective here) core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.

Out East it’s the same kind of story. Milwaukee rolls out a potentially explosive, not to mention, a potentially top-ten point guard/ center combo with Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut. Charlotte is in the same boat as Phoenix in the sense that it’s a couple of nice pieces and some veterans. Detroit has a good, young, solid point/center duo like the Bucks in Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe. New Jersey has Derron Williams and Brook Lopez, but seeing as they haven’t done diddly with a decent supporting cast, it’s tough to see them getting better with that core. The Washington Wizards have got a guy you might have heard of named John Wall (that’s probably been overused, but Wall is the best player on that team). Toronto is in the same “bunch of lottery picks, not a superstar on the team” boat. Cleveland just has Mike Conley 2.0 (Kyrie Irving) and a fan favorite (Anderson Varejao). Sell season tickets with that!

Now put a Dwight Howard-less Magic on this list. Just a refresher, this would be the Magic’s roster:

Player X who Orlando gets for Howard

Jason Richardson

Ryan Anderson

Hedo Turkoglu

Jameer Nelson

JJ Redick

Glen Davis

Daniel Orton

DeAndre Liggins

Chris Duhon

Quentin Richardon

Von Wafer

Earl Clark

Justin Harper

Larry Hughes

Let’s say that Player X is someone along the lines of Brook Lopez. Put Lopez or a DeMarcus Cousins on this team and a once 5-8 seed type team downgrades to more of a definite lottery team to a fringe playoff contender.

That and the heaps of bad contracts make for a long rebuilding process.

Now let’s say Howard stays with the Magic. You have the same exact team as above with Howard replacing Player X. That leaves the Magic in the NBA no-man’s land that is mediocrity.

It’s not as if this is the LA Clippers of a couple months back, or last year’s Knick team that started the season. This is not a team with a superstar and pieces that can be moved for another superstar. The New Jersey Nets are not going to come calling for Quentin Richardson, Von Wafer and a late first-round pick for Derron Williams. It’s simply not going to happen. The only possible trade pieces here that don’t wear number twelve are the streaking Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis. That alone isn’t going to get you a superstar.  With the way Anderson is playing the Magic will want to keep him to complement Howard.

If Dwight Howard does in fact stay there will be more Eastern Conference Semifinals and first round exits in your future Magic season ticket holders. If he does go it might be 3-5 years before it gets somewhat better.

NBA Season Predictions Western Conference

Northwest-

In the somewhat accurately named Northwest division, you have everyone’s chic pick, Oklahoma City (not mine). A rugged team that has gone through a ton of adversity, Portland. The deep team that seems built for a lockout shortened season, the Nuggets. A squad that has a lot of youth, but also a lot of veteran presence, the Utah Jazz, and a team who is looking to take their lumps in a rebuilding year, Minnesota.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder 40-26
  2. Portland Trailblazers 38-38
  3. Denver Nuggets 35-31
  4. Utah Jazz 34-32
  5. Minnesota Timberwolves 23-43

The Thinking:

Oklahoma City is going to be good, how good, I’m not sure. Kevin Durant will get his 20-30 something points per game, outside of that the starting five could have some problems. The Thunder has made the decision of going with defensive stopper Thabo Sefalosha over the more offensively gifted James Harden. This works when guarding the elite perimeter players, but offensively Thabo isn’t going to give you a lot. Throw in two defensive-minded bigs in Serge Ibalka and Kendrick Perkins, as well as Russell Westbrook’s streakiness and there’s some potential to have a terrible game on the offensive end if KD has a bad outing.

Rip City has been the subject of adversity as of late. Brandon Roy was forced to retire due to his knees. Greg Oden’s status is still up in the air. But Portland has rebounded in one of the better ways possible. They replaced Roy with fellow Seattle area native Jamal Crawford, and added frontcourt depth with Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas. The Blazers also swapped Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, which looks genius from a lot of different standpoints. Throw in those additions with guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Mathews and Gerald Wallace. I’m telling you, Portland is going to be good.

Carmelo Anthony is gone. And quite frankly, Denver seems to have moved on just fine. The Nuggets have taken the identity of a team who can play a lot of guys and still score deep on the bench. Denver is very deep in most positions and can beat you in a number of ways. The Nuggets could be a problem come playoff time because of their depth.

Utah is a curious team. Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris, Raja Bell and Josh Howard form a nice veteran core for the Jazz. On the flipside they have a talented young nucleus in Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. If the now Jerry-Sloan-less Jazz can find a good mix of intriguing vets and youth, it’s there in Salt Lake City. If they can’t find a good mix, it might be a long year and other teams will come calling for guys like Millsap, Bell and Howard.

Minnesota will be fun to watch. Not on par with Lob City, but a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Michael Beasley  and Derrick Williams will excite. The future is there in the Twin Cities, but the present might be filled with growing pains and turnovers.

Pacific-

The California/Phoenix division is going to be fun. In LA especially, Chris Paul will lead the league in Alley-Oop passes, Kobe Bryant will lead the league in… something — you pick. Lamar Odom is out of tinsel-town for the first time in a while. His replacement is the one and only Josh McRoberts. Yes that’s right, the reigning sixth man of the year was, and is replaced by McBobs. Golden State meanwhile is ushering in the Marc Jackson era with a new found attempt at being a defensive team. I’m not messing with you. A team with a starting lineup that includes Monta Ellis, David Lee and Stephen Curry is focusing on defense. We go from one run-and-gun (though they don’t want to show it) to another in the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have Steve Nash, and if they ever lose Nash for an extended amount of time, it could be a problem. We’re talking major problems. I guess Sacramento is the same kind of team, same mold, as the last two teams listed. They are going to run, they are going to gun and a good deal of the time, they will brick. This is a team with some good players with young talents like Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins (it would probably serve them to draft strictly John Calipari guys going forward).  Throw in the Jimmer and there’s some potential for some big highlights, but also some big time bricks. The Clips might be Lob City, while the Kings might be Brick City.

Predicted Finish-

  1. Los Angeles Lakers 36-30
  2. Los Angeles Clippers 34-32
  3. Golden State Warriors 31-35
  4. Phoenix Suns 30-36
  5. Sacramento Kings 19-47

The Thinking:

The Lakers could very well finish fumbling down the stretch if Kobe gets banged up. It’s already a three man squad to begin with, with Kobe, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. There isn’t much else to be pumped up about on the bench or in the rest of the starting lineup. You’ve got nice pieces in McBobs and Steve Blake. Outside of that it’s newly dubbed Metta World Peace, Derek Fisher, Gerald Green and Luke Walton. Yikes.

The laughing stock isn’t necessarily the joke it used to be. If you have lived under a rock for the last couple months you’ve missed that A, we have basketball again, but B, the Clippers are relevant again. When I say relevant, I’m not saying a title is a distinct possibility this season, but a ring certainly isn’t out of the question in the next couple of years if a couple things go as planned. One, CP3 resigns. This is the key. Pair him with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan going forward, and there’s going to be some dunks and points scored. Two is that Blake Griffin resigns long term as well. They’ve locked up Jordan. Now they just need the other two to resign and they are golden. Oh yeah, did I mention that they brought in some guy named Chauncey Billups as well? The Playoffs this year are certainly not out of reach for the Clippers.

Tell me if you notice a theme here. Monta Ellis, strength: offense. Stephen Curry, strength: offense. David Lee, strength: offense. Klay Thompson, strength: offense. Ditto Brandon Rush and Dorrell Wright. Did I mention that new coach Marc Jackson wants to be a defensive team? Confusing, I know. There will be some growing pains in the bay area this year. Don’t be completely shell-shocked if they sneak in as an 8 seed with all the unrest out West.

Welcome to Brick City! Yes, that’s what signs should read all over the capitol of California. Jimmer will make some shots that make people go Google BYU and see how they are flopping in WCC this year. Other than clicks for ESPN’s BYU page, Sacramento won’t accomplish much. And I’m serious about the whole only drafting Calipari players.

Southwest-

The real up and comers out west, the Grizzlies,(that’s right Thunder) are looking to rebound on a solid season last year in which they surprised a lot of people. Not to mention without Rudy Gay, lots to like in Memphis. Then there are the defending champs, the Dallas Mavericks. Excuse Shawn Marion’s blonde hair, I’m not disrespecting Dallas. I still think they are a likely 1-3 seed come playoff time, and I really like the Delonte West signing. A repeat is not completely obnoxious to think about. Following them down the line are the Spurs, who because of the lockout will likely give up some games to rest their Big 3 for the playoffs. Big if here, but if Houston’s clustered roster of former lottery picks plays up to the hype that made them lottery picks, then Houston could be a thorn in some higher seeded team’s side come playoff time. Then there are the Hornets who are just begging to be moved to Seattle (again had to throw a Stern jab in there), and are subsequently owned by the league. But the rebuilding process is under way in NOLA and it’s not too bad of an outlook for the Hornets.

Predicted Finish-

  1.  Dallas Mavericks 43-23
  2. Memphis Grizzlies 40-26
  3. San Antonio Spurs 37-29
  4. Houston Rockets 33-33
  5. New Orleans Hornets 22-44

The Thinking:

The Mavs will be relevant again after their title run last year. They could very well go to the Finals once again because of all the uncertainty in their very own conference. Dallas added some nice pieces (Lamar Odom, West) and lost some pieces that were extremely important to them (Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea). The regular season will likely end in a playoff berth, that much is probably true, because the Mavs are too good not to make it. The key for Dallas will be Brendan Haywood. If he plays more like Tyson Chandler than himself (another big if) then Dallas could repeat, if not, the ring ceremony on opening night might be their highlight of the year.

Memphis is the up and comer. None of the OKC business, the Grizzlies are for real. They have no glaring needs anywhere and are a complete team that can hurt you in a number of ways. Not just one, (cough: Kevin Durant) while the phrase “a lot to like” has been used probably a little more than anyone would like in this column/piece, there is a lot to like for the Grizz.

The Spurs are going to succumb to the shortened season by sitting their Big 3 on some nights for rest. Or entire road trips for that matter. The Spurs will make the playoffs, and if proper rest is used accordingly, this team could be dangerous come playoff time. (Again another overused phrase, but just roll with it.)

Kevin McHale has somewhat of a curious team in Houston. The Rockets are rich with former lottery picks, so the “rebuilding” tag is a hard sell at this point. Houston’s basketball team might be stuck in NBA no-man’s land:  middle of the pack. Like I previously said, if they play up to the potential that made them lottery picks. Watch out. (Yet another overused statement that likely is being burned out of my mental dictionary/word-bank as we speak due to over usage.)

The Seattle Sonics… Oops sorry the New Orleans Hornets, have a difficult season ahead of themselves this year. One, they just lost their starting point-guard and face-of-the-franchise: Chris Paul. And two, they have the second worst owner in the league: (only to every northwesterner’s favorite sports figure, notice the heavy sarcasm, Clay Bennett) David Stern. Plus they don’t really have ownership at all seeing as the league still owns the team (a point I can’t state enough). It might be tough in NOLA. (Yes, I just used NOLA more times than New Orleans.)

If all that becomes somewhat of a reality the playoffs would then look like this in the west:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Utah Jazz

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers

I don’t see a whole lot changing here. With the exception of a Steve Nash miracle (not out of the question) the playoff picture probably looks something like this:

1 Dallas Mavericks vs 8 Phoenix Suns

2 Memphis Grizzlies vs 7 Los Angeles Clippers

3 Oklahoma City Thunder vs 6 San Antonio Spurs

4 Portland Trailblazers vs  5 Los Angeles Lakers