The Celtics Plan Without Rajon Rondo

This isn’t the kind of injury that you can replace with a game-manager or fill in/expiring contract to replace a starter. This is Rajon Rondo we are talking about. Rondo probably means more to his team than a lot of other stars mean to theirs. Knowing this, it’s going to take someone special to replace Rondo in the short term, and even then the replacement probably won’t be up to Rondo’s par.

Not many players even have the potential to be on Rondo’s level. This trade I’m going to throw out there might fix the Celtics’ problems short term and long term. Let me explain.

(It’s a four-team trade, so you’re excused if it’s confusing. It’s making my head hurt,and I haven’t even written it yet.)

 

Boston acquires Tyreke Evans from Sacramento and Steve Blake from the Lakers.

Sacramento acquires Courtney Lee and Fab Melo from Boston. Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks from LA and Omri Casspi from Cleveland.

Los Angeles acquires Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox from Boston and Tyler Honeycutt from Sacramento.

Cleveland acquires Francisco Garcia from Sacramento and a future second-round pick from Boston and LA.

 

Now we get to the explaining part.

First off is Boston. The Celtics get two point guards to at least do a half-decent job of filling in for Rondo. Obviously no one is going to replace Rondo, but Evans has the potential to be very good. Blake is one of the more consistent backup point guards in the league.

Boston also gets help long term. Not only would Boston have the option to re-sign Evans before anyone else does in free agency (that’s a huge stretch, but the Celtics would have the option,) but if they feel Evans doesn’t work, then they can let him walk and save the money that they owe long term to Lee. Blake gives them value this year, but also next year as a more-than-appealing expiring contract in a trade.

Sacramento. I have a little trouble with this if I’m the Kings Sonics. And the only problem I have is with Lee, more specifically, Lee’s contract. That is a lot of money long term for a starter-on-a-bad-team-bench-guy-on-a-good-team player. Sacramento Seattle gets another look at Casspi, plus Melo, a high upside big. Meeks’ contract is very team friendly in terms of what he can do. Ebanks is another guy on an expiring deal who could pan out given the chance. Sacramento gets rid of Garcia’s and Honeycutt’s contracts going forward.

The Lakers would love this trade if they made it. The one upside of Blake’s recent injury is the emergence of Duhon as more than just a trade throw in. That and the ever looming Darius Morris make Blake expendable. He’s even more expendable due to the fact that LA wants to save money. Dealing Blake would do that. LA also gets a Barbosa-Nash-D’Antoni reunion. (Side note, how many Phoenix fans envisioned that within five years of each leaving the Suns? The answer is one. That one guy who wants to rebuild and trade away anyone who isn’t 22 with big potential. We’ve all met them.) LA also gets more big-man insurance with Wilcox. Plus the fact that (and I’m no salary cap aficionado) Honeycutt’s contract might be non-guaranteed. Thus the team waves him, or buys him out, keeps a roster spot and saves enough money to buy the whole team lunch for a month or two.

Cleveland gets picks going forward, but also gets an interesting piece in Garcia. Yes, he costs them an extra four million, but has the potential to, like Blake, be a very appealing option as an expiring contract next year in terms of trade value.

I think the smartest thing for Boston to do is to go get Evans. You obviously aren’t going to finish with the best record in the conference, but maybe Evans finally figures it out under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, KG, Paul Pierce and a hobbling Rondo. Maybe Evans stays long term and plays well alongside Rondo in the future. Those “maybes” might turn into something better than a regular season conference title.

The Pau Gasol Trade Machine Edition

The Lakers are struggling. If I had a dollar for every time I said or heard that then the local McDonald’s Dollar menu would be non-existent, or I’d save the boatload of money (thinks about it…) yep, definitely saving the money.

The blame game is one that has taken Los Angeles by storm in the same magnitude Lob City did. So, the blame game turned into musical chairs, and Mike Brown was left standing.

But now Mike D’Antoni is in town, and Steve Nash will be back at some point. In other Lakers firings, the team canned their entire training staff and has brought in Phoenix’s in exchange for whichever first-round pick the Lakers still hold the rights to in this Millennium. (2058, I think?)

(Ok, you got me.  I may have fibbed a little bit there.)

The point is that the Lakers are looking to change things up, and a synonym for “changing things up” is “trading.” This happens to be one of my favorite things to write about, the least favorite being draft picks, just for future reference.

With that, let’s go to the trade machine: Continue reading

Rashard Lewis: You See Contractual Albatross, I See Potential Gold Mine

If I asked you who the highest paid player in the entire NBA is you’d probably rattle off answers like LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose or the ghost of Gilbert Arenas’ contract. But no, in fact it is former Seattle SuperSonic great Rashard Lewis.

Yes, Rashard Lewis is being paid 22.7 million dollars next year. What makes it even more perplexing is that he plays for the Washington Wizards, a team that doesn’t really need him and should be angling every asset on their roster towards youth.

Which is what they might be doing with Lewis.

Maybe Ernie Grunfeld and friends were being smart when they didn’t use the amnesty provision on Lewis. Maybe they’ll look like complete geniuses for not doing it. After all, he could turn into the next Tracy McGrady.

T-Mac was dealt in a three-team mess with the Knicks and Kings from the Rockets to New York. Houston also gave up Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey and in return picked up Jordan Hill, a couple first round picks and the right to pay Jared Jeffries checks.

Not too bad right?

Now if you’re Washington, you already have a star player and team “Atlas” of sorts in John Wall. He’s the star; he’s the present and future face of the franchise.  You already have a very good center in this league in Nene. And you have a bunch of youth, which is never bad. Some of it will pan out and some of it won’t, but it’s better than trotting out declining vets with bloated contracts.

Going on my theory of throwing almost a dozen young players at the court and seeing which ones stick, it wouldn’t be bad if Washington had more of them to throw at the court.

Now, McGrady was moved to New York for the sole intent of clearing cap space to bring in a max free agent(s). Which ended up being Amare and money to throw at Carmelo after they were robbed by the Nuggets and left with Anthony. The point here is that Tracy McGrady was moved so the team could get under the cap so they could go after a max-contract free agent. It’s not as if there aren’t any potential big-name free agents hitting the market soon. Well, except some guy named Dwight Howard. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Again the point is that normally teams wouldn’t go rushing out to get an overpaid player whose contract is north of 20 million as a rental, but that is something that might become a reality here.

The big, grand finale-ish, maybe-wrapping-up-point-but-probably-not is that the Wizards are in a prime position to move Lewis to a team who would like to clear cap space for Howard.

These would be teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Nets.

LA isn’t going to do anything brash and dump Pau Gasol for Lewis, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them pick him up for the sole purpose of clearing cap space. I’m sure LA would love to be rid of Metta World Peace, Josh “McBobs” McRoberts and Steve Blake’s collective contracts, however, the Wizards aren’t going to make that trade unless David Stern threatens to move them to Omaha. Again, a completely viable option. I would not put it past him. Next thing you know the Magic and Suns will be playing in the Dakotas. All because he likes “small markets”.

Dallas could conceivably deal Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Vince Carter’s unguaranteed contract to Washington, though while Marion would help  Washington a lot at the 2 and 3 as well as providing… You know what? A John Wall, Nene, Marion, Jordan Crawford and Jan Vesely starting five would be pretty fun to watch.

The only thing that really prevents the previous trade from happening is Brendan Haywood’s supersized, bloated, terrible, overkill contract. Feel free to add any adjectives that I might have missed there. Maybe it could happen if the Wizards forced the Mavs to take Andray Blatche back. Not sure if Dallas would do that.

Another scenario, this assuming Lamar Odom’s contract isn’t bought out, sees Dallas moving Odom, Marion and Carter for Lewis. Not sure if the Mavs would sacrifice that much wing depth, but to Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, I’d do it.

The trade machine makes it a bit difficult to trade with the newly dubbed Brooklyn Nets seeing as almost all of their contracts are expiring.  Still, Lewis to New Jersey for anyone but Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Brook Lopez or Gerald Green makes sense. I realize that  I named almost half the roster there, still those guys are likely safe unless Howard comes to Brooklyn. In that case Lopez would be available.

The point here is that Rashard Lewis and his contract very well could be one of the more sought after commodities on the trade front. He’s gone from maybe the least desirable asset to maybe the most desirable one.

NBA Trade Deadline Grades that Pay

(Corny title, I know.)

The deadline is upon us as I write this. It probably isn’t the magnitude that the baseball trade deadline is, but it’s close, at least on a higher level than the NFL.

Deals will happen. They always happen at the deadline and will continue to do so in the NBA’s existence.

Let’s start with the Lakers, who have glaring needs at forward and the point. Here’s what they have done so far-

  • The Lakers Acquired Ramon Sessions to stabilize the point guard spot while also picking up young forward Christian Eyenga. The cost to acquire those two was and is wings Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and a top 14 protected 2012 first-round pick.

Sessions was expendable from the sense that the Cavs already have Kyrie Irving on payroll and the fact that Irving is the future.

The Lakers give up what is probably a pick somewhere in the 20s if they make a playoff run.

That might be the only huge loss here for LA. They get out of the rest of Walton’s contract as well as Kapono’s. They also get a youth infusion in the front court with Eyenga.

This leaves the Lakers with Sessions, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher on payroll. Which leads us to this…

  • The Houston Rockets Acquire PG Derek Fisher from the LA Lakers for Jordan Hill and the Mavericks first-round pick.

The Lakers have now moved both of the first-round picks that they owned in this year’s draft. But on the flipside, the Lakers have unloaded both Fisher and Walton, who are under contract next year, replacing them with players who might not be under contract next season.

Hill gives the Lakers more youth in the frontcourt as well as depth, which is another thing that they probably could have used to help their championship aspirations.

The Rockets pick up another first-round pick to add to their hull while also picking up a stop gap point guard to fill in for Kyle Lowry while he recovers from injury. The Rockets could also buy out Fisher following the return of Lowry, or keep him for a stretch run.

Hill was movable in a sense because of another trade…

  • The Houston Rockets acquired Marcus Camby from the Portland Trailblazers for former lottery picks Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick that originated with the T-Wolves.

The Rockets picked up a presence in the frontcourt after going down swinging in the original Chris Paul trade. Thabeet and Flynn were almost dead weight in Houston and should benefit from a change of scenery. The Blazers might be in a bit of a rebuilding or retooling stretch, whichever lights your fire after moving this key cog to an Eastern Conference team…

  • The New Jersey Nets Acquire F Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers for frontcourt depth in Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a top three projected 2012 first-round pick.

The Nets are attempting to keep Deron Williams for next season just as Dwight Howard has now chosen to stay in Orlando for next season. A starting five and core of Wallace, Williams, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks isn’t too bad.

This is curious for Portland, who after dealing Camby and Crash, they have also reportedly fired Mr. Sonic himself, Nate McMillian. This is truly sad news, as the Blazers are supposedly starting to rebuild or retool. Again, whichever lights your fire. Williams has a player option for next year, which will likely be exercised as well as Okur’s expiring deal, which totals almost 11 million dollars. This should set up Portland to go after a big free agent while also getting a potentially high pick in a very good draft.

Moving on with no transition, we see a very surprising trade from George’ Karl’s Denver Nuggets-

  • We move on to more former Sonic news as George Karl’s Nuggets have moved their big free agent resigning- Nene Hilario- to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf. This trade also involves the Los Angeles Clippers as Nick Young will head to LA to help the Clippers’ two guard needs. The Wizards will get forward Brian Cook and a future second-round pick in return.

This moved shocked me to be honest with you. The Nuggets dealt their starting center in Nene for another one in McGee as well as another good bench player in Ronny Turiaf. The Nuggets will certainly be fine because of their exceptional depth, but the Wizards clearly won from a talent perspective now. Nene might just be a better fit with John Wall than McGee was, and he gives a young Washington squad a veteran presence.

The Nuggets might have benefited long term more so than the Wizards because they got to unload Nene’s contract. This frees up money not only for the future, but also money for restricted free agent Wilson Chandler. Chandler, who is fresh off a stint in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), would give the Nuggets a boost on the wing.

The Clippers are the under the radar team here as they pick up a shooting guard to replace the long-injured Chauncey Billups. This really helps the Clips in terms of a missing piece and needed scoring punch.

New we really don’t have any transition as the Indiana Pacers get some backcourt depth with Leandro Barbosa.

  • The Pacers picked up Barbosa for a second-round pick and cash considerations from the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers didn’t need to put any outgoing players in the deal because of their vast salary cap room. Not exactly vast mind you, but under these circumstances, that’s a lot. Good deal for Indy.

  • Golden State acquires Richard Jefferson and a first-round pick from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors did a brilliant job of turning Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown into Andrew Bogut, Jefferson and a first-round pick. That’s a nice little roster turnaround for Golden State. Jefferson might be bought out, nobody knows. Nice swap for the Spurs as well as Jackson gives the Spurs a little bit more of a scoring touch compared to Jefferson.

  • In the last move, or first chronologically — whichever way you want to look at it, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up athletic wing Sam Young from Memphis for the rights to former second-round pick Ricky Sanchez.

So there are your trades everybody. Some other notes of prominence-

  • The Raptors have released point guard Anthony Carter, who was originally believed to be part of the Barbosa trade.
  • The Magic didn’t trade Dwight Howard, as he will presumably come back next season.
  • The Celtics kept the Big 3 intact for at least this season.
  • Steve Nash stayed put in Phoenix.
  • Michael Beasley is staying in the Twin Cities.
  • And Deron Williams is still a Net.

The Lakers Search For a Point Guard

Derek Fisher is a veteran point guard. It’s probably safe to say that he is past his prime. That being said, the Lakers need a boost at the point. Steve Blake is currently nursing an injury and will be out for a while. Here are some trades that the Lakers could make to help themselves at the backcourt position not manned by Kobe Bryant.

The Obvious Choice- Steve Nash

Steve Nash to this day is still one of the better point guards in the league and is an obvious trade candidate.  Here’s how it could go down-

  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Darius Morris and Fisher. Fisher isn’t the player he once was. The Suns aren’t going to get a player to replace Nash in return. At least here the Suns get two manageable contracts that could very well be bought out (Walton and Fisher) plus a rookie who could have some upside for them (Morris).
  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers with Hakim Warrick for Walton, Fisher and Metta World Peace. The Suns get three buy out options as well as getting out of Hakim Warrick’s contract. This saves the Suns some serious money.

The Under-the-Radar Choice- Jarrett Jack

Jarrett Jack is a good point guard despite playing for the lonely Hornets. He is a solid all-around point guard who can score, rebound and dish it.

  • Jarrett Jack to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton and a future first round pick. Jack makes a whole lot of sense in LA. The Hornets do take on a little money with Walton and lose a lot of production, but they are going to have a down year this year. They basically swap out Jack’s playing time for younger guys with a smidgen of Walton. It should also be noted that Walton and Jack’s  contracts are almost exactly the same. The Hornets (read:   David Stern and his band of team-stealing-buddies) gain another first-round pick to add to their likely growing stash of picks, which, for most GMs of young, bad teams is what you would like. If the Lakers are hell-bent on winning another ring (honestly, what contending team isn’t?) then this first rounder probably will hold as much value as an early second round pick. If not, this might be a pick around number 20 overall. Or if some key players get injured (read Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) this might be, gasp, a late lottery pick.

The Guy From Cleveland- (Not Kyrie Irving, cool it Cavs fans) Ramon Sessions

  • Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher and a second round pick. Sessions also makes sense in LA as does Jarrett Jack. He is a guy who can rebound and dish it. His contract is not obnoxious or ridiculous in any sense of either word. He is a solid player who will help LA a lot. There is also the likelihood that Fisher might be bought out and return to LA. So you have Sessions for a late second round pick, and you give Derek Fisher a week off. Sounds good, lock it up Lakers.

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