Following a defiant seventh-round knockout of previously unbeaten Jose Pedraza (22-1, 12...
BASN NBA Previews: A Look At The Western Conference
SEATTLE — Here’s a look at how I think the Western Conference race will play out this season. We’ll take a quick peek at all the contenders and pretenders and everyone in between.
The Seattle Sonics, even with the additions of Rookie Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, will not fair much better than last season. The inconsistency at the center position along with the revolving guards, you just don’t know what you may get on any given day. The bright spot for the Sonics this season is that there’s a lot of talent and everyone is healthy. P.J. Carlesimo is going to have his hands full managing these players and I don’t expect everyone on this rooster to finish the season in a Sonics uniform.
The Sacramento Kings start the season behind the count with Mike Bibby being out with a stress fracture in his thumb and Brad Miller with back spasms. Ron Artest and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are going to bring it every night. Success for the Kings will be predicated on the team buying into, first year head coach, Reggie Theus system and Francisco Garcia and Kevin Martin having a break out year. Rookie center, Spencer Hawes is a sleeper and has the opportunity to come in and contribute immediately.
The Minnesota Timberwolves with Antoine Walker as the seasoned veteran on the squad only lends to the question, how many three pointers will he attempt this season? This Sebastian Telfair kid hasn’t shown me anything in the past three years he’s been in the league. It appears that Coach Randy Wittman is giving him the reigns to guide the team this season but don’t get your hope up. With Kevin Garnett gone, hockey is going to be a big draw in Minnesota this season.
The L.A. Lakers, hum where should I begin? Kobe Bryant is a cancer. The trade that will come will set the organization back for years but as we’ve all seen there aren’t any takers at the moment. The Lakers ownership is trying to get a bang for their buck and realize that they do need a draw to put fans in the seat. Coach Phil Jackson can get the most out of any player that is given to him so the Lakers will always be prepared when they step on the floor but at this point Kobe needs to go.
The Houston Rockets are loaded and are going to cause problems for many teams this year. Tracy McGrady has been rejuvenated and his energy has been captured by his teammates. Yao Ming has been working on his negotiating skills during the off season and will be getting more calls down low. The Rockets are going to cause all types of match up problems this year and should finish in the top three respectively.
The New Orleans Hornets will be the buzz in the league this year. Coach Byron Scott has got these guys ready to compete and Guard Chirs Paul has showed maturity and leadership beyond his years. With Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson both healthy and then throw in Tyson Chandler or Mo Peterson in to the mix, whew! Making it to the playoffs this year isn’t an option and getting out of the first round is expected. All the pieces are there but as with any sport, injuries will be the big factor. That’s what makes Bobby Jackson so important to this team.
The L.A. Clippers have gained the respect long over due them around the league and management has finally taken the necessary steps to keep the core unit together. If Shaun Livingston is able to build up his confidence early in the season, after coming off a severe knee injury, all of my predictions will be thrown in the trash. The addition of Rueben Patterson provides some beef down low and will allow Elton Brand to create more one on one match ups. Coach Dunleavy just missed the mark last season but made some key moves that will have the Clippers in the thick of things when it’s all said and done.
The Utah Jazz are back and better than ever! It’s taken Coach Jerry Sloan a few minutes to replace Malone and Stockton but last season remind many of the faithful of the golden days. I didn’t know that Deron Williams was going to bring it like that and Carlos Boozer will still be a beast down low. Most importantly you better pay attention to the man the call AK 47! Yes, the Jazz will finish in top three spot and make it to the second round of the playoffs.
To the Portland Trailblazers I would like to send my condolences. The lost of Greg Oden is felt around the league but I’m pulling for the guy. The bright spot for the Blazer is Brandon Roy and the reflection of his Coach Nate McMillian that he shows on the court. They will be competitive and prepared so don’t take them lightly. I predict them to finish ahead of the Sonics.
The Phoenix Suns, seriously do I need to say anything? Okay, here it goes. The Suns have figured it and it wasn’t about the starting five but the sixth, seventh, or eighth man that came off the bench. Grant Hill will be vital to the success of this team and look for D.J. Strawberry to contribute quickly in his rookie year. Phoenix suns will be conference champs.
The Memphis Grizzlies, I just don’t know. Damon Stoudamire has got a lot to prove and some young talent breathing down his neck. Mike Miller is reported healthy and Paul Gasol will be manning the middle. Still I couldn’t tell you where these guys are going to finish because they’ve been so inconsistent for so long.
The Denver Nuggets, well we all asked the question last season, can Iverson and Carmelo play together? They answered us with a resounding, yes. Now how far this team goes will be based on who’s willing to sacrifice a part of their game (be it minutes or points) for the good of the team? The Nuggets should finish in the 4 or 5 spot.
The Dallas Mavericks will finish in the second spot. They will not make it to the conference finals and Mark Cuban will make another attempt at Dancing with the Stars.
The San Antonio Spurs will finish first in the conference but it won’t come easy. They will be tested every night like you wouldn’t believe. Teams around the league have tailored their rooster to create matchup advantages against the Spurs. I can only see injuries to keeping the Spurs from repeating as league champs.
The Golden State Warriors ended their season last year having us all wanting more. They won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season. Baron Davis is healthy, Monta Ellis got some great playoff experience last year but Troy Hudson, coming off the bench, will provide the team with leadership, scoring and the option of keeping Baron healthy all season long. The Warriors also added rookie Marco Belinelli, from Italy that can shoot the lights out. The Warriors will compete hard with Nuggets for the fourth spot.